“We love, because he first loved us.”—1 JOHN 4:19.
1, 2. According to the apostle John, how has God shown us the way to love him?
IT IS generally accepted that the best way a father can teach his children is by personal example. The apostle John wrote that “we love, because [God] first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Therefore, it is clear that Jehovah has provided a surpassing example of fatherly love that can help us to love him.
2 In what way has God “first loved us”? The apostle Paul said: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) By making that great sacrifice—offering his own Son as the ransom for believing humans—Jehovah has demonstrated the true nature of love. It is expressed by giving, by acting in a selfless or self-sacrificing way. God’s magnanimous act made it possible for us to come to him to benefit from his love and in return show our love for him.—1 John 4:10.
3, 4. How should love for God be expressed?
3 Love is Jehovah’s dominant attribute, so we can understand why Jesus told one inquirer that the first commandment from God is: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.” (Mark 12:30) From Jesus’ words, we learn that love for God involves, first of all, our heart. Being halfhearted is displeasing to Jehovah. However, we note that love for God also involves our whole soul, mind, and strength. This means that genuine love for God is much more than just an emotional feeling of the heart. In addition to being heartfelt, our love for God must involve all our spiritual and physical faculties. According to the prophet Micah, that is what Jehovah wants from us.—Read Micah 6:8.
4 How can we show that we truly love our heavenly Father? We should love him unreservedly. As Jesus indicated, all our physical, emotional, and spiritual faculties need to be involved. In the preceding article, we considered four ways in which Jehovah has demonstrated his great love for his children. Let us now consider how we can demonstrate and deepen our love for Jehovah in ways that are acceptable and agreeable to him.
GRATITUDE FOR JEHOVAH’S PROVISIONS
5. What would be a loving response to all that Jehovah has done for us?
5 When you receive a gift, what do you do? Most likely you show your appreciation in some way. In addition, you will likely make good use of the gift, not taking it for granted. “Every good gift and every perfect present is from above,” wrote the disciple James, “coming down from the Father of the celestial lights, who does not vary or change like the shifting shadows.” (Jas. 1:17) Jehovah unfailingly provides what we need to live and to be happy. Does that not move us to want to love him in return?
6. What did the Israelites have to do to continue receiving Jehovah’s blessings?
6 The Israelites lived under Jehovah’s loving care for hundreds of years and were bountifully blessed by him, in both material and spiritual ways. (Deut. 4:7, 8) Their continuing to receive such blessings, however, was contingent on their obeying God’s Law, which included regularly offering to Jehovah “the best of the first ripe fruits” of the land. (Ex. 23:19) The Israelites would thus demonstrate that they did not take for granted Jehovah’s love and blessings.—Read Deuteronomy 8:7-11.
7. How can we use our “valuable things” in showing our love for Jehovah?
7 What about us? Though we are not required to offer literal sacrifices today, it is only proper that we show our love for God by honoring him with our “valuable things.” (Prov. 3:9) What are some ways that we can do so? Obviously, we can use our material things to support the Kingdom work locally and worldwide. This is certainly a fine way to express love for Jehovah, whether we have much or little materially. (2 Cor. 8:12) There are, however, other ways to show Jehovah that we love him.
8, 9. How is trusting Jehovah’s promise related to our love for him? Illustrate.
8 Recall Jesus’ reminder to his followers not to be anxious about food and clothing but to keep on seeking first the Kingdom. He said that the Father knows what we really need. (Matt. 6:31-33) The degree to which we trust that promise is an indication of the depth of our love for Jehovah because love and trust go hand in hand. We cannot truly love someone whom we do not trust. (Ps. 143:8) So we might ask ourselves: ‘Do the goals I pursue and my way of life reflect that I truly love Jehovah? Do my actions day in and day out show that I trust his ability to care for my needs?’
9 A Christian named Mike showed such love and trust. When he was young, Mike started to develop a strong desire to serve God in a foreign land. He got married and had two children, but that desire never diminished. Encouraged by the many articles and reports about serving where the need is greater, Mike and his family decided to simplify their life. They sold their house and moved into an apartment. Then Mike reduced the size of his janitorial business and learned how he could manage the business from overseas via the Internet. The family made the move, and after serving for two happy years overseas, Mike said: “We experienced the truthfulness of Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 6:33.”
TAKE TO HEART THE TRUTH FROM GOD
10. As reflected in King David’s case, what can meditating on the truth about Jehovah do for us?
10 Some 3,000 years ago, King David was moved by what he saw in the visible heavens. He wrote: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; the skies above proclaim the work of his hands.” Then, touched by the wisdom of God’s Law, he said: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring strength. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.” What was the result of such appreciative contemplation? David continued: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Jehovah, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Clearly, a warm and intimate relationship flourished between David and his God.—Ps. 19:1, 7, 14.
11. What should love for God move us to do with the abundant knowledge of Scriptural truth that he provides today? (See opening image.)
11 Today, we are blessed with much knowledge of Jehovah’s works of creation and the outworking of his purpose. The world promotes higher education and advanced learning. Yet, the experience of many shows that pursuing such things often leads to loss of faith and loss of love for God. The Bible, however, urges us not only to love knowledge but also to acquire wisdom and understanding. That means to learn how to use the knowledge that God has given us so that we can benefit ourselves and others. (Prov. 4:5-7) God’s “will is that all sorts of people should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4) We demonstrate our love for Jehovah when we put our heart into telling everyone the Kingdom good news and helping people to understand God’s grand purpose for mankind.—Read Psalm 66:16, 17.
12. One young person showed what appreciation for spiritual provisions from Jehovah?
12 Even young ones can demonstrate their love for Jehovah by showing appreciation for his spiritual provisions. Shannon relates that when she was 11 years old, she and her 10-year-old sister attended the “Godly Devotion” District Convention with their parents. During one session, the young ones were asked to sit in a special section. She was a bit nervous but did so. Then she was overwhelmed when each youth was given as a gift a beautiful book entitled Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work. How did it affect Shannon’s feelings about Jehovah God? She relates: “It was then that I finally realized that Jehovah is real and that he loves me personally very, very much.” Shannon adds: “How happy we are that our great God, Jehovah, freely gives us such beautiful, perfect presents!”
ACCEPT GOD’S COUNSEL AND DISCIPLINE
13, 14. What does our view of counsel from Jehovah show about our love for him?
13 “Those whom Jehovah loves he reproves, just as a father does a son in whom he delights,” the Bible reminds us. (Prov. 3:12) How, though, should we respond? The apostle Paul was being realistic when he wrote: “No discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but it is painful.” In saying so, Paul was not minimizing the importance or value of discipline, for he continued: “Yet afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11) If we love Jehovah, we must guard against becoming complacent or resentful of his counsel. For some, that can be a real challenge. Our love for God can greatly help us.
14 In the days of Malachi, many Jews did not appreciate God’s counsel. They knew the Law regarding the offering of sacrifices but became so shamefully negligent that Jehovah had to give them strong counsel. (Read Malachi 1:12, 13.) How serious was the situation? Listen to Jehovah’s words: “I will send on you the curse, and I will turn your blessings into curses. Yes, I have turned the blessings into curses, because you are not taking [my commandment] to heart.” (Mal. 2:1, 2) Clearly, habitually or deliberately ignoring Jehovah’s loving counsel can have serious consequences.
15. In the world today, what is one common attitude that we must guard against?
15 In today’s me-first, self-centered generation, it is not easy to talk about counsel and discipline, let alone to accept such. Even those who seem to accept counsel or discipline often do so begrudgingly. Christians, though, are advised to “stop being molded by this system of things.” We are to perceive and follow the “perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2) Through his organization, Jehovah gives us timely counsel about many areas of life—our conduct with the opposite sex, our associations, and our recreation. By willingly accepting and applying such direction, we show that we are grateful and that we truly love Jehovah from the heart.—John 14:31; Rom. 6:17.
LOOK TO JEHOVAH FOR PROTECTION AND SALVATION
16, 17. (a) Why should we consider Jehovah’s will when we make decisions? (b) How did the Israelites show lack of love for and trust in Jehovah?
16 When little children sense danger, they instinctively run to their parents. As children grow older, they learn to rely more and more on their own judgment and make their own decisions. That is part of becoming an adult. However, those who enjoy a close bond with their parents are open to seeking the parents’ opinion and advice before making a decision. Spiritually, it is similar. Jehovah has given us his spirit, stimulating in us “the desire and the power to act.” Yet, it would reflect a serious lack of love and trust for us to make decisions without taking his will into consideration.—Phil. 2:13.
17 Once in the days of Samuel, Israel was badly defeated in battle by the Philistines. God’s people were in dire need of help and protection. What did they do? “Let us take the ark of Jehovah’s covenant with us from Shiloh, so that it may be with us and save us from the hand of our enemies,” they decided. The outcome? “The slaughter was very great; on Israel’s side, 30,000 foot soldiers fell. Moreover, the Ark of God was captured.” (1 Sam. 4:2-4, 10, 11) It might have seemed that in taking the Ark with them, the Israelites were looking to Jehovah for help. Really, though, they had not sought Jehovah’s direction; they were following their own ideas, and the result was disastrous.—Read Proverbs 14:12.
18. How should we feel about turning to Jehovah for help?
18 The psalmist showed the right heart attitude when he wrote: “Wait for God, for I will yet praise him as my Grand Savior. My God, I am in despair. That is why I remember you.” (Ps. 42:5, 6) What deep feeling and love for Jehovah! Have you developed such love for and reliance on our heavenly Father? Even if you are inclined to answer yes, you may be able to increase your reliance on him in line with what the Bible tells us: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he will make your paths straight.”—Prov. 3:5, 6.
19. In what ways do you want to endeavor to show love for Jehovah?
19 By loving us first, Jehovah has shown us how to love him. Let us always keep in mind his surpassing example. And let us increasingly demonstrate our love for him ‘with our whole heart and with our whole soul and with our whole mind and with our whole strength.’—Mark 12:30.