I was asked the following question during an ongoing dialogue with a reader.
“Serious question: what is the distinction between loving others as God does, and accepting Jesus as Lord? I just realized thanks to this discussion that I don’t separate those things in my mind.”
Good question/observation. For me, Salvation comes through two ideals which no one can achieve on this side of the grave due to our continuing sin nature.
The first is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). This is what most believe is all that is needed to spend eternity in Heaven. In many ways, they are correct. However, many tend to gravitate toward loving our neighbor by doing good deeds, thinking that that behavior justifies, or is a substitute for, a love for the Lord. Basically, this becomes a “works-based” plan of Salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). If we truly could express an unqualified love of the Lord, that would fulfill His qualifications for Salvation. Loving others would naturally follow (not precede or replace). However, we as sinners, living in a sin-cursed world, with Satan and his minions influencing us. Mankind does not and cannot achieve that love for God. Again, we substitute an attempted the love of man for a true and deep love of God which He requires. That brings me to the second ideal for Salvation.
God as Lord
We need to accept Him as Lord of our lives. Said differently, we need to follow His commands as the Supreme leader of humanity. We cannot do this through feelings or personal impressions about who He is and how He wants us to behave. Leaving moral authority to our own opinions of right and wrong will lead us to favor views such as woman’s rights over right-to-life, responding medically to gender dysphoria as acceptable, and complementarianism as unacceptable. Left to our own opinions (mine included) these current moral viewpoints seem logical and acceptable in many situations. Placing God above our sin-clouded ethics means accepting His Word as superior to our view (Prov. 14:12). That dogma results in seeking those areas of life where we disagree… through studying Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15) and accepting His perspective over ours. The Bible is His love letter and instruction manual for mankind (Matt. 4:4). To ignore or twist the Bible is to construct our own straw man of who God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is in a way that fits who we want Him to be. This is the antithesis of accepting Him as Lord of our lives.
He is Love and Lord
Finally, this is a heart change, not a head acquisition. It includes having enough conviction of His love, as well as the consequences of not following Him as Lord. It requires us to “confess [it] with our mouths” (Romans 10:9-10).