How to Love God Easier

Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)

The last few days have raised my level of awareness about an exciting principle that empowers those who want to cooperate with God's commands. For many years I saw God's commands as duties and obligations and even threats should I not comply. Yet I also learned from experience that trying harder to be obedient would never get me very far except into deeper frustration, even arousing a spirit of anger and resistance from deep inside. This in turn would increase the level of my ever-present sense of guilt as the whole mess formed into a circulating cycle of guilt, shame, groveling, seeking God for forgiveness, struggle to increase my level of faith to believe I was actually forgiven, stronger pleas to convince God to help me to be better, more failure, sin, regret, guilt, shame.... Sort of reminds me of a hurricane continuously circulating with damaging winds howling across the landscape of my soul that is fueled by the heat from an ocean of lies about God that remain unexposed as the fraud that they are.

Most of my life when I read this passage, it only appeared to me as an impossible command from Jesus that if I did not obey perfectly would result in inevitable punishment for me not measuring up. I sensed that it was impossible for me to generate in myself the kind of obedient love that is demanded in these words of Jesus, yet the command remained and it seemed it was all up to me to figure out how to get from here to there – or suffer the unavoidable punishment threatened on all who failed.

I was trained to believe that the solution for getting from sin into obedience – in this case getting from rebellion to loving God perfectly and everyone else as well – was to believe in Jesus. I was also taught to quote many verses that would supposedly provide the formula needed to be able to love God.

He who doesn't love doesn't know God, for God is love. By this God's love was revealed in us, that God has sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:8-11)

We love Him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

I was well acquainted with these and many other verses that were supposed to solve my problem of not being able to love God and be accepted by Him. Yet I could never seem to line things up enough to activate the formula to work for me personally. Others around me appeared to find the confidence that God loved them and they could love God. But try as I might, I could never feel loved by God no matter how much I might rehearse the words. And if belief that God loves me precedes my being able to love Him – well, I couldn't even get that far. So advancing to the next stage where I would presumably succeed in living and loving like one must do in order to be saved seemed nearly impossible.

There were those who argued that we can only love God because we are saved, not in order to be saved. That sounded more hopeful, yet it had been drilled into me from religion that it was too dangerous to have a sense of assurance of salvation because we might become deceived and become complacent and become infected with the dangerous philosophy of cheap grace. Most people influencing my spiritual journey seldom talked about grace much because it seemed too suspicious to examine except as a word to explain how God might forgive me. Grace was limited to teachings revolving around how God punished His own Son on the cross for my sins so if I repented just right, confessed correctly and fulfilled maybe even more requirements that always seemed a bit fuzzy but important to unlock God's heart, then I might finally be forgiven if I had enough faith.

The result of all these complicated ideas about grace as I learned it, along with a lot of other religious confusing terminology, constituted a whole library of confusing clich├ęs that had little power to change my life except make me increasingly afraid and angry. So it was back to trying harder to be good while increasingly my frustration from my failures intensified resentment over why God had to make salvation so hard for me when in the Bible it seemed to be so easy for other people.

This summarizes where I am coming from and the mindset I lived under for many years. Over time God finally convinced me to find enough courage to question and challenge the many assumptions that kept me locked in this hurricane of confusion that constantly debilitated my heart relentlessly. Slowly I began to realize that too many things I had been trained to believe were not necessarily so, and even more importantly, God would not get mad at me if I dared to ask questions.

Only when I finally found the courage to ask questions and think things through for myself did I begin to realize from surrounding context of these verses that it was the atmosphere of fear that pervaded my feelings most of the time that was my biggest problem, not my inability to love or achieve perfection. That came as a game-changer for me, for I had always been taught that fear of punishment was to be the main motivation to work hard to eliminate sin from the life in order to find salvation. When I finally saw that this was actually a decoy of the enemy to keep me trapped in formula-thinking that only offered false hopes, I began to embrace new emerging truth that could actually set me free.

There are many details that feed into the story of my emerging liberation from the slavery of fear that held me hostage for so many years, but I want to focus on the main things that were brought to my awareness as God has prompted me to ask Him tough questions and allow Him to answer them. This new view of God began to deliver me from so many lies that were embedded in what I had thought for so long and that were blocking me from even having capacity to obey from love. Now I am extremely grateful that the graciousness of God (the true definition of grace as I have discovered) has been in relentless pursuit of my heart all my life. The Spirit of God has always been pushing back against the depression and despair that kept me locked in constant terror of God's judgments and incapable of being able to love Him. Over time He made increasing progress in dismantling the matrix of false theology that blinded me to His glory, so now my heart is increasingly responding spontaneously to the truth that empowers me to synchronize with His heart of love and can repair the deep damage caused by fear and the lies that produce it.

This has been a long process that continues to soften and transform me, and the more aware I am of how dark my delusions really were the more I feel I am barely beginning to emerge into the light of His love. Sometimes that old familiar spirit of fear tries to drive me to believe that this process is progressing so slowly that there is nowhere near enough time left in my life to get far enough along to finish getting ready to meet God. I can begin to feel hopeless again when I see how much more transformation is desperately needed in me as I contemplate the trajectory of my current progress that will fall far short of where I need to be to live in God's presence. It is easy to sink back again into those old familiar feelings of depression, only now I have more experience and can be alerted that these feelings are resulting from lies being injected into my mind from outside rather than rooted in truth as it is in Jesus. So now I know I can fight back with the truths God has been showing me, and the most potent truths that have power to disarm the enemy's lies involve the truth about who God is and how He feels about me in spite of what any current feelings might be about Him or myself.

The last couple days have introduced me to yet another exciting revelation. As I have responded to the promptings of the Spirit over recent years to limit my exposure to the constant barrage of lies all around me, I have come to enjoy and cherish hearing His Spirit inspire me with new thoughts, fresh insights and life-changing revelations I could never possibly discover on my own. The most recent one I shared with my church family yesterday, and it is so fresh I am still working to unpack it more thoroughly which is what I am doing this morning. This revelation involved making a template or chart I created a couple days ago and plugging in various commands of God that normally seem intimidating. Then by outlining three possible responses I could have, I find exciting possibilities that I have seldom noticed before. As I have done this with a number of things God has said, the contrast between the three possible responses has had a surprising impact on me inside that was totally unexpected. It has also increased my desire to live more fully in the joyful atmosphere of freedom and peace instead of other alternatives which have too long debilitated my spirit and blocked my capacity to love and be loved.

This morning the above verse was brought to my attention and I want to plug it into this latest tool to see what I might discover as I process it. So let me see what happens here.

Good and Evil
Faith in self – don't need God
I'll do it myself
Faith in self performance –
with God's help
Faith in God's goodness unleashes power in me

God says, Love me with everything you are and have (Mt 22:37)
I respond...
Why do you order me to love you? What have you done for me anyway? Given your track record I can't trust you to benefit my life. I'm better off finding more satisfaction and pleasure anywhere but with you. Get lost!
Because you command me to love you I guess I have to try harder, though it seems so difficult. What do I have to do to love you? What good things do I have to do to show you love? Give me the list and I will work on it. Of course you have to give me extra power to make up the difference for what I can't come up with myself.
Because the creative power inherent in your words contain the very power needed to actualize them, I will respond even though I know it is impossible to generate any love in myself. I choose to focus on increasing my awareness of how much you love me and as my awareness increases I know that my life can spontaneously reflect your love back making it possible for us to love each other mutually.

God says, Love your neighbor just like you love yourself (Mt 22:39)
I respond...
I will love others if they love me. That's fair enough. But don't expect me to be nice to anyone if there is no benefit in it for me.
If I love myself that would be dangerous and selfish. But I will work hard to love my neighbor, though at times I question who has to be included in that category. But I will try hard to be nice to others so you will approve of me and reward me for my good deeds done in your name.
You are saying if I don't first see myself as lovable this will never work. So I will focus on your love for me and accept how important and valuable I am to you as I embrace your affectionate thoughts for me. In doing this I am empowered to see others the way you see them, loved by you just as much as I am. As I reflect your perspective about others, no matter how hateful or evil they may be, your Spirit living in me can cause me to reflect your love to them even if they resist. In doing so I can also share in your joy as you love others through me.

The secret power in the words and commands of God that is seldom tapped into is the fact that God's word is creative. This means that when I view His commands as no different from His words used to create this world in the beginning, then instead of seeing them as something He demands that I do, I can see them in an entirely new light, as promises that He can actualize in me if I will simply consent to allow Him full access to my heart. I guest that is what Paul was trying to tell us all along maybe.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)


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