Why Does God Want Our Love? – LIVE Q&A for May 23, 2024

Why Does God Want Our Love? LIVE Q&A for May 23, 2024

Why Does God Want Our Love?

Today’s lead question is pretty simple and straightforward, and comes to us from Hector:

Why does God want our love?

I love these good, basic questions – questions that deal with things that we often take for granted, we assume we know the answer to, but we don’t think through.

So, why does God want our love?

First, let’s look at the wrong answer, or a reason that is not true. God does not want our love because He is “needy” in the way we might think of a person being needy.

  1. Edwin Orr used a memorable definition of God, which was thoroughly Biblical: God is the only infinite, eternal, and unchangeable spirit, the perfect being in whom all things begin, and continue, and end.

God relies on no one and no thing – God is self-existent.

John 5:26

For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself

It’s also important to note that God is not “needy” in the sense that any desire for love is satisfied within the persons of the Trinity. Look at these words of Jesus, speaking to God the Father in His great prayer in John 17:

John 17:24

You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

This tells us that before anything was created, there was a love relationship between the Persons of the Godhead, the Trinity. Even if Jesus had not specifically told us this, we might have understood it by other Biblical truths, understanding that God is eternal (Micah 5:2) and that God is love (1 John 4:8 and 4:16). There was never a time when God did not love and was not love.

Now, for the positive reasons – why does God want our love?

  1. God wants our love because it is appropriate. It’s right.

This is true for several reasons.

  • God is our creator, and it is appropriate for the creator to love the Creator.
  • God is a guide to all humanity, speaking to mankind through creation, conscience, and His word (the Bible).
  • God is the redeemer of His people, rescuing them from sin, self, judgment, and the powers of darkness.
  • God love us first, and it is right for us to return love to Him. As 1 John 4:19 says, We love Him because He first loved us.
  1. God wants our love because it’s good for us. It is good for us to love Him. It puts things in the right order.

So, the great Shema statement of Israel:

Deuteronomy 6:5:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Specifically confirmed by Jesus:

Mark 12:29-30

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.

This is a command that comes not from a need in God, but in what is good and appropriate, and in what is good for His creatures – in particular, those creatures that are made in God’s own image.

How can a person struggling to trust God’s (unconditional) love, love Him more in light of 1 John 4:18-19? How do we gain a perfect love which drives out fear & doubt?

1 John 4:18-19 – There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.

I’ll give you two things to think about. First, I think that we come to trust God’s love more by simply focusing on His great love for us. Read your Bible with a particular outlook. Keep your eyes open in every verse and in every chapter: how does this display the love of God? I would say that even in Bible passages which speak about the judgment of God, there is often an element of God’s love manifested. Sometimes you can see the love of God in His announcements of judgment because He is warning people so they can avoid or escape judgment. There is also the declaration of God’s love in announcements of judgment, because God demonstrates His love for what is good and what is right. Judgment upon evil is a demonstration of God’s love for that which is good. So, when you read your Bible and in your times of prayer, give great meditation and consideration to the love of God for you in every aspect.

We cannot fathom all the great aspects of God’s love for us. But we can think about it again and again and again. I would really recommend developing the biblical practice of meditation upon God’s Word. Now, this is very different from the Eastern concept of meditation. In general, the Eastern concept of meditation involves emptying the mind and trying to have a blank mind, which, in some sense, even spiritually, can lead to great danger. On the other hand, biblical meditation is to fill your mind with the truth and the beauty and the power of God’s Word. As you spend time meditating on the revelation of the love of God, I think the natural response within us will be to have a greater love for God Himself.

Continue to meditate upon and set your mind on the greatness of the love of God. Sometimes we take God’s love for granted, thinking, “God loves us, okay, great. He loves us. He loves me. He loves everybody. He has to; that’s His job. He’s God.” No, that is a very superficial understanding. I would trust that your appreciation of the love of God is already far beyond that superficial idea. I’m just here to tell you that there is much deeper ground for all of us to go to in our understanding of the love of God.

How are we meant to love God without fear, “because fear has to do with punishment,” (1 John 4:18) when the threat of eternal punishment in Hell is hanging in the balance for Christians? Are we meant to both love & fear God?

Much of the answer to your question is bound up in understanding the idea of fear. In the Bible, fear is a fairly broad idea. Sometimes fear is expressed in a negative sense, in a kind of cringing, halting, fearful expectation of great punishment or judgment upon a person. That’s the kind of fear that can be done away with in Jesus Christ.

But the idea of fear is broad enough in the Bible that it also includes the idea of a healthy respect and honoring of God. The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 110:10, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10), and that’s absolutely true. But these passages are not talking about a fear that God might smite us. Rather, it is an appropriate honor, awe, and reverence for God.

So, we need to make sure that we’re talking about the same thing when we talk about fear. The fear that has to do with punishment is a fear that absolutely can and should be put away for the believer in Jesus Christ. How can I say that so categorically? Because the believer in Jesus Christ should live in the awareness that all the punishment that our sin deserved – past, present and future – has been poured out on Jesus Christ and satisfied by His sacrifice at the cross. It’s a very simple equation. If Jesus Christ bore the penalty and punishment for all of our sin, then there is no more punishment awaiting us before God. There may be fatherly discipline, but not punishment in the sense of paying for sins. That idea of a fear of punishment from God can and should be put away from the heart and mind of every person who is born again by God’s Spirit. This is part of the assurance of salvation and security that we have in our Savior – not in ourselves, but in our Savior.

Considering the other definition of fear in the Bible, the believer still continues to have a proper reverence and respect towards God, and we should not be flippant or disgraceful or dishonoring to Him in any way. I do not live in fear of hell. I’m a believer, and I have trusted Christ. And even though my faith at times may be weak, it is set upon a great, perfect Savior, who has rescued me, not because I’m so wonderful, but because He’s so wonderful and has done so much for me, especially what He did at the cross and the empty tomb. So, I don’t live in fear of hellfire. That’s been satisfied by what Jesus did at the cross. I think God wants the same for every believer.

How can we respond in love and truth when people say they are led by the Spirit, but don’t read the Bible?

Well, if God gives you the opportunity to respond to a person who would say, “I’m led of the spirit, but I don’t read the Bible,” you should remind them of what the Bible says itself. Jesus said that the Spirit would guide His people into all truth. There is no greater statement of God’s truth than what we find in the Word of God itself. Anybody who wants to divorce the working of God’s Spirit from the working of God’s word is barking up the wrong tree.

Now, I believe that you can make some distinction between the work of the Spirit and the work of God’s word. They’re not entirely separate, but neither are they identical. God’s Spirit and God’s word work in concert together, they’re consistent with each other. The Spirit never contradicts the Word, and the Word will never contradict the Spirit, at least not the true working of the Holy Spirit.

In the great Upper Room Discourse in John 13-16, Jesus spoke about how the Spirit will guide the people of God into all truth. Of course, there’s no greater expression of truth than what we find in God’s word. It’s a dangerous thing for a person to say, “I’m guided by the Spirit. I’m led by the Spirit. But I don’t want to have anything to do with the Bible. I don’t want to read my Bible.” That that can lead to a lot of problems.

Is the filling of the Spirit something that happens to a believer only once or multiple times?

I lead a men’s Bible study group and I use your sermons and commentary for reference. Acts 3-4 tells about Peter being filled with the Holy Spirit on 3 different occasions. Your commentary for chapter 4 says that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit 3 separate times, and we need to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit and I agree. I have a member in my group that disagrees with being filled with the Holy Spirit more than once. He interprets this Scripture in chapter 4 to say Peter is using the Holy Spirit he was originally filled with at the day of Pentecost. He believes you are only filled with the Holy Spirit once, kind of like “once saved, always saved.” Is the filling of the Spirit something that happens to a believer only once or multiple times? Please advise.

I am firmly within the camp that believes that the filling of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing experience. All I can tell you is what it says in the book of Acts. Three or four times in the early chapters of Acts, it says that the disciples and, in some cases, the same disciples, are filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter is one example of being filled with the Spirit multiple times. I don’t know how to disregard that. The Bible does not say they had access to the Spirit. No, it says filled. All I can say is what the Scriptures themselves say. To your friend, I might say, “Dear brother, I understand what you’re trying to get at. But it does say they were filled with the Spirit here, and again in this place, and again in this other place. I take that to mean they were filled with the Spirit repeated times.”

Additionally, Ephesians 5 says that we should be continually being filled with the Spirit. I’m not an expert in Greek grammar. I just know how to read the fellows who are experts. But from what I read, the grammar and the verb construction there speaks of a continual filling. One person has translated it, “Be constantly being filled with the Spirit.”

I understand, people are wary of Pentecostalism. People are wary of crazy charismatics. They want to emphasize that the work of the Spirit is a one-time occurrence in the life of a believer. But I don’t think that’s what the Scriptures teach. I think the Scriptures teach that we have an ongoing experience with the Spirit of God, and that the filling of the Spirit should be a continuing experience for the believer, just like it was for the disciples in the book of Acts, and just like is described in Ephesians 5, to be constantly being filled with the Spirit.

That’s how I would advise this brother, but you know what? I wouldn’t argue with him about it. Some of these things are just simply spiritually discerned by a person, maybe at the right time and the right place. The Spirit of God Himself will speak to this dear brother of yours in your Bible study group.

Can we really love God out of our own free will (we choose to love God) or is it mostly because we are commanded to do so (Mark 12:30)?

Mark 12:30 – ‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.

Well, I don’t like using the phrase free will. I think a valid argument can be made that our will is not completely free, that there are at least some hindrances to the exercise of our will, whether hindrances by the world around us or hindrances from within. So, instead of saying free will, I like to say real choices. In other words, I don’t think a person has to have a completely free will, a will that is free in every regard. I don’t think they have to have that in order to make a real choice. I believe that we can choose to love God, given that He does a work in us.

God does work in His people. God does work in unbelievers to draw them to love God by loving them first. We love Him because He first loved us. This is what prompts our love for Him. I think you could probably say rightly say that we cannot love God unless He loves us first. But given that He has loved us first, we can respond to Him in love. I don’t see a contradiction between that and responding to the command of Jesus.

I think a great way for us to take this command is to simply say, “Jesus said that I must love the Lord, so I want to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, with all my strength. Lord, how can I love You more? What can I do today to demonstrate my love to You, God? How can I love You with my mind? How can I love You with my soul? How can I love You with my strength? How can I love You with my entire being? I love You, Lord.”

I think that’s a very simple way to respond, to choose to do what God tells us to do. Now, I know that we can’t do anything of love or good towards God unless He empowers us to do it. But God won’t do these things for us. He may do them in us and through us, but He won’t do them for us. Somewhere in this equation, there appears to be a choice that we have to make. And we say, “Yes, Lord, I’ll do this.”