Deuteronomy 6:4 – Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
Deuteronomy 6:5 – And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Deuteronomy 6:6 – And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
Deuteronomy 6:7 – And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Hello readers, haven’t written a new blog for a while! But I’m back today, and something I noticed in Deuteronomy. I was reading through Deuteronomy recently, and I saw this commandment of God. I saw the command to love God from God. This is the greatest commandment in the Bible, the commandment to love him. Today’s blog is about love me because I told you to love me. Think about this, can you tell someone to love you and they love you?
I was thinking how can that be a commandment? Like we read it, and say yes that’s good and right, but does that commandment make me love God? If I tell you to love me, will you love me just because I tell you to? Because I demand it of you. Please read on and think about it. So many Christians are so anti Old Testament these days, but the most fundamental commandment in the Old Testament was this one. This is the greatest commandment after all, and it hasn’t gone out of date. Has it?
Let’s think about it. How can we love God? Can we love God just because we are commanded to love God by him? Does the commandment itself give us the power to love God? Say I tell you to love me, will you love me? Granted, I’m not God, and if God can command the light to shine out of darkness, he can also command love out of our unloving hearts. Indeed, that’s what salvation is, but what we want to see today is some key truths in the Bible that will transform the way we think about love. God doesn’t just force us to love him. And we can’t really command others to love us.
One thing I thought of was the book of 1 John, which talks a lot of about love. Love is a big theme of 1 John. And when reading 1 John with this scripture in mind, it really is quite incredible. Most of us if we are even remotely honest would acknowledge that we don’t have that much love for God in us. So God’s telling us to love him, and it’s not just a good command, it’s the greatest command, and the key to our lives. But just being told to love him doesn’t help me love him necessarily. I know I should love him, yet I don’t. So how do we get this love? We need power to love don’t you agree? Indeed, that’s what God’s grace is, power from God to believe on him and love him and obey him.
We have no capacity to love God in and of ourselves. Let’s get that straight. Many people shamelessly say they love God, they say it with a straight face, but their lives show they don’t. Loving God looks like what God was commanding the children of Israel in Deuteronomy. When you love someone it shows, it is reflected in how you think, how you act, how you speak, what you do and don’t do. That is true not just in relation to a spouse or your children, but even more so to God. If you love God, it shows in everything you say and do in life. We often like to talk about love because we think it’s unverifiable, I can say I love God and nobody can say otherwise, but the Bible can very much verify your lack of love God.
There are a lot of people that say they love God… but they don’t. If you look at what loving God looks like in the ten commandments and so on, you’ll see you’ve broken all of them. If you are honest that is. Thou desirest truth in the inward parts, until you get truthful, you won’t even see how destitue of love you are not just to God, but to fellow man. You see, the greatest commandment is tied to the second greatest, and failure in the first results in failure in the second. You don’t love others nearly as much as you think and say you do.
The key to all the commandments in Deuteronomy is loving God. If you loved God, you would keep his commandments. If you loved God, you would keep his word. If you loved God, you’d do what he says. Jesus said in John 14:21 – “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” So Jesus gave you a rock solid proof of who loves God and who doesn’t.
What we have to understand is that there was never a problem with the commandments God gave. 1 John says God’s commandments are not grievous. They’re for our good. Indeed, God said his commandments would be Israel’s righteousness and wisdom. We tend to get this anti law sort of attitude because we are “under grace”. But it just shows we don’t get it. Under grace means we have power to actually obey God. It takes power to love God and obey God.
There was nothing wrong with the law. Paul wrote in Romans 7 that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” But the problem with the law was us and our stony, hard, unloving hearts. Imposing do’s and don’ts on people can’t change their heart. You can have a child with a heart problem and impose a lot of do’s and don’ts on that child… do those commandments change that rebellious, resentful and disobedient heart? No. The commandments are likely just to make the child even more resentful and bitter. The law just made us more and more sinful, more and more needing a Saviour with a new commandment that had the capacity to change our hearts.
We often can skip to trying to keep God’s law and commandments with no love for God. So we live Christian, we do religion, but there is no love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. See, in the New Testament, under the new covenant, there was a new commandment given. A commandment based on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection which commands spiritual life inside the believer. So you look at the ten commandments and they’re good, but without the ministration of the Spirit, we have no power and capacity to love God enough to keep them.
Love is what makes the whole thing work. It’s what makes it not work, when we have no love of God. People get obsessed with the different Greek “loves”. But what the Bible is showing you is what it says in 1 John, God is love. Without God, you cannot love. We must have God’s love in order to love others. Love for God will change your service to God. If Jacob’s seven years working for Rachel were like a few days because of the love he had for her, then the love of God will transform your Christian life. Dead religion and do’s and don’ts can’t do it.
We have to first of all face the reality that we cannot love God. God gave that great commandment, but Israel’s actions out in the wilderness showed they didn’t love him. They did not keep his commandments, because they did not keep that first commandment. Our lack of keeping all his commandments are because we don’t keep that first and greatest commandment. God’s commandments were a reflection of his holiness and purity of character. But that’s a standard we are just not at. How can we, who abide in death, live that kind of life The problem is we are sinners, we have rebellion, lust, pride, selfishness, bitterness, envy all in our hearts. Our nature opposes loving God and obeying God.
So I was thinking. We are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. They’re the two greatest commandments, because as Jesus said, on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Paul wrote in Romans 13 that love fulfills the law. You just get these commandments right, and the greatest commandment of loving God, and you’ll fulfill the law. Look at the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus loved God his Father perfectly and he perfectly fulfilled the law.
Just think, the entire law is comprehended in these two commandments. The funny thing is, people say they love God… but when the love of God is unpacked in all these commandments in how you act, speak and do in real life… it shows how destitute of the love of God we are. God could’ve just said love me and leave it at that. But we needed to be showed what that love was, what that love looked like. You see, everyone says they love this and that, but that love they have doesn’t look like or play out like God’s love does. In unpacking what could be summarized as loving God and others into a lot of other commandments, he was showing us what that love looks like, how that love behaves, how that love speaks, how that love lives. And we all strike out.
Loving God produces holiness, purity, righteousness… things that we lack when we say we love God. And when we say we love God we just show ourselves to be liars. People have such a negative attitude to even the notion of keeping God’s commandments. But the Bible says in 1 John 2:5 – ” But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” The sign of God’s love being perfected in you is keeping his word. The outworking of God’s love being in you and being perfected in you is obeying what he has said in his word. So for many, if not all of us, God’s love isn’t really being perfected in us. Why is that? Do we love our sin too much? Or maybe we’ve never received the love of God.
What we are going to see now is that it takes God’s love for us to love God. You see, God commanded us to love him. And we couldn’t. We struck out. We failed. We proved we don’t and can’t love him. He told us to love him, and we didn’t. We needed a transforming and changing and enabling power in us to love God didn’t we. You think Israel would’ve loved God just a bit considering what he did for them. He set them free from slavery in Egypt. You’d think that would’ve won their love. But it still didn’t. What I saw when comparing Deuteronomy to 1 John is that God commanded us to love him, but we couldn’t and didn’t. The command was good, but we had no power to fulfill it. You can’t just tell someone to love you and they do.
What causes us to love God is God’s love for us. God didn’t just tell us love him and that’s it. He extend his love toward us. He proved his love to us. And his love to us is what gives us the power to love him. That’s the key. That’s the message of 1 John. We can only love, because he loved us. When you see his great love to you, when you truly receive his love, you’ll be born again and a creature that loves him back. He in us, and us in him. God’s love is embodied and ultimately pictured in him sending his Son to die for us. We hated him, and he died for us. Think of all God has done for us. And when you consider who God is, what he’s done for you, maybe then you will love him. God’s love to us has the power to birth love for him in us. Remember salvation is a new birth.
Israel was born as a nation out of God’s love. See, God’s love was back then. He choose a people who were wicked, who were slaves, who were in darkness. He brought them out, he set them free, he gave them truth. Think about the God he was to Israel in the wilderness. He delivered them. He provided for them. He protected them. He was faithful to them. He never failed them. He made provision for their sin. God was worthy of their love. God’s love is proven love. That’s why he’s worth loving. So often we choose to love what does not love us. Samson loved a woman who betrayed him. Why don’t we love God who sent his Son to be betrayed because he so loves us. Samson’s love took from him, but God’s love gave us Jesus Christ. God’s love is on a different level to man’s love.
I read through 1 John about love, and it’s all about God’s love for us. God loved us, God proved his love to us. Here, this is what God’s love is, this is what God’s love looks like, this is how God’s love behaves, this is what God’s love looks like. 1 John 3:16 – ” Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” What is God’s love? God’s love is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s love is Jesus Christ laying down his life for me and for you.
The Bible says in 1 John 4:10 – ” Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” We didn’t love God, God loved us. And you’d think you’d love someone who’s loved you when you didn’t love him, who’s given his life for you who hated him so that you may live. That kind of love can transform your ability to love. See, God’s love is meant to transform our love. When we receive his love for us, we can and should extend that same love to fellow believers. We should look for that love in the spouse we choose. Not their love for us, but God’s love in them toward us. If your marriage is based on God’s love, your marriage will last. That’s why this world’s love burns out, because it’s not God’s love. But God is love, so their love falls so far short of God’s love.
What a truth, God is love. And that’s a truth from 1 John that many people don’t fully believe. They think they can love apart from God. But you have no true love without God’s love. It’s when you realize you don’t love, and then you see his love, that you are in a position in life to receive his love. Love for God is found not in God forcing you to love him, but God proving his love to you. That manner of love is salvation, redemption, forgiveness, atonement, grace, mercy, truth, light, righteousness, holiness, goodness, a new creature. What a love that is. If only Israel had considered what he’d done for them.
Have a look at this verse… 1 John 4:19 – ” We love him, because he first loved us.” God didn’t just tell us to love him because he’s telling us to love him. God showed his love to us. Think of how faithful he is to you. Think of how truthful he is with you. Think of how merciful he is to you. Think of how longsuffering he is to you. Think of how holy he is. Think of how right he is. Think of how gracious he is to you. Think about how when he could’ve given up on you, got sick and tired of you, when he could’ve rightly thrown you in hell, he sent his sinless Son to die on the cross for you so you could be forgiven, redeemed, washed, cleansed, saved, blessed and have eternal life. That’s the kind of love that can give you love.
God’s love to us gives us love to him. God’s love to us when received, births a love for him in us. When you get saved, the Holy Spirit indwells you, and gives you the power and ability to love God. He sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts. We go from this ungrateful, unbelieving, selfish, proud, lustful sinner to a broken vessel which has the capacity to love God and love others. Those great commandments, too great for you and I, suddenly are our life. It’s not work, it’s not effort, it’s love. You can go from someone who hated God and despised his commandments to someone who’s delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
The key to all those commandments is loving God. They struggled with it, because they did not love God. We also baulk at God’s commandments, God’s ways, God’s word… because we don’t have the love of God in us. If you are not saved, if you are not born again, you do not love God, you cannot love God, you will not love God. When you are saved, you do love God, and obeying his word does follow, it can’t not. That’s why obedience to his word is a proof of your salvation, because it’s a result of the love of God dwelling in you.
There was nothing wrong with the commandments, but just commanding us to love God and obey him couldn’t give us love of God in our hearts. Doing this and doing that because God told us to, because we have to… that’s what many of them had. That’s what many Christians have. It’s soulless, heartless, loveless grind. It’s too much. We can’t endure it. It’s too straight, too strict, too extreme. For so many professing Christians who claim they love God, there is no love of God shed abroad in their hearts. God’s commandments were for their good, the problem wasn’t the commandments… the problem was a broken greatest commandment, they didn’t love God, despite all he had done for them.
The first contract was sinners trying to do good, trying to do better, trying to fulfill God’s righteousness and it didn’t work. Do this and live failed. Self improvement and trying to do better has no capacity to change your heart. You can do, do, do and there be no heart reality to it. Imposing the law on a hard heart was bound for failure. However, the second contract was based on God’s Son’s perfection, on him doing the doing. And through his Son’s life and death and resurrection, we could be forgiven and saved and given a new heart and life with a capacity to love God based on believing and receiving what he had did and has done for us by faith. See, that’s what true love is, it’s sacrificial and giving. For God so loved the world, he “gave”. God proved his love to us. And in Christ, the gospel has the power to change our hearts. When God shows us his love through his Son Jesus Christ, that has power to change your life. When you get born again, the love of God is birthed in you. Deuteronomy becomes possible, it’s not an impossible commandment imposed and required of an unloving heart, it’s our life.
We didn’t love God, God loved us. There’s nooone that loves you more than God. 1 John 4:16 – ” And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” Hopefully this is your reality. What has power to birth love in us is God’s love to us, the gospel. God’s love is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe in his love, trust in his love. Never doubt his love. His love is proven to you in action, in deed, in faithfulness, in truth.
Did you know that if you don’t love God, you don’t love others? You may not love God but think you love other people. That’s what this world is. But this world doesn’t care for you. The only way you can truly love others, is when you love God first. 1 John 5:2 – ” By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.”
And have a look at the final mention of “love” in 1 John 5:3 – ” For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” Was John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, who speaks about love continuously in the gospel and his epistles, was he into legalism and works and religion? Or is he speaking about the grace of God and a life that you just don’t know yet? How can we have an attitude to God’s word of reverence and joy to obey and do his will? That doesn’t come naturally to us. Let’s not kid ourselves. It takes the love of God to want to obey God. You know why we buck against obeying God, about what God’s word says, about doing things how God says to do them? Because despite all that religious bluster of loving God, we don’t love God. Jesus got crucified by a mob that claimed they loved God and were serving him. Loving God is proven, just as God’s love is proven to us.
I you read 1 John while reading Deuteronomy, it all makes sense. It’s the love of God that makes this whole thing work. Doing Christianity without the love of God dwelling in you, it’s soulless grind. It’s time to recognize that we don’t love God. We have a love problem. And just being told to love him doesn’t make us love him. But when you read Deuteronomy, you realize God wasn’t just telling them to love him because he’s telling them to love him. He was telling them that for their good. Loving God is the way of life.
He showed us his love to us. He showed us a love we do not have. And he had proven his love to them had he not? He’d delivered them from bondage in Egypt. He’d taken them through the Red Sea. He’d provided for them, protected them, and he bore them up on eagle wings. He didn’t abandon or forsake or give up on them, he showed them love and truth and grace. He gave them how to live and think and do… for their good. And for it, they rejected him in their hearts. The law was ministered first and glorious, but the ministration of the Spirit under the new covenant, how much more glorious?
1 John 4:17 – ” Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” Has your love been made perfect? Or do you still struggle with loving the world and all that is in the world? Do you still struggle with pride and lust? Do you still hate your brother and walk in darkness? Do you still lie and do not the truth? You can be bold or ashamed in the day of judgment. That day is coming. Or you can be, as he is, so are we in this world. Are we dwelling in his love, God in us, and we in him? This isn’t religious ground, this is faith ground, this is spiritual life ground.
God said in Deuteronomy that the words that he was commanding them would be in their hearts. Yet for many Christians professing the love of God, God’s word is not in their heart at all. They’ve turned away from the word of God. They’ve rejected his word. It’s because they have not the love of God in them, just as Jesus said. For if you loved him, you would keep his commandments, just as Jesus said. We often go straight to commandments without the love, but our attitude to God’s word has to be founded on the love that he has to us, and his love flowing in us and through us by his Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus said in John 13:34 – “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” As John wrote in 1 John 2, it’s a new commandment, but also the old commandment that we had from the beginning. Through Jesus Christ, that old commandment becomes a new commandment. Love is only possible through Jesus Christ. It’s his love to us that gives us an ability to love God and love others. That old commandment, so impossible, it’s new in a life that has a new birth isn’t it.
So today, it’s ended up being quite a long blog. God told them to love him. The greatest commandment is to love him. But how to do that? Can you decide just “I’m going to love him”? No. Can you love him just because you’re told to? No. The commandment was good, and the most necessary commandment for life. But you can only get there through the realization you don’t have the love. You don’t love. You can’t love. But we see Jesus the Bible says. We see God’s love for us. Proven through time, proven through what he has done, proven through what he’s said, proven in his provision for us. Who loves you more than God? Who is always faithful and true to you? Who is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother?
God’s love provided his sinless Son who died for us while we hated him. That’s true love. And when you come to realization of his love for you through the gospel of Christ, that has the capacity to birth a love for God in you based on God’s love to you. And when you have that love of God, shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost, you can then love your brother and fellow man. It really is quite simple. The gospel is simple. God is worthy of your love, because he loved us. Read the Bible, find out who God is, find out how worthy of love he is, find out about his great love for you. You know, it’s a lot more than love me because I told you to. I mean, that is enough, but God has shown, established and proved his love to us on a level that we can’t conceive of, and showed us that his love is our best way of life and standard for living. I can’t say it better than the Bible does, so I’ll finish with these verses, and may God reveal his love to you today.
John 14:15 – If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 15:9 – As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
John 15:12 – This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.