Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The God Who Expects Real Love

How do you know whether you really love God? This is the issue addressed in Deuteronomy 6.

Moses gives the familiar "Great Commandment": "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut 6:5).

In short, love God with all you are. But what does it mean to love God with all that you are?

Moses elaborates:

"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children."

"When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers ... be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."

"Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name."

"Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you."
These things aren't just more commandments. They're explanatory. They show what it looks like to "love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."

Today it's common to try and dissect the Great Commandment, to explain what it means to love YHWH with all your heart versus all your strength. That's OK, but in many ways it's missing the forest for the trees. The point is that you are to love your God with all that you are. And this is what that looks like: Obeying God's law, meditating on it, passing it on to the next generation, and living in light of what God has done for you.

To God, love = obedience.

Or as one person put it, God's love language is obedience.

This shouldn't be new to us. Jesus said, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching" (John 14:23). James said true religion is "to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (1:27). It's not how you feel; it's what you do.

Actions speak louder than words, right? A man who says he loves his wife yet can't be bothered to "forsake all others" doesn't really love his wife. A man who says he loves God but has no interest in obeying his commandments doesn't really love God.

Do you really love God?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The God Who Terrifies

God is scary.

Volcanic lightning

Deuteronomy 5 continues the history lesson. Moses reminds the people of the 10 Commandments and that they heard God himself speak to them at Horeb. And he reminded them of their response:

"The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. ... This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer. For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey" (v 24-27).
God. Is. Scary.

If it seems like I'm returning to this idea a lot lately, it's because I am. And I'm doing it for two reasons: 1) the Bible emphasizes it a lot, but 2) people today want to forget it. We don't want to think of God as scary. God is our big daddy-in-the-sky who just wants us to be happy. Like a lot of lies, there is an element of truth in that, but a partial truth taken as the whole truth is always a problem.

In the Bible, meeting God is never less than shattering. He's accompanied by "a thick and dreadful darkness" (Gen 15:12, Psalm 97:2). People who encounter him fear for their lives (eg, Is 6:5, Jdg 6:22). Even our "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" was scary when his power was revealed (Mark 4:41, Luke 5:8).

People get scared when they get a real taste of who God is. And God's response:

"I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!" (Dt 5:28-29).
What does God say? "Good. If only they would stay scared, it would keep them out of trouble."

We serve a holy holy holy God of immeasurable power and finite patience. God made everything out of nothing; he could just as easily make nothing out of everything. We should be a little scared. Not a constant terrified quaking in our boots that he's going to squash us, but a realization that we really do deserve to get squashed and it's only his enormous patience that preserves us. It should drive us to repentance and to strive to do better, to be better.

Because our God isn't safe. But he's good. And he's the King.

Fearing God
What Does It Mean to Fear the LORD?