One reason we don’t love God is simply because we don’t even sincerely try to love God. Why wouldn’t we try? I believe the answer is that we evaluate our chance of loving God with our eyes closed to the reasons why should be able to love Him and therefore we don’t believe it is even possible. We quit before we start because we reason we shouldn’t even try because we won’t be able to do it. Jesus uses a relevant analogy in Luke 14:31,
31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:31-33
This is a great analogy. When a leader was faced with a physical battle, he would sit down and deliberate and strategize. If the leader saw that his strength was much less than the opposition, he would realize that he had bitten off more than he could chew and wave the white flag. As Jesus said, long before fighting began, the leader would pre-empt the battle by sending a delegation to negotiate and ask for peace. This action could save the leader and his people from a crushing defeat. Many times as believers called to love God, we just give up because our intel is bad.
This analogy followed the analogy of a builder who would “count the cost” before he set out to build a tower. If he underestimated the cost, he would not be able to complete the project, which would bring ridicule and shame upon him. The enemy points to our past failures and accuses us causing us to quit because the shame of failing, again and again, would be too much for us. We might even not try because the devil obscures our righteous standing in Christ and convinces us that we are not worthy and we’ll just fail again and make God even more mad at us.
The principle here is that our discipleship will only be as good as our advance scouting. We make decisions all the time based upon assumptions and projections and hypotheses. It is truly no different in our attempts to love God.
We should as ourselves, “Do we have what it takes to pursue godliness as a disciple of Jesus? Are we able to love God?”
Look at Luke 14:25-26. Jesus says to the would-be disciples to clarify what is able to help and what is not in this pursuit of loving God,
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.
These words seem harsh and strange to our ears without the context above. Let’s not miss his point. The bible clearly tells us to honor parents, love our neighbors, and even ourselves. However, Jesus spoke provocatively in order to cause us to realize what was actually relevant when it comes to our quest for loving God as his disciples. You can pursue sanctification. But you must be clear what you have that will aid you in that pursuit. When it comes to your family and yourself, we all have different circumstances, strengths, and personalities that God has given us. But you must know that your family and your self ultimately are not going to be necessary or worthy of factoring into what can help you follow Jesus in godliness. This is counter-intuitive. We rely upon ourselves and those closest to us all the time. But in loving God, these are not our weapons to do battle.
People from all different walks of life and nations and families have followed Christ. Christian discipleship truly transcends ethnicity, culture, family, & time. Identical twins born of the same parents at the same time have walked different paths. Many “ENTJ”s have walked a path of wickedness, while others have sought to know Christ and worship Him. Jesus desires his disciples to accurately count what are your assets in your quest for sanctification. The best news a weary Christian can hear is that his or her ability to love God is not based upon himself.
So, what will cause us to develop in sanctification? If it is not self or family, Is it our church? No. These things may be used as secondary means, of course, but let me direct you to four resources that all believers have that are crucial to pursuing sanctification. Sanctification is spiritual and you need these four spiritual resources if you are to pursue it.
First, anyone who will follow Jesus must have a heart that loves his law. You have to want to listen to Jesus. This seems to be so basic that you might not even consider it. I only mention it first to encourage you. If you have a desire to follow Jesus, you should be aware that this is good news. Why? You weren’t born with this desire. Most people in the world do not have this. You may have had this heart for Christ for so long that you can’t even remember what it is like to not have this overarching desire for his glory. But you must not take for granted that you are like everyone else. What gave you this heart for God’s law and his glory was the grace of God. Adam, in the garden, had no issue doing God’s will, but since Adam’s sin, all people born after him have been born spiritually dead to God and his law with no desire for him. No heart for God. As Romans 3:9ff says, “no one seeks God…” That is, until he or she is “made alive with Christ.” Someone who is made alive has the law of God written on their hearts. The old “heart of stone” has been removed and he or she has received a “heart of flesh.”
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.Ezekiel 36:26
A Psalm-writer once said that his soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times (Psalm 119:20). What’s behind this? Not your soul, your strength, your family, but God’s grace! Your new heart comes from the promise of God seen clearly in Ezekiel 36:26, “And I will give you a new heart and new spirit within you.” You will be godly because you have God’s work which he promised to do in you!
Second, those who love God will love Him because they are reconciled to God. You must be reconciled to God prior to pursuing his law. You can give up if you are not reconciled to God. People alienated from him do not love him. But the scripture teaches that all those with a new heart have reconciliation with God!
Because of justification, all those in Christ are declared to be righteous and God’s curse due to their sin is removed from them, having been deployed upon Christ as he endured the cross.
13 CHRIST REDEEMED US FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW BY BECOMING A CURSE FOR US—FOR IT IS WRITTEN, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO IS HANGED ON A TREE”— 14 SO THAT IN CHRIST JESUS THE BLESSING OF ABRAHAM MIGHT COME TO THE GENTILES, SO THAT WE MIGHT RECEIVE THE PROMISED SPIRIT THROUGH FAITH.Galatians 3:13-14
The new heart and Spirit you have received flows from the reconciliation you have received through the curse-bearing work of Christ on your behalf. It would be impossible for you to pursue holiness if you were still under his curse. If you’re still cursed, then give up on trying to pursue holiness…but if you are no longer under God’s curse, then freely go to war against your sin and pursue godliness. You have the backing of God’s new heart given to you and his Son who bore the curse for you that you might be reconciled and justified! You have every reason to love God with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength because you have known his great redeeming love for you. If you have not known this love, it would be absurd to pursue godliness.
Third, those who love God know that their future is secure. If you’re going to follow Jesus, you already know you have a heart for God and his law and have confidence in doing so, you should count on the fact that God has promised and secured your future everlasting eternal happiness with him.
First, we find confidence in our current heart and passion toward loving Christ and his law. Second, we should be confident because of the completed work of Christ in history for the sake of our reconciliation with the Father and our justification, and we should be encouraged by the reality that these things lead into God’s gracious future promises for his people.
We will be living with God forever because of the resurrection. What sense does it make for us to run from Jesus and his way when we know that our future is blessed precisely because it involves the presence of God and the absence of sin? Looking to future grace assures us that we will be fighting in the right direction and fighting against the true enemies. When we see that the enemies seek to kill us, but Jesus goes to prepare and make certain that we have a place with him in everlasting heavenly happiness, how can Jesus and his way not be lovely to us?
Don’t take for granted that others have the rock-solid assurance of heavenly happiness that you have because your faith is in Christ. You have so many advantages toward the end of loving and enjoying God. Your future security is very important to have established if you are to love God.
Fourth, those who love God have the promise that God will strengthen and provide the power to fulfill his plans in you. God graciously enables all those to those to whom He has given new hearts, and those who have been reconciled through Christ’s cross, and all those who have the assurance of heavenly eternal happiness with God, to them is the promise that God will strengthen them for the tasks ahead. Philippians 2:12-13 says that as we work out our salvation, it is God who enables us both to will and to do his will.
God is strengthening his people. But if keeping God’s law and loving Him were easy, everyone would be doing it. It is not easy, and therefore, this is precisely why we need his help. Because of the sin nature, Paul describes how when we hear the law of God, our sin nature acts to create a contrary desire against it. See Romans 7:7-8. When Paul heard the command to not covet, coveting sprang to life. Believers have the flesh warring against the spirit of God within us. But we are not dead in sin. Being alive in Christ, we are not left to fight sin alone. We are instructed to put on God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10-11). We also are given sufficient perspective throughout our days to deploy God’s wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Paul says in Romans 6:14 that sin will not reign over you. We who are in Christ are not under the law, but under grace.
In 1 John 2:14, John says that he writes to the believers because they are strong. They are strong because the word of God abides in them. Because of this, John declares that they have overcome the evil one.
Let the reader ask him or herself again, when it comes to loving God, do we you have enough?
If you have ears to hear the promises of God articulated above, then you should be convinced that you do have enough. As Jesus instructed the woman caught in adultery in John 8, “Go. And sin no more!” You do not know how much time God has ordained for you to love him before the end. It could be 80 more years, 18 more years, 18 months, 18 weeks, 18 days, 8 more seconds. No matter what, make it your aim and obsession to love God with your complete being. Do his will. Obey his commands. You have more than enough to do this. By faith, you are in Christ, you then put on the same armor that he used to slay the enemy! The battle is yours in Christ. He provided a new heart, reconciliation through his cross, a certain victorious future, and the now the strength to get you there.