Friday, July 4, 2008
Showing Somebody the Love of God
Does God love you? I personally do not see how people could struggle with a question like this.
( By the way, I personally do not subscribe to the "Calvinistic" views out there saying that God doesn't love everybody). It's like asking "Is water wet?"
Rarely does anyone look to the sunset, watch a mother bird feed her chicks, or witness the miracle of live birth and say "I just can't figure God out!" At best, we stand in awe. Questions only come up when bad things happen. God gets the bad rap when a hurricane destroys, or a forest fire rages uncontrollably. (Insurance companies call these "Acts of God".) What about all the murder, genocide, war, starvation, etc. So, to some degree we get stuck with cognitive dissonance--knowing that there is beauty, truth, and goodness in the universe, and yet the presence of evil and suffering.
Usually the first place we look to get the answer is to circumstances. If we are having it hard, we conclude he is not loving. If we got a good parking space, somebody smiled at us, our favorite food is for dinner tonight, then he is.
It is helpful, again, as in all cases to get the whole of Scripture in focus. The default is: "God is love" (1 John 4:16). Not that God loves, but GOD IS LOVE. Note carefully, and do not confuse this one. Remember the burning bush "I AM." The verb "to be" is in God's name. All other being is dependent or derived. And as such, we are shadows at best of his ultimate reality. God does so much better than just to love. Infinitely better.
So let me begin by defining love. Love is, simply, to reflect God's character. Period. Now with that definition, let's make sense of the present evil world, and all the negativity and fallenness in it, and the iniquity in our hearts. "The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it. In hope that the creation itself may be liberated from its bondage to decay, and brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:20-21). Note the upswing in this verse. Frustration is only temporary. It gets fixed, and liberty comes. But only for the children of God.
OK, now you have put your finger on it. How do I know I am a child of God? That's exactly what I lack--assurance. I can verbally assure you he loves you, but God himself must move and give you the confidence you need in his love. I am not trying to confuse at this point, but the best way for God to show the love of God is in RELATIONSHIP with people. For example, if I am a good husband to my wife by the power of the Spirit, then Isaiah 54 makes sense "Your maker is your husband, the LORD Almighty is his name." If I have a relationship with you, and demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), you may have a sense of the reality of God's love, and yes, be drawn to confidence in Him. If you blow him off and say that God doesn't exist and I am a deluded dreamer, then his wrath is provoked. Notice that I said provoked. It is not his default condition. He still loves you, but if you die in this condition, you'll never know or appreciate it. Once again the definition "Reflect God's character." God will reflect his holy character in treating a rebel according to his rebellion. But he does not want to do that.
He would far rather be merciful. If you doubt this, check out Isaiah 53-55 with me and see if it is not true. Stop believing your emotions, and believe the truth!