Needful Truths for
Children of Light
On that ominous day in the garden of Eden the serpent presented himself
as an innocently curious questioner. But each question was crafted to
strike an imperceptive yet deadly blow at the trustworthiness of God.
In just a few moments, with just a few questions, he convinced Eve to
see God as unworthy. The next thing she did was predictable. In fact, it
was so predictable the serpent had designed his entire battle plan
around it. In response to her new-found distrust of God, Eve chose to
depart from God’s way of love and go her own way of
day, the devil has done the same with every one of us. Because he knows
selfishness is our first and foremost response when we think God is
untrustworthy, he works hard at convincing us God is unworthy of our
trust. And convince us he does. We have all chosen to depart from
God’s way of love to go our own way of self-interest because
have presumed God to be untrustworthy.
truth. Distrust of God in any amount or to any degree is the primary
driver behind our unwillingness to love Him supremely. It is the
driving force behind our self-centeredness. It is our excuse for our
love affair with sin.
God confronted this
lie about His character, and He continues to confront it. His costliest
effort in confronting this lie was when He sent His only son, Jesus, to
the cross to take our place in paying the penalty for our sin. His most
prolonged effort is found in His patient waiting while we decide if we
want to repent of our sin, trust in Him, and be reconciled to Him. Like
the father longingly waited for the prodigal son to come home, God
longingly waits for us to repent and return to Him so the broken
relationship between us can be restored. He passionately desires to be
loved by us, and He wants to share a mutually loving relationship with
However, many still
question - indeed out and out doubt God's love for them. To them,
God’s love is mostly a theory, a theological construct, a
teaching about God which came from God – and
they’re not so
sure they can believe it completely. In fact, their view of their life
experience seems to offer enough contradictions to the ‘God
love’ theology that they’re not even sure they want
believe it completely, or even at all. So what can we do to see if
God’s love is enough to subdue our heart, capture our mind,
give us reason enough to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and
strength? We can take a look at how God loves.
The Bible says God
is love. When it says that God is love, it does not mean that His
nature or essence is love. If God, by His nature was love, He could do
nothing but love us. His love would never be an act of His
for it would be involuntary. He would be like an animal unable to do
anything other than what His inborn love instinct drives Him to do. In
other words, He would have no control or choice over whether He loved
us or not.
Such involuntary behavior
would never be mistaken for love for long by anyone who knew Him
intimately. For you see, love is only love when it is an act of the
will – when it is a free, cheerfully intentional choice on
part of the lover to seek the good of the one being loved. And love is
only love when it has within its fabric a deeply felt desire for
relationship so that it does all that love can do to make shared
relationships of love and trust possible with whomever possible.
type deeds done from a sense of obligation, or from a feeling of duty,
or for the hope of reward, or in an effort to appease, or out of fear
of retribution can never satisfy the receiver’s longing to be
loved. They may make him feel good for a while, but in time the loveless
motivation behind the deeds will strip the deeds of their ability to
satisfy. Why? Because the most loving deeds done from a motive other
than love can never be anything other than the fruit of selfishness.
And, the selfishness of others can never satisfy our fervent desire to
So, what will satisfy
our deep longing to be loved? Being loved by someone who of his own
free-will wants to love us because we are precious to him. It is only
when the one who loves us is free to not love us yet does love us
because he values us enough to care about us that we feel loved,
important, wanted, cherished, or adored.
It is the freedom to not
love which gives believability to love when someone adores us enough to
love us. Therefore, true love, the kind that convinces us we are loved,
the kind that can make relationships everything they are intended to
be, must come from an act of the will. It must be voluntary. It must be
freely given. And, it must have the power and liberty to do otherwise.
same principle is true for
the love which God has for us. We have no rational reason to believe
God really loves us unless He has a choice in the matter. And He does.
He has the power and the freedom to not love us. And it is His power
and freedom to not love which makes His love for us so real –
especially given all the reasons we give Him to not love us.
Therefore, we know God
loves us because He has of His own free-will chosen to love us. He
voluntarily and cheerfully (as opposed to grudgingly and of necessity)
seeks our good in all things. And the fact that He cherishes and adores
us is validated by His tender pursuit of a mutual relationship with us
– a relationship where we each voluntarily and cheerfully
the other’s good.
Therefore, when the Bible says
God is love, it means He wants to love us enough to make a voluntary
choice and a deliberate decision to promote and protect our good in
everything He does which in any way affects us. Now because He is God,
He loves perfectly. His love is so pure, so consistent, so faithful, so
comprehensive, and so complete that it seems as if He can do nothing
but love – and yet His love is a choice.
When the Bible says God is
love, it means He is so committed to the principle of love that He
would not, under any circumstances, do anything other than what is
loving. No one need convince Him of the irrationality and
irresponsibility of doing anything other than what is best for everyone
affected in any way by everything He says and does. He is convinced
already. He is so convinced about the value of love and so committed to
the practice of love that He won’t do anything other than
When the Bible says God is
love, it means He is, by His own choosing, supremely devoted to seeking
and securing the good of all. No one is loved more than another, and no
one is loved less. His devotion to the well-being of everyone is so
great that He will never do anything for anyone which in the doing
harms someone else.
We see the truth of this
in the fact that God sustains life for the sinner and righteous person
alike, for the scripture says that God makes the sun shine and rain
fall on the sinner and righteous person alike. God turns the planted
seed into a plant to be harvested for the sinner and the righteous
person alike. God makes the body rejuvenate and heal itself for the
sinner and the righteous person alike. God empowers the mind with the
ability to reason and think for the sinner and righteous person alike.
God is good to all because He loves us all.
It would seem, though,
that He loves those who love Him more than He loves those who
don’t. But think for a minute. Doesn’t the
say the same thing about his parent’s treatment of his
brothers and sisters? Is it that his parents love him less and the
other children more? No! The rebellious child seems to be loved less
because he cannot be trusted with the same privileges and benefits his
parents bestow on the other children. If they are good parents, their
hearts will be breaking over not being able to bestow those same
privileges and benefits on the rebellious child. But they hold back
because he will abuse the privileges and misuse the benefits to his own
hurt and the harm of others.
Good parents love each of
their children even though they do differently for the rebellious child
as compared to what they do for the other children. But are they really
doing differently? No! They are doing the same for all their children.
They are seeking the good of each child with loving consideration for
how their treatment of each child will affect the good of the others.
The same holds true in God’s dealings with us.
But the Bible says:
“And we know that God works in everything to bring good out
everything for those who love Him and live according to His
will.” Doesn’t this prove favoritism? Once again,
is no. God wants to do this for all, but only those who through faith
in Him patiently wait for Him to work things out for their good are
able to receive this gracious gift from God.
Let me explain. When life
isn’t going the way we think it should or when trials and
tribulation come our way, some of us stop believing God works all
things out for good, and in so doing, we take matters into our own
hands and do what we think best to improve our life, secure our
well-being, or get relief from the troubles of the day.
However, when we take
matters into our own hands, we inevitably step outside the boundaries
of godliness and love into territory where the only available options
are selfish options and the only solutions are sinful solutions. And
though these options and solutions may seem inviting for the moment, in
the end they create more problems than the ones we are trying to solve.
Thus, what appears to the selfish, fearful, or despairing eye to be a
good option or solution is really a temporary fix loaded with more
problems for ourselves and others.
consistently experience God
bringing good out of bad circumstances, we must trust Him, remain
within His boundaries of godliness whatever the circumstances or cost,
and patiently wait for Him to do whatever has to be done to bring about
good. If we will trust, obey, and remain patient, He will work out a
solution with no immediate or future problems that can harm us or
anyone else affected by the solution. (Note: Romans 8:28)
There is an additional
truth here that must be addressed. God’s love for you is
expressed in any way which unjustly or unnecessarily harms you or
anyone effected by His love for you, and that includes unbelievers.
Therefore, it may sometimes seem like sin is winning and God is
losing. It may sometimes seem like sinners are getting the advantages
while Christians are suffering loss. It may even seem, sometimes, that
God stands aside while evil people force undue pain, suffering, and
even death on His children. However, God always seeks the good of all
who are affected in any way by everything He does.
What appears as
God’s failure to protect the righteous from the sinful ways
sinners is really God being patient with those who are selfishly
sinful. And who hasn’t been selfishly sinful? Who
God been patient with?
patient because He wants
to give ample opportunity to every sinner to come to repentance. He
wants every sinner to voluntarily turn from selfishness and sin to a
life devoted to love and godliness so that He does not have to banish
them. He does not want to send anyone to hell. Think about it this way
– when our life on earth comes to an end the opportunity for
repentance comes to an end. Because this is the only life-time any of
us has to repent, God holds back on His judgment during this life in an
effort to give each of us the greatest possible opportunity to repent
and be saved from eternal damnation. (Note: II Peter 3:9)
As long as God graciously
gives sinners time to repent there will be unnecessary suffering and
destruction in the world. If you are a Christian, remember that He gave
you time to repent. While He waited, you continued to be self-centered.
You continued to practice sin at the expense and to the hurt of others.
You can be certain they did not want to endure any unnecessary
suffering and pain just so you could have time to come to your senses
and repent. Yet they did, and God allowed it for your sake.
If God were to act quickly
in protecting others from the effects of your self-centeredness, He
would have to end your life once you began knowingly doing what you
knew was wrong. Patient waiting would not be an option if God were to
stop your sinfulness after your first or second, or even your tenth or
twentieth sin. Ending your life would be His only reasonable solution.
Yet if He had ended your life, He would also have ended your
opportunity to repent. I am sure you are thankful He didn’t
that, for if He had you would be spending eternity in hell.
The patience God had with
you He has with others. And though you may not have thought about this
in this way, it is probable you are thankful for His patience because
it gave you time to come to repentance and saving faith in Jesus
Christ. Admittedly, it seems harder to appreciate God’s
with others when it means unnecessary suffering and pain for you. Yet
even God endured some or even much suffering as a result of your sin
while He patiently waited for you to repent. Therefore, He is only
asking you to do for others what He has done for you – and in
this way, love as you have been loved.
If you will love God and
others in this way, you will see the unnecessary suffering and
destruction caused by unrepentant sinners in a different light. It
won’t make the unjust suffering inflicted on you enjoyable,
it will promote gratitude in you that God is extending the same grace
to them that He extended to you.
the Bible says God is
love, it does not mean that He can be moved to give us whatever we
want. To do that would be like spoiling a child. Spoiling children by
giving them whatever they want creates self-centered monsters. They
don’t get better because they get what they want –
worse. The more they get, the more they want. The more their demands
are satisfied, the more self-centered they become until
treat whomever in whatever kind or cruel ways they must to get more of
what they want. The same is true for adults.
God loves us, and
that is an undisputable fact. His love is devoted to seeking our good.
It is also devoted to seeking the good of everyone affected by what He
gives us and how we use what He gives us. He wants to bless us with
every good thing, but He won’t spoil us. He won’t
self-centeredness. He will not give us what we want if what we want
impedes our progress in sanctification and growth toward spiritual
maturity. Therefore, God gives us what we need. He gives us those
things which have the greatest potential of bringing us to godly
maturity while at the same time satisfying our physical needs.
When the Bible says God
is love and that He loves sinners, it does not mean that He is
approving or tolerant of their sinful behavior. God abhors all sin, all
selfishness, all pride. These evils needlessly destroy people and
relationships. They are the cause of all the suffering in our world,
and whatever immediate benefits come from such evils, they always
leave suffering victims in their wake. His love, especially the
patience part of His love, should never be confused with tolerance. God
never approves of sin.
When the Bible says God is
love and that He loves sinners, it does not mean that He delights in
them or feels endeared to them while they are in their sinful
condition. He wants them to repent. He longs to share in a relationship
with them. And though He blesses sinners with a stable world, four
seasons, ground that receives seed and produces food, and many other
needful things, don’t ever think He delights in anyone who is
intentionally or perpetually harming others for the sake of personal
gain. Don’t ever think God feels endeared to someone who
willfully rebels against Him and selfishly hurts those He loves. These
are not endearing behaviors. They are offensive behaviors. They are
alienating behaviors. They stir God’s wrath and drive His
discipline or punishment. Therefore, though it remains true that God
loves sinners, He does not delight in them or feel endeared to them
when they are deliberately continuing on in their sin.
When the Bible says
God is love, it means He has done everything He can reasonably do to
gain our confidence and our trust. In love, He has revealed Himself to
us through nature, the Bible, and in Jesus. In love, He died for our
sins in order to free us from the penalty, power, and practice of sin
so we can live forever in a love relationship with Him and all who
love as He loves. In love, He becomes our provider and protector so
that we are able to safely make the pursuit of His kingdom and His
righteousness our primary pursuit. In love, He disciplines us when we
sin and thwarts our selfish/sinful efforts in order to bring us to our
senses in hopes we will repent and pursue true love. In love, He will
ultimately banish the unrepentant sinners (to hell) in order to protect
those who have repented and are living as He created them to live (new
heavens and new earth).
When God commands
us to love Him supremely, He is not acting as an insecure ruler who
seeks to satisfy his need for acceptance. He is not acting as an
egotist who must be adored to feel good about himself. He is acting as
a loving father who knows we need to love Him supremely in order to
live life to the fullest, that is, a righteous life free from all sin.
When He asks us to obey Him, He is not acting as a demanding boss who
is only happy when he is in control. He is acting as a loving father
who knows His ways are the only path to a life filled with true joy,
lasting security, genuine pleasure, loving relationships, and every
other good thing. When He asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves, He
is not trying to benefit them at our expense. He is trying to protect
the good of all mankind, including us. When He disciplines us, He is
not acting as an angry God who wants to punish us for disobedience. He
is acting as a loving father who wants to steer us in the right
direction for our own good and the good of everyone affected by what we
God always has our
best interests in mind. He is always seeking and working for our good.
This is why He is not to be feared, but revered and loved. The Bible
says there is no fear in love because perfect love removes all fear. We
never have to fear that God will do anything less than what is best for
us no matter how He feels about what we are doing. We never have to
fear that God will stop wanting relationship with us even when we are
driving Him away or running from Him by our behavior. We never have to
fear being too bad, undesirable, or beyond God’s love,
there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over
ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Therefore, if we
have sinned or have been living in sin, we have only to repent and
place our faith in God to immediately find out just how much He loves
us and wants us to love Him.
God is love. Those
who know Him have been captured by His love. They have come to see that
God’s love is perfect, pure, trustworthy – in fact
could ever hope love to be. Their day-to-day experiences convince them
God loves them. When they look back over time, they see how safe they
have been in God’s love so that they confidently trust Him
whatever lies ahead.
Do you see how reasonable,
just, and complete God’s love is? Do you see how safe you are
His love? Contemplate God's love and let His love capture your heart.