Love involves seeking the well-being of another. Because people are made in the image of God and God’s nature is characterized by love, something in the heart of every person knows that love is the right thing to do.
However, people are also estranged from God, and in our natural state we tend to love those who love us. “I will seek your well-being as long as you seek my well-being” is the rule of the day for individuals as well as many of the world’s religions.
Jesus was radical in His teaching. He told one such religious group, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The basis of His noble challenge was God Himself. Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-47, “[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? . . . And if you greet only your people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
Jesus made clear distinctions between religiously motivated love and divinely motivated love. Those who have made the God connection will never be satisfied with merely loving those who love them in return.
The question is how to break free from the earthbound weight of human love to experience the freedom of divine love. I am convinced that the answer lies in bringing our weakness to the One who has strength, namely, Jesus of Nazareth.
To a group of religious people who claimed to have a relationship with God, Jesus says in John 8:42-47:
“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
His words would have been extremely harsh if they weren’t true. However, because they were true, they explain why religious people have often been involved in murder and lying. They are simply following the example of their father, the devil. They are sincere people but are sincerely wrong.
The answer to humankind’s dilemma is not to unify the world’s religions and bring them together into one great world religion that will institute peace. The world’s religions, whether individually or corporately, have never led people to experience the kind of divine love of which Jesus spoke. No religion, even the “Christian” religion, has ever produced such love. This kind of love flows only through those who have made the genuine God connection, those who truly follow Christ. Like Christ, they have learned to “[look] to . . . the interests of the others” and “honor one another above [them]selves.” (See Philippians 2:4; Romans 12:10)
“The Scriptures are clear. God loves us with an everlasting love.”
The apostle Paul, who was caught up in religion before his genuine God connection, put it this way in Romans 5:7-8: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Human love might motivate us to sacrifice, or even die, for someone whom we consider good. For example, one sibling might donate an organ to another, or parents might be willing to die to save the life of a child. But human love does not lift us to the level of dying for our enemies. This degree of love flows only from God, who makes it available to us. Again Paul wrote in Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
The Scriptures are clear. God loves us with an everlasting love. He loves us even though we have turned away from Him and walked our own way. Yet our human willful rebellion creates problems. Because God is totally righteous and holy, He cannot accept our sinfulness. To do so would violate His justice. So human sin results in a chasm between people and God.
It is not unlike what happens when one spouse is unfaithful to the other. A gulf forms between the two individuals and the sense of distance is inevitable. Even our limited human sense of justice demands payment for wrongdoing, so we should certainly expect no less from God’s perfect justice. However, God’s love is perfect as well, so His love for humankind motivated Him to send Jesus, who endured the full penalty for our wrongdoing. Thus, the demands of justice were met at the cross of Jesus Christ.
From a human point of view, Jesus died at the age of thirty-three at the hands of religious people. However, from heaven’s perspective, His death was an act of love to pay for the sins of all who would accept God’s forgiveness. He had not come to earth to live a long life as a celebrated teacher. He had come to die, which is why He could say from the cross moments before He died, “It is finished” (John 19:30). What happened at that moment and three days later has forever changed the lives of those who believe. The historical record is clear.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:51-54)
The curtain in the temple prevented access to the Most Holy Place (sometimes called the Holy of Holies) where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Only the high priest was permitted into the Most Holy Place, and then only once a year to offer an animal sacrifice for the sins of the people. The annual ritual was symbolic of Jesus, the Lamb of God, whom the Scriptures say was “slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
Jesus has existed in eternity past with God the Father, yet when He invaded human history in the form of a man to offer Himself as a sacrifice, temple sacrifices were no longer needed. The symbolic action had given way to the reality of God’s forgiveness for all people who believed.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is documented as well as any event in ancient history. Again and again, those who have examined the evidence have arrived at the same conclusion: Jesus was raised from the dead three days after He died on a cross. His resurrection is the supernatural evidence that His words were to be trusted. Those who believe and respond receive God’s forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit comes to reside in them, and they experience the love of God to share with their generation. This is what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” In addition, those who believe can also look forward to resurrection after death and eternity with God in heaven.
If you are encountering these ideas for the first time, I know they seem to be incredible. But I know also that because you are made in God’s image and because God loves you, there is something within your spirit that affirms, “Yes, this is truth.” Acting on this response allows you to make the God connection. The words you say to God are unimportant, but the heart cry of many believers is something like this: “Lord, I find it difficult to believe that You love me so much, but I open my heart to You. I want to accept Your forgiveness. I thank You that Christ has paid my penalty. I invite Your Spirit into my life. I want my life to be a channel of Your love. I give myself to You forever.”
Thousands of people from cultures around the globe have made that kind of response to God and by so doing have found love and life forever. Through the lives of those individuals, the love of God is spoken in all five love languages around the world in every generation. One by one, people continue to respond to the love of God and commit their lives to walking with Him.
by Gary Chapman
Feel God’s love more personally. Do you realize that the God of the universe speaks your love language, and your expressions of love for...
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