Question:

Hi! How do I get a love for God? The Bible says I need to love Him with all my heart and soul, but I only feel fear of the eternal consequences that comes if I'm not obedient.

I know the Bible says God is love, but I'm having a hard time with that when I read something in the Bible like God ordering children to be slaughtered or Exodus 20:5, "I lay the sins of the parents upon their children in the third and fourth generations" seems a bit unfair. The story of Ananias and Sapphira seems a little harsh. My biggest problem is I don't understand why would a God of love permit Satan to come to the earth and cause people to go to hell for eternity. Why didn't He just destroy him?

I'm sure God is who the Bible says He is and that is love. Otherwise people like you and millions of others wouldn't be so devoted to Him, but these things run through my mind a lot.

I need to get saved, but I'm a wicked man. My heart is wicked and I lack the proper motives. I want to get saved to avoid hell. What should I do? I don't have the love God wants.


Answer:

I don't know your upbringing, but making some assumptions, when you were young why did you obey your parents? If you were like most, I suspect that there was a mixture of both respect and love for them and a dread of what would happen if you didn't do as you were told.

"And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:5-14).

Parents give correction to their children because they want their children to grow up to be good people. Wrong has to be punished, else it grows. "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

We obey the laws of our country in part because we love our country. But there is also a significant part that we fear the consequences of breaking those laws.

What the Bible tells us is that the beginning of the road to righteousness starts with fear. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10). It isn't the whole of it, but it is a start.

What Christians learn as they work to live by God's laws is that those laws aren't there to condemn people. They are there to keep us from making horrible mistakes. "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). So what starts as a dread becomes an appreciation of God's care for people.

People generally think of love as an emotional response to another. But in the Bible, love is spoken of as a purposeful choice. As an example, just two days ago I told a young man how much I love him while he was telling me that he doesn't want me to rescue him from drugs. His rejection of me has nothing to do with my choice to love and care about him. I told him I would wait for him and that I would not withdraw my love for him. Meanwhile, I'm praying for the safety of his soul.

Paul started out his definition of love as "Love is patient" (I Corinthians 13:4). Why is that? Because often times the one we choose to love isn't very loveable -- especially not all the time. Now think about what God deals with in people. As you read through the Bible you can see people treating God in the most ugly ways, sometimes right after He just richly blessed them. The incident of the golden calf (Exodus 32) occurs just days after God spoke directly to the people and gave them laws. Yet, He let the people survive His anger. The whole world is in sin, yet God didn't reject the world. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

You mentioned your sins. Why are you still alive today? Why weren't you destroyed for the evil that you did? "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). God has been showing you His love. He knows you could change and He is giving you time to make those changes. When you begin to realize how much God has loved you despite your bad behavior, it isn't hard to begin to love Him back. "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).

Has God been severe? Most definitely. One of the things we do not have the ability to do is see the hearts of the people involved. Nor can we guess the various outcomes. Yet, God knows both the heart and what will happen. "Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off" (Romans 11:22). God isn't arbitrary in His decisions. He is longsuffering with people, but when people will not change, justice is demanded even while God wishes to show mercy. That is what happened in Israel. "But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy" (II Chronicles 36:16). God continued to work with the people until there was nothing more that could be done.

Thus in regards to Ananias and Sapphira, we must conclude that God knew they were completely given over to sin and so He used them as an example that He meant what He said. With their deaths, "So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things" (Acts 5:11). Most would think such action would scare people off. It did the opposite. "And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon's Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women" (Acts 5:12-14). Thus, God turned the evil of a couple into a cause to produce change in many. Like before, it started with fear and grew into love.

God ordered the destruction of evil nations because of their continued evil. For example, Israel was not given the land of Canaan for four hundred years. The reason? "But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:16). The Amorites were wicked, but there was still some hope. God knew though that in four generations it the evil would progress to the point that there would no longer be any hope. Israel would then wipe out the sinners and occupy the land.

In regards to Exodus 20:4-5, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me," leaving off the last phrase has caused you to misunderstand what God is saying. What God is warning Israel is that He isn't like people who get tired. Have you ever seen a parent try to correct a child and after the tenth time just throws up his hands in frustration? God said that if people need to be punished, He will punish them even if their wickedness continues on generation after generation, God won't relent until they either change or there is no hope of change.

You are right about yourself. You do need to be saved from your sins. It doesn't matter if right not the foremost thing on your mind is fear. What is important is that you trust God enough to give Him your life. From there the seeds of love will be planted and will flourish. Don't make the mistake that you have to be a mature adult before you can become a child of God.