Thursday, August 14, 2014

Can We Preach the Gospel Without Words?

I am sure that you have heard the saying "Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words."  I'm not going to get into the debate over the source of that quote, but mainly I just want to deal with whether it makes sense or not.  In doing so, I'd like to try to answer the following questions:
  1. Does this differentiate Christians from others?
  2. What are the implications of "preaching" the Gospel without words?
  3. Is this the Biblical model of evangelism?
  4. Does the way we live matter for our evangelism?
I am sure there is a lot more that could be discussed with regards to evangelism, but these are the main items I'd like to discuss with regards to this matter.  I will try to keep it short and to the point  (trying to follow some good advice). 

So let's start by looking at whether preaching the Gospel without using words differentiates us from people outside of Christianity.  My main question here is are there people who are not Christians that are good people in the eyes of the world?  Oprah, Ted Turner, Joel Osteen, and most Mormons are all nice, friendly people who do good things and are considered morally upright people.  Yet none of them are orthodox Christians and most people would look to them as good role models.  I'd say that it is pretty clear that we can't really differentiate ourselves from other good and morally upright people (in the world's eyes) without using words to explain the Gospel.

So now that we see that people of other beliefs can look just as good and upright as Christians, let's examine what implications there are for trying to evangelize without using words.  For one thing, you are saying that your actions will be enough to point somebody to Jesus.  As we just noted, though, people of other belief systems can live with some sense of peace, happiness, and moral uprightness.  To outsiders, the only difference is what we say we believe to get us to that point.  That only leads us to the post-modern thought that all roads lead to Heaven.  Also, if we are thinking our lives are good enough to evangelize, then in the end we are pointing to ourselves and not to Christ.  And if faith in Christ is necessary for salvation, then we are missing the mark.

Another question we should ask ourselves is whether this model of evangelism is shown in the Bible.  At the start of the church in Acts, what do we see the Apostles doing?  Peter stands up at Pentecost and clearly calls the Jews to trust in Jesus and repent.  Paul went throughout modern-day Turkey and southern Europe preaching repentance and faith in Jesus. He even preached the Gospel to all of the Roman emperor's guards (Philippians 1:12-14). I don't see any evangelism done in the Bible without words being spoken.  And I don't see any instruction for doing so, either.  I think it is safe to conclude that we should follow the model of the Biblical evangelists and use words to explain the truth.

So does the way we live have any impact on our evangelism?  I think that it is clear that we have to live our lives consistent with Scripture if we want to evangelize to others.  For one thing, how can we call others to repentance of sins if we are not doing the same ourselves as we walk in sanctification?  Won't that have some effect on how you are able to preach (stinging conscience and all)?  Also, what happens if the people you are evangelizing to find out about you pursuing some type of sin or refusing to repent of some type of sin?  They might think that Christians are no different from the rest of the world.  And if that is the case, why would they give up pursuing the sinful pleasures of this life?  We aren't perfect, but we should have a pattern of continual repentance and mortification of sin in our lives.  Then people can see that we are actually living out the truth of the Gospel in our lives.

Let me conclude by saying that how we live our lives is vitally important to our preaching of the Gospel.  However, living a life of faithful repentance while displaying the peace we have with God can never take the place of preaching the Gospel.  This is clearly demonstrated in the lives of the Apostles as the church was established.  Is there some reason that we should depart from the model given in the Bible?  Romans 1:16 says the Gospel is the power for salvation and Romans 10:14-15 says that people only believe when the Gospel is preached to them.  And God works through our presenting the Gospel to save amazing is that?  Why wouldn't any of us want to be a part of that?  Think about that the next time you wonder if you should explain the Gospel to an unbeliever you know. (Just so you know, I am looking at myself as I write this)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Having a Compassionate Heart

When you think of what it takes to be a man, what comes to mind?  Toughness, strength, firmness, boldness, and courage are a few terms that probably come to mind.  If we are taking our cues from Jesus, Who lived a perfect life as a man, there are quite a few qualities that define His life as God in the flesh.  One of these qualities is compassion, yet it is a term that we don't seem to count this characteristic as being one of the terms that defines what a man is.  We seem to think that men should be big, bold, and strong (which they should be), as well as coordinated and loving all of the great man-things like sports, hunting, and fighting.  There isn't much room for compassion in all of that type of least not in today's culture.  Maybe that is the problem, though...we're caught up in the culture of this day and age.

This came to mind as I was thinking about my son, Jackson, and how he struggles to fit in with many boys his age (and even some of the men) at church.  Jackson is 11 years old and is a smart, funny, thoughtful, and uncoordinated boy.  Many of the boys his age are athletically inclined and like the "fun" video games where people are blown up and blasted in extremely violent fashion.  Jackson would much rather read a book or play a game with Mario where there isn't blood spewing all over the place...he doesn't really like extreme violence.  He can handle the realities of tensions within the world and conflicts that arise...he has read The Lord of the Rings books and watched the movies as well.  It is just that he doesn't like to see the excessive violence that is in many games and movies that look too realistic (like real-world people killing each other).  That is because it troubles him to see people hurt or in pain.  He really has a heart for others and has so much compassion for those who are suffering or in pain.  I often find myself challenged to have more compassion for others because of seeing how he reacts to the suffering of others.

Now don't get me wrong...I do want him to be bold, strong, and courageous...but I want him to keep that compassion as well.  Jesus was bold, strong, and courageous when He confronted the Pharisees (Mt. 23), Sadducees, and scribes, as well as when he addressed Pilate before His crucifixion.  Yet He also had compassion on the people who were like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36)...He felt a love for the rich young ruler (Mk. 10:21)...He lamented over the state of Jerusalem because they rejected all of God's efforts to call them to Him (Mt. 23:37-39).  I want him to be strong in his firm position of standing upon the Word of God and handle the attacks that he will endure with courage and strength, but I want him to respond with compassion for lost people in a lost world who will attack him.  I want him to have a depth of sadness for those who are lost and slaves to sin.  I certainly do not want him to go try to vanquish the lost because we are called to bear the truth in love.  The Word does pierce our flesh (Heb. 4:12), but we are not required to deliver the truth in a harsh manner for Scripture to pierce a hard heart.  So I want him to keep his compassion as he stands bold, strong, and courageous as he delivers the Truth.

Compassion is not mutually exclusive of boldness, strength, or courage.  Yet somehow in modern culture, we have somehow bought the lie that it is.  We have more time for coaching up our boys in athletics or being a big, bold manly man than we do for showing our boys that part of being a Biblical man is having compassion for others.  I'm not saying we need to drop sports, hunting, or fighting, but that we need to include and maybe even emphasize compassion as we raise our boys to become men.  And maybe that means we need to draw back and develop some more of that compassion ourselves.  Let's remember why we're glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  God is each of these qualities and much more perfectly.  We won't be until we are glorified in His presence (and even then, we will be limited because we're not God), but through the process of sanctification we are supposed to be coming closer and closer to this state.  Hopefully we can see that we should have more compassion for others as we are being sanctified...otherwise we and our boys (who will grow up to become men) will be missing out.

The lack of compassion that many of our boys show for one another is really puzzling.  It seems there is contempt that is shown towards boys who are not natural athletes and would rather read books than kick or throw a ball.  This is one of the saddest things I can imagine because it really is rooted in hard-heartedness and shows a lack of love towards other people.  And we must not forget that all people are created in the image of God.  I am sure that God is using my son to show me that I need to have more compassion for others.  I hope that Christian men will work to develop this same attitude in our boys and we can see compassion make a comeback within the community of Christian men.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Review of "Children's Stories" by J.C. Ryle

While I was at the Shepherds' Conference this year, I was trying to find some books for every member of my family.  My wife and mother-in-law were easy to shop for...there were plenty of good resources for women.  And I found plenty for myself...they gave us 19 free books and I bought a few more for my own reading.  But then I was struggling with trying to find books for my two sons.  They are 10 and 8 and I am very cautious about what I will let them read...especially when it comes to Christian writing.  There was the usual fare from Answers in Genesis, but we already have a lot of resources from them and I wanted to find something a bit different.  There were a few question and answer books, but I wanted something a bit more literary.  Well, as I was looking through the selection of children's books, I came across this:

Children's Stories

I don't know about you, but I love J.C. Ryle's writing.  Sure, there are some areas where I don't see totally eye to eye with him, but he wrote very clearly and addressed matters head on in his writings.  So, when I saw this book, I decided to get it for reading with the boys...and I surely was not disappointed.  Ryle works through 7 passages of Scripture with stories that are aimed at reaching the hearts and minds of children.

He doesn't choose easy passages, either.  He starts off with 2 Kings 2:23-24 and talks about how children who mocked Elisha wound up being attacked and eaten by she-bears.  He definitely doesn't hold back from talking about how God views those (even children) who mock His people.  When is the last time you heard a parent tell their children about the dangers of mocking Christians?  I'd say it is more likely that you'll hear parents mocking Christians in front of their children than to hear parents tell their children not to mock Christians.  How much do we need this message for our children today?

He then discusses 2 John 4 and how much of a blessing it is to mature believers to see children walking in the truth.  And conversely, how sad it is for mature Christians to see children who are not walking in truth, but pursuing the desires of the world.  We should be telling this to our children!  How much do they need to hear that they bring joy to our hearts when they are pursuing the truth of God and walking in His Word?  Again, I think we can all learn much from how Ryle addresses this story to children.

From there he moves on to Proverbs 30:24-28 and discusses how four little creatures are shown to act in a very wise manner.  Then he explains how even though children are little, they can learn from the examples of these four creatures and walk in wisdom themselves.  He shows how each creature in this passage walk in wisdom in different ways and how children can follow each of their examples to walk in the wisdom of God in their daily lives.  And can any of us say that we should not be teaching our children the exact same lessons from Scripture?  Every chance we have to point back to Scripture to teach life lessons about how to act wisely, we should seize upon it and show our dependence upon God's Word.

And Ryle even takes up Revelation 21:4 with the children in order to explain that while we have much crying and pain in this world, after we die we will either be in a place where there is nothing but crying and pain or in a place where there is no crying and no pain.  He also brings back the crying and pain in this world to its source, sin, and how all of the pain and suffering in this world are caused by sin.  And then he doesn't hold back in explaining that many people are indeed going to hell, where there is nothing but pain, crying, and suffering.  He takes the opportunity to tell children to read their Bibles, pray, to love Jesus, and to try to please Him.  How much do we need to be doing this with our children?  I found this to be quite an encouragement to me.  He also went on to describe the blessed hope for all Christians for the future without any crying, pain, or suffering that awaits us in heaven.  We need to also share this with our children so that they are looking upward and ahead instead of getting caught up in the circumstances of this sinful, fallen world.

He also takes up the subjects of being happy and content (1 Timothy 6:6), being fruitful in little things (Luke 16:10), and seeking the Lord early (Proverbs 8:17).  Throughout the whole book, he makes it clear that God wants for children to seek Him and follow Him and that there is no one too young to know and apply the truth from Scripture.  And Ryle is so direct in speaking with the children and letting them know that they are not too young for Scripture to apply to them.

This is the exact opposite view from how modern Christianity handles children.  These days people seem to think that the Bible has many parts which are much too difficult for children to understand or too harsh for them to handle.  Instead of taking that approach, I think parents should read through this collection of stories with their children and learn from Ryle how we can approach our children with the truth from various portions of Scripture.  I highly recommend this book for all parents and would suggest that we learn from Ryle how we can make all sections of Scripture clear and applicable to our children.  Let's work to make sure that our children understand the truth of Scripture before they leave our homes and go out into the world.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is Birth Control Health Care?

There is a lot of talk going on about birth control and whether people should have religious objections to birth control being covered by health insurance.  Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, calls birth control "basic health care", and President Obama said, "No woman's health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes."  I think that in order to make a determination of whether or not birth control is actually "basic health care", we have to ask ourselves a few questions.  We need to determine what exactly "basic health care" is, what birth control is, and whether birth control falls into the category of "basic health care".  And we will lay aside the issue of whether or not this compromise really prevents religious institutions who object to birth control from having to fund birth control through insurance premiums.  I think we will see that this is a moot point anyways.

First, let's define what "basic health care" is...I'm leaving this term in quotes because those are the words of Cecile Richards, who is clearly spearheading the effort for this bill to pass.  So when we think of health care what comes to mind?  Probably flu shots, vaccines, or surgery, right?  Miriam-Webster defines health care as the following:

the maintaining and restoration of health by the treatment and prevention of disease especially by trained and licensed professionals (as in medicine, dentistry, clinical psychology, and public health)

So, this would mean that any form of health care should treat or prevent a disease or conditon that causes harm to the individual or prevents their bodies from functioning in a normal fashion.  If you have a torn muscle, you might have surgery or physical therapy and that is health care.  If you have strep throat, you get a shot and some medication and that is health care.  One thing my insurance doesn't cover is hormone therapy for fertilization, which actually allows for normal reproductive functions.  I would think that is health care because it restores one's body to its normal functioning abilities.  I think we all get the general idea care is something that helps to prevent our bodies from a) being harmed or b) not functioning normally and to restore our bodies to normal health.

Now let's take a look what what birth control is.  Most people would think of contraceptives or some type of pill.  Let's look at what Miriam-Webster has to say about this one:
  1. control of the number of children born especially by preventing or lessening the frequency of conception
  2. contraceptive devices or preparations
So, as one would expect, birth control is a way to prevent babies from being conceived in the womb.  This can vary from physical means to prevent fertilization of the egg to chemicals that prevent eggs from attaching after fertlized.  The latter is something that many, including myself, would actually call killing a baby.  Others might call it abortion, while most people probably don't consider that a fertilized egg is actually a person.  One thing we can all agree on, though, is that birth control is a means to prevent babies from being conceived in the womb of a woman.

Now we are left ton consider whether or not birth control falls under the realm of "basic health care".  Let's remember that health care is something that helps to prevent our bodies from a) being harmed or b) not functioning normally and to restore our bodies to normal health.  And let's also remember that birth control is a means to prevent babies from being conceived in the womb of a woman.  Now, I'm not a scientist or doctor (just an engineer), but I think that conception of babies in the womb is actually quite a normal thing and shows that the body's reproductive system is actually fully functional.  Now for quite a small minority of people, becoming pregnant might be life-threatening...and in that case I think that methods that do not include killing babies/fertilized eggs should be used and considered health care.  Outside of that, though, I can only think of the use of birth control as a choice of preference for those who use it.  And seeing as insurance companies can and do deny to cover many elective procedures, I don't see how or why any insurance company should have to cover the cost of birth control.  I'm sorry, Cecile Richards, but it doesn't fit the definition of "basic health care". 

I think this is the argument that people need to put before their elected officials in presenting their case for not having to have birth control covered by mandatory insurance coverage.  I'd still hold to the religious objections as well, but I think this is an even more clear argument.  What do you think?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thoughts on Leviticus

I've heard many people tell me that they can not imagine a pastor preaching through the book of Leviticus.  To be quite honest, I have thought the same thing myself for the 6 years that I have been a Christian.  All of the repeated instances of offering sacrifices and then the descriptions of clean and unclean and how to deal with them.  It seems to be quite repetitive and preaching through it seems like it would be monotonous and might get boring for the congregation.  However, I have been reading through a book that has changed my perspective on the book of Leviticus. The book is a commentary on Leviticus by Andrew Bonar and I highly recommend it to any Christian.  In fact, my hope is that a few good pastors will take up reading this book and be encouraged to preach/teach through the book of Leviticus.  I now think that Leviticus might be one of the most important books for people to be studying and fed on in order to have a greater appreciation for their sinfulness, the call to holiness, God's grace and our dependence upon it for salvation, and the sacrifice that Jesus made in order to save His elect. 

The book of Leviticus actually shows us much about the depths and multitudes of areas of our sinfulness.  Bonar works through looking at the sacrificial system to show how many different areas of sin there and how personal they are.  People had to lay their own hands on the animal to be sacrificed, acknowledging their personal sinfulness.  This provides a strong connection between the sinner and their sins because they see right in front of them the need for the death of the animal in their place because of thir sin.  Bonar doesn't miss the fact that this is a type of Jesus...I'll address that towards the end of this post, though.  There are sacrifices specified for all kinds of sins...even those that people do without knowing of it until after the fact.  So people are made aware of their sinfulness through the sacrificial system and the different areas of sin that are defined.

We also see that Leviticus has much to say about the call to holiness.  When we look at the priests offering the sacrifices, they have to make sure they first offer sacrifices for themselves before they intercede for the people.  And they continually have to be washed and cleansed before approaching the holy place.  And the high priest has to especially be cleansed before he goes into the Holy of Holies once a year to present the sin offering.  This is because he is entering into the presence of God.  But the priests aren't the only ones who have the call to holiness.  God establishes various ways that people can become unclean and offers a framework by which the people of Israel are to show that they are called out from the world into a system of holiness.  This includes dietary restrictions, as well as contamination by various items or people with illnesses that are considered unclean.  Bonar makes the point that the uncleanness represents sinfulness and that this was a way to show that we are called to identify and avoid sin.  He shows that everywhere the people of Israel would look, they could be reminded of something clean or unclean...just as we can with sin and holiness.  He especially hits on the call to identify and avoid sin with reference to the areas concerning leprosy.  I find the comparisons he makes between sin and the various conditions and examinations of leprosy defined in Leviticus to be very helpful when thinking about the condition of my own spiritual life.  He compares the spread and depth of leprosy to the spread and depth of sin in our own lives and how we should examine ourselves in this regard.  I think that this is the type of thinking that the world needs to engage when examining their spiritual state and that could lead to many nominal Christians realizing their true spiritual condition.  We can easily see that Leviticus shows that God calls His people to live a life of holiness.

Leviticus also has much to say about God's grace to the sinner and our dependence upon His grace for our salvation.  Let us return back to the sacrificial system.  The animals offered for the burnt offering, sin offering, and peace offering, and the bread/flour offered for the grain offering are all provided by God as he showers His people with grace.  The people lay their sins on the animals by laying their hands on their heads and then the animals are offered as a sacrifice to God for their sins.  The burnt offering is totally burnt on the altar to take the wrath of God...this represents Jesus taking the whole wrath of God for our sins in our place ont he cross (again we'll cover this later).  Bonar makes the point that the grain offering "represents the offerer's person and property, his body and his possessions" and that when the offerer sees that the priests eat of this offering, it shows that his sacrifice has been accepted.  This surely is an act of grace by God to provide assurance to sinners offering themselves to God.  It also exemplifies again the call to holiness for Israel.  In the peace offering, we see that part of the sacrifice is for food.  Bonar paints a wonderful picture of this representing "God as one at table with his people; they feast together.  He is no more their foe."  This would make sense for this to then be called a peace offering and again shows God's grace to the sinner.  The sin offering is to be offered for unintentional sins and again the whole animal sacrficed is to be burnt.  However, part of the sin offering is burned on the altar, then the ashes and the unburnt part (skin, flesh, head legs, inward, and dung) to be taken outside the camp.  The ashes are dumped in a clean place and the remainder of the sacrifice is burned on the ashes.  Bonar makes the point that this is a clean place "because, when reduced to ashes by consuming fire, all guilt was away from the victim."  In all of the various types of sacrifices defined here, we can see God's grace being showered upon the people of Israel as He provides forgiveness of their sins and assurance that the sacrifice has been accepted.

And a Christian definitely can not come away from a faithful reading of the book of Leviticus without a good appreciation for the sacrifice that Jesus made for His elect.  Here you see all of the details of the sacrificial system and one can only imagine how often a person would have to offer these sacrifices.  The priests didn't have a seat in the tabernacle...probably because they were too busy offering sacrifices all the time.  And when we see the sinner laying his hand on the head of the sacrifice, we are reminded of how we must lay all of our sins upon Jesus and have faith in His paying the price for our sins.  As the sin and burnt offerings were totally burned, Jesus was fully exposed to the wrath of God.  Bonar also makes the point that when Leviticus describes how some flesh was to be flayed, it shows how deeply exposed our sins must become, as well as the depths of pain and anguish that Jesus faced upon the cross.  And when we see the ashes and remainder of the flesh of the sin offering being taken outside the camp to be fully burned, we can make a clear connection to the fact that Jesus was tortured inside Jerusalem and crucified outside of Jerusalem.  It is very clear that the book of Leviticus provides a type of Jesus' sacrifice for His elect and reading the book of Leviticus will provide an even greater appreciation for this sacrifice.

Before I close, let me say that I have only read halfway through the commentary by Bonar at this point.  I am sure that I will have more to add to this when I finish...and I know that even in what I have read so far, there is a lot more talk about types and how Bonar points out that Leviticus is all about pointing to the anti-type, Jesus.  I just felt the need to write this to encourage people to read Leviticus and even go obtain a copy of Bonar's commentary on Leviticus.  It is lengthy and takes a while to work through, but it is well worth the effort.  And I even got it free by shopping for it on my Nook tablet.  So I'm sure that you resourceful types can find a free copy for yourselves.  I certainly do hope that pastors will be encouraged to preach and teach on Leviticus...I think the church today really needs it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christian Blogger Needs Help!

Update:  There are actually two Christian bloggers you can vote for on the list.  The other one is the last one listed, Chelsea Long.  She is trying to win the award to pay for graduate school.

I just wanted to let everybody know that there is a contest going on for a scholarship for $10,000 and the winner is determined by popular vote.  There is actually a Christian blogger up for the award and I want people to spread the word and try to help this guy win.  I also hope that this might bring more people to read his blog and learn about Christ through this effort.  Anyways, click here and go vote for Mark Lamprecht.  You can also go visit his blog here.  Please spread the word to friends and family and let's help out a fellow brother in Christ.

Friday, November 11, 2011

God is Love

It is comforting to know that the Bible tells us that God is love.  And even more so when we consider the wealth of His grace and mercy that He showers us with.  But do we really understand what this love is?  Do we have any semblance of this type of love in our own lives?  To answer this question, we need to look at the relationship between God and man a little bit closer.  Specifically, we need to understand how and why we love others, how and why God loves His elect, and the implications of each of those.  Once we have examined this thoroughly, we will have a much better appreciation for just how much God truly loves us and how far short of this love we fall in our own lives.

We will start off by examining how and why we love others.  Let’s honestly ask ourselves who it is that we love…not who we should love, but who we actually love in thought and deed.  I’m just going to parse out thoughts from my own life and you can choose to apply them in your own lives where they are applicable.  I tend to love people who believe most of the same things that I do…people who share the same type of ethics, morals, and interests as me.  I do have friends that I disagree with on important issues, but I can easily say that they do not make up the majority of my friends (probably a 70-30 split).  And most of the 30% in the minority are people from work.  Let me be clear in saying that I am using a tight definition of the word friend here…these are people that I talk with on a somewhat regular basis about different issues.  The point I am making is that I tend to show love towards people who are more like me than unlike me.  I also tend to love people who are attractive to me either physically, mentally, or spiritually.  I love the way my wife looks, her sense of humor, and her strong stand for the Word of God.  I love my boys because they are funny, smart, sweet, and loving.  I love to talk to people who enjoy talking about sports, theology, and silly/funny stuff.  And the way that I show love is mainly by expressing appreciation in words, be it spoken or written.  Not that I mind doing things for people, but I tend to be more verbal…just something that I have noticed.  I am sure this is something that is different from person to person, so just look at your own life and see what you see.  Basically, I love people that I want to love in the way that I want to love them for the most part.  Now I will say that this has changed somewhat since God saved me, but it has not been a total transformation and won’t be until I am glorified in His presence.  I do see that I have a great affinity for other saints and find great joy in gathering with other believers, whether for fellowship or worship.  So this gives an idea of how and why I love others…you’ll have to determine whether this is true for yourselves or not.

Next let’s take a look at how and why God loves His elect.  Where we saw that I love others based upon things that I like, it is clear that this is not true of God.  Just read this and tell me what it is that God sees that causes Him to love any man:

“What then?  Are we better than they?  Not at all, for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are under sin;  as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.’  ‘Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving,’ ‘The poison of asps is under their lips’; ‘Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness’; ‘Their feet are swift to blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known.’  ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’” (Romans 3:9-18)

Clearly there is nothing that God can see in man that makes Him think we are great and wonderful and that He should love us.  In fact, we see that it is quite the opposite.  We are filthy, wretched sinners who have rebelled against Him and polluted His creation.  God loves us because He chooses to do so.  Yes, He has much mercy and grace, but He is also the righteous judge and has to judge and punish sin.  In His mercy, He has chosen to punish the sins of His elect through the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, where He (Jesus) also faced the wrath of God for the sins of the elect.  In His grace, He has imputed the righteous life of Jesus to our account so that we may enter into His presence in Heaven.  This also involved Jesus conquering death so that we may also be resurrected to perfect, glorified bodies suited for eternal life in the presence of God.  And all of this is the manifestation of God’s love for His elect that is done without us being attractive to God in any possible way…until He changes us.  And even after that change, we still have sin in our flesh.  So God loves us only because He chooses to and He does so sacrificially.  He does so in word, thought, and deed…perfectly. 

So, we have looked at the love of man and the love of God.  Now let’s take a little peek into the implications.  I’m sure that anybody who reads this will have other implications that come to mind, but I’m just going to put down a few that come to mind for me:

·         We are limited by the way that we love, but we are freed by the love of God.  We are limited because we tend to exclude ourselves from loving all people and gaining from the fellowship and counsel of other believers who probably can see some blind spots in our lives better than those who share some of our same predispositions.  We are freed by God’s love because He empowers us to get beyond those predispositions.  That takes a lot of prayer, meditation, and work, but as we become more disciplined in our practice, the more we will grow in this type of love. 
·         We need to be conformed more to the image of Christ.  “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren”. (Romans 8:29, emphasis mine)  We’re used to hearing this verse used to show the Biblical basis for predestination, but it is also demonstrates that the elect are predestined to be sanctified.  And our failure to love in the same fashion that God loves us shows that we need to be conformed to the image of Jesus even more.
·         We don’t fully understand the love of God.  I mean, if we really did would we love the way that we do?  Yeah, I know that we’re saddled by sin and that keeps us from loving that way, but doesn’t that also keep us from fully understanding His love towards us?  I long for the day when we’ll be glorified and in his presence so that we can have a better understanding and practice of this type of love.

So, to get back to the questions I posited, I think that we have a limited understanding of God’s love for His elect and that there is also some limited semblance of this love in our own lives.  However, we need to be growing in both the understanding and practice of this type of love.  Although we will never love exactly the same as God does, we should try to do better than we do now.  I pray that we may all see growth in this area.

Let me know what you think about this...and add some areas for me to work on...