I can sum up every thing I want to say to you in these letters by simply repeating the greatest command: Love God. Those two words, as simple as they are on the surface, will require your entire life to unpack, and perhaps even an eternity for all I know. So here are a few things to think about concerning this simple challenge.
1. Don’t get things turned around. Jesus said if you love me you will follow my commandments. Some get this turned around and hear “you love me because you follow my commandments”. Love God first, then following God’s commandments will flow from the Spirit. If you simply attempt to will yourself to follow rules and rudiments, splitting hairs on what you can do in order to not cross a line into what you can’t, then you will be acting in the flesh. Studying the law in order to live a hair’s width inside of it is not loving God, and it doesn’t lead to following God’s commands either. When this is your mindset, you are not keeping the greatest commandment.
2. Pray. Ask God to put in your heart ever more love for Him. Loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength is not a natural thing, and so we are not, in our fleshy selves, inclined to do it. Loving God is a spiritual thing, and God is capable of giving you love for himself based on His grace. Once you love Him, living your life free from sin will be easier, though not easy. But don’t let the “not easy” dissuade you. No direction that you take in your life will be an easy one, even if you decide to reject God and live in rebellion. If it looks easy, or it promises ease, you can know that Satan is involved somewhere.
3. Read the scriptures. As God, by His grace, puts a love for Himself in your heart, you will also love the scriptures. As you love the scriptures you will find that they will increasingly become an anchor for you in a world that seems bent on going mad. You will find, as your knowledge of God through the scriptures increases, that your Biblical worldview will at the same time grow stronger. This will make you wise beyond your years, and it will guide you in avoiding much anguish and many tears, though not all anguish and tears.
4. Fight. Paul, an apostle, and the one who physically penned much of the New Testament, said at the end of his life “I have fought the good fight”. The love of God is worth fighting for, and your foe will be your own self and your carnal desires which lead to death. What ever it takes therefor dear children, fight the good fight and love God.
5. Choose friends wisely. They will help you fight the good fight, and you will help them. The love of God is contagious. Time spent among a body of believers that loves God will encourage you to love God all the more, and you will likewise encourage others. But those in your inner circle will in many ways determine who you become. Choose friends who challenge you, in how they live, and who also love you enough to challenge you personally by holding you accountable.
6. Be discerning. As you know, I love doctrine. I think doctrine is important to the extreme. But I don’t like doctrine worship. I am not drawn to those whose love for God has grown cold, but they can cite doctrine like a lawyer. More likely than not, however, in this current culture you will encounter the other side of that extreme. There are those who know a few verses, which by themselves can appeal to the man-centered heart, but who are otherwise ignorant of God and His Word. You will know these because they will be repulsed by the teaching of doctrine and drawn to emotional experiences. The love of self in these is confused with the love of God. God is “loved” because He sees “what a special person I am, and He promises to give me lots of stuff and heal me when I am sick.” Often these people’s lives will be in a perpetual state of turmoil because they lack discernment and wisdom because they lack proper doctrine.
7. Love others. Everyone, you will find, is living somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes. Do the best you can to love them all and to help them where they are weak as they help you. Pray to your Father in Heaven and ask Him to give you discernment. You will need it!
8. And finally, seek to understand deeply the meaning of that word “love”. It does not mean what this world says it means. Search the scriptures so that you might gain clarity concerning this word.
Your mother and I remind each other daily of our number one desire for you. It is a desire that surpasses every other including your education and how well you make it in your life financially, both of which are prevailing idols of this age. We desire more than anything else that you would love God with all of your heart mind soul and strength. We have desired it also for ourselves and before we were even married set that goal, as much as we were able, as the foundation of what our lives would be about. As you have noticed, we have failed, but the goal is still there. Pray for us dear children as we pray for you that indeed our God would become the love of our lives in ever deeper ways.