If you’re like me, you want to love God passionately. After all, when a scribe pressed Jesus to identify the greatest commandment, He summed up the entire law in two all-encompassing statements—love God with your entire being, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). Nothing in life is more important than these!
All believers agree that loving God is a worthy goal, yet what does it really mean and how can an individual truly accomplish this? In my efforts to obey this command through the last three decades, I dissected the passage and scrutinized the key words. To sum up my research and experience, I have determined that loving God passionately is essentially “expressing adoration and delight in unbroken communion with Him.” But this is still pretty nebulous. Let’s drill down further.
First of all, loving God is a matter of communing with Him. Through Christ, God gives us the wondrous privilege to walk beside Him and to respond to the promptings of His Spirit. When we love God passionately, we keep one eye on our heavenly Lord and one eye on our earthly circumstances. In other words, loving God includes both a vertical component (our relationship with God) and a horizontal component (our relationships with people).
Vertical Connection with God
As soon as a branch is severed from the vine, it stops growing and dies. It can no longer produce fruit of any kind. That’s why maintaining our vertical connection with God is absolutely nonnegotiable. If we neglect times of intimate interaction with the Lord (primarily through Bible reading and prayer), we dry up and become worthless. Christians simply cannot afford NOT to meet one-on-one with God. To ignore this is spiritual suicide! So, if you’re looking to jump-start your vertical connection with God, I recommend J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. As you digest each chapter, meditate on God’s individual attributes.
Horizontal Connection with People
When our vertical connection with God is intact, we automatically produce fruit. Spiritual fruit helps to nourish others. It leaves a lasting impact on the people who are close to us. Years ago, as I read Chuck Colson’s book, Loving God, I was very disappointed. I had anticipated mining amazing insights that would catapult my vertical connection with the Lord to new heights. Instead, Colson focused almost entirely on the horizontal connection—establishing and nurturing loving relationships with other people. I wrestled with my disappointment and finally realized that the truths in this book were exactly what I needed. In some ways, I had been so heavenly-minded that I was not much earthly good. Ouch!
As with all of life, the Scriptures hold the key to understanding what it means to love God passionately. Next time, we’ll dig into the Old Testament and identify what communing with God meant to pre-Christian saints.