Charles Stanley - Loving God

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Do you love God? Yes! I knew that's what you were going to say. If you ask the average person on the street out here, Do you love God? They're probably going to say the same thing, Yes, I do. If you ask them to describe the God that they love, you'd be absolutely shocked at what some people would say. There are a lot of people who think they love God, they don't even know Him. There are a lot of people who think they love God who really have been saved, but when it comes to loving Him, they don't really love Him. They don't understand that. They don't realize that, but they don't.

And so, I'd ask you this simple question, What characteristics are there in your life that when somebody sees you and watches you, they would see by your lifestyle that you love God? And I would ask you the question, When you look for characteristics in other people, what do you look for that indicate that that person loves God. There's a lot of mistaken ideas about loving God and about love in general. In fact, a lot of people don't know how to love anybody. They wish they did, but they don't. Love is a major issue with God. It should be a major issue in all of our lives. But love is a big deal with God.

And when you look at the scriptures and look at what Jesus said, how He refers to the Old Testament and where love fit in God's big plan for the nation of Israel and for all of us, you'll see how very important it is. So I want you to turn if you will to the twenty-second chapter of Matthew. And so, I want us to read this passage and sort of set the tone for what we want to say here. Beginning in the thirty-fourth verse of Matthew twenty-two, "But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?'"

Not which was, but which is. That is, what is it now? "'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets". So what Jesus did, He just sent them all the way back to Deuteronomy, which they of course were familiar with, I'm sure. Deuteronomy, the sixth chapter. So I want you to turn there for a moment. This was a very important passage of scripture to the nation of Israel it should be a very important passage to all of us because of what God includes in what He says very clearly in this particular passage.

And so, he says, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart". Now watch this. He said, These are so important, "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates".

Now, think about this. He says, This is so important, above everything else, our love for God is singularly the most important thing. It should be a part of not only your life, but the life of your family, teaching it to your sons and naturally to their daughters. And that every member of your family every day, you would be conscious of the love that God has for you and your love for Him. Because He said when you sit down you're talking about it. When you're standing up you're talking about it. When you're walking by the way you're talking about it. And it isn't that the way we should raise our families. In the mornings early, we're talking about the Lord, during the day we're talking about the Lord whether we're sitting, whether we're walking, whether we're working, whether we're playing, Jesus Christ should be foremost in our thinking all the time because He is first and foremost in our life.

Now when He said we're to love Him with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, what did He mean by that? Simply this. Our heart, for example, it's like our innermost being, this is who we are. Our soul is like our emotional being; and our mind is like our mental capacity. So, He's simply saying, With your whole being, your mind, your heart, your soul, your body, all of it. We should be expressing love toward Him continually.

When we're expressing love to God, what we're doing, we're acknowledging not only that He's our Heavenly Father, but we are giving of ourselves to Him totally and completely for His purpose to bring Him joy. We're loving Him, that's what we're doing. We're giving ourselves to Him totally and completely, listen, for His purpose and for His joy. When He's loving us, He is continually pouring out His blessing and His love toward us. What He's doing, He's pouring out His goodness upon us in order to do what? That we might see His good purposes in our life and that we might fulfill His purpose and bring Him honor and glory. And at the same time that He likewise would benefit us.

So there's the beautiful two-way relationship that God intends for us to have for Him. The tragedy is that most people are going to live their lives and never love God, because they don't know how. They think they are loving Him, but they don't know how to love Him. They don't know whether they're loving Him or not. And they'll go through life missing out on the awesome experience of loving God and being able to experience that love themselves.

So let's think about it for a moment. There are some misconceptions about loving God. And there are sort of honest misconceptions, but they're misconceptions. In other words, I may say that I love God when I really mean I fear Him. That is, I have a reverence for Him, but listen to this. Reverencing God isn't loving God. And reverence means I am honoring Him for who He is. I'm acknowledging Him in the presence of Holy God, Almighty God. That doesn't mean I love Him. You say, Well, why isn't reverencing love? It's not love. I may reverence Him because I recognize who He is. And the fact that He's holy and that He's just, and that one day He'll judge me. That is, I can think of a lot of reasons for being reverent toward God without loving Him at all. That doesn't necessarily make me give of myself to Him, heart, soul, mind, and body.

So sometimes it's a matter of thinking that we love Him when the truth is we're just fearing Him. A second mistake we make is we feel needy. And oftentimes we confuse needing Him with loving Him. All of us have a need of Him. We have a need of Him in every aspect of our life. And so, if I need Him, naturally I'll call upon Him. And if I need Him, I'm going to be expressing my concerns or I may say, God, I love You. But I wonder oftentimes if instead of really loving Him, we're just not being needy and we want some kind of intimacy or relationship of feeling that makes my need go away. That's not necessarily loving God. So sometime it's fearing Him, reverence, sometime it's needing Him, and sometimes it's serving Him.

Now you would say, Well, I wouldn't serve God if I didn't love Him. Oh, yes, you would. There are people who get lots of joy and satisfaction out of doing something religious because it makes them feel good and makes them feel accepted. It makes them feel like they're doing something for someone else. It gives them a sense of satisfaction and it gives them a sense, for example, to be able to express their views of things and also their particular spiritual gifts. But that's not necessarily loving God, because oftentimes people who suppose ought to be serving Him will find themselves totally out of the will of God. They're not serving God, they're just serving themselves and what they like doing.

So it's easy to be mistaken when it comes to true, genuine, loving God. And so you have to ask yourself the question, Why do I do the things that I do? Why do I feel the things that I feel? And so oftentimes a person would say, Well, surely if I'm giving to God, I love Him. Well, I'd like to think that's true, but it's not always true because, for example, if you grew up believing what the Bible teaches about tithing; and so, every Sunday you give your tithe because that's what you've been taught to do. Do you do it because that's what you've been taught to do; because you love God? Because you look forward to every Sunday being able to express... one area of love is by giving to Him that other people may hear the Gospel and know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

So what motivates our giving? A good test for my love is this. Whatever I'm going, what's the purpose, what's the motivation? And the motivation should all be, always be for His purpose and for His glory and for His honor. That is, you and I bring joy to the heart of God when we express love to Him, whatever it may be. In essence it's simply this. That we live out our day doing what? For His purpose, for His glory, giving of ourselves to Him, our minds, how we think; our emotions, how we feel; and as we think about our expressions of our daily life with other people. You're showing love toward God when you are loving other people. And you're showing love toward God when you're forgiving other people. You're showing love to God when you are serving Him. That is, you are motivated and acting on the basis of your genuine love for Him.

Now, we might ask the question, Why should we love Him? I would say the first reason is because He created us. Listen, if He hadn't created you, you wouldn't be here. And somebody says, Well, I was an accident. No, you weren't an accident either. God is the sovereign of this universe. You say, Well, I was not wanted. God wanted you or He wouldn't have let you been born. And so, God created you; He gave you life. And so, one of the reasons we should be loving Him is because He's the reason we're here. So He's our creator. Secondly, one of the second reason we should love Him is this. Look what He did. God was, listen, God was so interested in you and me understanding what He's like, He sent His only Begotten Son, Jesus, into the world. Why did He send Him? He sent Him for two reasons primarily.

Number one, He wanted us to know Him in a deeper way than the Old Testament saints knew Him. They knew God primarily as the Creator; as the Sovereign of the Universe, the One who held everything in His hands. But the intimacy that you and I have with Jesus and with the Father, they didn't quite have it like that. I'm not saying they all didn't. Certainly if you read the Psalms and the intimacy that David had; but generally their idea of God was He was a God of justice and holiness and righteousness. And the Ark of the Covenant, you don't touch this; you don't touch that; you don't go in here. This separates us.

And so, their idea of God was so vastly different from ours. And so, what did He do? The Bible says that Jesus came. He says, If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father. I and the Father are one. They didn't get that. The Pharisees wanted to crucify Him for saying You're claiming to be God. But He says, If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father because the Father and I are one. Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit makes up the Trinity, which is the Godhead, which is one. And so, He loved us enough, listen, living out a life unequalled by any life that's ever been lived. And not only living out that life, but then being willing to lay it down; to be willing to die in order that you and I could be forgiven of our sins. And that you and I could have a personal intimate relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

And so He loved us enough to show us what life's like; what the Father's like, a loving father, forgiveness of sins. Listen. He chose the most powerful method of expressing love ever known to man. And that is, when He crucified His only Begotten Son. The greatest expression of love ever known to man, could ever be known to man; and He didn't do it because any of us deserved it, but simply because He loved us. And so why should we love Him? Because He created us; and because He was crucified for us. He went to the cross for us.

And then, something else I want you to see for a moment and that is I want you to jot these down when we put them on the board. But I want you to think about the commitments that God has made to every single one of His children. You talking about motivation for love. These commitments are motivation for us to love God. So, I'm going to give you all of these. First of all, here's one of His commitments. He says, I'll never leave you nor forsake you. Nobody else can promise you that. Nobody else can. There may be some who would like to but they can't. I'll never. Not mostly. I'll never leave you nor forsake you, under any condition. And to be able to wake up every morning and know that you and I are waking up with the Father. We go to bed with Him; we wake up with Him; the Holy Spirit living within us all day, equipping us to do what God wants us to do.

Look at that commitment. I will never leave you nor forsake you. If that shouldn't motivate our love for God. Secondly, He said something else nobody else can promise. He said, I'll supply all your needs. That is, whatever I call you to do, I'm going to supply your need. And you know that passage in Philippians that Paul made so familiar to us. He says, I'll supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory, which means according to His supply which is always unlimited. Who can promise to meet all your needs? You say, Well, I have this need. Listen. You have emotional needs, physical needs, your psychological needs; on and on and on we could go, material needs. And here's what He said, I'll meet all your needs. Who could promise you that? Only God. Why shouldn't I love this God who is so committed that He will never leave me nor forsake me, under any condition.

Thirdly, He said, I'll answer your prayers. Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you'll find, know and it'll be opened. You should ask anything in My name, I will do it. There are certain conditions to that, but He says, I'll answer your prayers. All of us have been in situations in which only God could make that provision. Only God could change that circumstance. And that's who He says He is and that's what He does in our life.

And so, when you think about loving Him, what does it take to get a person to love God who has such, listen, these are divine commitments. It's one thing for me to say to you, Here's what I'll do for you. It's something else for the Creator, the Sovereign of the universe to say, Here's what I will do for you. You can bet your life on this; your eternal life on this. You, I will never fail you; never leave you, never forsake you, never lie to you and keep My every single promise. Only God can do it. Then I think about how many times has He forgiven us of our sins? Can't count them.

Let me ask you a question. How many times have you ever been to God and confessed something and God said, I'm not going to do it. I'm not forgiving you of that. Mm-mm, that's too bad. I'm not forgiving you. You can't name one. He says, If we confess our sins, He, watch this, He's faithful, now watch that next word. Faithful, which means you can always count on it; and just, which means He has a right to forgive you. Well, how does He have a right to forgive you? Because the scripture says, The soul that sinneth it shall die. Well, how can He forgive me of my sins if He says my sin's going to take me out? Because Jesus took our place on the cross, that makes it right for God to forgive sinners for their sin even though they've sinned against God, because He's already paid the price.

So He says, If we confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Who can forgive you of your sin? Somebody can forgive you for what you do to them, but they can't forgive you for your sin against God. And when you think about an awesome God who is able to do that. And then think about this. Because, and I think to me this is the most important, because you and I can have a personal intimate relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. Which means there is no relationship in life to equal it, none.

Not brothers and sisters; not marriage; nothing. There is no relationship equal to a personal intimate relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. And that is a commitment He's made to every single one of us who will come to Him through His Son, Christ, through the cross at Calvary. And embrace Him as He embraces us; and make us one with Him as He desires to be one with us. There's nothing in life to match that.

You say, Well, I don't know what that means. You'll never know what it means until Jesus becomes your Savior; and till you begin to pursue Him, not only as your Savior, but your Lord and your Master and your very life. And so, when we really and truly fall in love with Him, there'll be some things that will be very evident. So I want to give you another list, because the list you'll remember, you won't remember it if I just say it.

So if you love Him, here's what you will strive to do. Number one, you'll desire to obey Him. If you love Him, you will want to obey Him no matter what's going on. Doesn't mean you always will, but that's your heart's desire. Secondly, you'll want to serve Him. You won't want to waste your life, spend your life. But you'll want to do something in some way to serve the Lord. Likewise, you'll want to share Him. You don't want to keep it, you don't want to keep it to yourself. You want to tell somebody else about Him. I don't know how anybody could not want to.

When we go to the restaurant to eat, it's hard for me to wait to find out what the person believes or where they're from. And just, always you can, Well, you have a beautiful smile. Or whatever it might be. Next thing you know, you're in a conversation and you can finally get around to Jesus pretty quickly. You want to share Him. Then likewise, you're going to trust Him. If you love Him, you will trust Him. You'll want to fellowship with Him. You want to spend time with Him, being quiet and just listening to Him and letting Him love you and loving Him in return. You'll want to worship Him.

And sometimes that may be singing. Sometimes it may be being quiet and just talking to Him or listening to Him quietly. But you want to worship Him. You want to acknowledge that He's the God of this universe; the Sovereign God of the universe. And the One who loves you with a love that's absolutely indescribable. And then there's one other way that we will be willing to do; and that is we'll be willing to suffer for Him. If we really and truly love Him, we'll be willing to suffer for Him if that's necessary. Loving God is the most important thing we do.

So would you say that you love Him? You say, I'm not even a Christian. Well, it's pretty evident then that you don't. And I would simply say this, no matter what you're doing in life; how successful the world may see you and how well you may do everything you participate in, if you do not love God, you will never be happy. You'll never be satisfied. You'll never be contented. You'll never be able to accumulate enough wealth, popularity, prosperity, anything else, because God made you. He made you to love Him so He could love you and work in your life the things that prosper you, but also bring Him glory and honor.

And I want to invite you to ask Him to forgive you of your sins because that's the beginning step. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins. Without Christ you're lost. You have no relationship to God. You don't understand who He is. And listen, you'll never understand who God is until Jesus becomes a vital part of your life. Then all of a sudden everything begins to change. And so I would invite you to ask Him to forgive you of your sins based on what He did at the cross; surrender your life to Him and let God change your life and begin to reveal to you this awesome God who has committed to you everything we've just mentioned all the days of your life.
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