Thursday, February 26, 2009

Paid in Advance

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

                        Romans 5.8

Everlasting Love

In Jeremiah 31.3, God declares, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah places this statement in the past or, in some translations, “from afar” as a gentle nudge for us to look over our shoulders and realize God has always loved us. Beyond being unconditional, God’s love is preemptive. He offered it long before we realized we needed it or knew how to request it. It’s forever there for the taking, given freely and willingly.

This secures our faith from any concerns about earning God’s love. And it relieves all worries that it can be withdrawn. A love so great defies human knowledge and understanding. Yet 1 John 5.8 gets us fairly close with three simple words: “God is love.” Because God supersedes all time and space, His love is eternal, invulnerable to changing circumstances and impossible to avoid. The sheer concept of God’s all-encompassing nature inspires David to sing, “You hem me in—behind and before… Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” (Psalm 139.5,7-8) Whether or not we love God has no bearing on His love for us. We are hemmed in by love, behind and before, as far as we can see in either direction. Therefore, if we know nothing else in this life, we know this: God loves us.

Further than Faith

Paul goes further than faith when describing God’s love. He cites bona fide evidence proving the reality of divine love: “God demonstrates his own love for us.” How does He do this? He juxtaposes history and redemption. “While we were still sinners,” he says, “Christ died for us.” In other words, proof of God’s love is anchored in our personal stories. Paul wants us to remember our lives prior to accepting God’s love and see we were loved long before that. Even at our lowest, most sinful moment, the love of God was a fact of life. While we were running up enormous charges of disobedience and ingratitude, our debt had already been paid in advance.

Back to Basics

This truth is so fundamental we often overlook it when someone challenges our faith in God’s acceptance. Instead of getting drawn into debates about who is and isn’t worthy to follow Christ, it’s best to get back to basics. God loves us with an everlasting love. He has always loved us and always will. He has drawn us to Him with loving-kindness, embracing us with mercy and grace. He makes us worthy. He demonstrates His own love—a love like no other—by paying our debts of sin in advance through His Son’s death on the cross. The transaction is private and personal, shared only between God and each of us individually. Since we owe Him everything, we owe no one else an explanation or justification of who we are or why we believe. The deal is done. The contract is sealed. All costs and considerations were more than adequately covered before the world began.

... because God makes me worthy.

(Tomorrow: Closer)


blake said...

Tim, I very much enjoyed this particular blog. And I appreciated (yes, I can tie EVERYTHING back to something film-related) Dustin Lance Black's mention of this very subject at the Oscars. It's difficult to remember that God loves everyone, regardless of sins, or faults. We're not here on Earth in this life trying to earn His love, we've already got it.

Tim said...

Beautifully said, Blake. I truly believe as more and more of us speak this truth--as you have, and as Lance Black did, and on and on--more people will come to accept it. The truth is an often fragile thing, too fragile to assume just throwing it out there will make it happen. It has a hard swim against popular lies of every sort (e.g., God loves some more than others, we can't be loved, etc.). Sometimes we have to assume "lifeguard" roles and do the swimming just to make sure the truth stays afloat and moves forward!

Blessings to you, Blake. BTW, just watched "Revolutionary Road" on the plane ride home this morning--tough movie about mishandled love, I think. We'll talk...