Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Amazing Love of God

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)


There is no love more deep, more wonderful, more intimate, more faithful, more unconditional, more enduring, more pure and untainted, more sweet and life giving, more consoling and hope giving, more close and soul sustaining, so full of care and compassion in times of the deepest sorrow, than the love of God. There may exist the most tender of marriages, there may be the most caring of friendships but they are all but soft lights compared to the brightness of God’s faithful love. Where human love is often mixed God’s love never is or can be. His love does not begin where our obedience begins. His love does not seek the good and the righteous to set its affections upon but the low, the sinful, and the rebellious. His love does not depend upon who a person is or what they do, for his love is free, it is the free love of a sovereign God.

All human love, the image of God imprinted in the nature of man, is the rays of sun coming from that great sun from which this love is set forth from the very nature of God as its source. Where shall we go to if we are to know what love is and to experience it in its fullness without any sin to taint its sweetness? The Scriptures say go to God for he is love and all that he does for his children comes from that caring and profound affection which he has for all of them. Go to God for all that he does for his children is loving for those who he sets his affections upon he loves in such a way so that all he does for them is for their good. Go to God for while even the best and well meaning of people can fail us and cause us great hurt God can never fails his children for his very nature is to remain faithful even when we are unfaithful to him, and while he may cause hurt it is always so that what hinders us from him may be exposed and put to death so that deeper faith and relationship with him be enjoyed for our great joy and his glory.

The Scripture says, “see what kind of love the Father has given to us” which entails that we are to look and see the source of this kind of love as being no one else but the Father, and then to know that he has not kept this love from us but has given it to every one of his children freely as his blessed gift. So it can be said with all surety that the love every man, woman, and child yearns for, and desires, is the love that can only be given from God, and this love is given freely to who all come to him.

The Recipients of this Love

It is a common enough assumption that many today believe that God loves everyone the same whether they believe in him or not or whether they call him their Father or not. This Scripture speaks of a specific love for a specific people. It is the love of God in all its height, depth and breadth but it is the love of God as the Father for his children. This love is not for those who God is not the Father of just as it is not the love for those who are not his children. It is a special love for those who God calls his children and they call him their Father. The Scriptures are clear that God does not and has never loved all people the same. In the Old Testament God had a special and unique love for the nation of Israel which was quite different from the love he had for the surrounding nations. Moses, speaking to the people of Israel, said,

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number that than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
(Deuteronomy 7:6-8) 

Just as God had a special and unique love for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament he also has this same special and unique love for his children, that is his church, in the New Testament. To the Christians at the church in Ephesus Paul wrote,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
(Ephesians 1:3-10)

Firstly, this love is for those who God chose before the foundation of the world. Secondly, the goal of this love is to cause a people to be holy and blameless before him. Thirdly, God in his love has a destiny for those he calls and that destiny is adoption into his family and it is through the life, death and resurrection- the work of Jesus according to the will of his Father, that this is achieved. Fourthly, the response of those who God loves such that he adopts them is to praise the glory of  his grace forever. Fifthly, God removes all barriers to adoption by forgiving all of our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, a sacrifice that washes away all the sins of those who God chose before the foundation of the world. Sixthly, since this is totally undeserving since all of humanity deserves to perish eternally in hell, the forgiveness of sins accomplished by Jesus is a rich and undeserved gift from a gracious God. Seventhly, this was only vaguely revealed in the Old Testament but has come into full revelation in the New Testament that all things will come under the eternal rule of Jesus. All will come and bow before him and call him Lord, some to eternal joy for having being saved by him, and others to eternal misery for having rejected him.

This special love is not for all people. It is a love for those who God chose before the foundation of the world, and because God chose them they will and do believe. And it is only for those who God chose that Christ came and died so that by his death they may have life as adopted children in the family of their Father. There is a common love which God has for all people for as Jesus said, “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) But there is a unique love, a saving love, an adopting love, the love of a Father for his children that is for those who God has chosen to love with such affection and care. From all the people of the world God has chosen a specific people to love in a special way such that all hindrances to him having a relationship with them are overcome by Jesus so that he calls them enemies no longer but he calls them his beloved, his children, his family.

The Unsaved Condition of those who God Loves

Many today do not really know how horrific their state is before a holy God. People are so blind of it that in times of trial or suffering they are even willing to call God unjust and unloving. Many of us have heard people say “why did God allow that horrific event to happen to that country?” implying that those people deserved something good from God. A well-known book entitled “when bad things happen to good people” gets at the heart of how people are ignorant of how they are anything but good. The Apostle Paul, writing on the true condition of every human being upon the face of the earth, hits us with these words,

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God. 
All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12)

Paul gives us a quite different picture from the one that is held by much of Christianity today. The commonest belief is that man though tainted by sin still at heart has such an innate goodness remaining in him that he is able to seek after God, that he is able to choose good, and he is able to free himself from his bondage to sin. Paul in these two passages teaches the following points:

1)    No one, no matter who they are is righteous. Those who are unbelieving can never be righteous since they cannot on their own break free from their sin or change their own desires and hearts. In fact they love sin so much that they delight in it and are quite unwilling to believe in God. Even those who are believing are never fully righteous in the sense that we often do good alongside evil and even our best obedience is tainted with sin.

2)    Because the unbelieving heart loves sin so much it rejects God. It prefers sin over God. It finds the comfort of sin so alluring and its power so overwhelming that it is unwilling to give it up and finds any call to do so repellant. But also the heart loves self- autonomy so that any attempt to give up this rule and to instead be subservient to God is met with anger and hostility.

3)    No one understands because the human mind is so depraved and corrupted in its thinking that it suppresses all knowledge of God although the evidence for him is all around, and rebels against him since his very existence is despised and hated.

4)    No one on their own initiative seeks for God. Everyone has turned away from any acknowledgement of him and everyone wants to live a life as though he does not exist even though he is the very one who gives them life and sustains their every waking day. Humanity left to their own run after all manner of things while rejecting the very God who offers them his love and eternal joy.

5)    Those who run after things other than God run after that which cannot profit them here and now, since the love and joy they desire cannot be found in them, nor do they profit them in the life to come since the reward for seeking after things is eternal punishment. By running after such things they give their energies and commitment to that which cannot give them what their hearts long for and desire. Thus all their running far from gaining what they long for and desire leave them unsatisfied and unfulfilled all this while rejecting the very God who offers them what they are yearning for.

6)    No one does good for those who may seem to do outwardly moral acts of great good they are accounted as nothing before God because they lack (a) love towards him, that is they are not done from a heart of love and delight in God, they are not done for him. (b) They are not done out of faith for God, that is from a heart of trust and deep satisfaction in him. Because of this all acts of good that lack these even from truly sincere people are sinful since they are done from hearts that do not love God nor have faith in him.

7)    All humanity has fallen in its depravity such that it does not love God, does not acknowledge him, suppresses all knowledge of him, rejects any allegiance to him, and hates all him as their Creator. No one seeks after him, no one does good for him, no one does what is right according to him.

8)    No one deserves the love of God since there is nothing us of such worthiness or beauty deserving of it since we are hideous and repugnant in the eyes of a holy God. Nor does anyone deserve his love by anything done outwardly since all human actions are neither done out of right motivations, done out of love for God or faith in him, or are untainted by sin.

Far from being friends of God we were by nature “children of wrath.” Far from being loved by him we were hated by him. Far from being close to him we were alienated from him. Far from being his family we were outcasts. And yet amazingly it is these wretched people who God has chosen to love. It is these same sinful, rebellious and wicked people that God has chosen to be the recipients of his loving affections. If a man or woman asks, “why does God love me?” the answer found in Scripture is that God loves you because you because he loves. There is nothing in anyone that deserves his love and so his love is free, undeserved, and unrestrained. His love is not what someone merits because they are good since they are evil, nor is it something someone gains by their achievements since all human effort is but “filthy rags” before God. This love is unmerited, undeserved, and is therefore a gift of grace. Charles Spurgeon wrote,

“When God takes men from being heirs of wrath, and makes them heirs of grace, they have just as much privilege at the first as though they had been heirs of grace twenty years, because in God’s sight they always were heirs of grace, and from all eternity he viewed his most wandering sons.”

Such is the amazing love of God.

The Faithfulness of God’s Love

All of us have experienced a time when a loved one has let us down. Maybe they did not follow through on a promise. Maybe they said something that hurt. Maybe they just haven’t been there to help out as best as they could have. Maybe in our greatest need they have not been willing to help. Even the most loving of marriages experiences times when the love burns less bright than at other times and our husbands and wives let us down. The simple fact is that fallible human beings make relationships difficult and trying along with the times of great joy. We fail each other because we do not love as we ought to and the result is that someone always gets hurt. Whether it be in marriage, in the family, amongst friends, or in Church when we fail someone they are always hurt. And when we put all our hope in the love of fallible people, when we look to them to provide steadfast love sadly we find that often we are let down.

God does not love us as we love each other. His love is set apart from the fallible love of humanity since his is the infallible love of a perfect Father. His love is never mixed with failure. His love is never accompanied with unfaithfulness. In the direst of times, when we need help the most, he will never fail those who he chooses to love. The prophet Jeremiah writes,

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
(Lamentations 3:22-23)   

The following can be gleamed from this passage:

1)    God’s love towards his children never ceases. It is a love with no beginning just as it is a love with the end. Whatever his children might do, whatever bad decisions they make or sins they fall into, God never stops loving them.

2)    When a repentant child comes to God he always forgives, no matter how many times they sin against him, such that every day his mercies are new for his children.

3)    God is always faithful. It is his very character to be faithful since he always does what he says he will do. He is incapable of lying and he is free from selfishness which often keeps us from being faithful to one another. And while we are often hindered by circumstances from helping one another and being there for each other God is never thwarted in his love. But most of all the same faithfulness that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit have for one another in the trinity is the same faithfulness God has for his children.

Charles Spurgeon wrote about the faithfulness of God that it is,

“So great that there has never been an exception. Through the ages, our God has had billions of people to deal with. Yet there does not stand under heaven’s cover, or above the stars, or in hell itself a single soul who can say that God is not absolutely faithful. No item in the list of our divine promises is unfulfilled. God remembers every promise that He ever made, and He honors each in the experience of those who believe in Him. They who trust in the Lord will find Him faithful, not only in great things, but also in little things. His faintest word will stand firm and steadfast. His least truth will never grow dim. The glory of God’s faithfulness is that no sin of ours has ever made Him unfaithful. Unbelief is a damning thing, yet even when we do not believe, God is faithful. His children might rebel. They might wander far from His statutes and be chastened with many stripes. Nevertheless, He says,

My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail. My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips” (Psalm 89:33-34)

God’s saints may fall under the cloud of His displeasure and provoke the Most High by their transgressions, still He will have compassion on them. He says,

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” ( Isaiah 43:25 ).

Thus, no sin of ours can make God unfaithful.”

Any Christian who thinks that all hope is lost, that their situation is impossible, that all have deserted them and they are left to their own, they can know will all assurance from the very lips of God that he will never leave you. God says to all his children,

“I will never leave you or forsake you.”
(Hebrews 13:5)

In the darkest of depression when the child of God is losing their mind, when the marriage seems to be falling apart and you have almost given up hope, when loved ones have passed away and you are wrapped up in deep sadness, when the suffering child of God is lying in the hospital bed watching their life slowly ebbing away God is with you. In the day to day living of the Christian life when we struggle to keep our faith, when we do not know what the right decision is, when we do not know when our next dollar or next meal is going to come from God is faithful. There is no place, no time, no set of circumstances, no predicaments the child of God might find themselves where their Father is not there loving them, and there is no power in heaven or earth that can keep God from his children.

John G. Paton wrote this about the time he was forced to seek refuge in a tree from the local inhabitants who were seeking to harm him,

“Being entirely at the mercy of such doubtful and vacillating friends, I, though perplexed, felt it best to obey. I climbed into the tree and was left there alone in the bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe as in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior's spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship. If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?”

The Intimacy of God’s Love

In my life I have one brother who is very close to me. He knows more about me than anybody else and he is closer to me than other one else. Our relationship is built upon the grace and forgiveness that Christ shows towards us every single. It is the soil upon which our relationship grows and blossoms. We are free to share with each other whatever comes up in our lives without fear of judgment or rejection.

But even in this close relationship there are things I do not know about my brother and there are things I do not know about him. It is simply not possible to unpack every minute of our lives with each other. There are things that I have done that have remained with me as I am sure there are with my brother. But with God there are no secrets. There are no horror stories yet to come out of the closet. He knows all about me. He knows all that I have thought and he knows every action of my life. He knows every word that I have spoken and every word I have written. All is out in the open when it comes to God. And yet knowing all about me, all my sin, all my horrible words, attitudes, actions, and thoughts God loves me. This is true of all God’s children. The one who knows us best is the one who loves us the most.

Many of us know what a hurtful thing it is when someone finds out something about us that they do not like and because of this they shun and reject us. Many of us know what it is to be alienated or even ostracized because of our past. Many of us yet know what it is to be unaccepted and to feel the non-approving words, and attitudes of others because of some offense taken. The truth is with God he knows your past. He knows your history, what you have done and what you have gone through. He knows the most awful things you have done even though you might have kept them hidden from everybody else. And knowing all that he does he most certainly promises to never to do what you may have previously experienced in your life in your human relationships. He promises to never shun you since he is your constant friend and redeemer through all your days, the one you can call upon and trust in during the times of greatest need. He promises to never reject you since he has made a covenant with you and this covenant is founded upon his faithfulness to all he has given to his Son Jesus Christ. He promises to never alienate and ostracize  you since he who adopted you into his family will never then go about un-adopting those who he calls his own. No matter what the Christian has done or what sort of checked past we might have God’s love is for us.

God’s love reaches his children no matter what they may be going through in whatever location they are. The apostle John tells us the story of Jesus walking on water.

“When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightening. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” (John 6:16-21)

The following can be gleamed from this passage,

1)    There was a rough storm that the disciples were travelling through. In their case this was a natural storm but there this can be broadened to include the dark and stormy travails of the soul.

2)    The disciples were alone.

3)    Jesus bridged the gap by walking through the storm to be in the boat with his disciples.

4)    By the presence of Jesus the disciples were comforted, their fears abated, and their souls assured amidst the raging storm.

No matter what storm the Christian is going through it is not able to keep Jesus from walking through it and being with them and comforting them with his great love. Indeed in our darkest times of distress when we most need help Jesus will be there.

The Blessings of God’s Love

The blessings of God’s love towards his children are countless. Everything that the child of God has comes from a loving God. But here are some of the most prominent blessings that are the fruit of divine love.

1)    Christians are chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)

2)    Christians are forgiven for all their sin. (1 John 1:9)

3)    Christians are no longer under wrath but under grace.
         (Romans 5:9-11)

4)    Christians are justified. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

5)    Christians receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through which they are born again, (John 3:5-8) receive the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 2:8-9) and by whose power they are being sanctified. (1 Peter 1:2)

6)    Christians have eternal life with God the Father, Jesus Christ his Son, and the Holy Spirit. (1 John 5:13)

7)    Christians enjoy fellowship with the Godhead. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

8)    Christian have the joy of God. (Psalm 16:11)

Just as the resources of God’s love never diminish and will not run dry because in God there is no amount of love that he cannot meet because he is limitedly infinite in his capacity to love, so the blessings that flow from this love are immeasurable in the life of the Christian. Everything in the Christian life is from a loving God.

The Supreme Display of God’s Love

When the Christian seeks the greatest display of God’s love for them then there is no other place to go but the great God-man Jesus Christ. In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell so that from his words, his thoughts, and his actions we see the love of God manifested in its clearest revelation. He healed the sick, he raised the dead, he helped the blind and lame, he fed the hungry. He consoles the fearful, he gives hope to the hopeless, he welcomes the outcast, he forgives sins, he extends mercy to those who thought they were beyond mercy, he protects the weak, he is a servant to his people, he is a light to the blind, he is the manna from heaven for those who hunger, the water of life for those who thirst. In Jesus Christ is the love of the Father seen in the life of a man.

And when he went to the cross Jesus we see how much he loved us when he gave his life for us. By his death we have life. By his suffering we are healed. Jesus said,

“Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
(John 15:13)

And the apostle Paul wrote,

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8)

How much a person loves something is determined by how much they are willing to sacrifice for what they love. Since God was willing to send his Son, and Jesus was willing to submit himself to the Fathers will and come with the purpose of dying on the cross, then we can know by such a great sacrifice, God in Jesus Christ loves the Christian very much.
A.W. Pink wrote,

“The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Rom. 8:32-39. What that love is, from which there can be no “separation”, is immediately perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined Him to give his Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because He did love His people. Cavalry is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Cavalry.”

 The Consummation of God’s Love

God’s love in this fallen world is tainted with the sin of man and satan and is mixed suffering. We never experience the love of his right hand without experiencing the turmoil, anguish and hurt of living in a fallen world. But the time is coming when all remaining sin will be burned away in the light of God’s holiness, when satan and all his legions of demons will be banished forever to the fires of hell, and the clouds of suffering will finally be blown away forever leaving the people of God to soak in and relish the sweet pure love of God.  The apostle John writes,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tears from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

The consummation of God’s love is coming in the day when there will be no more suffering, when he will take every tear from our eyes for there will be no more sadness. There will be no more death for its power being destroyed by Jesus, its presence will be destroyed by God. All will be renewed to an even greater state than before the fall in the Garden of Eden. There will be no more distance between us and our Father for we will be able to see him even as we see each other face to face today. And when he appears will be made like him, and will be fit to be in his presence forever, for as the apostle writes,

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be made like him, because we will see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Until then the Christian must still live in this broken world but what should give us hope is to look forward with great expectation to what is to come. Our hope is not found here. For those who have experienced life you know there is too much pain, too much heart ache, too many worries, too many sleepless nights to put your hope here. This world is but momentary for when what is pure and lasting is revealed this stricken world will be burned away and what will be left for the Child of God is paradise and God. He will be the chief focus of all the Christian’s adorations and affections, worship and praise. He chose us we when were still unbelieving, hard-hearted, rebellious, repugnant and evil sinners and set his love upon us so that he sent his Son to save us and through union to Jesus Christ we were adopted into his family. The words are true in Scripture that seeing him who loves us will cause such an overwhelming sense of gratefulness and thankfulness to arise in the hearts of the multitude of Christians who will be with him that they will be praising the glory of his grace forever and ever.


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