For about a year back in 2008-2009 the Lord kept giving me the verse 1 John 2:3 which reads:
And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
Nearly every time I asked for a verse it was the one He gave me. I blogged on it in hopes He’d start giving me other verses, but even that didn’t stop it. I confess I got so annoyed by Him constantly giving me the verse I stopped asking Him for verses!
But see I was missing the point. He was still giving me the verse because I hadn’t gotten the point out of it yet that He wanted me to get. And looking back 3+ years later it both frustrates and saddens me to realize the implications of why I missed it.
The biggest culprit here is my pride or at least my overly high estimation of my own understanding. The fact is what He was trying to show me was so far out of my paradigm, my framework of understanding, that I couldn’t even see where He was going. I thought I understood the verse and I thought I “got” the message I thought He was giving, but I was wrong… or at least not entirely right.
My mind understood commandments to be “whatever God said.” And though I would’ve acknowledged that as things written in the word (logos), I would have considered that also (and perhaps largely) to mean things He speaks us (rhema). What I can tell you for certain, is in my mind I really wasn’t considering that it included His Torah (i.e. His instructions).
Abstract vs. Concrete (Greek vs. Hebrew)
This comes down to being very comfortable in a Greek mindset of things constantly being in the abstract. We’re SO comfortable with abstract many times we don’t even look for the concrete, but the thing is the Lord wants us to be able to please Him. One of the differences of a Hebrew mindset is it is very concrete, not abstract like the Greek – very philosophical – mindset we in western cultures have been raised in.
The Father has tried to set us up for success by giving us concrete instructions, but the fact is most of us don’t really want to be told what we should and shouldn’t do. It reminds me of the book of Judges where “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6, 21:25).
You see if we just look to Matthew 22:37-39 to define commandments (loving God and loving man), as I did in my blog from 2008, we give ourselves much room for interpretation on what that love looks like. One cult I read about is a primary example of this. They have defined this “love” sexually, which has resulted in much fornication and even child molestation. Surely most adults – Christian or not – can see that is wrong!
The fact is that love has to be defined by the Father‘s standards, not ours because it is far too easy for our definitions to be swayed by our lusts and desires (as seen in the example above). The Word is very clear in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that fornicators will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God, which leaves those (lets assume) well-meaning people in the cult in a bad spot!
To fully understand what it means to “love God” and “love man” we must define love the way Father does.
What is love?
There is a biblical hermeneutics principle of “first mention” which in essence indicates the first time a word is mentioned gives us context for understanding/defining the word. The first use of the word “love” is in Genesis 22:2
He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
What does this verse tell us about love? Love is connected to sacrifice. As we consider this in relation to loving God, what might the sacrifice be? Perhaps laying down our lives for Him: our will, our dreams, our desires all to see His will, His dreams, and His desires fulfilled. In other words, doing what HE sees as right rather than what is right in our own eyes. He even tells us what this looks like, it’s called following His commandments.
- John 14:15 – If ye love me, keep my commandments.
- John 14:21 – He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
- John 14:23-24 – Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
- John 15:10 – If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
- 1 John 2:4-5 – He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
- 1 John 5:3 – For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. [some translate grievous as burdensome]
- 2 John 1:6 – And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
119 Ministries has a great video called “Do you love God?” that lays out what it means to love Him from a scriptural perspective and challenges you to assess your own heart with more accuracy.
As I revisit some of the points from my original post about loving God through my new understanding it’s interesting to me how much it makes sense. When I spoke of “loving God” I touched on the 3 areas mentioned in Matthew 22:37 and expanded each by the definition of the Greek words to give greater understanding of what it meant to do each.
- heart – thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, and endeavors
- soul – my feelings, desires, affections, aversions – which I will sum up as my will. (e.g. submitting my will to His, laying down the dreams and plans I may have had and saying, “Lord, what are the plans You have for me?”)
- mind – my logic. (i.e. being willing to lay down what appears to be “logical” to me and choosing to be obedient to Him even if it contradicts what I think makes sense)
As I consider what I now understand keeping His commandments to be (i.e. pursuing His Torah), I can honestly say that doing so truly does require me loving Him with my heart, soul and mind.
Honestly, I don’t always feel like taking the time to restore something that someone has lost and I still have to fight the urge to work on Sabbath, though I can clearly see His hand in helping me learn to rest. I often wonder why or if Sabbath is such a big deal to Him. Yet in all this I love Him with my heart, soul and mind and lay down MY feelings and simply obey because He says. And in the end, by doing so I can have the assurance that I know Him, because that’s what His word says 🙂