Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Knowing and Relying on the Love God Has for Us

"How do we know God loves us?" Have you ever been asked that question? Ever asked that question yourself?

One of the central tenets of Christian faith is that God loves the world He has made. He loves sinners. He loves those who have been most unlovely and unlovable. We teach this and we believe this and we try to get others to understand and accept this. But how do we know? Could it be a figment of the religious imagination?

Knowing the Love God Has for Us

No. We know this by at least two infallible things. First, God tells us of His love in His word. In the inspired and inerrant record of God's mighty acts and majestic character, the mightiest and most majestic is the disclosure of the Father's love. We know that God loves us because He says so. He has written to us of His love by His Spirit in exacting detail.

And given that God is the kind of Being that He is--perfectly good, perfectly true, perfectly righteous, perfectly just, perfectly perfect--we could stop simply at His word. What more do we need from an infallible God?

Yet, in His word, God says, "Let me prove it to you. Let me show you the depths and the beauty and the reality of my love." So, second, He demonstrates and proves His love by sending His Son for us.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9).

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us" (1 John 3:16a).

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

We know God loves us because He sent His Son for us. He sent His Son for us. He sent His Son for us. He sent His Son for us.

That proves His love. He didn't send His Son for angels or animals or androids or anything else. Nor did the Father send angels or sparrows or the UPS man; He sent His one and only Son. He sent His Son for us who "were still sinners." The Father sent His Son for us so that we might live, "as an atoning sacrifice for our sins," so we "should be called the children of God!" We know the Father loves us because His Son in love laid down His life so we might see what love is and know love through Him.

What greater proof of God's love for us is there? What greater demonstration is imaginable? How might the Father make it clearer? To want more proof is not only unbelief and weakness and misery, it's blasphemy.

Here's an amazing thing: God loves us. And He has proven it in His Son.

Relying on the Love God Has for Us

And so we're called to "know and rely on the love God has for us" (1 John 4:16a).

Pitiful Christian that I am. How often do I go off forgetting the love God has for me and relying on my love for Him or relying on something else. And so, how often am I made uncertain of His love and therefore uncertain of everything because I rely on something else for God's approval and acceptance.

But knowing that His love is unshakable and that we are inseparable from His love, the Father calls us to abandon everything else and to rely on that redeeming, precious love He reveals in giving His Son for us. We are to know and rely on the love the Father has for us.

We know His love by knowing His Son. We know His love by knowing Jesus personally, by turning to Him in repentance from our sinful life lived apart from Him and trusting all that's revealed about Him in His sinless life, His sacrifice for sinners, His triumphant resurrection and ascension, His promise to pardon, His glorious return for us, and everlasting joy in His presence. We know His love by living in communion with Him through His Spirit, by listening to Him in His word, by walking in obedience to Him. These are some of the ways we know the Father loves us.

But how to rely on the Father's love? It's not less than knowing His love for us, for how can we rely on something we have no knowledge of? So we must know His love for us, but there is more. We must rely on the love the Father has for us. But how?

An analogy may help. Each day I live in reliance on my wife's love for me. What does that look like?
  • I don't worry about my wife breaking our marriage vows and commitment because I'm relying on her love for me to keep her faithful.
  • I don't worry about whether the children have been cared for, because I trust or rely on her love to care for the people and things I care for.
  • I don't worry about whether there will be a nutritious and delicious meal at home after work, because I rely on her love to show itself in providing for that need.
  • I don't doubt that in her arms I'll find comfort and consolation when I'm hurting because I know she loves me and she is there for me.
  • I don't doubt that she will talk with me for as long as we're able or I like because, relying on her love, I know she will delight to keep company with me.
  • When I put the key in the door to come inside the home, I know she is going to be there and not have abandoned me because I'm relying on her love for me.

In a million ways each day I live with reliance on my wife's love. Dimly, this points us to ways to live in reliance on the love God has for us through Christ His Son.

Relying on His love for us, we may live confident that the Father will not be unfaithful to us. "For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does" (Ps. 33:4).

We rely on His love by leaning into God's care and provision, not worrying about our needs. "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!" (Matt. 7:9-11).

We rely on the Father's love for us when we turn to Him to find comfort and the soothing of pain. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). "A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out, till He leads justice to victory" (Is. 42:3; Matt. 12:20).

We rely on the Father's love for us when we seek to meet with Him and hear His voice in prayer and Bible study. "It is written in the prophets, 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to me" (John 6:45).

We rely on the Father's love for us when we trust that He will not abandon us. "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'" (Heb. 13:5).

We rely on God's love by looking to the day when we shall be delivered safely home. "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day" (2 Tim. 1:12b).

Today, know and rely on the love the Father has for you.

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