I have given this book the simplest title I could: Loving Jesus More. But this title presupposes yet another problem. If we say that we want to love Jesus more—or that we ought to love him more, whether we want to or not—then we are admitting that we do not love Jesus as much as we should. Logically, the only people who can love Jesus more are people who love him less. And unfortunately this is true for all of us. Our love is limited—not just for one another, but also for Jesus.
When we open the Scriptures, we discover that we are not alone in this limitation (which, in a way, is encouraging). The failure of God’s people to love their God is one of the most pervasive themes in the story of salvation.
We see this all the way through the Old Testament. The story of the children of Israel is really a love story. God has a heart full of love for his people, which he proves over and over again by what he says and what he does. “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” God declares. “Therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” ( Jer. 31:3).
The children of Israel were called to respond to this everlasting affection by loving God in return. Every day devout believers would confess their love for God in heart, soul, and strength (see Deut. 6:4–5). Yet they repeatedly failed to live up to their promises by turning their hearts against God.
One of the ways that God confronted this failure was by styling himself as a wounded lover. His passion smolders on the pages of the Old Testament. Understand that God’s romance with his people was a spiritual marriage. So when their hearts grew cold, it was the ultimate betrayal. The imagery that the Old Testament uses to describe this marital breakdown is shocking. On occasion God compared Israel to a groom who cheated on his wife, or to a virgin who became a prostitute (e.g., Ezekiel 16). In the book of Jeremiah God actually files for divorce on the grounds of spiritual adultery (see Jer. 2:1–3:5). But he never gives up on his love covenant with his people. To exemplify his undying love, he tells his prophet Hosea to return to a wayward woman and take her to be his wife all over again.
We see something similar in the New Testament, where the followers of Christ often fall out of love. When Jesus warned his disciples that the hearts of many would grow cold (Matt. 24:12), he knew what he was talking about. The first generation of the church was also the first generation to love Jesus less. By the end of the New Testament, John was already warning the first Christians in Ephesus that they had forsaken their first love (Rev. 2:4).