The scientific experts of the day had declared it to be impossible, but Wilbur and Orville Wright made history on December 17, 1903 when they successfully flew their homemade flying machine several hundred feet along the Atlantic coast in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina—defying the odds and setting in motion a chain of events that would forever change the way we travel the world. After the fact, the newspapers largely ignored their accomplishment, and the neighbors didn’t believe it had happened. None of this bothered Wilbur and Orville. They had been there and they knew what had been accomplished that day.
Whole-hearted Love for God is Possible
In much the same way, many of the theological experts of the evangelical world deny the possibility of victorious Christian living, and many people in our world have never seen a Christian with a pure heart devoted to loving God completely and selflessly. Yet the call of God, the writings of the apostles, and the witness of Christian experience stand as a testimony to the reality that such a life is indeed possible.
Jesus declared that the greatest commandment of all is that we love God will all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second greatest command is that we love our neighbor as ourself. The Apostle John described the qualities of perfect love and its implications for our interpersonal relationships, and the Apostle Paul declared that love flowing from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith is the chief end of Christian doctrine (I Timothy 1:5).
In preaching on the subject of divine love John Wesley defined it like this: “What is it to love God but to delight in Him, to rejoice in His will, to desire continually to please Him, to seek and find our happiness in Him, and to thirst day and night for a fuller enjoyment of Him?”
This quality of love is easier to define than it is to live, because, as one catechism bluntly states: “We are by nature inclined to hate God.” The call to self-abandoned love for God is an invitation to a dynamic that is in complete opposition to the human will, and therefore, it is only by a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that man’s self-centered nature could ever be so thoroughly transformed as to be capable of loving God completely.
The good news is that such a super-natural work is available!
Paul wrote that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5) This outpouring of divine love begins at the moment of conversion, takes full possession of the heart in entire sanctification, and continues to grow in deepness and richness, leading upward and onward to our final glorification.
Adam Clarke explained that this love is the spring of all a Christian’s actions and the motive of their obedience. He wrote that the flame of divine love consumes what is unholy and refines every passion and appetite. It is through the energy of the Holy Spirit that this divine love pervades every part of a believer’s life. Through God’s love poured out in our hearts we are enabled to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love other people as we love ourselves.
Whole-hearted Love for God Results in Full Surrender to His Will
Whole-hearted love for God requires a devotion to God that involves your innermost being, your entire person, your full mental capacity, and all your physical strength and energy. This is a principle of love for God deep in the human heart that joins the Psalmist in saying: “Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: Unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: And I will glorify thy name for evermore.” (Psalm 86:11-12)
This depth of love is costly. William Sangster told of Henry Martyn—a brilliant young graduate of Cambridge in England who could have pursued any number of careers. However, after hearing of the missionary work of William Carey in India and reading about the life of David Brainerd and his work among the American Indians, he felt God’s call to missionary work in India. Then, somewhere between his call to the mission field and the time that he was to leave for India, he met and fell deeply in love with a young lady named Lydia. He expressed his love to her and asked her to marry him and join him in missionary work. Her response: “Stay in England, and I’ll marry you. Go to India, and you’ll go alone.” So Martyn was faced with the choice “India or Lydia? Lydia or India?” He chose India and never married, but some time later he wrote; “My dear Lydia and my duty called me different ways. Yet God has not forsaken me…I am born for God only. Christ is nearer to me than father or mother, or sister.”
Not everyone will be faced with a dilemma as heavy as Henry Martyn’s, but when faced with such a decision the Christian whose heart has been made perfect in love already know what his answer will be. God’s will comes first for the one who loves Him most.
Whole-hearted Love Results in Selfless Love for Other People
It is impossible to separate complete love for God from deep and selfless love for your fellow man. If you are incapable of loving and getting along with the people that you live with, work with, or attend church with, then how can you say that you love God Whom you have never seen? (I John 4:20)
When the love of God has truly been shed abroad in our hearts, it will be reflected in our relationships so that:
• We will love others enough to have patience with their humanity.
• We will be willing to listen to another person’s point of view and consider it honestly.
• We will be happy when someone else gets the spotlight…or when someone else’s kids get the spotlight.
• We will give others the benefit of the doubt.
• We will weigh our words of criticism more carefully.
• We will forgive more freely.
• We will speak more graciously.
• We will serve more humbly.
Whole-hearted Love for God and Others is Produced by the Holy Spirit
Whole-hearted love for God and selfless love for others is not a matter of simply pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and deciding to work harder at loving God and being nicer to other people. In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The contrast of works versus fruit is important, because as Otho Jennings aptly stated: “A work is something which man produces for himself; [but] a fruit is something which is produced by a power which he does not possess. Man cannot make fruit.” But the Holy Spirit can produce fruit in a man’s heart with our cooperation! In Ezekiel when God called His people Israel to love Him by obeying Him and keeping His commandments, He did not say: “Try harder and eventually you’ll get there.” Instead, he said, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to love God completely and other people selflessly. He is the Holy Spirit of love!