May 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
Perhaps the Lord has been prodding me over the past few days. In my personal study, planning for future services, and in conversations with others, Matthew 22:37 keeps coming up. There, Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Three questions keep coming to mind, and while I’ll offer my own initial answers over the next several weeks, I’d encourage you to drill down deeper and reflect on your own heart. Here are those three questions: What is love? Who are you to love? How are you to love him?
For now, let’s ponder, “What is love?” In the past, I have defined love by pointing out that it is not just a feeling, but that it is also a visible display of adoration and care that is personal and sacrificial. That’s a decent definition, I think, but while I was recently reading on the topic of love, I came across a much more sharp and succinct definition of love. In his book The Doctrine of the Christian Life, John Frame defines love this way, “Love is allegiance, action, and affection” (Frame, John, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008], p.193). I appreciate Dr. Frame’s definition and I want to reflect on it.
I appreciate how in this definition, I’m called to love God to the exclusion of everything and everyone else (allegiance). After all, I’m “to have no other gods” before him (Exodus 20:3). That’s not to say that I won’t love my wife, my children, and the ministry that the Lord has entrusted to me, but it is to say that nothing in this life is to demand my ultimate allegiance like God does. Nothing and no one else is to have my worship and praise. “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5). If I find that something or someone is competing with the Lord for my allegiance, then that something or someone is an idol, and there needs to be a radical readjustment. That person or thing may be a good gift from the Lord, but they are not the Lord.
Also, I appreciate how this definition calls me to make my love visible through faith-filled action. Love requires sacrificial action done for the glory of God. Sadly, this is where I sometimes fall short. While I will endeavor to reveal my love for God in my words and deeds through his strength and grace, and while I will sometimes continue to fall short, I’m eternally grateful that Jesus did not fall short of displaying his love through his actions. In his death, we truly see how great his love was for his sheep. In his death, we see how, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Praise God for the love of Christ seen in his actions, and may we by the strength and grace of God follow after our Savior in this way.
Finally, I appreciate how this definition addresses my heart. My affections are to be taken up with God. He delights in his children (Zephaniah 3:17), and his children should certainly delight in him (Psalm 37:4). I’m often slow to recognize the importance of affection, but in some ways this may be the most important aspect of love. I don’t want to overemphasize this point to devalue allegiance and action, but it seems to me that affection is the ground or foundation of allegiance and action. To put it slightly differently, allegiance and action spring from affection. If we are not captivated by God, then we will be tempted to divide our loyalty and we’ll certainly be slow to act.
In view of love, I take up the words of the great Puritan prayer, “The Love of Jesus,” and make them my own (Bennett, Arthur, The Valley of Vision [Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2003], p.44):
“O Father of Jesus,
Help me to approach thee with deepest reverence,
not with presumption,
not with servile fear, but with holy boldness.
Thou art beyond the grasp of my understanding,
but not beyond that of my love.
Thou knowest that I love thee supremely,
for thou art supremely adorable, good, perfect.
My heart melts at the love of Jesus,
my brother, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,
married to me, dead for me, risen for me;
He is mine and I am his,
given to me as well as for me;
I am never so much mine as when I am his,
or so much lost to myself until lost in him;
then I find my true manhood.
But my love is frost and cold, ice and snow;
Let his love warm me,
lighten my burden,
be my heaven;
May it be more revealed to me in all its influences
that my love to him may be more fervent and glowing;
Let the mighty tide of his everlasting love
cover the rocks of my sin and care;
Then let my spirit float above those things
which had else wrecked my life.
Make me fruitful by living to that love,
my character becoming more beautiful every day.
If traces of Christ’s love-artistry be upon me,
may he work on with his divine brush
until the complete image be obtained
and I be made a perfect copy of him,
O Lord Jesus, come to me,
O Divine Spirit, rest upon me,
O Holy Father, look on me in mercy
for the sake of the well-beloved.”
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