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31st October 2016
Have you ever wondered what God’s love language is? Love languages is a concept which argues that different people experience and express love in different ways. I think the concept has some merit, but I’d never before thought about it in relation to God. That is until I listened to a talk from this year’s Newday by Stef Liston.
Stef talked first about God’s love language to us: grace. God’s grace is his love and favour shown to those who are utterly underserving. It’s God’s love which seeks us out and saves us and does us good, even though we have no claim to it based on our own merits. And it’s when we understand and experience God’s love through the grace that he has shown us that it causes us to want to express our love to him.
But how does God want us to express our love to him? What love language should we use for God? Stef suggests that the love language God wants us to use to him is obedience, because obedience expresses trust that he is good. Jesus said this all the time. He said things like ‘Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me’ (John 14:15), and ‘Blessed … are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’ (Luke 11:27). He even redefines family and declares, ‘Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother’ (Mark 3:35).
This made me think about something God has been speaking to me about for a while: what it means to be a child of God. Parents want their children to be obedient to them. They know what’s best for them and they love it when their child is obedient because it shows that they trust them. Obedience is a big part of being a good child.
And the same is true of being a child of God. Often when we think about our identity as children of God we can focus only on God’s love to us. This is good and so important – we need to really know and experience our identity as God’s children and the unchanging love he has for us. But we should also want to express our love to him, and the primary way in which we do this is by being obedient to him.
God first started highlighting this to me as I read Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew wrote his Gospel in order to show that Jesus is the Son of God, and the primarily way in which he does this is to show that Jesus was obedient to God the Father.
We see this when Jesus is baptised and tells John the Baptist that his baptism is necessary to do all that is right (Matthew 3:15), and we see it in the temptation where Jesus is obedient to the Father when tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). We also see Jesus’ obedience to the Father when he is heading for the cross (Matthew 26:39, 42). And the theme also comes through in Jesus’ teaching: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is all about heart obedience to God and talks about God as the father of obedient disciples (e.g. Matthew 5:45; 6:1; 7:11). The Gospel ends with the commission to make disciples of every nation. Jesus says that two things are to mark out these disciples: they are to be baptised (an act of obedience to God) and they are to obey all that Jesus has taught his followers (Matthew 28:20). Jesus defines discipleship – and so sonship – as obedience to God.
I want to know and experience the identity God has given me. That’s why I regularly pray that I would experience his love for me – both through recognising his grace to me and through the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. But now I’m also praying that I would grow in obedience so that I can better express my love to God and grow as an obedient child of God.
You can listen to Stef's talk here. Talks from Newday are always worth listening to, no matter what your age! You can find lots from recent years here.
Posted by Andrew Bunt