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 and can’t do, then you will be living 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 most formidable foe in this fight will be your own self and the 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 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 depraved condition. Put God’s word inside of you thought 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 refine the meaning of the word “love” according to scripture. It does not mean the same for this world and 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 will 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 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 we set as a goal to love God as 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.