If I Could Preach Only One Sermon: Love God
Contemplating the question, “If you could preach only one sermon, what would it be?” the thought that keeps returning is, “Love God.”
Perhaps this focus of proclamation comes to mind because our church’s men’s study is going through Jonathan Edwards’ Charity and Its Fruits based on 1 Corinthians 13. Profound indeed it is that whatever we endeavor for God—however much according to His commands in the littlest jots and tittles—profits us absolutely nothing before the Lord without His love as its source and sum.
Thus, Jesus calls out the orthodox church of Ephesus with a severe warning about losing her first love for Him (Revelation 2:4). In one of our men’s studies, we somberly mused on the possibility of going in and out of the church’s doors and pews guided by the regulative principle while completely void of any real worship for hours without love!
Of course, we are to obey God. In fact, our obedience is a litmus test for whether our love for God is true. A want of willingness to submit to God in whatever He commands is symptomatic of a lack of love for Him. The opposite of love is at the heart of our not obeying God’s commandments, which is how God describes our love for Him (Exodus 20:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:9; John 14:15; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6).
It breaks one’s heart to see how much love is lost on the things of the lost that should be poured out to God in grateful, adoring, and sincere service (1 John 2:15). Whereas in our example to follow we see perfect love for God expressed in Jesus His perfect Son by His perfect obedience (John 14:31; Psalm 40:8; Hebrews 10:9).
Edwards writes: “Love ... will dispose our hearts to submission to the will of God, for we are more willing that the will of those we love should be done, than of others.” As I ponder nine years of ministry, it strikes me how much a call for myself and others to love God is so paramount though seemingly basic—we are not nearly as likely to follow Christ as He so directs us because we are so faint in genuine love for our Savior while so severe in self-infected affection.
And this lack of reciprocating God’s love received is seen in how little we truly love one another (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:20-21). Thus Jesus teaches the Bible’s second greatest commandment is to love one another as mutual brethren in His Body (Matthew 22:39).
Let us also remember that Jesus taught the first and greatest commandment in Scripture is to love our God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:36-38). He quoted the “Great Shema” in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (Hear O Israel!) and we ought not miss this call to listen connected with the summons to obey God’s commands from our hearts in verse six.
So when we are tempted to sin (which is the transgression of God’s Law, 1 John 3:4), we should look our brethren in the eyes and ourselves in the mirror and ask, “Do you love God?” The degree of our doing or not doing what God requires will give the answer to how much our hearts beat for the Lord as “ours”, if at all.
Not only was love Christ’s motivation to do God’s will and so it should and must be ours—love was the Father’s motivation and movement in saving us (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:9). What’s more, God is love and love is of Him (1 John 4:7-8). So a deficiency of loving God is a very lack of our LORD.
And if one will not love God now on earth, neither will he find himself loving God later in heaven. And that would mean his entire life will prove in the afterlife to be completely empty. May the unbeliever be broken hearted so that a love for God would enter his soul.
And for the believer? O love the LORD, all ye his saints ... (Psalm 31:23). Be thankful He calls you His beloved and call Him more devotedly, “My beloved”. And as your heart grieves for not loving God back whole-heartedly, remember our love for God comes out of His love for us (1 John 4:19) and so ask the Lord to help you love Him more.
Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Evangelical Church of America in San Diego, CA, since 2010. He and his wife, Fernanda, have five covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, Isaac, and Gabriel. He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.
Jonathan Edwards, Christian Love: Originally published as Charity and Its Fruits (Marshallton, Del.: The National Foundation for Christian Education, date?) , 4.