Category Archives: God’s love

God Is For Me

I treasure the for me/for us phrases in Psalm 56:9/Romans 8:31. It is a majestic thought that the holy God of the universe can be for me/for us. It is a divine reality so startling that we can only explain this favor as a gift of grace. It should drive from us all vain thoughts of spiritual superiority.

In my reading over the years I’ve gathered a small collection of quotes to help me meditate on this amazing truth. Here are three examples:

John Piper, sermon, “God Did Not Spare His Own Son,” August 18, 2002:

O how precious are those two words, “for us” [Rom. 8:31]. There are no more fearful words in the universe than the words, “God is against us.” … We live forever with God against us or with God for us. And all who are in Christ may say with almost unspeakable joy, “God is for us.” He is on our side.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/2 728:

What can and should and must be done by the man to whom the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth has stopped down from his eternal and inaccessible majesty in inconceivable goodness and overflowing majesty to take man to Himself by taking his place and bearing his curse and burden? What can and should and must be done by the man to whom it is given in the quickening power of the Holy Spirit to accept the fact that God is for him in this way? What remains for the Christian to do? What is his part? Or rather, what is he allowed and commissioned and commanded to do? Since this is the case, and he knows it, in what consists his Christian freedom? There can obviously be only one answer to this question. This is the simple and unequivocal answer that he must accept and receive the One who comes to him and that which is given in and by Him; that he must be content in unconditional and childlike confidence to hold to the fact that God is for him; that he must acknowledge and recognize and confess this; that he must place himself on this ground and walk on it without hesitation or vacillation; that he must be satisfied and rejoice and constantly return to the fact that he may be undeservedly but quite indisputably be the child of God.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, evening of July 13:

It is impossible for any human speech to express the full meaning of this delightful phrase, “God is for me” [Ps 56:9]. He was “for us” before the worlds were made; he was “for us,” or he would not have given his well-beloved son; he was “for us” when he smote the Only-begotten, and laid the full weight of his wrath upon him—he was “for us,” though he was against him; he was “for us,” when we were ruined in the fall—he loved us notwithstanding all; he was “for us,” when we were rebels against him, and with a high hand were bidding him defiance; he was “for us,” or he would not have brought us humbly to seek his face. He has been “for us” in many struggles; we have been summoned to encounter hosts of dangers; we have been assailed by temptations from without and within—how could we have remained unharmed to this hour if he had not been “for us”?

He is “for us,” with all the infinity of his being; with all the omnipotence of his love; with all the infallibility of his wisdom; arrayed in all his divine attributes, he is “for us,”—eternally and immutably “for us”; “for us” when yon blue skies shall be rolled up like a worn out vesture; “for us” throughout eternity. And because he is “for us,” the voice of prayer will always ensure his help. “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies be turned back.” This is no uncertain hope, but a well grounded assurance—“this I know.” I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up for the answer, assured that it will come, and that mine enemies shall be defeated, “for God is for me.” O believer, how happy art thou with the King of kings on thy side! How safe with such a Protector! How sure thy cause pleaded by such an Advocate! If God be for thee, who can be against thee?

Hard Thoughts

C. H. Spurgeon:

Let us repent heartily of every hard thought we have ever had of our God and Father. I am forced to look back upon some such sins of thought with much distress of mind. They have come from me in serious pain and depression of spirit; and now I pray the Lord of his great mercy to look at them as though I had never thought them, for I do heartily abhor them, and I loathe myself in his sight that I should ever have questioned his tender love and gracious care. If you have similarly transgressed, dear friends, in your dark nights of trouble, come now, and bow your heads, and pray the Lord to forgive his servants concerning this thing; for he is so good, so gracious, that it is a wanton cruelty to think of him as otherwise than overflowing with love.

Adoption: Legal and Relational

Michael Horton, in his book Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ, makes the point that the believer’s spiritual adoption carries both a relational emphasis and also a forensic/legal emphasis. “Before orphans can enjoy the love and care of a new family,” he writes, “they must be legally adopted” (248). Good point. Sometimes folks like us—who rightfully emphasize the forensic side of justification—can view God as a distant and impersonal Judge who does no more than declare the wicked innocent in a cold courtroom. Innocence and righteousness before that Judge is a gift of incredible grace, but it’s not the whole story. Justification entails a relational aspect that can go neglected. This harmony between the legal and the relational aspects of salvation is a harmony displayed in spiritual adoption. “Adoption, like justification, is simultaneously legal and relational” (247).

Why does God love me?

At some point every Christian has frankly evaluated their own sin and has stood amazed by the grace of God. This leads us to ask the question: Why would God send his pure and eternal Son to be smudged and murdered at the hands of vile sinners—for me? Or said more directly: Why does God love me?

The answer to this question is simple and profound.

In a sermon on John 3:16, Puritan Thomas Manton (1620–1677) answers the question this way—

Love is at the bottom of all. We may give a reason of other things, but we cannot give a reason of his love … Why did he make so much ado about a worthless creature, raised out of the dust of the ground at first, and has now disordered himself, and could be of no use to him? We have an answer at hand: Because he loved us. If you continue to ask, But why did he love us? We have no other answer but because he loved us, for beyond the first rise of things we cannot go. And the same reason is given by Moses, Deuteronomy 7:7–8: “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you…” That is, in short, he loved you because he loved you. All came from his free and undeserved mercy; higher we cannot go in seeking after the causes of what is done for our salvation.*

Similarly, in his devotional treasure, Light and Truth, Horatius Bonar’s (1808–1889) writes that God does not love us because of Christ’s work on the cross. Bonar writes—

This free love was not produced or purchased by Christ’s death. That love existed before in all its largeness and freeness. Christ’s death did not increase that love. It was wide as the heart of God, and could not be increased. Christ’s death did not make the sinner a more suitable object for that love. The sinner was loved before; and it was love to the sinner that made the Father send the Son: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” That love rested on the sinner before. His circumstances as a sinner, so far from quenching God’s love to him as a creature, increased it; for they added all the amount of misery, and gloom, and exposure to eternal ruin, which called up that profound and unutterable compassion which a father feels toward a prodigal child that has ruined himself. Nothing in us, nothing in the world, nothing in heaven or earth, nothing in man or angel produced the love of God. It was uncreated, unbought, undeserved, and unfathomable. God loved the sinner because He was God, and because the sinner was a sinner. That is the end of the matter.**

God loves you because he loves you.

This is a simple question with a profound answer.

————

* Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (Solid Ground, 2008), 2:340-341
** Horatius Bonar, Light and Truth (Dust and Ashes, 2002), 3:12

Dust

Last night I lay awake in bed unable to fall asleep as my active mind protested my tired body. So my mind wandered and wondered, eventually arriving at Psalm 103:13–14, two verses I have focused my attention upon these past two days. The following words came to my mind. I played them over in my head until sleep arrived—

Dust

I am collected dust
bound together for a time
into this mud
formed by liquid soul.

How often I forget this frame
and attempt to live as gold
or diamond
or granite.
Anything, everything, but collected dust.

But He never forgets.
He never forgets.
His tenderness speaks it so.

God’s Love

In a sermon on John 3:16 (“God so loved, that he gave…”), Puritan Thomas Manton makes the following point on God’s indescribable love towards sinners in sending His Son:

“Love is at the bottom of all. We may give a reason of other things, but we cannot give a reason of his love. God showed his wisdom, power, justice, and holiness in our redemption by Christ. If you ask why he made so much ado about a worthless creature, raised out of the dust of the ground at first, and had now disordered himself, and could be of no use to him, we have an answer at hand: Because he loved us. If you continue to ask, But why did he love us? We have no other answer but because he loved us; for beyond the first rise of things we cannot go. And the same reason is given by Moses, Deuteronomy 7:7–8: ‘The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you…’ That is, in short, he loved you because he loved you. All came from his free and undeserved mercy; higher we cannot go in seeking after the causes of what is done for our salvation.”

–Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 2:340–341.

God’s Punishment / God’s Discipline

Understanding this distinction is critical for the Christian life. Inadvertently overlapping punishment/discipline is not difficult to do. But if we do this we will be prone to legalism and condemnation and fall into a pattern of what John Owen calls “hard thoughts” about God.

So how does God discipline His children? Is this punishment for sin? Can punishment and discipline be distinguished by the cross? These important questions have been tackled by Dr. Alan S. Bandy, the Rowena R. Strickland Professor of New Testament and Greek/Assistant Professor of NT & Greek at Oklahoma Baptist University (2007 Ph.D. from SEBTS). I’d encourage you to read his blog post for details: “The Difference Between God’s Punishment and God’s Discipline” (June 16, 2009)

Believe ye that I am able to do this?

blind-smIn a culture where the loudest chatter over the topic of “faith” often happens in debates between theists and atheists/agnostics over the existence of God, and certainly helped along by a postmodern religious pluralism, the Christian faith suffers from dangerous generalizations. Faith, for example, can come to be defined as the mere ontological belief in the existence of God and nothing more. That God exists is certainly true, but we mustn’t stop here. Even the demons believe in God’s existence, but this truth only causes them to quiver off into the shadows.

At one point during the life and ministry of Christ a pair of blind men approached Jesus for healing. After approaching Him, Jesus asked the two blind men, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28-30). Yes, they said. And they were healed, healed because their faith expanded beyond a conviction of God’s existence. They trusted in Jesus’ sufficient power to heal their blindness.

In this brief account of two blind men, and from what I see elsewhere in scripture, biblical faith presupposes need. It presupposes my spiritual blindness. It presupposes that I understand the despair of my sinful condition. It presupposes that I understand God’s angry wrath that rests upon up and all sinners alike. It presupposes that I need One to become a curse for me. It presupposes that all my religious works to appease God constitute a pile of dirty laundry at the feet of His perfect holiness (Isaiah 64:6). I must come to a place of honesty about my helplessness. I need a Savior.

To believe that God exists is a great thing, but this is not the saving faith of the New Testament. Saving faith must also believe that God has initiated activity necessary for my good (Hebrews 11:6). Genuine saving faith anticipates the activity of God for me. And this is why saving faith must move beyond faith in an existing God, it must cling to a moving God. True faith trusts in the actions of God, looks for the coming hope, and rests in the Savior’s healing work on the cross. I need God to act for me, on behalf of me, upon me. I need Him to shine light into these spiritually blind eyes. I need Him to remove my guilt. I need Him to heal my spiritual blindness.

Do I believe Jesus is capable and sufficient to accomplish all this for me? The “yes” is my saving faith.

God loves us because he loves us

In a sermon on John 3:16 (“God so loved, that he gave…”), Puritan Thomas Manton makes the following point on God’s indescribable love towards sinners in sending His Son:

“Love is at the bottom of all. We may give a reason of other things, but we cannot give a reason of his love, God showed his wisdom, power, justice, and holiness in our redemption by Christ. If you ask, Why he made so much ado about a worthless creature, raised out of the dust of the ground at first, and had now disordered himself, and could be of no use to him? We have an answer at hand, Because he loved us. If you continue to ask, But why did he love us? We have no other answer but because he loved us; for beyond the first rise of things we cannot go. And the same reason is given by Moses, Deuteronomy 7:7-8: ‘The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you…’ That is, in short, he loved you because he loved you. All came from his free and undeserved mercy; higher we cannot go in seeking after the causes of what is done for our salvation.”

-Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 2:340-341.

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