If you have come from a spiritually abusive background, you most often suffer with a view of God that is distant, harsh, and arrogant. God was often depicted as this self-obsessed ego maniac who is hell-bent on forcing everybody to acknowledge how great He is. We’ve been examining 1 Corinthians 13 to see what the characteristics of our loving God must be. Already in this series, you’ve probably challenged some of the ways in which you’ve viewed God. Here we do so again, because, contrary to the fundamentalist portrayal of God as arrogant and capricious, the Apostle Paul writes that love is not proud, does not boast, and that it does not insist on its own rights. It’s not about oneself. Yet, for those of us who were exposed to a spiritually vitriolic environment, it may be difficult to look at a verse like Isaiah 48:11, which reads, “How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another,” and conclude anything but that God is a narcissist. How do we understand the concept of God being loving and yet someone who, at the same time, seems to be obsessed with His own glory? You’ll hear many Christians say, “It’s all about God, not you.” Is this really true? Continue reading
True love. It’s what we all long for deep in the recesses of our being. It is why we are stirred by stories of great sacrifice by persons for one another and inspirational forgiveness by those who are wronged. We desire, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, to be loved with a love that knows no limits. Continue reading
What would you do if I told you that being afraid of God was a sign of immaturity? Many people believe that we should be running around with “the fear of God” in our hearts to keep us from sin and that being afraid of God helps us grow in holiness. The liberating truth is that God, being a God of pure love (see part 01) is not seeking us out to instill fear in us (see part 02), but to drive it out completely!
The Apostle John, the one who was known as the Apostle of Love, says in his short letter 1 John that Fear and Love are unable to coexist peaceably in the heart of a person. He writes, “Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears. We love because God first loved us” (4:18-19 NCV). Did you see that first sentence of this passage? There is no fear where God’s love is. They cannot co-exist! Continue reading
Have you ever seen a parent who is frantically searching for a child after they realize he or she is not there? Perhaps you’ve been that parent? I scared the life out of my mom when I was a little kid. We were in a large department store and my grandpa was supposed to be watching me. Well, I thought it would be really cool to hide in the middle of one of those circle racks so that grandpa couldn’t find me. Well, it worked! And it nearly succeeded in giving my mother a heart attack in her mid twenties! There’s nothing I’m told that can compare to the terror of those few moments. There’s nothing that could possibly be more important than finding that precious child safe and sound. There is no obstacle too large that it cannot be overcome in the pursuit of that child. And this is how we human beings react if we have lost someone as precious to us as a child. Can you imagine how God feels about those of us who “get lost” in our selfishness and destructive ways? He “panics” with holy fervor until he brings the very last lost one back to safety. Continue reading
Someone said somewhere, sometime that you will become like the God you worship. Whoever said that understood much about the nature of religion. All around the world, no matter what the faith, you will see people doing a variety of things in the name of their god. The further into one’s religion that he delves, the more he begins to conform to the image of his god. This holds true even for those who are Christians. As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches that believers walking in fellowship with God can be spotted by one major quality: love. And why is that? Because the God we worship is, in his very nature, pure, unadulterated love!
I struggled many years with a concept of God who was angry and judgmental, one that sought to destroy his enemies and, through fear, scare people into conformity to his commandments. And true to form, I became just like that god. I was angry with people who didn’t do what I thought God would want them to, judged them, sought to use political power to silence and defeat “God’s enemies” all the while teaching a hell, fire, and brimstone bad news gospel that people didn’t really have any interest in. I look back now and scratch my head at how ignorant I was. They weren’t rejecting God because they were evil. They were rejecting “god” because “he” was evil and so was I!
The problem was not with the true God in Jesus Christ, though. He was, is, and always will be the essence of the purest (holy) love. It was my distortion of Him and His ways that was the problem. 1 John 4:8 states unequivocally that God is love. The word “love” is the predicate nominative which means that it describes the essence of the object it modifies. John is telling us that God and love are synonymous. Love is God and God is love. Everything that God does is motivated out of His loving nature. Some may object and say, “But God is just!” To which I reply, “He sure is!” His justice, which drives Him to make all things right in the end, is motivated by His love for creation and all people. And it is here where we find a “filter” by which we can interpret when God is speaking and when it is only his misinformed representatives (who usually have good intentions). When a person is speaking a message of love, then that person speaks by the Spirit of God. When it is judgmental and harsh, then it is from the spirit of man.
Let me ask you this: while you are thinking about the way God thinks of you, do sweet messages of value, esteem, worth, and delight in the person who is you come to mind? Does it feel like God is happy to have you, pleased with you as the person you are, that He rejoices over you with singing? Do you think that if God saw you coming He would run up to you and hug and kiss you? Do you feel completely accepted and forgiven, wrapped in the safety and warmth of His arms like the beloved soul that you are? If not, friend, it just may be that you are worshipping a god who has been distorted by religious people who were well-meaning, but have failed to enter into His presence in truth. Remember, Christ has many people who claim to speak for Him, but few who are truly transformed by His love!
My life has been changed forever by the realization that the God of Heaven truly loves me as I am and desires nothing but good toward me! This God loves His enemies and died for them, came into the world to save them from life without Him and desires nothing more than the redemption of all people! He doesn’t threaten them, but enchants them with his love, seeking to have them come of their own desire. If you’re struggling with how God feels about you, then allow the God who is love to permeate your soul and transform you through the power of His love made manifest in your heart!
(Note – to help with this, the next several posts will be word pictures from the Bible that illustrate God’s love for us)