God promises his followers many blessings. In various places he promises peace, wisdom, love, presence, strength, eternal life, and the Holy Spirit, among many others. In making these promises God runs the risk that his creation will fall in love with his blessings rather than Himself.
A couple of years ago I was blessed to read the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. This blog post is inspired by one of the major takeaways I had from that book.
On p62-63 he writes,
“Our love for Him always comes out of His love for us. Do you love this God who is everything, or do you just love everything He gives you? Do you really know and believe that God loves you, individually and personally and intimately? Do you see and know Him as Abba, Father?”
Later (p10-101) he quotes from John Piper’s book God is the Gospel.
If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?
This has been a powerful question in my life. Do I love God, or just what God does for me?
I understand that to some extent it is not possible to separate God’s love from His loving actions. John 3:16 tells us that “God loved the world so much that he sent His only begotten Son…” The sending of Jesus arises directly out of God’s love for us. As a result, we know that God loves us because he sent His Son. God’s sending action reveals his loving heart.
I then need to ask myself, “Am I grateful that I’m saved, or do I love the person that loved me enough to save me? Will I be happy to go through life without that person now that I’m saved, or is my life empty without God’s presence?”
We all know the right answer to this question.
We all know that we’re supposed to say we love God, not just his blessings.
So how do we love God? How do we include his presence in our lives? Is prayer a chore? Do we hate getting out of bed on Sunday morning in time for Bible Class? Is regular Bible reading part of our life’s schedule? Do we enjoy spending time with Christians friends talking about God? Do we value spending time with the poor and hurting and sharing God’s love with them?
How do we love God?
If we have trouble answering that question, maybe we don’t love God? Perhaps we only love what God does for us.
Thankfully, that’s not a final state.
Acts 8 tells the story of Simon the sorcerer, who saw the apostles performing miracles with the power of the Holy Spirit and wanted some of that. Simon offered them money in exchange for the Holy Spirit’s power. In response, Peter seemed surprised that God didn’t instantly smite Simon. He told Simon Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.
That’s the good news. That we can repent. We can reorient our attention away from God’s blessings and toward God himself. As we lean more upon the Holy Spirit in our lives and less upon our own abilities and priorities we can bring our lives into alignment with God’s values.
We’re not told much more about Simon. His closing words leave us wondering… Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me. Did he sincerely accept Jesus as his saviour? Did he learn to love God? Did he submit his life to God’s direction? Or are these final words a shallow effort to say the right thing and avoid God’s judgement?
However we view Simon’s response, his words provide hope for us all. When said with sincerity, our loving God forgives us and accepts us.