Love of God

God’s Unstoppable Love (Romans 8:35-39)

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo by Wingchi Poon, under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

God’s love is eternal. God’s love is infinite. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Some days may make us doubt that truth. Have you ever gone through a time in your life where you felt like every imaginable crisis was hitting you at once? Perhaps you felt like screaming at God, “What is going on? Do I have a ‘kick me’ sign on my spirit’s butt? Why don’t you just leave me alone?” Job probably said it with a little more class:

“What is man that You magnify him, And that You are concerned about him, That You examine him every morning And try him every moment? Will You never turn Your gaze away from me, Nor let me alone until I swallow my spittle? Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, So that I am a burden to myself?” (Job 7:17-20).

When life seems out of control, God is still with you. Even when He seems most distant, He walks beside you. Many are going through hard times over the last 19 months as the pandemic has continued and social, economic, and political turmoil has raged.

Even when we experience injustice, the just and righteous God loves us and stands beside us. When we endure hatred or bigotry, God loves us because He is the one who made us. When we experience droughts, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, or other natural disasters, God is only a prayer away, ready to bless, heal, strengthen, and restore us.

The forces of hell cannot overpower us. If you are a disciple of Jesus, “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). God is greater. The political powers of this world cannot overpower the love of God, no matter what they think, secular society demands, or the media proclaim. We should not live in fear of anything or anybody that stands opposed to the love of God.

Even if we think our sins caused our problems (sometimes that is the case), we should not flee away from God. He still loves and forgives us. It is at these times, when life is difficult, that we most need to cling to God. He will not reject us.

Nothing and nobody can separate us from the love of God. Hold on, believe, and trust Him, and He will bless us through our hard times.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

I would like to hear from you. How do you seek God when He seems distant or it looks like He is allowing you to suffer? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, Love of God | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Everlasting Love (Jeremiah 31:3)

“The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

How would you answer if someone asked, “What is the opposite of love?” You might say “hatred.” Some people will call “anger” the opposite of love.

Anger is not the opposite of love. There is something crueler than that: apathy. Love cares; apathy, by its very definition, does not care and could not care less. Love will inspire deep emotion. When we love somebody and see them destroying themselves, we cannot help but get angry. However, if we do not care, we can simply ignore that person. We might try to ignore the strange person we see wandering down the street, obviously stoned or drunk out of his mind, and hope he does not bother us; however, if he is our son, brother, or someone else we care for, we will not be able to look the other way.

Some people think that the idea of “the wrath of God” contradicts the notion of a loving God. If God is love, how can He get angry? The answer is that, because God is love, He does not ignore sin. He will not mindlessly sit on the sidelines and ignore our antics while we destroy our lives, the lives of other people He loves, or the world He created. He is love. He must care. Because He cares, He has to act, and sometimes it hurts.

The prophet Jeremiah served God during a time of national calamity. The northern kingdom of Israel was already in exile, having been overrun by Assyria around 740-733 BC. About 150 years later, Jeremiah watched as the nation of Judah continued to spiral into idolatry and immorality. The people ignored prophetic warnings of divine judgment even after the Babylonian army laid siege to Jerusalem. Jeremiah would see the nation’s leaders dragged into exile as Jerusalem and the rest of Judah were destroyed.

Stained glass window of Jeremiah the prophet at Cologne Cathedral, Germany. Photo by Gmihail at Serbian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 RS https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/rs/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons

It would be easy to think that God had given up on His people. The land looked God-forsaken. The people seemed abandoned by God. Some were ready to give up on God, thinking He had given up on them.

Even in that time of judgment, God still loved His people. Many of Jeremiah’s prophecies urged the people to remain faithful to God wherever He placed them, because He had not given up on them. We often think of judgment as being eternal damnation, but often what looks like divine judgment is divine discipline. God was preparing His people for repentance, renewal, and restoration:

“For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart’” (Jeremiah 29:10-13).

God assured His people that He would bless them again. His discipline was an expression of His love for them. His heart has not changed. He will still work the same way in our lives.

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:7-11).

It is tempting to feel abandoned by God when life seems unfair or painful. However, He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Sometimes, suffering or sorrow is a form of discipline. Instead of asking, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we should ask the following questions:

  • What can I learn from this?
  • What are You trying to teach me?
  • Have I wandered from Your will?
  • How do I get back into Your will?
  • How can I follow You faithfully during this hard time?

God’s love is eternal. It outlasts hardship. It endures beyond pain and suffering. God remains faithful and continues to love us when we may not be sure we can love ourselves. No matter what you are going through or how far you have wandered from His will, He is still just a prayer away.

I would like to hear from you. How do you seek God when He seems distant or it looks like He is allowing you to suffer? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Sin Beyond God’s Grace

“There is no sin, and there can be no sin on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant! Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God. Can there be a sin which could exceed the love of God?” (Fyodor Dostoevsky, quoted in Quotes from Fyodor Dostoyevsky).

“Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”– because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-30, NASB).

Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1821-1881. Image from Ruthyoel, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, a Facebook friend who lives in an Asian country where Christianity is a minority religion asked me this question: Is there any sin God will not forgive? He was asking this from an evangelistic perspective—he had been sharing the Gospel with somebody who raised this question. However, this question is also important to consider from a personal perspective: Can I commit any sin that God will not forgive? My friend’s acquaintaince or friend gave an example like this: Suppose a man had a car accident and hit a child. Instead of staying around to make certain the child got help, he drove away. As a result, the child died. I believe the legal term for this is “vehicular manslaughter,” but since I am not a lawyer, it might be “vehicular homicide” or murder. Can God forgive such a person?

That is a very different question than “Can the parents of the child forgive the person?” Humans see certain actions and attitudes that we find repugnant. We might call them unforgivable. What we are saying, though, is that we are unable—or perhaps unwilling—to forgive such people. I have addressed this subject in more detail previously.

Scripture is filled with case of people whom Jesus forgave even though others might consider their sins unforgivable:

  • Saul of Tarsus persecuted Christians and was even complicit in the execution of some of them (Acts 7:58-8:1; 9:1-3; 22:1-5; 26:9-12). See this article for a thorough discussion of Saul’s persecution of believers. He was violent and, even though he may not have directly murdered anybody, was an accessory to murder. Nevertheless, Jesus forgave him; we know Saul as St. Paul the apostle, who wrote about one-half of the books in the New Testament.
  • Two men were crucified alongside Jesus. Both are described in the Gospels as “robbers,” and the Roman authorities deemed their crime unforgivable. Both mocked Jesus early into their ordeal (Mark 15:32), but eventually one of them had a change of heart. Jesus forgave him (Luke 23:40-42); He promised that criminal, who perhaps a few minutes earlier may have ridiculed Him, that he would be with Him in paradise.
  • Jesus forgave women who committed adultery.
  • He forgave tax collectors, who usually earned their income by extorting extra money from taxpayers.
  • He forgave others who had willfully and knowingly sinned against the revealed will of God.

Have you committed murder? Have you committed robbery? Have you mocked God or Jesus? Have you committed adultery? Have you used a position of influence as an opportunity to take advantage of others? Have you willingly committed any other sin, knowing that what you were doing was wrong? If so, your sins are forgivable.

Do you know others who have committed these sins? Can you think of people who committed these sins against you? If so, Jesus says these sins are forgivable, whether you like it or not.

Scripture tells us that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2) and that God wishes that none should perish, but that all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). His forgiveness is available to all who will repent and turn to Him by faith, no matter how horrible the sin seems to us.

Photo by form PxHere

What if we repent, ask Jesus into our hearts, and then stumble back into that sin? Suppose the guy who killed a child in a car accident does it again? What if the recovered alcoholic slips and goes on a drinking binge after years of sobriety? What if the adulterer or adulteress stumbles into another immoral relationship? God knows your heart. He knows if you are sincerely repentant and have just fallen back into old habits, or if you are just playing church with no change of heart. Repentance is a change of attitude about sin. It comes from a Greek word, metanoia, which means “change of mind.” When we repent, we turn from a life of sin to a life of following (or, at least, trying to follow) God. Sometimes, we make mistakes even after we repent. Some people repeat really bad sins over and over until they finally repent, ask for forgiveness, and receive salvation. God knows our hearts, and He knows if we have sincerely repented, even if we are continuing to mess up at times.

So, if you are sharing the Gospel and someone asks you if God will really forgive a particular sin, the answer is always “yes.” God wishes for none to perish and for all to come to repentance, no matter how horribly they have sinned in the past.

In your own life: Do not fear that you have committed some unpardonable sin that God will never forgive. You should not go looking for clever new ways to sin so that you can test God’s mercy, but if you do sin, return to Jesus in repentance.

Some readers may wonder about the “unpardonable sin” of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is why I included Mark 3:28-30 above. Perhaps you wonder if you have committed it. As I mentioned in the previous post about “unforgivable” sins, there is some debate about what this sin entails. However, one thing seems clear from Scripture: If you are worried or concerned about a particular sin, you have not gone too far. The Holy Spirit is still dealing with you. God has not given up on you. You should not give up on yourself, either. If you have committed this unpardonable sin, you would not know or care about it.

No matter how you have sinned, come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and a second (or third, or twenty-third, or four-hundred-ninetieth) chance. If someone has hurt you, remember: They are not beyond God’s reach, and He may still forgive them. If someone has committed sins that seem horrendous, bring them to Jesus: He is ready and willing to forgive them and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

No matter what: Come to Jesus, and invite others to come to Him too.

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Is Love, God Is Light. III. Walking in the Light

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo by form PxHere

As mentioned in the last two posts, the Bible uses the term “God is” before several attributes. While “God is love” is an important one to remember, the Word of God also says things like “God is holy,” “God is perfect,” “our God is a consuming fire,” and “God is light.” All are aspects of His nature. None tells the complete story. However, the apostle John links love, life, and light as interconnected divine qualities. He writes that Christians must walk in the light.

We walk in the light by walking in love:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

If our lifestyle manifests hatred or self-centeredness—if we are not seeking “the best interests of another person regardless of reward to oneself”—we are not walking in love, nor are we walking in the light. According to John, this means we do not have “fellowship with Him” (or “a personal relationship with Jesus,” to use the popular modern evangelical teaching).

We also walk in the light by being honest with ourselves and God. Immediately after introducing the idea of walking in the light, John wrote:

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

Image created with the YouVersion Bible app.

If we say that we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar. We commit blasphemy, insulting the Lord. Elsewhere Scripture says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us fail sometimes. Even worse, sometimes it is not really failure. We intentionally did something that violated God’s will and succeeded in rebellion. We need forgiveness. We must acknowledge our need for forgiveness.

Many Christians accept the idea of “confessing that you are a sinner.” I still have not found that taught in the Bible. The Bible frequently urges us to confess our sins (the ones we have actually committed), not the abstract notion that we are sinners. If we want to walk in the light of God’s love, we have to be honest: We have to acknowledge to Him how we have failed to live up to His word and will. Twelve-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous urge their members to take a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves and then “admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Whether we make this confession to a pastor (as in some traditional churches) or to a trusted mature brother or sister in Christ who will protect our secrets, this is a powerful step in finding deliverance, experiencing the power of forgiveness, and walking in the light. To walk in the light, we need to identify and dispel the darkness.

Walking in the light keeps us in fellowship with other believers. If we are walking in God’s light, we are walking in love. We are connected to the Body of Christ, sharing our victories and defeats, joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses, so that we may grow in faith, love, and light.

Let us walk in love. Let us walk in the light as He is in the light. Light, love, and life are essential qualities of God, and He is eager to impart them into our lives if we are willing to receive them.

I would like to hear from you. What are some ways you can walk in the light? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

God Is Love, God Is Light. II. Creation and Christ

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo by Porfirio Domingues, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The previous post introduced some of the thoughts of William Law (1686-1761), a British theologian who shared some interesting insights into the idea that “God is Light.” While many modern Christians emphasize the idea that “God is love,” Scripture identifies several other divine attributes: God is light, God is holy, our God is a consuming fire, etc.

Light plays a significant role in the Word of God. According to Genesis, God created light before anything else:

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).

Law has an interesting perspective on this verse:

“When God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light,’ no change happened to eternal light itself, nor did any light then begin to be. But the darkness of this world then only began to receive a power or operation of the eternal light upon it, which it had not before; or eternity then began to open some resemblance of its own glory in the dark elements and shadows of time. And thus it is that I assert the priority and glory of light, and put all darkness under its feet as impossible to be anything else but its footstool” (William Law, The Spirit of Love).

From the moment that God said “Let there be light,” creation manifested His glory.

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalms 19:1).

Image created with the YouVersion Bible app.

Many of the divine attributes are associated with light. John’s Gospel begins by drawing a connection between light and life. The interconnectedness of light, life, and love permeates John’s writings.

“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5).

Throughout his Gospel and letters, John frequently associates light with love, life, and goodness. Likewise, he ties darkness to evil, sin, suffering, and death. When he told his readers that they should “walk in the light as He Himself is in the light,” he was calling them and us to live in a way that radiates God’s glory, as the sun declares the glory of God by beaming its life-giving rays upon our planet.

The next post in this series will offer some thoughts about how we can walk in the light.

I would like to hear from you. What do you think the Bible means when it says that “God is light”? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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