INTRODUCTION: This devotional series is based on J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God. There is no greater quest, no more important activity, nothing that should be a higher priority than getting to know God. Too many Christians know about God without making their time with him personal. These devotionals are designed to challenge you to ask questions of yourself, bring these questions before God, make you think, and transform your relationship with God. My prayer is that your study will overflow in emotion, in touching your heart, in connecting with God, and sharing your relationship with others. The book consists of 22 Chapters, thus this series last 22 days. Dig in!
Reflections on Chapter 12: The Love of God
What does it mean that “God is Love”? (1 John 4)
In one sense, John wanted Christians to consider experiencing God's love to be heaven on earth, the normal Christian experience. When Paul similarly says in Rom 5, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,” he illustrates God's love continuously flooding and overflowing our hearts as a normal experience of Christians.
“God is love” is both the most glorious, transformative statement and the most misunderstood. Glorious and transformative when the love of God saturates our lives and we live in love, imitating Christ, and “we know and rely on the love God has for us.” Misunderstood when interpreted as an excuse to assume that God acts toward us only in ways we want, like a Cosmic Santa Clause, restricted to acts of kindness, blessings, and gifts.
1. "God is Love" is not the complete truth about God so far as the Bible is concerned.
The Bible has several God-defining statements. Let’s explore three that help us to clear up the misunderstandings of God’s love.
· God is spirit. God has no body, and is therefore omnipresent, not restricted by space. God has no parts – his personality, powers, and qualities are not separated but perfectly integrated, and therefor by his nature there are no inconsistencies in his love. God has no fleshly biases, therefore his emotions are never out of control or directed by misguided passions.
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
· God is light. This statement rules out any sentimental conceptions of God’s love as soft or divorced from moral standards. There is no darkness in him at all; he is spiritually pure. We cannot therefore treasure sin in our hearts and expect to cozy up to him without first coming clean.
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:5b-6)
· God is holy. God is set apart, different from us, and he expects us as his people to be set apart. God’s children do not blend in with the world. Unholiness defiles the holy.
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-15)
2. "God is Love" is the complete truth about God so far as the Christian is concerned.
God’s love is an exercise of his goodness towards individual sinners whereby, having identified himself with their welfare, he has given his son to be their savior and now brings them to know and enjoy him in a covenant relation. Let’s break this statement down:
· Exercising Goodness. God is the God of cosmic generosity. He gives graciously to all, regardless of their willingness to recognizing him.
Your Father in heaven causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt 5:45)
· Towards Sinners. God’s love abounds in grace and mercy toward the undeserving. The New Testament writers had to introduce a virtually new term to describe this unconditional and selfless love - agape.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)
· Individuals. God’s love is not vague, diffused goodwill towards everyone in general and nobody in particular. He adopts us as his sons and daughters; exercising purposeful love.
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. (2 Thes 2:13)
· Identifying with Us. In some mysterious way, God resolved that his happiness would be bound with ours.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10)
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. (Jude 24, NLT)
· Giving His Son as Savior. If love be measured by the gift, God’s love passes understanding.
This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. (1 John 4:9, MSG)
· To Know and Enjoy Him. God established a covenant to guard the promise of our relationship with him. His love for us is not frivolous, but rather he protects our relationship with this eternal promise. Our relationship is not jeopardized by our humanity but rather guaranteed by his divinity.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer 31:33-34)
God is Love. This truth defines our relationship with him. As you reflect on his love, try to identify any obstacles in your relationship with him. God delights in us and wants us to delight in him. When he looks at us, he sees a perfect child (Gal 3:27). When you look at him do you see a perfect father?