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Loving God, Part 1: The Imperative of Loving God

Loving God, Part 1: The Imperative of Loving God

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By: Pastor R. W. Glenn
May 16, 2004
Selected Scriptures

More messages in this series:
http://www.solidfoodmedia.com/messages/seriesview.php?id=4
By: Pastor R. W. Glenn
May 16, 2004
Selected Scriptures

More messages in this series:
http://www.solidfoodmedia.com/messages/seriesview.php?id=4

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Published by: Redeemer Bible Church/Solid Food Media on Jan 14, 2010
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Loving God, Part 1: The Imperative of Loving God
 
 © 1999, 2004 by R. W. Glenn
1
 
Redeemer Bible Church
Unreserved Accountability to Christ.
Undeserved Acceptance from Christ 
.
Loving God, Part One:The Imperative of Loving God
Selected Scriptures
Introduction
If I had to distinguish what it was about Christianity that was most compelling forme at my conversion, I would say that it was that Christianity is true. Now this maysound a bit obvious, looking as we do at our faith from the other side of conversion. Butfrom my unbelieving perspective, the idea that the Christian faith was wholly true wasabsolutely revolutionary.And being convinced of Christianity’s truthfulness, I felt compelled from within tostudy and understand the whole of Scripture. In fact, I felt compelled from within almostliterally to
devour 
my Bible. I read the Scriptures voraciously—a low estimate would bethat I read them three hours a day. I could not put the Bible down. For me it was thequintessential page turner.Then, about three years after my conversion I became acquainted with the pastorwho would ultimately be my mentor in pastoral ministry, a man named Joe Babij.Pastor Babij, like me, loved the word of God. I was astonished to find out that he spenthis entire week just studying the Bible, preparing lessons and sermons, digging deepinto divine truth, plumbing the depths of the Sacred Writings.Under his influence, I became even more enamored of God’s word. I began toperceive Scripture in a new way. I came to appreciate its absolute sufficiency for faithand practice, its power for transforming our lives, and the necessity of the churchteaching and preaching its every word. The Bible became to me something that wasexceedingly lovely, excellent, and delightful. Every text seemed more thrilling than thelast one I read, and I found myself affirming with Luther the adage “Peace, if possible;truth, at any rate.”For me, the Christian life was all about truth; it was all about doctrine. But then,five years later, something happened. I severely injured my back playing basketball onmy birthday. To this day, I don’t know what precisely I did to suffer such; but the resultof my injury was that I had to be carried to my car, I had to use crutches to walk, and Icould not find a position in which I would be free from pain…save one. If I prostratedmyself on the floor—you know, face down—and put a pillow under my stomach, I feltfine.Well, in the providence of God, during that time I had a break from my regularpreaching and teaching duties. The result was that I had an opportunity to do some
 
 
Loving God, Part 1: The Imperative of Loving God
 
 © 1999, 2004 by R. W. Glenn
2
 
reading that I had been meaning to do, but for one reason or another, had failed toaccomplish. As I read, the Spirit of God got a hold of my heart, and brought about achange that I can only describe as falling in love with
God 
. Of course, this is not to saythat I had not loved God for the first eight years of my Christian life. I mean, what
defines 
the Christian is that he is one who loves God: “If anyone does not love the Lord,he is to be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). But what happened to me was that my lovefor God became real and fresh to my soul.And it became real and fresh to me in two different ways: first, my love movedfrom love for truth in the abstract, to love for truth in the person of God himself. I nolonger loved the Christian faith, as much as I loved the personal God
of 
that faith. Ibegan to see God
himself 
, not simply his word, as exceedingly lovely, excellent, anddelightful.Second, my love for God became real and fresh to me in the sense that it movedfrom my head to my heart. In other words, my love for God was transformed from
approval 
of the truth into
affection 
for him.You see, before this transformational experience, since I had placed a very highpremium on the truth content of the Christian faith, I had unwittingly reduced loving Godto obeying him. After all, hasn’t Jesus himself said, “If you love Me, you will keep Mycommandments” (John 14:15)? And doesn’t the Apostle John echo this teaching in 1John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments”?Prior to that time, I took verses like these in an absolute sense: love = obedience.But during the rehabilitation of my back, the books I had read caused me seriously torethink what I have since come to see as unbiblical and reductionistic—reducing love forGod to obedience to his commandments and nothing more. The books I had readchallenged me to the core of my being and were used of God powerfully to transformmy life and ministry.By now, you are wondering what those books were. Well, there were three;three books coming from a trinity of men named John/Jon. The first comes from theprolific pen of the 17
th
century Puritan, John Owen, called,
Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Each Person Distinctly, in Love, Grace, and Consolation; or, The Saints’ Fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Unfolded 
. How’s thatfor a title?The second book is the product the 18
th
century New England theologian,Jonathan Edwards entitled,
A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections: In Three Parts 
.And the third is the defining work of the contemporary pastor-theologian, John Piper,called,
Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist 
.Though these are not the only works that the Lord has used to revolutionize mylove-relationship with him, I cannot begin to express my indebtedness to the Lord forallowing these men to influence my walk with Christ. Before encountering these books,although I intuitively understood that there is more to love for God than the carrying outof religious duty, I had always felt uncomfortable saying the words, “I love Jesus.” Oh, I
 
 
Loving God, Part 1: The Imperative of Loving God
 
 © 1999, 2004 by R. W. Glenn
3
 
would say them, but to me it was almost unnecessary. “I strive to obey the Lord,therefore I love him. Why do I need to get so mushy?”Perhaps you are wondering the same thing. How many times have you heardthat love is an action and not a feeling? Or how about this: “Love is a choice not anemotion”? I had heard this many times in my Christian experience, and many passageswere cited to show that this was in fact the case. Christian love is not sentimentality. Itis not an emotion. It is the activity of self-sacrifice for the greater good of another andfor the glory of God.Well, this morning I hope to show you with help from Owen, Edwards, Piper, andothers that this conception of biblical love is not true. But knowing you as I do, appealsto great works of Christian theology and devotion will never suffice. Nor should they!Unless what we assert (or what
has 
 
been 
asserted) is rooted in the Bible, we havenothing. So although Owen, Edwards, Piper and others will
help 
us on our journey, theydo not have the last word. God does. So we begin with the Scripture. And we beginfirst with this principle: emotions, feelings, or affections are not optional in the Christianlife.
Emotions Are Not Optional
Jonathan Edwards begins with 1 Peter 1:8: “And though you have not seen Him,you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatlyrejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” And he says that “the proposition ordoctrine, that I would raise from these words is this,
TRUE RELIGION
,
IN GREAT PART
,
 CONSISTS IN HOLY AFFECTIONS
.”
1
 He argues that since the Apostle Peter sets forth love and joy as evidence of thegenuineness of the Christian’s faith, holy affections (like love and joy) are a necessarycomponent of true Christianity. And I wholeheartedly agree. Yet, as I said earlier, Idon’t agree simply because Edwards has said it, but because the Scripture everywhereaffirms that true religion consists in holy affections.In this connection, we observe two cardinal truths. The first is that the saints ofGod are
characterized 
as those who are affected by the things of God and especially byGod himself. We have already heard 1 Peter 1:8: “And though you have not seen Him,you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatlyrejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Real love and inexpressible joy areaffections and they are the proof of genuine faith under fire.In Psalm 51:17 David affirms that that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; Abroken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” True saints come to the Lordin their sin with feelings of grief and contrition.
1
Jonathan Edwards, “A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections” in
The Works of Jonathan Edwards 
, Vol 1, edited by Edward Hickman (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998 reprint of the1834 edition), 236, small caps in original.

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