If you find yourself beginning to love any pleasure better than your prayers, any book better than your Bible, any house better than God’s, any table better than the Lord’s, any person better than your Savior, anyone better than your soul, a present indulgence better than the hope of Heaven—take alarm!
The Bible is full of commands to love and serve God only. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) is the first of the Ten Commandments. Later in their history, God gave His people further description:
The Lord made a covenant with them and commanded them, “You shall not fear other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, but you shall fear the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. (2 Kings 17:35–36)
Even though God plainly and repeatedly said it, the people did not do it. Sometimes they tried, but at best, their worship was mixed. “So these nations feared the Lord and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day” (2 Kings 17:41).
Later, when God sent Jesus, a lawyer asked a question to test Him. “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 first commandment” (Matthew 22:35–38).
This love is not an emotion or attraction. It is that agape word that means doing what is eternally best for the one that I love. When God is the object of my love, that love should be expressed in obedience to His will, for that is eternally best. Anything less misses the mark.
To go back to those challenging questions, I must admit that each day I struggle with prayer because my fleshy self does not want to pray. At night, I have two books on my nightstand. One is not the Bible but filled with Scripture and honors the Word of God more than any book I’ve ever read. The other is a John Grisham novel. Last night, I picked up the novel.
The Lord’s table happens once a month in our present church. Comparing that to three meals a day off other tables, I’m pressed to answer which I love the most. As for loving Jesus more than any other person, I think I do, but why do I resist talking to Him?
As for indulgences, ordinary things like hobbies, enjoying nature, vacations, playing games with family and even shopping give me pleasure. Do I love them more than the hope of heaven? The answer could be also the answer to, “what do I think about the most?”
For this, all I can say is that I’m terribly glad the Word of God also says that we are saved by grace. Keeping the commandments never worked for Israel, and if my spiritual destiny depended on perfect obedience, I would be lost forever. Yes, I should love God and the things of God, but sometimes I don’t.
I cannot rely on my performance (which is not an excuse, just a fact) but can rely on the love of God for me. Because I fall short, and because God loves me, He sent Jesus to die for my sin, even the sin of not loving the only One who is worthy of this exclusive kind of love. Jesus lives in my heart. He perfectly loves His Father, others, and even me, so that I can depend on Him for everything that God wants from me. That fact alone makes it easier, even delightful to pray, read the Bible, love Him and His people, remember His death, and long to spend eternity with Him.
Father, You convict me and comfort me. I love You, but not always, and not as much as You deserve. Your Word says that no one loves God until they know and experience Your love for us. All I can ask is that You deepen and perfect the love that I ought to have for You.