I have a love-hate relationship with Amazon. I love it because, if I’m running low on toilet paper, I can hit one button and, two days later, I have some waiting for me at the door. It’s great. But I hate it because I’m pretty sure I have a drawer in my closet full of things I’ve seen on Amazon, proceeded to buy, and then realized two weeks later that I definitely didn’t need. My problem is (aside from maybe spending too much time on Amazon) that I see something, think I need it, then later realize it’s not that great anymore.
This isn’t just with shopping. We do it with a lot of things: gifts, cars, houses, and sometimes, even people. We get something new or get into a new relationship, love it and then, as time goes by, we find ourselves paying less attention to it.
What’s amazing to me is that Jesus never does that with us. His love isn’t something that is here one second and gone the next. It’s forever. 1 John tells us that God is love. It isn’t something he does, it’s quite literally who he is. And because he is the same yesterday, today and forever, who he is and how he loves will never change.
Think about how wild that is. No matter what we do, no matter how much we sin, no matter how far we stray, his love is still strong, steadfast and consistent. Never buy into the lie that you’ve strayed too far or done too much to be loved by Jesus.
No matter what you’ve done, Jesus still loves you.
I love Psalm 8:3–4 as it reads in the New Living Translation of the Bible. Perhaps David remembers himself a shepherd boy tending his father’s flocks as he writes. I can’t honestly say, but that’s the way I like to think of it. In my mind, It’s a crystal-clear spring night on a hillside meadow somewhere outside the walls of Bethlehem. Laying on a plush cushion of fresh grass, his eyes transfixed on the vast heavens above. David is spellbound by the canopy of twinkling lights blanketing the sky; such majesty is just too much to comprehend. Every once in a while, the sound of a babbling brook and grazing sheep penetrate the quietness of the moment, but he is not distracted, his thoughts are deep:
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?
— Psalm 8:3–4 (NLT)
David’s question is reasonable and fair. Why would the God of Heaven, the creator of the universe, give a hoot about man? Why did he care then, and why does he care now? Knowing fully well the thankless, ungrateful, rebellious creature he would become, why create man in the first place?
Now, here I sit some 3,000 years later, staring out the dining room window at a spectacular sunrise topping the trees. Lost in thought, a songbird’s song wakes me to the sight of a hummingbird suspended in midair feeding. His wings beating at some 70–80 times per second, enabling him to remain stationary without falling to the ground, is one of God’s greatest feats in nature. I cannot help but then think of the whole of creation, its majesty and greatness. As did David, in awe of my thoughts, I too ask, “What is man that you would care for him?” Who am I that you would show concern for me? What can I possibly offer the great I Am that would prompt even a modest glance in my direction?
He is self-sufficient, self-sustaining, all-knowing, all-powerful. He doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need you. He has need of nothing. Or does he?
Not that he would cease to be, relinquish the crown, be removed from the throne or anything crazy like that. Of course not. He will always be who he is: The Great I Am, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father. The supreme ruler of the universe is above impeachment, but I think God does have a need. The most known and treasured passage of scripture of all, John 3:16, attests to this being true, God’s need is to love. Not that he has to, it’s just who he is.
…God is love.
— 1 John 4:8
From the beginning, every brick in creation was laid with you and me at the center of God’s heart and mind. And when the last creative component necessary to sustain human life was in place, when the last creepy, crawly critter had been created and crept away into this vast new world:
God [then] said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
— Genesis 1:25; 2:7 (NLT)
And there humankind stood, to the end of the ages, the reason for it all, the object of his immeasurable love.
Yes, he knew the road ahead. He knew what would happen in Eden. He was acutely aware of the choices man would make then and now: to reject him, choosing to pursue what looks good opposed to what is good, what seems right instead of what is right. The Bible calls it a life of sin. What man never got a handle on was that the choice was one of life or death and, in choosing to live a life of sin, rejecting God, we chose death. Sadly, it’s the popular choice still. Even so, the lead story in the Heavenly Herald continues to read:
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
— Romans 5:8 (NLT)
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16 (NLT)
Have you received God’s gift of love in Christ Jesus? If yes, you are my spiritual sibling. We are bound together relationally through the shed blood of Jesus. If no, you can experience the love of God and be in a living relationship with him through a simple prayer inviting his son, into your life. You can do that right now and live in full assurance of his enduring love.
Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul:
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38–39 (NLT)
When I was asked to write this devotional, I was told that I could discuss any of the following topics: God creating us, God’s love for us, God desiring a relationship with us, Jesus dying on the cross for us, or our trusting Jesus to save us. So, being me, I thought, “I’m just going to write about all of them.”
Wait! Please don’t stop reading already. Now, I know that some people may joke about how long winded I am and how long my devotionals are. I know there are people who start reading my devotionals and give up somewhere in the middle of them. That’s alright. I get it. But, in my defense, I only get the opportunity to write to you about once a month, and I treasure the chance to share with you some aspect of the story of God’s interaction with mankind. He is such an amazing God, and I would love to tell you everything I have learned about who he is and how much he loves you. But, with only one chance a month, I try to fit as much in that one chance as I can.
So, please bear with me and keep reading. Yes, this devotional is ridiculously long, but only because it contains so much amazing stuff about our God and his unbelievable love for us. Should we ever get tired of learning about our God?
A Divine Love Story: The Story of Our God and His Love for Us
1. God created us to be his children and to reflect him through our behavior.
Genesis 1:27 says that “God created human beings in his own image.” Genesis 5:3 tells us that to bear someone’s image means to be their child. This means that God created us so that he could be our father and we could be his children. Now, children are a reflection of their fathers. They properly reflect their fathers by behaving as their fathers would. God wanted us to be a reflection of him by behaving as he would and by ruling the earth the way he would rule it. In Genesis 1:28, God commands us to “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” We were created so that God could love and bless us and so we could love him and reflect him with our lives.
2. Reflecting God’s love would have fulfilled all his commands.
The main characteristic that we are to reflect is our heavenly Father’s love. We were meant to reflect God’s love toward him and toward others. In Exodus chapter 20, in what is commonly referred to as the Ten Commandments, God describes what loving him and loving others is supposed to look like. The first four commandments show what loving God looks like and the last six commandments show what loving others looks like:
1) Do not have other gods besides me.
2) Do not make an idol for yourself.
3) Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God.
4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5) Honor your father and your mother.
6) Do not murder.
7) Do not commit adultery.
8) Do not steal.
9) Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.
10) Do not covet.
(see Exodus 20:3–4,7–8,12–17)
Every command can be fulfilled by reflecting God’s love. This is why, when Jesus was asked “Which is the most important commandment,” he replied:
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
— Matthew 22:36–40
Making the same point, the apostle Paul writes:
If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’ These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”
— Romans 13:8–10
God didn’t create us to obey him, he created us to be his children and to reflect his love toward him and toward others. God wanted us to love him and others, and he knew that if we would just reflect his love, we would automatically obey all his commands, because love fulfills all the commands. His commands are simply a description of what reflecting his love looks like.
3. Instead of reflecting God through our behavior, we chose to sin against him and disobey all his commands.
God’s standard of love is so high that, in his eyes, anger is the same as murder, and lust is the same as adultery. Jesus explains this in Matthew 5:
“You have heard… ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!” “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
— Matthew 5:21–22, 27–29
Jesus shows that God’s main concern is not our outward behavior. He is concerned with our hearts. He is concerned with whether or not we are reflecting his love. Any failure to love God and others results in a failure to obey God’s commands.
We have all rebelled against God and failed to reflect his love toward him and others and, as a result, we have broken every one of his commandments. If you have any doubts as to whether you have broken God’s commands, ask yourself the following questions:
If we are honest, every one of us must admit that we have broken all ten of God’s commandments. We have all failed to be children who properly reflect our heavenly Father through our behavior. We have all failed to be the children God created us to be.
4. Our sin has resulted in death, separation and wrath.
Our sin has resulted in our spiritual death, our separation from God, and our receiving God’s wrath.
Behold, all souls are mine … the soul who sins shall die. — Ezekiel 18:4
Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
— Isaiah 59:2
God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
— Ephesians 5:6
5. We cannot escape death, separation and wrath through our own efforts.
Good behavior cannot remove the sins we have already committed.
When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.
— Isaiah 64:6
Sacrifices cannot remove the sins we have already committed.
The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked.
— Proverbs 15:8
Religion cannot remove the sins we have already committed. There is nothing we can do to remove our sin that resulted in our death, separation and wrath.
It is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
— Romans 9:16
“‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”
— Matthew 19:25–26
6. God promised us a salvation that would restore us to the family he created us to be.
Around 600 B.C., God promised salvation through the prophet Jeremiah:
“I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion.”
— Jeremiah 33:8
“They will be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever … And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me.”
— Jeremiah 32:38–40
God said that he would put a desire in our hearts to worship him, and that we would never leave him. How could God guarantee that we would love and worship him and never leave him? We left him once. How could he guarantee that we wouldn’t do it again? God explained how through another prophet that lived around the same time:
“I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
— Ezekiel 36:26–27
God’s salvation would include both a new heart and his Holy Spirit placed within us that would give us the freedom and ability to reflect God’s love toward him and others, thereby leading to our loving God and others in a way that fulfills the Ten Commandments.
This promised salvation would be provided through a future Savior. Around 700 B.C., God used the prophet Isaiah to describe this future Savior:
The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
— Isaiah 7:14
It was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down… He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all… He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone… But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.
— Isaiah 53:4–6,9–11
God’s promised Savior would come to earth as a newborn child and be both God and man. He would be perfectly sinless, but would have all our sin placed upon him. He would have God’s wrath poured out on him and he would die for our sins. He would live again and be pleased with what his sacrifice accomplished. He would make it possible for others to be made right with God. And he would allow God and us to be the family that God created us to be.
7. God’s promised Savior was a God-man named Jesus that purchased our salvation with his life, death and resurrection.
God needed to become a man in order to save us.
For only as a human being could he die … Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.
— Hebrews 2:14–17
Only as a man could God accomplish everything necessary to give us forgiveness, new life and a relationship with him. So God the Son stepped down from heaven, clothed himself in humanity, and became the God-Man named Jesus.
Though he was God… he gave up his divine privileges… and was born as a human being.
— Philippians 2:6–7
As Jesus, God lived the life that we were created to live — a life that perfectly reflected God.
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
— Colossians 1:15
As Jesus, God suffered the punishment that we deserved: the punishment of death, separation and wrath. This happened on the cross, and can be seen when Jesus cried out before dying:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
— Mark 15:34
As Jesus, God experienced the resurrection from death that we need — a resurrection to eternal life and an eternal position as God’s child.
Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again.
— Romans 6:9
When we were lost and hopeless, God loved us so much that purchased our salvation himself through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God wanted his children back, even if it took leaving heaven and coming to earth and dying as a man to make it happen.
8. Salvation is the supernatural act of God uniting us with Jesus and his life, death and resurrection.
Salvation takes place when God supernaturally unites us with Jesus and his life, death and resurrection.
God has united you with Christ Jesus… Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.
— 1 Corinthians 1:30
When we are united with Jesus, we receive credit for the life of perfect love and obedience that Jesus lived. Our old selves that are under the power and penalty of sin are put to death, and we are raised to eternal life and an eternal position as God’s child. Having been united with Jesus, God now looks at us through his life, death and resurrection. God no longer sees our old sinful selves that were under the penalty of death, separation and wrath. God now looks at us and sees his new children that perfectly reflect their Father. Salvation is God uniting us with Jesus in order to make us the children that he created us to be.
We have already established that we cannot escape death, separation and wrath through our own efforts. Salvation is received by trusting in Jesus to save us through his life, death and resurrection.
Now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.
— Romans 3:21–22
When we trust in Jesus alone to save us, we are immediately united with Jesus and made right with God. We are immediately raised from death to eternal life and to an eternal position as God’s children, and we become the children God created us to be.
Jesus is the only one who can deliver us from death, separation and wrath. He is the only one who can give us eternal life and make us a child of God. There is no salvation apart from being united with Jesus and his life, death and resurrection. Without Jesus, we are still dead in our sins, separated from God, and under God’s eternal wrath. Let us not ignore such a great salvation! Let us trust in Jesus and be saved!
Our heavenly Father stands at the gates of heaven, searching the horizon, waiting for the return of his wayward children, ready to wrap his loving arms around them and welcome them back into their eternal home.
Some of the most awe-inspiring moments I have had in my life have come in the times when I am able to get away from the lights of a big city, in the quiet darkness of night, and gaze into the sea of stars that surround us. In these moments, it amazes me that we are such a small blip in an otherwise massive universe, a universe that was wonderfully created by our Creator, God. Just imagine that in our galaxy, the Milky Way, over 200 billion stars exist. 200,000,000,000. That is a massive number! A number that large is tough for us to comprehend, yet here we are, tiny little humans, on a tiny little planet, floating amongst billions of stars, created by the very same creator who made those stars.
The writer in Psalms reminds us that God knew us from the very start:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
— Psalm 139:13–14
God not only created the universe, but he took the time to knit each and every one of us together inside of our mothers’ wombs. God knows about each hair on your head and every freckle and blemish on your skin, because he placed them there to make you exactly who you are today. He made us in his image, knowing full well that we would not live up to the perfect Son he sent to die for us. The Son he sent to die for us so that we could continue to live in harmony with him beyond our time here on Earth.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8
Christ died for us. God loves us enough to have sent a perfect Savior to die on the cross, for your mother whose womb you were created in, for your neighbor or coworker who has no idea of the love God gives us, and certainly for you. As we struggle within ourselves, day in and day out, to have a better life here in this place, take the time to escape to look at the stars and remember that the same God who created them also created you, and he loves you enough to send his only Son down to replace those very sins we struggle with. Rest in God’s love and creation today, and strive to be more like him each and every moment.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ’Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
— John 16:5–15
I think there is something in most of us that wants to do everything on our own. We don’t like to ask for directions, we don’t like to read instructions, and often times, we hold the idea of being self-made as a superior virtue. While I am all for our desire for independence in a lot of ways, the reality is we were created with a need for dependence.
Just hours before Jesus went to the cross, he sat down for a last meal with his crew. I would imagine it had to have been an emotional conversation. As Jesus unpacked what he had been hinting at for some time, it became clear that he was going to be departing. These young men who had surrendered their lives to follow him had to have been distraught and felt helpless. He was the one they could always count on. He had this unreal connection with the heavenly Father. He had a sense of confidence and calm, even in the midst of turmoil. And, if worse came to worst, he could always turn water into wine.
Jesus, sensing their angst, tells them there is nothing to fear. In fact, he tells them that it’s actually good news, because as he exits stage left, another will be entering stage right who would be their helper. His role, in fact, would be to impact their lives in a way that would make them extraordinary.
The great news for us is that the promise wasn’t just for those in that room. The promise was for all who would trust Christ as their savior. All who would believe in him would receive this gift of a helper, the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit would dwell in every believer — leading them, guiding them, teaching them, showing them right from wrong, comforting them, empowering them, helping them!
The reality is that you were never intended to be self sufficient. You are in need of a helper. The great news is that if you will open your life fully to Jesus, this helper — the Holy Spirit — will dwell in you and empower your life every step of the way.
Let’s not turn our backs today on the help that God has made available. Let’s instead turn our backs on the desire to be self sufficient, embracing his power for our lives.