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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Why Should God Love You?

In response to Good Morning God, someone posed this query:
Would we know only his favor? I mean with all I have done in my life, I still find it hard to believe that all will be overlooked and forgiven (my doubts creeping in again). I know that in Christ I am forgiven, yet I will continue to sin. As I learn about Christ I find more sin that I was unaware of. How can he look at us with favor?

I constantly catch myself now doing/saying things that I immediately have to ask forgiveness for...Wouldn't my level of commitment to God have to be equal to his commitment to me in order to have this covenant? If that's the case I'm in big trouble...
Great question, right on the money: if this is the case, you and I both are in really big trouble. Fortunately, however, this is not the case, and now I'll try to explain why.

Here's the key to everything: we must understand why God loves us in the first place.

Consider redemptive history, the types of people God has chosen:
  • Why did God select Israel in the first place? "It is not because of your righteousness..." - (he says this 3 times in these verses!) - "...because from the day you came out of Egypt you have been a rebellious people" (Deut 9:4-7)
  • What about Israel in the days before the exile? She is repeatedly called a whore, and yet God refuses to abandon her! (cf. Is 1; Ez 16, esp. vs 61,62; Hosea)
  • What about Jonah in the middle of the Mediterranean? What's his attitude towards God? Rebellion! (Jonah 1)
  • What about Peter, on the eve of his crucifixion? Faithless! (Luke 22:54+)
  • What about Paul, on the road to Damascus? Persecutor of God's people! (Acts 9)
Ever single one of these are examples - not of people who are weak, but of people who are outright opposed to what God is doing. They were not inclined towards him at all!

Romans expands the scope, and describes ALL OF US as enemies of God - "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." (Rom 5:10)

So why did God love them? Why does he love ANY of us?

It's NOT because we are friendly towards him - indeed, the consistent testimony of Scripture throughout is that we are not at ALL friendly towards him. In fact, we are not even neutral. We are his enemies!

Nevertheless, he still chooses to love us. And if God did not love you because of anything you did (or anything in you), he will not stop loving you because of anything you do either.

God loves you because of something entirely outside yourself - he loves you because of Christ. This is no blanket love for humanity in general (sorry Mumcat) - this is a love that is focused exclusively on those who are "in Christ" through faith in HIS work, not our own.

Ephesian 1 and 2 is particularly helpful in this regard. As you read this passage, notice how many times the "in Christ" language shows up. And notice what Paul says in 1:3-5 - God has blessed us in Christ, just as he loved us in Christ and also chose us in Christ.

To be completely blunt - the reason why God will never stop loving you has everything to with Christ, and has nothing to do with you. Unless of course, you refuse to love Christ. God loves those who heed Christ's gospel message to repent and believe in him, to trust in his work rather than their own.

This is why Paul can say in Rom 8:31-39: "I am convinced that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ."

Gospel faith does not merely call you to believe in Christ so that you can get your slate wiped clean and now the rest is up to you. Gospel faith is continually resting in Christ every minute of every day - never looking to yourself for something to commend yourself to God; always reminding yourself that the only thing that can ever commend you to God is Christ! And he has already done everything that needs to be done!

This is trendously liberating, and Martin Luther got it! (I'd encourage you to pick up a copy of his little book "On Christian Liberty"; I've found it very helpful).

So where does this leave us in regard to sin? You see, if God's love for us is unalterable, then wouldn't that mean that sin doesn't matter? The answer is "NO!" (cf. Rom 6), and here's a (very) brief explanation of why.

You see, God really does hate sin, even in Christians (this is why Paul's epistles are filled with commands not to engage in behavior that God says is sinful!). When we obey, he is pleased (cf. 1 Jo 3:22); likewise when we disobey (sin) he is neither honored nor happy. But what about his love for us then?

What we have to realize here is that it is very easy to make a category mistake - to start thinking of God's love as if it were human love. For humans, love and favor often go hand in hand - you do what I want, I will love you and bless you; you cross me the wrong way and I will withhold my love and punish you. But that's not how God deals with us.

God deals with us, like a father with his children (cf. Gal 4, Rom 8) - his love for us is constant (because it is grounded in the person and work of Christ); but when we sin, we experience his displeasure and discipline (Heb 12:5-11).

So we really can please/displease God, but that never ever alters his love for us. Indeed, its precisely BECAUSE he loves us that he does care about our sin - he is not content to leave us in our filth.

That's a very long answer to your question, but a question that good deserves a thorough answer - and I hope I've helped in that regard. Thanks so much, for sharing your struggles with us all...


At 12:18 AM, March 21, 2005, Blogger Molly said...

I'm also reminded of how Paul addresses the Christians in Corinth. They were some of the most messed-up Christians you could imagine -- Paul spends most of his two epistles reaming them out!

And yet, he opens his letter to them by affirming that they have been called to be sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. Paul thanks God for them because of the grace given to them in Christ Jesus -- they are enriched in him in all speech and knowledge. They are not lacking any spiritual gift. God will sustain them to the end -- guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He concludes his introduction: "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor 1:9).

Again, it's not about us and our infidelity, but it's about God and his faithfulness. And thank God!


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