How to Love God Part 2
John Bunyan: “When God brings sinners into the covenant of grace, he doth first kill them with the covenant of works, which is the moral law, or ten commandments.”
To sum up yesterday’s post I argued that the main work of the law is to reveal God’s holiness and righteous standard and to then apply that standard of holiness to us in order to show our sinfulness. I proposed that even the command we think of us a softer New Testament command, namely to love, actually comes from the Old Testament and Jesus’ interpretation is even more difficult. I also said that the law of God is not able to change us by itself, but that its main job is to reveal to our hearts our sinfulness and push us to Christ for righteousness that comes through faith.
I recently heard Bryan Chapell give some magnificent messages about who we are in Christ. Just a couple of statements that really stood out to me were
• There is a two-sided mirror. On one side it is just a regular old mirror showing all my flaws and imperfections and on the other side it shows the perfection of Christ. God looks at me through Christ’s side of the mirror.
• If I am dead and Christ is who is living in me then who am I? Or whose identity do I have? Answer – Jesus Christ’s.
Knowing that my old man is dead and I am now alive in Christ – loved with an unshakeable love because I am Christ’s is extremely encouraging as I look at the regular old mirror version of my life. Because I can be overwhelmed by my flaws and be tempted to think God does not love me. But to know that I am loved as much as Jesus is loved is able to overwhelm my despair in myself – and is able to help engage in a battle against sin that is ultimately already won.
But if these things are true – my old man is dead – I am alive in Christ – Christ’s love for me cannot be broken – Why do I still sin? Bryan’s answer was because I love it so much and the antidote to my loving sin is to love God more. And my love for God is inspired or motivated by His love to me. Now we could understand his answer like this – Since God loved you so much you owe God your love back. Now it is not a false statement, but I don’t think it is very helpful to think of loving God as a duty that is owed nor do I think this is what Bryan was intending for us to understand.
Let me illustrate this way. Suppose you had two of your children fighting with each other and one angrily says to the other “I hate you.” This is, of course, purely hypothetical and has never happened in my house. But supposing that it did happen what if I as the parent said to the offending child, “I command you to love your brother.” What is my son going to say? “Well I don’t!” So I begin telling him, “Look son – I have given you a roof over your head – I made you Macaroni and cheese for dinner last night – I gave you a good birthday and Christmas this year. You owe me. Now go love your brother like I said!” Now all those things may well be true and the child may even (probably not) but may be moved to a state of guilt and in that sense make peace with his brother. But is that the kind of love I am looking for as a parent or more importantly is that the type of love God is looking for in us.
So here is the main thrust of this blog. We love God not by raw obedience to the command “Love the Lord your God” but by the obedience that comes through faith. I mentioned yesterday that John Piper defines faith as “being satisfied with all that God is for me in Christ Jesus.” Let me show you where that is in scripture and then explain why I feel it is so helpful. John 6:35 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus is saying come to me because I am superior to all other satisfactions in this world. What are you starving for? Money – success – power – control – sex – alcohol? Jesus is even more satisfying. It is not even close. The secret longings of your heart that you attempt to nourish with earthly things find their full satisfaction in Jesus.
So if that is true, why are we so tempted with things other than Jesus? This is the real question in my mind and the fight is fought on this field – the fight against sin is the fight to stay satisfied with Jesus. This is the fight of faith. Faith sees Christ as the satisfaction of your soul. Faith looks to the beauty of Christ as superior to all other beauties. So the solution to our sin problem is not raw obedience – do this or die – it is faith that looks to Jesus and is satisfied in him so much so that the allure of sin pales in comparison.
When we see with eyes of faith the beauty of Jesus we do not need the command to love – we will love. I will not need to be told stop lusting – love God – don’t be a glutton – you owe it to God – because my affections are changed. I see Jesus as more desirable than all other things. Let me close with this illustration. I am a big fan of Edgar Martinez of the Seattle Mariners – one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game. He is everything that has ever been right about Seattle Mariners baseball. I attended the last game of his career. Every at bat the whole stadium stood to its feet – the traditional ED—Gar chant circling the field. At what would be his last ever at bat I think I may have prayed that he would hit a home run – he didn’t. But imagine if this great slugger that I loved had hit a glorious final home run in his last major league at bat. No one would have had to command me to cheer or to praise or to love Edgar it would have been spontaneous. In the same way but on a much grander scale when we see with eyes of faith the beauty and splendor of Jesus – we no longer need the law to command us to love because our hearts are transformed by grace through faith and we will love and praise spontaneously.
Tomorrow I want to talk about the means of grace and how they help us increase our faith to see Jesus as precious.