by Samuel Jack
Somebody asked a very interesting question via our church website a few weeks ago: “If God loves me, how do I love Him back?”
It’s a great question, because it recognises that God’s love to us requires a response. John 3:16 is probably the most compact description of God’s love found anywhere in the bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The greatest act of God’s love is giving to us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to live and die as a substitute for sinners, so that everyone who trusts in him could be given the gift of eternal life.
When someone who loves us goes to great lengths to give us a special gift, we show our love to them by treasuring that gift. First we have to receive it, then we appreciate it, we make use of it, we value it highly, and we are grateful for it. In short, we take great delight in the gift.
Delighting in Jesus
In the same way, we “love God back” by treasuring the gift he has given us. We determine to delight in Jesus more than anything or anyone else.
First, we receive him. That means, we take him as our Saviour. We ask him to forgive our sins and take charge of our life. We enter into a spiritual relationship with him. Jesus said (John 14:17,23) that if anyone loves him, he will actually come and live in them in the power of his Holy Spirit.
Next, we seek to grow in appreciation of him. This means recognizing how much we need him, and how perfectly he suits our needs. Without Jesus, we are lost. We cannot keep God’s commandments perfectly as he requires, which means we deserve death – not just the death of our bodies, but also the second death of eternal pain and misery (Revelation 21:8). But Jesus has suffered that death for us, and he has given us the reward which he earned by his perfect life.
Then, we make use of him. He comes to us to bringing us his strength and power. We don’t have the ability to keep God’s commandments, or live the life that we ought to live. But Jesus has promised help whenever we ask him for it. So we treasure Jesus by taking him at his word and, whenever we are in trouble, asking him for the help he has promised.
We determine that Jesus will have the highest place in our affections. We look for hope, excitement and pleasure from the things of this world: our possessions, our work, our family, our football team and so on. Treasuring Jesus means that instead we pin all our hopes on him for our happiness and well-being. He is the only one who will never let us down. Only he has the power to help us in every situation. Only he has the wisdom to guide us through life. He is the only one who is truly worthy of our love and devotion.
As Jesus takes hold of our hearts, and our love for him grows, this will result in gratitude welling up in our hearts to God. What a God he is to have given us such a Saviour! We will want to praise God, and give him thanks that he has gone to such lengths to love people like us. This is why God’s people meet together regularly, not only to hear from God when the bible is preached, but also to worship God.
All of this happens in our hearts, affecting our desires and emotions. But when we truly love somebody, that love always shows itself outwardly too. So it is when we love Jesus. The first of three letters that the Apostle John wrote describes several of the outwards ways in which we demonstrate our love for God.
We have an increasing desire for fellowship with God and one another. 1 John 1:6-7. The more we treasure Jesus, the more time we will want to spend with him and with his people, and the less time we will want to spend in places and activities where Jesus is not known. The best way to cultivate fellowship with Jesus and his people is by joining a church, and meeting regularly together.
We have an increasing desire to keep God’s commandments. 1 John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome”. When we really understand how much God loves us, we realise that God isn’t going to command us to do anything which won’t ultimately be good for us. That’s not to say that it is always easy to keep God’s commandments. Yet more and more we want to keep them, despite the difficulties.
We have increasing confidence in prayer. 1 John 5:14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” The more we experience of God’s love, the more we will be sure that he hears us and answers us when we pray. We will trust him to answer us in the way that he thinks is best (which might often be different from what we think is best!)
We have an increasingly active love for other people, especially other Christians. 1 John 4:7 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” The more we know of God’s love, the more we want to share it. The more we see of the lengths that God has gone to to love us, the greater the lengths we will go to to demonstrate practically that love to other people.
This wonderful love is something that God offers to everyone without exception – to whoever who will believe on Jesus.