For many years, Carl J. Printz was Norway’s Consul to Canada. When he was ninety-nine years old, he was interviewed on television. The journalist asked him, “Give us the rule you have followed during your long and useful life, the rule which has most influenced your life and molded your character.” Printz replied, “I would mention one definite rule – one must be temperate in all things.” But then he paused and added, “Perhaps I should say temperate in all things except one – fulfilling the commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself. These are the only things we can rightly do with excess.” He’s right. We can’t love God too much; but we can love Him better. Our love for Him can grow richer. Our adoration and devotion to Him can deepen. And our daily walk with Him can yield more loving fellowship from day to day. In preparation for this message, I looked all fifty passages in the Bible devoted to the subject of loving God. Some of those passages were simply promises of how God will bless those who love Him. I tried to categorize these verses but I finally gave up. There aren’t enough categories, and when I tried I found the categories too small and limiting. So I’m just going to take you through them canonically, going from the book of Exodus to the epistle of James.
1. Exodus 20:4-6. The very first of these verses about God’s blessings on those who love Him is enough to overwhelm us for the entire night. It’s an explanatory comment attacked to the Second Commandment in Exodus 20. Verses 4-6 say: You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Those who hate the Lord are doing a disservice to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It will be detrimental to the next several generations. But how do we interpret this the last part of that passage? How can we comprehend it? God will show His love to a thousand generations of those who love Him. When we devote ourselves to loving the Lord as we should, it sends a successive series of blessings into our family tree and into our descendancy that’s beyond anything we can imagine. A thousand generations of blessings—just for loving the Lord. How do you top that? How do you take that all in?
2. Deuteronomy 11:13-15. In Deuteronomy, Moses lets us know that these are not just ethereal or hypothetical blessings. They are as real as the sunshine and rain showers. He said in Deuteronomy 11:13-15: So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today – to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul – then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. In other words, God will tangibly bless those who love Him. But that’s not all. Look down in verses 22-25: If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow – to love the Lord Your God, to walk in obedience to Him and to hold fast to Him – then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea. No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as He promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go.
3. Deuteronomy 30:19-20. In Deuteronomy 30, the aged Moses is giving His final instructions and exhortations to the Children of Israel. In verses 19 and 20, he says: This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Notice that phrase: Love the Lord your God… for the Lord is your life. In the New Testament we have a parallel text, when the apostle Paul says in Colossians 3:4: When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will appear with Him in glory. When we love the Lord God, He becomes our life. When we love our Lord Jesus, He is our life. And it’s a life of blessing available only to those who love Him. He blesses us for a thousand generation, He becomes our very life, and it is a life of blessing.
4. Judges 5:31. I confess I’ve never preached through the book of Judges. I intend to do so sometime, but it tells of the chaotic period of the judges when things tended to go from bad to worse with the Israelites, and sometimes it’s all a bit depressing. But there was a woman among the Judges – Deborah – who composed a hymn of praise after a military victory. I want to show you the last verse of this hymn – Judges 5:31: So may all Your enemies perish, Lord! But may those who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength. When you watch a sunrise you see the power of that massive heavenly ball of fire chases away the darkness, pierces the clouds, warms up the earth, and brings another day to our planet. That’s a biblical symbol of the believer, of the Christian, of someone who loves the Lord. We are like the sun when it rises in its strength.
5. Psalm 119:132. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as You always do to those who love Your Name. To love God’s name is a Hebrew phrase for loving God. This verse says that God always turns to those and has mercy on those who love Him. He cannot do otherwise. His very nature is love, and this love is released in waves of abundance by the simple act of our loving Him. He is full of forgiveness, patient, and always turning to us with mercy.
6. Psalm 145:17-20. Since He has promised to bless us for a thousand generations, and to be our very life, and to make His home with us, we’re not surprised when we find other verses in the Bible promising us that the Lord will watch over those who love Him. Psalm 145:17-20 says: The Lord is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does. The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. The Lord watches over all who love Him. I’m a lover of the great hymns of the faith. Most of our Twentieth Century hymns were not of the caliber of those of Watts or Wesley, and their style of music has faded. But I still finding myself singing some of them and I still love them. For example, there was a hymn published in 1910 by Pastor William C. Martin. I don’t ever remember singing it as a congregational song, but the soloists would often sing it as special music. The words said: “I trust in God wherever I may be, / Upon the land, or on the rolling sea, / For come what may, from day to day, / My heav’nly Father watches over me. / I trust in God, I know He cares for me; / On mountain bleak or on the stormy sea; / Though billows roll, He keeps my soul; / My heav’nly Father watches over me.” That’s a promise to those who love Him.
7. John 14:21 & 23. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them…. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. The Bible additionally says, Whoever loves God is known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3). Loving God brings us into His inner circle. He moves in with us and makes our home with us. We know Him and are known by Him in a never-ending circle of love, assurance, reassurance, and everlasting life.
8. Romans 8:28. And we know that in all things God works for the good off those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. This is the greatest and most all-encompassing promise in the Bible. I say that because it comes at the climax and conclusion of the Apostle Paul’s theological treatise on justification by grace through faith; and right afterward he says, “What more shall we say?” Everything God does on our behalf – turning every curse into a blessing – is summed up in this great promise, and the only condition is loving Him and being called according to His purpose.
9. 1 Corinthians 2:9. We came to this passage a few weeks ago in our study through 1 Corinthians. Here apostle Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 2, beginning with verse 7. He is going to say here that God has revealed to us the mystery of the Gospel and of eternal life through Jesus Christ, which people of earlier generations did not fully understand. We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of his age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love Him—these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. Many times we take verse 9 to be a reference to heaven; but the meaning of this verse is not limited to heaven. It’s referring to the entire sweep of eternal life God gives us through Jesus Christ. Notice how it is described: The things God has prepared for those who love Him. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” The Lord is always in the business of preparing eternal blessings for those who do one simple thing—who love Him.
10. Ephesians 6:24. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. Notice how our love for Him is expressed – an undying love.
11. James 1:12. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. The crown of life is one of the rewards to be given on the Day of Judgment. There is a special reward given to those whose love for Jesus enables them to persevere in times of stress and trial.
12. James 2:5. Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him
Conclusion: I’d like to conclude with a final verse from the last book of the Bible. A moment ago I read the final verse from the book of Ephesians, in which the Lord promised grace to those who love Him with an undying love. But a generation later, the apostle John wrote to this same church – the Church at Ephesus. He commended them for their hard work and perseverance and theological purity. But he warned them they were in danger of losing their first love (Revelation 2:4).
Well, without being selfish or self-centered about it, maybe it will help us keep our love aflame for our Lord when we remember what it means to us.
- He will show love to a thousand generations of those who love Him.
- He will send rain in its season and drive out the enemy.
- He will become our very life.
- He will make us like the sun when it rises in its strength
- He will turn to us and have mercy on us.
- He will watch over us.
- He will love us and make His home with us.
- He will work all things to our good.
- He will prepare for us things which are beyond what our eyes have seen, what our ears have heard, and what our minds have imagined.
- He will give us all the grace we need.
- He will give us the crown of life.
- He will give the kingdom He has promised for those who love Him.
And why do we love Him.
It’s simple—because He first loved us.