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God is Love - Part 2

God is love

by Dennis Pollock

In a previous study we looked at the love of God, and that mystery which perplexes nearly all of us at times. It is the dilemma which is summed up in the words, “If God really loves me, then why did He allow…” or sometimes, “If God loves me, then why does He delay so long…” We saw that God is looking at our long range development more than temporary happiness or pleasure. For this reason, He sometimes allows us to go through painful or difficult situations, and does not immediately “come running” when we call on Him for deliverance. We want to look a little further at the love of God in this devotional, and consider one of the key attributes which make up the essence of His love for us.

That God loves us cannot be questioned, if you believe the Bible. The Scriptures affirm His love again and again. This love is for all His children, but it is also for those who are not His children, or not yet His children. After all, it was Jesus Himself who declared, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” And John writes: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God” (1 John 4:16).

Although the manifestations of the love of God vary immensely from person to person and from situation to situation, behind all the various expressions of our Creator’s great sympathy and compassion for His creation is a desire for their good. Put simply, God wants the best for us – the very best for all of us in every situation and every circumstance. This is true whether you are a beggar in some isolated village in India or a Wall Street broker, whether you transplant hearts for a living or install mufflers, whether you eat chapatti for breakfast or bacon and eggs, or bean sprouts. God is an equal opportunity lover of men and women. And that is great news for every one of us!

God Wants Good for You!

When your Creator looks upon you, with all your warts, flaws, blemishes, and idiosyncrasies, He wants the very best for you. One of the most popular verses of the Old Testament is found in Jeremiah, and says, “For I know the thoughts (or plans) that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). We love the idea of God thinking and planning a great and happy future for us. No matter how tough our present is, no matter how many tears we have shed in our past, if at least we can hope that God is planning something wonderful for us in the days to come, we can be at peace. And, of course, the best reason for us to hope that He is indeed planning good things for us, is if we believe that He truly wants good things for us. God being God, it is reasonable to expect that He gets what He wants, so if He wants us to have joy and happiness in our future, it should not be unreasonable to expect that this is precisely what we shall have. There are some qualifiers to this thought, however, and we’ll look at those in a little bit.

First let us consider the sinner. The term sinner is not used much by pastors these days, trying hard not to step on people’s toes or hurt their tender sensibilities. But whatever the label: “those who have not yet crossed the line of faith,” or the uninformed, or simply those who do not believe, there is clear Biblical evidence that these folks are indeed loved by God. And His desire for them, His one overwhelming desire is that they might be saved. The Bible tells us that God “would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And Peter writes that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all might come to repentance.” Despite the cold declarations of the hyper-Calvinists, and their not-too-subtle inferences that God actually wants many of the lost to stay lost, we do not see this in the Scriptures. Rather than a cold, unfeeling, uncaring God, predestining and pre-determining that over half His creation should perish and suffer in hell, instead we discover a compassionate Creator who actually wants people to find Christ and be saved. He sends rain on the just and on the unjust to reveal to them His kindness and goodness, and woo them to Himself through His Son Jesus. He feeds birds, sinners, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, thieves, and atheists, and provides them with homes, friends, and pleasant experiences in this life, that they might look up and know His goodness and repent, believe on Jesus, and be saved. The Bible tells us, “He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).

Many don’t repent, of course – in fact according to Jesus most will not. The path to destruction is vastly wider and considerably more well-traveled than the path to eternal life. And here lies one of life’s great mysteries. Apparently our Creator, who is all powerful and knows all things, does not always get what He wants. He wants all to be saved, but not all are saved. He wants none to perish but many do perish. Jesus tells us, “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish,” but sometimes little ones grow up to become big sinners and do perish. This is not a surprise to God; there is no such thing as a surprise to Him who knows the end from the beginning, but still it is not His desire. In Ezekiel God declares, “As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” (Ezekiel 33:11).

"His Compassions Fail Not"

Love involves feelings. Anyone who says he loves, but has no feelings, no inward stirrings of compassion, no tender sympathies toward the professed object of his love, is surely deceiving himself. But for love to truly be love, it must go beyond feelings. It must desire and aggressively work for the good of another. Our Creator is a caring and compassionate God who feels deeply for His created beings. Jeremiah wrote: “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Love gives all it can give, does all it can do, spends all it can afford for the good of the beloved.

Since God is the essence of love and the greatest example and demonstration of love in the universe, we must believe that this is precisely the case in His dealings with men and women. This means that, toward the unbelievers, God is doing all that He wisely can to bring them to the knowledge of Himself and His Son Jesus Christ. If there were one more thing God could do to ensure that one more man, woman, or child could find salvation in Jesus, He would surely do it. Still, God is wise and God is holy, and He will never compromise His wisdom or His holiness in His efforts to draw human beings to Himself.

In order to understand love tempered by wisdom, let’s consider a father with an unruly, rebellious teenage son. The son grows tired of following his dad’s restrictions and rules about his behavior, his bedtime, and his dress. Finally, in a display of anger and resentment he announces to his father that he is leaving home. He will make his own way in the world, and live without his father’s rules and demands. At the age of sixteen, having virtually no skills, no work history, an unpleasant personality, and being terribly disorganized, this decision is almost certainly a disaster in the making. The father knows this full well. Foreseeing the inevitable pain that this foolish action will bring to the boy, he attempts to persuade his son to stay home, wait a few more years, and gain some maturity before trying such a thing. But the son is adamant and insists that he cannot abide the rules of the home any longer.

rebellious sonThe father is faced with a dilemma. There is one way he knows he could keep his son at home. He could suspend all the rules, and let his son do precisely as he pleases. No more curfew, no more insistence upon doing his homework, no more demands upon proper behavior. The boy can sleep as late as he pleases, skip school whenever he likes, take drugs at home, hold wild parties at the house, and do whatever else his selfish, rebellious heart desires. By begging and pleading with his son, and promising him that all attempts at discipline will forevermore be ended, he probably could persuade his son to stay home.

But the father never seriously considers this. Even though this might save his son some pain and struggles short-term, in the end it would surely have the effect of bringing far more pain and ruin upon him than if he allowed him to go his way and face the harsh reality of life on his own. Wanting the ultimate best for his son, he tells him he is making a mistake, and sadly watches him walk down the road. Wisdom has limited all that this father could do for his son. In his love for him he powerfully wishes he could spare him all pain. But his wisdom guides his compassion, and there is no begging and pleading, and no dismissal of the rules which the boy so passionately seeks to escape. Some might see the father’s action, or rather lack of action, as harsh and unfeeling, but in truth it involves love guided by wisdom, which is the best love of all. And this is the love which our Father in heaven is constantly exercising toward all His creation, saints and sinners. He is moving and working, arranging circumstances, ordering events in our lives, fulfilling dreams, delaying dreams, denying dreams, and pouring out blessings and struggles in love toward one and all, but His love is always unbreakably bound up with His wisdom. To put it on a personal level, He is doing every good thing He wisely can for your benefit, given your situation, your prayer life, and your needs. If He could do one more thing for you, He surely would do it.

Doing Our Part

Of course we have a say in the degree to which God can bless us and express His love toward us. In some cases, it is as simple as a little more prayer which could make a huge difference in our lives and increase the fulfillment of more of our desires. The Bible tells us, “Ask and you shall receive,” and conversely, “You have not because you ask not.” In other cases, our lack of diligence and hard work holds us back. “The hand of the diligent make rich.” It is hardly fair for us to go through life working barely enough to get by, living sloppy, disorganized lives, and loving comfort way too much, and then complain that God doesn’t seem to bless us the way that others are blessed. It is not a lack of love on God’s part but a lack of effort on ours.

To truly attain to all that God desires and has for us, we must recognize that our Creator has determined that His richest blessings will all be channeled through His Son Jesus Christ. It is true that sinners and saints alike can enjoy happy days, good friends, wonderful meals, good health (sometimes), and laughter. You don’t have to be born again to experience the goodness and love of God. But it is only through Jesus that we discover the greatest blessings: a relationship with God as our Father, the peace resulting from having our sins forgiven, the Holy Spirit living inside us, teaching, comforting, encouraging, empowering, and sustaining us, and the knowledge that we shall live forever.

Through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, we can walk with God all our days. We can be delivered from the fear of death and find triumph in life on our good days and on our bad ones, when the warm sun shines on our paths or when we face the cold winds of adversity and affliction. And in Jesus we discover the fullest expression of the love of God. John writes: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

 


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