God loves us. “The Father himself loves you” (John 16:27). The Holy Spirit loves us (Rom. 15:30). The Lord Jesus loved us and gave himself for us (Gal. 2:20). Our reasonable response to such wondrous love is to love him back – with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Jude says that we must “keep ourselves in the love of God” (v. 21). Our hearts quickly run out of the garden of God’s love into the desert of sin. Our hearts can be warmed with God’s love one minute, and cold as death the next. The world allures us constantly with its false loves. The old man of sin whispers that God does not really love us, that he is not really good, that it is better to seek other loves.
Life circumstances tempt us out of the love of God. We are sick for a few days and become convinced that God hates us or has forgotten about us. If God loves us, why is life so hard, the world so menacing, and those closest to me indifferent and cold? Would not life be different if God loved me?
And then, we wonder if we really love God? Ask the question from the other perspective: would not life be different if I loved God? We must answer affirmatively. Our worldly loves choke out his love. We are giddy and fickle lovers; he is not. We require constant reassurance of love. He is settled in his love for us (Zeph. 3:17). He is quiet and assured. He knows that he loves us, has always loved us, cannot stop loving us. His love does not fluctuate with our love for him.
How, then, can we keep ourselves in the love of God? First, be assured that he loves you and wants to have fellowship with you (1 Cor. 1:9; Phil. 2:1). He did not create or redeem you to be a slave, a distant relation, an occasional friend. He formed and saved you to be his own possession, his dwelling place, the beloved child at his side, the close friend to whom he opens his holy heart. Cold thoughts of God extinguish love’s fires. Labor to have and keep warm thoughts of God, of his love, adoring thoughts, trusting thoughts of his wondrous love (1 John 3:1). Ask him to teach you his love (Eph. 3:18-20).
Then, guard against everything that quenches the love of God in your heart. Our Savior mentioned the love of money – we cannot serve God and money (Matt. 6:24). If we worry about money, hoard money, and weigh our future prospects by how much money we have, the love of God will wither in our hearts. Similar are worldly loves of every kind – if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:16). This is a very poor exchange – to set your heart upon a brief pleasure but lose the Father’s eternal love. “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Sin especially quenches the love of God in our hearts. God is holy in his love, and sin is unholy in its loves. These will not mix. Many wonder that their hearts are so cold toward the Lord and doubt his love. Sin makes us strangers to God’s love. We cannot seek satisfaction in sin but find satisfaction in God’s love. Sin is like a cloud that hides the sun of God’s love. The Lord will not show and share his love if we love our sins, for that would be to confirm us in them. Nor can we expect our hearts to feel loving toward him if we are throwing other loves in his face. Keeping ourselves in God’s love means hating sin as a false lover, killing sin as an enemy to love.
To keep ourselves in the love of God, we must keep coming to the well of our Savior’s love. He shows the Father’s love to us, how dearly he loves us – so much that he crucified his only Son to have us for himself. Doubt yourself, but never doubt Him. A cold heart will set itself ablaze with love at the cross of love. Live in the shadow of Calvary. Preach the gospel of love to yourself daily, and you will keep yourself in God’s love. The fire of his love is so hot at Calvary that it consumes all our sins and guilt, fears and false loves, worldliness and pride. In their place, a garden of delights in his love begins to grow…