Why Does God Want Us to Love Him?
Hector asks: Why does God want our love
I think that that is such a great question. It’s such a simple question. It’s such a basic question. But at the same time, I would like to say that I do think it is a tremendous question and want to thank you for asking it. Why does God want our love?
Sometimes the best way to begin and approach to these kinds of questions, theological questions, questions about the Christian life and such, is to begin by first answering it in the negative. So let me give you four reasons coming from the negative side of the answer.
It’s not because God is a narcissist – as if God is this self-centered, being in the universe, where it’s all about Him, and He wants everything focused upon Him. It is remarkable to consider the modesty of God, how God does so much in this world, and does not make it overtly obvious, at least on some level, that He has done it. Consider that God is responsible for every breath that we breathe in some way or another. Yet, in His modesty, God holds back. If God were a narcissist, He would not have the modesty that he displays throughout all of creation, and throughout all of His dealings with men. It is true that the heavens declare the glory of God and for those who have the eye to see it, all creation speaks of His glory, yet even in the way that the heavens declare the glory of God, and all creation declares His honor and majesty and power, He nevertheless finds a way to do it that is at the same time modest. So it’s not because God is a narcissist.
Why does God want our love? It’s not because God is insecure. It is not as if God is up there in heaven, and he’s really insecure and He just needs some cheering up – you know, some encouragement along the way. It is not as if God is just hoping that some people will love Him and lift Him up from His depression or lift Him up from His feelings of insecurity. No, that’s not the reason why; we have a God who is totally secure in who He is, and what His plan is for all time.
God wants us to love Him, but not because God needs our love. Now look, I could make some kind of argument for arguing why God needs our love. But on the most part, in the main aspect, I would say this: God doesn’t need our love. If all of creation would to perish, God would still exist, and his existence would not be affected by the perishing of all creation. No, in that grand, greater sense. God does not need our love in that sense.
I’ll add one more. God wants us to love Him, but it’s not because God is needy in any way. God has the characteristic that theologians sometimes call aseity. This word aseity just means that God is self-existent. He does not depend on anything, or anyone else for His existence. That’s not true of us. It’s amazing, and maybe even a little bit frightening to think of all the things we depend on for our existence. But that’s not God. He is not needy in any way.
So again, coming to Hector’s question, why does God want us to love Him? It’s not because He’s a narcissist. It’s not because He’s insecure. It’s not because He needs our love. It’s not because God is needy in any way.
Now, let me talk about some of the reasons why God does in fact, want our love. God wants our love, first and foremost, because God is love. And love must exist in relationship. That’s what love is all about. Love must have relationship to exist. God is love. Now, by the way, that’s not the same thing as saying that love is God. But we can definitely say because the Scriptures tell us this. In 1 John, that God is love. And love exists in relationship. So that not only means that God does love us, but also that He wants us to love Him in relationship.
It’s also because God has made us in His image. God has designed us for a relationship with Him. It is hardwired in our design that there is something empty, there is something missing in humanity, until we have a relationship with God. It might have been Augustine, the early church theologian who said this, that God has made us with a God-shaped void or vacuum in every human being, something that’s missing in us that can only be fulfilled in Him. That’s part of the love that we give to Him. He designed us for that kind of relationship. God simply wants us to fulfill our design, because God wants what is best for us. God wants for us, what will bring us true fulfillment. And loving God is one of the things that will bring us true fulfillment.
Here is a little bit of a silly illustration here. Why does God want us to love him? Well, why does your mechanic want you to change your motor oil in your automobile? It’s because that’s how your automobile was designed. We were designed to love God in relationship. And that’s a great reason why he wants us to do it.
Furthermore, it is because the love that existed among the persons of the Trinity was so great that God was compelled to increase the circle of that love. And if God bestows that love upon us, then it is just right and appropriate for us to return that love to Him. Remember that great verse from 1 John, where it says, We love Him, because He first loved us. That’s why we love him. Why do we love God, because He first loved us. That is our ground of love. That is our security and love, knowing that He first loved us.
Finally, God wants us to love Him because we are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ that is believers are. And Jesus Himself loved God the Father, in ultimate sense, there was nobody ever walked this earth, who loved God, the way that Jesus did love God the Father. So because we’re being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, He wants us to have that same love in the same way.
Here are a few more thoughts on the love of God We should understand that the greatest proof of God’s love has already been given to us. That is what Jesus did for us at the cross. You see, if you want to love God more, the key to loving God more is not found in resolutions or vows saying “I’m going to make myself love God no more.” No, the key to loving God more is found simply in receiving his love, on a continuing and if possible on a deeper level. We love Him, because He first loved us. And if you want to grow in your understanding of God’s love for you to go to the cross, the greatest proof of God’s love for us has already been given. It’s what Jesus did for us on the cross. Now, this is understanding not only that God loves us in the present tense, but that He loved us in the past tense. In an ultimate and definite sense, Gpd loved us. Ephesians 2:4 says this: but God, who is rich in mercy because of his great love with which He loved us – that’s something decisive in the past. Romans 8: 37, says this, that yet in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us – again, in the past tense. At the cross is where Jesus loved us in the ultimate sense. There is no greater demonstration of love of God’s love for you that He can give than what Jesus did at the cross.
And so you can say, “Lord, show me a fresh demonstration of your love.” That’s fine. But understand, God has already shown you and me the greatest demonstration of His love. You see, it’s at the cross where Jesus loved us. The highest, greatest, most glorious demonstration of love and understanding more of God’s love for us, is always going to be the key to understanding and to growing in our love for Him.
What about euthanasia?
Pastor David, what do you think about euthanasia?
Euthanasia is what some people call mercy killing. That is someone, in some way, committing suicide. The idea usually behind euthanasia is that this is somebody who has some kind of terminal disease or terminal condition who is choosing to end their life on their own terms, instead of letting the disease run its course. I think that euthanasia is something to be avoided, and especially, it is not something to allow by law.
We see this in nations that have opened up their euthanasia laws, that soon, people are being pushed and provoked into accepting death – into committing suicide essentially well before they should, and even for things that we would not describe as terminal diseases. Within the last few years, I remember reading a news report from Europe, of somebody who “committed euthanasia” through the sanction state system because they were depressed. This is not right and it should not be made in to law.
I know that people can make exceptions saying, “Somebody is very near death. Instead of them running it all the way out in the last painful few days, yaybe the doctor should mercifully give them an overdose of a painkiller, and they die and end it.” You can talk about theoretical situations like that, or even some unique situations. But that is an entirely different thing than making it into law and giving it state and official sanction. I think these things are a bad idea.
Even recognizing the tremendous pain and difficulty there are in these end-of-life situations (I don’t want to minimize that in the slightest). But we see what happens when this door is opened. Soon people, sometimes even children, are pressured to end their life through euthanasia. Because this thing is like a wedge that just gets in worse and worse in a society. I think it is very much against the biblical culture of life to put these things into law and about allow them by law.
Is God always on your mind? Is it OK if God isn’t always on your mind and you just enjoy life?
Kristin asked: Is God always on your mind? Do you feel bad if he’s not always on your mind and you’re enjoying life?
That’s an interesting question, and I have to say no – God isn’t always my mind in an immediate sense. I want to think that God is never far from being on my mind. But God is not the first thing on my mind at all times. I don’t feel guilty about that. I think God has given us the good things of this life to enjoy. To do it all with the realization that, as James says in his letter, that every good and perfect gift is from the Father above. We recognize that everything we are, everything we have, comes from God the Father above, and we thank the Lord for that. So I think it’s good to live with the idea that God is never far from our thinking, but I think it is an unrealistic expectation to live in this constant idea that God is always the first and the dominating thought in your mind.
I would define it more like this: that it’s one thing for God to never be far from our mind, but not always the first thing.
What happened to the memorial stones mentioned in Joshua 4?
Jesse asked: Hey, David, in Joshua 4 God commanded them to plant 12 stones as a memorial for crossing the river Jordan, it says remains to this day. Would you happen to know if anyone has found this memorial?
Somewhere in the file cabinet of my mind, I seem to remember somebody saying that they found some pile of stones when the Jordan was at a very low level, or they found another pile of stones. And they thought that it could be it. But there’s been no conclusive find of those stones – certainly not!
But remember, it says that “they remain to this day.” That was to the day of when the book of Joshua was written. It doesn’t mean to our present day, year 2020. It just means to the day when it was written in the Book of Joshua. I would expect that in the days of the judges, perhaps even to the days of Samuel and Saul and David, in those days, it was true that those stones still stood as a memorial of God’s tremendous work.
Why did Abram take his family with him when God told him not to in Genesis 12?
Jane asks: In Genesis 12, when God told Abraham to take his family and go to Canaan, why does he take Lot and his family also, why did he stop before Canaan?
When we put together the account in Genesis 12 and some mentions of this in the New Testament, in particular, in what Stephen said in Acts 7, in his great defense or sermon to the Sanhedrin. We draw together a few ideas that may lead many people to this kind of ordering of events. That God spoke to Abraham, in Ur of the Chaldeans, essentially Babylon or modern-day Iraq, and said “Leave your family and your nation and come to the land that I will give you.” It seems that what Abraham did was he partially obeyed. He left Ur the Chaldeans but then he came to Haran – something of a midway point. Then later when his father died, Abraham went to the promised land.
So, Abraham brought his father Terah with him when left Ur of the Chaldeans, and this means that he only partially obeyed God. He went halfway and brought his family when God said, told him to leave his family. He even brought more than his father, he also brought Lot, his nephew. Abraham partially obeyed God in what he did.
Why did he do this? Why do any of us partially obey God? Sometimes we just don’t have the faith or the obedience to truly step out and do everything the way that God tells us to do it. So that’s the reason I would give is that this was partial obedience on Abraham’s part. Again, we correlate this by taking a look at the mentions of Abraham’s life, especially in Hebrews 11, Acts 7, and comparing that with what we find in Genesis chapter 12. Why did Abraham partially obey? Because he’s a lot like us, isn’t he? Abraham was just like us in many, many ways.
Some say that only the letters of Paul are for us today, not the rest of the New Testament. Is this true?
I ran into the doctrine of mid-acts dispensation. It teaches that we should only follow Paul’s epistles today. What scriptures would you use to counter this?
I would just say that there is nothing in the Bible that says that we should only follow Paul’s teachings, Paul’s epistles and not follow the general epistles. Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, the letters of John, and Revelation. There’s nothing in there that says we shouldn’t follow the general epistles. And there’s nothing that says that we shouldn’t follow the Gospels and the book of Acts.
I would put the burden of proof upon those who say that we should only follow the letters of Paul. But it just gets back to the doctrine of inspiration. We believe Paul wrote in 1 Timothy, that all Scripture is inspired by God – it is God breathed, and it is profitable. That means all Scripture – Paul never said, “Only my letters.”
I believe that on some level, Paul understood that his writings would be Scripture, so he included them among those. Later, Peter made a reference to the writings of Paul, and included them among the Scriptures. So, I’m not trying to say that Paul didn’t understand that his own writings were Scripture, at least on some level. Nevertheless, there is nothing to indicate to us that Paul thought that only his writings were Scripture. I don’t see any indication of that.
How do you love a God that you can’t see?
We can know that people exist, without ever seeing them with our own eyes. I have never seen the President of the United States with my own eyes. I’ve seen video of him, but that’s not seeing him. People can do tricks with video, can they not? I’ve seen pictures, so I’ve seen what you might call secondary evidence of the President’s existence. But I’ve never seen him or heard his voice in person. You could say the same about a lot of a lot of celebrities and other notable people.
You don’t have to see God with your physical eyes to have great and confirming evidence that He exists. And for me, the evidence of God’s existence is overwhelming. This is true not only on a logical theoretical level, but it is also overwhelming on a personal basis – so much so that I don’t need to see God with my physical eyes to know that He exists, just like I don’t need to see this or that celebrity or the President of the United States or somebody else, with my own eyes in an immediate sense to know that He exists.
There is more than enough evidence to believe in God’s existence, that I don’t have to see him with my physical eyes to do that. I guess that’s just a simple way to say it.
How do you know that you are loving God correctly?
Also, how do you know that you’re loving God correctly?
I think that this is the kind of question that is a trap for a lot of people, especially a lot of overly analytical people. It’s as if they are always taking their spiritual pulse. Now. It’s good to occasionally take your spiritual pulse, that’s for sure. But to be obsessive in asking, “Am I loving God enough? Am I loving God enough?” To be obsessive about that question is a great trap.
There are many things in the Christian life, that are good to check from time to time, but we must not obsess over them. So that’s just simply what I would say. It’s like if a person is driving an automobile, it’s good to look in the rearview mirror from time to time, that’s part of good driving. But if you’re always looking at your rearview mirror, you’re going to get in a crash. So we should not obsess over this.
Then, how do I know that I’m loving God correctly? I would just say this: our love for God is just like any love relationship we have in this respect – that in regard to God, we can do the things we do to cultivate a love relationship with anybody else. We can do similar things with God and cultivate our love for Him. We can listen to him, spend time with Him, speak to him, do things conscious of his presence, want to please Him and honor Him, All those are ways that if you have a love relationship in human terms, you know that if you do those things, your love relationship will be cultivated and blessed. It will flourish. If you want your love relationship with God to also flourish, then do those things.
Thinking about another person, and thinking wonderful thoughts about them, will make you love them more. Spending time with them will make you love them more. There are many more examples to give, but I would just say this, do those things, to cultivate your relationship with God – that is a way that you can grow in your love to God.
Is deliverance ministry a good thing?
Do you believe in deliverance ministry?
In the way that most “deliverance ministry” is understood in the Christian world today. I don’t believe in it.
I do believe, however, that there is a very valid and important work of partnering together with believers for the sake of spiritual warfare. I mean partnering with a believer in being aware of what Satan’s strategies and devices are, and together with another believer doing what James says, to “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
I think that there is a place for us to help believers to resist the devil and see the devil fleeing them. A lot of times it has to do with understanding Satan’s strategies and devices. So, I do believe that there is an important and often neglected aspect of spiritual warfare that Christians should be more attuned to and active in, in their lives and in the life of the church.
However, what is classically understood as “deliverance ministry” in the church – no, I don’t put a lot of stock in that at all.
If God is Spirit, then how could the man Jesus Christ be God?
I have recently witnessed to a cult member and she said that Jesus is not God, because God is spirit, not flesh.
I do just want to say that the cult member you know is just wrong on that. Yes, God is spirit – there is no doubt about it. But God is not limited by spiritual existence. God is also very much interested in and connected to the material world. The idea that because God is spirit, that He can have nothing to do with the material world, is an idea of gnostic philosophy. Gnosticism was an ancient Christian heresy – but it isn’t biblical.
So yes, God is spirit. But there’s a very real sense in which human beings are spirit. Of course, we are not only spirit, but we have a spiritual existence, independent of our material existence. We are spiritual beings, but we are also material beings.
As He walked this earth, Jesus Christ was both a spiritual being, and a material being when He added humanity to His deity. So the cult member who was discussing this with you, just has a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of deity, the nature of God, and how it connects to things that are both spiritual and material.
Is God fair?
Is God fair?
God is not always fair – but et me explain this. God is never less than fair – never! I love what Abraham said to the Lord: “will not the judge of all the earth do what is right?” That was what we call a rhetorical question, and the answer that is, yes, of course. He will always do what is right.
There’s never a doubt that God will do right. God will do justly; God will never do wrong by anybody. The, how could it be said that God is not always fair? Because God’s mercy and grace, sometimes go beyond what is fair to anybody. God is never less than fair to anybody, but God reserves the right to be more than fair, then to whomever he chooses
If God were always fair, completely unshakable, never changing from that absolute fairness, then I guess we would all go to hell, because there would be no room for God’s mercy and grace. The way I like to express it is simply this: God is never less than fair, but He certainly reserves the right to be more than fair.
Why was the Virgin Birth necessary?
God used the Virgin Birth to bring the Lord Jesus into humanity. Was He bypassing the man because through mankind sin is passed on? Or was there another reason?
One of the reasons God decided that the Son of God would come when He would add humanity to His deity, it would be done through the mechanism, if you will, of the Virgin Birth. He did this in order that Jesus would not be born with a sin nature. But that is not the only reason God did it. There are other reasons perhaps that we can’t even perceive. God knew that his entrance into the world had to have such a dramatic and important beginning, that He had to be born a new Adam, a new sinless man, and the virgin conception was the way that that happened.
I would say that’s the fundamental reason, but I would not limit it to that reason.
What do you say to a person who can’t forgive themselves?
What do you say to a person who has not forgiven themselves?
I would begin by saying, “I understand how you feel.” When you feel burdened by guilt and shame, you feel as though you have not forgiven yourself and you need to be released of this burden of guilt and shame. I understand the feeling. However, in an ultimate sense, we do not have the right or the power to forgive ourselves.
Do you remember in the gospels when that paralytic was lowered before Jesus when he was preaching in a house? Jesus looked at the paralytic and He looked at the men who lowered him down? Jesus said, “Son, I say to you, Your sins are forgiven.” The religious leaders were outraged. They thought, “Who is he to forgive sins? Only God has the authority to forgive sins.” And that is true. Only God ultimately has the authority to forgive sins. We need to understand that this is the real key to being free from the burden of guilt or shame that we may feel that we carry. The key to that is essentially receiving God’s forgiveness and meditating deeply upon God’s forgiveness in our life. It is not fundamentally a matter of forgiving ourselves.
To the person who says, “I just can’t forgive myself,” I understand what you’re going through. But instead of working up a methodology by which you can forgive yourself, put your focus, your meditation, your faith upon the fact that you are forgiven as a child of God.
Was Genesis the first book of the Bible to be written?
My notes say that Moses wrote Genesis centuries after Abraham’s life. Was Genesis the first written book of the Bible?
I agree that Moses wrote the book of Genesis. There is reason within the text of the book of Genesis to believe that what Moses actually did was compile the records that were passed on down to him, from the patriarchs, and perhaps earlier. There are certain markers in the book of Genesis that give this indication. Moses was the author, or perhaps the editor, the compiler in some sense of the book of Genesis – as well the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Those are the first five books of the Bible, the first five books of Moses, as they’re commonly called. In many languages in their Bible translations, they call Genesis not what we call “Genesis” they call the “First Book of Moses” and Exodus is the “Second Book of Moses.”
Was Genesis the first book written in the Bible? I don’t think so. I think it’s much better to understand that the first book of the Bible written, chronologically speaking, was the book of Job. The book of Job has Hebrew expressions in it that are so old that translators can really only guess at what they mean. I think they can make pretty good guesses – but they’re really only guessing. I’m not a Hebrew scholar or expert, but the people who are Hebrew scholars and experts will tell you that it really does seem that the book of Job was the first one written chronologically. And then, perhaps the first five books of Moses.
What commentaries on Ephesians would you recommend?
Other than your commentary, any recommendations for Ephesians?
To start, anything you can get in the New Testament, written by Leon Morris – he is a great Bible commentator. I don’t know if Morris has a commentary on Ephesians. John Stott has a couple excellent works on Ephesians. F. F, Bruce, also has a very good commentary on Ephesians. Other than that, I would have to look for references.
Another thing you can do. If you go to enduringword.com, go to the “About” menu, and you’ll see a section there for “Bibliography.” You can use that bibliography link to look at the bibliography for all my different Bible Commentary on the website. I think it’s complete on there. Certainly, it’s complete for the New Testament. I don’t know if I would recommend every one of them as being the best, but at least you will get a good description of the specific commentaries, the sources I used in my own commentary on the book of Ephesians and other books.
How can I receive the Holy Spirit if I am afraid to?
What can I do if I want to receive the Holy Spirit, but I am afraid?
I would simply say to you, “Let not your heart be troubled.” It’s only a good thing to receive more of the Holy Spirit. And look, there’s a sense in which we’re speaking with imprecise terminology when we say, “receive more of the Holy Spirit,” because you could say, in a sense, really what really happens is that the Holy Spirit receives more of us – that we’re giving more of ourself, we’re surrendering more of ourselves to God and to His influence. That is technically a better way to think of it. But don’t be afraid to do it. Remind yourself again and again, that God loves you and only wants good for you life. There are people who think, “I don’t want to surrender everything to God, I don’t want to yield myself fully to the operation of His Holy Spirit, because if I do, then God’s going to lead me into things I don’t want, things I don’t like.”
But God loves you. He cares about you. And He may lead you into some uncomfortable places – I will be the first one to admit that that might be the case. But if God leads you into an uncomfortable place, it is only because He loves you. It is only because He cares for you. It is only because He is working His best in your life when we might have settled for what was comfortable. We don’t want to settle for what’s comfortable. We want God’s best in our life. So, God helping you don’t be afraid.
How do I know if God’s gifts or promises are for me?
How do I know that are my gifts? Or what God has promised my life? Or do I strictly go off the promises in the Bible? I watch prophets talk about having messages for someone. How do I know it’s for me, though?
One way to know your gifts and what promises God has for you is to pray that God would truly give you the gift of discernment. Begin by understanding that what God gives to you in His word is enough. In any other leading or calling, or gifting or direction that God gives to you as an expression of the promises in His word. As for gifts and promises beyond that, God will make these things plain to you along the way. Just keep yourself in a submitted place to God, and obey what He has for you in His word. Believe and trust the promises in His word, and be at peace in that. Say, “Lord, I’m just going to pursue the things that I know are Your will, and if You have something to show me along the way, then Lord show me.” Then let God show you and make it obvious.
It is also worth it to take counsel with a Christian friend, who is maybe more mature in the faith than you are, and to ask them in a very simple and pointed way: “What do you think about this thing that I am dealing with? I’m not really sure if this is God’s will for me or if it is God’s calling on my life. What do you think?” It’s great to take counsel with brothers and sisters who might know us well and have a sense of what God’s work in our life is.
How did Jesus Christ take an eternity’s worth of wrath on Himself at the cross?
How did Christ take any eternity’s worth of wrath upon Himself on the cross?
I would just answer it very simply: because Jesus is God. This is the wonder of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Jesus Christ did something on the cross that no other human being could do, because no other human being was both God and man. Jesus Christ being the God-man could endure the perfection of God’s wrath. Jesus could endure an eternity’s worth of God’s wrath in and of Himself. And He could do it in a moment, because He is God. Here is a thought to consider: If a mere human being just like Adam, could be born sinless, and live their whole life sinless (we’re talking theoretically) and then die for the sins of humanity, it wouldn’t work for our salvation because they would only be human. It took the God-man to perform this ultimate work on the cross.
Does hell really exist? Why would people feel pain in hell?
Does hell exist? Why would we go to hell to feel pain? Pain was made so that you can tell if your body’s getting hurt.
Yes, hell is real. What we understand about the sufferings of hell gives us reason to believe that it is real. We understand the sufferings of hell by analogy. I don’t know exactly what pain or suffering people will endure in hell, but it will be real. It may not be exactly like what we suffer right now, as either pain or suffering, but it will be real. What the Bible tells us about pain and suffering in hell is given to us in the only kind of analogy we can understand. You could say the same thing is going on and what the Bible communicates to us about heaven. We can’t understand in fullness what the glories of Heaven will be like. All the Bible can do is relate to us in images and pictures that we can understand. The same is true for the descriptions of hell. I would simply say that we know enough about hell in the scriptures to say that it’s real, and that it’s terrible.