Bible Study

How Do We Love God? | Religion or Relationship?

Many will talk about the word “agape” but what about agapaó? What does it mean to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Is religion a bad word for Christianity and why does religion connect to Mark 12:30? I hope to be able to breakdown and answer the questions in a meaningful and convicting way – through the will of God and His Spirit.

Love is in the air, as they say. For the past few Valentines, I’ve focused on salvation, heart prayers, etc. This year, I would still like to examine the “heart” more and how it is defined, along with possible misconceptions we might have. But I would also like to take a dive into the scripture of Mark 12:30 because it really helps us understand what the “heart” is.

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Loving the Lord – What Does This Mean?

We need to understand the type of love being discussed for the Christian, as this definition will affect all the words in the study of Mark 12:30.

We aren’t talking about a fluffy “I’m in love” puppy dog crush kinda feeling. In fact, that’s one reason why I personally struggle with a lot of Christian media who portray this kind of relationship with Christ. Love is deeper than a high of addicting emotions that make us feel good. (See: Concerns With The Series “The Chosen” & Here’s Why I Am NOT Going To See Redeeming Love (Alisa Childers))

The Greek word used in Mark 12:30 for love is – agapaó.

Agapaó from the Strong’s Greek can mean –“I love, wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem.

On Biblehub, the HELPS Word-Studies says:

Cognate: 25 agapáō – properly, to prefer, to love; for the believer, preferring to “live through Christ” (1 Jn 4:9,10), i.e. embracing God’s will (choosing His choices) and obeying them through His power.  25 (agapáō) preeminently refers to what God prefers as He “is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16).  See 26 (agapē).

With the believer, 25 /agapáō (“to love”) means actively doing what the Lord prefers, with Him (by His power and direction). True 25 /agapáō (“loving”) is always defined by God – a “discriminating affection which involves choice and selection” (WS, 477). 1 Jn 4:8,16,17 for example convey how loving (“preferring,” 25/agapáō) is Christ living His life through the believer. (Emphasis theirs)

To love God is to love what He loves. To do what He delights in doing. If we love Him, we will love what He loves. We will desire to do what He wants us to do. We will find confidence, hope, strength, a mindset, in all things God declares to be truthful, noble, pure, and good. (Ephesians 1:13, 18; Philippians 4:08)

The Lord is good at all times. He is holy. Which means we will hate the things He hates, like sin. While we are sinners, and will still struggle with sin, we no longer delight in wickedness. We are convicted (bothered) when we sin. (See: The 7 Things God Hates)

I love how the HELP Word-Studies made the point that, “agapáō (“to love”) means actively doing what the Lord prefers, with Him (by His power and direction). True 25 /agapáō (“loving”) is always defined by God.”

From this definition, we see the love we are to have for the Lord and for others is not a love we can cultivate on our own.

In order to truly love the way the Lord wants us to love, we need to note a few things with God:

  • This love is defined by God, not ourselves.
  • This love can only be given as the Lord works through us.
  • This love comes from a relationship with God.
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Is Religion A Bad Word?

Since we are discussing the Lord intervening in our lives, it helps to consider how we view words like relationship and religion. You may have heard these phrases before:

  • God is personal
  • It’s about relationship not religion

These slogans get thrown around a lot, but I don’t think many of us are actually thinking deeply about what the slogans are saying.

Webster defines religion as the service and worship of God, devotion to a religious faith, a personalized set or institutionalized system of religious beliefs, attitudes, and practices.

Christianity does have a set of beliefs all Christians must agree upon. We believe Jesus is God and He put on flesh becoming the God-Man. We believe Jesus is sinless, lived a sinless life, was crucified, and rose from the dead physically. We believe salvation is only through grace alone, faith alone. We believe Jesus took our place when He became the atonement sacrifice on the cross. He took the wrath of God, our punishment. So that all who put their faith in Him have their debt of sin paid off in full. These are all part of the core beliefs of Christianity. And these beliefs should affect how we live.

Interesting because when I studied what it meant to be a living sacrifice –Post Link: UnAshamed Christian Housewife: What Does It Mean To Be A Living Sacrifice – everything we do in life is a type of worship.

In the study I did, if we focus on 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and Romans 12:01, we can come up with a list regarding what it means for a Christian to be a living sacrifice:

  • Our bodies are a living temple 
  • The Holy Spirit dwells in those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ
  • We are to glorify God with our temple (body)
  • This glory happens through presenting our body as a living sacrifice
  • This living sacrifice is to be holy and acceptable to God
  • Our daily living, how we serve the Lord with our choices regarding our time, is spiritual worship.

So genuine Christianity is a religion, a worship of God, with core beliefs that the Christian proclaims, and this religion is about having a relationship with God.

We saw earlier how agapaó love can only happen when the Lord is working through us. Which means God is personal, indeed. He ministers to us in our life. He renews our mind through His truth.

How we use our body, which would include our heart, mind, soul, and strength, shows whether we are giving glory to God or glory to an idol.

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How Do We Form A Relationship With God?

Romans 10:17 says that faith comes from hearing the word of God. We cannot come to a proper relationship with the Lord, if we do not know Him. Again, this is why it’s important for those who proclaim Christianity to actually understand what Christianity is built upon. (Ephesians 2:20, Romans 10:17)

For the Christian, it’s crucial we are in daily Bible reading and prayer as much as we can be. It is in God’s word we learn about Who He is, how things in the world came to be, what we are to do as Christians, why God wants things a particular way, where we should be turning, Who to turn to, and how God wants us to love Him and others.

In my post What Does It Mean To Be A Living Sacrifice, several scriptures are shared that define the type of love the Lord wants us to have. For your own study see: Philippians 4:08, Mark 12:30, 1 Corinthians 13:04-07

For resources on Bible study tips and prayer see:

Having a relationship with Jesus is not as easy as saying a “heart prayer” and the reasoning is because a “heart prayer” tends to be extremely vague and gives a partial watered-down Gospel. Please see these resources:

For those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, they receive the promise of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to dwell within them. The Holy Spirit will always point the individual to the truth and teachings of Jesus Christ, which also help convict the spirit of sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come. (John 16:08)

It is only through Christ that we will know how to love Christ.

The Gospel Message– The Gospel message is good news, which means there’s bad news. We all are sinners and condemned. We all deserve the just punishment of God’s wrath. Christianity is unlike any other religion because we cannot earn our way into Heaven. God saw the weakness of man and his utter depravity. Yet, He showed us grace. Jesus, God, One Person of the Trinity, became God in the flesh, the God-Man. He was always perfect and sinless. And His humanity was perfected on the cross, living the full sinless life. He became our atonement sacrifice. Dying in our place, taking on the wrath of God upon Himself. He died on the cross, and He was resurrected because death could not hold Him. Jesus is the answer. We, as guilty sinners, need His blood to pay off our debt of sin. For all who put their faith in Him – meaning eyes are opened to the Gospel, we see ourselves as a sinner, we see the need for Christ, we desire our Savior, and we see the ugliness of our sin. Putting our faith in Jesus, we seek HIs forgiveness and repent from our sins, we turn away from our old way of life. We, through the work of the Holy Spirit, continue to become convicted of sin daily. Our eyes will never be the same again. We see things in a different light, and the truth of Christ affects how we live and serve Him. Christ tells us to count the cost. Salvation is a serious topic, it is not to be taken lightly. For a breakdown of this powerful message, understanding how Christ could be God and Man, why God required sacrifices, and more -please see: Why Did A Loving God Kill His Son? (Does God Hate?)

If you think you know the Gospel, check out these questions and see how prepared you are for the day someone might ask you why you believe: The Gospel Challenge (30 Question Quiz) – Are You Ready To Defend Your Faith?

Scripture To Memorize/Meditate On – (ESV) 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

To learn more about what Jesus did on the cross and why His atonement sacrifice is so needed please see: Why Did A Loving God Kill His Son? (Does God Hate?) 
*If you do not know the Gospel, do not turn away. If you think you know the Gospel, check out these questions and see how prepared you are for the day someone might ask you why you believe: The Gospel Challenge (30 Question Quiz) – Are You Ready To Defend Your Faith?

Community Prayer – Community Prayer – February ’22

Christian Topics/Series Covered
Believer Handbook
Personal Blog: Peeking Beneath
Blog For Christian Women: UnAshamed Christian Housewife
Godly Men & Women I Recommend: Link To List
Resources For False Teaching: Recommended Websites For False Teachers/Teaching 
Video Playlist: Christian Questions, Topics, False Teachers, Insights 
Video Playlist: New Christian Believer 
Video Playlist: Understanding False Teachings
Video Playlist: Sermons To Grow From

Luke 11_39-40, careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy–full of greed and wickedness. Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside_

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