Characteristics of God - God is Love

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“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (John 4:16)

What an incredible truth: God is Love! It is not just something He does, but actually describes who He is! If we grasp this truth, it will have a transforming effect on our life! Our belief and concept of who God is and what He is like directly determines what our spiritual walk is like – not just what we do, but especially how and why we do what we do – the motivation for our actions toward God. How important then that our concept of God is based not on our imagination, but entirely on the truth of God’s word! If someone believes that God is a distant Being that cares little about us on a personal level, that will surely be evident in the lack of a relationship with God. Likewise, if someone believes God is a harsh and critical Ruler, just waiting for us to make a mistake, that person’s response to God will be actions motivated only by fear, rather than love or gratitude. However, if through God’s Spirit we understand that God is love, and that all He does is done in love, our response will be to love Him in return – to draw nearer to Him, to obey Him, to honor and worship Him. This concern to properly comprehend God’s love is precisely what Paul had on his heart when he prayed for the Ephesian church. He described this prayer in his letter to the Ephesians, saying that he bowed his knees to the Father, asking that by the power of His Spirit He would work in their hearts so “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19). What did Paul believe would bring this fullness to their spiritual life? Grasping by faith the greatness of God’s love.

When we study the Bible, from beginning to end we see God’s immense love coming through again and again in all that He does. We see it in the actions of the Father, as well as in all that Jesus does, and all that the Holy Spirit does. God loves us, not because of anything outside of Himself – there is nothing we have done or ever could do to earn this great love. In fact, what we have earned with our rebellion against God is the opposite of love – and yet God loves us, because it’s His nature. He always desires what’s best for us.

It is important to know that God’s love works in perfect harmony with all of His other attributes – His mercy, His grace, His patience, His faithfulness – but also His justice, His truth, and His perfect holiness. His great love means that He never deceives us or compromises the truth, never bends justice, never does anything out of impure motives. We must be careful not to limit His love with a shallow understanding of what love really is. Sometimes people make statements like: “A loving God would never allow us to go through so much suffering and permit so much evil.” Or, “A loving God would never punish people eternally.” Yet, we do not see things the way God sees them with His unlimited knowledge and wisdom, or understand with His infinite understanding – He is the eternal God who is perfectly righteous and holy, and His perfect plan and all of His actions are in harmony with His love.

This great love God has for us is displayed in His desire for a relationship with us, and in His longing for us to love Him in return. It is precisely this desire that led to God’s greatest demonstration of love ever: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Because of our sin, a relationship with the holy God was impossible without Him providing a way for us to be cleansed and reconciled to Himself. So in a love greater than we can grasp, the Father sent His Son Jesus to this earth to become a man, live a perfect holy life, and die on the cross, taking on Himself all the sins of the world. We know Jesus rose again victorious over death, showing that the Father accepted His sacrifice, and that all we need to be redeemed has been provided for by the blood of Jesus. In His supreme love God is now drawing all to Himself through His Spirit, desiring that all would receive the gift of forgiveness and everlasting life. “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you’” (Jeremiah 31:3).

How are we to respond to that kind of love? John writes in his letter “We love Him because He first loved us”. (John 4:19) We know the greatest commandment is: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Let us pray, as Paul did, that God would help us comprehend how great the love of God is, so that our entire life would become an act of genuine worship motivated by love for God.

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