I. Divine Love – Initiated by the Father
[For those reading "Crazy Love" who doesn't know it, you are reading a book of Theology. You are studying the character and attributes of God. The first theology book I read was back in college, a friend gave me a book by James P. Boyce (an old Southern Baptist leader) called "Abstract of Systematic Theology". Now I think its good marketing to call the Book "Crazy Love" instead of "Francis Chan's Systematic Theology", because more people would read the first than the second. Last week we saw the glory of God as revealed in creation. Today we look at the love of God.
The first mention I could find of God loving something in scripture is in Deuteronomy 7 speaking of Israel.
6 "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7
The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
9 "Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
So the context given in the Bible for the love of God is in an act of grace. God's love was not extended because it was earned or deserved, but simply because God chose. Once Abraham was chosen, once God had promised, then his love was fully extended to Israel. Not for what they were, but for what God would bring about through them.]
"IN DUE TIME Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5:6)
Romans 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
God decided when and how to demonstrate His divine love. He was and is the Initiator.
He initiated: creation, Noah's deliverance, Abraham's call, Israel's exodus, Christ's birth, death, and resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the growth and expansion of the church, and our salvation – all of it!
- Can we see the love of God in creation?
We exist because God chose to create us ("Let us make man" – Gen.1:26). Now think about this Revelation 13:8 says that the Lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world. John 1 tells us that all things were made by Christ, the Word, and second person of the trinity. The implication is that God made us knowing, that our creation would lead to the suffering Christ endured for our salvation. Redemption was always Gods plan.
Ephesians 1:3-6 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him IN LOVE,
having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved".
"We love Him because HE FIRST LOVED us" (1 John 4:19 NKJV).
When trying to comprehend God's Divine Love it's important to realize that it is INITIATED by Him. He doesn't respond to our expression, we respond to His expression. God's love is ACTIVE not reactive. His love is UNCONDITIONAL, not conditional. It is not only redemptive, it is preemptive! God loves us before we deserve it and even before we discover it!
Man is God's most cherished creation! We were made in His image, fashioned by His hands, brought to life by His breath (Gen. 2:7).
Even our materialistic world understands the value of fine craftsmanship. They recognize that when a product is especially designed and built personally by a master craftsman that it has far greater value that an assembly line product. For example, you can purchase an "assembly line" Stradivarius violin, for about $1,200. But to purchase the original one made by Stradivarius himself, you would need to come up with around $1,500,000!
Ephesians 2:10 tells us that, "WE are HIS WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (NKJV).
The One Who spoke all things into existence, reached down, got His hands dirty, and formed man into His own image! Not only that, but He also breathed into his nostrils the breath of life! God created man to know Him and worship Him. He made us to live in relationship with Himself.
God's divine love is a Creator's love.
It is also …
B. A Friend's Love
God created Adam and Eve, placed them in the garden, then walked and talked with them in perfect fellowship (Gen. 3:8).
This fellowship was broken by mans fall into sin; but Jesus spoke of this "Divine Friendship love" that would soon be displayed at the cross, "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. GREATER LOVE HAS NO ONE THAN THIS, THAN TO LAY ONE'S LIFE DOWN FOR HIS FRIENDS. YOU ARE MY FRIENDS if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; BUT I HAVE CALLED YOU FRIENDS, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you" John 15:12-15 (NKJV).
In Proverbs 18:24 the Spirit of God through Solomon mentions a "friend that sticks closer than any brother." Jesus, is that kind of Friend who has promised, "I will NEVER leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). His "Friendship love" is not fickle and will not falter or fail. God's love will last forever!
The love that you have for your nearest, dearest, and most trusted friend pales in comparison to God's love for you!
Not only is the Divine love that is initiated by the Father a Creator's Love and a Friend's Love, but it is also…
C. A Father's Love
Mark Driscoll, pastor of one of the largest churches in the country says that:
"God is a loving Father. His children start with his affection. They don't earn it. They start with it."
For some, envisioning God as a loving Father is difficult because their earthly father was absent or ambivalent. If this is the case for you, I encourage you to rebuild that fatherly image that has been so carelessly crushed with what the Bible says about God as Father:
He is faithful – Duet. 7:9
He is true – 2 Sam. 7:28
He is strong – 1 Cor. 1:25
He is compassionate – James 5:11
He provides for His own – Matt. 7:11 / Phil. 4:19
He teaches us what we need to know – James 1:5
He is patient – Neh. 9:30
He is just – Psalm 7:11
He disciplines with love – Prov. 3:12
He is merciful – 2 Chron. 30:9
He is gracious – Neh. 9:17
God is the perfect Father and He loves us with a fatherly love! In the areas where your earthly father was deficient, God is all-sufficient. In the areas where your father was strong, God is supreme!
God's love is not only a divine love initiated by the Father, but it is also a…
II. Displayed Love – Demonstrated by the Son
Romans 5:7-8 "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us".
The highest expression of human love is when someone gives his or her life so that another person can continue to live. People are able to understand sacrificial love, even though it is rarely practiced. This kind of sacrificial gesture is almost always dependent on a relationship that already exists between the one sacrificing (parent, sibling, spouse, fellow soldier) and the one benefited. Even so, people do not readily die for others. But God's love stands in stark contrast to even the deepest expression of human love because God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS.
Christ's death is the truest demonstration of God's love for us. While we were rebellious and despicable, Christ died for us so that we could come to God, find peace with him, and become heirs of his promises. Christ did not die so that we could be made lovable; Christ died because God already loved us and wanted to bring us close to himself.
Jesus died for those "without strength", "ungodly" – Rom. 5:6, and even those who are His "enemies" – Ephesians 2:2.
There are only a few individuals that I would gladly die for. I would die for them because I love them, and they love me.
But who would die for an individual, a city, or a country that despised, resisted, and rejected them? Who among you would reach out to people who had spit in your face, wasted your resources, taken credit for all of your hard work, drug your name through the mud, and killed the ones you sent with a message of peace?
It was for these people that God demonstrated His love. "God SO LOVED the world that He gave us His only Son"… to be mocked, criticized, brutalized, whipped, pierced, and crucified "so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life"!
Jesus on the cross displays the unlimited nature of divine love! Yet for some it is still unbelievable.
It is unbelievable because "it is veiled to those who are perishing,
whose minds the god of this age (Satan) has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NKJV).
"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV).
How is it that the believer in Christ can begin to grasp God's great love?
The answer to that question is found in verse 5 of Romans chapter 5, "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
Here we discover that God's love is not only a divine love – initiated by the Father, and a displayed love – demonstrated by the Son, but also it is a…
III. Delivered Love – Imparted by the Spirit
An amazing thing happens when we (by God's grace) place our faith in Jesus Christ! The Holy Spirit of God takes up residence in us and fills us with His love!
Love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), it is the call of God (Mark 12:30), and the collective need of the world (Matt. 5:44)! Love is the greatest lasting legacy that we leave from our lives (I Cor. 13:13)!
This supernatural love that is imparted by the Holy Spirit is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails" (NKJV).
No natural man can manifest this kind of love; it must be delivered by the Spirit of God.
In John 13:34, Jesus commanded his followers to love one another AS HE HAS LOVED US. This would be an impossible request were it not for the fact that the Holy Spirit supplies what we need to obey Jesus' command.
Jesus, then goes on to say in the next verse, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35 NKJV). So, the love that is delivered into our hearts by God's Spirit also designates us as followers of Jesus. Love is the sign to the world that we belong to God!
God's love "poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit": ensures us of our salvation (2 Cor. 1:22), enables our spiritual obedience (John 14:21), and endears us to our Supernatural Father (Rom. 8:15).
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He instructed them to address God as "Our Father" (Luke 11:1). In Romans 8:15 the apostle Paul writes that, as believers, we have "received the Spirit of adoption by Whom we cry out 'Abba, Father'" (NKJV). "Abba" is an informal Aramaic term for father that conveys a sense of intimacy. Like the English terms "Daddy" or "Papa", it connotes tenderness, dependence, and a relationship free of fear and worry.
It's overwhelming to think that when we are saved, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we become a part of the family of God! We now know the Creator and Sustainer of all things as "Dad"! Not because we are irreverent, or uninformed of proper theology but because He wants us to! God wants us to understand that His love for us is like that of a perfect father who cares for His children. Only the Spirit of God in us can help us begin to understand that awesome truth.
Jesus explained God's great Fatherly love in His teaching (though few understood it), "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, HOW MUCH MORE will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him(Matthew 7:7-11 NKJV)!
[Notice that God does not give us every "want", but as a loving Father he gives us that things that are "good" for us. Some things are like medicine in that we as children don't look past the "bad taste" to see these things are good for us. But if we are patient, we will see them as good. (Rom. 8:28)
Remember the words of this hymn?
Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky!
Oh love of God how rich and pure, how measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure, the saints and angels song!
Are you persuaded that nothing you could ever do would make God love you more? Are you convinced that nothing you could ever do would make God love you less? The apostle Paul was.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he wrote in Romans 8:35-39, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors THROUGH HIM WHO LOVED US. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (NKJV).
"BEHOLD WHAT MANNER OF LOVE the Father has bestowed upon us,
that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1). People misuse the idea of a loving God to claim there will be no judgment for the unredeemed. But as part of God's grace, you cannot claim God's love, until you acknowledge we all stand condemned in His judgment. Only in His grace, can we receive the atoning gift of Jesus through faith in him; never as anything we can earn or deserve.