The Love of God: Bigger Than A Second-Hand Emotion
One of the most remarkable things that has ever been said is that the God who made the universe loves us. To better understand the weightiness of this, we have to understand the meaning of love. Love as we understand it is typically associated with feelings that come and go. One pop song tells us that love is a sweet, old-fashioned notion and a second-hand emotion. But the biblical picture of love is much more breathtaking than this. When Jesus says that God so loved us, what does he mean?
Love Means Covenant
The anchor of covenant travels through the pages of Scripture. God makes a covenant with Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, and ultimately with all who have faith in Jesus. The essence of his covenant is, “I will be your God, and also the God of your children, and you will be my people.” Here, we are promised his steady presence, his enduring kindness, his relentless commitment never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). In the same way that a bride and groom covenant to be faithful to one another in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, for better or for worse, so God covenants himself to us.
Being in covenant with God means that once we become his children, we cannot un-become his children. In other words, we are safe with him. He will not reject us. On our best days and our worst days, he will remain loyal to us. This is a unique truth about Christianity. God will continue to accept us, even when we fail him repeatedly. He will not push the eject button on us when we fall short of the mark. We are never on eggshells with him because the God who forgives is the God who stays. This cannot be said of our work. If we fail at our work it won’t forgive us…we’ll be fired. It cannot be said of our investments. If we predict the market wrong, they will not forgive us…we’ll be in the poorhouse. Ultimately, it cannot be said about people either. While some are more prone to forgive than others, if we fail people badly enough, there’s no guarantee they’ll give us a new start…trust may be permanently broken. But Jesus! Jesus is the God who stays with us, seventy times seven and then some.
Love Means Intent to Restore
Though God invites us to come to him as we are, this is not an invitation to stay as we are. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we are his “workmanship” (literally his “poem”), created in Christ Jesus for good works. When God created human beings, he created us in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. In the beginning, male and female together reflected his likeness as his “very good” crown of creation (Genesis 1:26-27). But when we sought independence from him, our very-goodness was marred like the defacing of a magnificent piece of art. Ever since, we have not been what God intends for us to be. But God, being the Redeemer of all that is broken, intends to restore the whole universe back to its original glory and beauty (Romans 8:18-25). This especially includes people, who are his joy and his crown. Scripture promises that when God is finished restoring us, we will be like Jesus, with a character that is perfect, completely free from all transgression and corruption.
J.I. Packer says that to truly love someone is to make them great. It is to look at the caterpillar and envision the butterfly, and be committed to come alongside the caterpillar to help it along toward becoming the butterfly. This is God’s intention toward us.
As God’s image-bearers, we are carriers of this restoration impulse. We are motivated to mend that which is broken, enhance that which is dull, beautify that which is unsightly. Mechanics restore cars, contractors restore houses, physicians restore bodies, ministers restore souls, and so on. We love the feel and look of a nice haircut, a newly-hemmed pair of pants, or a restored piece of wood. We enjoy making new things out of what has decayed through time and the aging process. This is nothing less than a reflection of the image of God in us.
Love Means Enjoyment
Did you know that God doesn’t merely love you through Jesus, but that he also likes you? He is very fond of you. If you are his child, he takes great delight in you and rejoices over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). He calls you his beloved, and wants you to think of him in the same way. Does this blow your mind? If not, don’t you think that it should?
We all want to be enjoyed, don’t we? Students light up when they get a paper back and the teacher’s comments say, “Great job! A+!” Athletes come alive when the crowd cheers in appreciation for their performance. Employees feel larger than life when the boss rewards their hard work with a promotion or a bonus. Children are always crying out to their parents, “Watch me!” because they want to be praised, adored, approved of, and enjoyed. A bride blushes when she walks down the aisle with all eyes gazing at her in all of her loveliness. We want to be cherished, and guess what? God cherishes us! This is part of what he means when he says that he loves us.
My dear friend and long time “big brother” Scotty Smith tells the story of a wedding he once officiated, in which the groom, upon seeing his lovely bride at the back of the sanctuary, left Scotty’s side and ran to her! The groom was so taken by his bride’s beauty, that he could not bear to be separated from her for even another second. He happily made a “fool” of himself in front of a full room of family, friends, and other guests. The Father in heaven, who wants us to call him “Abba” (an Aramaic word meaning “Papa”), the Son who calls us his bride, and the Spirit who pours out the love of God in our hearts, loves us in a similar way. If you don’t believe it, just read Luke 15 and remind yourself that you are the lost sheep and he is the Shepherd rejoicing at the sight of you. You are the lost coin that is found and he is the woman who celebrates after recovering her wealth. You are the lost son and he is the father who throws a “welcome home!” party in your honor. You are the resentful son and he is the father who reminds you that all he has is yours and invites you into the party.
So, will you go in to the party? His love awaits.
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