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Tuesday
Jun262012

God Is Love

The apostle John boldly proclaims that, not only does God love, but God is love. There is an immense step of progression between doing something and being it. God not only loves, but he is the epitome of what it means to love, with gentleness and toughness, with perseverance and patience. The Bible begins with an explanation of man's mastery over the earth, ascribing it to the love of God in delegating stewardship to his highest creation. The Bible ends with a reminder that God created all things and that by his will they continue to exist (see Genesis 1:26-27, Revelation 4:9-11). Every day of our lives, from birth, through conversion, until the last, is an extension of God's lovingkindness, and reason enough to return to him gratitude and faithfulness. This is not a lesson about what's wrong with us, but about what is so right with God that we should be sent immediately to our knees in subjection.

Discussion

I. God's Love for His People

A. Ancient Israel

1. God's special people in this final dispensation of time are not found in any geographical or political entity, but in the kingdom of his son, spread throughout the earth and populated as the church

2. still, his affection for his people is well illustrated in his former relationship with fleshly Israel, that ancient nation that dominated the Old Testament and acted as an incubator for the scheme of salvation (Deuteronomy 7:6-10)

3. their God continued to lead them and preserve them, but eventually their unfaithfulness led to a divorce and a reorientation of his affection, leading to the cross

4. nevertheless, he remained righteous and just, and the faithful accepted his goodness and severity as equal representations of love: "We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness" (Psalm 48:9-10).

B. Lovingkindness

1. God's love for Israel was often very miraculous, crossing the Red Sea, sending manna, and equipping the army to win wars against impossible odds

2. both individuals and whole communities were moved to praise God for something they described as his lovingkindness, a combination of mercy, pity, loyalty, righteousness and unchanging love (Psalm 36:5-10)

3. they came to appreciate God as their refuge and hope as he proved his genuineness and power throughout the generations

4. even when they ended up in exile because of their own disloyalty, God promised to restore the faithful to their homes (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

5. as much as faithful people exalted in the love of God back then, Christians receive something even greater through God's son

II. The Love of God

A. Sacrificial Love

1. early in the earthly ministry of Jesus, whose spirit departed heaven to inhabit the earthly body of Mary's son, described his coming and mission as functions of God's love (John 3:16-17)

2. as the climax of his earthly sojourn approached, he returned to that theme, calling himself a shepherd willing to die to save his sheep (John 15:9-17)

3. he went to the cross, refusing to summon the aid of a company of angels at his disposal, and suffered the anguish and indignity of crucifixion, dying not for the noble and worthy, for there were none, but for sinners of every description; "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (First Peter 3:18).

4. sacrificial love paved the way back to God, proving the love of God for all of us (Romans 5:6-8)

5. Jesus was trying to teach us something, not only about the love of God for us, but about the kind of love we manage to have for him (First John 4:8-12)

B. Expressions of Grace

1. certainly, his favor was not anything we earned (Titus 3:4-7)

2. it is completely unmerited -- not that we do not each have our moments of goodness, but that our indiscretions and rebellions require atonement, not balance

3. in a very real, spiritual sense, we are dead while we live in sin, and can only hope to live when we appropriate the power in his blood (Ephesians 2:1-8)

C. Treating Us As His Children

1. his love goes further, so that he addresses us as more than slaves and property, but as beloved children and heirs according to the promise of eternal life; we are the prodigal children who have wasted the promise of our lives on sinful indulgence, only to be invited to return home by a father who meets us and embraces us and forgives us and restores our honor (see Luke 15)

2. like any child, our desire should be to imitate our father, although with the added assurance that his example is reliable and unblemished by occasional selfishness or misdeed (Ephesians 5:1-2)

3. he even chastens us as a father would his sometimes foolish children; "he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10).

4. as wonderful as that relationship is now, its promise is even more special (First John 3:1-3)

D. Persistent Love

1. Christ, having ascended back into the throne room of Heaven, ever lives to mediate and intercede for us, his brethren

2. his Father attends to our prayers and watches over our lives, promising providential care and continual compassion (Matthew 10:29-33)

3. while penitent and faithful, we abide in the love of God, giving power to no one or to anything to separate us from him (Romans 8:35-39)

Conclusion

God is love, a love upon which we can depend.

Questions for Review


  1. How did God show his love for Israel?

  2. Why did God divorce Israel if he loved her so much?

  3. What is "lovingkindness"?

  4. How do we lay down our lives for Jesus?

  5. Why cannot we deserve his favor?

  6. How does God treat us like his children?

  7. What does Jesus do for us now?

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