By Phil Matarazzo
“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).
According to Jesus Christ loving God and our neighbors as we love ourselves with all our heart are the two greatest commandments in the entire Bible.
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37,38,39 NIV).
Four types of love
Eros Love: The Greek word for sensual love is eros. How does eros apply to Christians today? Eros love is the physical, sensual intimacy between husband and wife. It expresses sexual, romantic attraction. Eros is also the name of the mythological Greek god of love, sexual desire, physical attraction, and physical love.
Storge Love: Storge is a term for love you may not be familiar with. Even though this Greek word for family love is not specifically found in Scripture, examples are seen throughout the Bible. Storge is family love, the bond between mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, and brothers.
Philia Love: Philia is the type of love in the Bible that most Christians practice toward each other. Philia means close friendship or brotherly love in Greek. The most common form of philia is friendship.
Agape Love: Agape love is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. Jesus Christ showed this kind of divine love to His Father and to all humanity. Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. Agape is the term that defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for mankind. It is an ongoing, self-sacrificing concern for lost and fallen people. God gives this love without condition, unreservedly to those who are undeserving and inferior to Himself.
Where does agape love come from?
Agape love is transmitted to us only through the nature of Jesus Christ
“This is (agape) love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son (Jesus Christ) to be the anointing sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10 ISV). Parenthesis mine.
When we talk about love, especially loving with all our heart, the first question we must ask ourselves is where does this kind of heart filled, sacrificial, unconditional, undeserving love come from? “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” …. “And we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:7,8 – 16 NIV). We must understand that God’s love is strictly unconditional, undeserving and eternal; it’s agape love. His Spirit defines this kind of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. “Love is patient (long-suffering), love is kind. Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (nor records of rights). Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (never quits). Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV). Parenthesis mine. This is God’s love for us, and if we know Him it will be evident in the way we love Him and others.
God is love
The Apostle John conveys to us not only that God loves us, but that God is love. Love is both the “power” of God reaching out to us and the very “nature” of God Himself. God the Father reached out through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to demonstrate to us His Fatherly love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). God’s love is so powerful that no one nor nothing can separate us from it (Romans 8:35-39). Ongoing sin, however can build a wall between us and God’s love. When Jesus took upon Himself our sins He felt the wall separating Him from His Father. As He was hanging to His death on the cross He cried out to His Father: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46 KJV). Isaiah clearly gives us the same detail of the power of habitual sin and it’s ability to build walls that keeps us from God’s eternal love. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2 ESV).
What is God’s love?
“It’s not about finding ways to avoid God’s punishment and feeling like a failure if you don’t do everything perfectly. It’s about fully experiencing God’s love and letting it perfect you. It’s not being somebody you are not. It’s about becoming who you really are.” Stormie Omartian
God’s love is the substance that God created us out of. God’s love is the the most powerful positive in all the universe. It’s the power that transcends all other powers. God’s love living in and through us should be the ultimate goal for those who proclaim to be followers of Christ Jesus and have a burning desire to abide in Him. To both give and receive it. It’s what gives us truth, grace, mercy, forgiveness, humility, peace, joy, hope, faith, harmony, security, meaning and purpose. God’s love gives us unity, the power of reconciliation, the abundant life, and salvation. Are you rooted and grounded in this kind of love or rooted in merely a substitute? Whenever the Bible talks about God doing anything for us it is in His nature to do so. God’s nature is love. In reality to this truth, we can be confident that it’s God’s love for us that is the power behind His choices. God’s love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). God’s love transcends the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). God’s love heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds (Psalm 147:3). His love sets the captives free and releases them from prison (Luke 4:18-Isaiah 61:1). God’s love came down from heaven to redeem us, and reconcile us, to put us back into a right relationship with His Father. And the list goes on and on. And we can be assured that God’s perfect love cast out all fear and it never fails (1 John 4:18 – 1 Corinthians 8b).
Here are just some ways we can love God with a whole heart
Keeping His commandments.
Care for the people God has made.
Feel joy in the things God feels joy in.
By surrender and putt God first in our lives. Give God the rights to our will.
Jesus as Lord of all.
Open our hearts to God’s love.
“What if God loved you only as much as you loved Him?” Francis Hudson
Have you ever loved someone so much that you could hardly wait to hear from them, to speak with them and to see them, to be in their presence? How often have you looked forward to a visit from someone you deeply love and cared for only to have that person not come? How hurt have you felt when you were ignored and your love not returned? How devastated would you feel if a love one betrayed you?
Imagine how God who is unconditional love, who loves us more than words can describe, who sacrificed His only begotten Son feels when we fail to demonstrate our love for Him, His Son, and for others? When we are too busy to spend one-on-one time with Him in contemplative solitude. When we fail to forgive and to reconcile others who may have hurt us. When we judge, condemn, gossip, accuse, look down on others, slander, manipulate, deceive, and so on. And how do you think He feels when you perform through human effort to try and earn His grace, mercy, salvation, and His love? How does He feel when you cause chaos and division, when His purpose is solely for harmony, peace and unity?
The power of God’s love creates the power of harmony, peace and unity
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
(Psalm 133:1 NIV).
To truly live in harmony, peace and unity we must love each other with a whole heart. Here are some guidelines to follow if we are to be in harmony, peace and unity with God and others: We must know them; we must be able to be in silence with them; be close to them; to truly listen; be understanding; be compassionate; be empathetic; look into their eyes and truly see them; to spend time with them; be involved; respect them; to get along; embrace them; laugh with them; suffer with them; be transparent, honest, vulnerable, loyal, faithful, and unconditional; treat them as you would like to be treated. These practices will secure a union with God and others, with the same security and unity that Jesus has with His Father. It is the same union Jesus desires to have with us, and that He desires for us to have with one another; to love with all of our heart. Jesus speaking: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV). Jesus speaking: “I pray that they all may be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you” (John 17:21a NLT). There is power in love like no other power, and that power creates harmony, peace, and unity. And unity binds us together.
Our love must have no hypocrisy
“Your love must be without hypocrisy (be sincere). Abhor (hate) that which is evil; cling (cleave) to what is good” (Romans 12:9 ISV). Parenthesis mine.
The Apostle John said in 1 John 4:8, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” We can say that we love God and others but if there is even a hint of hypocrisy lodged in our hearts our love will be at best conditional. Love is one of the most thrown around and misunderstood word of all words. How can we truly know that our love is real? God sees the heart of man. He sees what is going on inside our hearts. Humans only see the outward; the performer, the pretender, the poser, the hypocrite, the Pharisee. Our carnal hearts are deceitful, and desperately incurable, wicked sick, who can understand it, who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9).
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend”
(John 15:13 (NIV).
True agape love requires a deep passion, understanding, knowledge of the truth and sacrifice. Jesus proved to us that He loves us not with lip service, not with conditions attached, but through unconditional action. Through sacrifice. “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up (sacrificed) his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16 NLT). Parenthesis mine. Those who truly know God and love God with all their heart will love the same things He loves and hate the same things He hates. For one, He hates division and loves unity. God desires His children to have faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). How will people know that you are His disciple? John 13:35 English Standard Version says this: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is a gift and the greatest of all gifts. “If I speak in tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1,2,3 NIV).
Without love all these good things mean nothing to God because without love they’re just human performances. Without God’s love we are hypocrites. In Romans 12:9 “without hypocrisy,” is saying; “Let your love be authentic, genuine, sincere, coming from the very nature of Christ.” No pretending. No performing. No acting. No conditions. No faking it. The original Greek word translated “without hypocrisy” (anupokritos) means “inexperienced in the art of acting.” It came to mean someone who, in contrast to an actor, is without hypocrisy or pretense. One who is authentic, transparent, genuine, sincere, and unconditional. One whose words and deeds match.
Love is the ultimate fruit of the Spirit
All good virtues come out of the fruits of love. All good virtues come from the heart and nature of Jesus. Which leads to the question; how do we possess the nature of Jesus? Simple; by abiding in Him. Abiding means having a life-giving connection to Him. The word abide simply means to remain. A branch is connected to the vine and the vine to the branch. The branch abides or remains there. This is what’s commonly known as, union with Christ. The connection is mutual. The vine represents Christ Jesus, and the branch is you and I. We abide in Him, and He abides in us. If there isn’t a mutual connection there will be no fruit. “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4 ESV). The branch is connected to the vine but is also abiding. Abiding means a total dependency on the vine. By abiding the branch now derives its nourishment from the vine. Without the vine the branch is useless, powerless, and lifeless. Apart from the vine you can do nothing. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b ESV). Abiding in Jesus involves sanctification. The denying of self, setting yourself apart for God’s purpose. An ongoing moment by moment dependency on Christ Jesus. Abiding only comes by; “you decreasing, and Christ increasing” (John 3:30). Keeping Jesus and His Word in our hearts, our minds, and complete control over our thoughts. Where we are being renewed daily, continually being transformed into the image of Christ Jesus. Those with genuine faith will remain, they won’t deny Christ. They won’t abandon or even compromise His truth. You can’t fool God, for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45). Jesus reiterated the importance of abiding as a sign of real faith when He said, “If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31).
So how do you know you truly love God and others with all your heart?
Born again followers of Christ find themselves loving whatever Scripture says as absolute truth, right and good, while hating everything that is false, wrong and evil (Philippians 4:8). Those who study the Word of God must also apply it. Applying is what God refers to as wisdom. In the New Testament, Romans 12:9 teaches this. “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good-NIV Translation. Even the Old Testament teaches us, those who truly love God must hate evil. “Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 97:10 NIV). So how do you know you truly love God and others with all your heart? Put into action what you have been taught. “Don’t just be a hearers of God’s Word, rather, be doers” (James 1:22). Practice and live out what you were taught.
If you sincerely love God with all your heart you should HATE all other lovers. Hate all false beliefs or anything that competes for first place in our hearts. Cast away ALL idols. What you allow to enter into your thoughts and then if you entertain those thoughts they will sooner or later control you. Jesus did and thought of nothing except doing the will of his Father (John 5:19-John 12:49-John 8:28). Where are your thoughts most of the time (2 Corinthians 10:5)? Who are you truly following? Maybe it’s self? What are you abiding in? Maybe it’s self (Luke 9:23,24)? Do your behaviors bear witness to the truth (John 18:37)?
God makes it perfectly clear how to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love what God loves, and hate what God hates (Romans 12:9); abide in Jesus (John 15:1-5); offer yourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1); have God sanctify you with the truth (John 17:17); deny self (Luke 9:23,24); Fear the Lord (Psalm 111:10) – “Fear of the Lord” generally refers to a specific sense of respect, awe, reverence, and submission to a deity, while “fear of God” suggests apprehension of Divine punishment.; be a doer not merely a hearer (James 1:22); and do not conform to the pattern of this world nor befriend the world (Romans 12:2-1 John 2:15). “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 KJV).
“Nothing is sweeter than love, Nothing is stronger than love, Nothing higher, Nothing wider, Nothing more pleasant, Nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth; for love is born of God.” Thomas a Kempis