Nearly every Christian with whom I’ve discussed loving God with all your heart (Matthew 22:34-40) has experienced deep remorse in this area. None of us love God the way we should. In fact, many Christians feel so far away from God in their heart, they often struggle with doubts about whether they are even really saved or not.
What should I do when I don’t love God? Is there any hope when my heart feels distant, and I can’t seem to make Him the first priority in my life? Yes, there is hope! There are clear and attainable answers to these questions, both long-range and short-term.
Usually the root problem for most Christians who struggle with love for God is a theological problem. Everyone is a theologian, whether they realize it or not, because everyone has formed conceptions about God and everyone has some sort of worldview – a subconcious framework by which they understand reality. Many times, however, Christians have difficulty thinking biblically. It may be that they have only read their Bibles inspirationally for years – picking out positive thoughts without training their minds to synthesize truth from Scripture. Or they may have allowed a disconnect to form between the sacred and the secular, creating a split worldview. We could find many additional examples of theological problems at the root of not loving God. We will counteract those as we pursue the long-range goals of spiritual growth in this series. But first, we want to focus on five practical defensive moves in the fight to love God that will help you clear the field so that you can focus on building a solid theological foundation for spiritual growth.
There was never a more distracted people in all of history. We are surrounded by inputs and information, lights and noise. Even as I write this from a corner in a coffee shop I fight to tune out music, sounds of traffic, my iPhone notifications, the baseball highlights on the TV in the corner, and the commotion other customers are making. I’ve come here, believe it or not, to find refuge from other distractions in my life. Many of those distractions aren’t audible or visible – they come in the form of responsibilities – to work, to my family, my church, my community. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by responsibilities and let all of the “good things” clamoring for attention drown out the “best thing”. Jesus, in Luke 10:38-42, told Martha, who was “encumbered with much serving” that she was missing out on the best part. Her sister Mary, on the other hand, had chosen “the one good thing” – sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him.
Do you make time for that one good thing? Why not choose to do so today?
Fight the World
Each of us faces a daily battle – a battle for our heart, mind, and soul. The weapons of this warfare are not tanks and grenades, but spiritual influences. As a Christian, you are indwelt and influenced by the Holy Spirit, but you also face bombardment by anti-Christian influences constantly. It is crucial for us to be aware of those influences all around us. According to 2 Corinthians 4:4, Satan is the god of this world, subverting nearly every possible medium in an attempt to brainwash our thinking. 1 John 2:15-17 tell us he particularly gears his influences toward our desires and tries to pervert them. His targets are the “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The only way to ward off those corrupting influences is biblical discernment.
Do you constantly process inputs through the filter of God’s Word? Make it a habit to think biblically about everything you do.
The World has been particularly successful in influencing how we define love. Love is almost universally viewed as an emotion you have no control over, but the biblical definition of love is much different. Feelings are wrapped up in love, but it is important to understand that devotion fuels delight. It is unhealthy to enter a relationship looking for an emotional rush that’s only temporary at best and cannot stand the strain of the pressures of life. In contrast, true love is a choice of devotion to someone. You are so delighted with who that person is that you devote yourself to that person. The feelings and emotions that accompany such a relationship are not the end in themselves. Ironically, though, devoted love provides the protected, stable environment that emotions need to flourish. Sometimes Christians try to “work up” feelings and emotions through emotional praise services or charismatic experiences. Those efforts will fail without a deeper devotion to the person of Jesus Christ.
Do you pursue God regardless of momentary feelings? Only through heartfelt devotion comes lasting emotion.
Fight Lack of Commitment
Apathy is the greatest enemy of love. The two are mutually exclusive. Yet so many Christians are like the disciples sleeping while Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26). Jesus needed them to “watch”, to be alert and engaged in the spiritually momentous events that were taking place as they slept, unaware. Jesus calls upon us, too, multiple times in Scripture: “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober” 1 Thessalonians 5:6.
Are you alert and engaged in your own spiritual growth? Don’t be caught sleeping!
Some Christians have experienced an unhealthy teaching or culture that overemphasizes performance and appearances. Although they may preach salvation by faith, the Christian life is very works oriented to them. In other words, if you appear cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s you are viewed a spiritual person. If you show flaws, you are looked down on and judged. This creates a very unhealthy situation and communicates a flawed view of God. On the one hand if you are spiritually honest you know you’re not perfect and as a result you are afraid God looks at you accusingly. After all, that’s the attitude your spiritual leadership has modeled. The other possible response is to become blinded by spiritual pride and think you’re so special God must be pleased to have you. This kind of pride inevitably results in tragic spiritual downfall.
The truth is that we are all desperately sinful, yet God has poured out His love on us through Christ. He has covered us in His robes of righteousness and given us the Holy Spirit so that we can respond in love to Him. Having freed us from guilt and shame, God wants us to pursue Him with utmost devotion, and He has given us all the reason and means to love Him.
Is fear holding you back from complete devotion? Realize that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).