I’ve been praying for many months for a deeper sense of God’s love. My motivation has been partly to get a glimpse at how He loves others so I can love others better, and partly to “feel better” about myself as I gain a greater understanding of His perfect redeeming love. (How’s that for selfish?)
This morning I was continuing to read in the book of James and in chapter four he writes:
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
The last part of this passage really popped out at me and I began to ponder whether the harsh realization of how much God hates our sin, and the accompanying sorrow that signals true repentance, is the beginning of knowing God’s love. The text just before that urges us to draw close to God so God will draw close to us. There is initial and humble action on our part and perhaps that action of coming toward God includes the realization of and sorrow for our shortcomings.
Then I received a link to a new post on one of my favorite blogs which also discussed this subject. (Hmm… coincidence or “a God thing”?) In it, Tim Challies declares, “Were you to ask where in the Bible we see the clearest picture of God’s wrath, I would have to point to Jesus’ final hours, from the Garden of Gethsemane to his death on the cross. After all, what but the need for satisfaction of God’s wrath, could compel the Father to send his Son to such a horrible, painful, death?” He goes on to point out that there is no sin or excuse for sin that God overlooks. He hates sin, even the littlest one, and every sin demands an accounting.
Have I misunderstood God’s love? In general, does the American Christian treat sin lightly or misinterpret God’s perfect love through our imperfect, changing, emotional, sentimental, untrustworthy love? Challies goes on to paraphrases Leon Morris: “When the Bible speaks of God’s love, it does not refer to a warm, fuzzy sentimentality, but a love that is so jealous for the good of the one who is loved that it blazes out in wrath against all evil. The writers of the New Testament had no concept of a love that did not react in the strongest fashion against all sin…. God is able to be both perfectly loving and wrathful. Unlike us, he is not given to outbursts of emotion or to irrationality. His wrath is as perfectly and completely manifested as his love.”
Only when I understand the desperation of my condition can I understand the love and wrath of God. Until I know my sin and God’s wrath against it, I cannot know love. Until I know love, I cannot know the Savior.
God loves me so much that my sin killed His Son. I am changing the way I pray.