ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – LOVE

Scripture says that God is love. 

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:8

We know that there are three primary words for love in the New Testament that enrich its meaning in Scripture beyond what our English translation can provide.

First is Eros from which we derive erotic, or romantic love, sexual and physical; it is a love that desires to possess for personal benefit.

Second is Phileo from which we get Philadelphia and philanthropy, words that mean companionship and friendship.

Third is Agape love.  This is the New Testament Greek word that describes God’s love for us.   Agape love is the result of a decision that commits itself to the well-being of the beloved regardless of the condition or reaction of the one who is loved, and it is the type of love that comes from God.

God loves His creation, and more than the creation generally, God loves His people.  Moses expressed it like this:

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

Deuteronomy 7:7-8

In other words, God’s love is not dependent on anything that we have or any action that we have taken.  It is not dependent on our position in society or the status of our bank account.  Indeed, we have nothing that God has not given us, and we can give Him nothing that he needs … He loves us because He is love.

The amazing aspect of this attribute is that it is complete, unconditional and everlasting love.  A. W. Tozer (1897 – 1963) said this about God’s love:

God’s love is measureless.  It is more.  It is boundless.  It has no bounds because it is not a thing but a facet of the essential nature of GodHis love is something He is, and because He is infinite, that love can enfold the whole created world in itself and have room for ten thousand times ten thousand worlds beside.

The Apostle John elaborates on this incredible attribute of our marvelous God when he says:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. … We love because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:9-11, 19

And now we come to the crux of the matter.  John said it well – “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.”  This week, known by many as Passion Week, we have prepared for Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  It is truly a day of joyous celebration for the Christian. 

But, before we can properly arrive at Sunday’s celebration we need to ruminate upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, the Friday night when sin thought it had triumphed over mankind.  This is the supreme example of God’s Agape love.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinnersChrist died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 5:6-10.

We, who were wallowing in our sin and were deserving of nothing but death and judgment from a holy God, were granted righteousness and full pardon from the judgment that our sin surely deserved when Christ died for us.  His sinless life, His death on the cross, and His powerful resurrection from the dead provides us with His righteousness because He took our sin and paid for it with His precious blood on the cross.

That, Beloved, is Agape love.  We don’t have to get clean before God will love us.  We don’t have to do anything before God will love us. The Holy Spirit said it through Paul’s writing: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  This is the example of divine, Agape, love for a being that can offer nothing … it is supreme love that is contingent not on the person being loved but on the nature of the One doing the loving.

This is the love that our Lord exhibited when He took our place on that cross.  It is the love that is evident when Jesus, suffering mightily on the cross, prayed for the soldiers who, even as He spoke, were dividing His clothing among themselves:

“”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”

Luke 23:34

Love is a principle of action rather than of emotion.  It is a purpose of honoring and benefiting the other party.  It is a matter of doing things for people out of compassion for their need, whether or not we feel personal affection for them.

J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, p. 182.

This love that has been extended to us deserves our response in love extended back to God and then to others.

Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) was a Puritan theologian, pastor, and devout Calvinist, whose conversion centered on his coming to the realization that God is sovereign over all things.  In the book Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards calls love the “sum of all Christianity”.  And he renders the following exhortation:

A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder the exercise of love to God… If love is the sum of Christianity, surely those things which overthrow love are exceedingly unbecoming [to] Christians.  An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!

May we relish in this glorious attribute of our holy God – Love.  And may we honor and glorify the embodiment of that love in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who endured unimaginable horror on the cross as He absorbed all our sin in Himself so that we could be called the children of God, all on the day we call Good Friday.  And may we live in the power of the Holy Spirit so that we glorify God through compassion and loving kindness as we share the good news of Jesus Christ and the glorious message of hope through His resurrection which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

Sovereign God, I praise You and glorify You as only You are worthy of adoration.  Thank You for the love that has been expressed through the sacrifice of Your Son so that my sin has been paid for and my debt extinguished through His righteousness.  I bow in humble obedience to You, my Lord and Master.

GOD WITH US NOW, NOT JUST AT CHRISTMAS

Jesus had fed the 5,000, had healed the sick, had cast out demons, yet the Pharisees demanded to see more signs, more miracles — show us a sign and we will believe!  Matthew 12:38.  It as if they thought that Jesus would deliver a sign upon demand!  How foolish of them, we say; how arrogant could they be, we say; how could they treat the Son of God like that, we say!

Are we not like them?   We demand that God would resolve our financial difficulties, perhaps by God letting us win the lottery.  We demand that God would miraculously take the disease away, on our immediate timetable, of course.  We demand that God intervene and solve all our problems when we try to buy a new house or car, although we have not financially prepared for the purchase.  Just one more sign!

Our God can do these things, of course.  He is omnipotent so there is nothing that He is powerless to accomplish.  But we miss out on His presence if we simply look for Him in a massive display of His power on our behalf.  We forget that He has given the believer in Jesus the gift of life, both here and for all eternity, through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Talk about massive display of His power!   We forget that He is with us, in fact He is in us through His beloved Holy Spirit.

Flower garden in Maine from Bette
A flower garden along a lake in Maine

We see evidences of God’s presence everywhere we look, if only we use our heart’s eyes.  A beautiful array of flowers, a stunning scene along the lake, an encouraging word from a friend that comes just when we needed it, a gentle rain or glittering rainbow, or provision He makes for our needs when we cannot see any possibility ahead of us.

The Pharisees did not need to see additional signs as evidence for them to believe in Him – Jesus had provided sufficient evidence that He was who He said He was.  He had healed the sick, raised the dead, responded to questions in ways too deep for these “thinkers” to understand. 

They didn’t need additional signs, and neither do we.  In short, we don’t need to seek spectacular displays of God’s work to know that He is the Savior.  The most spectacular display possible occurred 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ died the death that was rightfully ours and then when God raised Him from the dead. 

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV

 He is with us today, we don’t have to wait for Christmastime to realize this.

“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

2 Timothy 1:13-14 ESV

Oh that we would know that the Holy Spirit is resident within us, and that we would realize that we have “God With Us” in a way that those who lived prior to Pentecost could not imagine.  We don’t have to wonder where He is, nor do we have to go to a specific church or place to pray.  He is with us 24/7 and there is nowhere we can go that is outside His reach. 

Read Psalm 139 as you ruminate on how all-embracing God’s knowledge of you is. 

We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God.   He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.  

A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)

I pray that each of us will have open eyes to see His presence in our lives each day.

 

Father, You are Lord of the Universe, King of Kings, Creator of All, and You are the Lover of my soul.  Forgive, I pray, when I am so besieged by the difficulties, trials and concerns of the day that I fail to see Your hand, active and working in each of those situations.  Forgive, when I expect spectacular evidence of Your involvement in my life even though I ignore Your Word or the reminders that You provide in the chirp of a bird, in the sound of the wind, in the rustling of the leaves, in the antics of woodland creatures or the family pets.  Thank you Father for Your constant presence through the Holy Spirit.  May I be more sensitive to hearing Your call as You work in my life today.

HOW MAJESTIC IS YOUR NAME

At this time of the year, the full moon seems larger than life.  There is a school with its large parking lot, running track and baseball fields ½ mile from our house.  When we come home from Bible study in the evening, the moon is visible over this expanse of space, without the interjection of trees hampering the vision.  It has been wonderful to stare at the moon, marveling at its orange-tinted hue when it is first visible and appears huge.  Then, as it rises high in the sky, it seems to spread a glow of white light that blankets the land. 

I realize that there is a scientific way of explaining the light, the coloration, the change in apparent size of the moon, etc. and I appreciate that we have gone such a long way in understanding our world.  But, science is quite irrelevant when I see the full moon advancing overhead: I know it does this because God ordained it to do so, and it is awe-inspiring to me.

Moon and lake (C)
Full moon rising over still Mississippi lake.

 Scripture says:

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Psalm 8:3-4 ESV

These verses from David come front and center when we look at the moon and at the beauty of God’s creation.  What is man, indeed?  How is the Creator God mindful of mankind?  He is the One who spoke all of our universe into existence by the power of His Word!  More incredible to think of, this same Almighty God who existed before the universe was created and who is infinite, not only knows of human-kind, He knows ME, individually and personally.  

Psalm 139 provides a listing of all the intimate details that God knows about each person on this planet. He knows: 

  • When you sit down and when you stand up. – 139:2 
  • The path you will take, when you lay down, all your ways. –  139:3
  • What I say even before I speak it out loud. – 139:4
  • His hand is on you and he hems you in. – 139:5
  • You can go nowhere outside of God’s sight or knowledge. – 139:7-12
  • Even in the lowest part of earth, far from heaven, God sees you. – 139:8
  • God is in the heavens and in the sea. – 139:9
  • No matter where you are, God’s right hand will hold you. – 139:10
  • Even darkness cannot hide you from God. – 139:11-12
  • God created you and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. – 139:13-15
  • God knew the number of our days even before we were born – 139:16

John Calvin said the following about Psalm 139:17-18 in his Commentary:

The truth is one which we would do well to consider more than we do, for while we may cast a glance at our hands and our feet, and occasionally survey the elegance of our shape with complacency, there is scarcely one in a hundred who thinks of his Maker. Or if any recognize their life as coming from God, there is none at least who rises to the great truth that He who formed the ear, and the eye, and the understanding heart, Himself hears, and sees, and knows everything.

So, the next time you look up into the heavens and see the full moon reflecting the sun’s light over the earth, remember Psalm 139.   

A. W. Tozer [1897-1963] said:

“If we miss seeing God in His works we deprive ourselves of the sight of a royal display of wisdom and power so elevating, so ennobling, so awe-inspiring as to make all attempts at description futile.  Such a sight the angels behold day and night forever and ask nothing more to make them perpetually satisfied!”

The God who formed us knows us and loves us, and gave His Son for us.  Perhaps we should say that the moon is reflecting His Son-shine as it witnesses to us of God’s love and provision.  Let us declare that which the Psalmist said: 

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Psalm 8:9 ESV

Father, when I consider Your greatness and Your marvelous creation, Your love and intimate knowledge of me, I can only fall on my knees and confess that You are God.  O Lord, my Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!