Last week we took a look at this often quoted promise from the Bible: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

That promise makes it possible for Christians to view the future with optimism–no matter what is going on in the present. Wouldn’t you like to know that every disappointment will bring about something good? That is so important because a great many of our fears are about what is lurking out there in the future.

Notice, though, what Romans 8:28 does NOT say. Contrary to what a lot of people think, this promise is not for those who keep God’s commands or for those who go to church regularly. It’s not even promised to those who pray regularly or give to charity. It is ONLY for those who have an abiding affection for God.

Let me tell you about an event in Christ’s life that made this very clear. To understand it, we first need some important background information. The religious leaders of that day had long debates about which of God’s Laws were most important. They generally agreed that obeying those laws was the only possibility of getting to heaven. Most of them agreed that the Bible contained 613 commands, but that presented a problem. It is not only impossible to keep that many commands, but it’s also difficult to even remember all of them.

Faced with that mountain of difficult commands, the religious rulers tried to solve the problem by saying that some of God’s Laws were more important than others. The implication was that God was OK with you as long as you kept the Law, or Laws, at the top of the list. That way there weren’t so many to worry about.

They tried to entangle Jesus in their debates by asking Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36). In other words, they were asking for His opinion about which Law was the top priority. Jesus surprised them all when He went right to the issues of the heart. Instead of pointing to visible obedience, He quoted two passages from the Bible. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ [From Deuteronomy 6:5] This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ [From Leviticus 19:18]” (Matthew 22:37–39).

Jesus made it clear that, above all else, God wants and deserves our affection. He didn’t just want displays of external religion. This is a theme we find throughout the Bible.  “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offering” (Hosea 6:6).

Our love for God is based on wonderful, genuine truth. There are many reasons to love Him. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, here are just four to think about:

  • You began life spiritually dead, but Jesus gave you spiritual life (Ephesians 2:1-5).
  • The Lord’s presence will be with you as you experience the hard things in this world (Hebrews 13:5).
  • You are covered by Christ’s perfect righteousness so you are eternally accepted by God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • When this life is over, God will make it possible for you to stand blameless and joyful in His very presence (Jude 24).

Obeying God is important, but He isn’t interested in obedience that is not motivated by a love for Him. Jesus put it this way, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23).

Since loving God is so important, how can we learn to do it? How can we grow to love Him more? One answer is something we find true in all our relationships. You really can’t love someone you don’t know. You might like what you hear about them, but that is very different from knowing them personally.

How can you get to know Him? Read His Word, the Bible, and go to a church that will help you understand His Word.

God wants you to know Him personally. That is only possible when you “… repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Then you will begin a relationship with Christ that is, as Paul said, not because of  “… a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection …” (Philippians 3:9–10).

Falling in love with Jesus assures you that God is in the process of causing “all things to work together for good” in your life. I hope all of you who know Him will join me in thanking God for that promise.