Monday, March 16, 2015

The Father's Love

(Note: This blog is a follow up to my entry from Feb. 24 concerning the believer's identity as a child of the Father and promises He has made to His children. Upcoming blogs will address more  promises the Father has made to His children.)

The promise of our Father’s love.

What kind of love is this love that our heavenly Father has for us?

First, it is a steadfast love.

 According to Webster’s dictionary the first definition of ‘steadfast’ is:

a :  firmly fixed in place ; b :  not subject to change  

The Old Testament is full of references to God’s steadfast love for His people. Here are just a few examples.

Psalm 13:5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
Psalm 31:7 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul…
Psalm 36:5   Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Isaiah 54:10   For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Jeremiah 9:24   … let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."
Joel 2:13   …rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.
Micah 7:18   Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.

The New Testament does not use the word steadfast. Instead, the Greek (the original language of the New Testament) gives us three ways to understand the word ‘love’. They are eros, which is intimate, husband – wife love; philos which is the love of a friend; and agape which is faithful, unconditional love. It is the third understanding that is the equivalent to steadfast love. The apostle Paul talks about this love this way;

 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39

Isn’t wonderful that our Heavenly Father loves us even when we are difficult to love. In fact, in another place Paul says that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” and yet another place“… if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”

Beyond the steadfast love of the Father we experience His proven love. Paul says in Romans 5:8;

“…but God shows (proves) his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The apostle John puts it this way;

 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

There’s an old story about Ole and Lena. After several years of marriage Lena approached Ole and said with sadness in her voice, “Ole, you never tell me you love me.” Ole, sensing the concern in Lena’s voice Ole replied, “Lena, do you remember when I told you how much I loved you on our wedding day?” “Yes” Lena replied. “Well, when it changes I’ll let you know.” It’s important to tell those we love that we love them. It is even more to prove it. Taking out the garbage often proves love better than giving a dozen roses and saying, “I love you”.  When God said that He loved the world He proved it by sending His one and only beloved son to take upon himself the punishment of all the sin of the world for all time. But that’s not the only thing that proves God’s love. Not only does He prove His love by, through Jesus, removing the punishment we deserve. He also freed us from the chains of sin, gave us new and eternal life. With this He adopts us as His sons and daughters which makes heirs to His kingdom and therefore elevates us from slaves of sin to princes and princesses in His kingdom. That’s a proven love!

Finally we experience a love that motivates.

Paul says in his letter to the Church in and around Ephesus; “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”
(Ephesians 5:1)

There was a time when I understood this verse as something I had to measure up to. I preached as though we had to work hard at trying to imitate God by either doing or avoiding the things laid out in verses two and following. One day as I was reading this text the phrase “…as beloved children” jumped off the page and had an entirely new understanding of this passage.  Every Father gets at least a little choked up when his young son says to him, “daddy, when I grow up I want to be just like you.” This is what I believe Paul is getting in this verse. He is saying that as we realize how much God really loves us, we will all the more desire to imitate Him.

The apostle John says it this way, “We love because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19)

The truly loving things we do are not done because generate the kind of love God has out of our own will and effort. We can only love the world around us with the kind of love God has, and in fact is, when we have experienced this love for ourselves. All the ought to’s we can shame ourselves with will not motivate us like resting in the realization of the Father’s great love for us.

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