As a pastor, I am surrounded by all kinds of people. There are the “old timers,” who have been around as long as I can remember. There are volunteers who give their time and money to church work. There are family generations from millennials to boomers and even some older. There are always new believers who are profoundly excited about Jesus. Then there are the “seekers.” They are all around me, looking around, kind of curious, not sure yet, with lots of questions.
Each of these categories of people, I think, loves God in some way. Most people have, at the very least, an unconscious respect for God in whatever form they understand Him to be. Unless you’ve decided to blame God for your life and are filled with bitterness, you likely have some affection for God. After all, God loves everyone – or so we are taught.
Here is where logic comes into play. “If God loves me, he will take care of me, and of course I will go to heaven! A loving God would not send anyone to hell. Oh yes and don’t forget I’m a church worker!! I do love God!”
Is that really enough?
That is my question. It’s based on an observation. I’ve witnessed some very high-profile Christians fall away into deep sin. How could something like this happen, when God loves them and they love God? But it did. And they are gone away from God in their hearts and lifestyles.
Even now, some have turned back, some have fallen away. happened to the apostle Paul wrote with a heavy heart, “Demos has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” I wonder if Demos still loved God. He witnessed God’s supernatural power – just think of what Paul took him through! But that wasn’t enough. He walked away. What would you think about the opportunity to travel with Paul on his miracle journeys?
I’ve lost some family members, good friends, close coworkers, and many church members to the world and to sin. Why am I still here, serving God with all of my heart and soul?
Because I actually fear God! Not in the sense of dread or anxiety, but recognizing that I will be held accountable to Him. It’s that simple. As a child, I knew my father loved me. My father was a kind man and he was principled and I knew when he came home from work he would hold me accountable for my actions. There may be consequences.
Moses wrote in Exodus 20:20, “God has come to test you, that His fear may be before you so that you may not sin.”
If you have only love and no fear (reverence) for God, accountability will be missing and sin will become your friend. Love is not love if it doesn’t have respect and accountability. The love of God does not excuse any sin, nor does our “love” for God neutralize our wrong behavior. If you do not believe in a Holy God of justice and righteousness, His love and mercy is of no value. If there is no coming judgment, there is no need for mercy. If you are not fallen, there is no need for His love to lift you.
I am very aware that I am secure in my faith. My salvation is strongly founded on the work of Christ, but I am also aware of the deceitfulness of sin that encourages us to take one misstep at a time. I am so thankful I feel regular conviction for words and actions. It makes me aware I am still in touch with God.
There are lines of right and wrong; the Holy Spirit will remind us. To ignore those lines and the accompanying convictions are the kind of missteps that over time will take you completely away from God. Better to live with a sense of respect for God and live to please Him than to live so close to the line that you do not realize your faith is gone.
Loving God is not enough. No one goes to heaven for loving God. Our eternal future is secured only for repenting of our sin and placing faith in Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for our sin. If salvation were just for loving God, there would have been no need for Jesus Christ to shed His blood, bear the stripes on His back. No need for His death, resurrection, and ascension. Not everyone in Jesus’ time was saved. Only those who called upon His name and followed Him wholeheartedly. Jesus said, “Fear him (GOD) who can cast both body and soul into hell.”
Strong, deep reverence for God will keep your life from wrong. It will keep you accountable, responsible, obedient, respectful, and reverent. Your salvation will be joyful and committed. God is love – and our love for Him includes a healthy understanding and respect of His holiness and His desire for us to live according to His word.