Love the Lord your God (part 2)
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Mt. 22:37
How are we supposed to love God? Well, first of all, I think it means that we see his glory. By the glory of God I don’t mean some external vision of brightness. Rather, to see the glory of God is to perceive the superlative nature of his attributes and character and to see the wisdom and power and goodness of his works. It is to see that God is transcendent, that no created thing can be compared to God in terms of its worth. To love anyone or anything, you have to see its worth. You have to see that it is worthwhile to invest yourself, your allegiance, your trust, your affection, your devotion, and your admiration in this object. No one is going to make a withdrawal from the bank of their heart and invest it in anything unless they are convinced that such a withdrawal will bring a large dividend. Thus, one of the first implications of our Lord’s words here is that you cannot love God unless you are willing to invest all your heart upon him, and you cannot do this unless you see that God is above all things supremely valuable and infinitely desirable. You have to see his glory.
The glory of God is not something that we want God to be. It is not a human invention. Rather, the glory of God is revealed in his words and works, and especially in the person of his Son. This is why the apostle John wrote, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). The author of the book of Hebrews writes, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the Fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightest of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1-3). In other words, the ultimate revelation of the glory of God is in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. What does the glory of Christ consist in? It consists in the fact that he is full of grace and truth, in that he is the heir of all things, the “exact imprint of [God’s] nature” (ESV), the one who upholds all things by the word of his power, and in that he has purged our sins. In other words, Christ’s glory consists in his divine nature, his providential control over the universe that he made, and especially in his redemptive work and reign at the Father’s right hand.
I’m not saying that you cannot see the glory of God anywhere else. Of course you can see God’s glory in the creation, by looking up at a deep blue sky or into the darkness of night and being blown away by the immensity of the heavens. We’re supposed to do that. We’re supposed to see the glory of God in his provision for us, in his goodness and creativity and in the beauty of the things he has made: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11). But above all things, we are supposed to see God’s glory in the glory of his Son. This is what the saints in heaven know and rejoice in: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).
In fact, even the glory of heaven is not original, it is derived. We think of the world to come as a perfect place, a place in which is perfect happiness and joy and peace. And we are right in thinking of it this way. But heaven would not exist as such apart from the glory of God and Christ: “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it: and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:23). The light and beauty of the world to come derives its light and beauty from the Lamb of God – the one who died for our justification and was raised again for our resurrection. Note that the beauty of heaven consists in the glory of the Son of God as the Lamb of God, in his capacity and role as the Savior of sinful men and women.
All this goes to show that you cannot truly love God unless you love his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Because you will not love God until you see his glory, and you cannot truly see his glory apart from the person of his Son. Those who hate Jesus Christ and yet say they love God are deceiving themselves: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also” (1 Jn. 2:23).
God’s glory therefore consists chiefly in the glory of his work of redemption, a work which is being brought about through his Son, the Lamb of God. And it is not hard to see how such glory could beget love in the hearts of those who see their desperate need for grace. For in the work of redemption, God reveals his love for us. “In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:9-10). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). In fact, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:5-8). If the greatest love is achieved by dying for one’s friends, what then must we say about Christ who died for his enemies?
Such love ought to beget love. As the apostle would go on to say, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). To truly see the glory of the love and grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ is to love God.