Life, Theology & Discipleship with Wes Woodell

7 Characteristics of Disciplemaking Leaders: #7 – Love pt. 1


This post is a continuation of the series Reaching the Missing Generation: Characteristics of Healthy Disciplemaking Ministries outlined here.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8a, 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres 8a Love never fails …
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Of all the characteristics common among effective disciplemaking leaders, I’ve saved the most important for last – the characteristic of love.

Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13 if love is absent from his life, then his words are nothing more than noise (13:1), his gifts amount to “nothing” (13:2), and his actions amount to “nothing” (13:3).

Possessing love – genuine, authentic, benevolent love – should be the #1 most important goal, the first order of business, for anyone who’d like to become an effective disciplemaking leader.

I cannot overstate the importance of this characteristic, but it is possible to overlook. I know this from experience because love doesn’t come easily for me. Grasping this has been an ongoing struggle – especially in recent months.

Some reading this are already aware, but I’m a victim of childhood sexual abuse. That trauma caused me to grow up feeling there was something inherently wrong with me – that I was dirty, unlovable, and if anyone knew what I was really like they would reject me. This deep-seated sense of insecurity has caused me to go through life fearing others, because people are dangerous and can hurt me – especially if I allow them to be close enough to me to do so.

Growing up the way I learned to cope with this inner-turmoil was to relationally hold everyone around me at arms length never allowing them to get to know the real me. Instead of confessing that inside I felt like a piece of trash, I protected myself by projecting an air of strength, that I had all the answers, that I was someone they should be looking up to as the answer man who didn’t have any real problems.

What I’ve just shared is a fairly recent self-realization. Last year I was guided through the process of dealing with the fallout of what happened to me as a child, and the most painful revelation that came out of that process was that my entire life I’ve never really allowed anyone to be close to me because I’ve never learned how to love myself or other people.

When you allow yourself to love and be loved, you’re opening yourself up to being hurt. When you truly love someone else, you’re giving them access not only to the best parts of yourself, but also to the worst parts of yourself.

This is a scary – especially for anyone who was victimized during their formative years. I’m telling you all of this because while possessing the ability to love is the absolute most important characteristic of a disciplemaking leader, it’s also the one I’ve struggled the most with.

What I’ll be sharing regarding this characteristic is written from weakness, and you need to know that. I’m not an expert on love – I’m still learning how to do this myself so what I’ll write here is done so humbly.

I believe it’s possible to work on possessing all the other characteristics that have been outlined in this series while neglecting to cultivate true love for God and others in your heart. I feel like that’s what I’ve previously done.

But I’m learning what Paul already knew – that to do that is folly. If I don’t learn to love, then nothing else I do in ministry will amount to much of anything. I’m repenting, and diving deep into a study of love is part of how I’m doing that.

The characteristic of love is too wide to break down into a single article, so I’ll be writing it in three. I will conclude the articles in this series by guiding readers through a Bible study of three topics: 1) Loving God, 2) Loving One Another, and finally 3) Loving the Lost.

Today, we begin by diving in to the topic of Loving God.

Leadership Characteristic #7 – Love pt. 1: Loving God

What does the Bible say about loving God?

In the first century there was a debate among Jewish rabbis as to what passage of scripture constituted the greatest command in the Law of Moses (i.e. the first five books of the Old Testament also known as the Pentateuch).

This is the type of thing that would have been discussed in the synagogues of the day. Apparently Jesus was familiar with the debate, because when He was approached by a Pharisee who was an expert in the Law and asked to share His opinion on the matter Jesus had a ready answer:

Matthew 22:34-40 (c.f. Mark 12:29-31; Luke 12:27)
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus summarized the entire Old Testament Law in two quotes – the imperative to 1) love God (Deuteronomy 6:5) and 2) love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).

There’s a great truth here that Jesus is communicating to us:

Christianity is not about rules – Christianity is about relationship.

I’ve had countless Bible studies with non-Christians over the years. As part of those studies I’ve often asked seekers to explain what they believe it means to be a Christian. What I hear more often than not is something to the effect that they believe following Jesus is about following rules, and if a person follows all the rules then they get to go to heaven when they die.

But Jesus teaches something different – He advocates a faith that isn’t about rule-keeping so much as it’s about relationship-building. He advocates a faith that is more focused on the internal character and posture of the heart toward God over and above the focus on external behaviors – thinking that was more characteristic of the Pharisees of His day.

If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you must learn to love God.

So how is this done?

Those who struggle with loving God do so because sin or ignorance has blinded them to see Him as He is. The truth is when a person can clearly see God as He is, He’s hard not to love.

The better we get to know Him, the easier it becomes to see His beauty and goodness.

But I confess I forget that sometimes.

You see, I tend to be a forgetful creature. I’ve found that when I’m struggling to love God like I should, it’s because somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten who God is, what He’s like and how He feels about me.

A simple exercise helps me change my thinking.

First, meditate on the power of God:

God is Omnipotent, All-Powerful

Psalms 115:3
3 Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him.


Jeremiah 32:17
17 “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.


Matthew 19:26
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”


Mark 14:36
36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”


Romans 11:36
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.


Ephesians 1:11
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will …


Hebrews 1:3
3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

God is all-powerful. He speaks, and whatever He says simply is. He has all authority – nothing and no one can challenge Him. Some misunderstand “all-powerful” to mean that God can do anything, but there are things God can never do precisely because He’s all-powerful. For instance, He can’t make a mistake, He can’t lie, He can’t mess up. His actions are limited by the boundaries of perfection. When we find ourselves questioning Him we’d do well to keep in mind He doesn’t make mistakes.

God is Omnipresent, All-Present

1 Kings 8:27
27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”


Job 11:7-9
7 “Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?”


Jeremiah 23:23-24
23 “Am I only a God nearby,”
declares the LORD,
“and not a God far away?
24 Who can hide in secret places
so that I cannot see them?”
declares the LORD.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the LORD.


Psalms 90:1-2
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.


Psalms 139:7
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?


Acts 17:24-28
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

God is all-present. He is everywhere without being limited by time and space. That means God was and is witness to every detail of everything that has happened in the past, present, and future. God doesn’t simply peer into the future either – He can see it because He’s already there while simultaneously existing in the past. His omnipresence spans not only space, but also time. He has literally “seen it all” and continues to. God is the only one who can truly see the “big picture” because He’s the only one who’s everywhere.

God is Omniscient, All-Knowing

Psalms 147:5
5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.


Ezekiel 11:5
5 Then the Spirit of the LORD came on me, and he told me to say: “This is what the LORD says: That is what you are saying, you leaders in Israel, but I know what is going through your mind.


Romans 2:16
16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.


Romans 11:33
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!


Hebrews 4:13
13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.


1 John 3:20
20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Not only is God all-powerful and all-present, He’s also all-knowing. His “sight” is not limited to the realm of the seen – God also sees what’s unseen. Every realm of thought and subconscious is open to and known by God. Every contemplation, every dream, every fantasy, everything is seen by Him. When the Bible says God knows every detail about you, it’s not an understatement. God literally knows everything about you. He knows you infinitely better than you’ll ever know yourself, warts and all, and He still loves you.

God is Self-Sufficient & Self-Existent

Exodus 3:14
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”


Psalms 90:2
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.


John 1:1-5
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


John 5:26
26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.


Colossians 1:15-17
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

God has no beginning nor end – He simply is. In fact, God is life itself. Outside of God no life exists. He is the source of everything that moves and breathes. All things were literally created by Him and for Him.

God is Holy & Transcendent

Exodus 3:5-6
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.


1 Samuel 2:2
2 “There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.


Psalms 99:2-3
2 Great is the LORD in Zion;
he is exalted over all the nations.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name—
he is holy.


Psalms 113:5-6
5 Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
6 who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?


Isaiah 6:3
3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”


Isaiah 55:8-9
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.


Isaiah 57:15
15 For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.


John 8:23
23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.


Revelation 4:8
8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“ ‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”

God is “other” and set apart from all else. Sin and imperfection does not exist in His presence nor in Him at all. God is beautiful and one of a kind. There is nothing else, and no one else that compares with Him. There is only One God.

And if all that I’ve written about Him so far is true, He’s intimidating isn’t He? He certainly is to me, but luckily there’s more to God than His power.

Second, meditate on the goodness of God:

God is Good & the Source of all Good

Exodus 34:6-7a
6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin …”


Psalms 25:8
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.


James 1:17
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.


Mark 10:18 (c.f. Luke 18:19)
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.


John 10:10
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.


1 Corinthians 2:9
9 However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him …

Not only is God supremely powerful, He’s also wholly good.

God is pleasant, sweet, and the source of true happiness. According to Jesus, no good exists outside of God – He is literally the source of all goodness. That being said, it’s impossible to experience the “good life” outside of relationship with God, and the good life is precisely what God wants you to have. When we have a relationship with Him we have the confidence of knowing our future is bright, but also the present!

God is Graceful & Wants What’s Best for Us

Psalm 145:17 (NASB)
17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.


Romans 1:5a
5 Through him we received grace …


Romans 3:24
24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.


Romans 5:15, 20
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more …


Ephesians 4:7
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.


Hebrews 4:16
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

To say God is graceful toward us simply means that He harbors goodwill for us in a real and deep way. God’s deepest desire is for us to truly be whole and fulfilled having every need met. Not only is God good – He’s out for our good as well.

God is Consistent & Always Dependable

1 Samuel 15:29
29 “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”


Malachi 3:6
6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.


Hebrews 13:8
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.


James 1:17
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Theologians like to say God is immutable – that’s just a fancy way of saying God does not change. God is good all the time and that will never change. We don’t have to worry about God having a bad day. While we can’t always predict His actions, we can certainly predict His character because He does not change. While God feels emotion, He isn’t subject to acting on emotion in an uncontrolled manner like you or I may be. He’s 100% in control at all times, and we can depend on Him always.

God is Righteous, Just & Completely Fair

Genesis 18:25
25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”


Exodus 34:6-7
6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”


Psalms 19:7-9
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
and all of them are righteous.


Psalms 99:4
4 The King is mighty, he loves justice—
you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
what is just and right.


Psalms 145:17
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.


Jeremiah 9:24
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD.


Nehemiah 9:32-33
32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly.


Romans 1:32
32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.


1 Peter 1:17
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

God does what’s good and right in all circumstances. God cannot make a mistake, cannot tell a lie, cannot mess up. God is always right. In Hebrew the same word translated “justice” in many modern versions of the Old Testament means “judgement”. The word “judgement” has a negative connotation in the minds of many, but it shouldn’t. God’s judgement/justice works only to make things right. We can trust God, and can rely on Him to right every wrong and make everything okay in the end. He is wholly fair.

God is Merciful & Quick to Forgive the Repentant

Psalms 6:4 (NASB)
Return, O LORD, rescue my soul;
Save me because of Your lovingkindness.


Ezekiel 18:23
23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?


Hebrews 4:16
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.


Romans 9:23-24
23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?


Ephesians 2:4
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy …


1 Timothy 2:3-4
3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.


Titus 3:5
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit …


1 Peter 1:3
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead …


2 Peter 3:9
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

When the Bible says God is merciful it means God brings Himself lower in order to serve the needs of His creatures. God is always quick to offer redemption even when it is undeserved. God’s hands and heart remain open for all who turn to Him in repentance. He is quick to forgive and bless anyone who desires a relationship with Him, but He leaves the choice to us.

Third, meditate on God’s love for you:

God Loves You

Deuteronomy 7:7-8
7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.


Romans 5:5, 8
5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Romans 8:35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Ephesians 3:16-19
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.


1 John 4:8, 16
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

The greatest way God shows His love for us is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

A few years ago I dove into a study of crucifixion. I won’t get into all of the gory details here, but I learned in the course of that study that crucifixion is about the most painful way to kill someone that has ever been invented. I thought back over what Jesus went through not only physically, but also spiritually and psychologically, and I was dumbfounded by this passage in Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:10a
10a Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer …

That passage says it was actually God’s will for Jesus to suffer and die as He did. I confess I struggled with reconciling that action with what the Bible says about God being loving. After all, if God is all-powerful and He makes the rules, why couldn’t He have worked out salvation in a different way? Why couldn’t He have waved His hand and said, “Everyone who follows me is forgiven,” or something less brutal than what occurred? Surely He could make that happen – He is God after all!

Then I noticed who and what the Bible says Jesus’ suffering was “for” – look at these passages:

Isaiah 53:5
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.


Isaiah 53:12c
12c For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.


Romans 4:25
25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.


Romans 5:8
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


1 Corinthians 15:3
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures …


1 Peter 3:18
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.


1 John 2:2
2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.


Galatians 3:13
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”


2 Corinthians 5:21
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


1 John 4:10
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

These passages all say the same thing – Jesus died “for” us and “for” our sins.

But the question remains, why in the world did He choose to suffer and die? He created this system and everything in it – He holds all the cards, and it’s very clear Jesus didn’t want to die on a cross and dreaded it to the point of experiencing hematidrosis (Luke 22:42-44), so why did He?

The answer to that is simple:

Jesus chose to suffer and die like He did to show how committed He is to you.

Jesus knows that I’m a doubter and you are too. If He’d done anything less than give everything He had to give on our behalf, we’d find reasons to doubt His love for us.

Nothing in Him wanted to go die on that cross, but He did want you to know how much He loves God the Father and how much God loves you. Jesus went to the cross willingly to remove any reason to doubt.

God’s greatest desire for us is that we learn to rest in His love.

This is why Jesus asked His disciples to remember His sacrifice weekly in communion (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-28). Jesus wants His disciples to remember His sacrifice every time we get together precisely because He wants us to rest in His love.

Communion is meant to be a regular reminder of God’s love. When you take it, remember …

God brought Himself low for you.

Philippians 2:5-8
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

God gave everything for you.

John 3:16-17
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

God desires to be your friend.

John 15:13
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Resting in God’s love empowers you to love like Him.

1 John 4:19
19 We love because he first loved us.

In sum

God is powerful beyond comprehension. If all we knew of God was wrapped up in His power and holiness, we would simply be intimidated by Him.

But God is more than infinite power – the Bible reveals Him to be incomprehensibly loving and approachable despite His power, and that He desires close relationship with us:

Romans 2:4
4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

God’s holiness does not allow sin to exist in His presence, yet His desire for nearness with us – His love – caused Him to provide a way for our sins to be forgiven, and He provided in a way that’s more beautiful than I can put into words through the sacrifice of His Son – something I don’t think I would ever be able to do for someone else because I simply don’t think I could love them that much.

But that’s who God is, and that’s how great His love is for us … so what are we going to do with that?

How do I love God?

Practically speaking, if I’m loving God it’s going to show up in my day-to-day life through obedience to God’s commands:

John 14:15, 21, 23-24
15 “If you love me, keep my commands.”
21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.


John 15:10
10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love


1 John 2:3-6
3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.


1 John 3:10
10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.


1 John 5:3a
3a In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.

The scriptures above make it clear that anyone who truly loves God will show it by their actions. Anyone can say they love God, but someone who really does will care enough to find out what He says and take it seriously.

But someone can go through the motions and still not give God their heart, and it’s your heart that God wants.

We do prove our love for God through obedience to His commands, but it’s very important to remember it’s our love for God that should be driving what we do.

Remember, Christianity is about relationship – not rulekeeping.

We obey God because our love for God drives us to want to honor and please Him with our lives – not simply because we’re doing what we have to do because we “want to go to heaven when we die.”

Learning to make love your primary motivator is the difference between being a child of God or a duty-driven Pharisee. It is, after all, possible to honor God with your lips and actions without giving Him your heart (Matthew 7:21-23; 15:8). That’s not the kind of relationship God desires to have with you.

Healthy relationships take time and energy – they’re work.

Ask any married couple in a healthy relationship and they’ll tell you their marriage takes work.

You spend time together, learn each others likes and dislikes, seek to please and serve one another, talk to and listen to one another, and so on and so fourth.

Your relationship with God is like any other relationship – it takes work!

If you feel you’re struggling with having a healthy relationship with God, ask:

  • Am I spending time with Him daily?
  • Am I listening to Him through Bible study and prayer?
  • Am I expressing myself to Him in prayer?
  • Am I learning what honors Him and what dishonors Him by learning the scriptures?
  • Am I being obedient?
  • Am I working on my relationship with Him?
  • Am I plugged in tightly with a community of others who are seeking to love Him first?
  • Am I personally invested in learning to love Him no matter the cost?

The truth is God’s door is open to relationship with anyone. If a person is struggling in their relationship with God, the problem never lies with God – the problem lies within the heart of the struggler.

It could be that you’re like me – you’ve been wounded in the past, chose to blame God for your pain and poisoned your attitude toward Him in the process.

What I’ve had to learn is not everything that happens on this earth falls within the realm of God’s will, but despite that God can work good in the midst of evil. My job is to be faithful and trust Him to make everything right in the end, and He’s absolutely going to.

He’s also going to make me in the man He created me to be as I learn to persevere and be faithful despite the pain. That’s why James wrote this:

James 1:2-4
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Or maybe you haven’t struggled to love God due to some trauma or pain that you used as an excuse to adopt a bad attitude – it could be you’ve simply been lazy opting to value your personal comfort over conformity to God’s will for your life. If that’s you, then you need to understand you don’t know what you’ve been missing!

I encourage you to embrace God, change as He desires you to, and enjoy life as you never dreamed it could be (John 10:10; 1 Corinthians 2:9)!

What does all this have to do with disciplemaking?

The only way to faithfully carry out Jesus’ command to make disciples is to first be a good disciple.

Jesus teaches that the greatest command in the Bible is to love God with everything you have.  Everything you do should flow out of your love for God.

God’s will for your life is for you to venture as deep into His love as is possible, because He wants you to bring others with you.

You can only lead people as far as you’ve gone yourself.

While loving God has been a struggle for me, my desire remains to wake up daily resting in the love of God.

Some days are better than others, but I want to mature to the point where I can love God consistently and well.

I hope you do too.

Because loving God with everything we’ve got is the difference between an abundant life or a wasted one.

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