Monday, May 9, 2011

Jif Peanut Butter and God's Love

 As I've mentioned in previous posts, I can be a little picky when it comes to food. Aside from textures and food mixtures, recipes are very important. Some dishes have specific ways they should be made. Cornbread should be made with bacon grease, not sugar. Muffins are made with sugar. Brand names also fall under this category. JIF peanut butter is the best there is (the first spoonful is the best!). Regardless of what my wife (or my secretary) says, Bryan wieners are the only appropriate choice for a hot dog. And if your going to eat American cheese has to be Kraft. There are more, but you get the idea. Before you start rolling your eyes, stop and think about your own peculiarities. All joking aside, what things do you not like to compromise on? It may not be food related, but there are things in your life that you consider unalterable. If object x is missing characteristic y, then it couldn't conceivably be object x. The last six weeks we've been looking at God's personal attributes piece by piece. Today I want to look at them as a whole. I want to show you how God's love is one of those things that has no substitute.First let's review the main verse we've been using, Exodus 34:6-7.

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

As we've studied these seven characteristics along with the knowledge of God's holiness, we haven't touched upon the idea at the center of it all. I've made a point to not put "love" on the ring with the others because of what we find in 1 John 4:7-8.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The characteristics we've been studying are adjectives. They describe God, they show us what He is like. This verse is saying God is love. It is a definition. Love is not an adjective here, it's not even a verb. John is saying that love is such a part of God that if your not sure how to define love...look at God. Here's part of an article on love that should help us work through this.

"Love can be known only from the actions it prompts. God's love is seen in the gift of His Son. But obviously this is not the love of complacency, or affection, that is, it was not drawn out by any excellency in its objects. It was an exercise of the divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself. "
(from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

 The first sentence of that paragraph is one that sticks with me. It's words are something to be pondered, not only as they relate to God's love, but in how they relate to my love. Words are meaningless, until they are backed up by actions.If you keep reading in 1 John 4:9-10, John shows how God acted out His love.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Now it's time to put God's word to the test. Thousands of years before Jesus came, God gave a list of his defining characteristics. Simple logic dictates if God has these seven characteristics, and God is love, then real love contains these seven characteristics. Does God's love contain all these? Are His actions in line with His words? Let's see if we can find evidence in the New Testament. 

- He is stirred by our helplessness; our pain moves Him.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. ~ Matthew 9:35
- He wants to bless us; to lavish good things upon us.
who has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, ~ 2 Timothy 1:9

- He doesn't immediately blot us out. He gives us time to find Him. 
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. ~ John 3:36

- He makes a covenant with us; if we love Him, He will make us His people.
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. ~ Hebrews 9:15

 - He promises to remain faithful even if we don't.
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.  ~ 2 Timothy 2:10-13

- He is willing to forgive our sins when we turn away from them.
Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. ~ Acts 13:38

- He must punish wrongdoing.
God presented him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. ~ Romans 3:25 

 There are countless more verses in both the Old and New Testaments that further show God's love. But these are enough for me. It is amazing to me that a Holy God loves me. But I am speechless when I realize He loves me so perfectly. You see, if you remove any one of the doesn't work. These seven things intertwine and affect each other. Mercy is linked to Grace. If God is not merciful then He has no feeling for us. There is no inner compulsion to help us. If God is not Gracious, then He's probably like a lot of us who see someone in need and we feel bad for them, but never do anything to help. Slow to Anger and Forgiving go hand in hand. If you take those away from God's character then when we mess up the first time... What about Loving-kindness and Faithfulness? If these disappear then God would be like us; when we get stung too bad by someone we write them off. If He ceases to be Just in punishing sin, then He would be like a parent that never disciplines their children. True love guides and directs to make the child the best they can be, through punishment if need be. And if we take away Forgiveness, then we lose all hope.

Some of you reading this may not have experienced God's love personally but want to. I'll gladly show you the path that leads to God. Some call it becoming a Christian, or getting saved. What we are doing is returning home to a Father who desperately loves us.

1. We must admit that we have messed up. We must own the wrong that we have done and decide that we want to turn away from it.
2. We must believe that Jesus is God's son and He has paid the price for our mistakes by dying on a cross.
3.  We must confess that Jesus is our Savior and Lord. Simply put, if He is your Lord then you give Him control of your life. You make a pledge to become a follower of Christ.

If you want more information on these steps, then look at the first blog post entitled, "There is a way that seems right". But if your ready to take this step, I encourage you to find a quiet place to speak to God. Pray something like this...

Dear God,
I admit than I am a sinner. I know that I have made wrong choices and because of this I have separated myself from you. But I believe that you sent Jesus to die on the cross so that my sins could be forgiven. I have decided to make Jesus the Lord of my life. I pledge to do my best to follow you the rest of my life. Amen

If you prayed that prayer with sincerity, at any point in your life, then you have made a covenant with God and He with you. I pray that you find yourself a church that believes this, and only this, is the way to find peace with God. The Christian life is a dynamic one that must be lived with passion and joy. It is a lifetime spent learning more  and more about God and letting Him change you into the person He designed you to be.

There's one more word I want to define tonight. The word extravagant is defined as going beyond what is deserved or justifiable. Casting Crowns recorded a simple song that gives voice to the emotions I find singing in my own heart. I invite you to listen and join with me as they sing.

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate
I feel I'm moving to the rhythm of Your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in the secret place
Cause Your love is extravagant

Spread wide in the arms of Christ there's a love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known; You considered me a friend
Capture my heart again

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate

All scripture taken from the New International Version

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