I am far from perfect. For some of you who know me well, this is no great revelation. I have many flaws and I am frequently discouraged with what I perceive as my lack of progress in growing in my relationship with God and my love for Him. It can be very depressing at times. I can very hard on myself. I am sure some of you can relate to this. You don’t need anyone else to criticize you. You are your worst critic.
Self-critique can be helpful. However, it can also be unhelpful in a couple of different ways. First, if we are only looking at the here and now, we forget where we have come from. It is kind of like when I look and my children now. I don’t always remember what they were like when they were younger. However, then I look at some old photos or movies and I am amazed by how much they have changed and matured. In our spiritual lives, it can be like that. If we could see a snapshot of how we were 10 years ago, we would see that we have grown.
On the other hand, we can overestimate our growth and maturity, especially if are filled with pride and overly impressed with our own abilities and accomplishments. We can think too highly of ourselves and, therefore, look down on those who are less “spiritual” than us.
This is why, in both cases, it is important to have God’s perspective. This is especially true when it comes to living out the greatest commandment, which is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). As Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to live out on a daily basis. All of our life, every breath, is to be a pursuit of loving God with all that we are. This is a high and daunting calling. That is why it is important to keep in mind how God views the fulfillment of this calling.
We do not initiate love for God. In our fallen human nature, we do not love God. Ultimately, we do not even know what true love is. We are dead in sin apart from Christ (Ephesians 2:1). Dead things do not love. They are incapable of love. Therefore, the love we are called to give to God is impossible. However, love was revealed to us by God when He sent His Son to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). Love was demonstrated to us through the life and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God came to us, to show us what true love is really like.
We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). The only reason we can love is because God loved us first. Therefore, we do not initiate love for God. Our love for God is a response to His love being poured out into our hearts. We can’t whip it up or create it on our own. It is made possible by the work of God in our lives when we receive the gift of His salvation through Jesus Christ. We are made new and, as a result, are able to love Him in response to His love for us.
God perfects His love in us. In spite of receiving this new life and the ability to love God, we are still far from perfect. We have been declared righteous through the blood of Christ. But God’s sanctifying and perfecting work continues in us until the day we die. We abide in God and He abides in us, and through this process, this love is perfected in us (1 John 4:14-17). As we seek to live out this love for God in our daily lives, He gives us the strength and wisdom to grow and be filled with the love and fullness of our God (Ephesians 3:14-19).
As we respond to His love and seek to live a life of worship and to love our God with all that we are, we need to remember that it is not by our wisdom and strength that it will be accomplished. We are called to follow and pursue. We are called to love God, but it is God Who will perfect this in us. Our strength is failing. God’s strength is perfect. Our love is fleeting. God’s love is never ending. We are called to abide, or dwell, in Him. He is the One Who will accomplish His perfect will in us. So, yes, it is possible to live a life in obedience to the greatest commandment. It may not always be pretty, but God will continue to demonstrate His love to us and work in us to help us to live and love more like Jesus.
Together for His glory…
Thanks for the good word Phil. At this moment and while my wife is out of town a lot as she deals with family issues, I find myself dealing with all of these emotions and feelings. You spelled out my thoughts exactly.