Question:

How does someone learn to love God? I know what the greatest commandment is, but I don't think I love God. I fear going to hell. If I didn't believe in hell, I don't think I would have become a Christian. Could I have truly repented? Was my sorrow only of the world? I want to love God. How can I truly love God, if I obey out of fear? Doesn't love not only seek its own interest? Have you ever known anyone who started out in fear of hell but grew to love God? I have talked to someone. I think I may have been told something like it's a growing process, but don't the Christians you read about in the Bible seem to love God when they became Christians? They received the Word gladly. If I love God, then I don't think I would fear hell. David in the Psalms seems to love God without fear of punishment. Is it possible for a carnal mind to change? How do I just focus on God?

Answer:

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:3).

"If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).

"But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:5-6).

If all that motivated you to be a Christian was your fear of Hell, you would not last long because fear is an emotion that rarely lasts long. Though it doesn't appear that way to you, I very much doubt that fear is the sole reason you became a Christian and I definitely know it isn't the sole reason you have remained a Christian.

Fear has its place. I dearly love my dad, but as a child I had a dread of crossing him because I knew he meant what he said. Fear is what often kept me in line when the temptation to do something I knew I ought not to became too strong. In the same way, fear has its place in the life of a Christian. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10). The Psalmists said the same thing (Psalms 111:10). So, yes, fear might dominate at the beginning.

But it is a mistake to think that it is fear alone that keeps you or any Christian going. It was David who said, "Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling" (Psalms 2:11). Notice the mixture of emotions. There is fear, but not the type of fear that keeps you locked in one place like a rabbit. There is rejoicing while at the same time there is trembling. The joy isn't any less just because fear is also present. That mixture is found in the New Testament as well.

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29).

Yes, I avoid sin because I fear the wrath of God. That is something that is missing in worldly people. "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 5:6). But the presence of my fear doesn't mean it is my only motivator. I also obey God because it makes my life better and easier. I look at the mess people make of their lives with drugs, fornication, and so many other sins. I feel sorry for them and thank the Lord that I learned early enough not to go down those dark paths. I can look at the joys in my life and know that following God has always been the better choice. I have seen God at work in people's lives and I can thank Him sincerely for the help He has given. The fear is always there, but it isn't just the fear that keeps me going.