We love him, because he first loved us. ( I John 4:19)
The World is heading into a dark night. Daniel chapter 8:23 puts it well, we have arrived at , “… the latter time …when the transgressors are come to the full…” . All of us will be put to the test of our faith and love by circumstances and pressures brought to bear, within and without.
I asked the LORD for a teaching to help us prepare for this, and HE gave me a sermon on “Loving God”. I would like to share some of the highlights of what I consider to be an essential element in enduring the night to come. Jesus is LORD.
First of all we must realize that we can only Love God as a response to His love.
We humans do not by nature Love God, rather we hate Him! God hatred is one of the consequences of the corruption the fall of man has wrought into our souls.
“They Hated Me without a cause” saith the LORD in John 15:25.
A good many unregenerate people vainly imagine that they love God even though they don’t know him. Usually this is because we are all spiritual beings, made in the Image of God, and therefore many have an innate desire to be spiritual, to seek their creator, and to respond to Him. This leads millions of sinners into various religions, false ‘gods’ of their own making, and even into watered down versions of Christianity.
But when God reveals Himself and the Righteous demands he makes upon each one of us, our innate God hatred is revealed.
Why do sinners hate God? Because we are supremely selfish, and God’s righteousness causes him to oppose our selfish projects. Consider an infant, screaming for his or her own way, demanding the parents drop all else to immediately gratify his every desire, as if He is the center of the universe. This is the human condition. Men hate God.
Romans 8 tells us that “The Carnal mind is at enmity with God, it is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be…”.
People hate God because they want to be their own center. They also hate Him because we want to be autonomous, we want our way, on our own terms, and we certainly do not want a “Most High” telling us how to live.
People hate God also because he is just so good. His goodness actually shows us how bad we really are! In his goodness God often upends the shortsighted and self seeking designs we lay our for ourselves, and selfish people really resent this.
God’s Holiness is another reason people Hate Him. They resent the idea that there is another being so “other” and “High and lifted up” that to transgress his will on any point is to render themselves liable to a fiery and everlasting punishment.
Finally people hate God because they know deep down in their souls, that God will one day bring us all into account and He has the Power to cast us body, soul and spirit into hell. No one is autonomous, all of us must give account and sinful man deeply resents this, as it is an affront to his pride.
People invent many ‘gods’, but never would they come up with the God of the Bible.
So how does one go from God hatred to Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength?
Only the gospel can perform that miracle.
The Gospel is a revelation of what happens when sinful, God hating, fallen men, actually encountered God. Sinners hated Him, and even tortured and killed Him, but he loved them, forgave them and saved them.
I used to gaze at the crucifix in the front of the Catholic church I was raised in, and wonder what it signified. In a way , I knew that He loved us, and was suffering for us in some fashion. What was expected of me? How should I respond ? Was I to suffer also? Was I supposed to hate myself and grovel in penance?
One day I was reading the Bible, in a very sad state of mind, I was in despair over my sinful conditions and sure that I would be damned for my sins, when I happened upon a verse in 2 Corinthians 5:21, and a shaft of light penetrated the gloom,
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Suddenly I saw it in a flash of revelation. Jesus died as a substitute for me, and my sins. He took my place, He bore my sin and shame, and offered himself as a sacrifice to God for me, on the cross. For the first time in my life, I came to understand the LOVE of the savior. Jesus loves me, and I now Love Him.
We never start out Loving God, we are too fallen and depraved to be able to do so. In fact we have to face up to our God Hatred. The Gospel is the revelation of God’s love for us, while we were yet sinners. This is the only true basis of Christian love.
The Apostle Paul put it this way,
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)
No wonder we sing with grateful hearts and trembling lips, “Amazing Love, how can it be? That thou my Good, shouldest die for Me?”.