Wednesday, 28 April 2010

God loves us.. right?

Two weeks ago one of my girls from university gave me a homemade bookmark with Ephesians 3:18 on it.

After writing my previous post on sovereignty, I realised very quickly that I only had half of the story. In fact, I’ll be honest and say I fell into the deepest spiritual depression I’ve ever known. The obvious conclusion to my post is that God is a selfish and demanding God, asking everything of us and not giving enough in return, and requiring our suffering for His glory.

I was sitting in a teaching session Mike (our interim team leader) was giving on Genesis 3 – the fall – and both the friend I was sitting with and I were completely bowled over by how pointless the whole thing is. Why did God allow us to fall in the first place? He gave us a test, and humans failed hugely, but it was completely unnecessary. If it was all planned to come around in one big, intricate circle and return to the second Adam, Jesus, who died for our sins and brought us back into communion with God, why even bother letting us leave it in the first place?

Half of the answer is contained in my post below – that it is for God’s glory, and the cross was the only way to display God’s glory fully in His defeat of sin and the Devil and our rescue. The whole thing was for His glorification – that’s even what Jesus refers to when He’s talking about the cross in John’s gospel.

But again, that brings us to the conclusion that everything is brought about for the glory of His Name. And when that truth hit me, it felt like a tonne of bricks. What is the point of serving this God, who cares ultimately only for His own glory? If a human acted like that, we would see them as entirely selfish and even evil, so why is it different with God?

The difference, which I quickly realised, is love. But realising this didn’t change anything for me. I had seen nothing (I conveniently forgot anything but bad events in my recent past) that evidenced that He must love me, and even if he does, so what? He’s still only living for Himself, so what does it matter if He cares for me if He still allows me to go through the kind of things he puts me, or anyone else, through?

I began to cry out to Him harder than I ever have in my life. Because if He does not love us, then the above conclusion is true – He is a selfish God who uses us in his games and schemes to glorify himself, and that’s all I could see! I couldn’t get past this brick wall that the lesson of His sovereignty had built up in my mind. I couldn’t feel His love, and all of His talk of it in the Bible was just words, not substance. However, knowing that His word is true drove me to strive to pray earnestly that I could know His love in the same way I know His sovereignty, i.e. hit me round the head with it so I can’t deny it in any way, shape or form.

I continued to pray, though, not even sure that it was a Biblical prayer: Praying that He would love me? That I would really know it, even though it’s laid out plainly for me throughout the Bible? It felt like asking for something He’s already given, so it could never be answered. I was losing all hope.

Thankfully, our God is bigger, more complicated and more powerful than my thought processes!

While we were looking at Genesis 3, and grieving how pointless it all seemed, my eye fell onto the bookmark that I had tucked into the back of my Bible. It reads, “My you be able to comprehend how deep, how wide, how long and how high God’s love for us is”. My prayer was allowed! Paul prayed it 2000 years ago, knowing that people would struggle to understand what it means that God loves them.

Here’s the full passage:
“This then, is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every fatherhood, in heaven or on earth, takes its name. In the abundance of his glory may he, through his Spirit, enable you to grow firm in power with regard to your inner self, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, with all God’s holy people you will have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; so that, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge, you may be filled with the utter fullness of God.
Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine, ; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.”

So it goes like this:

1)   God enables us to grow firm in power through the abundance of His glory..
2)   This allows Christ to live in our hearts..
3)   Which plants us in love and builds us up in love..
4)   Giving us the strength to understand love..
5)   Which results in us being filled with the utter fullness of God.

So, wrapped up in God’s glory is the idea that He loves us. And I realised that its not just the idea – God’s glory intrinsically loves. He cannot be glorious if He doesn’t love us, because then He would not be the pure and perfect being He claims to be. His glory allows us to actually comprehend his love.

So we can match the size of His love to the size of His glory. And if we’re matching the size of His love to the size of His glory (stay with me!) then it’s huge. I mean massive – the universe is the biggest thing we know, in fact we can’t even comprehend its size, and that doesn’t even contain His glory, it’s merely a display of it. Therefore..

God loves us as much as He Is.

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