I don’t know about you, but I often doubt that God really loves me. Part of me wonders if the message of God’s love is too good to be true. Maybe it’s just more Joel Osteen syrup lulling me into a sugar coma where I’m safe from the hard truths in scripture about holiness, judgement, and God’s wrath.
Is it possible to over-proclaim God’s love? Does focusing on God’s unconditional love make us lazy about discipline and obedience? Can we have too high a view of God’s love? Can we conjure a false god who would love us more than the real God does? I don’t think so.
If there is one truth that Satan does not want you to grasp, I believe it is this: God loves you with an overwhelming, steadfast, relentless love. Spiritual problems don’t crop up in our life because we have too exalted a view of God’s love, but because our view is not great enough.
There are two partial views of God’s love that Satan desperately spreads to wreak havoc with your spiritual growth:
- God wants you to be good and holy, but His love is contingent on your spiritual performance.
- God loves you unconditionally just the way you are, and He’s content to leave you unchanged.
Both partial views make far too little of God’s love and are no threat to Satan’s ultimate goal of destroying your relationship with God.
Some of you have grown up in a legalistic home where God was portrayed as harsh and stern. God only loved you when you were good; He had such ridiculously high expectations that you felt He was always disappointed in you. You are in dire need of seeing the unconditional aspect of God’s love.
But sadly we often exchange one incomplete view of God’s love for another. The Stern Critical Father is replaced with the Infatuated Teenager view of God’s love, where God is “crazy about you” and “obsessed with you.” God loves everything about you just the way you are. Here God’s love is reduced to dreamy infatuation that doesn’t seem to care about your bondage to sin. He’s not bothered by your little failures; He just wants you to know that He loves you.
Both of these views of God’s love are pitifully weak compared to the raging holy passion that the real almighty God of the universe has for you. God loved you while you were dead in sin, an enslaved enemy of God. God loves because He IS love. His nature is to love sacrificially and without end. God can’t NOT love you anymore than God can lie. God loves you just the way you are. But God loves you far too much to leave you broken and enslaved to things that are destroying you!
God longs for you to be holy. Holiness is not just being burdened by laws and restrictions. It’s not a stifling “thou shalt not.” Holiness is freedom from slavery and addictions, from lies and despair. Holiness is eyes opened to the beauty and grandeur of God and the emotional exhilaration of true worship. What kind of love would not want this for a person?
Tasting the true, consuming love of God, Paul was transformed from murderously hunting down Jesus’ followers to become one of His most ardent missionaries. Love made Paul fearless, giving him comfort in hardship and hope in difficulties. Love transformed trials from report cards of failures into affirmations of the deepest care.
God does love us with a romantic love. God created sexual attraction and romance as a picture of his ardent love for us and the intimacy He desires. But our current ideas of love and sex are so distorted by lies that romantic love can now be a very poor lens to understanding God’s love. Scripture more often portrays God’s love as a good father’s care for his child. Father love adores his child before he or she can do anything to earn it. But a good father cares earnestly about the overall wellbeing of his child: Health and goodness matter more than the child’s immediate feelings.
For example, our 14 month-old ball of giggles and mischief, Justin, recently had a very painful diaper rash. The other day I saw that his diaper was full and I took him to the changing table. He fought and screamed. Lesser love on my part would have given into his emotional outburst and let his skin suffer a little longer. But even my weak and broken reflection of Father love did not consider that an option. Justin needed that burning filth cleaned off and have healing ointment applied no matter how much he fought it.
God loves us the same way, only with far greater intensity, wisdom, and power. Any version of God’s love that leaves out obedience, repentance, and holiness is pitifully weak saccharine that should be doubted and rejected, not because it takes God’s love too seriously, but because it ignores the destructiveness of sin.
We secretly desire the pleasures of sin and are jealous of those who are free to sin. We think our righteousness is medal worthy. However, if we feel any pride about our righteous lifestyle, we do not yet know the devastating consequences of sinful choices. I feel no pride for not having cut off my arm because I know how harmful that would be. And there is no secret envy of those who do.
God is un-blinded by sinful desires. He sees every bit of devastation that rebellion and idolatry bring to His beloved Creation. Because of His all-consuming love, God is a raging fire against that which brings us misery. His love fuels His wrath. A God of love, with no wrath towards evil, is a shallow apathetic god.
The true God of love sees you as incredibly precious to Him apart from anything you have done. You can never disappoint God because already He sees all of your sins, past and future, and still chose to love you. God knows you are but dust. He knows how much you needed a Saviour. But He will also relentlessly seek to free you from evil and the destructive forces that hate you.
What would it change in your life if you could really believe that God loves you with an unfailing, steadfast love?
How well we understand and experience the love of God has a huge impact on many aspects of our lives. If you believe that God’s love is conditional on your performance or good deeds, you will live in stressful insecurity and doubt. Anxiety about whether or not you are good enough will cause you to seek reassurance by comparing yourself with those you believe are bigger failures than you are. The quality of love you show others will reflect what you believe about God’s love. If God is stern and stingy with his love towards you, how can your own love toward others be any greater?
However, when you begin to catch a glimpse of the great and kind heart behind the love of God you will change in the following ways:
Your fears will begin to melt as you realize He “gives unto each day what He deems best.”
Criticism will not be the same devastating blow it used to be, because your value is not found in man’s approval but in being loved unconditionally by your Creator.
Holiness will be something you desire because it opens the door to greater fellowship with the Source of all peace and pleasure.
You will not feel the same need to be judgmental of others or run them down because you have tasted grace and see how unworthy you are apart from the imparted righteousness of your Saviour.
You will not feel so discouraged by repeated failures, because God loves you just as much as before. And the same powerful love that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you to pick you up and enable your freedom.
As right knowledge of the Gospel melts your heart and changes your desires, you will be filled with love for God and others. John the Apostle makes these things so clear in his epistles: To know God is to obey Him. To know the love of God is to be free from hate and filled with love for God’s other children.
God loves you. Not in a mere simpering sentimental way, but with a blazing passion. God’s love will be ruthless in His quest to set you free. Look at what He as already done. Could there be a greater proof of love and devotion than God Himself become man, sweating in agony in the garden, pleading with His heavenly Father for another way, only to clench his teeth and continue the excruciating march to the cross? Can you even begin to fathom the depths of love it must have taken the heavenly Father to let the consequences of our rebellion fall on His perfect submissive Son? Do you have any idea how much God loves you?
What more could He do to prove it to you?
I have attempted to describe God’s love in my words, but there is no substitute for God’s love in his own words. Please read the compilations linked below to discover just how deep is God’s love for us.