Why love God?
Why want Him?
Is He really worth our devotion? Worth our very lives?
In effort to love God, I find that I fail every day. So why even keep trying to love Him?
Should I give up and stop trying? Surely not.
Should I abandon Him? Surely not.
For quite some time, I’ve been in a very difficult place in my emotions, well-being and trust in the Lord. I finally feel a release in my spirit. But it’s taken me a while to get here. I’ve been stuck in this disbelief that God would still care about me. God , why are You doing this? God, why is this not happening? God, do You not care about me? God, don’t You love me? I thought You said You loved me but… And I base my relationship with the Lord on what I see and what I don’t see.
God is asking me now, Natalie, do you love me? OR do you just love what I can do?
Dang…that’s a harsh question.
And ultimately, God is saying, You’re not loving Me the way you were designed to love Me. Your love for Me is broken. It has ulterior motives.
But I debated with God on this.
Surely, God, I don’t love You just for what You can do! You know I really want You! Just come back now! If I could choose for You to come back for me right now, I would say yes. I really do want You.
But God said to look at where my heart has been over the past year in terms of what I love most.
And He said my love for Him has not been enough.
Not enough, God? What do You mean!? It will never be enough! You know I cannot love You how You deserve! I wish I could but I fail too much! What do You want from me?
God is saying, I don’t want you to love Me for what I can do. That’s not enough. That’s not even what I want from you, Natalie. I want you to love Me for Me.
Love Me for Me.
God is right.
I haven’t been loving Him for Him.
My heart is really breaking over this.
God is showing me that my love for Him over the past year now has been primarily tied to what He is either doing for me or not doing for me. And it’s been fluctuating up and down because of that.
What God wants from me is to love Him the same no matter what…
…To love Him as if He were to never do another thing for me.
…To love Him as if I had never seen Him do anything.
…To love Him for Himself.
…To love Him for His character.
…To love Him because I love Him.
Not because of anything He can do for me.
Many times in my life I’ve gone through a season where I have seen God do crazy things or awe-inspiring things and it makes me “love” God more. Because I think, Wow, God is so cool! I can’t believe He can do that! OR seasons of blessing, and I think, Wow, God you are so good! Thank You thank You thank You! I love You so much! OR seasons of change in me and I think, Wow, God You are so powerful to do that! I love how You can do that!
And honestly, it really breaks my heart that I’ve been “loving” God like this… “loving” Him for what I’ve seen Him do and for what I hope He will do in the future.
That’s not love.
That’s admiration. That’s wonder. That’s awe. And yes, we need to marvel at God for what He can do and be astounded at His power. But it’s not love. It’s not love. We need to esteem God for what He can do, yes, but way more, we need to love Him for who He is!
This has been such a powerful realization for me.
Think of it this way…
…nobody wants to be loved for what they have done, or for what they do, or what they can do. Nobody does. Nobody wants to be loved for their accomplishments, their job, their status, their potential, their looks…nobody wants to be loved for those things. We ALL want to be loved for who we are as a person. Deep down, I want somebody to love me for me. Good and bad. Mess and all. I want somebody to love me for me. Not for what I do or don’t do.
Everyone wants to be loved for who they are at their core. And God wants that too.
God’s not interested in being loved for His mighty power.
God’s not interested in being loved for His miraculous wonders.
God’s not interested in being loved because of how He gives.
God’s not interested in being loved because of how He heals.
God is much more than all that.
God wants to be loved for who He is.
He wants us to love Him for Him.
The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end.
And then…once we love Him for Him…we praise Him for all He can do. There’s a difference between love and praise. Both go together. But love precedes praise. Always! You can’t praise God with a right heart if you don’t first love Him for Him…otherwise, it would just be admiration of a good thing. But if you love God for God, then your praise to Him turns into something real and it truly honors Him.
I love this passage in John chapter 6 where Jesus’ disciples are at a relational crossroads with this new teacher they have been following. It relates so much to how we love God.
These disciples have to decide, do they love Jesus enough to keep following Him? OR is this all too much for them?
We pick it up in verse 53:
“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
60 Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?”
61 Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some among you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who would not believe and the one who would betray Him.) 65 He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”
66 From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. 67 Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?”
68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!” (emphasis mine).
Jesus makes it clear that following Him means doing just that: following HIM. His flesh. His blood. Himself. He in Himself is the way to life. Jesus wants them to love Him for Him. Not for what He can do.
All of the ones following Jesus up until this point saw His miracles.
Jesus just fed 5000 men, likely 15,000 including women and children earlier in chapter 6. Jesus healed a man in chapter 5. Jesus turned water into really good wine at a wedding party in chapter 2. They saw Jesus do things they had never seen before. They saw what He could do.
But when it came time to decide if they wanted Jesus or not, some just didn’t want Him.
Verse 66 says that “many of His disciples turned back…”
Only 12 remained.
But those 12 were loyal to Jesus Himself. Not just His miracles. Not just His healings. Not just His charisma and following. No. Now, they know what this whole deal is really about…it’s about following this man Jesus. And they decide that they really do want Him.
“Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life.”
I just love Simon Peter’s humble and beautiful response. He wanted Jesus. He knew that there was something special about Jesus.
What stands out to me about Simon Peter is that he loved Jesus for His identity as “the Holy One” instead of loving Him for all the miracles and healings He had performed.
And we can see how Peter falls in love with this man Jesus over the course of John’s gospel. He affirms it in chapter 21:15-19. But it all started with the initial decision to follow Jesus Himself. Jesus the Messiah. Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus, God in the flesh.
May we learn from Simon Peter’s response.
You may push back and say, but why should I love God? What’s in it for me?
Let’s think about that…
Well, I think anyone who’s ever been in love knows how good it feels. That person you love all the sudden becomes more important and you long for that person to be whole in every way possible. You don’t even think about yourself. You think about that person. You stop worrying over your own happiness. You just want that person to be happy. You don’t really care if you hurt. You just want that person you love to not hurt. You don’t really care what it costs you. You just want to give to that person. That person’s well-being becomes priority to you… and you lose yourself in a sense, when you’re in love with that person. And because you lose yourself, you feel good all the time because you’re not worried about satisfying yourself. Ironically, satisfying the other person ends up satisfying you. Selfless love always benefits the giver. So it is with the way we love God. It always benefits us to love God.
Because as we truly love God and fall more and more in love with Him, it fills us with joy, much more than any love relationship on earth ever will. And it makes us feel good to get to love God back. Even in the feeble way that exists in our human capacity to love.
So why love God?
Love God because…
1) He wants to be loved
2) He deserves to be loved
3) Loving Him teaches me how to love others
4) My soul satisfaction depends on me loving Him.
We know that God doesn’t need our love to exist. But He wants to be loved and He wants to impart His love to us.
The same disciple who wrote the gospel passage we just read also wrote this letter. He says this about love in 1 John 4:7-19:
“7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.
13 This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.
17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because He first loved us.” (emphasis mine).
If we can only love because God first loved us, then I need to ask God to love me more. You need to ask God to love you more. Or really…I need to learn how to receive His love more. You need to learn how to receive His love more. Because God’s love is already poured out to me and to you in full. Why? Because as God loves us, we can love Him back. And then we can love others more.
It’s a cyclical kind of love.
God loves me → I love God → God loves me → I love others. And again and again…
Love is from God.
It’s a gift.
And each of us gets the privilege of receiving this precious gift.
There’s nothing more valuable than God’s love being imparted to us and channeled through us.
Without this love, our world would be misery.
We all experience love in a plethora of ways because of God’s kindness that He even gave it to begin with. And my prayer is that we would absorb this love and pour it out in the world. For we will find that we are most free when we are in cyclical love with the Lord. Because it empties our hearts of ourselves and we are consumed by a love so much greater.
Loving the Lord gives purpose.
Loving the Lord breathes life.
And we can only experience this if we first receive His love for us.
Ask Him to love you. And receive it.
Don’t worry anymore about all the things you want God to do.
Don’t let your love for Him depend on that.
Let your heart be free today.
Love God for who He is.
Love God for God.
And He will take care of the rest.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Questions for Today:
- How is it that love even exists?
- Do I receive the love that the Lord has for me?
- Am I loving God for who He is or only for what He can do?
- How does loving God change my heart?
- Why should I love God?
- What can we learn from Simon Peter in John 6:53-69?
- What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?
“Never See The End” by Amanda Cook, Bethel Music