Question:

Dear Jeff,

I find myself asking you questions in the wee hours of the morning. I get so conflicted with questions and loneliness that I don't know where else to turn.

But anyway, my question is: How do I earn God's love back? I'll give context first before continuing. Lately, I've been putting God off with video games and Internet. I admit that I was and still am in idolatry. I will not sugarcoat it. I have been practicing heavy idolatry for the past few months. It does not make me whole and I suffer for it every night as I reflect on my poor spiritual choices. I hate the reality of my own bondage. It's not fun.

Here's a quick percentage of my time with God for the past 3 months:

  • 90% = video games/Internet
  • 10% = prayer and reading the Bible

Jeff, I heard the statement before that God wants all of us. I feel so wrong for leaving Him behind. All this time I was concerned about myself and I put God behind. I sinned and I wish I could make it up to Him. I just don't know how. Jesus sacrificed Himself, but I'm so ashamed about how my present actions have been so selfish, it makes me want to cry. I am to blame! I want to feel whole again. I want that love that I used to have for the Lord.

P.S. I recently took a walk around my neighbourhood and tried to appreciate nature and God's creations, but I honestly didn't feel anything. I think I've grown cold?


Answer:

You're asking the wrong question and because of that you are coming to some wrong conclusions.

To earn God's love would imply that God owes you love because of what you have done. His love would then be one of an obligation to you instead of a gift freely given to you. "For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:3-7).

God's love pre-exists you, so you could not have earned it. "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19). Our love for God is a reflection of His love for us. We love God because we appreciate all that He has done for us. "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" (II Corinthians 5:14-15).

There is nothing wrong with having fun and enjoying life while you are young, so long as you stay out of sin. "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity" (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10).

I think your definition of idolatry is too broad. You are claiming that anything that you focus on or spend time with is idolatry. That isn't the biblical definition. Idols are those things that you worship and use to determine your decisions in life. Yes, there are some people who worship money. By that we mean that money always comes first in their lives. If someone had a choice between an act of kindness and making more money, the money would always win. Thus, the gaining of money becomes their moral standard.

So does your life revolve around video games? Are all your decisions -- especially moral decision -- based on video games? We could talk about the fact that heavy game playing is a shallow existence, but that would be a different topic.

Would you take a few minutes and listen to a lesson done by a good friend of mine? Our Attitude Toward God by Rob Speer. I think you will benefit from it.

All right I'll listen to it. And no, my moral decisions do not revolve video games. I know better than to put a form of entertainment before my God. I just felt like I am not doing a good enough job as a Christian.

In many ways, none of us do enough because God has done so much for us. But again, it is not a matter of winning God's approval. It is about submitting to God because of our respect for Him. "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" (James 4:7-10).