What if we loved God?

What if Adam had told Eve, “No, my love, we won’t eat that fruit—it’s been forbidden to us. Our lovely God told me very directly, ‘Don’t eat from that tree’ and he’s to be trusted and obeyed no matter what the serpent said.”

Or what if, as considered in 1 Samuel 13:13-14, Saul had proven to be obedient—and a man after God’s own heart—so that God’s promise through Samuel had actually come about: “For then the LORD would have established your kingdom forever”? Saul’s status as one of the Bible’s despised figures would have been reversed. Yet with his rebellion that eternal stature came instead to David.

My point here isn’t to speculate on what might have been if these past events had turned out differently. Instead I’m reminded—and want to remind you—that each of us is always living on the cusp of what might or might not be. And we need to ask ourselves whose heart is moving and shaping our hearts as we move from a “what if” into our “what is”.

Are we aligned with the first Adam who listened to a false calling? Or with Jesus, the new Adam, who rejected each of the serpent’s invitations to rebel and said, instead, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). Are we, like Saul, spiritual pragmatists with a selfish bottom line? Or responders like David who delighted in God even in the face of a Goliath?

How will life unfold for us when we respond to God’s love through faith? Or, alternatively, what have we missed by living in relative independence from God? The question has been raised in the Bible—though it’s sometimes fogged over by a misapplication of predestination.

We find this related to the salvation of some—as in the Pharisees and the lawyers of Jesus’ day who “rejected the purpose of God for themselves” when they dismissed the ministry of John the Baptist. Or, again, in Pisidian Antioch where Paul and Barnabas told the synagogue leaders, “Since you thrust aside [God’s word] and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning [instead]” to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).

The same sort of contingency is also seen in the lives of believers: our responses to God shape his response to us in matters of reward and condemnation. Paul, for instance, wrote in 1 Corinthians 3 & 4 of the foundation we lay in this life for the next, with the reward and commendations that lie ahead of us depending on how we live in this life.

The space for this apparent freedom is found in our hearts and not, as is so often assumed, in the self-moved will. In other words Paul isn’t affirming the relative autonomy of the will that Pelagius, Arminius, and so many others later presumed. But in following Paul we are not, on the other hand, affirming the priority of the human will that William Perkins and so many Puritans affirmed. Instead the moral measure of our souls is what we love; and God who will “disclose the purposes of the heart” knows our deepest motivations.

So our “what if” of this entry turns on the question of how near we are to being what we were made to be. We can think of Ephesians 2:10—that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Are we living in a “faith working through love” that ensures our fruitfulness in Christ’s design for us? Or are we morally misshapen clay—only useful for showing off the justice of God’s judgment against all who ignore the Son?

In other words we all have a freedom to love—in response to God’s prior offer of love in Christ—or not to love. God never forces us to love him. And we will never be a David if our love is for our own benefits and security: that’s the heart of an Adam and a Saul.

So what if a Billy Graham had become an actor instead of a revivalist? What if a Mother Teresa had become a local school teacher in her homeland rather than the compassionate missionary she became in Calcutta? The world would have missed their brilliant light in its deep darkness.

So the question stands before each one of us: are we missing what we could be simply because we love our personal security and comforts? Or are we instead discovering the joy of a bold faith? What if all who are called Christians really trusted Christ? What could come of that? Heaven only knows—but I’d like to be part of it. Are you with me?



  1. Radu

    Thank you for your posts! I am new here and still “digging” .
    This one triggered a question I have for some time now. Do you think in heaven will be different degrees of rewards? If so, on what criteria? I was tempted to say on the basis of the work done for God’s kingdom, but after this post I wonder if maybe the rewards will (if) be given not by the works but by the love we had for Jesus…?
    What about those who believe, go to church but stop there? No consistent prayer life, no serious Bible reading or study. Will full redemption be “applied” in the same way when they pass into eternity? Will they miss something?

  2. R N Frost

    Welcome to SG, Radu. And thanks for engaging.
    Speculations about what eternity holds are fair … but a little tricky. Mainly because Jesus didn’t say much about the future, even to his closest followers.
    But there are clues. Such as the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25), that suggests something greater will come to the “faithful” – with different levels of return listed. And Paul warned the Corinthians (in speaking of coming judgment) of some “being saved, but only as through fire” [1 Cor. 3:15]. There the imagery of “foundations” being laid in this life will serve as a basis for life in the next [in verses 12-13].
    My best guess is that our “heart-capacities” are now being exercised and grown in this life, and these will be character foundations in the next life. So those with a “great love” will have a head-start in knowing the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” [Eph. 3:19]; and this suggests to me an eternal growth in our enjoyment of God’s care. So this life is a great chance to be ready for what’s coming next: the joy of life in the love promised in John 17.
    What isn’t suggested in the coming life with Christ – even with any greater “capacities” we might bring to eternity – are the sinful human comparisons that plague us today. Instead we’ll all happily gaze in the direction of our Savior with the joy & peace that offers.

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