We read scriptures such as Romans 5:8, John 3:16, John 15:9, and many more, and intellectually we know that God loves us. But personally? Heart and soul? We’re not so sure.
We struggle to believe that…
The greatest reason that people who know Christ and want to know Him more struggle
to accept His love is that we know ourselves too well – we know our sin, and we’re ashamed. The greatest reason that people who don’t know Christ and are living in sin don’t struggle is because they still love that sin, they value it, and they want to believe they don’t have to change. They’ve mistaken God’s love for his affection and acceptance. And there’s a difference.
God loves everyone deeply. There’s not one soul in the world that can escape His love.
However, not every soul in the world is in a position to receive that love, affection, and acceptance.
Consider the prodigal son: when he was away from his father, his father still loved him, prayed for him, waited and watched for him. But the son was far away – he could not receive that love. Yet, when he reached his breaking point, he immediately knew that his father loved him and he could go to his father to receive it. So he did. And it was beautiful.
So the question is, what is keeping us away from experiencing God’s love?
Romans 3:23 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Sin is the only thing that interferes with us experiencing God’s love in our lives.
Before we get saved our condition is life-dominating, habitual sin. This is when you willfully continue to sin. 1 John 3:6 says that when we do this, we reveal that we not only don’t know God now, but we have never known Him. We may want to be right with God, but only on our terms; so we give up some sin that’s hurting and hold on to the things that make us feel good. But anything less than complete surrender is worthless. And so we miss out, trying
to convince ourselves that God’s love outweighs His justice. But it doesn’t. He cannot forfeit
one to become the other – they go hand in hand.
God is just AND loving. We see this when we look at the cross. If there were any other way
for us to enter heaven, don’t you think He would have found it? But there wasn’t. And God, being bound to His word, had to punish our sins through the shedding of innocent blood,
so He sacrificed his Lamb. The price was paid. Justice. The guilty was set free. Love.
There is nothing quite so blasphemous as dismissing Jesus as the only way to God.
His “way” was the only bloody, violent way – to an extreme we can’t even fully understand. Don’t you dare lump him in to the ones who say you only have to have your good outweigh
you bad. Don’t you think God would have let us do it on our own if we could? Don’t you think God would have spared his Son if He could? But there was no other way. So why? Love.
Romans 5:8 - but God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
There’s a reason that brokenness is the prerequisite for salvation. We must come to the end
of ourselves – recognizing that we are powerless to earn God’s love or acceptance. Everything we’ve tried has failed. It’s time to give up and just accept it.
When we surrender our lives to Christ, it’s for the same reason any other kind of surrender
takes place: we finally realize we can’t win. It’s time to stop fighting. Just accept defeat.
But in this case, defeat is pretty awesome.
However, as we begin to walk with Jesus, it’s easy for us to slip back into old patterns
of thought when it comes to God’s love. We’re so used to performing to be accepted and loved that we can begin to do that in our relationship with God as well. We expect God to be like other people – fathers, grandfathers, husbands, or really any relationships we’ve had.
But He’s not, because He’s not tainted by sin. He’s greater than any of those relationships
could ever be; whether those relationships have been bad or good, they still don’t come
close to how God feels about you and how He acts towards you.
His love is sure. It is greater than we can imagine. There is nothing He won’t do for you.
He is compassionate. He is merciful and patient. He is involved in every part of your life.
He wants to provide for you. He wants to bless you. He wants you to be happy, healthy,
and safe, and He’ll stop at nothing to ensure that you are.
Want to know more about what God’s love looks like? Study His word! It contains so many promises and assurances for us. But we must receive them.
The closer we get to God, the more we see our sin. There are times when others remind us
of our past sin. Sometimes we can’t seem to stop thinking about our past, who we’ve been
or what we’ve done. And then there’s how we respond when we fall flat on our faces.
Our response to these circumstances is crucial and this is where we fall into the trap
of believing that God doesn’t love us. When we begin to see and think about our sin,
whether it was something we just repented of or if it was something that we dealt with
years ago, it’s an opportunity for us to believe God or believe how we feel.
The problem with this lie is that we’ve decided it’s true because of how we feel.
We don’t feel God’s love, so we don’t think it’s there. And often, the reason we don’t feel it is because we’ve gotten into ourselves and begun to dwell on the past, to dwell on our failures, and feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve started down the road to depression. But we can’t look
at Jesus and ourselves at the same time. It’s time to start believing what is true, not what feels true.
When I’m tempted to say “God couldn’t love me after…” I can choose to remember Romans 8:1, which tells me that when I have repented of my sin, God has forgiven me and I am loved and accepted by Him. I can choose to remember Psalm 103 which tells me that God has removed my sin from me. I can choose truth over emotion. And then I can begin to experience peace, and I can find freedom instead of guilt and bondage.
When I feel disconnected, when I’m having an “off” day, and everything’s going wrong that can, I can choose to doubt God. I can choose to question His goodness and love because I don’t understand. Or I can choose to believe the truth; God’s love for me doesn’t change. He is on my side; and if God is on my side, who can be against me?
When I struggle with guilt from a sin I’ve forsaken but am still reaping the consequences of,
I can remember than the painful consequences of my choices are only the discipline and correction necessary to be free in the future. I can remember that God disciplines us because
of his love for us. Even if I don’t feel the affection of His love in the discipline, I know that after the correction, I will, because His love did not disappear in the correction; it just took on a different role.
And ultimately, when I’m tempted to think that my failure is too big, and that God will never
be able to love me because of the choices I’ve made and the person I’ve become, I can choose
to remember Romans 5:8. The beauty of the cross is not that I deserved it, but that I didn’t.
And the same is true today. The beauty of God’s love for me is that I don’t deserve it.
God’s love is based on Him, not me. That means there is absolutely nothing in this world
that can increase or decrease His love for me. I already have it! I just need to accept it.
Have you noticed a theme yet? The biggest obstacle in us experiencing God’s love is us!
Our pride! Our self-pity! Our determination to earn it, our demand to feel it, and our doubt
if we don’t.
When I can humble myself enough to stop trying to earn, feel, and make God’s love about me, then I can receive it; and then I can respond to it! The only proper, right, and true response
to God’s love is found in Romans 12:
Romans 12:1-2 - Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true
and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve
what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will.
When we are confident and secure in God’s love for us, then we can freely love Him
in return. We begin to walk in obedience, not becasue we’re trying to earn his love, but because we have his love! The weight and pressure has been removed. Now we can enjoy the love.
When you struggle to identify God’s love in your life, remember that the cross of Christ is the ultimate example of God’s love for you. If He never did anything else to prove it, that’s enough. Bring it back to the cross; remove yourself from the equation. Remember this
is about God and His unchanging love for you. It’s not about you. It’s all about Him.
It’s time to act! Remember. Choose. Believe. Seek out the promises and assurances throughout the Word of God and make them personal. Write your name in. Dwell on that truth and believe it. Make a list of all the ways God has shown His love for you. Write these things down.
Carry a notebook with you, or write it in your phone. But do it – do it every day. Make it
a priority. You’ll never regret choosing to focus on God’s love for you.
God loves you now. He loves you still. He loves you after. He loves you personally. He likes you.
Points to remember:
In a word: passionate.