Sometimes it seems that we all have a tendency, for a multitude of reasons, to drift away from The Love of God. Not because we don’t believe this is so, but because, as fallen human beings, we just get entangled in the affairs of this life. And let’s be honest – sometimes we just don’t “feel” The Love of God the way we expect to.
This is natural and nothing to beat ourselves over the head with, but we really do need to take the time to reflect on The Love of God and what this truly means for us. Because, honestly, there’s really nothing more exciting for the believer to contemplate than knowing for an absolute certainty that God loves them.
This article is intended to re-direct our thoughts and hearts back towards God’s love that He has shown all of us through the unconditional love exhibited on the cross as a result of His precious Son’s righteous sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Lest you think I’m doing this for you and you only, rest assured that I have selfish motives for writing this article, in that I recognize that I need this reminder just as much as anyone else does. So, let’s be “selfish” together, that we may be worthy of that Name which is above every name (Philippians 2:9-11), and refamiliarize ourselves with The Love of God!
Our Love Responsibility: Love for God and Love for Neighbor
When it comes to our responsibility concerning love, Christ gives us the all-encompassing answer when He responded to the Scribe’s question:
“And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31).
This is our responsibility concerning love – to love God and to love others. Honestly, no man or woman can fully accomplish these two commandments without the love of God. It’s impossible.
It’s because God, in His triune form, loved within Himself eternally through the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that love even exists at all. This should not surprise us because if God is to be God, He must first be the originator of true agape love.
A monotheistic God of only one character and nature would not have the ability to experience love within himself, as this would be self-love, a self-centered “love” devised by fallen man and foreign to Scripture. Unfortunately, man has never had a “self-love” deficiency, and, in fact, “self-centered love” is man’s foundational hindrance to loving God and loving man!
But the only wise God, through God’s eternal nature of the Trinity, is not only capable of loving through His own existence as the original family unit, but is also able to administer this love onto and into His creation.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).
Love is of God. And even though mankind has been born into sin since the fall of Adam, God – because of His love – has made a way for His fallen creatures to be redeemed back to Him by His amazing love!
God’s Love for Us
We learn in Scripture that we didn’t love God – nor could we – but, rather, we now can love God because God “first loved us.”
“We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Do you remember when you first discovered that God loved you? Was this the occasion when you gave your life to Christ, or were you first made aware that this was even possible when a seed was planted in your heart as someone shared Jesus with you for the first time?
When did this truth become real to you? Was it during a time of deep despair and/or loss? When everything around you began crashing down upon your once simple life, that you sensed that God was the only One there for you?
Time and time again, we hear testimonies from the saints that when they were at their lowest point in life is when they came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is also at our breaking point – whether through sadness, pain, tragedy, trials and/or tribulations – that God’s love becomes even more of a reality within our lives. Brokenness, in God’s economy, always paves the way for divine healing through His awe-inspiring love.
“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
What an amazing fact, that God would dwell in the hearts of fallen mankind! All of this is possible only because God “first loved us” and showed us His love in the person and work of His glorious Son, Jesus Christ!
The Love of Christ’s Sacrifice
Consider The Love of God:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
When one comes to understand that God became a man to die for the sins of the world in order to reconcile fallen man back to Himself, it truly is astonishing. Why would God do that? Why would He ever think that this would be something He would even want to do?
Being as God saw and knew everything about everybody before He even considered creating, the first thing He knew and understood was that mankind would rebel against Him, and He would need to become a man to pay for those sins Himself. We don’t have to guess if this was the case, for the Scriptures clearly declare this to be so.
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you…” (1 Peter 1:18-20).
When Christ laid down His life, He sacrificed so much more than His earthly existence. He sacrificed, for a time, His divine relationship with His Father – a relationship that had no beginning and would have had no ending. But for about three hours that He hung on the cross – which was really our cross – when the darkness filled the land, the Son was separated from His Father, paying for our sins and tasting the “second death” for every human being.
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
You see, the physical pain of being scourged and nailed to the cross was the visible aspect of what the Son was accomplishing spiritually for us on that day. The visible facet of the cross reveals to us what mankind was, and is, capable of – killing our Creator. But the spiritual aspect of the cross is what paid for our sins.
The Son of God paid our penalty of the “second death,” which was our destiny apart from His paying the payment for our sins and satisfying the Father’s wrath against rebellion, wickedness, evil, and sin. Our part in salvation is just to accept this truth, believe on Him and His sacrifice, and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, while we give our lives to Him to mold as He pleases.
Before Yeshua died for the sins of the world, He gave us all a commandment.
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:9-12).
How can anyone love others as Christ has loved us?!? Well, it’s because He lives within us, by His Spirit, that we are able to fulfill this commandment. Again, it’s all because of Him!
The Results of Christ’s Sacrifice for the Believer
When you think of the sacrifice the Son of God made for you – at the expense of His precious blood and being separated from His Father for what must have seemed like an eternity to Him – what comes to your mind? Joy? Relief? Awe?
Maybe the very thought of such a sacrificial love is indescribable because God’s perfect and amazing gift of grace through the cross is truly unspeakable? (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Because the truth is, we didn’t deserve it. But that’s what makes God’s free gift so remarkable!
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Jesus now calls us friends! The Lord God who created all is our friend!! And He proved He was our friend when He willingly and lovingly laid down His life for all of us.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
As Jesus is always our example, we are commanded to show His unconditional love toward us to our brothers and sisters in the faith.
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
When John tells us that “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren,” we would do well to consider this more than a willingness to die for each other. This emphatic directive is all-encompassing and speaks of us putting the needs and concerns of our brothers and sisters before ourselves, and therefore fulfilling the command to love our neighbor as ourself.
Just as we are to carry our cross and die to the world and self, we are also to bear each other’s burdens.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Christ’s Love for Us
Let’s contemplate the ramifications of Christ’s love for us.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
Each and every one of us were sinners rebelling against our Creator and destined for hell – and ultimately the Lake of Fire – and despite our ugliness and desperately wicked hearts, “Christ died for us!” Um, can I get a “Hallelujah!”
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Because of Christ’s love, in dying for the sins of the world, those of us who have given our lives to Him, first died with Him so that we could live for Him. It was our sins that put Him on that cross, and it was our eternal lives He thought of when He bore our sins. Because of our unquenchable thankfulness for his loving sacrifice, we no longer live for ourselves – we live for Him! And why wouldn’t we?
Does your life reflect the truth that “the life which [you] now live in the flesh [you] live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved [you], and gave Himself for [you]?” Are you “crucified with Christ?” Do you “live; yet not [yourself], but Christ liveth in [you]?”
“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
Are you constrained – or, better yet, are you seized by His love? Does His love hold you together? Because, honestly, if it wasn’t for Christ’s love as shown to me in His Word and His sacrifice for my sins on the cross, I would literally fall apart. There would be absolutely nothing in this world for me to live for.
Yes, I love my family. Yes, I have appreciation for my friends. But without Christ and knowing that there is a God and that He has a plan for my life that involves an eternity with Him, apart from living a handful of decades (at best) on this earth, there really wouldn’t be anything to live for. Seriously. Why would anyone desire to continue to live a life that ultimately leads to death and utter “nothingness” along with the pain and suffering that goes with it?
But, knowing that this is not the case and we do have a destiny with our Creator, how much better is it to live for Him and to die to self!
If you are like me – and I am “persuaded” that you are – then Romans 8 is probably one of your favorite chapters in all of Scripture. How can a child of God cruise past this chapter and not be affected by the spiritual content, promises, and truths clearly laid out for us by the Apostle Paul?
Within this chapter is the beloved verse:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
In times of trials and persecutions, I imagine that there isn’t one brother or sister who hasn’t meditated on and claimed this verse for comfort and victory. The implications for the Christian couldn’t be clearer; God is working all things together for the good of us!
And then when we are at a loss or overwhelmed by those trials — not only in our own lives, but in the lives of the ones we love, and don’t know how to pray or are at a loss of how to pray because of our frailties and infirmities — we turn to our Comforter, the Holy Spirit, and He prays for us.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).
Paul goes on to discuss our security in the Lord and then asks us a question:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35a).
Then Paul gives us 7 examples of the trials and tribulations that a follower of Christ may endure:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35).
Paul, then, makes a profound statement to encourage the saints:
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Paul continues on to give us the reasons we should all be persuaded that “we are more than conquerors through [Christ] who loved us.”
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Notice that there are 10 things that shall never “be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” These 10 items seem to encapsulate every possible aspect of creation and life, and therefore assures us of absolute victory through our Creator and Savior’s abounding and infinite love.
Above, in Romans 8:35, we noted that Paul gave us 7 examples of the trials and tribulations that a follower of Christ may endure. When added to the 10 things that shall never “be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” we get a total of 17.
God’s Love as Found in the Number 17
In John 21:1-11, we read of the account of our risen Savior calling out to the disciples – who were to be “fishers of men” – on the sea of Tiberias to “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.” We are told that the disciples caught 153 fishes.
Henry Morris, in the Henry Morris Study Bible, says the following concerning this number:
The reason why the disciples were careful to count, and John to record, the number of fishes brought to shore must again involve symbolism, as there seems no other reason for it. It has been calculated that there were 153 distinct nations in the world at the time of Christ (the number is not much different at present); these were represented at Pentecost by 17 ethnic groups (see Acts 2:8-11), when the disciples first began to carry out the Commission, preaching to the world in miniature, as it were. The number 17 is also symbolic; when all the numbers are added up through 17 (that is, 1+2+3+…+16+17), they add to 153.
Furthermore, the digits in 153 (i.e., 1+5+3) add to 9, which when multiplied by 17, again makes 153. It is also interesting that there are three digits in the number, and if each is multiplied by itself three times, then the total once again adds to 153. That is: (1x1x1) + (5x5x5) + (3x3x3) = 153. There seems no other number that could possibly be more appropriate to represent all the peoples of the world than this number, and it is surely more than coincidence (in fact, providential) that the Creator saw to it that exactly 153 great fishes entered the “gospel net.”
On just what we have looked at, in regard to Romans 8, Henry Morris goes on to state:
One might even multiply this 17-fold security by the 9-fold fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and again there results 153-fold effectiveness in true evangelism. Then also, one could note that the word “sign” or “miracle” occurs 17 times in John, and there are 9 “signs” described in John’s Gospel (the 7 performed by Christ before His resurrection plus His own resurrection plus this symbolic post-resurrection miracle). Again we have 17 x 9 suggested. That is not all, but it should be obvious that all of this simply could not be mere coincidence. Its symbolic significance is real and powerful.
Let’s conclude by making this personal.
What do you think about when you reflect on the cross of Christ? Do you contemplate about how your sins put the Savior there? Do you consider all that He went through in order to give you eternal life and reconcile you back to God? Do you ponder about how the Creator loved you so much that He was willing to be separated from His Father, pay your judgment of the “second death,” and died and rose again to bring you back to Himself?
With these questions in mind, I’d like to share the following few lines from my song All We Are.
Creator of the universe – heaven, earth, and sea
Stepped out of eternity – He left the Trinity
Separated in distress – on a hill called Calvary
He was crying out in anguish – as He hung there on that tree
A total tug of the heart – from the One who does art
From the heaven He created – His love to us He imparts
We worship You with All We Are
All of this Yeshua did passionately and willingly because of The Love of God for you!
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
But it doesn’t stop there, dearly beloved. He’s got big plans for you and all of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Something so wonderful that words are incapable of expressing the realities that await us!
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Until then, my prayer for every brother and sister in Christ is the same prayer of Paul for the saints in Ephesus:
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
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