As i was praying the other night i was thinking about our next series talking about the love of God. One of the things I have found difficult when working with my groups is helping them grasp this particular concept along with others. It is not enough to just say Jesus loves you and died for you, it seems to go over their heads as if i were discussing advanced physics. It seems they don’t have the necessary framework to understand it. I believe there are at least 2 contributing factors, 1. their personal lives, and 2. the example of the church.
1. Their personal lives,
Many of my students come from very difficult backgrounds. It seems the Lord has given me the privilege/challenge of ministering to them. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to describe a sunset to a blind person. The concept of selfless sacrificial love is not a part of their world. A God who loves them so much and died so that He could be with them forever is hard to accept. Many of them are only here because their parents wanted to be away from them. We have some parents that don’t even know where the church is. And some of our students are likely being abused by their parents either verbally, physically, or sexually. Love like God’s love is a foreign concept to them or perhaps to good to be true.
2. The church’s example,
This particular reason is one I have decided to do something about. It breaks my heart to think of all the people that have rejected God due to the church’s misrepresentation of who God is. It begins first with our own understanding of who God is. I can only speak of this briefly, but it may come out more in my pending worship post. For the longest time the dominate understanding of God has been colored by His holiness, righteousness, justice, and wrath. We see God as the angry judge who is fed up with our foolishness. There is certainly some truth to this but it is incomplete, and I really don’t think it captures the heart of God. We’ll discuss this more in a moment. This impression of God drives our lives: our behaviors, our attitudes, our interactions with others, and so on. Christianity became a duty lived out of obligation to the prison warden. Thus the grumpy, self-righteous, judgmental demeanor that devalues those who don’t measure up to what we think He wants. The Judge loves you, so He will give you a second chance but you need to follow all the rules, or else.
Hopefully you can see how these ideals can distort who God is, if you yourself are in agreement with the above then hold on to your seat we are going to blow your mind.
For me the key to all this is ask the question, “Why?” It is one thing to say, Jesus died for your sins, or that Jesus loves you, but do we know or think about why. So, Today I want to take you on a journey through time to help us understand this.
Rewind the clock back to creation. (deep announcer voice) “In the beginning” (Gen 1:1). This is what was said after he finished creation, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31, ESV) All was well, Adam and Eve were placed in a beautiful garden and said have fun, just don’t touch that one tree, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
One of the things I have come to thing about God is done so through the Abba Father lens given to us by Jesus. My mind is taken to the Subaru commercial where the little girls is buckling up and getting ready to drive off. You can watch it below.
I believe God looks at as the same way. I imagine for God the picture below was what was going on in the garden.
He was just watching His babies play in the beautiful home He made for them. Enjoying the food, the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the animals he gave them.
So one day God came to hang out with His kids.
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”” (Genesis 3:8–9, ESV)
However, when this happens Adam and Eve hide because they had just broken the one rule. As a result a curse came upon all creation and they were expelled from the garden. Under the old mentality we imagine fire in His eyes as He cursed them and threw them out of the garden. Can a loving father that says He will wipe the tears from His baby’s eyes feel that way knowing that what just happen is going to bring a whole mess full of tears. I can imagine the tears in His as He said, “you can’t stay here anymore”. Not only that they were doomed to die and to spend eternity in the fire and torment of Hell. A parent who has watched their children suffer through an injury or illness, understands a little bit the heart of God as He experiences the loss of thousands of souls each day. Can you imagine what it does to Him as He watches us mistreat and abuse each other day after day.
The first image above captures what He sees. We must learn to see people as God sees them. What do we see/think when we look at a drug attic, a drug dealer, prostitute, gang banger, etc. Do we see the scum of the Earth or do we see one of God’s lost babies. Can we love them like He does? Do our hearts hurt like His does? Do we not remember the story of the prodigal son, as the Father runs to meet his son, and the celebration that ensues. Do we not understand that is due to the grace of God that we aren’t worse, and that we aren’t who we were.
Below is what Jesus said at the beginning of His ministry.
““The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”” (Luke 4:18–19, ESV)
When the Lord sets us free from our bondage we become a part of the rescue squad. We are called to carry His love and power into peoples lives and rob Hell of its loot. Jesus told us to go preach the Gospel and make disciples, and I think we could phrase it this way, “Go get my babies”.
Think about this verse.
““The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44–46, ESV)
In the first section Jesus is describing what it is like when a man finds heaven the second is what heaven did to buy man. To God each and every person is valuable and treasured. You are treasured by God and He delights in you. He gave it all to get you and to get them. In the movie “The Passion of The Christ” Jesus falls down while they are whipping Him and He gets back up and hugs the post He’s chained to as if “We aren’t done yet”, and later after He gets to where the cross is going to be set up. He gets kicked to the ground and He crawls to His cross eager to get down to business. I don’t know about you but they would have to drag me kicking and screaming to that thing. Yet He willing laid His life down. (Link to whipping scene, Link to cross scene)
“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV)
It was a joy to Him not because of the pain and suffering but because of the prize on the other side, us. It was the price He had to pay for our freedom, a price He would gladly pay.
I think for the time being I’m going to leave you with this verse. Pay careful attention to verse 17.
““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17, ESV)
Below is a video by Lauren Daigle “Come Alive (Dry Bones)” to go with our talk today.