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Believe and Receive the Free Gift of Godís unconditional love

The following quotations are from Charles Stanleyís book, ďThe Reason for my Hope,Ē published in 1997 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

     Have you ever wondered about your purpose in life? Have you ever wondered why God created you and what He has destined for you? Have you ever asked yourself, ĎWhat is my reason for getting up in the morning?í

     At the core of the depression and despair that many people feel is a nagging question: Why am I here? The fact is, if you donít know why you are here, then you donít have a sense of purpose, direction, or meaning in your life. If you are without a basic mooring for your soul, spirit, and mind, then it is very easy to lose hope. If you donít know why you are alive right now, then it is very difficult to see any reason for why you may continue to be alive in the future. The very nature of hope requires that you have some sense of meaning and purpose for your life.

     The Word of God says that you have a purpose, one that is both noble and highly desirable in the mind and heart of virtually every person who has ever lived: You were created by God to love and be loved.

     Yes, you.

     This statement is certainly true for all of humankind, but it is also a truth that is meant for you to embrace personally. God loves you. He loves you unconditionally, without limit or qualification, and He loves you personally and individually.

            Not only does He love you and desire to shower you with His love, but He longs to be loved by you.

     Furthermore, He desires that you love and be loved by other human beings. God is generous---even extravagant---in His love. He delights when you express His brand of unconditional love to others and when you experience that kind of love in return.

     If I could use only one word to describe Godís nature and His desire for you, it would be love.

 

The Unfathomable Depth of Godís Love

     The very essence of Godís being---His personality, His nature---is love. The motivation for Godís sending Jesus into the world was love. The most famous verse in all the Bible tells us this: ďGod so loved the world that He gave His only begotten SonĒ (John 3:16 NKJV).

     The reason that Jesus came to this earth, lived a victorious life, and then died as the one definitive and lasting sacrifice to reunite God and human beings was love. God desires to have a relationship with you. He desires to reveal Himself to you, to shower His love and good gifts upon you, and to live with you forever.

     The apostle John told us in one of his letters that the supreme attribute of God is love. John based that conclusion on his personal relationship with Jesus, having walked with Him for nearly three years of ministry before Jesusí crucifixion and resurrection. He wrote this after having lived in relationship with the Lord Jesus for several decades after Jesus went to be with the Father:

 

We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:14ó16 NKJV)

 

     Note this one little phrase in the passage: ďknown and believed the love that God has for us.Ē John believed that God loved him.

     John tended to refer to himself in his writings not by his name but as ďthe one whom Jesus loved.Ē That was especially true in the gospel of John. He certainly didnít mean that Jesus loved him in an exclusive way. John did not say that with pride; rather, he had great humility, in essence conveying that he, of all people, knew the love of God. John was acknowledging that he was nobody without the love of Christ. It was the hallmark of his identity, even more than his own name. Christís love meant everything to him.

     Remember that John was called one of the ďSons of ThunderĒ in the Gospels. He no doubt was a sometimes boisterous, always passionate, periodically rambunctious, perhaps even an impetuous man---a fisherman who was truly a manís man in every sense. Johnís world was a world that was ruled by Rome, determined to a great extent by the forces of nature and the catch of the day, and spiritually dictated by the gloom-and-doom Pharisees and Sadducees who emphasized obedience to the law of God but had little to say about the love of God. John was bold enough to grab hold of his destiny with both hands and not let go. He was brave enough to follow Jesus and to trust Him explicitly.

     Have you ever thought about what it took to be a disciple in the time of Jesus? To give up everything and follow Him on a daily basis, not knowing where you were going to spend the night, what you were going to eat, or what forces of evil you might encounter? The apostles were men of courage.

     They were also men who knew what it meant to be loved thoroughly. There is little reason to give up everything you have acquired or have known as your identity and to follow another person unless you are compelled by that personís vision for the future and by the depth of that personís love for you. Following a vision for the future is not enough; such a vision eventually will pale or may even be seen as manipulative or evil unless that vision for the future is rooted in a highly personal and deep love relationship. John and the other disciples knew that kind of love from Jesus. As John said, ďWe have known . . . the love that God has for us.Ē Johnís belief was based upon experience---not only while Jesus was alive, but his experience by faith in the years after Jesusí return to heaven.

     John believed he was a beloved one of Christ. He embraced that love wholeheartedly. He staked his life on the fact that God loved him.

     The sad reality is that many people today have heard that God loves them, but they simply donít believe it. They donít know the full reality of Godís love in their lives. They havenít experienced it, and therefore, they donít know how to embrace it, nurture it, or grow in it.

 

Experiencing Godís Love in Your Life

     A man once confessed to me, ďI hear people talk about love, but I donít know what love is. Oh, I can comprehend with my mind what they are saying. I can understand the words they use to describe how they feel. But I donít know what love feels like.Ē

     I knew exactly how that man felt. I once felt the same way. Most of my life I had an ache to feel loved.

     I didnít know a lot about love as a child. My father died of kidney disease when I was only nine months old. My mother immediately went to work to support us the best she could. For the first couple of years of my life, various women took care of me while my mother worked, but once I started school, I was pretty much on my own. At the age of five, I learned to comb my own hair, dress myself, cook my own breakfast, and get myself to school. My mother didnít get back each day until well after I returned home from school.

     Even during the brief periods through the years when we lived with my aunts and uncles, I suffered from loneliness. I knew my mother cared for me, but I didnít feel an abiding sense of love. On more occasions than I can begin to count, the comforting arms, tender touches, and words of love that I needed as a child were missing. Nobody was present to provide them when I needed them.

     When I was nine years old, my mother married a man who was full of anger, hostility, and bitterness. My stepfather was mean and abusive. I never heard him say a positive word about anything, much less a word of care or love. I donít recall his ever giving me anything, including a compliment, a word of praise, or even an expression of concern.

     During my twelfth year, I went to church one morning and went forward when Mrs. Wilson, who was preaching a revival at our church, gave the altar call. I fell on my knees, and I cried and prayed and asked the Lord to save me. I told Him that I believed in Jesus and His death and resurrection. ĎWhen the pastor asked me to come up and tell the people what the Lord had done for me, I remember standing behind that pulpit and saying, ďI donít know everything Heís done for me, but I know Heís saved me.Ē I had absolutely no doubt that I had been forgiven and that I was destined for eternal life.

     Knowing that I was saved, however, did not mean that I had felt the love of God in my heart. My basic concept of God was one of judgment, not love. In my view, He was a remote, hard, and harsh God. Oh, I may have been able to quote a Bible verse about Godís love, and if someone had point-blank asked me, ďDoes God love you?Ē I would have said yes. But that was information I had learned in my mind; it wasnít something that I felt in my heart.

     Much of my concept of God was formed, of course, by my early childhood experiences. That is true for every person. My mother was a Christian, but she didnít talk much about God around me. When we prayed, we both used King James English. For years, I thought that praying with ďTheesĒ and ďThousĒ was the only way a person could be heard in heaven! Both in language and in daily living, God seemed very distant.

            Because God wasnít very near, He wasnít very accessible or dependable. I couldnít count on Him being present when I needed Him. I never thought about Him as being God the Father. Father---which in my case was stepfather---was a concept that was too earthly, too human, too familiar and, in many ways, too painful. God was, to me, remote and yet always watching and listening---ready to put me down and drive me out if I erred too badly.

     My motherís constant admonition to me as a boy was, ďDonít do anything that you wouldnít want to be caught doing if Jesus were to come.Ē That really put a crimp in my style since just about everything that a normal boy would consider to be fun, my mother and the church considered to be a sin. In those days, reading the funny paper was a sin. Wearing a tie clasp was a sin. Listening to any kind of music other than hymns was a sin. The God who saved me that Sunday morning was the same God who created the Ten Commandments, who kept points and checked your lifeís scoreboard periodically, and who could and would send you to hell for your unrepented sins. I was saved, spared, but that had very little to do with love.

 

God Loves Us Unconditionally

     From Godís standpoint, salvation has everything to do with love. Love was the motivation for His creating us, sustaining us, and sending His Son to die for our sins. But as a twelve-year-old, I didnít know that.

    And the equal fact is that I donít need to feel Godís love to be saved. Salvation is based on answering one question and one question alone: Am I willing by faith to receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior based on the fact that when Jesus died on Calvary, He paid my sin debt in full? If I say yes to that question, I receive Christ into my life. When I receive Him, I receive Him by faith. I believe in Him as my personal Savior. I accept a free gift offered to me with open arms. I donít need to know anything about the motivation for God to extend that gift to me. I only need to receive it.

     Repentance---which is our response to sin after we have accepted Godís forgiveness---is something that we do by the will. We choose to turn away from sin because something has happened in our hearts. We choose to walk in a way that is pleasing to God. Again, our motivation for repentance does not rely upon feelings of love. We can repent solely out of obedience and a desire to do what is right in Godís sight. We donít need to feel a great outpouring of love for God, or feel His great outpouring of love for us, to convince us to obey His commandments and lead a godly life. Some do, of course. But many people donít feel anything related to love in accepting Jesus as their Savior and making a decision to follow Him as their Lord.

     On the one hand, of course, this is highly desirable. Our salvation is not dependent upon our emotions, which can be very capricious and unstable. Salvation is rooted in our acceptance of what Christ did, not in the way we feel.

     On the other hand, when we accept Christ and donít have a good concept of Godís love, we can continue to live a long time with a sense of fear, dread, and suspicion related to God. We can continue to strive to be worthy of our salvation and to do our utmost to ďbe good enoughĒ for Godís rewards. I know that to be true; I did just that for decades.

     I was an ambitious teenager, working hard to escape my impoverished childhood. When the opportunity arose for me to go to college, I threw myself into my studies. When I became a pastor, I threw myself 110 percent into doing everything I could for my congregation. I didnít just try hard---I drove myself. I made serious lists of lofty goals and then threw myself into achieving them, even before my schedule called for their accomplishment and to a degree that was beyond the goals I had set! I had absolutely no tolerance for laziness or slothfulness, in myself or anybody else. I had a perfectionistís attitude---do all you can do and then do a bit more.

      My life was ruled by shoulds and oughts: ďI should do this; I ought to do that.Ē I didnít want Godís approval alone. I also wanted the approval of those who called me their pastor or colleague in ministry.

     If a person has never known genuine unconditional love, then he knows the rules only for conditional love. And the foremost rule for conditional love is: ďYou must earn the right to be loved.Ē In my case, I felt I needed to earn the right to be loved by others, and I needed to earn the privilege of having been saved by an all-powerful, all-knowing, judgmental God. If I had any hope of receiving eternal rewards from God, I needed to earn them by my effort in ways that were measurable or definable.

     The end result of that approach to life is one of constant striving and constant irritation or frustration.

     No matter how much you push yourself, you never feel as if you are doing enough.

     No matter how much you push others to be perfect, they never are.

     The more you attempt to control, the less control you feel you have. The more you are critical, the more you find to criticize. The more you engage in fighting ďfor what is best,Ē the more you lose the relationships that hold the greatest potential for giving you the one thing you need---love.

     I wanted Godís approval. I never even dreamed it might be possible to have Godís love.

     That may sound strange to you coming from a pastor. The sad fact is that I used to be a preacher who said very little about Godís unconditional love. I didnít have anything to say! I once asked my secretary to do a search of the files and pull for me any sermon I had ever preached on Godís love. She pulled one sermon---out of decadesí worth of hundreds of sermons---and when I read it, it wasnít worth the paper it was typed on. I didnít know anything at the heart level about Godís love. I therefore couldnít preach anything from the heart about it. I knew about Godís love only at the head level.

      What happens to a person who knows about Godís love only at the mind or intellectual level? Such a person has a theory but not an experience. A love void continues to exist, and over time, that void grows larger and becomes more frustrating. I believe that is especially true if a person is continuing to seek God and to desire all that God has for him or her.

     Now, I didnít know that I was missing the love of God in my life. All I knew was that something was missing in my Christian experience. I would preach about the freedom that Christ gives, go home, look up to heaven, and say, ďBut what about me? Why donít I feel free?Ē I had an ache within me that I could not define or eliminate and, eventually, could not escape.

 

My Personal Encounter with Godís Great Love

     In intense inner pain and turmoil, I sought advice from four men whom I trusted explicitly. I called the men, who are people of the highest integrity, and I asked them to meet with me to hear me out with empathy and then to give me their wise counsel. I trusted God to help them to help me.

     I met with the four men privately at a lodge in a wilderness area. I confessed to them that I was at the end of myself. I didnít know what to do. I didnít know where to go. I asked them if I could share with them my life and told them that after they had heard my story, I wanted them to give me their best advice. I assured them that I would do whatever they advised me to do. I had that much respect for them. I also conveyed to them how desperate I was and how extremely serious I was about receiving their help. They generously agreed to hear me out and to be Godís instruments in my life.

     I talked all afternoon and evening. I woke up several times in the middle of the night and wrote a total of seventeen pages in longhand---legal-sized pages---of things I wanted to be sure to tell them the next morning. I told them everything I remembered about my early life and all the highlights---both painful and positive---of my adult life and ministry. When I was finished---and believe me, I was completely spent at that point---I said, ďNow, whatever you tell me to do, Iíll do it.Ē

     They asked me two or three questions, and then one of the men who was sitting directly across the table from me said, ďCharles, put your head on the table and close your eyes.Ē I did. He said to me very kindly, ďCharles, I want you to envision your father picking you up in his arms and holding you.Ē After a few moments, he said, ďWhat do you feel?Ē

     I burst out crying. And I cried and I cried and I cried. I could not stop crying. Finally, when I stopped, he asked me again, ďWhat do you feel?Ē I said, ďI feel warm, loved, secure. I feel good.Ē And I started weeping again.

     For the first time in my life, I felt emotionally that God loved me. I had known as a fact from His Word that God loved me. I had believed by faith that God loved me. I had accepted the fact that love is Godís nature. But until that day, not very many years ago, I had never emotionally felt God loving me.

     God used that encounter with those four men, and that one simple question, to unlock the love void in my life and to begin to pour into it a flood of His divine love.

     The full release of Godís love didnít happen in a day. It was a process, little by little. But the more I explored the love of God, the more God began to reveal my true identity in Christ---that I belonged to Him as I had never belonged to anybody, that I was worth something to Him, and that He loved me beyond measure. I discovered when I got to the end of myself and all of my efforts at striving for perfection, a kind and gracious heavenly Father who had been loving me unconditionally all my life. Let me assure you, nothing is more liberating than that discovery.

     The more I experienced Godís love, the more I began to understand the importance of saying to others, ďGod loves you just the way you are.Ē I came to be able to love others as they were and to be far less critical of their failed efforts or lack of perfection. Godís love for me became the source of a great love for others. The outpouring of Godís love into my life positively affected my ministry and my relationships with others. I had been invaded by love, and I couldnít keep it to myself.

     From that day in the mountains, I had a sense of inner closeness with God that I had never experienced before. I knew I could trust Him regardless of what happened to me, regardless of any mistakes I might make, regardless of how I might respond or react in my humanity. I had a strong feeling of assurance that I had always been loved, was loved now, and would always be loved with a vast love that was beyond my comprehension, but that I could experience nonetheless on a daily basis.

     Once intimacy with God has been established, it grows. There is no end to Godís love, and there ultimately will be no end to our ability to experience it. We need never have love-starved hearts again. His desire is to overflow us with His love and, all the while, to enlarge our capacity to experience His love and give it to others.

     I came to the place where I could say with the apostle John, ďI have known the love of God. I believe the love of God.Ē I stand in that place today. The great desire of my heart is that you might know and believe that God loves you.

 

The Nature of Godís Great Love

     Let me assure you of several things related to Godís love.

 

1. Godís love is the most important thing you can know about God.

     In Luke 10:25ó28 (NKJV) we read about an encounter that Jesus had with a certain religious expert. This lawyer (who knew the Law of Moses extremely well) asked Jesus, as if testing Him, ďTeacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?Ē Jesus asked him in return, ďWhat is written in the law? What is your reading of it?Ē The man answered, ďYou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,í and Ďyour neighbor as yourself.Ē The religious expert was quoting from two passages in the Law of Moses: Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Jesus replied, ďYou have answered rightly; do this and you will live.Ē

     The most important decision you can ever make in your life is a decision about love---to receive Godís love, to love God, and to love others.

     There are some 185 references to Godís love in the Bible, 140 of them in the New Testament. In Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written originally, the word that refers to Godís love is agape. This is sacrificial, divine love. God extends this type of love to each of us, and He desires for us to show it to others.

     Godís love is absolute. It does not waver. It does not change over time. It cannot be influenced by circumstances or situations. It cannot be diminished.

     Whatever we might say about God Himself, we must say about Godís love. His love is powerful. It penetrates and causes change in the human heart. It has purpose. It holds infinite meaning in its every expression.

     Godís love is never subject to favoritism. He loves the sinner as much as He loves the saint. That may be a fact that we find hard to swallow in our human pride, or our desire to be ďsomebody special,Ē but the fact remains. God loves each of His children with the same quantity and quality of love. The difference between sinner and saint is that the person who has accepted Godís forgiveness and Godís love is in a position to receive all of the blessings that accompany His outpouring of love into her life. The person who has turned away from God has put himself out of a position to know the fullness of Godís blessings. It is as if a mighty river of Godís love is flowing toward him, but he has built for himself an island in the middle of the river so that none of the love touches his being.

     Let me carry that illustration one degree further. A person who has alienated himself from God might plant bushes and trees on his island in the midst of Godís river. The plants might flourish, and he might enjoy the fruit they produce. The plants, of course, are drawing from the river through their roots. The end result is that the person experiences God-given things related to Godís love. This is certainly true for every person. The Bible tells us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust, the sun shines on the saint and the sinner. Every person experiences certain benefits and blessings that are the gifts of a loving God, regardless of whether he believes that God exists.

     The person living on an island in the midst of Godís river of love may even dip periodically into that river to take a drink. Many people who donít know God still have periodic feelings of love--- perhaps as a feeling they have in their relationship with another person, a sensation that is triggered by deeply inspiring music or an awesome sunset, or an emotion that occurs when they are carried away by the beauty or mystery of something. But these experiences tend to be isolated in time and space. They are events, not an ever-present experience of love.

     A person can live and die on his island---and know a certain degree of love---without ever setting foot into the river or allowing himself to be washed by its cleansing, freeing, invigorating, exhilarating currents.

    Godís love is flowing toward each one of us as a deep, wide, beautiful, and never-ending river. It is up to us to jump in.

     Godís love is also unconditional. It is not based upon what we do, what we have, or what we achieve. His love is given to us because of who we are, His creation. It is not grounded on any other premise or motivation.

     You canít earn unconditional love. You canít merit it in any way. You canít deserve it. God says you are worthy of His love solely because it is His desire to love you. There is nothing you can do to win more of Godís love. In fact, you canít get God to love you any more than He already does.

     Because Godís love is unconditional and not based upon your performance, accept it, receive it, and delight in it.

 

2. The most important response you can make to Godís love is to love Him in return.

     John said it simply and eloquently, ďWe love Him because He first loved usĒ (1 John 4:19 NKJV).

     Jesus said that the first and foremost commandment was this:

ďYou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mindĒ (Matthew 22:37 NKJV). The only response acceptable to Godís great outpouring of love toward you is to love Him back.

     You can choose not to do so. You can rebel against Godís love and turn your back on Godís outstretched arms. You can even deny the existence of Godís love. That doesnít change Godís love toward you, but it does do something in you.

     The person who stubbornly refuses to acknowledge and receive Godís love cuts herself off from great blessings. Not only that, but such a person quickly yields to anger, hatred, resentment, and bitterness. To harden oneís heart against Godís love is the supreme act of rebellion. The person who does this is hurting herself the most.

     Loving God is a commandment in Godís Word because like following all the commandments, loving God brings good into our lives. It is not a commandment because God fears that we will not love Him unless He commands us to do so. Rather, it is a commandment because God alone is worthy to be loved. It is the only appropriate response to make toward One who loves as He loves. There is no other acceptable or honorable response we can make. Itís as if we are being told, ďThereís only one right thing to do, so do it.Ē

     In spite of what you may have been told in your life, in spite of what you may have come to believe, there is no reason not to love God. Some people donít because they have bought into a lie from Satan about the nature of God. They donít love God because they have been convinced by the enemy of their souls that to love and obey God is to be less of a person. They have bought into Satanís lie that God causes bad things to happen to good people--as if God is enjoying some kind of joke on the human race. I have met countless people who are mad at God because of something they think God did to them unfairly and without cause.

     Friend, that is never the case. God doesnít hurt people because it gives Him pleasure. He doesnít abuse His creation. Jesus said, ďThe thief [the devil] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantlyĒ (John 10:10 NKJV).

     The devil always plays to our pride. He constantly attempts to convince us that if we love God, we will have less personal freedom, less personal identity, and less pleasure. The end of that lie, however, is always tragic. Those who rebel against Godís love inevitably find their freedom is dashed. If they donít wind up in a literal prison, they wind up in an emotional or psychological prison. They may wind up in a prison called addiction or in a prison of hatred and anger. Those who rebel against Godís love inevitably find that they lose their identity; they gain a reputation that totally denies their goodness and dignity. Those who rebel against Godís love also find that they end up with no pleasure in life. They become jaded, cynical, critical and, in the end, apathetic to virtually everything. They have the ultimate ďbeen there, done thatĒ attitude.

     On the other hand, those who embrace Godís love and return it enjoy an inner freedom they never imagined. They find that they are more themselves and that they have hidden talents, abilities, and capacities they never knew. The joy of perpetual discovery is theirs. They know true delight in Godís creation.

            All of the reasons not to love God are of human origin and, to a great extent, contrived. They are not rooted in any lasting reality. The only satisfying, enriching, meaningful, and joyous response to Godís love is to love Him in return!

     ďBut why is loving God a commandment?Ē you may ask.

     The purpose of Godís commandments ultimately is not to keep you from doing things that you find pleasurable or fun, but to guide you toward doing things that will bring you the greatest possible good in life.

     In Deuteronomy 6, where you first find the great commandment to love God with the heart, soul, and strength, you also find this commandment: ďYou shall fear the LORD your God and serve HimĒ (v.13 NKJV). Fear in this regard is not dreadful fright but an ďawesome awe.Ē You are to recognize how mighty and glorious God is, that He is holy and almighty and out of your overwhelming awe that such a God can and does love you personally, you are to obey Him as your supreme King.

     And another commandment in the same chapter is this:

You shall not tempt the LORD your God.... You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you. And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land of which the LORD swore to your fathers, to cast out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has spoken. (vv. 16ó19 NKJV)

 

     Note the specific blessings that come when you do what the Lord has commanded in His Word:

    

     a)That it may be well with you. There is a personal blessing to be enjoyed---a peace of mind, a wholeness of being, a sense of purpose and meaning in life. ďThat it may be well with youĒ includes having hope!

            b) Possess the good land. Someone who obeys God explicitly and diligently is in a position to receive material blessing from God.

     c)Cast out all your enemies. Godís blessing extends to your relationships. You will not have to do battle with other people. Your relationships will be in good order; friendships, marriage, and parent-child relationships will be subject to Godís design. And when they are, you will enjoy a great exchange of love with other people.

 

     What a marvelous promise of God to someone who loves Him! What more could you desire than to have things go well in life, to be blessed materially, and to have wonderful relationships with other people?

     You shall teach the commandments of God to your children. This theme runs throughout Deuteronomy 6. Godís people are commanded to teach Godís statutes to their children and to bind them to their lives and to their homes. Godís people are to convey the understanding that ďthe Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good alwaysĒ (Deut. 6:24

NKJV).

     So many people I have met seem to believe that Godís commandments are intended to stifle human beings---to deny us pleasure, to keep us from experiencing the ďgood life.Ē The exact opposite is true. Godís commandments are for our good always. God made us, and He knows our limitations, our drives, our weaknesses. He also knows what will give us the greatest sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, meaning, purpose, and hope. He knows what will put us into the best possible position to give and receive love from other people. His commandments are His operating instructions so that we might experience all of the wonderful things that He desires to give us. His commandments have been given so that we might be part of a ďholy people . . . a people for Himself, a special treasureĒ (Deut. 7:6 NKJV).

            Furthermore, God is ďthe faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandmentsĒ (Deut. 7:9 NKJV). Godís covenant is something you can always count on holding firm.

     The very essence of Godís covenant with His people is intended to be love. He loves us. He desires only that we love Him in return. If we love Him, we will obey Him---without question, without hesitation, without holding anything back. Our obedience will be spontaneous and wholehearted. And such obedience carries with it reward. The obedient are not swayed by temptations. They are not easy prey for those with evil intent. In sidestepping evil, they experience Godís goodness. This goodness is detailed in Deuteronomy 7:13ó15 (NKJV):

He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples. . . . And the Lord will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known.

 

     Loving God is a commandment that carries with it an abundant blessing. Indeed, you can never outlove God. The more you love Him, the more you will be able to experience His love. He enlarges your capacity to know Him and receive from Him, but His outpouring of love is always at the overflow level in spite of how much you grow.

 

3. Godís love is your ultimate reason to have hope.

     If you know with certainty that God loves you and that He desires good for you, what is there to fear? What is there to dread? What is there to be depressed about? 

            I am not making light of fears, doubts, or depression. They are normal human responses. Hope, however, compels you not to remain in a state of fear, doubt, or depression. Hope encourages you to raise your eyes and look for the dawning of a new day. Hope calls you to anticipate Godís best.

     Make this your number one reason for hope today:

     I have hope because I know God loves me. (1-19)

 

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