Why Do You and I Love God? :: By Gene Lawley

Consideration of why we love God may well bring forth some disturbing conclusions, but what does the Lord desire for us? That brings out three basic reasons we love Him.

First, the law requires it, as the greatest commandment says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind….” (Luke 10:27). The law leaves out nothing; it is exact in its requirement, but what kind of love is that?

Who among us really loves to be reminded of an order constantly? There are those who love to give orders to others, and others who are happy that they do not have that responsibility. But taking orders—obeying commandments—well, even as believers in Christ, we fight with our Adamic natures to choose our own way. (I conclude this after 67 years as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ.)

Recall Paul’s struggle with his Adamic nature trying to take over his mind in Romans 7. He exclaims, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 7:25-8:1)

The resistance to the gospel’s message to the unsaved, that they are doomed for an eternity of suffering unless they repent of their sins and receive Christ, is rebuked, right away. Mankind does not want to accept guilt, even as believers. The message that Jesus came to die in our place for that guilt is the part of the message that mankind must embrace. He fulfilled “every jot and tittle” of the law for us, and we are complete in Him.

Secondly, we love God for what He can do for us. Now that is a compelling reason because we are always ready to get something for free. Right? But God does use this as an appeal to us. Look at Hebrews 11:6: “But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Also, Psalm 103:1-2: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” Then He goes on to list some of those benefits in verses 3 to 6:

“Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagles. The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.”

Then, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him!” Then he follows in verse 10 with, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”

Even into the prophetic future, His promise of blessings continues: “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8) and “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3b-4).

(The alternative is first, “outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth,” then eternal death at the White Throne judgment.)

Then, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), a ready answer to the question, and perhaps the greatest, along with John 3:16. Those who claim that Jesus only died for those who believe, I repeat again, surely have no understanding of that highest of love, the Agape love of God, as we look at that kind of love.

Thirdly, we can love God for Who He is (emphasized by underlining). This is the ultimate relationship that appears to be the desire God has for those who are being “conformed to the image of Christ,” as all believers are on that journey of faith. Jesus is our salvation, totally in His person. Paul brings this together in 1 Corinthians 1:32: “But of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption,” the whole process of being born again and growing to maturity in His redemption for us.

When Jesus challenged Peter about his love for Him, the Greek language uses three different words for “love” in the challenge, as I understand what Greek scholars are telling us. They are: eros, philia, and agape. And the apostle reports, in John 21:15 and following, how Jesus challenged Peter. (I am not making a contradiction with the Lord in the three levels of love described above. The quality of love is not really different in the first two types or levels of love in each consideration.)

Eros is the basic love of the flesh, sexual and romantic, that seeks “what you can do for me” kind of relationship.

Philia is a higher level of relationship, like friendship, helping others, praying for others. That is the most common love, as I see it in the world as a step above the basic lust of the flesh that is seen in the current atmosphere of moral degradation. The love David and Jonathan had for each other was this and touched, too, on that love of God, the Agape love. (No, it was not a homosexual relationship, as the LGBTQ+ has claimed, for such a relationship is vividly rejected by God as morally unacceptable.)

Agape, the God kind of love, is what is meant in the familiar John 3:16, where it is said, “For God so loved the world that He gave ….”

Romans 5:6-8 brings together the agape love of God in contrast to the level of friendship: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Let’s take a side step at this point and consider the application of that passage to a current doctrinal teaching that Jesus did not die for the whole world but just for those who believe. The Romans 5 passage affirms that Jesus died for sinners before they are saved and not after they believe. John 3:16 says He loved the world (of sinners) so much, not just believers. What was it that Jesus prayed from the cross—”Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Will God deny the prayer of His Son?

While Paul acknowledges the elect’s foreknowledge in God’s eternal view, he says this: “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). When a person hears the gospel and accepts Jesus, he confirms God’s foreknowledge of his election and choice. Just as Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Let’s not forget the justness of God, for if one hears the gospel and accepts it, he is saved. If another hears the gospel and rejects it, he has heard the offer and is then responsible to its judgment. Thus, God says to believers, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Hard-core or raw Calvinism has some believers saying, “I’m saved because I was chosen by God, and I had nothing to do with it.” However, it takes claiming the shed blood of Christ to obtain salvation, just as Paul saw it in 2 Timothy 2:10 above. William Carey, called “the father of modern missions,” felt called to India to preach the gospel, but his fellow church members there in England ridiculed his desire, saying, “Mr. Carey, if God wants to save those people in India, He will do it without your help.” But Carey went anyway.

This insert testifies to the truth that believers of that frame of mind will never know the agape kind of love that God has for those who seek Him for who He is. Or so it seems to me.

David surely had that kind of love for God, as his psalms so indicate. Look at Psalm 71, where he elevates the goodness of God so profusely, over and over again, even as he was confessing his sins. They spring forth not as if he is thinking God’s thoughts after God, but as he is thinking God’s thoughts with Him, and they become the inspired Word of God. No wonder, then, why David was said to be “a man after God’s own heart.”

The Apostle Paul experienced great inclinations toward this kind of relationship with God. In Philippians 3:8-10, he writes this:

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

Perhaps that old book by Brother Lawrence, called Practicing the Presence of God, has a secret to this kind of love for God in Jesus Christ. Even Hebrews 11:6, which we looked at earlier, uses the present tense to describe His presence: “But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to Him must believe that He IS….” Jesus amplified it when He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM!” (John 8:58).

Paul also stretches our minds and hearts with his description of God to the philosophers at Mars Hill in Athens: “…in the hope that they might seek for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being….” (Acts 17:27b-28a). (God is Spirit and fills all things.)

We must include the expressions of agape love in practice, as Paul describes them in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

Finally, the relationship of son to Father becomes one of deep affection that expresses the meaning of the term in Scripture, “Abba Father,” as Paul explains it in Romans 8:15:

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.'” It takes on an attitude of surrender to Him. It is not like “Daddy,” but an expression from within the very soul of a person. It was that kind of passionate cry when Jesus prayed to His Father in the Garden that night: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

Is Jesus Christ, the God we will be with in person for eternity, worthy of our love for Him for who He is?

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