Love God. Love others. Grow in grace.
If you’ve spent much time browsing our site or attended one of our services, you’ve probably noticed these three sentences scattered around. But you may be wondering what exactly they mean. After all, people have different definitions for ‘God.’ ‘Love’ can be understood in several ways. And “grow in grace”? What does that even mean?
So I’ve been thinking about these three little sentences. And not only because I realize that people might not really understand what they mean. I’ve also been reflecting on them because I’ve found that when words are repeated over weeks and months, they easily lose their punch. We get so used to hearing them that we quit paying them any attention. They become little more than white noise in the background of our lives.
But we cannot afford to let these three sentences become background noise.
They’re far too important.
So what better way to both reflect on the meaning of these sentences and to explain them to those who may be unfamiliar than to write a post about what it means to love God, love others, and grow in grace?
God is Love
One of the most important and telling statements about God is made in John’s first letter. He wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8 NASB).
Love is at the center of who God is. This is why John says that “God is love.” And this idea is also behind the doctrine of the trinity. Only a being who exists as multiple persons can truly be said to be love because the act of loving requires an object to love. And so, from eternity past, the Father, Son, and Spirit have been in a mutually loving relationship. When they created mankind, they did so in order to bring humanity into this eternal circle of love.
To put it simpler, we were created to love and to be loved.
This is why we, as human beings, long to belong. It’s why we’re desperate for genuine relationship. It is the reason why we want to feel loved and accepted more than just about anything else.
It’s at the core of who we are.
What Does God’s Love Look Like?
But what does love really look like? People define love in a variety of ways. Some think of it as an emotional state. Others think of it almost exclusively in terms of sexuality. But neither of these describe the kind of love that defines God’s character. True love is about sacrifice and mutual submission. It’s about putting the well-being of the one you love ahead of your own.
This is why God’s love for the world is usually expressed in terms of sacrifice. Consider these verses…
- “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 NASB
- “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” – 1 John 3:16 NASB
- “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 NASB
- “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” – Ephesians 5:25 NASB
God loved you so much that he was willing to put your well-being and future ahead of his own by dying the death that you deserved.
This is the love of God.
But love isn’t satisfied with mere expressions. Genuine love draws people together. It reconciles and heals. Its goal is wholeness.
And so, when we experience love, we’re compelled to respond. The question is…will we respond in kind, showing love back? Or will we reject and ignore that love?
Our Response to God’s Love
This is the question that we all face. God has expressed his love toward each of us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He has extended invitation to you, asking if you will join his join his family.
But how will you respond?
You might ask, “How should I respond?”
Again, John points us in the direction of an answer. Listen to his words: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11 NASB). John tells us that love should be our natural response to God’s love for us. But, you may be thinking, ‘Why does John say that we should love one another? Why not focus on love for God?’ The answer to this question can be seen by reading the rest of 1 John 4.
The chapter ends with these words: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21 NASB).
In other words, you can’t separate love of God from love of others.
This is why Jesus himself said, “‘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” (Matthew 22:37-40 NASB).
Jesus was essentially saying, “The whole Old Testament can be summed up in two commands: Love God and love others.”
Learning to Love God
But, we might ask, how do we love God?
Again, John lets us know: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:3-4 NASB).
We love God by keeping his commandments.
And what are those commandments? “Our faith.”
We believe, trust, and put our faith in God and in his Son, Jesus. And as we do this, we learn to love God naturally.
We don’t have to work up obedience. It flows out of our trust in him.
Think of it this way: if you truly trusted that someone had your best interests always in mind…if you truly believed that they knew what lay ahead and could prepare you and carry you through any situation…if you had complete faith in someone who promised that he would never leave you or forsake you… wouldn’t you listen to them? Wouldn’t you want their advice? And if they had proven themselves again and again, wouldn’t you just follow their advice instead of always thinking you could find a better way?
Faith is the spring that feeds our love for God. As we grow in faith, we grow in love.
And there’s not better place to grow than in a garden.
Growing in Community
Jesus never intended us to be on our own. He didn’t send his followers out as indepdent contractors. When he sent them out to preach and heal, he always sent them as pairs or groups. And when he ascended to the Father, he formed a community of believers who shared their lives with one another.
Take a moment to reflect on this account of the first Christian church: “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44-47 NASB).
Christians are like flowers, they’re most beautiful when they’re planted and growing together, each one complementing the others.
And this is why local congregations like ours exist. We seek fertile soil where we can grow together, fulfilling the calling that God has placed on each one of our lives. In doing this, we learn, together, how to love God rightly.
Learning to Love God at Rock Chapel
This is why we gather every Sunday morning at 10AM. Our time together lets us sing his praises and worship him for his love and faithfulness. It lets us cry out to him through prayer for our needs and the needs of those around us. It gives us a chance to proclaim and remember his love by taking communion. And it lets us hear his words read and explained so that we can learn more fully who he is and what he’s calling us to. Corporate worship is like sunshine and fresh water to our faith. And as we bask in these things, our faith grows and bears ever greater love for God.
But this Sunday morning gathering (Sunday night and Wednesday night could be included as well) is only the beginning, a springboard of sorts that propels us through the week.
Like an early-morning alarm that wakes us up and reminds us that we have places to be and things to do, every worship service sounds as an alarm, reminding us of who we are and what we’ve been called to. Gathering for worship wakes us up to the greater reality behind the things we see. It reminds us that there is an unseen realm that is no less real than the world we see with our eyes and hear with our ears.
And so, every time we gather to worship, we wake from our dreams and are reminded that there is a God who is sustaining us, who loves us, and who is inviting us into his presence.
This is why the phrase ‘Love God’ is plastered all over our website. Because it’s at the core of who we are.
We are a people who love God through corporate worship.