Why we love a person has a profound effect on how our relationship will progress over time. If the reason the reason you love your spouse is based on their looks, popularity, their financial success, or on what they do or can do for you, over time the relationship will bear that out and suffer or end.
The same is true in our relationship with God. If our love and affection for God is grounded in His blessings or what we think He can do for us, our relationship with Him will be fickle at best and disappointing at worst. The lesson from Job I talked about in the first post of this series, is that we need to be learning to love God for who He is, holy, loving, and righteous, if we are going to have a healthy deep relationship with Him. Love’s love is the holiness of God.
Knowing this and learning this truth is huge.
- It explains why God sometimes allows what happened to Job to happen to us. He wants us to know that our love for God is for Him and who He is and not for what He gives us. We need to remember Deuteronomy 8. In that chapter God is talking to the nation of Israel right before they crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land. God was about to bring Israel into a rich and fertile land “flowing with milk and honey.” And right before they enter in God warns them saying in 8:17-18 (NIV),
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
O, what a thing to be learning! How many of us struggle with this!
We say, “What have I done that God has taken away the things that I love!” But what God is saying is, “Is your love for Me only as deep as the blessings I give you, or do you love Me because I am the Lord, the Holy One of Israel?”
We say things like, “I just don’t feel like God is with me throughout the day like I did in years past. He seems so distant,” when the reality is that God is teaching us that He wants us to love Him, not the feelings He brings. When you are ready to grow to the next level in maturity, He will take that comforting feeling of His favor and presence from you in order to teach you that your love for Him is for Him and not for the pleasant feelings He often brings with His presence.
We get frustrated when God hides His plans for us. We say, “God, I have prayed for insight and wisdom about this decision but there is no clear answer from You. What am I to do? Why are You not making Your plan clear to me? Why are You silent?” But God is saying “I want to know that your love and obedience is founded on your love for Me and not in liking My plan for you.”
When God removes some of His blessings, or pulls back His presence, or holds back from revealing His plans to us, He is refining our love for Him, making it pure by assuring that our love is for Him and in Him and not in anything else.
- It gives us a ground for love that outlasts the ground of worldly love. Worldly love is selfish and self-centered. It is based on changeable things. The love of the world comes and goes. It starts and stops based on how it sees loving something or someone as a benefit. A love that sees and delights in holiness is different. Christian love loves and rejoices in holiness wherever it sees it.
This love that delights and revels in the beauty of holiness does not come and go, fade in or fade out because it is grounded in the work of the Spirit of God who indwells the heart of every believer. Because He is permanently at work in us, our love for holiness is permanent.
This is the reason we love the saints, we see the holiness of God being built into them by the Holy Spirit. We should have special love for God’s people for this very reason—that we see God in them by virtue of His holiness that we see in them.
This love of the holiness of God and holiness everywhere does not stop with the saints but continues to all people. This is illustrated in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (NLT) where Paul says,
May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people.
Love for holiness is the foundation by which we love all people outside the church. They are the created images of a holy God. They bear His mark. All people are God’s children in that He is their Creator, and so in that sense are our brothers and sisters.
Psalm 115:3 (NIV) says, Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. That means that every person, every man and woman and child in this world today was made because God was pleased to make them. He knit their soul together out of nothing for His glory.
Think about it like this: Everything God does is an expression of His perfect love, wisdom, goodness, and power. The very fact that you are reading this implies that had God not created you, His creation would not be as good or perfect or as much an expression of His glory! Every man woman and child is a unique and necessary part of God’s creation.
We love people because, like us, they are the created images of God. When we love people we love God, because we are honoring His image in them. In Genesis 9:6 (NIV) God says, Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. What makes murder so horrible is that in that act the murderer is attacking the image of God.
God shows love to all people and wants us to do the same. Jesus said we are to love all people whether they are people we like or not because In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45, NLT). So love for holiness drives our love even for people outside the Church because our love for God is shown in loving all people.
Learning this truth is the reason that God allowed Satan to test Job and why He gives us the same trails. He wants us to love Him because of who He is and not primarily because of what He can do, or for what He has done for us.
This attraction and delight in the beauty of holiness is the result of the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts and because He does not leave us, neither does this love of holiness.
It is seeing this holiness in the saints that causes us to love them. And it is the reason we love all people, because everyone is an intentional, personal, creation who bears God’s image and in loving them we are reflecting His love for them.