When you hear the word “love,” what’s the first word that comes to mind? Who’s the first person that pops into your head? There are as many answers to that question as there are people. But how’s your love life in relation to the one who loved you enough to die for you?
We “love” so many things. Okay, you don’t have to be honest at this point, but I will.
– I love my wife and kids.
– I love pastoring Sherwood.
– I love to write.
– I love to preach.
– I love to eat.
– I love Barq’s root beer.
– I love chocolate.
– I love new car smell.
– I love my two labs.
– I love books.
– I love music.
– I love “stuff”.
– I love memorabilia. (My office will bear witness to that!)
– I love college football, especially the SEC.
– I love to watch high school basketball.
– I love to play golf, even if I’m only average.
– I love my friends in the ministry.
– I love talking about revival.
– I love my wife’s cooking, especially her chili, corn chowder, and cheesecake. (There’s a sermon outline for you.)
– I love Mort Kunstler’s Civil War art.
– I love Ken Jenkins’ photography.
– I love the worship at Sherwood.
– I love Sunday night church.
– I love Disney World.
Okay, you get the point. It’s easy to say we “love” something or someone. We show it and say it in a thousand ways. On any given weekend in the South, you’ll see cars with magnetic signs or flags displaying their alma mater or favorite team.
On Facebook, we check a thousand things that we “like”…and the reality is that some of us love the things we like. In our conversations, we talk about things we love. We communicate what we love by how much we talk about it.
But if we don’t love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we can be guilty of idolatry. The object of our love could be a substitute. It could be a good thing, but good is the enemy of the best. What is good may not necessarily be of God.
Idolatry is loving something or someone more than God. It is subtle and can be deadly spiritually. While we don’t have totem poles, statues to Baal, or other “idols” today, modern idolatry is just as deadly. Why? Because it’s so subtle.
I’ve met people who have a love for things other than God. They would tell you they love God, but in reality they love the hand of God or the things of God more than God Himself. Here are a few examples.
– loving your translation of the Scriptures and believing it is the only inspired version
– loving your taste in music and assuming that your kind of music is the only real kind of music
– loving a building or a tradition more than truth
We can begin to love spiritual stimulants. It’s far too easy to be soulish in our relationship to Christ. We like the events, the big conferences, our favorite speaker, our favorite Christian music group, the newest Bible app for our iPad, and a thousand other things. We are jazzed by the things of God, but maybe not by God. While these things aren’t “evil,” they can be distracting. The more we tie our love for God to what is happening around us, the less we find ourselves anchored to the Rock. More activity can mean less devotion.
We can love “serving” God, but not “sitting at his feet.” Martha would have made any church proud, but Jesus rebuked her for worrying about too many things. “One thing is needful, and Mary has chosen it” (see Luke 10:42). We must choose sitting before serving. In fact, our serving only has eternal merit if it is preceded by sitting. If there is output without input, we will eventually run dry or burn out.
So, who do you love? All of us struggle with maintaining our love for Christ. Other things—subtle things—can interfere or intrude on our love for Christ. Satan doesn’t have to cause us to stumble, he can just sidetrack us and he has succeeded.
We can’t see, touch or hear Jesus in the physical realm, but that doesn’t mean He is not here. John, writing in the first century, did see Him, touch Him, and hear Him. He was an eyewitness to the God of heaven and earth walking this world with skin on.
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life — and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (1 John 1:1, 2)
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, wrote those words. It is implied that Jesus loved John and that John loved Jesus with unconditional love. John never got over meeting Jesus. John so embraced his salvation that he wouldn’t even refer to himself by name. He was second, Christ was first.
When the Word of God and the Son of God, by the Spirit of God, take the seat of preeminence in our lives, then our love life will be what it should be. All other things we “love” will be in their proper place. Our priorities will be in the right order. Our affections will be in balance. Our relationships will be maximized. And most of all, our lives will be a walking testimony of the love of Christ manifested in and through our lives.