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The Primacy of Loving God: The Missing Ingredient in Discipleship

 

Most discipleship methods and books admonish believers to do things, but a growing love relationship with our God should be the primary goal of the Christian life.

Discipleship methods vary from church to church, denomination to denomination. I have been in a few of each. New believers are typically instructed to read the Bible, pray at least x number of minutes a day, go to church, tithe, attend small groups, and perform a litany of other activities. However, we would be hard-pressed to find classes or instructions on (for example) “The Necessity of Loving God First”, or “Steps to Divine Intimacy.”

Is it assumed that new believers have a built-in love for God that cannot be augmented in any way or that they do not need help in learning how to love God intimately, as Jesus put it, with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength?

‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment (Mark 12:30).1

Maybe churches do not think that they need to teach believers the primacy of loving God in all of life. Maybe it is assumed believers already do or will. If this is the case, those churches need to change their discipleship methodology.

As we have seen in Mark 12:30, God’s priority is for His people to engage in a love relationship with Him, and from that mutual relationship, commandments and Christian duties are done naturally, from a heart consumed with love for God. Augustine is believed to have said, “Love God, then do as you please.” When we focus on loving the Lord foremost, all the other desires and motives we have will reflect a loving spirit garnered in those times of intimate communion with God.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

When we delight ourselves in God, He will fill our hearts with those desires He wants us to have. Then when those desires turn into actions, the actions will be done from a heart that not only has delighted itself in God first, but also continues to delight itself in Him even while those actions are being performed.

Many figures throughout church history emphasized the primacy of loving God. Below is a small sampling:

 

Bernard of Clairvaux, d. 1153

“You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer, the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due to Him is immeasurable love.”2

 

Albertus Magnus, d. 1280

“I have had the idea of writing something for myself on and about the state of complete and full abstraction from everything and of cleaving freely, confidently, nakedly and firmly to God alone, so as to describe it fully (in so far as it is possible in this abode of exile and pilgrimage), especially since the goal of Christian perfection is the love by which we cleave to God.”3

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Category: Living the Faith, Winter 2010

About the Author: Frank A. DeCenso, Jr. is the author of Presence Powered Living: Building a Life of Intimacy and Partnership with God (Vineyard International Publishers). He is also the compiler of the multi-author compendiums Amazed by the Power of God, and God’s Supernatural Power in You from Destiny Image Publishers. Frank and his wife Denise reside in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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