This coming week we were booked to return to our beloved Lake District. We have been visiting the Lakes around Easter for the best part of 17 years and it has always been a huge highlight of our year and a time of much refreshment. Yet as we are all aware this year is quite different and the holiday was cancelled for us because of the COVID19 crisis. Instead we are in lock-down at home – hardly comparable to the week that we were expecting!
In this blog we arrive at the subject of God’s love. I’ve entitled it Immeasurable which means to be limitless or unable to be measured. We see this idea in a number of passages but the one that really stands out is Ephesians 3:14-21. It is one of Paul’s prayers and he prays (amongst other things) about their understanding of the love of God.
“17 …And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:17b-19
Its a pretty incredible prayer and in it Paul is asking God to give them a grasp of the dimensions of the love of Christ (v18). It is not that God’s love can be measured but quite the opposite – it is beyond all measure. He knows that there are no words which can adequately express the love of God in all its vastness. Still Paul is asking God to help them begin to grasp God’s incredible love for us.
The love of God knows no bounds.
Paul also prays that they would be rooted and established in love (v17) and that they would know this love which surpasses knowledge (v19) so that they would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Paul finishes the prayer by praying for glory to the one who he says can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (v20). In previous posts we have explored God’s Sovereignty (Uncontainable) and God’s Wisdom (Unfathomable) but these must always be held alongside God’s love. Volumes have been written on this but in this blog I want to offer a few reflections of my own about the character of God.
1. What is Love? (1 John 4:7-10)
The Apostle John writes not only that love comes from God (v7) but that God is love (v8). There is no definition of love beyond God because He is both the source and definition of love. John says that we know what love is because God sent His one and only Son into the world as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 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. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 John 4:7-10
A few verses later in v18 John says that there is no fear in love and that perfect love drives our fear. In our days of crisis we observe that many find themselves gripped with fear. If perfect love drives our fear then it is imperative that we help people begin to understand the love of God.
2. The Father’s love (Hebrews 12:7-11)
Sometimes we can think of loving one another as akin to being nice to one another. True love however involves an element of challenge and confrontation. We see this for example in parenting. Part of the role of a loving parent is to discipline their children. The writer to the Hebrews says that this is also true of our relationship with God: when we experience His discipline it shows that we are being treated as His children.
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:7-11
Discipline is rarely pleasant but more likely painful. In the long-run however the writer to the Hebrews says that such loving discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. God in His Sovereignty and Wisdom knows what is best for us and works in love to bring about fruit in our lives. This is not something to be feared. I hear some suggesting that the COVID19 crisis is God’s discipline on his people. I am not going to get into that debate but regardless we can be sure that God is working tirelessly to use it in our lives. A loving Father seeks the best for his children and desires to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves. We may not like what God is doing (as He works out His Sovereignty), we may not understand why He is doing it (as He works out His Wisdom) but we must trust that what God does, He does in love for our good and His glory.
3. Nothing can separate (Romans 8:31-39)
In Romans 8 Paul declares that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ and he goes on to speak of our new life in the Spirit. The chapter ends with the question of what can separate us from the love of God.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:35-39
Paul’s answer? Nothing and he shares a long list of things. Nothing can separate us from God’s love: not trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, sword, death, life, angels, demons, present or future and nothing in all creation. This is a pretty all encompassing list because there really is no way to fall out of the reach and provision of the love of God.
4. New Every Morning (Lamentations 3:19-33)
One final passage from Lamentations 3 helps us to think about the difference this might make for us in our daily lives. Jeremiah has been lamenting his affliction and his feelings of bitterness (v19) regarding the nations exile to Babylon. He then describes his soul as downcast within him (v20). The word yet (v21) marks a turn in thought and brings a new perspective as he recalls the Lord’s great love for them.
21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’Lamentations 3:21-24
Jeremiah reminds himself that God’s compassions never fail and are new every morning. He tells himself that God is his portion and so he waits on Him. Times may well be tough (as they were for Jeremiah) but it is often the presence of God that is the game-changer for the people of God. For me I spent time time reflecting on this last night in the sauna – often this is great place for me to meet with Jesus and find new perspective. So as Jeremiah commits himself to waiting on God he realises that God does not give up on His people. He is encouraged that when God does bring grief (something he does not willingly do, v33), He will always show compassion because of His unfailing love (v32).
31 For no one is cast off by the Lord for ever. 32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. 33 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.Lamentations 3:31-33
I repeat from earlier that we may not like what God is doing (as He works out His Sovereignty), we may not understand why He is doing it (as He works out His Wisdom) but we must trust that what God does, He does in love for our good and His glory.
God is love and because of His great love for us He works with purpose to bring about a harvest of righteousness in our lives. We would really love to be in the Lake District this week but we must trust that God is in control, that God knows what He is doing and that in everything God is working out of His great love for us and for His world. We wait in hope to see what God will do in our lives this coming week. God bless you this Easter week also
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