Love God Carefully
If you love someone, you learn what they like and don’t like. Then you show your love through doing the good things they like and refraining from doing bad things they don’t like. No one’s perfect, but we try to do these things.
Now, if I know my wife is allergic to flowers, but I bring her flowers every day because that's how I want to show love, I'm not actually loving her. I'm showing that I'm willing to disregard the truth and give her an allergic reaction so I can feel like I'm being loving.
Real love engages the mind so that we act with care.
God holds our love to this standard. He doesn’t accept our attempts to love him unless we care about what pleases him. One chapter in the Old Testament is emphatic on this point: Deuteronomy 6.
Before we look at this chapter, let’s remember two important principles that help us understand the Old Testament:
Principle #1: The covenant God made through Moses governed Israel as individuals and as a nation. But since God made a new covenant through Jesus at the last supper, the church isn't bound by the same covenant as Israel. Rather, we are bound by all the teaching of Jesus and his apostles (Luke 22:20).
Principle #2: Although many of the expectations of these two covenants are different, they are alike in three fundamental ways. Both are made (1) by the same God, (2) both groups are sinful people being redeemed and used by God, and (3) both have the same two fundamental requirements: love for God and love for people.
These similarities make our study of the Old Testament beneficial. That’s why 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The “Scripture” to which Paul refers is what we call the Old Testament. This verse guarantees the profitability of the Old Testament Scripture for Christians, even though some specific acts (like making sacrifices, food-laws, and Jewish holidays) are not required in the covenant Christ gave us.
Now, let’s look at Deuteronomy 6. This chapter is fundamental to God’s relationship with Israel because it defines and explains what Jesus calls the “Greatest Commandment” (he calls it this in Matthew 22:37): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (6:5) If we understand this chapter, it will refine our love for God.
As you read Deuteronomy 6, you may notice a certain word is repeated several times:
“Listen, Israel, and be careful to follow them, so that you may prosper…” (6:3)
"…when you eat and are satisfied, be careful not to forget the LORD who brought you out of Egypt…” (6:12
“Carefully observe the commands of the Lord your God…” (6:17)
“Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands…” (6:25)
In each of those verses, the Hebrew word for “careful” is shamar. Shamar means to closely watch something as if to guard it. In the last two verses quoted above, the word is used twice in a row. In an extremely literal translation, it is, “Guard to guard the commands”. This double use is saying people need to pay attention to God’s law all the time!
These verses help us as well as Israel because we, like Israel, can fall into the habit of merely identifying ourselves as “someone who loves God” simply based on the fact that we are Christians. But loving God isn’t a matter of identity, it’s a matter of applying his word.
We also need to hear this because our feelings and ideas about loving God may deceive us. Of course, God wants us to love him from the heart as well as the mind; but if we only feel a sense of love for God without caring to know and obey his word, we could be treating God just like a husband who brings flowers to his allergic wife.
Likewise, if we are guided by our personal intuition (or our culture's conception) of what it means to love God, we run into the same problem. This is why we must guard his commands carefully.
We guard his commands by caring enough about God to filter all our thoughts, actions, and speech through the requirements of our covenant with him — the teaching of Jesus and his apostles. God wants us to carefully learn, remember, and apply his word in all we do.
I encourage you to study the Bible daily. And when you do, begin your time by asking the Father to help you be careful to obey the Son through the empowerment of the Spirit within you.