How Can I Love God More?

How Can I Love God More?

From Susan:

I need help with understanding what it means to love God. From your commentary on Mark 12 I gather it is not a warm fuzzy feeling but a decision however I still do not fully understand. Could you explain this further for me please?

Love is Commanded

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38)

  • Jesus commanded love to God quoting the Hebrew Scriptures (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  • Jesus commanded love to God as the first and greatest commandment
  • Jesus commanded love to God with our complete being

So, we are commanded to love Jesus this way. Paul even wrote, If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come! (1 Corinthians 16:22)

  • This love declares a choice
  • This love is then consistently demonstrated
  • This love is evident in cherishing

Love is Responsive

We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

This really is the cause of loving God – not trying to work it up within ourselves, but in receiving God’s love and allowing our love to Him to be the natural, logical response.

Love Needs Attention

Remember what Jude wrote: Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 1:21)

Things to Practically Do to Love God More

Let’s say that you can’t make yourself love something or someone; but you can cultivate love toward someone or something.

  • Consciously receive God’s love to you. Remember, We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
  • Give God your time; set Him before you constantly.
  • Give God your attention and care.
  • Give God a truly listening ear.
  • Give God your honor and your obedience.
  • Give God your appreciation; value Him for all the good He has done for you and be thankful for all that good.
  • Give God your dependence and trust; let Him care for you.
  • Give God your praise; speak highly of Him before others.

One More Thing

When we truly love someone, we don’t wish to change him. Stop trying to change God into what you want Him to be!

Are all Christians supposed to preach the gospel in the streets?

Are all Christians supposed to preach the gospel in the streets? I’m very shy, and I feel anxious. And when I try to share the gospel, normally I don’t know where to start or how to explain it because it’s too complex. Sometimes I think I’m a hypocrite because there are people preaching the Gospel in the streets to strangers, and I live my Christian faith inside a building. Could it be that preaching is like a gift that I don’t have?

God bless you. What a great question. Christians from different backgrounds and different traditions may have different thoughts on this, but I’ll give you my perspective on this.

It sounds to me like you’re feeling guilty that you don’t have what the Bible calls the gift of evangelism. There is a very discernible spiritual gift of evangelism. In fact, it’s one of the gifted offices that God gives the Church, as described in Ephesians 4, and other passages of Scripture. Not everybody has every gift. And if you don’t have the gift of evangelism, that’s okay.

Now, I say that the gift of evangelism is most appropriate for what I would call “cold call” evangelism. What is “cold call” evangelism? The term “cold call” comes from the world of sales, when a salesperson would pick up the phone and call somebody who has expressed no interest in the product, with no previous connection whatsoever. They call them out of the blue and ask, “Are you interested in buying our product?” That kind of sales is tough, because you’re not dealing with preexisting leads; you’re not dealing with people who have expressed any kind of interest in the service or product that you’re offering. And that’s kind of like street evangelism, a cold call evangelism. You have no idea if the person has any interest in spiritual things or in Jesus Christ; you’re just telling them to repent and believe.

I believe that type of ministry is, for the most part, the purview of people who have the gift of evangelism. However, I do believe that every Christian is called to evangelism in the sense of the relationships with the people that we have around us.

I want to challenge you and every one of our viewers. Stop feeling guilty about not being a street preacher and start asking God to give you evangelistic opportunities in your daily life. You could make this a daily part of your prayer. Every morning when you’re getting things ready for the day you can say, “Lord, bring somebody across my path today who needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, who needs to hear something of the love and the affection of Jesus. And if that person comes before me, give me the grace and the ability to speak a word to them in Jesus’ name.” Then keep your eyes open for what opportunities God may arrange. See, now you’re not just preaching in the streets, you’re not just knocking on doors, having no idea if people have an interest at all. But now when an opportunity comes your way in your daily life, you know with certainty that the Lord is behind it. And you can say, “Okay, Lord, now help me to do this.”

That’s what I would encourage you to do. Stop feeling guilty that you’re not a street preacher, and that that’s not your spiritual gift. But ask God to give you evangelistic opportunities in the daily flow of your life, with the people you may meet during your workday, or your studies, or your community or neighborhood, or wherever you are. Ask God to give you those kinds of opportunities. And when He does, ask Him for the strength and the ability to serve God by faithfully ministering forth His Word.

I do think that it’s very good for every Christian to be able to explain the good news – that’s simply what the word “gospel” means: the good news – of what God has done to save us in Jesus Christ. It’s something that you need to be able to formulate in a way of explaining on your own, but it should have these basic steps: An understanding our need for a Savior, and of what God has provided for us in the person and work of Jesus. In other words, a little bit about who Jesus is – He’s the Son of God, and He’s God the Son – and what Jesus did to rescue us, especially what Jesus did at the cross, and in His resurrection. At the cross, Jesus was our substitute. In this resurrection, Jesus triumphed over sin and death.

I think it’s a very good thing for you to develop an easy, natural way for yourself to explain the good news. There’s nothing wrong with working on it, writing it out, or repeating it. Being able to talk about it in natural, memorable way, you can freely say, “Hey, I know what the good news is. Here’s the message.” Hope that’s helpful for you. Great question.

Ezekiel 18 & 33 mention that sons won’t die for the sins of their fathers; each will die for their own sins. Why then were Bathsheba’s first son and the righteous son of Jeroboam killed?

Ezekiel 18 and 33 mention that the sons won’t die for the sins of the fathers; each will die for their own sins. Why then were Bathsheba’s first son and the righteous son of Jeroboam killed?

When God says that judgment won’t come upon the sons for the sake of the father, I think what God mainly has in mind is eternal judgment. Because let’s be honest, sometimes children directly die because of the sins of a parent. We read about these tragedies from time to time, don’t we? A parent who drives drunk with the children in the car, crashes, and their children are killed because of it. That is a situation of children dying directly because of a parent’s sin.  We know that is sometimes true, tragically so, on a human level in the here and now.

I think God’s Word in Ezekiel has the most pointed and direct application towards eternal judgment, not whatever crisis or tragedy may happen on this earth. It is true that the first son of David and Bathsheba died under the judgment of the Lord. But that baby did not end up in hell. David specifically says that he, as someone who was heaven-bound, anticipated that he would see that baby in the life to come.

So, we know that that child, even though it was in some sense under the judgment of God, it was under the judgment of God temporarily, not eternally.

That’s the distinction I would make for you. Because we know directly of at least some situations where somebody has perished directly because of the sin of a parent, I find the most pointed application of those passages in Ezekiel to pertain to the eternal realm, not the temporal realm.

Does Jesus have an issue with entertainment?

Jesus does not have an issue with entertainment. Jesus has an issue with idolatry. And Jesus has an issue with impurity. Sometimes entertainment can be impure, and Jesus has an issue with that. But other times, even entertainment that is not impure can also be idolatrous. We give too much of our time, attention, focus, resources, or money towards entertaining ourselves. That is often an expression of idolatry.

Let’s just remember, anything can become an idol. I’m recording this for you here on location in New York City. I’m recording from my iPhone. There are people for whom their phone is their idol. They sort of cherish it and carry it around everywhere that they go. I also have a laptop computer right in front of me. I like my laptop computer. There are people for whom their laptop computer is their idol. I believe my phone and my computer are good things that God uses, but they can become idols. So, entertainment can be idolatrous. And when it is an idol, Jesus is against it; He has an issue with it.

So that’s how I would express it. I would say that Jesus does not have a problem with entertainment per se. I think good entertainment is a gift from God. Look, if somebody does it, without immorality and without idolatry, it’s a good thing to laugh at a good joke. It’s a good thing to be entertained by a pleasant story, whether that story is a verbally expressed, written down, or comes to you on a video or a film – these are gifts from God.

I think that there is a sense in which an entertainer can legitimately be doing God’s work by bringing joy and pleasure to humanity, as long as it’s not immoral or idolatrous. Maybe we could think of some other issues to avoid in it, but those are the two things that come immediately to mind. But I don’t think Jesus has an issue with entertainment. In fact, in some sense, it’s a gift from God.

How do you view discipleship in the context of a church in a practical way?

I think that churches should be teaching people to do the things we should do as disciples of Jesus Christ. Good, healthy churches should be doing that, such as the church that I belong to in Santa Barbara, California. By the way, I am not a pastor over congregation anymore. I have not been for the last five years. I used to be the lead or senior pastor of the congregation of Calvary Chapel of Santa Barbara. I turned that over to another man five years ago, but we’re still part of that congregation. I still teach there from time to time. We just love being a part of that congregation. I think that’s a healthy church that is producing disciples. How it produces disciples is by simply training people through teaching the Word of God, through small group studies, through men’s and women’s Studies, through one-on-one discipleship, through example given again and again. They’re teaching people how to do the basics of the Christian life, how to read your Bible, how to pray, how to tell others about Jesus, how to endure through suffering, how to honor God with spiritual disciplines, such as fasting and other things. These are things that in one way or another are addressed over the years through normal discipleship in a church family.

I think that’s what we do in discipleship. We just show people what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ. Well, you say to read your Bible; how do you read your Bible? You say to pray; how do you pray? You say to tell other people; how do you do that? You say to grow in grace and in holiness; how do you do that practically? Fortunately, churches that have a focus on the Word of God and teaching the Word of God have a real advantage when it comes to this.

The Bible says, “No one has ever seen God.” How do we explain Jacob’s experience in Genesis 32:30?

Genesis 32:30 – So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”

No one has directly seen God in His heavenly glory at any time. When people have had visions of God, or maybe even been carried up to heaven – such as the examples of Isaiah, John, or maybe Paul – they saw some representation of God Himself, but they did not see God in His unveiled glory, face to face. That is what it means when it says that no one has seen God.

But people have seen God represented in some form on Earth. First, is it not true that anytime somebody saw Jesus they saw God? Let’s not forget that Jesus is God.

So, to say that no one has seen God anytime is true regarding God in His unveiled heavenly glory. It’s not true regarding God concerning His representation of Himself on Earth in the person and form of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, was and is God. When anybody looked at Jesus, they saw God.

That is analogous to the experience that Jacob had. In fact, we can make the argument that what Jacob experienced in Genesis 32 was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. This was Jesus appearing before He was conceived in Mary’s womb and born as a baby in Bethlehem. We know that Jesus existed before He was conceived, but there came a point in time when He added humanity to His deity. But apparently, there are more than a few situations in the Old Testament where Jesus appears as God in bodily form. Those are pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus Christ. But no man has ever seen God the Father in His unveiled glory in heaven.

What should be our attitude towards wolves in sheep’s clothing?

What should our attitude be towards wolves in sheep’s clothing? I have a friend who says that he never reads the Bible. He barely has time to pray, even a little bit. He seems to be a manipulator, is sometimes rude, and he never apologizes. When I confront him about his issues, he gets angry and says that he can be filled with Holy Spirit despite not reading the Word or praying. I don’t know whether to be merciful or to stop praying for him and avoid him.

Let me be very upfront with you on this. I cannot categorically say whether or not you should have any further contact with this person unless I were to know a lot more about the situation. But your question was most pointedly, “How can we know, or what should our attitude be towards somebody who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing?” Because I want to make a distinction here. There are false believers, pretend believers, but pretty much the only damage they’re doing is to themselves. Now you could say that nobody ever only damages themselves. And I understand that, but I would say predominantly, the only damage that they do is to themselves. So, there are some people who are like that.

But there are other people who do a great deal of damage to others. Based on how you describe this gentleman, you have every reason to believe that either he’s not a believer at all in any true sense, or if he is a believer, that he is very much a believer who is out of fellowship with God and needs to repent and get things right with God. From how you describe the situation, that’s what I would say. But he may not be having a negative impact on other believers. That’s what wolves do.

I would make a distinction between goats, which aren’t true sheep at all, and sick sheep, which are sheep of the Lord, but they’re very sick; they’re not well. There are goats, there are sick sheep, and then there are wolves. The difference is that the wolves are attacking the flock of God, seeking to devour and destroy them. And if this is the case with the friend you mentioned, then you have every reason to distance yourself from them, not be involved with them, to not continue any some sort of service or ministry toward them, unless you believe yourself to be very much providentially and inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so.

I hope I’m making the distinction here. In one category, you have some people who are not believers at all, they’re goats. Then you have other people who are believers, but they’re sick; they’re sick sheep. But then you have a third category – those are the wolves. They are not true sheep, and they are a danger to the other sheep. In how you describe this gentleman, I can’t really tell if he’s a danger to somebody else. All I can say is to prayerfully approach this and let God in His providence by the guiding and leading of the Holy Spirit direct you on this. I would pray that God will give you wisdom on this.

Is it ok to ask God to give me a husband?

Is it okay to ask God to give me a husband? Some people say I shouldn’t because it’s just my decision. But I think He’s able to do anything. Having children and a husband is one of my biggest dreams.

If we were to sit down and have a much longer conversation, maybe I’d get a little more understanding of this. But based on what you write, I would say, by all means you should pray that God would lead you to a godly husband. Why not? Let’s not forget what the Scriptures say. “You have not because you ask not.” And I don’t believe that’s the only reason for unanswered prayer, but it’s certainly a significant reason for unanswered prayer. We don’t have because we do not ask. There’s nothing wrong, and there’s everything right, if you sense a desire, if you sense a need, or even a sense of calling to be married and to have children, then it’s perfectly okay for you to pray that prayer. “Lord, bring me a godly husband. Bring me to a godly husband or bring a godly husband to me; Lord, I’m going to let You decide how exactly it happens. But Lord, would you bring me together with a godly man who could be a husband for me, and perhaps a father to children?” I would have nothing wrong with that prayer.

Look, this is the course of life that God calls most people into, but not all, by any means. Let’s make no mistake – there is an important place within Christianity for those who are single. In Christianity, those who are unmarried can and do glorify God. In Christianity, Jesus was single, and Paul was single. These are important things to remember. Yet at the same time, we also acknowledge that it is the calling and plan of God for most Christians to marry and to have children.

If this were not the case, it would be the end of the age. “Be fruitful and multiply” means a lot of things, and that’s part of what it means. So, while we do recognize the important place that Christianity gives to calling and life fulfillment for the single, it’s okay to pray, “Lord, it seems to be Your will for most of Your followers to be married. I think that might be me as well. So please bring me a godly husband,” or wife, of course, if you’re a man.

What should I do if I’m struggling with a vow I made to God?

As a Christian that has promised God to quit drinking coffee, I’m still struggling and failing. What should I do? I’ve prayed and asked God in prayer, and I’m having a very difficult time.

Let me say a few things about this. First, I want you to reevaluate your vow. You have in some way made a vow before the Lord. And that vow is something that you’re having a struggle with. When we’re having a struggle with a vow or a promise before God, sometimes the problem is that we made a vow that we shouldn’t make. Now, listen to me carefully on this: When we make a vow or a promise before God that we should not have made, don’t ignore it. Don’t just forget about it. Instead, repent of making the vow, talk about it with God, and repent before Him, and ask God to give you the wisdom to not do such things in the future.

I think it is misguided and sometimes a hindrance in Christians lives when we have broken vows that we do nothing about. We don’t repent of them. We don’t rededicate ourselves to them. We just ignore them. Believer, I want to challenge you now: if there are broken vows in your life, get them resolved before God. Either rededicate yourself to the vow, or if you realize now with maybe greater wisdom and insight, “I should have never made that vow,” that’s okay, too. But instead, go back and say, God, I made a foolish vow, I repent of it. Consider me to be released from this because I repent of making that vow.

So that’s the first thing I’d like you to do. Now, if you do that, and pray about it and seek God about it, “Lord, was this a wise vow or unwise vow?” If you feel confirmed that this is a vow that God wanted you to make, then you should do what often helps us whenever we’re trying to establish a spiritual discipline or do very practical things in our walk that would demonstrate some level of self-denial: Make yourself accountable to another person. Find another person who’s going to ask you twice a day, “How are you doing with the coffee thing?”

So again, first evaluate your vow and find out, whether this vow is something to rededicate yourself unto, or whether this is a vow you need to repent of, and call off before the Lord? And if you determine that this is something that you want to continue doing, and you believe this was glorifying to God, then I really believe that the right thing for you to do is simply to make yourself accountable to somebody else. And this will be a sincere help to you in keeping the vow.

What was Timothy’s background?

Can you go over the significance of Timothy’s ministry? Did he have a mom who was Jewish that became a Christian and a dad who was Greek? Wouldn’t his dad have had different views?

Timothy is a remarkable man in the Scriptures. We often present him as being a young man, and he might have been young, relatively speaking. But by the time Paul put him in ministry in Ephesus, he could very well have been in his late 20s or 30s, which, by the way, is relatively young. But we shouldn’t think that he was a teenage preacher or something like that, even though it’s possible that he could very well have been in his teens when he started his work with the apostle Paul.

We know from Paul’s letters to Timothy that Timothy’s mother was a believer, but from a Jewish background. We’re not told anything about the faith of Timothy’s father, so we just don’t know about him. We assume that Timothy had a Greek father, because there’s nothing mentioned about the Jewish faith or religion of his father. And there’s also no mention of a spiritual influence from the father. Paul, in his letters to Timothy, makes mention of the godly influence that Timothy’s mother and grandmother had upon him. Now I don’t have any doubt that they had a godly influence upon him regarding Judaism, which would have been obviously godly and preparing the ground for Timothy to come to faith in the Messiah. But it’s also very possible, maybe even likely, that Timothy’s mother, and grandmother came to faith in Jesus before him, and schooled him in the faith in Jesus Christ.

The assumption is made that Timothy’s father was a Greek because Timothy’s name was Greek, and because he was not circumcised when he originally started traveling with Paul. Circumcision would have been a mark of a Jewish upbringing, so that decision to leave him uncircumcised seems to be more influenced by a Greek parent, probably his father, since we know that his mother was Jewish.

Timothy was of adult age when he started following Paul, and following Jesus through the work of Paul, and being part of Paul’s missionary team. So, I don’t doubt that he was probably beyond the age of being under his father’s control or command. Here’s another possibility, too. We can’t say for certain; there are a lot of unanswered questions about this; sometimes our curiosity goes beyond the Scriptures itself. But it may be that Timothy’s father was deceased, and that’s why no mention is made of him.

So, there’s a lot of things that are possible here. Timothy had an interesting and exciting role in the New Testament, being a part of the Apostle Paul’s missionary team, and then serving the Lord in the city of Ephesus, which was an important and influential collection of churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor in modern-day Turkey.

Is it necessary to have your child formally dedicated to God at church?

I’m going to answer the question exactly as you presented it: Is it necessary? No.

But I would say it is necessary for Christian parents, in heart and in daily life, to treat their children as if they are dedicated to God and to truly dedicate their children to God. But that’s what’s important. Raising your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, praying for your children, praying with your children, reading the Scriptures with your children, raising them in the Scriptures, raising them in the community of God’s people. All these things are very important things for Christian parents to do for and with their children. But the Bible nowhere it commands a dedication ceremony of a child. I think it’s a good thing to do. I think it’s a delightful thing to do. I think it’s entirely consistent with the Scriptures. But the Scriptures nowhere command it.

I understand that our viewers may come from many different church backgrounds, including backgrounds that believe in the baptism of infants, or the christening of infants, as it would be called in the Anglican Communion. This, I think, is unbiblical. Again, I would love to talk more about it sometime. This is a subject that fascinates me. I understand that in some sense, this is just a different doctrinal perspective, and Christians have different doctrinal perspectives all the time, I understand that. But let me just say this: I believe that there is a particular danger in the teaching and the practice of infant baptism. I believe that there are millions of souls in hell who believed that they were saved simply because they were baptized as children.

Now I know that there are people who practice infant baptism who would say, “No, don’t associate that with us. We’re not trying to be guilty of that; we’re not saying that people are saved just because of baptism.” But it’s hard to get away from that feeling that gets communicated to people which assumes that if you were baptized as a baby, you’re going to heaven.

If you are a pastor or an elder in a church that does practice infant baptism, here’s my encouragement towards you, for whatever it’s worth: Regularly preach to your people that you’re not saved just because you were baptized as a child. Being baptized as baby does not ensure your salvation. You must individually come to Jesus Christ with faith and repentance, responding to the call of God on your life.

If a pastor will regularly – not just once a year, but regularly – tell his people, and warn his people, that you’re not going to heaven just because you were baptized as a baby, then I would say that the practical potential harm of infant baptism is dealt with. And then it’s just a matter that we disagree about. So again, there is no command for an infant or child dedication. But I think it’s a wonderful and lovely practice that certainly allowed and permitted in the Bible.

Can we see God or His influence in our dreams?

Can we see God or His influence in our dreams? If so, how can we recognize God’s presence or influence in our dreams?

I believe that it is possible for God to speak to somebody in dreams. I know that people disagree with this. There are some people who say, “No, God does not speak to anybody today, except through His written Word. That’s the only way God speaks to people today.” Listen, friends, I don’t feel like I need to lay out my credentials as someone who believes in God’s Word. I have a verse-by-verse commentary on the entire Bible, that is my life’s work, which is used by a lot of people. A lot of people find it a valuable Bible resource. I don’t have to prove my Bible credentials. I believe in God’s word, I believe in the importance of God’s word, I believe in the sufficiency of God’s word. But to say that the only way that God can communicate with a human being today is through His written Word. I think just falls short.

I think that the Holy Spirit can bring a spirit of conviction upon a person, consistent with the Word of God, fulfilling with the Word of God, but it doesn’t necessarily come from the pages of Scripture. And if the Holy Spirit can do that, then the Holy Spirit can speak to people in other ways.

Now, I know that people think this is a dangerous thing to talk about, lest people start thinking every crazy thing that comes in their head is the word of God. And I agree, that is a danger. We need to speak out against that. But I just want to highlight what a strange thing it is to say that the only way God can communicate with a human being today is through the words in His written Word. That would imply that if there is a sense of conviction of sin that comes into a person’s life apart from the direct reading of God’s word, that it must be from the devil; it can’t be from God, it can’t be from the Holy Spirit. What a strange way that would be to talk about God and His work in the world.

So, I understand that there’s some room for danger in speaking about this. It’s possible for this idea to be abused. But I can’t get away from the thought that, yes, it’s true that the Holy Spirit can speak to somebody through dreams. And how do you know? Well, first of all, always, always, always, we judge things by the word of God. We judge things by His written, revealed Word. This is the standard and the measure for everything. Then I believe that there’s a secondary standard that we use, once it’s past that grid. We just simply ask if it is consistent with the wise counsel or advice of other godly people that God would put my life. I would not be quick to make any kind of real important decision or radical decision purely based on a dream. Now, maybe a dream or something like could be a confirmation for how God was leading providentially or in some other way, but I would not decide purely based on a dream.

Can God speak to us through repeated themes in daily life?

Can you discuss the meaning behind receiving the same messages from multiple avenues of shared faith? For example, unrelated devotionals, study groups, YouTube, etc.

I’ll be honest, it’s a little bit hard for me to get exactly the sense of your question. But I would just say this. When the same idea keeps coming before me from several different sources, it gets my attention. And it makes me say, “Hey, maybe the Holy Spirit’s shining a spotlight on something for me.” Let’s give the example of being persistent in prayer. If I hear that theme from repeated sources in my daily life, and it draws my attention to the issue of persistence in prayer, then I think it’s fair enough to say, “Lord, are you trying to get my attention on this? Let me let me consider this for a while. Let me prayerfully consider and see if God is not trying to get some attention in my life, regarding persistence in prayer.” So that’s simply how I would answer that. I believe that sometimes God does do that God tries to get our attention by bringing repeated themes in front of us. So that may be the case with you or someone you know, from time to time.