Nagging Questions: Do I Really Love God?
I have a nagging question and I suspect that you may have it also, especially if you are given to contemplation and introspection. Well, that is if you are a follower of Jesus.
Followers of Christ are given some incredible opportunities right now to live their lives to the full. Jesus told us in John 10:10 that He came that everyone who believes in Him can live an abundant life. A God-given abundant life comes with forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, a life transformed into the human being God designed you to be. We’ve defined that abundant life as experiencing love, both being loved and loving others. That love demonstrates its self in your respect for every other human being and your empathy that causes you to want to help them out of a jam. In the community of the faithful, you discover that you are accepted and that you belong, you’ve got a new tribe, a spiritual family. The abundant life blossoms with inner Joy, peace, goodness. You discover that you have new patience, a new kind of self-control, and when someone treats you poorly you offer them kindness instead of the smack up the side of the head. Where life was meaningless as you live out the abundant life you discover a purpose that fulfills you. That’s for here and now.
The disciple of Jesus also is given promises about the future. We wrap those promises up in the word heaven. In the last book in the Bible, in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, we read that God will wipe away every tear, no more grief, no more suffering (Revelations 21:4). That there will be no more war, that nations will be healed and no longer will anything be accursed (Revelation 22:2-3) We read that God will renew everything, renewed to its created design (Revelation 21:5). Every wrong, every mystery, every injustice finds an answer. To me, the most precious promise is seeing God face to face.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
For me this is too cool—to know God more intimately, to be face to face. That’s salvation. Are you in on all this? Have you come to that place in your life where you feel that this is what you need? If so those heart tugs are from God the Holy Spirit calling you to enter into a life-giving relationship with God the Father, through Jesus God the Son. The gospel makes it clear that if you want to be a follower of Jesus all you have to do is follow. Acknowledge that you are not a follower of Christ now. Believe that Jesus has opened the way for you to get right with God and put you in your right mind. Commit yourself to Jesus’ mentorship. Ask God to accept your faith your acknowledgment, your belief, your commitment. He will not turn you away, rather He will make you one of His own. If this resonates within you, then act on it right now.
For you who are following, I have a nagging question. It was a Friday and Grant’s physical therapist Mark Clem was working Grant over and said that his daughter Delany who happens to thrive with Downs Syndrome knew something bad was happening because of the Coronavirus Stay at Home advisory and there was no school. She was talking with one of her teachers and Mark overheard the conversation. Delany didn’t want to die and go to heaven, she wanted to stay here. When Mark told me this I thought: “Wow, that’s not the party line.” I mean if you ask most Christians they will tell you “Yes,” “I want to go to heaven.” I read Psalm 42 and the question hit me, do I really, do I love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27)? The poet writes and the songwriter sings:
Psalms 42:1-2 (NCV)
As a deer thirsts for streams of water, so I thirst for you, God. I thirst for the living God. When can I go to meet with him?
We are given a vivid picture of a big 16 point buck being chased by bow hunters on horseback. The buck is running for its life. The dogs are barking, the horse galloping, the men shouting. The buck charges into the wood racing to escape death. In the wood, the buck distances itself from the hunters and eventually escapes. His heart his pounding, sweat pours off his body, the buck is thirsty. He desperately needs a drink after his marathon escape. “as the deer thirsts for water…so I thirst for God.” The question came: “Do I?”
During that time that my life was in utter chaos as I stood in the ashes of my hopes and dreams, I contemplated taking my own life because I thought there was nothing left for me here. There was a bunch of leftover prescription morphine tablets, more than enough to simply go to sleep and not wake up again. I wanted to go to heaven, I wanted to cash in on all those great a precious promises of no more tears, no more pain, no more death, streets of gold, comforted in the arms of Jesus, reunited with my loved ones, one in particular. I didn’t want to be here.
Now, not so much The Lord graciously comforted me. Put up with my temper tantrums, patiently reminded me of my responsibilities. He kept me very busy, surrounded me with friends, provided assistance, and support. The cloudy skies began to clear. My dead heart was brought back to life. God was creating a new normal for me. I’m still recovering while I still pray for miracles to happen. Passion is returning. There are things worth living for. Adventures I want to go on. Places I want to experience. A lover and friends I want to enjoy and work to be accomplished. Now, that the times are better, do I want to go to heaven?
Do I love and long for God like a hunted buck’s thirst for water?
The question has been hard for me to give a glib answer too, you know the party line, “Yes, of course, I am looking forward to being absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). I recently finished what you could call a spiritual classic, a hardcore look at the life of holiness, oddly, maybe, unfortunately, entitled: Theologia Germanica, translated from Latin into English: German Theology. You can acquire your copy written in modern English from your favorite online book store (https://www.amazon.com/Theologia-Germanica-English-Susanna-Winkworth-ebook/dp/B003R4ZO0W/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Theologia+Germanica+modern+english&qid=1587487259&s=books&sr=1-1). In those pages the writer addresses issues of the heart, points to the place our devotions as followers of Jesus are to be. I had to ask again do I long for the Kingdom of God, like that buck?
There is some paraphrasing going on in these excerpts that sent me once again searching my own heart.
“The believer renounces all desire and choice and commits and commends themselves and all things to God.” (Theologia Germanica Chapter 10). (Matthew 16:24-26)
What are the desires of my heart? Are they for a good American Dream life? I am getting to an age where I see I may be transformed from being a pastor to being put out to pasture and am I longing for a comfortable retirement; having enough to maintain my now lavish lifestyle? (Matthew 6:33)
“The Christ-follower lives in pure submission to God “in the perfect freedom of fervent love.” (ibid.) (Luke 6:46)
Is every area of my life truly submitted to God, or do I still have I, Me, and Mine exerting influence upon my choices? Fervent is an older word, it means passionate intensity. Am I intensely passionate about my relationship with God and the mission of the Kingdom? (2 Timothy 1:6)
“Where God is known, He cannot but be longed for and loved so greatly, that all other love by which the disciple has loved himself and other things, fades away.” (ibid, Chapter 18)
Have all my other loves faded away? Do I have a kingdom focus or am I still be seduced by the ways of the world, and all the things the culture says I should have? (Revelation 2:4)
When I wore a younger man’s clothes I want to conquer the world. I wonder now if I’ve sold out hoping just to survive. H. Ray Dunning, one of the leading theologians in the Church of the Nazarene, once told me that, “too much introspection can be a bad thing.”
The problem with overly indulged introspection is that it first and foremost focusses on me. It’s concerned with how I am doing, my being, and my performance. Even if you are like me, finding at times that you are your own worse critic, it’s just another disguise of egoism. You judge yourself inadequate, you may then decide to work harder on yourself, or you may just give up trying to live a devout and holy life. Both choices miss the mark.
You should have a legitimate answer to the question “Is my life founded upon, centered on, my love and devotion to God?” Does my soul long for God and His Kingdom? Does the way I live, the choices I make daily, demonstrate my answer?
Be honest with yourself.
Then recall the scriptures.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NCV)
I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be…Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above.
Here are the operative words “forgetting” and “trying.” What is past is past, it cannot be changed, don’t dwell there, don’t berate yourself for things in the past. Instead, look forward, keep on trying. In the gym, when you attempt to lift the maximum weight, it’s a strain, you have to give it your all, you put in your best effort. If this is the attitude of our mentor Paul, it should be adopted by all Christ-followers.
The rubber meets the road test is not introspection but action.
1 John 3:17-19 (NCV)
Suppose someone has enough to live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God’s love is not living in that person. My children, we should love people not only with words and talk but by our actions and true caring.
This is the way we know that we belong to the way of truth. When our hearts make us feel guilty, we can still have peace before God. God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Love is action, not sentimentality; love is doing, not good thoughts and fine prayers; love is getting your hands dirty by obeying God’s commands, using your gifting to bless others; love is showing respect to everyone and sacrificing your abundance to meet their need; love is not judging yourself arriving at self-condemnation but it is keeping in step with the Holy Spirit whose task is to transform you increasingly into the image of God. It is love’s actions that answer the question “Do I thirst for the living God?”
We know that we love God because we love people.
One more assurance to convince yourself that you do indeed love God
This is love for God that you obey His commands.
If you intend to obey, and you are, then you can put your conscience to rest. Obedience is a demonstration of your longing for God. Confess when you fail to do God’s will and then keep on trying, you will find the grace you need to change any missing of the mark.
Hebrews 12:14 (NCV) & 14 (NIV)
“Try to live in peace with all people, and try to live free from sin. Anyone whose life is not holy will never see the Lord.” “…without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Try to live free from sin. Free from a lack of care, consideration, and compassion for a person in need. Free from choosing to do something other than obeying God. This sums up the holiness the scripture reveals that opens our spiritual eyes.
Holiness is not religion’s legalism, it is not following a set of rules, it is all founded in active love, a love that lays down one’s life to do God’s will. Every time you lay down your life in love, it proves that you love God, you desire God as the buck, after the chase, thirsts for
If your conscious challenges you with the question: Do you love God? All you need to do is point to your deeds of love. Your respect and your helping hands for others is proof that you do.