In this longer-than-usual entry, I’m previewing a chapter from my book 12 Things Every Christian Should Know. For some of you, it may be educating. For others, it may be refreshing. In any case, I hope that it proves to be a blessing to your spiritual life with Christ. Blessings!
God’s love is active
Although this point may be assumed, it is certainly not to be overlooked. The word love is both a noun and a verb. It is something to be observed, admired, discussed, but it is also something to be done. The fact that God’s love is active and engaging instead of stagnant and distant is the point at which we begin, because, if it were not for His loving activity, no other blessing would be experienced. His love is active and seeks out sinners (Luke 19:10), pursues the unrepentant (Isaiah 54:6-7), and comforts the restless (Psalm 55:22)…. But what should we expect? God the Father “loves us because that is his nature.”[i]
God’s love is sacrificial
The love that God actively pursues sinners with is a sacrificial love. It is a love that continuously offers, unselfishly gives, and richly blesses. God sacrificially gives all and asks for nothing in return—but worship and recognition. The Bible attests to this point. John’s Gospel says that God “gave his one and only Son” (3:16, italics added). Paul says that Jesus died on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Peter says that Jesus “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). The authors of the Bible are unanimous on this point: God’s love is sacrificial. Thus, God meets needs with His love, even when they are extremely costly (Romans 5:8-10).
God’s love is transformative
John pointedly says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). Christians cannot split hairs on this issue. A new life leads to . . . well, a new life! There should be a post-conversion difference in people that is noticeable.[ii] If so-called Christians keep on sinning, the Bible says that there is a serious problem (1 John 3:4-10). Personally, I am afraid that we have become too tolerant, too comfortable with the sins that plague God’s people and God’s Church. This point must be emphasized. Scripture does not neglect the transforming nature of God’s love. If the Father of Jesus has redeemed you and me, adopted you and me into His family, then He will faithfully work the family resemblance into us (Romans 8:29; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
God’s love is experiential
Although there are groups that seem to err on this topic, sliding to one extreme or the other (either for a non-experiential position or a hyper-experiential position), this is an unavoidable aspect of God’s love—His love is experiential. Although there may be insufficient vocabulary to describe an awareness and possession of God’s love, it is certainly attested to in the Bible. For example, when the apostle Paul says, “To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 4:19), he is essentially arguing that there is a point at which our souls know His love but our minds simply cannot articulate it. Like His peace, God’s love may be possessed without being completely explained, because it “passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). No, you cannot explicitly describe the incomparable sensation of knowing God’s love, but the “Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans. 8:17), and that undeniable experience is a precious awareness to which only the redeemed can attest.
God’s love is eternal
The word eternal is used to describe the life that God gives through Jesus approximately 17 times in John’s Gospel alone. Addressing the question, “What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?” in the book of Romans, Paul confidently answers, “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). God’s love is eternal, because, as God is eternal, so are His attributes and qualities. Thus, whether we are planting a church, going on our first mission trip, endeavoring to become better spouses, or simply trying to overcome a dogging sin with His strength, we can know for certain that God’s love is present with us through it all—because His love is eternal. The Psalmist says, “I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever” (52:8b).