What Does It Mean to Love God? (Mark Sermon 64)
October 15, 2023 | Andy Davis
Glory of God, Pure in Heart, Love of God
God desires for our hearts to be captivated by his glory, loving him with our hearts, minds, and souls. And he also forbids us to love anything else above him.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
When my wife and I were raising our kids, one of the things we did when they were very young was teach them a catechism. Catechism is a pattern of questions that are memorized and answers that are memorized. I still remember the beginning of the catechism, and the first question that we would ask is this: Who made you? And the answer would be given: God. The second question: What else did God make? Answer: God made all things. The third question: Why did God make you in all things? Answer: for his own glory. You've heard that your whole Christian life. What does that mean? God chose to put himself majestically on display in creation, and I would add in history, so that we could see his greatness and marvel at it and love it; that our hearts would be kindled with affection for him because of his greatness.
So the fourth question is: How can you glorify God? Answer: by loving God and doing what He commands. That's what this sermon is about. God shines the light of his glory. We see it by the exquisite organ of the inner self, which we're going to talk about today, the heart, soul, mind. We perceive it by that exquisitely complex organ and that sight by faith is radiant and glorious, and we are moved by it. We are drawn to it. We're melted by it. It shows us the invisible God and we love him. Jonathan Edwards wrote these amazing words, "God is glorified not only by his glories being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that he might communicate and the creature receive his glory. That it might be received both by the mind and the heart. He that testifies his idea of God's glory doesn't glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approval of it and his delight in it."
Now, there's an analogy for us with physical light to the invisible light of God's glory. God created physical light. God said, “Let there be light,” physical light, and there was light. I have said for many years I've come to realize if God says let there be light, He must also say, “let there be sight.” If He's going to emanate light through the universe but nothing can receive that light, what good is that? He didn't do it for himself. He knows how great He is. He knows completely how great He is. But to put his greatness, his glory on display, the emanation of light, He must create light receptors and must create in that case of physical light, the eye. Physical light is received by the eye. Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. If your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness."
The invisible spiritual light of God's glory is also received by an exquisitely complex organ, the heart. The human heart along with the soul and the mind, those internal attributes that are in the text today, are receptors of God's glory. For years, I've said faith is the eyesight of the soul. I'm not backing away from that. I think it's true. But faith is a capacity that resides in the heart, soul, and mind, somewhere in there. It's a capacity of the heart, soul, and mind to receive invisible spiritual light. God created the human beings in his likeness, and our bodies have magnificently complex organs. The eye is a exquisitely complex, delicate organ for receiving light, and so also our other organs have their magnificent complexity. God created the inner nature, the true self of humans with this language, heart, soul, and mind housed in a physical body which is connected with strength that can move in this world and act and show energy. This is what we are. All of that capacity created in the image of God.
God yearns, He desires your heart, your inner nature for himself. He made that for himself. He made your capacity to see and appreciate the light of his glory. He made that for himself and He's jealous over it. He wants it. Sadly, as we saw last time, sin has entered the world, corrupting that magnificent inner organ, so we're blinded to his glory. That capacity is still there, but it goes after created things and loves them in deeply corrupt ways, destroyed by sin. The salvation work of God is to heal and restore that inner nature so that it will do finally what it was meant to do and that is to love God, and that's what we're going to talk about today. God in His grace has begun this massive work of healing and of re-creation residing in the inner nature of man, the heart, soul, and mind to love God.
"God yearns, He desires your heart, your inner nature for himself. He made that for himself. "
I. The Two Great Commandments
Look again at the text. Mark 12:28-34, "One of the teachers of law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, 'Of all the commandments, which is the most important?' 'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.' 'Well said teacher,' the man replied. 'You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart and with all your understanding and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burn offerings and sacrifices.' When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.'"
We're in the midst of an overall series in the Gospel of Mark. We've come here to the last week of Jesus's life. He's dealing with a bunch of controversies and opponents, enemies that are trying to trip him up in his words. This man is not like them though. This man genuinely has a desire to know God. It's pretty clear from what Jesus says to him and what he says to Jesus. He comes and asks this question. Last week, we looked at the two great commandments, the positive commandments, love God, love others, but we also looked at the negative, the prohibitions, the “thou shalt nots” as well and saw that we can't just stay positive. Our hearts are so corrupt that we can't just say love and do whatever you want. We will mess that up. So I took that law, the law, both positive and negative and applied it to different stages of our salvation— justification, sanctification, glorification. That was last week's sermon.
And by the way, this sermon that I wrote, I wrote yesterday. I never do that. I don't write sermons on Saturdays, but I didn't like at all what I had written before. So you can just discard that outline. I don't even know what it says. It's no one's fault but my own. That's what happens when you're gone all week in a Texas prison and you come back and you look at the sermon, it's like, oh, that's really not good. The problem was I gutted a lot of its best points last week and it would just be a repetition of a lot of the same things. It wasn't anything wrong, it just wasn't anything new. I thought we need to do something else. So I now conceive of the vertical aspect of the two great commandments to love God in a three sermon series. I described last week's sermon just a moment ago.
II. What Does It Mean To Love God?
This week's sermon is definitional. What does it mean to love God? That's what's in front of us. What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Next week is more therapeutic. What do I do if I don't love God, and that sermon doesn't exist either yet. But it will, I promise. God willing.
I want to talk about how can we be healed and how can we love God if we're distant, if we're drifting, if we're cold, or even if we're normal but we want to love God more? That's what next week's sermon's about. So now it's definitional. What does it mean? What does it mean to love God? The Hebrew word for love, “ahav”, it's interesting, three of the first four times it's mentioned. If we find where it's used, it's fascinating how it's used. They all center around the person of Isaac, interestingly. First the love of a father for a son in Genesis 22:2. This is the first use of the word “ahav” in the Hebrew Bible. "Then God said, 'Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and sacrifice him.'"
That should obviously remind us of God's statement at Jesus' baptism and also at the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my son whom I love.” But that's the first use of the word “love” in the Bible, father for a son. The second is for a husband for a wife. Genesis 24:67, "Isaac brought Rebecca into the tent of his mother, Sarah, and he married Rebecca so she became his wife and he loved her." He loved her. The third use of the word “love” that I'm listing here is Genesis 27:4, and that's actually where Isaac says to his son, Esau, "Prepare me the kind of tasty food that I love and bring it to me to eat so I may give you my blessing before I die."
That's fascinating word study here. The use of the word “love.” Love of a father for a son, the love of a husband for a wife, the love of a man for meat stew, like a savory stew. Same word. What is it then? What is love? We do the same thing in English. We do the same thing in our use of it. I love my wife. I love my kids. I love my job. I love my country. I love football. I love baseball. I love chocolate. I love the fall. The same word for a widely ranging array of things. I love Jesus. I love almighty God. Same word. How do we understand it? The number one mentor I've already quoted here on this other than the Bible itself of course is Jonathan Edwards. And Edwards wrote one of the greatest works that I've ever read, The Treatise on Religious Affections. In the context of Edwards writing that, 1746 was the first Great Awakening, a massive revival of religion. A revival of people's hearts toward Christ and I think the greatest revival of the last 300 years. There's lots of ferment about Christianity, lots of activities, lives were being turned upside down by the gospel. Things were changing, lots of transformation. Lots of criticism too. People criticizing it, not liking all the displays, the emotional displays. And then as the years went on, some of those people just reverted to the old way they'd been living before. And so the idea came up, what is the nature of true religion, of true Christianity? What is it?
No one I think was better suited, better gifted or positioned to answer that question than Jonathan Edwards, pastor of one of the most significant churches in New England, the church in Northampton, Massachusetts. He was a seasoned pastor with a brilliantly theologically deep mind. He also had an amazingly deep, almost scientific gift of perception. He would study spiders and watch things they did. He thought they were magnificent, and he would write things about the behavior of spiders. He was scientific, but especially about religion, about things of the Bible.
With this Great Awakening, there's all this ferment, emotion, all of this change and then other aspects, tears of joy, shouts of joy, people jumping up and down, throwing themselves on the ground, crying. What is it all? He wrote his treatise concerning religious affections to try to answer the question. He argued that true conversion toward true Christianity, true religion consists in religious affections or holy affections, which ultimately simply is love. It comes down to love, ultimately. What does he mean by affections? Edwards made this insightful remark, He said, "God has endued the soul with two faculties. One is that by which it is capable of perception and speculation or by which it discerns and views and judges of things, which is called the understanding. The other is that by which it is in some way inclined to them or disinclined or averse from them as liking or disliking or loving and hating, pleased or displeased, approving or rejecting. Those are the affections." The soul studies and comprehends the world around it as it becomes aware of its understanding and its nature, and then secondly is either attracted to it or repulsed from it to a greater or less degree. That's what love is, and then true Christianity consists in love.
First Peter 1:8, speaking of Jesus, "Though you have not seen him, you love him. And even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." That's true Christianity right there. [1st John 1:8] To love, truly love Jesus Christ. He argues that the soul is doing this all the time. It begins with perception. It begins with understanding, with knowledge, and it moves over to affection. The heart then moves toward or away from that thing. I want to give you an illustration from a recent experience I had with a friend of mine, Jeff Percy, who lives in Newfoundland. He came from Canada with his two teenage children, Maria and Luke, and brought them to an NFL football game. Luke, a child after my own heart is a big Patriots fan and they were playing the Jets. It was a rainy day and they're in the Meadowlands there at an NFL football game. While Luke was ardently into it, Maria couldn't care less. She didn't know much about American football, its rules. It didn't mean much to her. Third and long, what does that mean? Getting the first down with a great pass, what is that? Which team is which? What are the colors? It's just nothing for her. The heart studies and then, the more you understand, then if you are a fan, short for “fanatic”, you are going to be ardently involved in that. You're going to be passionate and jumping up and down about what's going on. So it is with everything. We start with the perception. The soul has the ability to study something with knowledge. Then the more we understand, then our hearts are kindled and our affections become engaged.
"To love, truly love Jesus Christ. …It begins with perception. It begins with understanding, with knowledge, and it moves over to affection."
Joe Rigney writing about Edwards' treatise said, "It's the inclination of the will that governs our actions." Some inclinations of the will are mild and minor. They barely register at all. Like choosing what socks to wear today. But other inclinations of the will are vigorous, persistent and lively, like choosing the person you're going to marry. Only the latter Edwards would term affections. It's the more ardent stimulations of the will. They're more vigorous and sensible. The soul has the power to affect the body. Sam Storms said in talking about Edwards' treatise, "Only the soul or immaterial element is capable of thinking and understanding and thus of loving and hating or experiencing joy or sorrow over what is known. The many physiological sensations we experience, the rush of blood, rapid breathing, goosebumps, chills down the spine and increased heartbeat, et cetera, those are the effects, the physical effects of affections.” The body is very complex. The mind, the heart, these are complex systems, but it has a physiological effect.
Now for me, as I studied all this, a number of years ago, I started to see it from my own engineering background with two things. One is a magnet- attraction and repulsion- and the other is a number line of affections in which you lay out strong or weak affections or disaffections. That's how I tended to see it. We would say, like a bar magnet which has an N, north, and an S for south, and you have two magnets, and the likes repel. You can feel a force. If you put the N and an N together, you can feel an invisible force repelling, pushing away. That's repulsion or disinclination, disliking or hating. But if you turn one of them around and then they're opposite, there's an attract and you feel a force pulling them together. Then you take all of those arrays of things that you like on up to those things that you love, you put them on the positive side of the number line, so from your perspective over here on the right-hand side, and the higher the number, the more ardent your affections are for those things. Then on the negative side, the more ardent your disaffection, dislike, all the way up to, we would use the word hate. Zero would be perfect indifference, like Maria at the football game. But the more you learn, the more your heart starts to move one direction or the other, and so you have that sense of repulsion or attraction.
I've always been interested in magnets. I was at a car parts store yesterday and there was this little telescoping magnet thing that you could reach out and pick things up. Some of you men know exactly what I'm talking about. As a matter of fact, when the guy was replacing the battery in my car, he did drop a nut down there and went and got that telescoping magnet thing. I said, "That's going to make it in my sermon." He's down there and it just gets attracted to it. Fundamentally, that's what our heart does. As you look at that number line, God stands over this whole process and demands, commands that He be uppermost in our affections. On the number line, He is by far, the farthest right thing because all of the entities that have existence in the universe are in two categories and only two— creator and creature. And there's an infinite gap between the two. Anything you love more than the creator is a creature and is the biblical definition of an idol. Romans 1:25, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the creator who's forever praised.” That is idolatry. John Calvin said, "The human heart is an idol factory. In our wickedness, in our sin, we are continually loving, created things more than the creator who's forever praised. Amen." It's what we do in our sin. Jesus Christ also similarly claims the top spot in our affections. Matthew 10:37, "Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me. Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” As a matter of fact, Jesus says in Luke 14:26 that our love of Christ should be so great, so ardent that anything else in the universe will seem like hatred by comparison. He uses that language to talk about things that in other places He tells us to love. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
You need to understand what Jesus is saying there. He's saying by comparison, the gap between your love for Christ and everything else should be so dramatic that everything else is like hatred on the number line of affections. That's how I perceive love. It is to be having my heart genuinely attracted to God and the things of God. To love them, be drawn to them. We are told in scripture, using the same kind of language, that naturally we are repulsed from these things. The mind of the flesh is enmity against God [Romans 8]. It hates God and his things naturally. We are repulsed from them.
"By comparison, the gap between your love for Christ and everything else should be so dramatic that everything else is like hatred on the number line of affections. "
Now look at the text. Look at the words that Jesus used. "You are to love the Lord your God with everything you are." What does that mean? Well, with all your heart. What is the heart? The heart biblically is the core of your being and we understand the heart by the functions ascribed to it in the Bible. What does the heart do? There's a number of functions ascribed to the heart in the Bible. For example, it thinks. Proverbs 23:7 says, "As one thinks in his heart, so he is." The heart thinks, the heart feels. In Romans 9:2 Paul says, "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart." So there's passion in the heart. It feels emotions. It decides. The heart makes decisions. Second Corinthians 9:7, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart." That's about Christian giving. It decides, it makes decisions. It makes plans. Proverbs 16:1, "To man belong the plans of the heart." The heart makes plans. The heart desires or yearns. Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." To some degree, if you look at that list of five things, it seems there's nothing left for anything else to do. The heart seems to do everything. And yet there are two more internal words. We're also to love God with all of our soul and with all of our mind. As I've meditated on heart, soul, mind and tried to discern a distinction, I just to some degree can't. I just honor and respect the fact that the Bible uses different words for these different inner attributes of the complex organ of inner self that He has made.
We honor heart, soul, mind and then try to understand strength as well. What does it mean to love God with all of your soul? What is the soul? Sometimes the two phrases go together, with all your heart and all your soul. They just link together frequently in Deuteronomy. When Jonathan wanted to go The soul could be said to be the immaterial part of you, the nonphysical part of you that is attracted to God, let's say, that relates to God. It is with your soul that you have a love relationship with God. But keep in mind, we're told to love God with all of our hearts, so, so much for that. It's hard to distinguish between them. The Hebrew word “nephesh” seems to refer to the animating principle, the principle of life. That which gives us life. We are alive by the soul, the “nephesh”. In Genesis 1:21 it says, "God created great whales and every living creature." All these “nepheshes”, to mix up Hebrew and English. He created all of these nephesh, these creatures, but especially the human being. The word “nephesh”, translated “soul”, is mostly used for humans in the Bible. Genesis 2:7, "Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living soul, a living creature.” I don't know how to take a difference between the heart and soul, but those are different words, and they have different aspects that we can only perhaps know fully in heaven the difference. But it's all of your internal self, your heart, your soul together, loving God. It's like with every fiber of your living being, with all the parts that make you alive, the mystery of life with the core of your life, love God. That's what this command is.
Then it adds the mind. The mind is to think and understand. It's the part of you that thinks, it reasons, it meditates. As I just said a moment ago, it understands. Christ is commanding that you use that intellect of yours, that mind of yours to love him. To think thoughts, good thoughts about him. Your intellect given fully to loving God, to delighting in the depths of God's word and the complexities of this book, trying to understand it. Loving God with all of your mind. Studying it. Your imagination. Using your imagination to worship and admire God. Your mental powers, your science, your philosophy, your logic, your deductive skills, your reasoning powers, powers of observation and argumentation. All that the mind can do, with all of that, love God. I like even the concept of inventing ways of loving God. Sinners invent ways of doing evil. They use their inventiveness in doing evil. Let's invent. I'm not saying invent religion. Let's do what God says. But it's just every day it's like, "How can I love you, God? How can I serve you today?" and you're thinking of different patterns.
Then finally it says with all your strength. Now, home base in this for me is just your body. That you're going to use your muscles and you're going to exert them in your love relationship with God until you're tired, until you're even exhausted. You're going to love God with all your strength. You have no strength left because you have loved God so much. I think that's fine, but I think it's okay to use the word “strong”, going back to those other inner attributes like a strong mind or a strong will or a strong love. There's a strength aspect which I think is fine as well. Everything that you have, you're going to give it all to God. I like the image of being poured out like a drink offering that Paul uses for himself. Second Timothy 4:6, "I'm already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come from my departure." The ultimate picture of this is Jesus on the cross. As they gamble for his clothing and his articles, whatever little he had in life physically, it's gone to fulfill prophecy. His life blood poured out. Everything He had to give, He gave to God and to us. This a picture of loving God with all your strength, hold nothing back, wholehearted devotion. I will praise you. Psalm 9:1, "I will praise you O Lord, with all my heart. I will tell of all your wonders." Or when David, when the ark was being brought in, it says, "He danced before the Lord with all his might.” He was really exhausted after it was over. Focus. Psalm 27:4, "One thing I ask of the Lord," David wrote, "this is what I seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple."
We have the tendency, don't we, to spare ourselves, to hold back. We often think we've done the best we can. We never do the best we can. We always have some reserve we held back a little bit. But you think about athletes. There are some pictures of athletes that really gave everything. I read a number of years ago about a woman that was competing in the Iron Man triathlon in Hawaii, which is just amazing. A 2.4 mile swim. Think about that. Swimming for 2.4 miles, then riding a bike for 112 miles and then you do a regulation marathon. At the end of that whole race, she had nothing left to give, but she wasn't at the finish line. She was leading, but she had her muscle cramp. There was no strength left, and she literally crawled on bloody hands and knees to finish third. That's a picture of giving everything. Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
III. What Should We Love About God?
What should we love about God? Well, everything of course. But I think these are some ways of understanding it. Love God's works, love God's word, love God's perfections, love God's son, God's purposes. It all starts with creation. Think of all the beauties of nature. It all starts with the beauties of nature. I'll never forget the first time that my daughter Carolyn saw the ocean in Nauset Beach on Cape Cod. She was quite young and she was born in a landlocked country called Kentucky. We brought her to see my mom on Cape Cod, and I knew what was going to happen. I had the foresight to look at her face as we crested the sand dune at Nauset Beach and then looked down at the pounding surf. There'd been a storm the day before so it was big. I watched her face and her eyes were as big as saucers. Wordlessly, for she had no words, she just kept, like saying, "Don't look at me, dad. Look at that. That's big." She had no words but big and awesome and dramatic. So it starts with creation. But then beyond that, at some point, faith enters and you stop looking just at the creation and you realize there is a creator behind it. Hebrews 11:3 says, "By faith we understand the universe was formed at God's command so that what is seen came from what was invisible." We know that by faith. So behind everything physical, we see there's a beautiful, awesome, wise, powerful creator who made all of these things. Isaiah 6:3, "Holy, holy, holy. Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory." We study like scientists who want to find God's glory everywhere, even the little things. Jesus said, "Consider the lilies of the field. They don't labor or spin. Yet I tell thee that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." That's how God clothes the grass of the field. God made it. Who made you? God. What else did God make? God made all things. God made that flower. So we love it.
We also see God's mighty works throughout history and there's an interaction between God's works and and God's Word. We start to interpret and we see God's mighty works in history. Psalm 111:2-4, ”Great are the works of the Lord. They are studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is his work and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered. The Lord is gracious and merciful." So we study his mighty works in history and we do it through God's Word. We love his Word. "Oh, how I love your law." Psalm 119:97. "I meditate on it all day long.” Jeremiah 15:16, "When your words came, I ate them. They were my for and my heart’s delight , for I bear your name Lord God almighty." We see God through the Word. We see his works in history. We see with the Jews, with Israel, how He called out a people for himself and He rescued them with a mighty hand and outstretched arm with the 10 plagues, dreadful plagues and the Red Sea crossing. The might and the power of God, the pillar of cloud, the pillar of fire, and how He did awesome things and how He made the Jordan River stand up at flood stage so they crossed on dry ground. He made the walls of Jericho fall down of themselves. There's nothing that God cannot do. He cared for them in the desert before that with the feeding of man and water from the rock. Then throughout their history, centuries of history, God showed incredible patience with them and tenderness and mercy, but also sometimes judgment and wrath as He would bring in Gentile raiders or conquerors. We see the wisdom of God in all of that.
We also talk about God's perfections, God's attributes. Then answer the question, what is God like? One of my favorite parts of new member weekend is we go through the doctrine of God. I made a list a number of years ago of the 26 attributes of God through a bunch of systematic theologies I read, and I think it's a comprehensive list. There's not going to be another 30 attributes that haven't been discovered yet. These are the ones that are revealed in scripture, and there are lots of supporting scriptures. They're just magnificent. Like God's self existence. That's what makes God different than everything else in the universe. God doesn't need a creator. He is the self existent one. He gets his existence from himself, not from the creature. We get our existence from God and sustained by food and water and air. God's immutability, the fact that He never changes. “I the Lord do not change.” He's the same yesterday, today and forever. He never changes. He can't improve or get worse. The perfections of God. We love these things. We love studying these things. The eternity of God. Psalm 90:2, "Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world from everlasting to everlasting, you are God." He's an ancient God, the ancient of days. Immensity, which may be the same as omnipresence. "Even the highest heavens cannot contain you," Solomon said. "How much less this temple I built." The immensity of God or the omnipresence of God, the omniscience of God. Great is the Lord and mighty in his understanding. There is nothing He can learn from you. Who has ever been God's counselor? Do you have any advice to give God? Would you like to teach God something? Remember that whole thing with Job? “Where were you when I made the universe? I wasn't asking your advice.” The infinite wisdom and the knowledge of God. His omnipotence, the fact that there is nothing He cannot do. We could go through the whole list and it would be delightful. But these are the perfections. If you love God, you love them. You love the God that's revealed in these words. But ultimately you love God's son, Jesus Christ. Because He's the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After He had, by his blood, provided purification for sin, He sat down at the right hand of the majesty in heaven. We love Jesus, especially the cross and the resurrection. Which when the Holy Spirit convicts you and converts you, He gives you a whole new vision of this disgusting, horrific bloody death. Suddenly it turns, and becomes glorious. Does it not? Does it not display the justice of God? Romans 3:26, "Because in his forbearance, he left the sins committed beforehand unpunished." God needed to display his justice so He could be just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus, but it's also the display of his love. God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we're still sinners, Christ died for us. So the cross is a display of justice and love. But it's also in 1st Corinthians 1, a display of wisdom and power. The cross of Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God. Power how? He saves a multitude from every tribe, language, people, and nation of all of their myriad sins in one afternoon. In one day, He takes away the sins of the world. That's power, friends, and we love it.
What applications can we take from this? I was praying and thinking about this yesterday and sometime ago, recently, I was bit with the alliteration bug ,and I just haven't been able to get healed yet. So I'm going to give you five A's, and we'll close the sermon with these five A's. Awareness, approval, amazement, ardor, and action. That's what it means to love God.
First, awareness. We learn about God from his Word and his world. We study and see, and we are aware of God, who He is according to his Word. Secondly, approval. We approve of what we learn. We are delighted in it. This makes us different than the demons. They're aware, but they hate him. We love him. We approve of what God does. One of the words that's used for approval is “amen". When you hear our brother or sister pray, we say amen. Meaning “I stand with that.” It comes from the Hebrew word “to stand.” Let it stand or I stand with it. I agree. So let it be. That kind of thing. Psalm 106:48, "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say Amen.” Let God be praised. Everyone says amen that we agree. Second Corinthians 1:20, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are all yes in Christ. Through him, we speak the amen to the glory of God." That's an amazing verse. It's like we agree that the promises are glorious and we want them to happen. We're in with it, we agree. Or then the second to last verse of the Bible. Revelation 22:20, "He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I'm coming soon. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.'" So what's John saying? I want that to happen. I approve of that. I agree with that.
Thirdly, amazement. We marvel at the greatness of God's works. Like the single Greek word, “the omega.” Oh in the doxology in Romans 11:33, "Oh, the depths of the riches, the wisdom and the knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?” What's going on in Paul as he's writing that? He's filled with amazement at the gospel. This is 11 chapters of deep theology. Oh, this is deep. Well, you're going to spend eternity in heaven saying, oh and oh and oh. God's going to be revealing his greatness to you again and again. You're going to be overwhelmed. Amazement is part of our love for God. We're amazed at who He is.
Fourthly, ardor. I've used the word a number of times in the sermon. It means “fire, zeal." Nothing God hates more than lukewarmness. He'll spit it out of his mouth. If you're lukewarm, he'll spew you out like the Laodiceans. We are not lukewarm. He wants our hearts on fire. As the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, "Were not our hearts burning within us when he opened the scriptures to us." There's a fire, an ardor, a zeal. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor serving lord. Psalm 63:1 captures it. "Oh God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I am hungry for you, God. I am thirsty for you. I need you. I want you."
Then finally, action. Simply put, you love God by doing what He tells you to do. You love God by obeying his commands. This is love for God, to obey his commands. In 1st John Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey my commands." So action. What is he telling you to do? Do it. That will enhance your love for God. It will demonstrate love for God. That's what love for God is. So are you in Christ? Do you know him? Have you received the forgiveness of sins? You cannot love him without first faith in Christ. Trust in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then if you are a Christian, how is your love relationship with God? Next week we're going to talk about that and we're talking about how to remedy it and how to grow.
We come now to a time for the Lord's supper. Time for us to celebrate this ordinance. I'm going to close our time in the word in prayer, and then I'm going to invite the deacons to come. Father, thank you for what we've learned today about what it means to love you with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Now as we turn to the Lord's supper, we pray for your blessing. In Jesus name, amen.