Take good heed therefore to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God.
We are called to love God. It is not enough that we discharge our duty to our neighbour; we have a distinct duty to God (Malachi 1:6), This duty is not fulfilled by the most scrupulous devotion to external service alone. God claims the affection of our hearts.
I. THE NATURE OF LOVE TO GOD.
(1) It has all the qualities of genuine love.
(a) It is personal. We love God in loving goodness and all things Godlike; but the perfect love of God implies a personal relation between our soul and His. We love Him as our Father.
(b) It is seen in the delight we have in God, the attraction He is to us, our desire to be in His presence, and the greater brightness of our lives as we grow nearer to Him. True love finds its greatest joy in loving. The love which is merely benevolent, which wishes well without feeling delight, is cold and faint.
(c) It is proved by sacrifice. Love sacrifices itself to death, and prefers the person loved to its own joy. So our love to God must lead to self devotion and willingness to suffer loss for His sake.
(2) It has special features of its own. There are different kinds of love, determined by the different relations of men, as friends, brothers, parents and children, husbands and wives. Our relation to God is unlike any other relation, and the love which flows from this must have a peculiar character. God stands to us in the ideal of all relations, as the friend, the father, the husband of His people, and our love to God should be the perfection and ideal of all love. Still God needs no help from us; therefore the element of pity which characterises the love of the strong to the weak does not belong to this love. God is unseen and spiritual; therefore our love to Him does not naturally take the form of sensuous rapture, but rather that of calm and rational devotion. God is infinitely above us; therefore our love to Him must be inspired with reverence and humility. In its perfection it must become an all-absorbing devotion. Yet even then it will be characterised by strength and depth rather than by passion and visible emotion.
II. THE SOURCES OF LOVE TO GOD. We are to "take good heed " - an admonition which implies that it rests with us to cultivate our own love to God.
(1) Consider the grounds we have for loving God:
(a) In His love to us, seeing that He has loved us before seeking for our love, and has proved His love by His goodness in creation, providence, and redemption;
(b) in His nature, He attracts by the "beauty of holiness;" He is love; the more we know of God the more do we see of His goodness.
(2) Realise the presence of God. Love is strengthened by communion. Contemplation of God with faith in His personal presence will draw the soul near to Him, and deepen the feeling of affection to Him as a real being - "our Father" - and not as the mere abstraction of perfect attributes which is all that the name of God suggests to some men.
(3) Live in His spirit. As we love what God loves, as we grow like Him, as we approach Him in sympathy, we shall learn to love God.
III. THE EFFECTS OF LOVE TO GOD.
(1) Obedience. We shall desire to serve and please Him, and shall do this more heartily than from fear, self interest, or a cold conviction of duty (Romans 13:10).
(2) Likeness to God. Love naturally assimilates by the influence of
(a) admiration and
(3) Love to man. This is a direct fruit of love to God, because
(a) it pleases Him,
(b) it is Godlike,
(c) love to God must flow out in all forms of unselfishness and benevolence (1 John 4:20).
(4) The highest blessedness. Heaven consists in the enjoyment of God through love. He secures, on earth, peace and satisfaction to the deepest yearnings of the soul. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.