Can Love Be Selected?
Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage all who desire to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
We’re going through Dave Hunt’s book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith because of its thrust in exhorting believers to search the Scriptures, which is the only way we get to know and to develop a personal relationship with the true and living God.
Dave, chapter 13 of your book deals with what the Bible itself calls the first and greatest commandments. Let me read that for our listeners. I’m looking to Mark:12:29-30: “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment.’”
Dave, we sometimes refer to the Bible as the Manufacturer’s Handbook, and it seems to me that this verse sets forth what our Creator has in mind for all creatures created in His image. Isn’t loving God and loving others man’s whole reason, goal, purpose, etc., for living?
Dave: Well, I don’t know what He would . . . yeah, maybe this is true. To glorify God, to love God, and to love one another—certainly the Bible tells us God is love, so His very essence is love. And the very first command, then, is “Thou shalt love . . .” And I think it’s worth noting that love is a command. It’s not like you fall in love with somebody, you get married, and you pledge your undying troth “till some cute blonde do us part.” Or till we fall out of love and fall in love again. And I have talked with even some Christian leaders who say, “I can’t love my wife anymore.”
It’s a command! It’s not some emotion that comes over us, and it involves commitment. And we’re commanded even to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, yeah, this is something I think that we neglect. You don’t get a PhD in love. I don’t hear of any courses in seminaries about love—how to love, and the urgency of love, the necessity of love. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have this love one to another.”
So, I suppose, Tom, as you said, this is our . . .
Tom: Reason for being, I think!
Dave: Yeah, the essence of what we’re supposed to be, if we’re made in God’s image, and God is love. And, could we say, then, that this is something that is really neglected? When did you last hear a sermon Sunday morning about love? And I feel it very much myself, because I often say to the Lord, “I have forgotten to tell You I love You.” It’s wonderful for husbands and wives to tell one another again and again, “I love you,” and to really mean it. But how often do we say, “Lord, I love You. I love You, Lord. I love You with my whole heart”?
And it’s not that He needs me. He doesn’t need my love. But I think He desires my expression of love to Him because this is what He wants me to be. This is what He’s created me for. And it’s a blessing to us when we love the Lord. So, He desires that.
Tom: Dave, one of the reasons I use the analogy of the Manufacturer’s Handbook—I mean, it is a handbook.
Tom: It tells us how to live a life that’s pleasing to God.
Dave: You’re talking about the Bible now.
Dave: He’s our Creator, so this is the Manufacturer’s Handbook—the instruction manual.
Tom: Exactly. So, there are instructions to this. And I think that’s one of the points you make in this chapter. You talk about the verses that we just went over. It’s a terrible indictment of Christians in reminding us how far we fall short of pleasing God in this. But there are instructions to do this, and we . . . I agree with you. I don’t remember, even through Sunday school classes and the things I was involved with as a young Christian, being taught how you go about loving God! How do we go about loving God?
Dave: Sometimes I use the illustration—maybe it’s not a good one, but—here’s a young man, and he’s been dating Miss Universe. And he’s not too excited, and let’s say that she’s not only beautiful outwardly, but beautiful inwardly—a wonderful Christian who really loves the Lord. And how would he go about falling in love with her? Spend a little time with her!
If I’m going to get to know God, and I’m going to really love Him—God is lovable, is He not? If anyone is worthy of my love, it’s God. John, in 1 John 4, tells us, “We love Him because He first loved us.”
Tom: And that involves understanding. What do we mean, “He first loved us?” What has He done? How has He demonstrated that?
Tom: Well, there are lots of solid reasons for that.
Dave: Right. “In this is the love of God manifest, that He gave His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” While we were yet in sin, Christ died for us. He has proven His love. That Christ would leave heaven’s glory. That He would become a man—that’s beyond our comprehension as well. And that He would suffer the hatred, the misunderstanding, the false accusations, to say nothing of being nailed to a cross, and so forth. Being scourged and spat upon, despised, rejected—wow! That takes a lot of love! To endure that for us! I believe that He even loved those who did that to Him. I believe that He loves all mankind. He loves the whole world—even sinners. He loved . . . I think the hymn says, “He loved the world of sinners lost and ruined by the fall.” So, He doesn’t love us because we’re lovable or because He finds us attractive, and someone that He needs. But it’s because of who He is, He loves us. God is love! And in spite of what we are.
And so when I . . .
Tom: And there’s a good reason for that, as I think you pointed out, either in this chapter 13 or the next one. You talk about . . . that’s our security, because if God loved us for certain reasons within us, and you know how we change—ups and downs, bad days, good days, and so on—and if that was related to how He loved us particularly, we’d be in serious trouble.
Dave: And, yet, amazingly, Tom, that is what is being taught—by Christian psychologists in particular—that God loves us because we’re lovable, and we shouldn’t think of ourselves as worthless wretches, because then we couldn’t believe that God loves us! We have to have a “good self-image,” and we have to have a sense of self-worth. Because “God doesn’t love nobodies.” He doesn’t love scum—the outcasts. . . . But, oh, He does! He loves us in spite of what we are! And none of us is worthy of God’s love. And to get the impression that, well, the price Christ paid for us upon the Cross—that shows what we’re worth—that is absolutely contrary to the Word of God.
You know, Jesus—and I don’t know whether we give this illustration even in this book anywhere—but you remember when Jesus went into the Pharisee’s house, and . . .
Tom: Simon the Pharisee—yeah, you do. It’s in chapter 14.
Dave: That’s in the next chapter. Okay.
Tom: But, no, let’s get to it.
Tom: We’re going to—even if we have to go back over these things, these are very important, I believe.
Dave: Yeah. Well, you know the story, and maybe everyone that’s listening to us doesn’t know the story, but it’s in God’s Word and it is certainly worth going over again. At least briefly.
He comes into the house of Simon the Pharisee, and they’re apparently having supper, or whatever, and this woman comes and washes His feet with her tears . . .
Tom: This is Jesus’s feet.
Dave: Right. The feet of Jesus . . .with her tears and dries His feet with her hair. And Simon is thinking within himself, This man! He couldn’t possibly be a prophet. He couldn’t be a man of God, because if he were, he would know this woman is a sinner. And he wouldn’t let her near him.
And Jesus said, “Simon” [of course, He knows what Simon is thinking]; He says, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
Simon says, “Say on, Master.”
Jesus says, “There was a creditor, and he had two debtors. One owed him a very small amount, and the other owed him a huge amount. And when neither of them had anything to pay him, he forgave both of them.” And then Jesus says to Simon, “Which one do you think would love him the most?”
“Well,” Simon says, “I supposed the one to whom he forgave the most.”
Jesus said, “You have well said. I came into your house. You gave me no water to wash my feet. No towel to dry it. You didn’t minister to me. But this woman, she has not ceased to wash my feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. She’s a sinner. Her sins, which are many, are forgiven her. To whom much is forgiven, she loves much. To whom little is forgiven, he loves little.”
So, going back to your question again. How do we get to love the Lord? How can we encourage our love for the Lord when we realize how much He’s forgiven us?
Tom: Dave, the amazing thing about that is that it’s just the opposite of the way the world thinks. And now, you know, we talked about an indictment of the church, of Christians who don’t take to heart the first commandment of loving the Lord thy God with all their heart, and all their soul, and all their might, and all their strength, and so on—we also find in the church an erroneous teaching about self-love, needing to love ourselves first, along with missing the mark on loving God with all your heart. So it’s really a double indictment!
And I’ve fallen into this myself, so I’m not just pointing fingers here, but it’s a fact.
Dave: The more I realize how unworthy I am of God’s love—and how I really deserve His wrath, His judgment, to be separated from Him forever—the more I will love Him! The more grateful I will be. And, Tom . . .
Tom: And you’re emptying the vessel of self to be filled with God’s power, God’s love, to minister to others. Doesn’t that make sense?
Dave: It does. Tom, we are accused of being critical, and I don’t want to be critical, but we need to be honest about ourselves and about the church. You go into many churches, many meetings, and it’s not God who’s being exalted. It’s the preacher, or some great athlete who’s become a Christian, or some rock star, some rock group—how wonderful they are, or . . . I know that they’re trying to glorify God, but we are such self-centered creatures that somehow the focus always comes upon us.
Now, you can see the advertisements for conferences. I don’t find any advertisements that Jesus will be there. That Jesus will be glorified. But I see the credentials of the great men and women who will be there. The great musicians who will be there. And this is seemingly the attraction.
And, again, please, out there, if you’re listening to us, I’m not trying to be critical, but I want to correct myself as well as others. Sometimes, Tom, particularly in a debate—I haven’t had any debates for a long time. But you probably remember the Sungenis debate—a Catholic apologist. And I didn’t want them to read anything about me. What does it matter who I am? Am I going to be true to the Word of God? Is this God that we’re honoring? But, I mean, it took—I don’t know how many minutes to read all of his credentials and credits and what he’s done, and so forth.
But I find this in Christian conferences. “Do you have a bio? Can we read something about you?” What does it matter about me? I’m a sinner saved by grace. What matters is what does God’s Word say? What does God have to say to us? Am I true to His Word? Do I have some understanding of it? And am I prepared to exalt the Lord? “O, let us exalt the Lord together,” the psalmist says. Let us praise Him, rather than coming together and parading our degrees and our accomplishments. It’s when I get in the presence of God—so, Tom, that’s what made me think of it. It seems in many church services, we’re not really in the presence of God. If we were in the presence of God, we wouldn’t be parading ourselves like we do. We wouldn’t be acting the way we do. We would be on our faces.
And when we get in the presence of God, then I begin to realize how little I am, what a nothing I am! Job said, “I have heard of thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I and repent abhor myself in dust and ashes.”
Perhaps we need a little bit more fear of God, and if we had a little more fear of God, I believe we would love Him more because we would recognize how great He is and how puny we are, and what sinners we are, and how much He has loved us!
Tom: Now, Dave, I believe you’re speaking truth according to God’s Word, in what you’re saying.
Dave: And simple logic, as well.
Tom: Yeah, but those who would say, “Well, wait a minute! That’s not quite logical, because I know such-and such, and they’re so down on themselves. They’re not fun to be around; they’re kind of depressing and negative,” on and on, and, “If they just had a better view of themselves, they could be more fruitful, more productive, more effective for the Lord.”
Dave: No, the solution is not to get a better view of themselves but to get a better view of God. Stop looking at themselves!
Tom: That’s the other side of the problem. They’re focused on self—as Tozer said, it’s the flip . . . the other side of the coin that they’re preoccupied with self under the guise of denying self.
Dave: I remember saying, Tom, and I probably have it in the wrong order, but . . .whew, I haven’t even thought of this for probably twenty years: “If you want to be distracted, look around. If you want to be disgusted, look within. If you want to be delighted, look at Him!” So, I think the problem is they’re self-centered. They’re thinking about themselves. And maybe some people feel that that is the way to glorify God is to degrade themselves. No, . . .
Tom: The Bible says the flesh profits nothing . . .
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: This is not of the Spirit. You see, when you mentioned about Job . . . now, I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but I don’t believe anybody can truly hate themselves—truly hate themselves—except by God’s grace, because it’s only God’s grace that shows the heart that’s within, which is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” We know the experience that Job went through.
Tom: It drew him—he suffered, but in this process he recognized how much . . . who God was and how much God loved him. That’s why he came “to the end of himself.”
Dave: Yeah, well, Isaiah, the same! “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord, high and lifted up; His train filled the temple, and the cherubim cried, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy!’ Then said I, ‘Woe is me! I am undone. I’m man of unclean lips. I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for mine eyes have seen the Lord of hosts.’” And the one that He saw was Jesus, because John 12 tells us—he quotes that, and says, “He spake . . .when he saw Him in His glory . . .”
So, perhaps we need to get the focus off of ourselves and onto the Lord, because that’s what love does. And when you have a husband and wife, for example, and I’m concerned whether my wife is loving me enough, and she’s concerned whether I’m loving her enough, and I’m concerned whether she’s treating me properly . . . That’s not love! Love is not concerned about itself. Love loves the other. And, I don’t know—we probably don’t say anything about it in this chapter or even in this book . . .
Tom: Well, let’s go to verse 31 in Mark.
Dave: Well, let me just finish this, Tom.
Tom: I thought that’s where you were going.
Dave: No, if I had advice to give to husbands and wives—now, we just passed our fiftieth wedding anniversary a few months ago—if I had some advice to give to husbands and wives: “Don’t try to make a 50-50 deal out marriage. Don’t be worried about whether you’re going to get a fair deal. Love your husband, love your wife, and forget yourself. And both of you learn to love God together, and that will solve, I think, every problem that could possibly come up.
Tom: Well, there’s no doubt about it. The reason I wanted to jump to Mark:12:31, we just read 29 and 30, but 31 says, “. . . and the second is like, namely this . . .”
Dave: Second commandment.
Tom: Second commandment! “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” These two commandments. One flows out of the other. Without the love of God and loving Him, we’ve got nothing to offer anyone else. But this is His commandment!
Dave: Yeah, Tom, that verse is so misused, misunderstood. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And so we have seminars—literally!—being taught in the church: you’ve got to learn to love yourself before you could love your neighbor.
Well, then, Jesus is saying, “Love your neighbor like you inadequately love yourself.” Oh, you don’t love yourself well enough, but love your neighbor like you love yourself?! No! That doesn’t make sense. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“Oh well, I hate myself; I want to do myself in, so I guess I’ll do my neighbor in as well!”
No! Jesus is correcting self-love. He’s saying we already love ourselves. What do you do in the morning when you get up? You brush your teeth, you comb your hair, you feed yourself, you clothe yourself. Give some of the attention to your neighbor that you’re giving to yourself. Jesus is correcting self-love, He’s not encouraging it!
And that is our problem. We are self-centered, and we need to deny self, Jesus says . . .
Tom: Now, for those who aren’t agreeing with our interpretation, our understanding, of this, it’s really simple math—not only in regard to what you said, Dave, but it says, “And the second is like this.” But too many times, we find three commandments here, the third being erroneous: to love ourselves.
No, it’s all part of these first two commandments.
Dave: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart,” and out of that comes loving your neighbor as yourself. Why would that be? Because then I become a participant in God’s love. And how can I take the message of John:3:16, even? “For God so loved the world . . .” How could I take that message to the lost if I do not have a love—a genuine love? “The love of Christ restrains us,” Paul says. So, this love that He wants me to have for Him generates a love for others because this is the way God is. God is love. And, well, Tom, we’ve inadequately handled this, but let’s get to know and love God and love one another, and maybe we can encourage people to think about this a bit more anyway.