This is gospel coaching session #2.
If you believe the gospel, and have total assurance of your salvation, other aspects of the gospel (like Father’s unconditional love) will come easier to you. If you don’t have total assurance of your salvation, other aspects of the gospel may be harder to believe because they are all ‘too good to be true’ as many people say.
Regarding love, we do not think UN-conditionally. Ours is conditional thinking: “I love you BECAUSE…” Unconditional truth says, “I love you PERIOD!”
In God’s case, his love doesn’t even depend on the cross of Jesus. He loves all people in the world (John 3:16). But we have to respond to his love and say ‘YES’ to have relationship with him. He just gives us the cross so that we will believe.
Now let me make another point. Living outside the gospel, and in any type of LAW, will make you doubt God’s love for you. This is because law points the finger at our flesh (Rom 7:5). It is the law of a carnal command (Heb 7:16). Anything not done in faith is sin (Rom 14:23). We cannot live in faith, and also live in the flesh!
Thus Paul says we are not under law, but under grace (Rom 6:14).
Living by Law, rules, standards, regulations, precepts and principles produces guilt (Rom 3:19) and condemnation (II Cor 3:6). We can’t know God’s love living in this frame of mind. The law made everyone fail (Acts 15:10). You must live the gospel, especially with total absolute assurance of salvation, to truly know God’s love for you!
How God Loves Us Unconditionally
Having Jesus crucified pleased his Father (Isa 53:10). This is hard to believe, but this is how God comes into loving communion and fellowship with us who were born sinners: it is by means of the cross of Jesus. This is how God loves us unconditionally. And fellowship then comes by means of the gospel (Phil 1:5).
Paul says we must be ‘rooted and grounded’ in the love of God (Eph 3:16-17). Jude 1:21 says we must keep ourselves in the love of God (I picture this like taking a constant shower). The way we do this is by believing what Jesus says in his gospel (John 3:36). This is the step that follows after believing IN him. Paul refers to this as ‘continuing in the gospel.’
We are told God gives us everything in his entire Kingdom (Luke 12:32). He gives us all things (I Cor 3:21-22). He doesn’t withhold Jesus from us, if our trust is in him, and we’re not denied anything God has (Rom 8:32).
We have all of God’s blessings (Eph 1:3). We have all of God’s promises (II Cor 1:20). We are joint, equal heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17).
If we have total assurance of salvation, God’s unconditional love follows closely behind. Without having total assurance of salvation, we doubt God’s love for us. They’re like Siamese twins.
When we live rooted and ground in his UN-conditional love (Eph 3:16-17) then we know the fullness of God (Eph 3:19). Now why is this? It’s because God IS love (I John 4:8, 16). God can’t withhold his love to us because it is who he is, and Paul says he can’t deny himself.
You and I may HAVE love, but we aren’t LOVE. It’s not who we are. It is who God is. Recall God chose us before the foundation of the world. Talk about being chosen! We were chosen before we did anything. But then it goes on to say we stand before him IN LOVE (Eph 1:4) As we lawyers might say, our ‘legal standing’ with God is LOVE. But we only know this in gospel truth, and not by any other means!
Jesus says our Father loves US as much as he does HIM (John 17:23). This really stretches the mind. And the reason Father’s love is so strong for us is because we’re his sons and daughters (I John 3:1). ‘Sons’ is a family term – a word of identity that puts us in the same dimension as people already in heaven (Eph 3:15). In John 17, Jesus says we are loved because we are ONE with him and with our Father. God’s love even gives us boldness in judgment (I John 4:16-17).
The issue is not us loving God, but that he loves us (I John 4:10). It is preached that it is our job to love God and love others. The problem is when Jesus said this, he was answering a TRICK question from a LAWYER about the LAW (Matt 22:35). Jesus was preaching the law, not the gospel. (He had his black hat on. Don’t you wish it was this simple?).
Instead, we are to love others – BECAUSE Jesus loves us (John 13:34, 15:12). Nothing begins with us. It all begins with God’s love for us.
God’s Love Disables Fear
This is what I John 4:18 ways. There is no fear in love, so fear can’t control us if we know God’s love. As we saw, not even fear of judgment controls us (I John 4:17). Jesus had no fear and, “As Jesus is, so are we in this world.”
We are told Jesus came to abolish death, and to bring both (1) abundant life on earth, and (2) eternal life in heaven to light to us through the GOSPEL (II Tim 1:10). Abolishing death is what disables fear. We are told that through the death of Jesus, he destroyed him (Satan) who had the power of death, and in doing so, he delivered the rest of us from the fear of death that held us in bondage (Heb 2:15-16).
God’s Love Enables Faith
We’re also told God’s love produces and enables our faith. It’s what causes our faith to work (Gal 5:6). It is faith in Jesus that causes our love to flourish (Eph 1:15). It is love in us that produces faith (Eph 6:23).
But it is also centrifugal and synergistic, because it is the faith of Christ in us that causes us to love (Gal 2:20). When Christ dwells in us in faith, then we are rooted and grounded in love (Eph 3:17).
The work of faith and the labor of love flow together with each other (I Thes 1:3). Both faith and love are in Christ Jesus, and the only way they materialize into something good is through him (I Tim 1:14). As Jesus says, “Without you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The more our love and faith grows toward Jesus, the more love and faith we have toward others too (Philemon 1:5).
The question becomes: which came first, the chicken or the egg. The answer is simply “Yes.” We can’t know how spiritual things operate, and they are said to be a mystery. Our job is not to understand spiritual things, but to enter into them and allow them to dominate us. This is the process of the gospel. Sometimes faith comes before love, and other times love comes before faith.
I happen to believe that, in most instances, it is faith that propels love. Without the faith of Jesus, we cannot love the way he wants us to. But this is not saying it’s the only way it works.
The Story of a Client of Mine
Let me tell you the story of a client of mine. This occurred when I was a very young Christian. I’d only been one for a very few years. This was a truth I didn’t really learn until much later, but was exposed to it early-on.
This guy was a real mess. You think you’ve got problems. Well, he had more.
His dad had just died. He was very close to him, and his dad had also been a partner in his business. The business was now failing, because of his dad’s death, but also due to other reasons. They were in the midst of filing bankruptcy, which was one reason he was coming in to see me.
But also, his wife was divorcing him, and also not letting him see his children, and she had filed an accusation against him to keep him away from them. So he had divorce problems, child custody issues, and accusations of misconduct. It turned out just to be a ploy his wife was using to win, but this didn’t come to light until later.
In addition, he had serious health problems due to all of this, and was not by any means up to par. And he had just had a fender-bender that wasn’t his fault on the way in to see me.
Yet, all he could do was tell me how much God LOVED him!
I looked at him with total doubt. I’m sure he read it. I was thinking, “Yea right! If God loves you so much, why are you having all these problems? What is God doing for you in the here and now? If God loved you, he’d be helping you our of all of these messes you are in.”
I now come to see our circumstances don’t dictate God’s love for us. Jesus says in the world we will have problems. Paul even says that we should not compare natural things with spiritual things. We shouldn’t mix situations that occur on earth with the reality of Kingdom truth. Thus he says, “In everything give thanks.” He doesn’t say FOR everything, because some things are crap. But IN everything.
The fact is that God loves us — period! His love is not conditioned on what we DO, or what is DONE to us in this world.
Our job is to know WHOM we believe (II Tim 1:12), and not WHAT we believe about everything we do in life, or what happens in the world. One great Kingdom advancement you can make is not look at things that happen to you through the lens of judging God’s love for you. Don’t be a member in ‘God-Judgers Anonymous.’