New Year, New Beginnings, Same God

This Sunday marks the first Sunday of Jordan Valley Church. Overall, I've been encouraged by the number of people who are excited about this new phase in the life of our church. People have talked much more about the various changes we are making than anything else. In one sense this is unsurprising; change is hard. But on the other hand, the changes we are making seem rather periphery. Why? Because much more important is our love for God. Love for God is reflected in the first part of our vision (the destination, route and landmarks). Interestingly this is the part of the vision I rarely hear people talk about. And yet, it’s the area where we (I) need the most work. This year, with all the changes we are making, the one I long for most is to see us love God more. 

This reflects what Jesus said was the greatest commandment, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. This is the greatest commandment, and yet in the prayers we offer, the things we talk about, so little of it reflects a desire to love God with all our heart, soul and mind.

I’m slowly reading through John Owen’s Communion with the Triune God. One of his main points is that, while our union with Christ does not change, our communion with him does. Our consistency in corporate worship, prayer, and biblical study do not make God love us more or less, but they do affect the wonderful experience of communion with him. 

One of my goals this next year is to love God more than I do now. As my love for God grows, I hope that it will show in my preaching and conversations and prayers. Will you help keep me accountable? I hope that you will make a goal to love God more this year too. Here are some evidences that we are growing in our love for God. 

We will care less about how others have sinned against us than how we have sinned against God. It’s easy to hold on to past offenses. We have all been sinned against. But when we love God more, we start to be more affected by how we have sinned against him. 

We will fight to kill sin in our lives. When we become comfortable with sin in our lives, it affects our intimacy with God. His love doesn’t change because we sin, but it does make us feel distant from God and less eager to seek him. 

We will find more joy in spending time with God. Reading Scripture, praying, and worshiping will seem less a chore or burden and instead become a delight. 

We will love others more. So often our relationships with others are based on wanting something in return from that other person, like love, or acceptance, or assistance. But when we love God more, we also see how much he loves us. This allows us to love others with no strings attached, because we are secure in the love we have from God. 

How do you grow in love for God? It really centers around spending time with him. I once read about a study where they tried to make two people fall in love. Two strangers sat together and  answered a series of personal questions and then stared into each other's eyes for four minutes. Six months later the couple was married. 

In one sense falling in love is not rocket science; time, trust, and intimacy are pretty good ingredients for love. It’s the same with God. If we are not spending time in worship, prayer and Scripture, how can we expect our love for God to grow? 

We have the privilege of living in a world where there is so much to love. God has created a world of beauty. What saddens me is how few of us think, how much more beautiful must the God who created all this be! If this world is just a dim reflection of his beauty, I cannot even fathom of how great God must be. Some people understood this. The Sons of Korah did in Psalm 84, “I long, yes, I faint with longing, to enter the courts of the Lord.” Asaph understood in Psalm 73, “ I desire you [God] more than anything on earth.” Can you say that? I can’t, but I hope to be able to. This year will you join me in seeking to love God more? 

In Christ,
Pastor Jon

Jonathan Stoddard