I can sum up everything I want to say to you in these letters by simply repeating the greatest command: Love God. To unpack those two words, as simple as they appear to be, will require your entire life, 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 and can’t do, you will be living under legalism. 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 His commands. When that is your mindset, you’re 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’ll also love His Word. As you love the scriptures you’ll find that they will increasingly become an anchor for you in a world that seems bent on going mad. You’ll 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 most formidable foe in this fight will be your own self and its carnal desires which lead to death. Whatever it takes, therefore dear children, fight the good fight and love God.
5. Choose friends wisely. They will help you fight the good fight, and you’ll help them also. The love of God is contagious. Time spent among a body of believers who love God will encourage you to love God all the more yourself, and you will likewise encourage them. But those in your inner circle will, in many ways, determine who you become. Choose friends who live in such a way that challenges you, and who also love you enough to challenge you personally by holding you accountable.
6. Be discerning. In this endeavor doctrine is your friend, especially as it pertains to God’s holiness and Man’s depravity. Put God’s Word inside of you through study and memorization. God teaches us in parables. He expects us to apply ourselves in gaining knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Be skeptical of new things. Test all things by the scriptures. Think rather than feel. Don’t assume that all words are defined the same way for all people.
7. Love others. The first step in loving others is to define the meaning of the word love according to scripture. Love doesn’t mean the same to this world as it does God. Extend ample grace and compassion for those who are not your brothers and sisters in Christ. Help your brothers and sisters in Christ run the race, fight the fight, and do what you can to help them get untangled from the sins that ensnare them. Help them where they are weak as they help you. Pray to your Father in Heaven and ask him to give you discernment. You’ll need it!
Your mother and I remind each other often 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 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 we set it as a goal that our loving God would be the foundation for our lives. 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.