Tag Archives: love of God

Before the Throne of God Above: A Hymn For the Sin-Grieved Soul

Sometimes Christians lose sight of the gospel. I’ve been there. You give yourself over to ruthless self examination and slip into works righteousness thinking that loses sight of hope. You’ve seen that your heart is fickle. One second you worship God and the next you curse men who are made in God’s image (James 3:9). You read Proverbs about fools, and nagging wives, those who are quick to anger, stinginess, pride, and laziness, and you see more of yourself painted than you would like to see. Perhaps you read Matthew 5 and 6 and you’re struck by your own harsh words, love of money, lustful thoughts, or nagging anxieties.

If you lose sight of the cross, then you lose sight of God’s love for you. You think only of His holiness and wrath and start believing He does not want to hear from you. Do you need to grovel? Do you need to be punished? Do you need to just “get right” before you can approach God again? How can He be appeased?

Examining yourself, sorrow over sin, focus on holiness, and a desire to change are all very good things. But to think about these things without remembrance of the gospel, God’s power and promises towards you, your thoughts will not only become burdensome, they will become faithless. The soul in that place, dear friends, whether saved or not, is in desperate need of the gospel of grace. Continue reading

Let Love Be Genuine

Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine.”

Sincerely Loving Others, Even our Enemies

It would be much easier to walk through this world not caring. There is a certain appeal to being a detached, impenetrable person, avoiding hurt and never feeling the pains of others. Loving others can hurt. Many times I have found myself saying “I wish I didn’t care so much.” Continue reading

Can Unbelievers Please God?

There are scriptures that proclaim the love that God has for human beings so lavishly that it almost feels wrong.  Once a person understands what they were in their natural state before God it seems unthinkable that God would set His affection so highly on such fallen creatures.  We will get into these stunning scriptures soon, but first I want to ask:  Who does God delight in?  Who does He take pleasure in? Continue reading

He Has Mercy On Whom He Wills

The doctrine of election is an important truth that greatly helps us to properly understand, humbly accept, and greatly appreciate the love of God displayed in Christ’s death.  The emphasis in scripture has always been that God freely sets His special love and affection on particular people.  I know that I’m stepping on toes.  I’m aware that I’m dwindling down my audience, but scripturally it is impossible to avoid this topic if I’m going to discuss the love of God in depth.  Consider God’s chosen people Israel:

“The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath the he swore to your fathers… (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)” Continue reading

How He Loves Us

1John 3:14 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…”

1John 4:18 “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

The love of God is not primarily manifested in how big your pay cheque is. It is not proven by the blessing of a healthy body, a loving family, or by statements that make you feel good about yourself.  The love of God is on display in the bloody crucifixion of Jesus Christ, more than it has ever been or will ever be in any other action or blessing of God.  If you try to sanitize and make more palpable for sinners the cross of Jesus Christ and its purpose, you will tone down the love of God. His love is beyond human capability or imagination.  Just as the wrath of God could melt this world like wax in ways that we could never contrive, the love of God is so vast and unfathomable that these lyrics are a very accurate estimation of it:

“Could we with ink the ocean fill

And were the skies of parchment made

Were every stalk on earth a quill

And every man a scribe by trade

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry

Nor could the scroll contain the whole

Though stretched from sky to sky.”

I have mentioned before that I believe the love of God has been trivialized, sentimentalized, presumed upon and a whole slew of other things it was never meant to be.  “God loves you” has become a statement almost entirely void of power to the sinners ears, instead of the heart breaking, earth shattering, knee driving, repentance causing statement that it should be.

And why is this?  Why does the love of God no longer make people fear and stand in utter amazement?

The reason is this:  Christ crucified underneath the wrath of God on the behalf of wretched sinners has been downplayed, if not entirely removed from evangelism and congregations, and therefore the love of God has been stripped of its power.  It is the greatest tragedy coming out of churches today.  We think that people will view God as more loving if He just loves and accepts everyone the way they are, and we ignore that God has chosen to reveal His love by His Son satisfying divine justice while dying in pain and agonizing separation from the Father in the sinners’ place.

As much as I have laboured to explain that God is angry with sinners, I now want to express how much He loves them. And I pray, in the light of understanding our trespasses against God, His love would make us stand in awe in a way that it never has before.  Words fall absurdly short, but here is my attempt to share truths about the nature of God’s love for sinners.

He Came Loving Sinners

One might think that God would come to save those who were keeping His rules as closely as possible.  Or maybe He would have a special interest in those who said the longest and most frequent prayers.  Seeing as He is God, and that He is perfectly holy and hates sin, you would not expect Him come and break bread with well known and well despised sinners would you?

The King of Heaven come to earth, should come expecting to be served, shouldn’t He?  If He is God, why hasn’t He set up His throne to rule and reign?  And seeing as He has so much power, shouldn’t He make Himself known to the public, as all powerful, great and mighty, miracle- working God?

Yet this Jesus sat himself at a table with tax collectors and sinners, and answered his sceptics: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  He repeatedly exposed the hypocrisy of the self righteous religious leaders, even going so far as to say “the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you (Matthew 21:31).”  The same God who is so deeply offended by our sins can be found in the pages of scripture offering forgiveness to a woman five times divorced, a prostitute weeping at his feet, a criminal crucified beside him, and a close friend who betrayed and denied Him on the day of his death.

He is a God beyond our comprehension.  How can He be so rightfully angry with us, and yet look at us with compassion?  How does He endure such hostility from our hands and yet bid us come to Him?

Matthew 9:36 “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

John 7:37 “Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink!’”

Philippians 2:6-8 “Though he was in the form of God, (he) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

They expected Messiah to come set up His Kingdom.  They expected Him to rule their enemies with a rod of iron.  But the humble, meek, servant-King Jesus, is absolutely not what they were looking for!  This “self-proclaimed” Son of God, who would dine with the wicked, was to them an abomination.

He Endured with Patience: Hostility, Abuse and Indifference From Men

Does God demand worship, obedience, honour, homage, and holiness from all people everywhere?  Is He always angered by sin and just to punish?  The answer is a definite yes. As mentioned before, people have tried to draw a line between the “God of the Old Testament” and Jesus Christ, but if you do that you destroy Christianity. With God there is “no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17).”

The truth is, throughout the entire Bible God can be seen as incredibly angry and ready to punish, but also as extremely patient with sinners.  Just look at these verses:

Psalm 145:8-9 “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”

Psalm 103:9, 13-14 “He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever…As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.  For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

The book of Romans explains that God patiently endured the sins of people in the Old Testament, at times not bringing immediate punishment upon them, because He was being merciful to them and waiting until the day when He would pour out that wrath on His own Son Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:23-25 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

God has not changed. Jesus Christ perfectly displayed the divine forbearance of God, by physically coming here and enduring such hatred from us.  To this day He is still “patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2Peter 3:9).”

Time and time again He watched people walk away preferring money over him, religious status over him, or even just wanting His miracles and benefits, but not caring about Him.  He is the one who “endure(d)…from sinners such hostility against himself (Hebrew 12:3).”   He kept Himself in the hands of wicked men who dragged Him “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” and yet He “opened not His mouth (Isaiah 53:8).”  We may think, “Oh Lord!    What could you be doing?  Call down fire and destroy your enemies!”  Or like Peter when Jesus told Him of the death that was to come, take the Lord “aside and be(gin) to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord!  This shall never happen to you (Matthew 16:22)!’”

And there should rightly be within us some kind of shock that the Messiah would come to live and die this way.  It is difficult for us to reconcile infinite power and burning wrath, with the silence of Jesus Christ in the face of His mockers and executioners.  In the event of the crucifixion His love and patience towards mankind is on display most painstakingly bright.  They pressed a crown of thorns onto His head, stripped Him and gave Him a purple robe, mocking His Kingship.  Ridiculing Him they “blindfolded him and kept asking him, ‘Prophesy!  Who is it that struck you?’”  They drove nails through His hands and feet, spat in His face and set up a sign “King of the Jews” at His cross, as if to say “What kind of pathetic King is this? Look at Him now.”  “He saved others; He cannot save Himself (Matthew 27:42).”

Should not the ground have caved in on them all and swallowed them into the earth?  But listen to these astonishing words, spoken by Jesus at His arrest:  “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so (Matthew 26:55-56)?”

What is going on here?  You see, the love of God and the crucifixion have become far too common to us!  How can we not be amazed by His coming and by His death, when we rightly understand how Mighty and Holy He is, and how far His creation has fallen from glory?  His willingness to live among sinners and die by their hands should leave us stunned.  “Amazing love, how can it be? That thou my God should die for me!”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWgeUrD4MHI

God’s Deep Love For His Enemies

This may sound absurd to you, but I believe that if you do not understand and accept the wrath of God as truth, then you will not even begin to understand the depths of His love.  It is essential to understand the just anger of God, in order to begin to understand God’s heart for lost people.  I feel very small and very weak to try to explain such profound and complex truths.  Please test everything I say through scripture, and if I falter than toss it aside.

God’s Word reveals that His anger is intensified because of His loving kindness.

 I have noticed that God’s most intensely emotional, personal and angry responses to sin are fuelled in part by His love and strong desire for His chosen people Israel when they sinned.  Look at God’s words to Israel found in Hosea 7:13-16.

“Woe to them, for they have strayed from me!  Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me!  I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me!  They do not cry to me from their heart, but they wail upon their beds, for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me.  Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me.  They return, but not upward; they are like a treacherous bow; their princes shall fall by the sword because of the insolence of their tongue.  This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.”

Do you hear how deeply personal this is?  God is grieved, and cut to the heart because of His chosen people’s sin.  God could have been a distant God, having no love or concern for a sinful people.  He could have remained far off, not bearing with man, not pursuing man, not revealing Himself and calling out to man.  He could have left us to ourselves, and let each of us perish.  But rather there He is in the pages of scripture saying:

“I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.  I said, “Here am I, here am I,” to a nation that was not called by my name.  I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually (Isaiah 65:1-3).”

Just think about it.  If you had no love or care for a person, how deeply would they be able to offend you?  Would you not be much more affected, angered, and hurt if your own Mother or spouse railed against you, calling you names, and dishonouring your wishes, than if a complete stranger sinned against you?  To the extent that you care about a person, to the extent that you have invested in them and value them, you will be grieved by their trespasses against you.

With that in mind, do you think that God’s anger is a sign that He cares nothing for us?  Don’t get me wrong, He would still be angry because of our sins against Him even if He didn’t love for us.  In that case, there would be nothing for us but anger.  But my conclusion is that, based on an abundance of scripture that portrays God as a loving (and yet angry) husband pleading with an adulterous wife to return to Him, God has revealed His anger to us in a way that should help us see that He cares about this world.  He cares even though, on account of our rebellion, He is not obligated to.

Psalm 8:3-4 “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

What an appropriate response to our Great God of Glory.

If we won’t understand what great enemies of God we have been, we will never appreciate or understand God’s love and mercy as we ought to.

 Some people may think I have been harsh to write the way I have, to speak so openly about the wrath and even hatred of God.  People today think it loving to spare others from unpleasant thoughts about Hell, sin, and “that angry God of the Old Testament.”  On account of this, many of today’s Christians have a shallow love, a shallow joy, and a faith that is not sustainable through life’s trials.  We’ve been robbed of understanding the “depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God (Romans 11:33).”

Do you realize that the love of God is so great, so beyond our comprehension that Paul prayed this for believers:  “That he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses understanding.”

Is that how we view the love of God today?  Is it not more often, made a thing that is common, mandatory of God to offer, unsurprising, general, and therefore far from special?  If love is something He owes us, if it is something that we should just expect from Him, then why do we need to be strengthened by God to understand it?

The love of God today is expected, and trivialized because men think they deserve it.  But what does the Word of God say about man’s relationship to God, apart from salvation in Jesus Christ?

We are all originally “alienated (from God) and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds (Colossians 1:21).  We are friends of the world and therefore enemies of God (James 4:4).  We are “dead in trespasses and sins” and follow the “prince of the power of the air” who is Satan, living in the “passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind” and are by nature “children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).”

How do we feel about the true God in Heaven?  We are “gossips, slanderers, haters of God… Romans 1:29-30).”  In our unrighteousness, we “suppress the truth (Romans 1:18)” that we do know about Him.  When told about God’s kindness and patience, in and of ourselves we don’t repent, but rather take it as an excuse and motivator to continue in rebellion.  We “presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead (us) to repentance (Romans 2:4).”

Between us and God is a “dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14)” which only He can abolish.  If a person cannot identify these truths within himself, if he is blind to his own depravity and does not view himself as an enemy of God, than the cross can accomplish nothing for him and has no purpose for his life.   You will have to change your gospel to reach this man, and the gospel you give him cannot save him.  If you impersonalize and abolish the wrath of God and the reign of sin in man’s heart, than you will successfully remove the offense of the cross, and the necessity of Christ’s atoning work, and will create false converts for yourself.

If a person can recognize himself as an enemy of God, deserving nothing short of immediate Hell, than the preaching of the cross will be to Him a beacon of light and a floodgate of mercy.  Jesus Christ will be to him, the most beautiful person he has ever seen.  He will need supernatural strength to comprehend such an undeserved and extreme love.

Ephesians 2:4-8 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him the in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

That He would love us should astound us.

The Love and Just Anger Of God

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Introduction

“The love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable.  The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimentalized…” – D.A Carson in “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.”

In our culture the love of God is often exalted above the Holiness, Justice, and Righteousness of God.  Most Christians are comfortable enough to tell unbelievers that God loves them, but not to tell them that He hates sin.  The love of God has been so emphasized, and diminished to human standards and imaginations, that even many Christians cannot answer questions such as: “How can a loving God send anyone to Hell? “ or “If God is loving why is there so much suffering in the world?”

As much as the “love of God” is preached from pulpits, we lack foundational understanding about what the Biblical love of God truly is.  Not only this, but the lack of preaching God’s equally as great and worthy attributes, gives us an imbalanced view of God’s character and frequently causes men to distort the gospel.  The “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, so simply accept Him into your heart,” gospel, is directly related to men’s feelings that telling people about sin and Hell is unloving.  In his book “If God is Good” Randy Alcorn accurately states “If we imagine it unloving to speak of Hell, we imagine Jesus to be unloving.”

The cross is about love and justice.  When justice is left out of the message, the gospel is incomplete and powerless to save anyone. 

On the other side, there are many Christians who embrace “Reformed” theology, who like me are concerned and at times agitated by the misrepresentation of God as a God of love only, and man as a creature deserving of that love.  When a Christian discovers that popular teachings are erroneous, it is so common and natural to swing as far away from that way of thought as possible, until you end up at the total opposite extreme.  For example, a person irritated by the “sentimentalized” gospel might de-personalize God, making Him seem like a God far-off and hesitant to draw near to sinful people.  Where one man overemphasizes the love of God, he will preach almost exclusively that God is “angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11).”  While one preacher makes it so easy to come to Christ that a sinner needs no sorrow over sin nor willingness to commit their life to Him at all, another preacher overly stresses that the way is so hard and so narrow, you cannot come ‘till you have unceasingly agonized over sin and made certain that this reluctant God is actually letting you into Heaven.

It has been my experience, reading the Bible, that every attribute of God is way beyond human capacity.  He is extreme in every way.  What I mean is this: He is not extremely just and angry, but only a little bit loving and merciful.  Nor does His love overcome Him so much that He lays aside or forgets that He is also extremely just and righteous.  So here is my attempt to think Biblically and preach accurately about the love of God.  To truly do this requires a foundational understanding about the anger and justice of God.

Part 4: How Does Jesus Make Entrance Into His Kingdom Possible?

Matthew 19:23-26 “And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”  But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””

It is common for Christians to make “all things” mean “whatever I want God to do for me.”  What many people miss out on here is a much greater and stunning truth.  With man salvation itself is impossible, and can only be granted as a gift from God. Continue reading

“Still The Atoning Blood Is Near, That Quenched The Wrath Of Hostile Heaven"

I read Ezekiel 16 yesterday.  This must be one of the most heart wrenching and stomach sickening books in the Bible, and yet its end produces such a sense of amazement in me.  Its end makes me want to fall down and worship the God of Heaven and Earth with my face to the ground.  It simply takes your breath away.

Here is the Lord.  Here are His people Israel whom He has loved and chosen not because of anything worthy in them.  Here is why they are chosen: “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)…”  Continue reading

Love Manifested In Dying

“Oh the Deep, Deep Love Of Jesus!  Vast, Unmeasured, Boundless, Free!”

 To look at the love of God poured out through His Son dying on a cross, is an experience beyond human words.  I concur with hymn writer Frederick Lehman who wrote:

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”

The magnificence of God’s love for His own revealed in Christ’s soul-purchasing death, is beyond what our finite minds can even grasp.  I wait for the day when this perishable body will be raised imperishable, “sown in dishonour” and “raised in glory,” sown “a natural body…raised a spiritual body (1Corinthians 15:42-44).”  Then may this dull and tired mind be awakened, and these eyes that see now only “in a mirror dimly” finally see him “face to face (1Corinthians 13:12).” I feel in myself, in my comprehension and in my expression of who I know Christ to be, such a weakness to adequately express how great He is.  In fact, I know that I will fall far short of expressing it, and of knowing it.  This is why I eagerly wait until he appears and “we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is (1John 3:2).”  In light of who he is, and what He has done, I want to express that I fear my affections for Him are not near what they should be!  Maybe you can relate to this part of a poem I wrote one night titled “My Pursuits So Frail, His So Furious.”

Mark me with intensity

That in despair I’d thirst for thee

As if this be my last minute of breath

May I desire Him as though His absence meant death. Continue reading