HOPE IN TIMES OF DARKNESS

According to the dictionary, hope is describing as “a wish to get or do something or for something to happen or be true, especially something that seems possible or likely.” This is hope from the world’s perspective. The world sees hope as a wish or a desire. Hope, for the world, is a longing for something that may or may not take place.

The Bible teaches us a vastly different definition of hope. Jeremiah 17:7 says, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” While the world says that hope is merely a fond wish or desire, the words used for hope in the Bible teach us that hope is a deep settled confidence that God will keep His promises.

We all have battles, but do we have biblical hope? Are we resting in the sure confidence that God will do just as He has promised He would? That is the essence of hope and hope is a possession we all need to have in the midst of our battles.

OUR CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD PROVIDES HOPE

Declare personal faith in the Lord.

GOD IS OUR LIGHT

As light, God delivers His people from darkness – Colossians 1:13 says, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”. As light God guides our steps.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.” (Psalm 37:23)

“Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

GOD IS OUR STRENGTH

As strength God delivers His people from defeat – 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17)

Light and strength of God serve to give us hope even in the midst of battle! Because of Who our God is, we need not fear any enemy or anything that should arise against us. Satan himself is no match for our sovereign God!

GOD NEVER CHANGES

In the Psalms David often declares that his present hope in the Lord rests upon that which the Lord has done for him in the past. God did not fail him then, and He will not fail His child today.

That same confidence is ours today! The God we serve is unchangeable and he is the same God with the same power that He has always been. He has never, and He will never change. Because He has been faithful in the past, we can count on His being faithful now.

“For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” (Malachi 3:6)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Think of all the things He has done; the victories He has won; the enemies He has vanquished; the mountains He has moved; the victories He has won. Think on these things and remember that the God who performed countless wonders in the past is still that same God today! Think about all of the challenges in your own life God helped you to overcome. That should give His people hope!

COMMITMENT TO GOD PROVIDES HOPE

Not only does living with our faith give us hope; but also living faithful to the Lord provides a measure of hope that cannot otherwise exist.

BE COMMITTED TO LINGERING NEAR GOD
We should have a yarning to spend our entire lives in the house of the Lord. It should be a want to be in that place where the Lord dwells and where the Lord’s presence is real. In Psalm 84:1-4, David envies the little birds that make their nests around the tabernacle. They can be near the house of God all the time, while David cannot. He has a desire to be where God is; to be in that place where God is worshiped and honoured. That is his heartbeat.

That ought to be our desire as well. We need that same passion to be where the Lord is honoured and where He is worshiped. Of course, we have the church but there ought to be a desire to find that place of closeness and intimacy with the Lord. We can have that place where we can linger in His presence all the days of our lives.

If there is a genuine desire to be near Him, it will manifest itself in clear action. There will be a commitment to prayer and to the study of the Word of God. There will be a commitment to public and private worship. Those who want to linger near the Lord will find a way. And, when we make a move toward Him, He will make a move toward us.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)

BE COMMITTED TO LOVING GOD

We cannot only be committed to being where the Lord is but should also be committed to worshiping the Lord. This should be the goal of every believer. If we are going to worship the Lord, we are going to have to do it His way. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) As we yield to the Spirit of God and worship God for who He is as He is revealed in the Word of God, we will be engaged in the business of loving Him.

BE COMMITTED TO LEANING ON THE LORD

There should be a desire to call upon the Lord, to commune with God, and to make requests of God. By declaring out utter dependence upon the Lord for the necessities of life, it becomes another image of worship. We need to look beyond our own abilities and see the limitless provisions of the Lord. We need nothing more than to be able to call upon the Lord
We have a limitless resource been given in prayer! We are invited to pray.

“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and [a]mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

We are promised that God will hear and answer our prayers.

“It shall come to pass, That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24)

“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you [a]ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24)

Therefore, let us also learn to lean upon Him. Instead of worry and fear, let us learn to turn to the Lord. He will see to our needs.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7; 19)

He will never fail us nor will He ever turn us away empty-handed.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

Our commitment to Him provides hope in the day of our battles. As we Linger near Him; Love on Him and Lean on Him, we can have the absolute confidence that He will see to our needs and to the things that would cause us to worry.

OUR COMFORT IN GOD PROVIDES HOPE

In Psalm 27:5 David said, “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.” A king’s pavilion was a tent that erected in the middle of the army’s encampment. The tent was then surrounded by an army of brave soldiers. With all the host of the army camped about, the king’s pavilion was the safest place on the battlefield. Those who were fortunate enough to be allowed to enter the king’s pavilion were protected by the soldiers and entertained by the king during the battle.

As the battles of life rage about us, we are safely tucked away in our King’s pavilion. The Bible tells us that “your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3) Those who have entered His pavilion are protected by Him and, even while the battles rage around them, they are entertained with the peace and joy of the King Himself. This is promise to those who will abide in that close place. No enemy can penetrate the defences and enter this private place. It is protected from the enemy!

The assurance of His sheltering place allows us to weather the storms of life with hope. This was what allowed David to face Goliath. This was the confidence that kept Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. This was the assurance that gripped the heart of Daniel. This was the knowledge that allowed Paul to continue, even when he suffered greatly.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-11)

The Holy of Holies was a place where the very presence of God dwelt and the glory of God could be seen. It was there that God took David during the battles of his life. It was there David found himself shut up with God and shut off from the world around him.

It is amazing that there is a place of solitude in a world filled with people. There is a place that you and I can flee to during the crushing battles that rage about us. A place that affords us quiet, peace and the profound presence of God. Those who have learned to abide in Him have been to that place and know the glory of it. It is a place where the enemy dares not follow. It is a place reserved for those who love the Lord their God. Have you ever been to that place? That place where God meets with you and you alone. That place where all else falls away and you are left with Him and Him alone? That is the place He invites those who abide to enter.

Stephen was in that place at the moment of his death. (Acts 7:55-56) Paul was in that place during his life. 2 Corinthians 12:1-4; Acts 27:23) It is possible for us to enter that sacred, secret place where the world dims away and God becomes larger than everything else.

David had the assurance that even when life threatens to overflow him, the Lord will set him on a rock, a place that is unchangeable, powerful and immovable. Of course, this Rock he refers to is none other than the Lord Himself.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps.” (Psalm 40:1-2)

The rock referred to is a rock that juts far above the battles going on at its feet. It allows those who ride its heights to rise far above the tumult beneath.

This is the gift to all those who know Him! We are promised that we have a place of refuge that will lift us far above the stormy seas that would threaten to drown us. Like the eagle, who takes refuge above the storm until it has passed; those who abide in Him are given grace that bears them higher than the storms and keeps them safe until danger has passed. Those who wish to rise above there circumstances are given wings to do so!

“But those who wait on the Lord, Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

The believer is required to do nothing but be in a close relationship to the Lord. These things are done by the Lord for His child.

David says that he will worship the Lord; he will praise the Lord; because of the things the Lord has done for him. Because the Lord has lifted him above the battles; because the Lord has hidden him away in the secret place; because the Lord sheltered him away from the terrors of the battles; he will praise His name.

“And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.” (Psalm 27:6)

When hope has turned to reality in our lives; when the Lord has come through for us again and delivered us from the enemy; we should be quick to praise Him and offer to Him the worship and adoration He deserves. When He brings us through our battles, He will put us in a special place from which we can exalt His lovely Name.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

Are you fighting some battles today? Of course, you are! But, in the midst of your battles, do you have hope? Do you have the deep settled confidence that everything is going to be alright? If you do praise the Lord, for He has already brought to that special place of blessing from which you can offer praise to His name.

But, if you lack that hope, it can be obtained. How? You can do this by reaffirming your confidence in the Lord; by renewing your commitment to the Lord; and by resting in your Comfort in the Lord. Do you need to talk to Him about your battles and about your hope? If you do, do not postpone and keep on praying.

(Main source: The Sermon Notebook)

UNDERSTANDING THE LOVE OF GOD – PART 6

As we have now reached the end of our 6 part series, there is only one other issue that needed to be addressed to bring the subject of the love of God to some kind of completion. HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO GOD’S LOVE?

LOVE YOUR ENEMY AND THOSE OF THE WORLD, THE SAME WAY IN WHICH GOD LOVES THEM

It is a critical issue, and it is the issue of response. We went deep and high and far and wide in our discussion of God’s love. And now as we got our arms as wide as we could get them and we were finally left in silence, unable to unscrew the unscrutable, the question left is how do we respond to that love? What is required of us? What is the appropriate response to being so greatly loved by God as He loves us? The answer is very, very clear in Scripture. Our response is to manifest that same love to others. How God has loved us is exactly how we are to love.

In Ephesians chapter 5 Paul says at the beginning, “Therefore be imitators of God and walk in love.”

This duty and the implication of God’s love is so crystal clear in Matthew 5. Verse 43, “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” Now Jesus is simply saying common knowledge. In other words, they were not a lot unlike our society today, they wanted to give room for hate. It was even religious to hate people who gave you trouble. “But I say to you, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” Why? Verse 45, “In order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Why? He loves His enemies.

The question is, does God love the world? Yes. Does He love those who hate Him? Yes. He loves His enemies and it is on that premise that we are commanded to love our enemies. We are to love the ungodly just like God loves the ungodly. And how does He love them? Through common grace, verse 45, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” There is a love which demonstrates itself commonly to everybody regardless of their spiritual condition or whether they are God’s own beloved or not. If you love, verse 46 says, those who love you, what reward have you?

Verse 47, “If you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? How different is that? Everybody does that, even the pagans do the same.” You need to love as God loves and He says it this way in verse 48, “You’re to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Nothing more demonstrates the perfection of God then the fact that He loves those who hate Him. Matthew 5:48 is in the context of loving people who hate you.

We are to reproduce the same kind of love. And that starts with loving the ungodly the way God loves them. It manifests itself in common grace or goodness, kindness and secondly in compassion, pity, tender-heartedness, sympathy. Thirdly in warning about judgment and hell. Fourthly, calling them to repentance or giving them an invitation to believe the gospel. That is how we are to love, just the way God loves His enemies. That is to demonstrate, as verse 45 says, that we are the sons of our Father who is in heaven.

We started the first proposition in this series with God’s love to the world, which is unlimited in extent. That is, He loves the world, John 3:16. Titus 3:4 speaks of His love for mankind. It is demonstrated in common grace, compassion, warnings and a gospel call. It was His love for the world that motivated Him to send His Son to be the Savior of the world, as Scripture calls Him.

We are to love them with kindness. That is why Galatians 6:10 says do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith, but do good to all men. Or 1 Corinthians 16:14 , “Let all that you do be done in love.” Help to make the sun shine on them a little bit, bring a little joy into their life, treat them with courtesy and tenderness.

However, like the Lord, our tenderness cannot mitigate against a warning. We are to say to them that God has commanded all men everywhere to repent, and He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world by that man whom He has ordained, whom He raised from the dead, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And then as Mark 16:15 says we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. We are to reproduce His love in the world with kindness and compassion and warnings and invitations to believe.

A DEEP LOVE FOR OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
The second great proposition we said was that God’s love to the world is limited in degree. God does not love the world the way He loves His own. He loves the world in a temporary and a limited way. He does not love them like He loves the elect who He has designed to save. It says in John 13:1, He loves His own unto perfection. To the end, to the limit, forever. To them His love is forgiving, generous, merciful, gracious, inseparable, unbreakable, unconquerable, unwavering, unfading, sanctifying, cleansing, purifying, nourishing, cherishing love. And that’s how we’re to love them. That is how we are to love our true brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

In John 13 in that upper room the night of Jesus’ betrayal, He demonstrated His love and an example of how the disciples were to love by washing their feet. It was a custom to have the most menial slave available to do the foot washing because it was the dirtiest and lowest task on the responsibility chart. But Jesus who was King of Kings and Lord of Lords stooped and did it. And He said, “If I then the Lord, the master, the teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet for I have given you an example that you should do as I did to you. Truly, truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, neither is one who has sent greater than the one who sent him.”

Then down in verse 34, “A new commandment I give you that you love one another even as I have loved you that you also love one another.” There is that lavish, unselfish, humble, sacrificial bowing of the knee to do the dirty task that benefits a brother or a sister. It is a love, as 1 John 3:16 and 17 says, it is a love that opens up our feelings of compassion toward one another. We are to love other believers to perfection. We have a love for the world but it is not to the extent that we love the brotherhood.

1 John chapter 4. John is writing here to believers calling them to this kind of love. Verse 17, “By this love is perfected with us.” John is not writing about some small component of love or some lesser degree of love, he is writing about perfect love so that we can be like our Father.

That’s John’s theme in verses 7 to 21. It starts in verse 7, “Beloved, let us love one another.” Yes we learn from Matthew 5 that we are to love our enemies, we are to love the world, with common grace, compassion, judgment and warnings and gospel invitations, but we are also to love the brotherhood. But here he emphasizes we are the beloved. We are to demonstrate the perfect love that will make us the perfect children of our perfect heavenly Father.

Then there are six reasons why we are to obey and they do overlap. In fact, if you read the epistle of John you have the feeling you are going in circles. But you will see that there are six reasons why the believer manifests self-sacrificing love that is like his Father’s love to him.

LOVE IS THE ESSENCE OF GOD

Reason number one, because love is the essence of God. If we are going to say we are the children of God as Ephesians 5 puts it, then we better walk in love because that’s the character of God. Verse 7, “Let us love one another for love is from God.” We who are God’s children will reproduce His nature.

So back to verse 7, “Love one another for love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God and the one who doesn’t love, doesn’t know God for God is love.” God’s people bear His reflection. Everyone who habitually loves gives evidence of being born of God. Their life and their love is derived from Him.

There were people in the assembly to which John wrote this epistle, who were being influenced by mystical teaching that later became known as Gnosticism. That mystical teaching said that we’ve elevated ourselves to the higher planes of human consciousness in which we have come to know God. And they looked down on humble Christians, demeaning, denigrating them. And to them John writes these words, “The one who goes around saying he knows God but does not demonstrate love for the brothers is not one who knows God because God is love and whoever is born of God and knows God, loves like God loves.”

You look at that little phrase at the end of verse 8, “God is love,” and as we have been going through the series somebody might say, “I question that. Look at the world around us.” You say history has this long tale of man’s inhumanity to man, history is one long massacre. Spain had its Inquisition, Britain its Atlantic Slave Trade, Germany had its gas chambers, Russia its Siberian labor camps, United States its own abuses. The world is still swept by fear and lust and greed and it seems to me escalating racial tension and hatred. Nature too seems as twisted if not more twisted in our time than ever. Babies are born depraved. They inherent diseases and tendencies toward all kinds of trouble. Ours is a world of preying animals, parasites, viruses, deadly bacteria. And when you read the Bible you certainly don’t read about Utopia. You open your Bible and you find tyranny, cruelty, mutilation, people having their eyes gouged out, their hands lopped off. God opens the ground and swallows them up. And the Bible is full of the stories of deceit and licentiousness and wickedness and immorality and homosexuality and war. And not only war but war that God starts. And Assyria, one of the most pagan, wretched, ungodly, cruel nations in the history of the world is called “the rod of God’s anger.” And then you read God is love?

We must realize that we are children and we are self-conceited, stiff-necked rebels who will get everything wrong unless we are willing to give up telling God what He has to do and what He has to be like.
This puts us right back where we were in part 5 in Romans 9 and we hear Paul say, “Who are you, O man, to answer God, close your mouth.” God is love because it says He is. But His love is never unmixed or untouched by His other attributes. God is love in spite of how it might look. He puts it on display through His children.

LOVE WAS MANIFEST BY CHRIST

Secondly, we are to have perfect love for one another because love was manifest by Christ. Look at verse 9, “By this the love of God was manifest to us, or in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him in this is love not that we love God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” We are supposed to manifest godlike love.

The origin of love is in the nature of God, the manifestation of love is in the coming of Christ. We are to love one another because we see the essence of that love manifest in Jesus Christ.

Jesus gives us the classic, the all-time, the perfect, the glorious illustration of what loving one another means when He gave His life. We are to love by sacrifice. John says if you see somebody in need and you close up your compassion, how in the world can we say the love of God dwells in you, where is the sacrifice?

Jesus Christ came and appeased an angry and a hostile God, a holy God sitting in heaven who was angry with the sinners every day. Jesus appeased His anger with His sacrifice and God wanted it that way because He sent Him. God bears a just and holy wrath against sin. God has a holy antagonism against evil and iniquity. And so He had to send His own Son to die on a cross to satisfy His own anger, to satisfy His own vengeance.

Now remember, it is not Bethlehem that was the preeminent manifestation of God’s love. It is Calvary and the atonement that is the preeminent manifestation of God’s love. No one who has ever been to the cross and seen God’s love displayed can go back to a life of selfishness. God was so unselfish that He sent His own Son. And he showed us how to love, not just by washing feet which was humble, but by giving our lives.

OUR LOVE IS OUR TESTIMONY

Thirdly, we are to love because it is our testimony. Look at verse 12, “No one has beheld God at any time.” The point that John is making here is not very subtle but it is pretty clear. What he is saying is nobody has seen God. Exodus 33 says nobody could see God and live. So how is anybody going to know about Him if they cannot see Him? God is going to reveal Himself to the world, to put Himself on display and He wants people to bow. John 4 says the Father seeks true worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. He wants men to see Him, know Him, fall down before Him, honour Him, glorify Him and praise Him. But John says nobody has seen Him. How they going to know Him?

Verse 12, “If we love one another God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” If we love one another they’ll see God and that is our testimony. God puts Himself on display through the love of His people. And then all of those queries about whether God is really a God of love … they all just wash away in the flood of Christian love. It is not an earthly love.

No man sees God at any time. Well the pure in heart shall see the Lord in the future. But for now, if we love one another then God is in us making Himself visible through this perfect, limitless love, loving believers the way God loves them, lavishly, generously, graciously, forgivingly, cleansingly.

LOVE IS OUR ASSURANCE

Lots of people wonder whether they are saved and they worry about whether they’ll go to heaven if they die. Now look at verse 13, “By this we know we abide in Him and He in us.”

How do you know God is in you and you in Him? “Because He has given us His Spirit.” The indwelling Spirit, Paul says, is the down payment, the guarantee, the engagement ring, the promise of an eternal glorious future. Follow this one, verse 14, “And…here’s another way we know we’re Christians…we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”

We also know that we are Christians because we understand the gospel. And then he adds to that verse 15, “And we know that whosoever confesses Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God.” But all that is preliminary to the real issue in verse 16, “And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.”

That takes us to the ultimate. How do you know you have the Holy Spirit? By the fruit of the Spirit of which the first one is love. The reality of the fact that you are a believer is when you see the flow of God’s love in your life. The Holy Spirit, Romans 5:5, has shed abroad the love of God in us.

Do you love to be with Christians? Does your heart rejoice when somebody becomes a believer? Do you care when believers suffer? Do you feel their pain? Do you have any inclination to pray and to intercede on behalf of any other believers? Those are evidences of love. Do you want to help somebody who is confused about truth? Do you have some kind of desire in your heart to show somebody a straighter path in their Christian walk? That is love.

If you’re wandering around wondering whether you’re a Christian, don’t go back and say, “Well I must be, I remember the day I signed the card. I remember the day I stuck the hand in the air, walked the aisle, stood up, genuflected,” or whatever you did.” But until you see the fruit, you really don’t have anything tangible. You can take God at His word, absolutely, but not without the affirmation of the evidence.

OUR CONFIDENCE IN JUDGEMENT

Love is also our confidence in judgment. Look at verse 17, “By this love is perfected with us that we may have confidence in the day of judgment.”

When your life is characterized by love and you’re manifesting love everywhere, you’re going to have confidence in the day of judgment. Verse 18 says, “There’s no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear.” It is the fear of judgment because fear involves punishment, and if you are living in fear that Jesus might come or fear that you might face the Lord, there is something wrong in your life and what’s wrong is you’re not manifesting love because if you were manifesting perfect love you wouldn’t have any fear.

Our love might still not be the love as it should be and it is certainly not perfected yet and that is why we have those little breaches in our confidence, but it can be perfect in the sense of mature. Love is our confidence in judgment, it casts out all the fear. And we know as back in verse 2:28 it says we’re not going to be ashamed when He appears.

There’s a little phrase in there that is interesting at the end of verse 17, “As He is so also are we in this world.” What does that mean? Well, Jesus in this world pleased God and God said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is God’s beloved Son in whom He is well pleased, and so are we. We please Him when His love is manifest through us and we can share the very confidence of Christ who looked at the cross and saw the joy, said, “Pass the cross,” cause He knew He pleased His Father.

LOVE IS REASONABLE

Love is reasonable. That is the only thing that makes any kind of sense. This is really kind of a review. Verse 19, “We love because He first loved us.” Does that sound reasonable? It’s just the most obvious thing to do. We love others because He loved us. And if someone says, verse 20, “I love God and hates his brother, he’s a liar, for the one who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen can’t love God whom he’s not seen. And this commandment we have from him that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” It’s just reasonable, it’s just normal, it’s just logical.

If you’ve learned to love the invisible God, the visible man is easy. Every claim to love God is a delusion if is not accompanied by unselfish perfect love for others.

OUR LOVE FOR JESUS CHRIST – THE SON OF GOD

There is one other aspect of God’s love we have to copy and it is this. Most supremely beyond God’s love for sinners which is limited, beyond God’s love for saints which is unlimited, God loves His Son. He said it over and over in the gospels. Jesus knew He was loved. In John 15:9, “Just as the Father has loved Me I have also loved you. Would you please abide in that love? Would you do the same?” John 17 verse 24, “Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am in order that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me, for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world.” Verse 26, “The love where with Thou didst love Me.”
That’s why on the cross it was so horrendous when He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

We must love the Son as God loves the Son, supremely. Loving the Lord Jesus Christ is everything. He is to be the object of our affection. It is He for whom we make the constant sacrifice joyfully.

Ephesians ends with these words, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.” Is that love an emotion? No, here is how it works. John 14:15, “If you love Me you will obey My commandments.” Verse 21, “He who has My commandments and obeys them, he it is who loves Me.” Verse 23, “If anyone loves Me he will obey My Word.”

“Peter, or Jonas, do you love Me?” Yes, Lord, You know I love You. “Then feed My sheep.”
So we love the world with goodness, compassion, warning and gospel calls. We love believers with lavish, generous, sanctifying, purifying, forgiving love. And we love Christ with obedient love. And when we do that we are responding in the only appropriate manner to the love of God for us.

Thanks to all who joined us through this journey and above all, thanks to God who revealed the truths about His love to us.

UNDERSTANDING THE LOVE OF GOD – PART 5

In Part 5 we are focussing on the ninth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, as we are almost at a point where we could conclude our series on the love of God.

Many people think because God loves the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son to be the Savior, God must love every person in the world with the same kind of love and to the same degree and with the same purpose in mind. That is not the case, as Scripture makes very clear.

We have already learned that God’s love to the world is unlimited in extent. He loves them enough to be good to them. That is common grace. He loves them enough to feel pity and compassion over them. He loves them enough to warn them about sin and its consequences. And He loves them enough that the gospel should be preached to all of them. Therefore, in that sense, God’s love is unlimited in its extent and it does reach the whole world.

But secondly we learned that God’s love to the world is limited in degree. He loves them all but not to the degree that He loves His own. His love for His own is merciful, gracious and forgiving. It is inseparable, unbreakable, unchangeable, and unfading. It is that kind, sanctifying, purging, purifying love that leads to godliness. It is that limitless love for only and known only by those who belong to Him by faith.

Thirdly, God’s love to the world is qualified by the demands of His glory. It is not qualified by the demands of people, not by the demands of human reason but by the demands of God’s own personal glory. God defines that love consistently with all of His other attributes. We have to realize that because God loves does not mean that He is obligated to an unqualified love of all people equally. He is not a prisoner of that love. Or worse, He is not a prisoner of man’s assumptions about that love or man’s wishes about that love or man’s desires for that love. Nowhere in Scripture will we find that God is an unqualified lover of all people equally. God does not love, in a way that makes love unmixed, untouched, unmingled or unaffected by, for example, wrath, judgment, justice, holiness, righteousness.

That is what we are looking at as we come to Romans chapter 9. Obviously if you have read the book of Romans, you know that by the time you have completed chapter 8 you have completed the greatest treatise on salvation ever penned. It is all about God loving sinners and saving them through Jesus Christ, as well as the wonderful realities of justification and sanctification. It is all about repentance and faith, about being a depraved sinner and dying and rising again in union with Jesus Christ to newness of life. Salvation, of course, is all built on the premise of God’s love for sinners.

But when you come to chapter 9 you are introduced to a most important issue with regard to God’s saving love. It is about how God’s saving love mingles itself with all other of God’s attributes, which must be considered in line with God’s saving purpose. In Romans 1:16, Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, …” It is then that God’s love has extended to all men and provided for them a gospel invitation. We could conclude when we come to the end of chapter 8 that the love of God has sent the gospel to the ends of the earth because God desires all to hear and believe.

But if God has provided a Savior for the world, calls all to believe and provided a sufficient sacrifice on the cross for all the sins of all mankind, why is it that people aren’t saved if it’s God’s will? Doesn’t the Bible teach that God desires that none perish and sent the Apostles to proclaim the truth from one end of the globe to the other? Those really are the questions that leads to Romans 9, 10 and 11.

Let’s start in Romans 9 with the first five verses. Chapter 8 ends with the great statement on the inseparable love of God that belongs to those who are in Christ.

Paul says this, “… I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.” Why? “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, … who are Israelites.” So why aren’t the Jews saved?

Paul is expressing really something of the grief of God. God Himself cried tears through the eyes of Jeremiah over the unbelief of Israel. And Jesus Himself cried tears over the lostness of Jerusalem. The heart of God is grieved and sorrowful. And Paul is reflecting that as the messenger of God and as an Apostle of Jesus Christ.

The Israelites were the ones who have the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple, the promises to the fathers, the patriarchs and from whom comes the Messiah according to the flesh.

So if they are the chosen people, why are they not saved? Did God fail them? The answer is in verse 6, “But it is not as though the Word of God has failed.” The fact that all Jews are not converted does not mean God doesn’t tell the truth, or can’t keep His Word. He starts in verse 6 right through the rest of the chapter to explain it. “You have to understand God’s saving power, you have to understand God’s saving love, you have to understand God’s saving purpose and plan in complete accord with every other attribute He possesses.” In other words, His love cannot spell the end of His wrath, judgment, justice, vengeance, punishment, or anger. Those make up His character and His being.

Remember this, the whole purpose of the redemptive scheme ultimately is for the glory of God before angels and before men. And for God to glorify Himself means to put Himself on display. And to put Himself on display means to manifest the fullness of who He is with all of His attributes.

THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD WHICH WORK IN HARMONY WITH HIS LOVE …

There are seven attributes of God that have to work in harmony with His love, which are outlined as Paul answers this issue.

1. GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY (Who choose?)

Paul says there are two Israels. There is a descendant Israel, that is a natural Israel, which is the Jewish race that came out of the loins of Abraham. But not all of that Israel is the true Israel. In other words, within the natural Israel there is a spiritual Israel. “It is not the one who is outwardly circumcised who is a Jew, it is the one who is inwardly circumcised who is a true Jew.” Here Paul actually says, “Look, God never intended to save all individuals in Israel.”

God never intended all Jews to be saved in the first place because if He had intended all Jews to be saved, all Jews would be saved. Israel’s unbelief does not cancel God’s plan either. God always purposed within natural Israel to save only some Jews so that the real spiritual Israel was within the nation. The nation was elected to privilege but individuals were chosen for salvation. The real Israel is the elect Israel, elected to salvation.

It manifests who God is to demonstrate to the whole of creation that He is in control of everything. He makes choices. He is sovereign.

In verse 7 Paul quotes out of Genesis 21:12 and goes way back to when God first chosen Abraham and the nation and said, “Through Isaac your descendants will be named.” Yes, God made a choice when He chose Abraham. He passed over everybody else. He made a promise that He would through the loins of Abraham bless and there would come not only a national Israel through the loins of Abraham but there would come a calling or an election to spiritual salvation among those people. But God was selective because Abraham had two sons. The first born son of Abraham was named Ishmael. But God passed by Ishmael and the second son born to Abraham was Isaac. And God chose Isaac. Thinking deeper about it, God also chosen Isaac’s mother Sarah instead of Ishmael’s mother Hagar.

God has chosen people to be children of the flesh in the nation Israel, but not all the children of flesh are the children of the promise.

This demonstrates God’s absolute uninfluenced sovereignty. It is a strong illustration of unconditional election in its most unequivocal expression.

It does not stop there. Isaac had two sons with his wife Rebekah, the twins Jacob and Esau. Verse 12, “It was said to her, the older will serve the younger.” It should have been Esau, as he came out first and really had the birthright, the right to the inheritance. But Esau treated it with disdain and when he was hungry one time swapped it for a meal with his brother Jacob.

Why? Because before they were ever born God said, “I choose them.” Here you have unconditional choice, or unconditional election, if you like that word. The principle is articulated in verse 11, “For though the twins were not yet born and hadn’t done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of their works but because of Him who calls it was said to her the older will serve the younger.” In other words, God made the choice with no regard for either of those two young men, no regard for their conduct, their life whether they were good, whether they were bad. It had nothing to do with them, but purely and only on the basis of God’s purpose according to His choice. He make it very clear early on in redemptive history that He was the one who made the choices. The choice was not a human one.

He was displaying His sovereignty. You are to honor and respect Me and you are to praise and glorify Me. It starts with recognizing that I’m in charge and I’m sovereign.

And then you come to verse 13. “Just as it is written,” and that’s quoting Malachi 1:2 and 3, “Just as it is written, Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.” You mean the love of God is that selective? Yes, because the love of God is subject, it is qualified by the demands of His glory. And God is glorified in His sovereign choices.

It sounds awfully strong to say “Esau have I hated,” but if God didn’t hate then we wouldn’t understand the amazing magnanimity of sovereign love. Sacrificial saving love is revealed when God’s holy hatred is manifest. God is going to put Himself on display forever to men and angels. It is amazing to see God’s love for unworthy sinners freely originating in His own holy will when He has every reason to hate us. But that’s the glory of His sovereign love.

He loves His own in an unbreakable love that cannot ever turn to anything but more love. And whatever His love is, it’s going to exist within the framework of the manifestation of His sovereignty which includes loving some and hating others. That proves He is in charge, He makes choices.

2. GOD IS JUST

Secondly, God is glorified in His judgment, or His justice. Paul anticipates what somebody is going to say here. Verse 14, “… Are we going to say, God’s not fair, that’s not fair?”

His answer in verse 14, “There is no injustice with God, is there?” He can rather be accused of being selectively gracious but not unfair. None of us deserves to receive grace and be saved. So instead of questioning God’s fairness, praise Him for chosen you to be saved.

God is fair because He has provided a sacrifice for all in the person of Jesus Christ which satisfies His justice. Their sins having been paid for by Christ, justice is freed from its obligation and grace can be granted.

God is not like an earthly judge. He cannot sometimes be right and other times be wrong in His judgement. Whatever God does is the definition of justice. For those sinners for whom God is gracious, a sufficient satisfaction of God’s justice has been made.

But we look at God and we say, “It’s not fair. It’s not just.” And we’re shouting up there with our puny minds. We do not understand what’s fair and just, except from a fallen perspective. To question the justice of God, it is a display of a carnal mind. You may see the condemnation of the ungodly as unjust but God has a holy purpose that is beyond what you could understand.

3. GOD’S MERCY

Verse 15, “He says to Moses, I’ll have mercy on whom I’ll have mercy, I’ll have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So it doesn’t depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy.”

Well verse 15 is a quote from Exodus 33:19. Moses went to God, he said, “Show me Your glory, put Yourself on display.” God could have chosen from many ways to put Himself on display. Just prior to Moses asking that question God had killed 3,000 sinning Israelites BUT He spared all the rest. And when He then went to Moses and gave Moses the task of leading, Moses says, “I’m not going to do it until You show me Your glory.” God answered, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

God then basically said to Moses that He had just displayed His mercy on those He didn’t kill and that He was now going to be merciful to Moses. It had nothing to do with what Moses wanted or did not want. Verse 16, “It doesn’t depend on the man who wills, it has nothing to do with what you do or achieve but on God who has mercy.”

Mercy doesn’t come because somebody wants it. “Thank You, amen, hallelujah, oh glory.” And that ought to be our attitude all the time. God loves but His love is connected to His sovereignty, His justice and His mercy.

4. GOD’S POWER

God’s love is also connected to His power. So in verse 17 Paul is going back to the Old Testament once more and reaches back to Exodus chapter 9, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,” this is the Lord speaking, “For this very purpose I raised you up to demonstrate My power in you and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then, He has mercy on whom He desires and He hardens whom He desires.

God allowed Pharaoh’s mother to bear Pharaoh. God allowed Pharaoh to be born into the royal family. God allowed Pharaoh to live long enough to get to the throne. God allowed Pharaoh to develop his power at the throne. And then God made sure that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened so that he would put up a fight, which when confronted with the power of God would give God the opportunity to display Himself.

If God did not harden Pharaoh’s heart, He would not need to have part the Red Sea and drown the whole Egyptian army. Certainly would not need the plagues. But God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because God wanted to put everything on display. God raised him up for that purpose. That’s part of God’s glory. God is love but He is not all love and nothing else.

That is why Jews to this day still celebrate Passover. It was the greatest indication of God’s power on behalf of His people. He literally broke the back of the greatest power in the world, Egypt, opening a sea and closing it, immense power. And because of that, what it says at the end of verse 17, “Came to pass. His might was proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” Even in an encounter with the Philistines, the Philistines got worried because they remembered the God of the Israelites who had drown the Egyptian army. If God wants to put His power on display, He’ll raise up a man to put His power on display and that man’s heart will be hardened. Exodus 4:21, God said, “I will harden his heart.”

For the same reason, God also designed resistance. God does not overpower the human will. The human will is responsible. And that’s why judgment is just. Moses was a Jew, Pharaoh was a Gentile, both were sinners. Yet Moses was saved and Pharaoh was lost. God raised up Pharaoh for the purpose of revealing His glory through His judgment power and He raised up Moses to reveal His glory through His grace and mercy and deliverance. God raised up Moses so that He could show His delivering power. He raised up Pharaoh so He could show His destructive power. Pharaoh was a ruler. Moses was a slave. Yet Moses got mercy and compassion because God willed it that way.

God is sovereign and God is holy and must punish sin. God is loving and must save sinners. But if everybody was saved it would deny His holiness. If everybody was lost it would deny His love. And so He’s glorified through all His character.

5. GOD’S JUDGEMENT

God is glorified in His judgment. If this is all predetermined, sovereign destiny, and if God is the one responsible for the hardening of the sinner, how does He hold the sinner responsible? How can the sinner be punished?
Verse 19, “You will say to me then … why does He still find fault?” And then Paul answers, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” Don’t you dare accuse God of holding you responsible for something you’re not responsible for. That’s the implication. The 20th verse really comes out of Isaiah 45:9, “Is man to question God? Him and reason must submit.” Man is a sinner, he loves his sin, he chooses his sin, he rejects God, he rejects Christ, he rejects salvation and he dies in his sins because of his own rejection. And yet at the same time it is God’s sovereign will. But because it is God’s sovereign will, it is no less the responsibility of the sinner. That is why every gospel invitation is given to the sinner to repent. Jesus is not in heaven begging God to add a few more names. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit begging men to repent. The responsibility is here.

When people are sent to hell it is because they believe not, because they repent not. The fact that it has been established by God demonstrates the glory of His nature but does not dispossess man from his responsibility.

It is so difficult to resolve this mystery but God can. As poor depraved men with feeble minds, just because it doesn’t seem to make sense to us, are we going to answer back to God?

Verse 20, “The thing molded will not say to the molder, why did you make me like this, will it?” And he’s borrowing from Jeremiah 18, the picture of a potter. Verse 21, “Doesn’t the potter have a right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?” God has His own purposes. God is the potter. He makes the pots whatever way He wants. He makes one pot for honourable use and another for common use, that’s His choice.

The purpose behind what God does is not to satisfy the desires of depraved intellects. The purpose behind what God does is to glorify Himself. And if He chooses to be glorified in judgment by making a vessel that is not honourable, that’s His choice. He is glorified in His own judgment and we have no right to answer back.

6. GOD’S WRATH

Verse 22, “What if God though willing to demonstrate His wrath and make His power known endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”

It reminds of David in the imprecatory Psalms. “God kill the unrighteous, God kill those ungodly, kill those people that are persecuting me, kill those people that are blaspheming Your name. O God, destroy them.” And we read that and we say, “Oh, he was a righteous man and he loved holiness.” That is because we do not know anybody he was praying about. But your response would have been totally different when your pastor should suddenly one morning pray in the same way, wouldn’t you?

In the book of Revelation you could be reading for weeks and weeks about the destruction of masses of humanity. We agree with the saints under the altar in chapter 6 who are saying, “O Lord, how long…how long before You kill all these ungodly?” We do not know any of those folks. And when we get dispossessed emotionally from this thing we look with a little more objectivity.

There are an innumerable number of angels. Well a third of them fell with Satan. They were thrown out of heaven and they will spend forever in the lake of fire in torment. I do not think I have ever had anybody come to me and say, “Oh, it’s so unfair that God didn’t have a plan of salvation for demons.” None of them are friends of yours.

The only way that’s going to make any sense is to put His wrath on display by contrast so you understand what His mercy and His pity and His grace mean. God acts in His wrath. He prepares vessels of wrath beforehand because His wrath is going to be a way to manifest His glory.

7. THE GOD OF SALVATION

Lastly, God is glorified in His salvation. Verse 23, “All this He did in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory even us.”
He displays His glory in making vessels of mercy which He saves. So, God will be glorified all across the spectrum of His attributes. Don’t be concerned with the mysteries of God’s determination. Do not be concerned with trying to solve all of the mysteries of the nature of God. Be concerned with your own condition. Do not be concerned with what God is doing in planning all of this, be concerned with what awaits you in eternal hell if you do not repent. Don’t be concerned with trying to unscrew the unscrutable, be concerned with repentance and remember that Jesus said, “Him that comes unto Me I’ll in no wise cast out.” Remember that Jesus said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The responsibility for repentance and faith is on you. That is all that should concern you. The issue of election does not become an issue until conversion then we know you are elect. “Whosoever will let him come and take of the water of life freely.” “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I’ll give you rest.” These are the invitations the Bible extends.

UNDERSTANDING THE LOVE OF GOD – PART 4

We are now entering into the second half of our series (part 4 of 6) and as we progress, the more we realize how blessed we are to be loved by our Lord Jesus Christ.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

God’s love is actually not a fairly simple, straight-forward and direct subject. We have found that it has some profound mystery and it has some depth to it that taxes our greatest intellectual and even our greatest spiritual capacities.

To say to people that God loves the world is simple, but to accept that statement as fact is not so simple. There are some probing, disturbing and often unanswered questions that plague the minds of anybody who thinks deeply about the idea that God loves the world.

For example, if God is love and loves the world, why is the world such a place of tragedy where so many people suffer so severely? If God is love and loves the world, why does He allow disease and death and why does He allow eternal hell? If God loves the world, why does He let people perish and why is He their punisher? If God loves the world then why didn’t He devise a plan to save the world? If God is a loving Father, a loving Father of all humanity who cares so deeply, why doesn’t He act like a human father would act who would never allow His children to make a choice that could destroy them if he could overrule it or prevent it?

Now these kinds of questions are deep questions and when people struggle for an answer it very often leads them to some seriously wrong conclusions. These very questions have driven people to universalism, that is the idea that in the end everybody will be saved and that will solve the problem.
These questions have led some other people to think that the believers will go to heaven and the unbelievers will just go out of existence and there will be no conscious punishment at all.

These kinds of questions have also driven people to hyper Calvinism, basically saying God loves His elect and hates everybody else, feels no compassion for any other than those who are His by virtue of a divine decree and is content to send people to hell as He is content to send some to heaven. And others have solved this problem by being driven into Arminianism. Arminianism is the theological perspective that basically says man is sovereign and God can’t really determine what he’s going to do, until they made a choice. He just leaves it up to man and God certainly wishes everybody would get saved, but everybody won’t. So God’s disappointed as anybody else would be who would like to see that happen.

But none of these views are biblical responses to this very, very important issue of God loving the world. We have to turn to the Bible to learn the truth and we can understand the problem clearly, we can understand what is at stake here, we can’t fully comprehend all of its implications but at least we can understand the problem if we can’t fully grasp the solution.

For a better understanding, we divided God’s love into three key propositions.

A SUMMARY OF WHAT WE LEARNED SO FAR …

1. God’s love to the world is unlimited in extent. It extends to all men and manifests itself in common grace, compassion, warnings and the gospel invitation. The sun shines on both the believer and the unbeliever. Both can enjoy His creation and happiness.

2. God’s love is limited in degree. He does not love the world the way He loves His own. The love that God has to the world is bounded by time and space and it is temporary. It turns to hate for those who reject Him and ultimately He will cast those people into eternal judgment. In John 13:1 it says, “Having loved those who were in the world who are His own, He loved them unto perfection.”

God’s love for His own, which is unique for the elect, for those who repent and believe, is merciful, gracious, forgiving, restoring, exalting, and lavish. It is an everlasting love that holds nothing back, that pours out every good gift forever. It is an inseparable, unbreakable love that is impervious to all attacks. It is a kind, sanctifying, cleansing, purifying, nourishing, cherishing love that makes its object holy. It is a love that disciplines, trains, chastens and leads toward godliness. It is a love that surpasses all human knowledge and reason and experience and can be known only to those who experience it because they are the beloved of God. It is that limitless love that God has for those who pursue righteousness and the obedience of faith.

NOW LET’S MOVE ON TO THE THIRD PROPORTION

We need an answer for the difficult question: Why does God have a different love for some than for others, all bound up in His own purpose, His own will, His own desire, His own decree?

And that leads us to the third proposition – God’s love to the world is qualified by the demands of His glory. That is to say that however God loves, He will love in a manner that is absolutely consistent with who He is with His glory.

Because God loves the world does not mean that He is obligated to be an unqualified lover of everybody equally. He is not a prisoner of His own love nor is He a prisoner of man’s desire for that love or of man’s reasoning about that love. God does not have to love everyone the same no matter what, no matter who just because people expect it or men think it’s fair or equitable. He loves the world in one sense, He loves His own in a far-greater way.

God’s loves is not separated from His other attributes. It does not mean that His love stands in isolation of His holiness, wrath, righteousness, judgment, and every other attribute. Each of them acts not independently but in perfect harmony with all the others. If God then is to glorify Himself, He must put all of His attributes on display. Whatever His mercy and grace and kindness and goodness and tender-heartedness achieved cannot obliterate what will be made manifest by His hatred, His anger, His wrath, His vengeance and His justice. All of God’s attributes have a place in the demonstration that He carries out through the purposes of creation.

God loves in a manner that is consistent with His full glory. God’s saving purpose is tied to God’s glory, not man’s. It is tied to God’s desires, not man’s and God’s will, not man’s.

If we understand this one great surpassing truth about God, it’s going to answer all difficult questions about God’s love and the thing we experience in our daily lives and see happening around us in this world. Whatever puts His glory on display and His glory is the sum of all of His attributes. God’s glory is the issue.

In Psalm 31 the psalmist is talking about God’s power and salvation and deliverance. Verse 1, “In Thee, O Lord, I’ve taken refuge. Let me never be ashamed. In Thy righteousness deliver me. Incline Thy ear to me. Rescue me quickly. Be Thou to me a rock of strength, the stronghold to save me for Thou art my rock and my fortress.”

And then he says in verse 3, “For Thy namesake Thou wilt lead me and guide me.” Whatever You do in my life, God, is not so much for me as it is for You. It is for the sake of manifesting Your glory in order that people might see that You are a God in whom we can take refuge. You are a God who hears and You are strong. You are a Savior. God, to put Yourself on display.

That is the prayer of a knowing saint. That is the reason for everything that God might display His glory before the angels and all creation. So whatever God does is not going to be because the majority of evangelicals have voted Him to do it. And whenever you see “for Thy name’s sake” the concept of God’s name is just an embodiment of all that He is. When confronting Moses He said, “My name is I am that I am.” In other words, My name is who I am.

So God is going to display who He is in what He does. He is a God of salvation and He is a God of judgment. He is a God of grace and He is a God of vengeance. He is a God of mercy and He is a God of justice. And He will display all of that because that puts His name in a place to be respected, revered, honored and worshiped.

In Psalm 79:9 the psalmist is crying out to God because he fears the destruction of Jerusalem. He says, “Help us, O God of our salvation,” and then this, “for the glory of Thy name and deliver us and forgive our sins for Thy name’s sake.”

We cannot go to God and say, ” Lord, now are trying to figure out how You ought to treat this world and we think it wouldn’t be fair for You to let some people go to hell because that’s not not loving. We suggest to You a view called universalism, or annihilationism, or maybe Arminianism and just let man be completely responsible for whether he’s saved or lost and that way he can bear the whole brunt of the deal and it doesn’t reflect on You at all.”

But what we want and what we desire is not the issue. We are the pot and He is the potter, we are the created and He is the creator. We are the maid and He is the maker. He is in charge of everything and everything that He does will be a consistent reflection of who He is.

In Daniel chapter 9 Daniel is praying one of the model prayers of Scripture. He is anticipating that God is going to deliver His captive people out of Babylon back to their land because God promised that He would after 70 years. In verse 4 he calls Him the great and awesome God who keeps His covenant in loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments. And then he launches in to this confession, “We have sinned,” verse 5, “committed iniquity, acted wickedly, rebelled, turned aside from Your commandments, ordinances.” And he keeps talking like that all the way down, verse 11, “All Israel has transgressed Thy law, turned aside, not obeying Thy voice.” So the curse has been poured out on them, along with the oath which was written in the law of Moses.

They have been living in idolatry prior to that time so the punishment of God was a just punishment. It magnifies the holiness of God when He has a holy reaction against idolatry. Daniel agreed that what God did to these people they deserved and it exalted God that He judged this iniquitous and wicked people with a severe judgment because it tells them how holy He is.

But God has promised that He was going to restore His people to the land and the prophet said, “God, glorify Yourself now with Your mercy.” And so he prays for the Lord to bring the people back.

Go down to verse 17, “So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplications,” and here it is, “for Thy sake, O Lord, let Thy face shine on Thy desolate sanctuary.” That is on Jerusalem and on the mount where the temple was. “O my God, incline Thy ear and hear, open Thine eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Thy name for we are not presenting our supplication before Thee on account of any merits of our own but on account of Thy great compassion. O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and take action for Thine own sake, O my God.”

In Isaiah 49:3 God said, “You are My servant Israel, in whom I will show My glory.” He showed His glory in judgment and He showed it in mercy and in grace. You cannot isolate God to just one attribute. And Daniel is saying, “God, do this for Your own sake, do it to glorify Yourself.”

Look at Isaiah 48:9, “For the sake of My name I delay My wrath.” So God also shows His glory in His patience … in delaying wrath. And He says, “For My praise I restrain it for you in order not to cut you off.”

Verse 11, “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act.” That is the key. Whatever God does He does for His own glory. “… I cannot let My name be profaned and My glory I will not give to anyone else.” We could sum it up by saying God has an unswerving commitment to act for His own glory.

Now look at Jeremiah 14 verse 7, “Although our iniquities testify against us, O Lord, act for Thy namesake.” The prophets really understood that God was compelled to do whatever revealed His glory.

Later in the chapter, verse 20, “We know our wickedness, O Lord, the iniquity of our fathers for we have sinned against Thee, do not despise us.” Why? “For Thine own namesake. Do not disgrace the throne of Thy glory. Remember and do not annul Thy covenant with us.”

So if God chooses to save some and not others, that is to the glory of God because God does what is consistent with His glory.

In Romans 1 verse 5 Paul says that the grace of God that called him to be an Apostle was for His namesake. Again, salvation is for God’s glory. Third John 7, “They went out for the sake of the name. They preached the gospel for the sake of the name for the glory of God.” Vengeance is for God’s glory. Patience is for God’s glory. Faithfulness is for God’s glory. Every aspect of God’s nature puts His glory on display. And you cannot isolate one attribute of God and let it erase all the rest.

So for the purposes of His eternal glory, God does what He does whether it is to save sinners or damn them. While God loves the world and is not willing that any should perish, while God finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked and feels compassion for all who die in their sins, He will ultimate do what His glory demands He would.

A human judge may have a sincere compassion for a guilty criminal and yet be forced to have him executed to uphold the standard of justice. You see, justice does not necessarily eliminate compassion.

Now this should be obvious to any thinking person who looks at Scripture. It is obvious that God seeks His own glory and everything He does is for His glory. His glory is the manifestation of the fullness of who He is, therefore He is going to get glory in wrath as well as in grace.

ARMINIANISM …
But unfortunately there are some people like the Arminians who do not want to accept that. And so this is the scenario that they will come up with. God loves everybody so much God wants everybody saved. And God is calling everybody to be saved but man need to make that choice because he loves his sin. So man’s will is greater that God’s glory.

And they say also the difficulty is that Satan is making a lifelong effort to keep the person from believing. So the combination of their own fallen flesh and sin and the efforts of Satan are just more clever and more powerful than God.

Now such a perspective saves the sincerity and the love of God at the expense of the power and the sovereignty of God. So He is really not in charge. That diminishes God’s glory.

HYPER-CALVINISM …

On the other hand, some would say, “No, God has the power and the sovereignty. He just hates sinners so He does not care about them.” That Is a hyper-Calvinist perspective. But what they actually do is to save the sovereignty and the power of God at the expense of the love and the compassion of God. You cannot do that either because the Bible is replete with evidence that God loves and compassion. How else do you explain the tears of Jesus, Luke 19:41, when He wept over Jerusalem? The tears of God that were cried through the eyes of Jeremiah? The tears of Paul? God aches because He cares about sinners. But that does not mean that He saves everyone because pity and love and compassion are overridden by weightier matters in God’s eternal purpose. The all-wise mind of God can look at the multiplicity of issues in His vast Kingdom and He has good reasons and motives to do every single thing He does, actions for which we have not the least conception.

But we do know this. His ultimate goal is not to please the evangelical majority. His ultimate goal is not the greatest aggregate of well being among His creatures, like the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movement would like it to be. His ultimate goal is His glory. Whatever He does in electing, whatever He does in rejecting is the most for His glory beyond anything else and apart from every other consideration. God’s purpose is not to make the most sinners in the universe happy. His purpose is to glorify Himself. And God may see in His omniscience divinely rational ground for every single thing Things we cannot see. And obviously He is glorified when vessels are fitted for wrath just as when vessels are prepared for glory.

A COMPARING EXAMPLE …

A king has two murderers before him on trial, both guilty. Murderer A has committed a crime equal to murderer B, they are culpability is exactly the same. However, murderer A is a physician, a medical practitioner. The best in the land. Murderer B has absolutely no knowledge of the craft. The king finds both A and B equally guilty yet he reprieves A. Why? Because in his kingdom there is a plague and that plague is destroying lives and he knows that the skill of this physician can save lives. So A is reprieved simply because of his skill to help the suffering. B is hanged for murder. A was spared because there was a purpose which the king knew he could fulfill. Yet, many of the land’s citizens would think that the king was unfair, because they do not have all of the facts his decision was based on.

So it is with God. We all should be damned but God has designed for some of us to fulfill a redemptive purpose. And purely on that basis alone we are redeemed, though as guilty as those who perish. So that it’s all of grace and for divine and holy purposes which are unknown to us, apart from the unfolding of those in the experience of our lives and some day perhaps in retrospect from glory.

Let us just worship God for His glory. And then when we think about our own salvation, what does that elicit? Gratitude, overwhelming gratitude … “Why, O God, why out of all … why was I in the A group? Why?” Not because I am who I am!

God’s glory demands the true and complete satisfaction of all His wondrous attributes. And when we look at our own lives and we see that we have been saved and we have been forgiven and we have been given eternal life and been imputed the righteousness of Christ and we’re on our way to eternal glory, purely at the discretion of God who prompted our hearts, it is overwhelming cause for praise and worship and adoration. It should fill us with thanksgiving that should come out with every every breath.

You say, “What about the people on the other side?” Well the Bible addresses them and all that can be said is this, to those who don’t know Christ the issue is always their unbelief. You cannot look around to see if your name is on a list of the chosen. What you need to do is repent and believe because that’s what the Bible tells you to do. In fact, the Bible says God has commanded all men everywhere to repent. And Jesus said, “Him that comes to Me I will not turn away.” And the book of Revelation ends with this invitation, “Whosoever will, let him come.” It’s not an issue of trying to find out if you belong to the ones that God has chosen to display His grace, it’s an issue of whether you’re willing to turn from your sin. In fact, the prophet said, “Why will you die? Repent, turn, turn, why will you die?” As if to say it doesn’t have to happen.

These inscrutable truths about the glory of God are beyond us. But one thing is not beyond us. If you confess your sins and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved and on your way to heaven and numbered among the elect. And you forever and ever and ever will be an agent through whom God will display the glory of His grace and His love and His mercy and His forgiveness and His kindness. And not one through whom He will display forever His justice and His judgment.

In part 5 of the series, we are going to look at the one passage that pulls all of this together in one text, Romans 9.

UNDERSTANDING THE LOVE OF GOD – PART 3

Welcome to part 3 of our 6 part series with the title “UNDERSTANDING THE LOVE OF GOD.”

A QUICK RECAP OF WHAT WE LEARNED IN PART 1 AND 2

GOD’S UNIVERSAL LOVE IS UNLIMITED IN EXTENT …

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” as we have been learning in this series. Romans 5:8 says that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Jesus came into the world not to be ministered unto but to minister and give His life a ransom for many.

During parts 1 we looked at how God loved the world. The love of God to the world is manifest in His common grace, as theologians call it, or His general goodness. Skies are blue and the grass is green and the flowers grow in the garden of even the unregenerate people.

And then God manifests His way to the whole world in terms of His compassion. Even to the point where Jesus wept as He looked at the plight of people. We saw the compassion of God also in the healing ministry of Jesus as He touched them in the time of their great need.

God’s love to the whole world is also seen in warnings. All through the Bible God warns about sin and its effect and its consequences and eternal judgment.

Furthermore, we see God’s unlimited love in the gospel as it is to be spread to the whole world and people are to be told that if they will come to Christ their sins can be forgiven and they can have the hope of eternal life in heaven forever.

GOD’S LOVE IS LIMITED IN DEGREE …

While He loves the whole world He does not love them to the degree that He loves His own. He had for them a love that is beyond the love that He has for the world. In fact, the love God has for the world is temporal. It exists only in this life. And eventually, for those who refuse Jesus Christ, that love turns to hate, which results in eternal judgment. Men refuse the gift that God offers, therefore God’s love turns to hate and judgment.

But to those who receive God’s love, to those who come to Christ and accept Him as Lord and Savior, believing in His death and resurrection and committing their lives to obedience to His will, God brings a love that is beyond the love that He has for an unregenerate mankind.

No one has expressed that better than the Apostle John who said, “Having loved His own who were in the world,” John 13:1, “He loved them eistelos,” and that phrase can mean He loves them completely, to the end, to the limit, to the max, to the last. It can mean eternal. The Lord loves His own in a way that is going to be demonstrated throughout all eternity.

When John sums it up he does it in these simple words, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us?” And it is that love that causes us to be called His children. He set that love upon us in eternity past before the world began just as He did the nation of Israel, the predetermined sovereign uninfluenced desire and will to love us while we were not yet born and knowing that when we were born we would be unlovable sinners. By God’s own choice we are His beloved, according to Romans 1:7 and Romans 11:28. We have been designated as the beloved of God by His own eternal choice.

START OF PART 3 –
GOD’S LOVE FOR HIS OWN (LOVE LIMITED IN DEGREE – CONTINUED)

First John 4:9, “By this the love of God was manifested in us that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” Verse 10, “In this is love.” There is love manifest in the gift of Christ, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the covering for our sins.

Down in verse 16 John says, “We have come to know and believe the love which God has for us, God is love and the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in Him.” And then verse 19, “We love because He first loved us.” Let’s get the sequence. God determined to love us before the world began. God loved us when we were yet in sin. God loved us when we were not lovable. And it was that predetermination to love us in spite of what we were, that is the essence of God’s great redeeming love.

It is demonstrated, first of all, that He was willing to die for us and then spend the rest of eternity pouring out expressions of that love upon us.

It is a mystery. How can we ever expect to understand why He would choose to love us in such a way? Why doesn’t He express the maximal levels of His love for the holy angels who never fell and who faithfully throughout all of time have been loyal to love the God who made them? He damned the angels who fell with no hope of redemption, why would He redeem man? We don’t know the answer to that except that He predetermined to love us and by loving us to draw us to Himself. We don’t know why, maybe in eternity we’ll never know why. We’re no different than anybody else, as we saw in Ezekiel chapter 16, where God said to Israel, “You are worse than Samaria, you are worse than Sodom, Samaria and Sodom perish in judgment and Israel, I will forgive you, because I’ve chosen to love you.” And because of that He sent His Son into the world to die for us that we might become His children. God manifesting His love toward those who would come to faith in His son.

Luke chapter 15, includes the parable of the prodigal son. It really is the parable of the forgiving father. The father is God, the son is the irreligious worldly sinner. Every sinner has in a created sense God as a Father. And every sinner has privileges because he is created in the image of God. This young man pictures the sinner who squanders those privileges in a dissolute irreligious life. He took all of the good things that God had given him by virtue of being created in God’s image and he went out and wasted them in loose living, immorality and drunkenness and all that you could conjecture. He comes to a point in the midst of his debauchery and he realizes he has hit bottom. And so he decides to come back to God. But he knows where he is. He understands his iniquity. He understands his wickedness. He wants to go back and make things right with his father, with God, and he heads back.

In verse 20 God’s love is demonstrated toward a penitent sinner. His father felt compassion for him and ran and embraced him and kissed him over and over. The amazing thing about this love is that it’s given toward one who is utterly undeserving and yet the father sees him, feels compassion for him and runs to meet him. This father is treating the son as if there were no past and his sin is removed as far as the east is from the west and it is forgotten.

And the son is so shocked and said to his father he is no longer worthy to be called his sin. Coming to God is a humbling experience. And the first thing that humbles you when you come to God is the awareness of your sin. He knew what was available to him from the father. He went back, he confessed his sin against heaven and in the sight of his father. He is a true penitent. He is turning from his sin and his wasted life and he comes to God and is humbled, first of all, by his sin.

But then secondly and perhaps more profoundly, he is humbled by God’s grace. But such is the love of God toward a penitent sinner.

The father just says to the slaves, “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet and bring the fattened calf, kill it and let us eat and be merry.” There’s not even a regard for the queries of the young man about whether he’s worthy or not, he just says start the party. “This son of mine was dead, has come to life again, was lost, has been found, and they began to be merry.”

EVERLASTING …

In Romans 8:35 it is asked, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? Just as it is written, For thy sake we are being put to death all day long, we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” That is taken from Psalm 44. Paul was always considered as being a sheep to be slaughtered by somebody who wanted him dead. That was his pattern of life.

Verse 37, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Verse 38, “And so I’m convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, or things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The second thing we therefore learn about God’s love toward His own is that it is unbreakable, inseparable, unconquerable and ever-lasting.
He loves the world with a temporal love. But His own who believe in Jesus Christ and have come to Him in repentant faith, He loves them with an everlasting love that cannot ever be broken.

FORGIVING …

Ephesians chapter 2 provides another passage that defines the character of this love. Verse 4, “His great love with which He loved us.” And then Paul goes on to define this love. “He loved us so much that even when we were dead in our transgressions, He made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved.”

He loved us in our transgression. Out of that love He sovereignly made us alive together with Christ. We died with Christ, we rose to walk in newness of life so that He literally dealt with our sins and gave us new life through grace.

KINDNESS – OUR HEAVENLY STAY …

Verse 6, “He then raised us up with Him.” We came out of the grave with Christ. “We are now seated with Him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” This means that our real home is in heaven, that our real life is in spiritual dimension that is beyond this world. That’s where our life is.

And why did He do this? Verse 7 gives you the reason. “In order for the purpose that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace.” So how is He going to show the surpassing riches of His grace toward us? “In kindness.” That means God saved us when we were dead in our sins so that He might be able forever to show us His kindness.

We don’t deserve His kindness and that’s why He gets so much glory from showing it to us. Forever and ever we will thank Him for His kindness, because we know we never deserved it.

So what is heaven?” Heaven is where God will show us kindness out of the surpassing riches of His grace forever. It is a love that gives life and promises eternal glory. It is a love that pledges eternal kindness.

Now remember this, God has an infinite mind and an infinite number of ways in which He can demonstrate His kindness. And eternally we will just have exploding on us one experience of God’s unsurpassed kindness after another.

PURIFYING …

Ephesians chapter 5 looks at the purifying aspect. It says in verse 25, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Why? “In order that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and blameless.” He wants us to experience eternal holiness by separating the church from sin.

God loves us enough to make us exactly like Him. That’s why John says we will be like Him when we see Him as He is. The transformation is incredible – from being dead in trespasses and sins to being alive in holiness and perfection. And all of it due to nothing of our but only by God’s free grace.

John said, “What great love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God.” It is a love that lavishes, it is a love that is unbreakable, it is a love that will demonstrate itself in eternal kindness, it is a love that will demonstrate itself in eternal holiness.

OBEDIENCE …

Look at Hebrews chapter 12. God always wants the best for His children and He knows that the path to the best is always the path of obedience.
If you as a parent don not discipline your child you’re really programming that child for the worse. Love learns to discipline because discipline becomes then protection and the guarantee of blessing.

Chapter 12 verse 6, “For those whom the Lord loves He chastens,” He disciplines. “And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure. God deals with you as with sons. “For what son is there whom his father doesn’t discipline? If you are without discipline of which all have become partakers, then you’re illegitimate children and not sons.” If you are not being disciplined by God, you do not belong to Him.

“We have furthermore,” verse 9, “earthly fathers to discipline us, we respected them. Shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits and live? Our earthly fathers disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them. But He disciplines us for our good that we may share His holiness.” Not in eternity, but in time. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

It is a love that corrects, rebukes, reproves and chastens and trains. This is the saving, justifying, sanctifying, glorifying love that God has for His own who believes in Him.

GOD DWELLING IN THE HEART OF THE FAITHFUL …

In Ephesians 3:17 to 19 Paul is praying here for the Ephesians and of course, for all believers. He is praying in verse 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. When Christ settles down and is at home in your heart, or has unrestricted access to every area of your life, when Christ is in control. Paul says you are being rooted and grounded in love.

When every area of your life is yielded to Him and He has that unrestricted access to every part of your life, you will be solidly fixed in the love of God. You will experience that love. That is what Paul meant in Romans 5:5 when he said, “The love of Christ is shed abroad in your hearts.” That’s what Jude meant in Jude 21 when he said, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” What did he mean? Stay in the position of devotion, dedication and obedience in which you will rooted and grounded in love. It doesn’t mean keep yourself saved, it means keep yourself obedient and devoted to Christ so that you’re feeling the full benefits of God’s great love.

And when you do that, verse 18 says, you will be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and you will be able to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. The point is the love that we are talking about here is unknowable by human reason. The human mind and the unregenerate can not know it.

But the love of God shed abroad in our hearts through Jesus Christ by faith in Him.

How broad is God’s love? It’s to all who believe. How long is His love? It’s from eternity past to eternity future. How high is His love? High enough to enthrone us in the heaven of heavens. How deep is His love? Deep enough to reach to the deepest pit of sin and rescue us.

This is God’s love that leads to verse 20 which says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

And my prayer for you, is in 2 Thessalonians 3:5, “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.”

UNDERSTANDING THE LOVE OF GOD – PART 1

We speak of it when we witness and evangelize. We are always eager to tell people that God loves them and therefore sent His Son to die on the cross. We are eager to say to the most hostile and the most ungodly person, “God loves you, and if you’ll come to Christ God will save you.” We have proclaimed to the world that God is love.

Scripture does give us reason to proclaim that God is a God of love. In 2 Corinthians 13:11 He is called the God of love and in 1 John 4:8 the Bible says God is love. This is truly an attribute of God and along with it comes goodness, kindness and mercy.

Jeffrey Dahmer, the mask-murdering homosexual killed 17 and cannibalized a number of them. But before he died at the hands of some fellow prisoners, he had made a confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and been baptized. In his will he repeatedly expressed his genuine faith in Christ, in confidence that Christ had forgiven all his sin. It would make the world very angry to think that such a murderer could be accepted into heaven. But as far as evidencing the amazing love of God, this is a classic illustration. Another was Paul who said he was the chief of sinners. He too was a blasphemer, a persecutor and a murderer.

We want to be able to say to anybody that God loves the world so much that “whoever” believes in Him will be saved and that “whoever” is unlimited.

However, people still have serious unanswered and very disturbing questions in their minds regarding God’s love. Like…if God is love why is there so much tragedy in this world and why are so many people suffering? If God is love, sovereign and in charge, then why in the world would a loving God ever allow this? If God is love why would He send people to hell to suffer forever? Shouldn’t a loving God remove all pain, evil, and sorrow and fill time and eternity only with happiness? You’re telling me that God wants everyone to be saved? Then why would He devise a plan that has most people going to hell forever? And if God is the loving Father of humanity, why doesn’t He act like a human father who loved his children, who would never allow his children to make choices that would result in their destruction if he could prevent it or overrule it? If God is a loving God why did He allow sin in the first place and death?

Those questions need answers and there are a number of suggested answers. One is the answer of universalism. Universalism is a believe that in the end everybody will be saved and go to heaven and hell will not exist.

Other people answer the question with a theory called annihilationism. Their solution is that God takes the believing people to heaven and the rest He puts completely out of existence and they experience no consciousness at all.

The problem with those two views is that you cannot defend them in the Bible.

Some others say the way to understand it is that God doesn’t love people who are not His own, He hates them. They say that anybody He damns He hates. The love of God is selective and it’s given only to those who believe in Him. And they would remind you of the Old Testament where it says God is angry with the wicked every day. They would remind you of passages in the Old Testament where God says I hate every false way, every evil way and other places where God expresses animosity toward sin and even sinners on occasion. Therefore, the love of God is limited to the elect. But, the Bible does not teach that either. The Bible says, “God so loved …the world.”

Now there is another option. Easily tell the person who asks, that we have no right to ask such questions. People who have that view would use Paul’s words in Romans 9, “Who are you, old man, who answers back to God? … why did you make me like this, …? Did you ever hear a pot ask the potter why the pot was made the way it was? Does not the potter have a right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?” God is God. God will do whatever He wants to do because He’s God. He’s the potter, He decides how the pot is going to be. God created as He pleased to create.”

There is truth in that … God is God. Ultimately, we are going to end up in Romans 9 and will to have to settle for the fact that God will do what God will do. We can understand the issue without being able to comprehend it fully. We can at least understand what the mystery is if we cannot solve it. Ultimately, you are going to get to the place where you have to just trust God’s judgment as the potter, but not at the very beginning.

Now in order to grasp it, we need to think around three key propositions and remember them. We are going through these during the course of this series. So do not leap to preliminary conclusions, just enjoy the trip. When you enjoy the trip you will love the destination when we reach it in part 6, the last of the series.

The three key propositions entail a very important study as it is going to answer some very penetrating and compelling issues both from a theological side and from a very pragmatic side as you deal with people.
1. GOD’S LOVE IS UNLIMITED IN EXTENT
2. GOD’S LOVE IS LIMITED IN DEGREE
3. GOD’S LOVE IS ULTIMATELY DIRECTED AT HIS GLORY

GOD’S LOVE IS UNLIMITED IN EXTENT

In this part of the series, we are going to look at the first one. God’s love is unlimited in extent. There is that love of God which Scripture clearly shows us is general, universal, indiscriminate, unconditional and unlimited and that extends to all people in all times. It is what Titus 3:4 refers to as God’s love for mankind. Scripture attests to this love in several places.

In Matthew 5:43 Jesus said, “You have heard it said, the rabbis have taught, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” That was the existing theology of the time, which meant, “Love Jews and hate Gentiles.” Basically, they despised the Gentile world and they loved their own. When they hated the despised Gentile or the Samaritan half-breed, they felt justified because that’s what their theologians had told them pleased God. (As we will later see, this is a verse that establishes the background to John 3:16).

But verse 44 Jesus says, “But I say to you, love your enemies.” In other words, also love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, like Jesus did when He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And verse 45 tells you why. “In order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

What does Jesus mean by “sons of your Father in heaven?” In order that you might manifest that you’re of the same family, that you are children of God. Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love.” The point is this, you love your enemies because you’re the children of God and God loves His enemies. See, God doesn’t just love His family, God also loves His enemies. Jesus on the cross did not only demonstrate love toward the apostles and those who believe, His love extends to those who do not believe.

a. ADMIT THAT YOU ARE A SINNER

Look at Mark chapter 10. This is a wonderful story of the rich young ruler. The bottom line in the story is he comes to Jesus and ask what he needs to do to have eternal life. Jesus then gave him the Law. This man believes he obeys the entire law and he does not admit his sin. The first thing you have to recognize is that you are a sinner. Eternal life is for repentant people.

b. BE WILLING TO OBEY CHRIST

The second component in salvation is a willingness to obey Christ. First you admit you’re a sinner, secondly, you submit to Christ. So Jesus gives the rich man a test and says, “Look, go sell everything you have, take your money, give it to the poor and then follow Me.” No way. He wouldn’t follow Christ. It is very hard to receive eternal life. And that’s what Jesus says in verse 23.

The sad deal is the guy went away, verse 22, because he owned a lot of property and he wanted to control his life and he didn’t think he was a sinner. But verse 21 says, “And looking at him Jesus loved him.” The love of God manifest in Jesus Christ is not just reserved for His own. Here He loved the non-repentant, non-submissive rejecter.

CHRIST IS THE REDEEMER OF HIS ENEMIES

Now go to Isaiah chapter 63. Here in a micro-cosm of the nation Israel is the way to understand the unlimited extent of God’s love as manifest in Jesus Christ and in the gospel. In verse 7 the prophet Isaiah talks about the great goodness of God toward the house of Israel and His compassion. This is all about God’s love. And God’s love manifest itself in goodness, mercy, pity, kindness. Verse 8, “For He said, Surely they’re My people, sons who will not deal falsely… so He became their Savior.” God became the Savior of the nation. He was the official divinely designated Savior of Israel.

In verse 9, “In all their affliction He was afflicted. And the angel of His presence saved them.” Then it says, “And in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them.” He became their Savior. He suffered with their suffering. He lifted them. He carried them all the days of old.

In a general extensive manner God identifies himself as the Savior of the whole nation of Israel. But then verse 10 says this, “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit, therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.” So here you have God defined as the Savior, the lover, the redeemer of a people who are His enemies, who have chosen a life of sin.

GOD HARDENS THE HEARTS OF HIS ENEMIES – NONE OF THEM WOULD CALL ON HIS NAME

Then to verse 16. “… Why, O Lord, dost Thou cause us to stray from Thy ways and hardened our heart from worshiping Thee?” Now God is actually hardening the hearts of a people to whom He is identified as the Redeemer. He is causing them to go.

Down to chapter 64 verse 5, “Behold, Thou wast angry for we sinned … And shall we be saved?” He is the Redeemer of the rebellious. Verse 6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean. All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment. All of us wither like a leaf and our iniquities like the wind remove us, destroy us. There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses Himself to take hold of You, for You have hidden Your face from us and delivered us into the power of our iniquities.”

He described unconverted people. “But now, O Lord…verse 8…Thou art our Father. We are the clay and Thou our potter. All of us are the work of Thy hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord. Do not remember iniquity forever.” God says I’ve tried to do something with you, chapter 65 verse 2, “I’ve spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks, who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places, who eat swine’s flesh and the broth of unclean meat is in their pots.” In other words, you are in to idolatry.

“Who say…imagine the gaul of this…Keep to yourself, do not come near me for I am holier than you. These are smoke in My nostrils.” “Behold, it is written before Me, I will not keep silent, I will repay but I will even repay into your bosom both their own iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together, says the Lord, because they have burned incense on the mountains and scorned Me on the hills, therefore I’ll measure their former work into their bosom.”

It is very, very obvious in this text that the indictment of the people Israel is that God was their Savior and He brought to them the offer of His blessing, goodness, kindness and His mercy, and they spurned it so that God can be the Savior of those who are His enemies, He can be the Redeemer of those who rebel against Him.

GOD REMAINS THE DESIGNATED SAVIOR OF ALL MEN

God loved the people of Israel and became their Savior, yet they refused Him, chose sin and experienced judgment. So when we say that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, we must understand that He gave His Son to be the Savior of the world in the same way that God identifies Himself as the Savior of the nation Israel, though not all Israel by any means believed in Him. He was still their officially designated Savior.

GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD …

Now let’s go to John chapter 3 verse 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” That doesn’t say God only loved the elect, it says He loved the world. The context demands that “world” cannot be narrowed. And then you come to verse 19 “Light has come into the world and men love the darkness rather than the light.” The world is the widest possible reference and includes some who believe and some who do not believe. There are some who love the light and come to the light while others love the darkness.

In another section of John’s gospel he put it this way. “He was in the world and the world knew Him not.” In John 4 verse 42, the people in the Samaritan woman’s town believed because of her testimony. John knows what he means when he says world. The Jews had always said, “Love your neighbor and hate the outcast Samaritans and the Gentiles.” And here comes Jesus and really overturns what was at the heart of the racism of that time. That is why God can say He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. That is why God can say He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. That is why God can say He will have all men to be saved.

This unlimited love is manifest in four ways.

1.1 COMMON GRACE

Common grace means there are certain kindnesses and goodnesses that God does commonly and we see it in the world. You may say, “Well there’s a lot of sorrow in the world.” The reason you recognize the ugliness is there’s so much beauty. The reason you recognize the disappointment is there is so much fulfillment. At the other side of it, and understand that you are a fallen and unworthy sinner and God, the only reason God ever gives you anything to laugh at, smile at and love and rejoice with is because He is just a loving God.

In Matthew 5 and verse 45, Jesus says, “Here’s the proof of God’s love, He causes His Son to rise on the evil and the good, He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” It rains on everybody. The sun shines on everybody. Flowers grow in everybody’s garden. Lots of people have lots of fun and lots of joy and lots of happiness and it has nothing to do with whether they know God or not. That is just how it is in life.

In Acts chapter 14 Paul is talking to the pagans in Iconium. But he says in verse 17, the God who made the heavens and the earth and all of that, didn’t leave Himself without a witness, a witness to His love and His kindness because He did good, gave you rains from heaven, fruitful seasons, satisfying your heart with food and gladness.

1.2 COMPASSION

It is a love of broken-heartedness. You hear people say, “Well, you must be very special because God loves you.” That is a psychological ego boosting that has nothing to do with the Bible. God does not love you because you are so lovable. We are despicable, vile sinners who if we are not saved by the grace of God will be thrown on the trash heap of eternity which is hell. We have no intrinsic value, no intrinsic worth, there is nothing in us to love. It is not the love of value, it is the love of pity for that which could have had value and has none. God doesn’t have any pleasure in damnation. It grieves Him that the image of God has been so marred and wasted.

In Jeremiah chapter 13 and also in chapter 48:36, Jeremiah cries the tears of God. God weeps over the marring of His creatures. Then in Matthew 23:37 , “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her brood and you would not.” In Luke 19:41 Jesus looked over the city and wept. It was sadness, not love motivated by present value.

1.3 LOVE OF WARNINGS

Nothing is more evident in terms of demonstrating God’s love than the replete warnings of judgment to come throughout the pages of Scripture. Scripture is filled with warnings about judgment, followed by hell, eternal hell, the Lake of Fire, punishment. In Luke 13:3 and 5 Jesus says, “I tell you, unless you repent you will perish.” And that’s the message of both the New and the Old Testament. There is a holy God and He has a holy standard. If you do not live up to it you are on your way to hell. There is only one remedy and that is to come with a repentant heart and ask for forgiveness and plead for mercy which It is love that warns. Love is an honest concern about a person’s destiny.

1.4 THE GOSPEL OFFER

When Isaiah says come buy and eat, come buy wine and milk without money, without price, when Jesus teaches in Matthew 22:2 and 3 the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king which made a marriage for his son and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding and they wouldn’t come, and then it says he went out into the highways and byways and called some others. Do you notice there that it says he went out and called those that were bidden to the wedding and they would not come? That’s very important, Matthew 22:3. The gospel call goes to people who will not come. And that’s the love of God calling them.

Luke 14 verses 16 to 18, “A certain man made a great supper. He called many. Sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were called, Come. All things are not ready, they all with one consent began to make excuse.” That’s the gospel call. That’s the King calling sinners to come to the banquet and they don’t come. In Luke 2:10 the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people. There is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” That is good news for all people.

Romans 1:18, 19 starts the path, “That which may be known of God is in them,”. “That which may be known about God is in every individual.” Creation all around you demonstrates the wonder of God. And if you don’t live up to that knowledge, Paul says in Romans 1 you are without excuse.

Romans 2 says that even the pagans who have no Scripture have the law of God written in their heart. And there’s even a conscience there to excuse or accuse you, depending on how you react to the law that’s written in your hearts.

John’s gospel chapter 1 verse 9 says, “Christ is the light that lights every man that comes into the world.” Jesus says in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” Mark in chapter 16 and verse 15, “Go into the all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” God extended in its unlimited sense, His love for mankind. Or 1 Timothy 4:10, “He is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.” Or, “God our Savior who will have all men to be saved, for there is one God and one Mediator, the man Christ Jesus.”

Jesus is designated as the Savior of the whole world. By the atoning work of Christ on the cross, He is identifying Himself as the Savior of the world, and it has implications to the whole world. It was designed to reveal God’s universal love for the whole guilty human race. Thereforem all sinners are called to repent and to believe and to be forgiven and if they are refused they are guilty and they will be punished.

In John 6:31, Jesus is talking to the Jews about who He is after having fed themIn verse 31 the Jews said that their fathers ate manna in the wilderness, as it is written He gave them bread out of heaven to eat. Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, it is not Moses who has given YOU the bread out of heaven, it is My father who gives YOU the true bread out of heaven.” He is talking to unbelieving Jews. Verse 33, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”

Down to verse 41 the Jews therefore were grumbling and they say they don’t want it. Verse 52, “The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, said how can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Verse 61, Jesus was conscious even some of His followers were grumbling and then down to verse 66, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, were not walking with Him anymore.”

PART 2 OF 6 WILL BE PUBLISHED SOON. DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS ENCOURAGING TOPIC.

(Main source: The Bible and some John MacArthur sermons)