Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Love of God Which is in Christ

Last night, I was re-reading John chapters 14-17. John's Gospel, in particular, always causes me to reflect on the steadfast love Christ displays towards us sinners...and how quick we are to doubt Him.

When you think of the sacrificial depths of Calvary love, doesn't it just slay you?

If it doesn't, it should.

Paul never got over it:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:2)

"Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" (Romans 5:7-9)
The finite, mortal mind cannot fully grasp the extent of God's love for sinful man, although it was Paul's prayer that we would be able, in some small measure, to do so (Ephesians 3:18). Think on the fellowship (koinonia) which Christ Himself desires with us, and that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit invite us all personally and collectively, to enter. What is staggering is that God desires to make us His own, and treats us as "part of the family". The Epistle of 1 John frankly states that God wants us each in fellowship with Himself.

In His High Priestly prayer, Jesus said that He longed for believers to be with Him where He is (John 17:24). Earlier, He has assured the disciples that the love the Father has for Him is also in them (and, by extention, us). This is truly mind-blowing: in light of who we are, Who God is, and how costly His agape love is.

Trust God's Word, Not Feelings

The human tendency is to doubt this enduring, deep, and abiding love God has for the believer when we see ourselves as less than lovable. Actually, it is pride to think there is ever a time when we are "more worthy" to approach God or enjoy His fellowship than another. If His love were based on our performance rather than the perfect righteousness of Christ, we would have no reason to hope for His grace or come boldly before His throne (Hebrews 4:16).

Many times, Christians with depression are stuck in this rut of disbelief. Because of sin, a Christian's conscience convicts him or her and causes her to doubt the present reality of God's love for her. Quite predictably, this causes her to "run away" from Him, exactly the opposite of what she should do (turn to Him in repentance). Trusting in one's emotions or what one's feelings are saying can hinder the walk with Christ like nothing else. Sometimes, the very sin that keeps a person out of fellowship with God is what is allowed to prevent him from opening the Bible and reading the truth: God loves you, believer. His will is that you humble yourself and return to Him. It is there that He greets us with joy.

Everywhere is Scripture this truth is proclaimed, and yet we take it for granted. Often, God's love is given lip service or considered as just another attribute of His diety, when in reality it defines Who He is and why we exist to worship Him. As Richard Ochs of Lake Road Chapel recently stated, "Sin, in light of what God has done for us in Christ, is always a sin against love." Axiomatically, loving God always will cause you to be misunderstood, rejected, and even worse. The Lord Himself warned us of this, but it is more than worth it.

My response to what Christ has demonstrated towards me is an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Once you know that joy of being forgiven and accepted in the beloved, you can't help but be changed by it. The security of knowing His tenderness, compassion and sacrificial love is both an intellectual and spiritual engagement - both the Word and the Spirit testify to this incredible truth. Sometimes, you will hear the term "head knowledge" set over against "heart knowledge", but the Bible makes no such distinction. We are called to study to show ourselves approved, and the logos (the Word) is the way in which God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. More often than not, when I have counseled someone who doubts the reality of Christ's love for her, she is neglecting the Bible.

Pastor Kevin Williams has been posting a superb sermon series on the allegory of Christ's love for the believer (and the believer's loving response to Him) on Puritan Fellowship. I would strongly encourage you, especially if you find your love waxing cold, to listen to this encouraging series (you could easily listen to any one part of the series alone, and be greatly blessed by it). When we doubt His love, we are implying that God is a liar. When we fail to respond, we are demonstrating a lack of faith and gratitude. This series is a great reminder of the gentleness and mercy of our Savior.

There is no joy on earth like knowing you are loved by the King of Kings, and being able to glorify His Name in worship. When you realize the depths from which you've been brought, your deepest desire is to fall at His feet and eternally reflect on His grace, beauty and majesty.

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