Too many Christians today are told (or it is implied), “God loves you if….”.
While they may have initially been drawn to Jesus because they were told of His unconditional love, they end up having a lot of conditions handed to them.
God loves you if you read your Bible every day.
God loves you if you pray frequently.
God loves you if you are sure to share the gospel with everyone you meet (or with at least one person daily).
God loves you if you attend “church” every Sunday.
God loves you even more if you attend Sunday evening and mid-week services.
God loves you if you don’t smoke or drink.
God loves you if you don’t use curse words.
God loves you if you don’t go to certain movies or listen to certain kinds of music.
On and on the list goes. And while someone may not phrase it quite that way, this is what ends up being implied.
But God’s love and satisfaction with us is not based on our outward performance; it is based on our inclusion in Christ. God views us through Jesus Christ, perfectly, eternally cleansed by His blood.
And while many followers of Jesus accept this intellectually, they don’t live it out because they fall back into a performance mindset that is based on a standard of external actions.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone talk about how disappointed God must be in them.
I really don’t think that is the case. Of course, God does not want us to live in sin, but it also does not mean that our outward actions change the way God views us or feels about us, just as most parents don’t hate their children even when they do terrible things. Love persists. So it is with God.
The above statements need no “if” and should simply say, “God loves you.”
And yes, God wants to change you to be more like Jesus. But He wants to change you from the inside out. It simply starts with a heart that yields to Him, not as a condition to gain His love, but as a response to the love that He already lavishes upon us.
Jesus called the Pharisees “white washed tombs”. They were dead inside even though the outside appeared clean. Ouch! He also said that their hearts were “far from Him”.
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”
What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28)
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.” (Matthew 15:7-9)
Paul dedicates much of his letter to the churches in Galatia to combating the idea of keeping up with the law to please God.
Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 9:2-6)
There are two things I want to emphasize about God’s love for us:
- There has never been a time when God has not loved you. Let that sink in. Nevah evah. His love is perfect, eternal, and never fails. Don’t just believe this intellectually, but really receive this truth in your heart.
- God always chooses the path of love. Think about that. How often do humans choose another path instead of doing the loving thing, and choose self-fulfillment and self-protection at the expense of someone else. The best definition I have heard of love is that it is to benefit another at the expense of yourself. God does this 100% of the time. I personally can’t even fathom this.
But here is some good news: if you are in Christ, then His life that is full of this kind of love is living and breathing inside you!
When I miss the mark in living out God’s love, His Spirit inside me is prompting me towards Him. So the Christian life is not about keeping up with a list of commands based on external performance, but learning to discern the promptings of God’s Spirit in us and then yielding to Him. As we grow in this we grow in Christ, and we grow in divine love.
Follow the LIFE!