I have been reading through the Puritan Thomas Watson’s book All Things for Good (first published under the title A Divine Cordial). In this exposition on Romans 8:28, Watson seeks to lift the hearts of discouraged and downcast Christians. With typical Puritan form and fashion, the book has several sections, each with many sub-points (often the sub-points have sub-points!).
One of these sections contains an exhortation for Christians to increase their love for God. This section includes a list of twenty motives for loving God. I was very moved reading this list, and I found myself highlighting nearly every paragraph. I thought this was a worthwhile list to shorten and summarize, both for my own benefit, as well as to modernize it for a modern audience.
The list below is both a paraphrase and summary of Watson’s 20 motives for loving God. Italics are direct quotes from his work. Where appropriate I have added additional Scripture citations.
Our religious practice is worthless without love. It is not the quantity or quality of our efforts that important to God, but it is the love underlying our efforts that is pleasing to God. Religious effort done without love is as tiresome to God as it is to us (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). This is why David counsels his son Solomon to serve with a whole heart and willing mind (1 Chronicles 28:9). To do duty without love, is not sacrifice, but penance.
Love is the greatest of all graces. When we love, we resemble God who is love (1 John 4:7-12). We do not become like God by simply obeying him alone, but we become like him through our love (1 John 4:16). When we love, we are delighting in God. Love makes all other graces more beautiful.
God only asks for our love. Though he is worthy of everything we have – our finances, our property, even our family – he only asks for our love (John 14:15). He would only pick this flower. Is this a hard request?Can we not repay this debt? It’s not like we make ourselves poorer for loving God. This love is not a burden.
God is the perfect object of our love. Everything that is excellent in creation is found in Him (Psalm 27:4, 50:2, Zechariah 9:17, James 3:17). He is wisdom, beauty, love, yea, the very essence of goodness. There is nothing in God which should move us to hatred. The more we enjoy God, the more we are filled with delight. There is nothing in God which can weaken our love or affections. We cannot spend our love on a better object.
Love empowers religious practice. It oils the wheels of the affections, and makes them more lively and cheerful in God’s service. When we love, our religious practice is not dull or boring. Even Jacob thought very little of his seven years of service, because his heart was set on Rachel with love (Genesis 29:18). Love makes duty a pleasure. When we love God, we never get tired of saying so. We will never be tired of serving him.
God wants our love. Though we have lost much of our beauty because of sin, God still seeks after his beloved. What is there in us that God should desire our love? Is God any better off because we love him? He does not need our love. If we deny him our love, he has the angels who offer their love to him. He does not need our love, and yet he seeks after it (Matthew 22:36-40).
God deserves our love. God loved us when there was nothing lovely in us. The time of our loathing was the time of God’s loving. Though we should have provoked wrath and fury, love was excited in him. What an amazing love he gave to us when he sent Christ to die for sinners like us (Romans 5:8)! All the angels in heaven marvel at this kind of love. Augustine says, ‘The Cross is a pulpit, and the lesson Christ preached on it is love.’ Hear Christ saying to us, “Reach with your hands. Put them in my side. Feel my bleeding heart. See if I do not love you. And will you not now give your love to me?” We can now love where we have been loved. Christ has given us his love, written in blood. Let us then imitate him in love (John 13:12-15, Philippians 2:1-11).
Love of God is the best kind of self-love. It is self-love to get the soul saved; by loving God, we forward our own salvation. When we love God, we dwell in perfect love (John 15:9). To love God is the best kind of self-love. If we do not love God, how could we even try to love ourselves?
Love of God is evidence of our sincerity. Many Christians fear themselves to be hypocrites. When Peter denied God, he felt himself to be completely unworthy of Christ’s love. But see how Christ goes about comforting him: “Peter, do you love me?” (John 21:15). It is as if Christ said, “Though you have denied me in fear, if you can say that you love me, then you are righteous and sincere.” To love God is a better sign of our sincerity than if we feared him alone. Loving God evidences that God has the heart; and if the heart be his, that will command all the rest (Matthew 15:7-9).
If we love God, then we can be sure that God loves us. We can only love God if he first loves us (1 John 4:19). The soul says, “If only I knew God loved me, I could rejoice.” Well, do you love God? Then you can be sure that God loves you. Just as an object only burns because heat has been set upon it, our hearts burn with love for God only if he has set his love on us.
Nothing else is as worthy of our love as God. It is better to love God than anything else in the world. If we set our heart on things of this world, we will only be unsatisfied. Even if all the world were yours, it would not satisfy (Jeremiah 2:13, John 4:14). Why set your love on worldly things that will not make you content and satisfied? Why set your love on worldly things that cannot love you in return? Just as it is better to love God than anything in this world, surely it is also better to love God than any sin. Sin is a debt which binds us to God’s wrath. Sin is a misshapen monster: lust makes a man brutish, malice makes him devilish. Why should we love that which will only bring us death?
Our relationship with God calls for our love. We are said to be wed to God, Christ is our husband (Isaiah 54:5, Ephesians 5:22-33). Shouldn’t a wife love her husband? God is full of tenderness and kindness toward us. We are the apple of his eye, and he rejoices over us (Isaiah 62:5). Either we must love God, or we give ground of suspicion that we are not yet united to him.
Love is the most enduring of all graces. Love will stay with us when there is no need for other graces. In heaven there is no need of repentance, because there is no sin. We will have no need of patience, because there will be no affliction. We will have no need of faith, because it will be turned to sight (1 Corinthians 13:12, Hebrews 11:1). When the other graces fade away, love continues. Love never ends or fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Love of God quenches all sinful desires. Some plants will not thrive when they are near together: the love of God withers sin. Though our old self lives, it lives as a sick and dying man (Romans 6:5-11). Its breath draws short when we love God (Galatians 2:17-21). The flower of love kills the weed of sin; though sin does not die perfectly, yet it dies daily.
Loving God is how we grow in grace. When we grow in God’s grace, it is very pleasing to him (2 Peter 3:17-18). Love is like watering of the root, which makes the tree grow. This is why the Apostle Paul said in his prayer, “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). Love helps us grow in all other graces.
There are great benefits in store for those who love God. As it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). We cannot even conceive of what God has in store for us! The rewards laid up for us are so incredible that not even faith can make sense of it all.
Love of God protects us from thinking wrong thoughts about God. When our hearts are not filled with love, our heads are filled with error (1 Timothy 1:3-11). Why are we given up to strong delusions in life? Because we do not love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). The more we love God, the more we hate wrong thoughts about him, and the more we know truth for ourselves.
If we love God, then everything in this world is conspiring for our good. No matter what fiery trials may come our way, all things work for Good for those who love God (Romans 8:28). Whatever may be intended to work against us will actually work for us. Our cross will make way for a crown. Every wind shall blow them to the heavenly port.
A lack of love for God makes us vulnerable to walking away from God. The seed in Christ’s parable that had no root fell away (Luke 8:9-15). If we do not have love for God rooted in our hearts, then we will fall away when temptations and trials come our way (1 John 2:19, Hebrews 6:1-8).
Thus we have seen twenty motives to excite and inflame our love of God.
Question. What shall we do to love God?
Answer. Study God. Did we study him more, we should love him more. Take of view of his superlative excellencies, his holiness, his incomprehensible goodness. The angels know God better than we, and clearly behold the splendor of his majesty; therefore they are so deeply enamored with him. Labor for an interest in God…Make it your earnest request to God, that he will give you a heart to love him.