I’ve struggled with self-reproach most of my life. My basic M.O. is a running dialogue of negativity. I’m constantly kicking myself for my ADD and the stupid stuff I say or do, and at times it just knocks me down. I wonder how God can put up with someone like me. Sometimes it can be all too easy to see God as a ruthless, angry judge with a gavel just waiting to condemn us for every fault and flaw. That is the idea of God too many of us grew up with.
Friends, I’ve got to tell you, that warped picture of God is just so horribly wrong, and it’s what’s kept so many of us at a distance from Him.
When she was very young, my daughter used to love to hide in the dress racks at the stores. One day, my wife and I were out at the mall, and there’s this huge one that said clearance sale. Well, she waited until we were distracted, and she crawled in there to hide. She just thought it was wonderful that she was playing hide and seek with mommy and daddy, and we couldn’t find her. Meanwhile, my wife and I are panicking. We’re calling for her. We’ve got the entire sales force looking. And I’m losing it. I’m thinking “I’ll never see my daughter again!” As a parent, you get desperate quick. The only thing on your mind is getting them back safe and sound, and when you find them, you’re not focused on punishing them. You don’t start threatening “oh man, you’re going to be sleeping in the garage tonight!” No. You’re so thrilled, you can’t hug them enough. It’s more like: “Mommy and daddy love you so much! We were so scared. Please, don’t ever do that again!” That is the picture of God that Scripture shows us. It’s the picture of a father who loves his children and wants them to come home.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells us three stories to drive this point home. A shepherd, a woman and a man each lose something of great value to them, and when it’s found, they’re so ecstatic they throw a huge party and invite all their neighbors to rejoice with them.
Jesus tells us these stories for one reason…
In the last of those three stories, the prodigal son has dishonored his father, demanded an early inheritance, run off and blown all the money and is now slinking home in disgrace. His plan is to beg to become a servant. But Luke 15:20 says that “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran, embraced him and kissed him.“ Before this kid, who’s betrayed his father in every possible way, could even say anything, the dad grabs up his robe, tears out to meet him, throws his arms around him and welcomes him home.
I think Jesus tells these stories for one reason: they’re a sign of His over-the-top love for us. He wanted to give us a vivid picture of just how much God adores us, how crazy, head-over-heels, wild about us our Heavenly Father really is. Jesus is saying “when one of those humans that I made comes close to Me, it makes Me feel like I’ve recovered my most valuable possession.” When we take those first small, shaky steps toward Him, or even just start leaning in His direction, He rushes out to meet us with open arms.
And then Jesus makes one of the most radical statements in the Bible here in John 15:9: “As the Father has loved Me, in the same way I love you.” The Father feels that way about you and me, even in all of our brokenness, all the junk, all the duplicity. And if we were ever in doubt about that, God doesn’t just say it. He proves it. John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This is the clearest, most high-def picture we get of God’s love in the entire Bible. The mighty, universe Creator, the One who sits on the throne of heaven, whom angels tremble before, that very God, sacrificed His one and only Son…for you and me?
When you stop and really consider what that means, it’s staggering to think about. It just boggles the mind. Why would God do something like this? Why would He allow His only Son to die for a bunch of sinners who had already turned their backs on Him?
The answer is simple, but for some of us, not easy to accept. It’s because He loves us that much.
The truth that God enjoys us is stone number one, the basis on which everything else turns.
This is the bedrock of the entire Christian life. The truth that God enjoys us is stone number one, the basis on which everything else turns and the only picture of God that will get us anywhere. If you’re wanting to go deeper into God, if you want your heart to be stable for the coming turmoil, if you want to be drawn to Him, then you’ve got to see Him the right way. It’s not only fundamental to our relationship, it’s vital to our understanding of every other Scripture. It’s the key to loving God in return and to living our lives in obedience. We have to build on this foundation that God loves and accepts us.
Friends, this is not optional. Because if we go around believing God’s always disappointed or mad or down on us, we won’t go to Him, and then everything in our Christian life will be wrecked and off. Jesus calls it building on sand. Every little wave is going to wash our house away or shipwreck our faith. Jesus wants us to get this right.
That’s why in Ephesians 3:16 the apostle Paul prayed: “May He grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, that you, having been rooted and grounded in love, may be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints the width and length and height and depth of His love; and that you may come to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses mere knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).
That almost sounds illogical doesn’t it? How is it possible to know a love that’s greater than anyone can possibly know? Well, Paul explains it in verse 16. He’s asking the Holy Spirit to give us that revelation, because bottom line: it takes God to know God and it takes God to love God. We can make the choice, but the Holy Spirit makes the connection. Learning to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind is a supernatural ability imparted by a supernatural revelation of God’s love for us. We need to acknowledge our dependence on God for everything, and to train our hearts to depend on the Holy Spirit because none of it’s going to work otherwise.
So how do we do this?
How do we stay connected to a revelation of God’s love with our own fears and anxieties or our personal experiences with people who’ve wronged us, sneaking up and weighing us down?
In Psalms 34:8, David says to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” The more we come before God Himself, the more we talk to Him, listen to what He says to us and connect with His Spirit, the more we are going to experience the kind of love Jesus was talking about. We need to get into the Word of God and see what God really thinks and feels about us.
I’m going to put this in first person to help us really get this:
- Make time to feed my soul on the truth of God’s love for me.
- Read the Bible and discover what God says about loving me (Go on a quest through Scripture. Highlight as I read).
- Meditate on the God-loves-me scriptures. Memorize them.
- Make them personal.
Make it a priority to be preoccupied with the fact that God loves you completely. Soak in this reality. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes so you can see it, feel it and encounter it emotionally, physically and mentally.