Jesus said that loving God was the most important thing his followers are to do:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.” (Matthew. 22:37-38. See also Mark 12:28-30; Luke 10:25-28)
Mark adds “with all your strength” to the list. What does it mean to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? What does loving God look like? Perhaps a good way to answer this is to ask another question: “What does loving another human person look like?” Well, if we love someone we want to spend time with them because we really love being with them and listening to what they say to us. (Those of us who are fortunate enough to be parents get this.) Our love relationship with God really should be that of a trusting child and a loving parent.
I think that loving and serving God are logical things to do. If I truly believe that God exists, and that God loves me, then the logical thing to do is to say, in my heart: “OK Father. I want to be what you want me to be. I want to do what you want me to do.” It makes no sense for us to claim to be God’s servants and then to follow our own desires and ambitions.
When we love God and commit ourselves to his service, he will give us things to do. But let me sound a word of warning. Doing the things God wants us to do is not the same as loving God, and we must be careful not to let those things we do become more important to us than loving God. This is particularly important for those of us who are in paid positions in churches or Christian organizations. Loving God must come first, because Jesus said so, and the things we do for God must be, and can only be, the result of our love for him. To put it another way, the things we do for God must flow out of our love for him. Because we love God, we obey him, as Jesus did.
“but I do as the Father has commanded me, so the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14:31)
If the things we do for God take up so much of our time that we spend less time alone with God, then we have lost our way.
Can we talk about ‘holiness’ for a moment? It may be unfashionable but it is important. Something that is holy is something that is set apart for God’s service. If we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength then we are, unquestionably, setting ourselves apart for God’s service. Setting ourselves apart to love and serve God is called holiness.
Busyness is the enemy of holiness.
Loving God means spending time with God. And that means spending time in prayer. Prayer is not just talking to God, it is also listening to God. At it’s deepest and best, for me, prayer is being in communion with God. (See the next two articles in this section: “What did Jesus say about prayer?” and “What did Jesus say about prayer – Part 2”).