God's Great Plan or To Those Who Love God
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, June 13, 1999
Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
In this passage we discover that God has a plan--a great and glorious, mighty and mysterious plan--of saving sinners like us. No man can frustrate this plan of God, and no one can prevent its fruition.
As we study this plan of God, we must examine ourselves so that we can be certain that we are included in the great plan of God. In Revelation 21 and 22 we read that outside the city of God, meaning heaven, are the cowards, the unbelievers, the murderers, the idolaters, the sexually immoral, all liars, but inside are those who are included in God's great plan--the people whom God loved from eternity, foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. Only such people will dwell with God forever; therefore, we must make sure now that we are included in the plan of God.
God's Great Plan
First, though, let me mention another plan, which we read about in Psalm 2. This is not the plan of God, the great King; it is the plan of the kings of the earth. In verses 1-3 we read, "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. 'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.'"
The kings of the earth are devising a great plan to overthrow God and his rule. There is only one problem: their plan will never come to fruition. It cannot, because mere men can never throw God or his Christ off their thrones. Such plans of man will always be frustrated.
But nothing--no man or nation or Satan or demon--can ever frustrate God's plan. God's plan has to come to pass. Why? Because it is the plan of God himself. And this plan of God is a mighty, mysterious plan, in which God from all eternity looked down upon the world that he had not yet created and saw sinners. God set his favor upon some, predestined and ordained them to a good destiny, and, in time, called them, justified them, and is, even now, bringing them to glory. God's plan is that these people will have fellowship with him and dwell in his city--the new heavens and the new earth--forever. That is what eternal life is--to live with God forever--and it will be blessing indeed.
Now you may have heard this statement, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." What is wrong with that statement? Simply that it is not true for everyone! Yes, God loves some people and has a wonderful plan for them, but the truth is, not everyone is included in the wonderful plan of God.
Inclusion in God's Plan
Who are the people who experience God's wonderful plan? How can we know if we are included among them? In Romans 5:17 we find a description of such people. They are "those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness." So the first question we must ask ourselves is, have we received God's grace? Have we received the righteousness apart from works--righteousness from God--as a gift? If so, we are in God's plan.
We find a further description of such people in Romans 10:13, where Paul states, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." So again we must ask ourselves, have we called upon the name of the Lord? If so, then we are in God's plan.
In John 10:27 Jesus Christ says, "My sheep listen to my voice: I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish." Have you heard the voice of Jesus Christ and are you following him? If so, then you are in his plan.
To be included in God's plan is a wonderful thing. It means you belong to God. In John 17:9, Jesus Christ, the high priest, said, "I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours." God gave some people as a gift to his Son that he may redeem them. In other words, these people belong to Christ, and God has a plan for them. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future." In 1 Corinthians 2:9 Paul writes, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."
Let me ask you: Do you have the knowledge of the Scriptures that lead you to salvation? Do you listen to Christ's voice and obey him? Do you love God? Have you called upon the name of the Lord for salvation? If you can answer "Yes" to these questions, then I can say with assurance that you are included in the company of people for whom God from all eternity has a great and wonderful plan.
Knowledge that we are in God's plan will give us great comfort and consolation as we experience troubles and trials in this world. That is what we find here in Romans 8. Those who are in God's plan can say, "All things work together for good" or "God works all together for our good," even in the midst of great troubles and trials.
Romans 8 is a chapter full of consolation, but this consolation is not for everyone. It is only for those who are in God's plan.
What consolation is found there! Verses 1-8 declare there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Verses 9-13 tell us we are indwelt by the mighty Spirit of the living God; verses 14-16 tell us we are God's children, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Verse 17-18 tell us we are destined to glory. Verses 19-22 tell us God is creating a new heaven and a new earth in which his people shall dwell with Christ. Verses 23-25 tells us we will receive an immortal body, a glorious body. Verses 26-27 tell us the Spirit of God helps our infirmities and intercedes in behalf of us to God.
Finally, in verses 28-30 we are introduced to God's mighty purpose, his mighty plan, for his people. And when we come to the understanding that we are included in this plan, we will rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
The Comfort of Knowing
Romans 8:28 begins, "And we know. . . ." Christians often do not know much about what is happening to them. When they are going through troubles, pain, persecution, and misery, they may wonder why such things are happening to them. But there is one thing of which they can be very certain: Christians know what is going to happen in the end. They know with great confidence that God will work all things together for their ultimate good.
If we are Christians, this assurance is produced in us by the Holy Spirit especially through the Scriptures. As we commune with God and meditate upon God's word, and as we fellowship with God's people, the Spirit of the living God will give us this certain knowledge in the depth of our inmost being that everything will be all right. He will say to us, "Don't worry, son. You may not know what is happening to you. You may not know the details of it--the why and wherefore of it--but I am working all things together for your ultimate good." Paul knew this, and that is why he could write, "We also rejoice in our sufferings."
Unbelievers do not have such knowledge, comfort, and consolation, because for them all things will not work together for good in the end. In fact, in Romans 2:8-9 Paul writes, "But for those who are self-seeking and reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil."
But Christians can know with certainty that everything is going to work out all right for them. As those who love God daily in their attitude, actions, faith, and works, they have great assurance that God will work all things together for those who love God and who are called according to his great plan.
Love for God Is the Key
In the Greek text we read verse 28 this way: "And we know that to those who love God all things work together for good." Where is the emphasis? It is on "to those who love God." That is the limitation set by God.
Notice, it doesn't say, "to those who believe," or "those who are orthodox," or "those who can regurgitate all Christian doctrines with great clarity." Of course, we need to know doctrines and believe in an orthodox manner, but that is not enough. The devil is orthodox in his view of God, is he not? Holding orthodox views does not ensure one is a Christian. No, Christianity is limited, not to those who believe, but to those who love God. Christianity is a personal love relationship with God.
The vital question is, do you love God? Do you love him passionately and wholeheartedly? Do you seek his will? Do you delight in his law? Do you do what he says? If so, then you need not worry or fear or be anxious. No matter what is happening in your life, you can have great confidence that God is working all things together for your good. You can rejoice, knowing that no power in all creation will ever stop God from doing what he purposed in himself before the creation of the world, which is to bring you to salvation.
Knowledge, Not Feelings
Notice also that verse 28 says "we know," not "we feel." We must realize that Christianity is an intellectual understanding of certain facts. Yes, Christianity involves our hearts, but Paul is not writing "we feel all things will work together for good." Why? Because as we go through some bad experiences, we may not feel very good. In fact, we may be filled with all kinds of terrible feelings.
When you don't feel good, you must still know and cling to the truth that God works together all things for the good of his people. Whether you feel it or not, God is at work for your good. Even now you may be feeling pain or be confused and not know which way to turn. But you can have confidence that God is working your circumstances for your good.
This knowledge should cause us to say with Paul, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). It should cause us to proclaim the truth recorded in Romans 8:37, that "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us," or, as it says in the Greek, "In all these things we daily gain a super-victory through him who loved us." Every day, even when we are going through troubles and pain, we are experiencing super-victory through Jesus Christ, in other words. It should cause us to say with Paul, "But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ. . . ." (2 Cor. 2:14).
Sometimes when you go through trials you feel that you are not even saved. But even at those times you can rejoice because, as Paul says in Romans 5:3-4, "We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Our very sufferings will produce hope in us--hope in the glory of God, in that final destiny of salvation that God has for us. So even when we don't feel saved, we must fix our minds on this purpose of God.
Dear Christian friend, if the trials you are experiencing are making you feel confused about what is happening to you, physically and mentally lousy, or even not sure of your salvation, let me assure you of one truth: these trials are in God's plan and he is working in them for your ultimate good. Can you not rejoice with me in that knowledge?
God Must Love Us First
When Paul writes that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him," notice that he is not speaking about God's love for us, but, rather, our love for God-- "to those who love him." Let me give you the key to understand that phrase: We love God only because he loved us first.
No person can love God unless God loved him first. Why? Because we all are children of Adam and by nature we are not lovers of God. We read about this in the first three chapters of Romans as well as in the latter part of the fifth chapter. As children of Adam, we are born sinners who practice sin daily in our words, in our thoughts, and in our deeds.
Do human beings naturally love God? Not at all! In fact, not only do they not love God, they also actively hate him. Romans 1 tells us natural man suppresses God's truth as revealed in creation--his eternal power and divine nature--and in his own conscience, and he does so by practicing wickedness.
The Natural State of Man
Let us briefly examine these chapters to understand this point better. Romans 1 tells us that men are naturally godless and wicked. They do not glorify God nor do they give him thanks for the common grace he bestows on all men. Romans 1, in essence, tells us that the children of Adam are fools, because it is the fool who says in his heart there is no God.
Romans 2 declares that natural man is stubborn, unrepentant, and self-seeking, rejecting truth and following evil. And in Romans 3, beginning with verse 10, we read, "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."
Now, this doesn't mean that unbelieving people--these "fools"--don't get Ph.D.'s. They do. The issue here is, no human being naturally understands or seeks God. In verse 23 of Romans 3 we read, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." This is the universal condition of natural man.
If you are still thinking that children of Adam are natural lovers of God, read Romans 5. In verse 6 we find a further description of human beings: "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." Every son of Adam is powerless--powerless to love God and powerless to save himself--and ungodly. That means he hates God. And in verse 8 we read, "While we were still sinners. . . ." A sinner is one who transgresses God's law deliberately. Notice that Paul includes himself in this group. And in verse 10 Paul says, "For if, when we were God's enemies. . ." Every son of Adam is an enemy of God, always throwing grenades at the very face of the glorious One in an attempt to dethrone and destroy him. Remember how we read in Psalm 2 that the kings of the earth gather together for the sole purpose of destroying and dethroning God? We may not be kings, but if we are not saved, we are ultimately engaged in the task of trying to destroy God.
How, then, can any human being love God? How can a son of Adam love God when he is trying to destroy him? And this is active hatred. It is not just making an atheistic statement that there is no God. Natural man is interested in the very destruction and elimination of God.
Look at Romans 5:8 again: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God must love us first! That is the key to understanding this passage. God loves us first so that we can love him. Only then can the consolation of Romans 8:28 apply to us.
The Calling of God
Romans 8:28 says, "those. . . who are called according to his purpose." God must call his people to him. He calls them from death to life, from enmity to live a life of love, from far away to come near to him.
The Bible speaks about two kinds of calls. We read about them in Matthew 22 and Luke 14 in the parable of the banquet. A man told his servant to invite some people to a banquet, but they did not come. This first invitation is like the general call, the gospel, that goes out for everybody. After his resurrection, Jesus Christ told his disciples to go and preach repentance and faith to all nations. That is the general call.
But that doesn't mean all are going to come. So the master gave a second call--a special call--which compelled people to come to the banquet. God's special call means you are called not only outwardly but also inwardly by the Spirit of the living God. We see an example of this also in the story of Lydia in Acts 16. As Lydia heard Paul preach in Philippi, God opened her heart, the Bible says, to respond to the gospel. In other words, in the special call of God, the finger of God--the Holy Spirit--comes and touches you on the inside and raises you from death to life so that you can respond to God. Through this special call you are changed from being an enemy of God to a lover of God by the work of the mighty Holy Spirit inside of you.
In Luke 14:15-24, then, we read, "When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, 'Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.' Jesus replied, 'A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.'" This is the general call. Many are invited through the preaching of the gospel to God's great salvation feast.
Jesus continued, "At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'" Again, this is an invitation to partake of salvation through Jesus Christ.
"But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'" This man was a materialist and did not care about his eternal soul. I am sure he was not thinking of the question Jesus asked in Mark 8:36, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"
"Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'" Both men claimed responsibilities prohibited them from coming. In fact, this last man had the Bible behind him. I am sure he was quoting the Old Testament law about staying home with one's new wife for a year. But the Bible doesn't say that we should neglect our spiritual affairs at any time.
"The servant came back and reported this to the master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'" The gospel is preached to the poor, but the rich he sends away empty (Luke 1:53).
"'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'" Now observe this language: "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in.'" This is the special call, the internal call, of God. This is irresistible grace--the finger of God coming and touching you and making you alive. When this happens to you, you will put your trust in Jesus Christ alone and come to him without any excuses. The Holy Spirit will make you willing and able to do the will of God.
If you are a Christian, aren't you glad God effectually called you, compelling you to come to him? Oh, the wonderful, loving compelling call of God!
Let us examine a few more scriptures about the special calling of God. In Romans 9:11-12 we read, "Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls--she was told, 'The older will serve the younger.'" God's purpose will never be frustrated. It will stand, not by the works we do, but by him who calls us effectually, internally, by the mighty operation of the Spirit.
In Romans 9:22-24 we read, "What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory--even us, whom he also called." God's patience demonstrates the richness of his mercy to us, to those who are called, to those who are the objects of his mercy.
Notice, the apostle Paul, the former persecutor of Christians, includes himself as an object of God's mercy. He also was specially called by God. Remember Saul of Tarsus--this great scholar, this top student of Gamaliel, this great rabbi, this great Pharisee--going to Damascus? What was he going there to do--worship Jesus Christ? No! He was a rebel, an enemy of God, whose sole aim was to destroy the name of Jesus Christ by destroying Christians. But God intervened, interrupting and intercepting Saul. The Spirit of God arrested him and transformed him, so that, in great humility, he came and asked, "Lord, what do you want me to do?"
What is the purpose of God's special call? That he might have fellowship with you. In 1 Corinthians 1:9 we read, "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." Oh, this is the great banquet of God. This is the greatest happiness possible. This is the greatest joy we can experience.
Sin separated man from God, and man was thrown out of the garden and out of fellowship with God. But God, through the death of his Son, reconciled sinners to himself. And as this good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed, those who are far away are brought near, into the very family of God. In the new heaven and new earth, in the new city of God, where God dwells in the midst, we will all dwell with him.
Called to Life
n John 11 we read of the effectual calling of Lazarus. When messengers came to Jesus and told him, in effect, "Lazarus, your friend, is sick. Please come," Jesus delayed. Finally he came, but at the wrong time--after Lazarus had died and been buried for four days.
When Jesus came, he asked to have the stone removed from the entrance to the tomb. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, protested. "Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days" (John 11:39, KJV). Oh, dead Lazarus is a picture of man in Adam--a sinner, ungodly, weak, an enemy who hates God and suppresses the truth about him. "He stinketh!" In other words, one dead so long that decomposition has begun and there is no hope. (PGM) But Jesus told Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life," and when he called, "Lazarus, come forth!" the dead man came out. Here Jesus Christ effectually called Lazarus back to life.
But the calling of God to sinners unto salvation is greater than Jesus calling Lazarus to life from the dead. Other than the resurrection of Christ, there is no greater miracle than the miracle of salvation, that an enemy of God is transformed into a lover of God. Through the preaching of the gospel, the Spirit of God calls people from their spiritual deadness and causes them to be born of God. That is a greater miracle than raising Lazarus from the dead. This is what it means to be called by God.
If you have called upon Christ for salvation and put your trust in him, you can have great confidence that you have experienced this miracle and are in God's plan. Now, this plan is not for everyone, as we said before. It is only for those who love God, who are called, not by man, but by the Spirit of the living God. So again I must ask: Are you in this plan? Or let me put it differently: Do you love God? Have you repented of your sins? Do you believe in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation? Have you humbled yourself before Jesus Christ? Do you worship him and kiss his feet, as the kings of the earth were admonished to do in Psalm 2?
If these things are true of you, then you are in God's plan, and you will be in the city of the living God, seated in his banqueting hall, covered by the banner of God's love. But if you have not trusted in Jesus Christ, I beseech you to do so today. Put your whole life into the mighty hands of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and he will save you.
The Love of God to Us
If we have been effectually called, we are then enabled to love God. As we said before, God must love us first, and he did so, with great love. In Romans 8:39 we read, "Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." The love of God the Father is shown by planning our salvation and giving his own Son as our Redeemer.
Not only does God the Father love us, but Jesus Christ the Son also loves us. In Romans 8:35 we read, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" What is the answer? No one! Christ loved us and gave himself for us on the cross. He demonstrated his love by shedding his blood and dying for our salvation.
Not only that, the Holy Spirit also loves us. In Romans 15:30 we read, "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me." "The love of the Spirit! We know the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of holiness and the Spirit of truth, but here he is also called the Spirit of love.
The Holy Spirit loves us. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit who sheds God's love abroad in our hearts, as we read in Romans 5:5, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." God pours his love out into our hearts, and this is not a trickle of love, but a mighty effusion, an outpouring. The Holy Spirit pours out love into our hearts so that we can love God with that love. Additionally, we can love God's people, the brethren, and the people of the world, to whom we must preach the gospel.
All of this is the work of God. We cannot love him first, but he effectually calls us and fills us with his love. And once we are filled with the mighty effusion of the love of God, we become controlled by it. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul writes, "For Christ's love compels me . . ." The love of Christ is the engine that causes us to do the will of God. If you are an authentic Christian, living a Christian life is the easiest thing in the world, because you live by the love of God which has been poured into your heart by the Holy Spirit. Thus, I must ask you: Do you find it difficult to live the Christian life, including offering forgiveness to others? If so, you must question whether you are born again or not.
We Love God
When God enables us to love, we must love him first. In Exodus 20:4 we read, "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything," and in verse 5 we read, "You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."
We either love God or hate him. Love for God is expressed in keeping his commandments, as Jesus said in John 14, "If you love me, keep my commandments." There is no middle ground. Every unbeliever, even the most charming and civil person, hates God with a perfect hatred. If you present the real claim of Christ to such a person, his hatred of God will rise up from the depth of his being and will eventually manifest itself, first in his face and then in his words and actions. Unbelievers are filled with hatred of God and his commandments.
What are the commandments of God? When Jesus was asked this question, he said the first commandment was, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37). His answer was a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:5. What about the second commandment? Jesus quoted from Leviticus 19:18, "The second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Then he added, "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matt. 22:39-40). The message of the whole Bible can be reduced to loving God and our neighbor.
These are the requirements of a Christian, and they are easy to do if we are born again, because God himself fills us with his love. Christianity is relationship with Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us--nothing more and nothing less. Christianity is love to Jesus Christ and his people.
We Love One Another
How do we fulfill the command to love one another? We are to live by the standard called love. In Romans 14:15 we read, "If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love." In the Greek text the latter part of that verse reads, "you are not walking according to love."
The standard of living for a Christian is love. If you are not able to love others, you are not a Christian. In Ephesians 5:2 we also find the command, "Walk in love." This command is for every Christian who is effectually called and every Christian will be made able to keep this command.
All of God's instruction is aimed at this one thing. In 1 Thessalonians 4:9 Paul said, "Now about brotherly love, we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other." If you are a Christian, the Spirit of God will teach you to love God and one another. It is the lesson he is teaching all the time.
This love, as we read in Galatians 5:22, is the fruit of the Spirit, and it is what matters to God. When Jesus Christ comes again, we cannot tell him, "Lord, Lord, we have prophesied and cast out demons and performed miracles in your name," and expect him to open the doors of heaven for us. No, in Matthew 7:23 Jesus says, "I never knew you," meaning such people never belonged to Christ. And then he adds, "Away from me, you evildoers!"
In the final analysis what matters is not the gifts of the Spirit, but your character. Yes, you must have the gifts of the Spirit to do God's work, but what about your character? Did you love God or not? Did you love others, especially in the church? If so, then you are a Christian, taught by God, and the Spirit of God produced his fruit in your life.
Let me say one more thing: If you cannot get along with a brother or sister in the church of Jesus Christ, then you must ask yourself if you are truly born of God and effectually called. I am not saying that we do not sin and stumble. We do. But if we are Christians, we will be convicted of our sin and remain miserable until we repent and forsake it.
Therefore, I urge you to ask yourself these questions: Do I love God? Do I love one another? Do I live by the standard called love? Am I being taught by God to love? Do I have the fruit of the Spirit called love?
Rooted and Grounded in Love
In Colossians 2:6-7 we read, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." And in Ephesians 3:17 we read, "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. . . ." When you read these two passages together, you understand that to be rooted in Christ is to be rooted in love--rooted and founded in love.
A Christian is planted in the soil of love. How can we look at the cross where Christ, the God/man, hung dying for us and then turn around and refuse to forgive and love one another? That is a denial of our Christianity. It is an utter impossibility to understand the cross and yet fail to love. A Christian is rooted in love because he is rooted in Christ and the cross.
May God help us to understand this! Our petty jealousy and envy, our petty arrogance, our petty pretension--oh, may God call us once again to see God's great demonstration on the cross of his love, and forsake these things!
When we read chapters 13 and 14 of John's gospel, several times we find Jesus saying, "If you love me, keep my commandments." That is a sure test of our Christianity. "If you love me, keep my commandments." John tells us in his first epistle that his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3) and Jesus himself said his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:30). If we say, "No, his yoke is difficult and Christianity is burdensome," we are not understanding the cross. In fact, if we say such things, we can conclude that we are not effectually called and are not Christians, plain and simple. His commandments are not burdensome. If we have been loved by the Father, loved by the Son, and loved by the Holy Spirit, then our very being will be suffused and filled with the love of God. Then it will be easy for us to love God and keep his commandments.
Christians are characterized by love. We love God, we love our families, we love the church, and we love the world of sinners. We love divine authority as it manifests itself in the father, in the mother, in a pastor, or in the government, because it is from God.
Love with Actions
Christians love, not only in words but also in deeds. I was recently doing a study on love of the brethren and in 2 Corinthians I noted how Paul challenged the Corinthians to manifest their love for their brethren in deeds, specifically in the act of giving. "You said you love the people of Jerusalem and want to participate in helping them?" Paul was asking them. "Where, then, is the money? Give me proof, in other words, of your love by collecting the monies you promised to give."
It is not enough for a Christian to say "I love you." There should be deeds to back up that profession. There should be forgiveness, generosity, and sacrifice of ourselves for the benefit of the other. In 1 John 3:16 we read, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his live for us." And then John tells us what the implication of that sacrifice is: "And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
This is Christian love. Yet, often people in the church don't even want to forgive one another. What a contrast to laying down our lives for our brothers, as Christ did for us!
John then gives us the proof of love: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." What is the proof of God's love for us? He gave his Son. What is the proof of Christ's love for us? He gave his life. What is the proof of the Holy Spirit's love for us? He applies the redemption into our hearts. How, then, can we refuse to love our brothers?
Love Must Endure
Christian love is an enduring love. How many people have married in the church and then said, "I changed my mind"? That is not Christian love. Our love for God and others must continue till death.
In Revelation 12:11 we read, "They" meaning Christians "overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." In other words, these Christians gave themselves over to death for the sake of Christ. They knew that Christ had died for them, and that he had told his disciples, "Take up your cross daily; deny yourself and follow me to death." So they willingly gave up their lives for the sake of Christ. How could they do it? The love of God shed abroad in their hearts enabled them to endure until death. No one will die for Jesus Christ unless God's love impels and motivates that person.
In James 1:12 we read, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised for those who love him." This is another way to find out whether we are Christians. Are we going to murmur and complain under trial? In Romans 5:2 Paul says, "We also rejoice in our sufferings." Life is real, and we will go through troubles and trials in this life. But a Christian will stand up under those trials. He will be able to endure, because he loves God and understands that in God's plan all things will work together for his good.
In James 2:5 we read, "Listen, my brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him?" This is God's promise to those who love him, who are called according to his purpose!
Forgiven Little Loves Little
God has lavished great love upon us and has promised that "all things will work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." In conclusion, I think we all must come to God and see if we are truly loving God as we ought.
In Luke 7 Jesus spoke about two debtors--one who owed much and one who owed little. The creditor forgave both, and then Jesus asked, "Which of them will love him more?" What was the answer? The one who is forgiven much will love much.
Is our love for God great or small? If we are honest, we must confess that we do not love God with great love. We gloss over our sin and consider it to be very little. We do this every day. But as our sin "shrinks," our love for God shrinks also.
What is the remedy? The Holy Spirit must work in us in a mighty way. The Holy Spirit's business is to convict the world of sin. May he take us to the brink of hell and give us an understanding of what sin is. Our sin is infinite and awful because it is against an infinite and holy God. May he then help us to look at the cross where Christ gave himself in death for us because he loved us. May he enable us to understand that Jesus Christ experienced hell on the cross for us. May he show us that now, through his death, we have been reconciled to God and can have communion with God and with one another.
Only when we realize the great mercy God has shown us will we love and praise God and love one another. Only when we love God much will we begin to forgive one another and sacrifice ourselves for the brethren. Only then will we love God and one another, and then we will know that we are included in this great plan of God. Amen.
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Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
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