When we began this series over a month ago (March 8th), I began by stating that there are certain Biblical topics that I believe we should include as a regular part of our diet, but one of those subjects that I believe we need to regularly feed on is our spiritual identity (i.e. who we are in Christ). And I said that the reason for this is because understanding what God has done for us in Christ Jesus and who we are in the spirit keeps us from one of the enemy’s number one devices that he uses to both steal from us and to destroy our lives with—identity theft.
Now we have all have had someone steal from us before—maybe our home or vehicle was broken into and something was taken that was ours. Perhaps our wallet or purse was snatched by a thief. There are a lot of ways that we have experienced someone robbing us, but I made the point that arguably the most harmful and inconvenient way someone can steal from us is by stealing our identity.
Some of us have experience with this, don’t we? There are those here today who have suffered from debit or credit card fraud, medical fraud, or other kinds of financial fraud. Others have had things like their driver’s license, social security, name, address, or birthdate stolen from them and have had a lot of issues to deal with as a result. And the fact is, all of these forms of identity theft create a tremendous amount of problems in one’s life—it can affect us not only financially, but emotionally, socially, and even physically.
However, I said last time that I have found that there is something much more damaging than suffering from these various forms of identity theft that can happen to us in life; this is having our spiritual identity stolen from us.
So, I said that this is why it is so imperative that you and I discover who we are in Christ and no longer allow him to steal our true identity from us—for if he can deceive us into seeing ourselves different than the way God sees us, we are going to constantly be fighting an uphill battle.
So, what we are going to be doing through this series of teachings is look in the mirror and see who we are in Christ so that the thief’s attempts to steal from us and destroy our lives are no longer successful. Yes, I have entitled this series “In the Mirror” because in order for us to learn who we truly are, we are going to have to look in the mirror and find out.
And as I said last time, I am not talking about that “vanity mirror” in our home that is essentially our personal grooming mirror used to check our appearance, do our hair, and apply our makeup. That kind of mirror is just that—vanity.
But we learned last week that’s how the majority of the world identifies themselves—it’s by the vanity of things like how we look, what we wear, what kind of car we drive, how big our home is, etc. This is vanity, church, and not where a Christian should find their identity. Our identity is found in Christ, not in our age, our weight, our financial status, etc. etc. etc. Yes, we are blessed, anointed, and highly favored, not because of how things look in our physical lives, but because of how things truly are in our spiritual lives. Amen!
Church, we live in a society that more now than ever shows forth this mistaken identity. Yes, we are engrossed with various forms of social media today such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. and in all of them, we see people proudly displaying their picture, their status on what they are doing, etc. and a lot of it wreaks of insecurity. People want acceptance. They seek approval and compliments.
Now I’m not trying to be critical, but am simply pointing out the epidemic in our world of people’s insecurity. So, I’m here to tell you—if you want to find out who you truly are, then you are going to have to put your “face” in the “Book” and let that determine your true “profile.” Amen?
So, yes, we have all of these ways in which our identity can be stolen—whether it is the identity theft that hurts us financially or the physical, mental or emotional abuse that steals our confidence or molds our personality in a negative way. Therefore, it is imperative that we protect our spiritual identity at all costs because there is a thief out there, an enemy of our soul, and he is seeking to steal our identity so that he can rob us of our inheritance in Christ Jesus.
So, we answered the question last time--How can we see who we truly are in our spiritual lives? Is there a spiritual mirror? And we said that these vanity mirrors are also called “makeup mirrors.” So, if you want to see your “spiritual makeup,” then you are going to have to look into a spiritual makeup mirror. And if you don’t like your physical, financial, or spiritual makeup, then the process of changing it begins with washing your face! How do we do that? By the washing of water by the Word (see Ephesians 5:26)!
Church, this is the mirror that you and I are to look into to discover our true spiritual identity. Yes, we have to look into the mirror of God’s Word and let Him show us our “spiritual makeup.” In doing so, we will wash ourselves of that old identity and see ourselves in our new spiritual identity. Amen!
So, we looked over at the first chapter of James where Pastor James is exhorting this body of believers to not just be hearers of the Word, but to be doers of the Word they are hearing (see James 1:22-26). And we saw that he uses an interesting analogy in describing those who hear the Word. He says that when one is “a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror…” But do not be mistaken here; James is not using this analogy to just describe the hearers only, for he goes on to describe the doers of the Word to be those “looking into the perfect law of liberty” and continuing in it. In other words, those hearers who do what they hear are also those who are observing their face in the mirror of God’s Word.
Either way, James is saying that when one hears the Word, it is like they are looking into a mirror, and when they do, they are seeing what they look like. His point was that the ones who wind up doing the Word are the ones who “continue” looking into the mirror of His Word—meaning, they keep their eyes and ears constantly beholding what He said so that they are living in those truths with the intention of applying them to their lives. That is the difference between the one who simply “audits” the Word and those who have it reflecting in their lives. Amen.
However, while I certainly believe that God’s Word being like a mirror has different applications to our lives, how many of you know that in order to see what we now look like, we don’t necessarily need to be looking in Numbers, Ecclesiastes, etc.? No, if I am teaching Levi to behold who he is in Christ, I am not going to tell him to look at Leviticus.
Which led us to the other passage of Scripture that is used to describe beholding the truth in a mirror--Second Corinthians 3:18. In fact, this is the particular passage of Scripture that I want us to camp on throughout this teaching because I believe it accurately “reflects” the truths the Lord wants us to see in this series.
But of course, that is not how people use the law of the Old Covenant—back then and even still today, people try to use God’s law as a mirror. What I mean is they are looking into it to try and find their identity (i.e. as a means to attain salvation, saying things like— “If you just keep God’s law, He will accept you.”) But that’s not true! The truth is that through the New Covenant, Jesus has already made us acceptable, qualified and justified in the sight of God—all of us.
That is why the apostle Paul said what he did in verse 18. In it, he says, But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
As we saw, the “we all” being referred to here is the Body of Christ, the Church of the living God. Therefore, every born again, baptized in the Holy Spirit, believer is with “unveiled face”—meaning, we are not reading the truth of the glories of this new & better covenant with a veil over our face like those under the Old Covenant.
So, when Paul goes on to say, “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord…” what glory are we beholding? Those truths of this new and better covenant of what Christ has done for us and who we are in Him! This is what we are to be beholding—the mystery of this New Covenant which is Christ in us, the hope of glory! Therefore, beholding the mirror of truths contained in the New Testament is us looking at who we are in Christ and who He is in us.
And notice that he says that we are beholding “as in a mirror” these truths. So, the specific mirror that you and I need to be looking into in order to see who we now are is the far more exceedingly glorious New Testament where our new spiritual identity in on full display. Amen?
So, last time, we began by looking at the example of Jesus Christ and how He too had to learn to look into the mirror of God’s Word and discover who He was, is, and evermore shall be.
Now I made the point that some do not believe this about Jesus, thinking that since He was the Son of God, that He automatically knew everything and operated in the omniscience of God. But that cannot be true—for even though He certainly was 100% God when He came to earth and inhabited a physical body, He was 100% man too. And his humanity was what He operated in.
For example, Hebrews 4:15 teaches us that He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” How could He truly have been tempted in all the points that we are if He had an unfair advantage of being omniscient, omnipotent, etc.? No, the truth is, Jesus lived the way that He did as an example to us of how the Christian life is to be lived.
So, don’t make the mistake in believing that Jesus had some unfair advantage over us because He is the Son of God. No, we saw last week that in His humanity, He had some seriously bad history in His lineage. We looked at how, yes, He was the Son of David, but His line came through the incident with Bathsheba. And if you trace it back far enough you will see all kinds of flaws and imperfections.
But do you know what this should tell us? It should tell us that even if we have any of these things in our lineage or even our own personal history, we can still carry the Christ like Mary did! No, I am not referring to another immaculate conception; I am talking about how Christ can dwell within us spiritually. My point is that Jesus came through many imperfections—and I believe this illustrates to you and I how even though we can have a lot of problems in our past, if we are born from God, we can still identify with Jesus. Amen!
So, we saw from Luke chapter 2 that on top of being born through some stuff, Jesus had to grow, He had to learn, and He had to look into the mirror Himself to discover who He was while in the flesh:
We saw that He “became strong in spirit, was filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (see Luke 2:40). We also saw that He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” So, we can clearly see that after Jesus’ birth, He even had to grow and increase. Likewise, just because we are born again, we still have to grow into who we've been born again as.
And we learned how He increased in these virtues: The first thing we saw was that He was teachable. Luke 2:46-49 teaches us that when He hung out in the temple when He and His parents visited Jerusalem that He was listening to the teachers and asking them questions! And we saw that this is a necessary step in changing the way we see things, including our own selves—learning from the anointed Word of His grace that is proclaimed to us, but also by being taught by the Lord Himself.
Which leads me to the next thing we saw in Jesus’ growth process: Then we saw that when Jesus’ time had come to fulfill all righteousness, that He was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when Jesus came out of that water, Luke 3:22 says that “the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.’”
Now, again, if you were to ask most Christians what God the Father said in that audible voice when Jesus was both baptized in water and baptized in the Holy Spirit, they would say, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And they would not be entirely incorrect—for one Gospel writer (Matthew) records this event as God saying that. However, both Luke & Mark record it differently—they say that the Father said to Jesus, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
Now if I were to say about one of you today, “So and so is my beloved church member, in whom I am well pleased,” who am I talking to? I am talking to “all y’all.” But if I were to say to one of you today, “You are my beloved church member, and in you I am well pleased,” who am I talking to then? I’m saying this to them, and therefore, for their benefit.
You see, I believe this what God was doing here with His Son: He was letting Jesus know that He was His beloved Son and He was well pleased with Him. Which, interestingly enough was before Jesus ever began His ministry—showing us that our identity is not to be found in what we do for God, but in who are in Him. Amen!
And as I believe it was to Jesus at this point in His life, I believe we must hear directly from our Heavenly Father who He says we are. Yes, just as many of us developed our identity by what our earthly father prophesied over us, we can redevelop our identity by what our Heavenly Father prophesies over us. Amen.
This is critical. And do you know why? It is because that identity thief is sure going to try and tempt us to doubt who God says that we are. We saw this in the very next event in Jesus’ life & ministry.
In Luke 4:1-13, we have the instance where immediately after Jesus’ baptism in both water and the Holy Spirit, that He went into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And essentially what Jesus had to do through the course of these three temptations was resist the tempter to doubt His identity. The reason for this is because in two out of the three temptations, the devil prefaced the temptation with “If you are the Son of God…” And most do not realize this, but this was the root of these temptations. The devil was not just trying to get Jesus to turn rocks into bread or throw Himself off of the pinnacle of the temple. His temptations were rooted in trying to get Him to do it to prove He was who His Father said He was. In other words, two out of the three temptations that Satan gave Jesus were based on identity. Likewise, I believe we could make a case that 2/3rds of the temptations you and I will have by Satan are directly rooted in our identity. In other words, most of the temptations we will face will be overcome or will overcome us based on whether we will subject ourselves to who God says we are and what He says we have. Amen!
And finally, we saw that not too long after Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit, that He came back to His hometown of Nazareth (see Luke 4:16-22). And as His custom was (that’s important), He went to the Synagogue to stand up and read. And He was handed the Book of Isaiah and He found the place in it where it was written concerning Himself. Did you know that this is what you and I must do too? We need to make it our custom to get this mirror out on a daily basis and find in it, the places talking about our spiritual identity. Glory!
And, glory to God, Jesus didn’t just find it in the Mirror, but we see that He stood up and boldly declared it before the rest of the assembly in the Synagogue. Likewise, a key to me renewing my mind to my true spiritual identity is my boldly declaring who the I Am says that I am. No, not necessarily before an audience, but before an audience of one. In other words, looking into the mirror and boldly declaring who the Lord says you are until you begin to believe it about yourself. Amen.
Then I love what Jesus did after declaring what He did. We are told that He closed the Book, gave it back to the attendant, and then sat down. And this is what we need to do as well: We must see it as a done deal, “sit down,” and rest in who and what God’s mirror shows us that we are. Amen!
THE SINGLE GREATEST REVELATION
So, let’s begin looking into the mirror of God’s Word today ourselves and look at our true spiritual identity. Shall we?
Now I wholeheartedly believe that the first thing you and I need to see when we look into this mirror is that WE ARE LOVED! Yes, the first and foundational thing our hearts need to be established in is in the fact that we are greatly loved by our Creator. This is our who we are, and this is what propels us into the other truths that we will look at in the coming weeks. For example, we are delivered in Christ because He loved us. We are blessed in Him because of His love. We are made holy in Christ through the love He poured out on us. Yes, everything that we have been made in Christ is because He first loved us. Amen?
In fact, I would call this Mirror that we call the Holy Bible our love letter from God—for all of it speaks of the great love that God has for His creation and the great lengths that He has gone to in order to express that love towards us. So, when you and I read the Scriptures, we ought to see time and time again on these pages that we have a Heavenly Father who so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son so that He could have a spiritual family to both love and be loved by.
Now some things that we read in the Bible don’t seem to reflect that—particularly when we read the Old Covenant and see God judging individuals and nations. But always remember this one truth—one cannot see God any more clearly than in the face of Jesus Christ. He came to declare God (See John 1:18). So, don’t try to see God’s true nature by all of these various examples that we have spread throughout the Scriptures. God did what He had to do under the Old Covenant; He did what wanted to do through Jesus in the New Covenant. And the truth is everything in God’s Word points to this one thing—LOVE (See First Timothy 1:5).
You see, I have come to the conclusion that this one truth is the single greatest revelation that we could ever receive—the unconditional love that God has for us! The reason I can say this is because knowing in our hearts God’s great love for us will produce in us several other virtues—and perhaps the most important is the ability to fulfill the Great Commandment. Let me explain:
You see, through understanding that God loves us, we will be drawn into a more intimate communion with Him—thus fulfilling God’s primary purpose for our lives. And what this does is it propels us into fulfilling the Great Commandment which is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. How does this work, you ask? Well, once we realize who He really is and that truth abides in our hearts, it will make us want to love Him all the more in return. On top of that, knowing His love will not only produce more of a love for Him, but it will also produce more of a love for others—thus fulfilling the second great commandment, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
You see, we cannot give away what we have not first received, and this applies to love as well. If you have not first received love, then you will have no love to give—not to God nor to God’s children. So, we must be filled with His love in order to pour that love out on others.
This is what First John 4:19 was saying when it said, “We love because He first loved us”: This means that we are enabled to love when we are loved first. In other words, we can love (God and our neighbor) more effectively because (or, when we know) He first loved us.”
Jesus made a similar point in John 13:34 when He said that He was instituting a new commandment—that we love one another as He has loved us: Again, we see our ability to love one another tied to how He first has loved us. Jesus was telling His disciples that they were to use His example of how He loved them in how they were to love one another. But, again, what if they never had experienced that love? Then they would have only been able to emulate what they had experienced and therefore, would have only loved to the extent that they had received it.
And so many do this today: Many followers of Christ had unloving parents. Some were even abused by those who were supposed to love & provide for them. Others were simply never told by their parents that they loved them. And there are many other negative experiences that we could mention here, but the point is that we usually carry into our relationship with God our own experiences. This is when we must first experience how Jesus first loved us.
But like I alluded to earlier, this is another way that one can have their identity stolen from them: There are many who have had their true identity stripped from them by bad parenting, hurtful peers, and other outside influences who maybe spoke horrible things over them. And even though other people cannot steal our identity without our consent (for we must agree with and believe what they are saying in order for it to affect us), the fact is, most do let the opinion of others form who they are, particularly when it happens at a young age. Therefore, these bad things that happened to us early in life can have damaging effects on our identity—and as a result, affect how we relate to others.
So, if this is us, what do we do about it? How do we change this negative identity that we might have? Well, I am going to get ahead of myself a bit, but we do this by receiving His love by faith—simply believing that He loves us unconditionally based on the fact that the Bible tells us so. When we choose to adopt the attitude that, “God, I choose to believe that you love me. My parents might not have told me or showed me love. But I choose to believe that what you feel towards me is real and it is true whether I feel it or can relate to it or not.” When you and I make that heart adjustment to choose to believe it—you have taken the first step to experiencing His love in your life.
It is when we approach the love of God in unbelief that we are further away from experiencing His love than ever. For instance, if we have the mentality that— “Yeah, well I know that the Bible says that God loves me, but I just can’t relate to that. My momma this. My daddy that.” And on and on they go. That Christian is not creating an environment conducive to experiencing His love. No, first you must believe it by faith and then the feelings will follow. It works this way in everything pertaining to God’s kingdom, and this includes God’s love.
And the times that we sin and are being tempted to doubt God still loves us is when we have to receive His love by faith all the more. I will tell you, I have personally had to fight for this truth in my own life many times: You see, there have been many times when I had missed it in some area or simply was not doing the good things I knew I needed to be doing, and when everything in my flesh and my soul was telling me that God’s love for me had diminished because of my shortcomings, I had to get before Him and take Scriptures that tell me how great His love is towards me and earnestly contend for the faith of His love. And sometimes it seemed like I was lying to myself because of the way I felt, but just as we must confess the truth of God’s Word concerning healing when we don’t feel well and just as we must stand on the Scriptures that say we are blessed when the opposite seems to be the case, we must also believe His love by faith. Amen?
So, it is for that reason that I believe understanding God’s love for us is so important because it empowers us to love God and to love others! Again, this is what the Bible is all about!
EXPERIENCING GOD’S LOVE
But, Houston, we have another problem: While there are those who have a hard time receiving God’s love for them, there are also those who think they already know that He loves them, but don’t. Yes, the other problem that comes with this particular truth is that many believers think they already got it. You can tell this group of Christians that God loves them and the response you will get is— “Yeah, I already know that.”
And my response to this is—Do you now? Then how come you are not smiling? How come you have no joy? Why is it that you are not enjoying life? Friends, if we knew in our hearts that God loves us like we have the opportunity to, we would be consistently full of joy, peace, and faith. Period. End of discussion.
But someone indicating that they don’t need to hear of God’s love for them anymore is like someone saying they already know what they look like so they don’t need a mirror. Well, you might have something stored in your memory bank that tells you what you look like, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be reminded by looking in a mirror, does it? Imagine what our hair would look like if we combed it based on our memory of what it looks like. Or how about you ladies with your makeup? What if you put it on without a mirror in front of you? That would be a little scary, wouldn’t it? Likewise, we need to regularly see and hear the truths from God’s Word like He loves us just like we need the mirror even though we might have seen ourselves before. The reason for this is because we don’t just need these truths in our heads; we need them hidden in our hearts.
And the truth is that none of us—this includes me and every other person listening to me today—understand and experience even a fraction of His love. It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest revelation of His love on the planet. There will always be more to be had because God, who is love, is just that big!
This is why the apostle Paul prayed in Ephesians chapter 3 that we would know the love of Christ which passes knowledge (See Ephesians 3:14-21). [Refer to Minton’s teaching from Wednesday evening] What He was saying here was that the love of Christ surpasses gnosis (i.e. knowledge)—that is, a complete understanding or a total knowing. In other words, you and I will never come to completely know or understand God’s love. It will take all of eternity plus some to come to be able to totally understand the love of God. But according to Paul here, we can still “know” it. What does that mean? How can we know something that passes knowledge? Well, the key is in understanding what this word “know” means. It is not the word for “knowledge” which we just defined; it is the word ginosko which describes an experiential knowledge.
So, herein lies the difference between those who say they know God loves them and those who “ginosko” God loves them. One has just acquired knowledge in their head of the fact that God loves them while the other has actually experienced His love in their heart. This is a big difference. But the truth is that most born again, Spirit-filled believers do not truly know God loves them much at all. How can I say that? Again, look at their fruit! There is a lack of the fruit of the Spirit, which is essentially the fruit of love—love, joy, peace, faith, etc.
What these Christians mean when they say that they know God loves them is that they have just mentally accented to this truth. In other words, they have the head knowledge of Scriptures that say that God loves us such as John 3:16, but the truths of those Scriptures have not truly impacted their hearts! Again, this is what I am talking about—knowing something in your heart! This is when it impacts you—when it is known and believed.
Which leads me to my next point: In First John 4:16, the disciple whom Jesus loved says that we, all born again believers, have the opportunity to know and believe the love God has for them.
Now notice how the apostle John says that we are to first know the love God has for us. And again, this is not just knowing something in our heads either. This word for “known” describes what we have just been discussing—knowing something experientially and intimately. We need to know God’s love for us from this level.
But notice that the disciple whom Jesus loved did not stop there: He also said that we are to “believe” the love God has for us. Next to the “knowing” of God’s love, this is a huge issue with the majority of Christians.
You see, most people do not truly believe that God loves them. Again, they might say they believe that He loves them, but look at their fruit. There is a big difference between believing that He loves us in our head and believing He loves us in our heart. Faith of the heart produces a change in our life. This is the place we all need to desire to get to concerning the love of God—knowing and believing the love God has for us.
But again, this is just human nature to think we “know” something just because we have gathered the knowledge of that truth in our mental faculties. In fact, you will hear people moan and groan when you tell them to turn to a particular Scripture that they have heard many messages about. Why? It is because they think they understand all there is to know in that verse and because they want to hear something new and exciting. But if we ever get to the point where we are not excited or at least anticipating something that we maybe have heard before, then that is proof positive that in that moment we do not really “know” that Scripture the way the Bible speaks of knowing something.
THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S LOVE
But now let’s back up in First John chapter 4 to another couple of verses that he uses to describe God’s love to us: In First John 4:9-10, we are told— “In this the love of God was manifested towards us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
First of all, notice that John spoke of the manifestation of God’s love for us. Now this word “manifested or manifestation” is a popular word in our Charismatic circles because it’s a word we’ve tied together with faith to say things like— “I believe God has done it. I’m just waiting on the manifestation.”
I’m not a huge fan of using this terminology because to me it still puts the focus on waiting to see it before it becomes real to us. Here John said that the love of God was manifested towards us, not will be. And the manifestation of His love was in the sending of His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him (Compare John 3:16).
So, just as we believe by faith that we are healed, delivered, blessed, etc. without any physical evidence of it in our lives, but simply because God said it, likewise we must believe that God loves us because He already manifested it to us in the giving of His Son.
It reminds of a comical story of one particular husband and wife, when the wife comes to her husband as he sits in the recliner reading the newspaper, and says to him, “Honey, you don’t ever tell me you love me. Why don’t you tell me you love me anymore?” And the husband slowly lowers the paper and makes eye contact with her saying, “Baby, I told you I loved on our wedding day and if anything changes, I’ll let you know.” Haha!
Now I am not saying that the husband possessed the correct mentality there, but I am saying that the other end of that isn’t correct either. The person who always needs to be made to feel they are loved and falls apart like a two-dollar suitcase when they are not stroked on every turn, that’s wrong too. My point is there is a healthy balance between the two—and when it comes to God, we need not trust our fickle feelings that want to always feel, hear or see His love. We need to believe the love He has for us based on its manifestation 2,000 years ago.
So, what I believe the apostle John meant is that if we want to see love, we should look no further than the way God loved us by sending Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sins. That is the most perfect expression of love we will ever see! It is the manifestation of love. In other words, the giving of Jesus is the most perfect expression of love we could ever see and this is how God has purposed to manifest His love for us. Yes, it was in the giving of Jesus—from the manger to the Cross—that God has manifested His love towards us. But so many Christians want other manifestations of His love for them—like financial, emotional, or physical provision. But this is not the primary way that God has chosen to manifest His love. Sure, He has promised to provide for us and heal our bodies, etc. But these are not to be the manifestation of His love—the Cross is! We should never forget that.
You see, the devil will always tempt us to doubt His love for us when circumstances are not favorable. And too many believers take the bait of Satan by basing God’s love for them on the situations and circumstances that occur in their lives. For instance, if a tragedy or disaster occurs in certain Christian’s lives, they begin to question whether God really loves them or not.
The apostle Paul dealt with this issue in Romans 8:35 when he asked the question— “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
Why did he make reference to Christ’s love in the midst of all of these hardships? It is because life’s difficulties oftentimes tempt one to question whether God really loves them! In other words, these hardships are what make us feel like we are separated from His love. How many times have we heard when someone has suffered a tragedy or something that they needed did not come to pass in their life, that they do not feel God loves them? I see this as one of the devices Satan uses in our hardships: he brings into question God’s love. This should not be so. The reason why he has been so effective with this is because there is a misconception about God in general:
Yes, the main reason for this doubt of God’s love is because many Christians believe wrong. They believe God is in control of everything that happens on the earth and this is simply untrue. They say things like— “If God really loved me, He would have stopped this from happening.” But what they need to understand is that God has bound Himself to His Word. Therefore, He cannot just stop things from happening. He can only intervene if He has a man or woman who invites Him to intervene through their faith and prayers—whether that be the person who needs the intervention or an outside intercessor.
But the truth is that God has already done His part to show us how much He loves us—and He did that through the Cross. He provided everything for us that pertain to life and godliness through Jesus and now the ball is in our court. The Father sent Jesus to the earth as a man so that He could regain what we lost in the Fall. Then Jesus, in all of His perfection and righteousness, gave all of it up on the Cross so that we could be perfectly redeemed. Then, after He was raised from the dead on the third day, He delegated that authority that He has rightfully regained to us. So now we have the keys to the kingdom! We have the authority! And God is not sitting up in heaven deciding to intervene whenever He so desires. He has, in all of His sovereignty, limited Himself to His plan for the earth. But it is because so many fail to understand this very important truth that Christians blame God for the problems in their life and, therefore, question His love for them.
But, no, God is not failing to manifest His love for us during the hardships of life; He has already manifested His love for us through the giving of His only begotten Son. Never forget: the Cross was God’s perfect expression of love!
Church, God does not need to do anything more to prove to us that He loves us than the Cross of Christ! If this was all that He ever did for us, we should still be fully persuaded that He loves us because the giving of His only begotten Son is the greatest expression of love.
HOW MUCH MORE?
But the awesome truth is that this is not all that He did or does to prove to us He loves us. The truth is that if He loved us enough to give us Jesus; He loves us enough to freely give us all things! Let’s back up in Romans chapter 8 and see in the mirror another expression of His love:
In Romans 8:31, the apostle Paul asks the question: “What shall we say to these things?” Like we saw Jesus asking last Sunday, what things? All the truths that He just declared of how God has freely justified us, how He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us in our infirmities, and how God is working all things together for our good and to bring His plan and purpose to pass in our lives. What was He asking here? It was that in light of all that God has done for us and freely given us to accomplish our expected end, what shall we say to all of this? And the answer is simple: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” In other words, if God has done all of this—proving He is on our side, helping us fulfill everything He has predestined for us to be, then who (or what) can be against us!?! And the answer to this is even easier: Nothing! Nothing and no one can oppose our justification, sanctification, and subsequent glorification! Nothing!
Then Paul takes it a step further in verse 32 when he said, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
You see, we can be convinced that God is for us because He did not spare His own Son for us. In other words, because God sent His Son, Jesus, to the Cross for us, we can be completely convinced that the love that inspired Him to do this for us, will freely give us anything else we need.
It would be like you desperately needing a blood transfusion, and the only person’s blood that would save you was my son, Levi’s. Well, if I were to sacrifice his life, shedding his blood, so that you could live through his blood, then do you really think I would not give you something else much less valuable if you needed it? Of course, I would! Why? Because if I was willing to give you my best, why would I not give you the less? Therefore, we can be completely convinced that God will heal us, meet our financial needs, and do anything else we need in our lives because, through His love for us, He has given us His very best. This proves God’s love for us.
An interested parallel to this is found in Genesis 22:12: You see, in this chapter, we see Abraham obeying God’s command to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice for him. He willingly took Isaac up the mountain with the intention of doing exactly what God had asked him to do. But just before he followed through with it, the Angel of the Lord called out to him, saying, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Now one would think that God already knew that Abraham feared Him, right? He knows all things, doesn’t He? Well, of course He does. But this teaches us that God does pay attention to our works and us doing something with what we believe. Likewise, Jesus’ work on the Cross should mean something to us as well!
You see, by Abraham not withholding His only begotten son proved to God that Abraham feared Him. Well, just as it was said that the Angel of the Lord knew that Abraham feared God because He did not withhold His son, His only son, from Him, likewise we should know that God loves us since He did not withhold His Son, His only begotten Son from us. Again, Jesus’ death on the Cross is the only proof you and I need that God loves us! Amen.
So, what I believe the Holy Spirit wants us to understand is that the giving of Jesus is God’s manifestation of love. We need look no further than Jesus to know and believe that He loves us unconditionally. We need to not base God’s love for us on our circumstances. Just as we should not be moved by what we see, hear, or feel—only by what we believe—likewise, we should not let ourselves be moved off of our faith in God’s love by what we see, hear, or feel. We must simply believe He loves us because the Bible tells us so! Just like this simple childlike faith in the rest of God’s promises is what brings their manifestation to pass in our life, faith in His love is what yields a greater manifestation of that love in our lives. Amen?
YOU BE LOVED!
So, we must choose to believe what is written about God’s love for us. Again, His Word is like a love letter from our Creator to us. In fact, have you ever noticed how those inspired to write various Books of the Bible addressed their readers as “Beloved”? Well, don’t just read those verses as the man who penned those letters referring to his recipients. We know that all Scriptures are inspired by God and these men were moved by the Holy Spirit to utter those words. Therefore, we ought to read all of those titles/references as God talking to us. Therefore, God refers to you and I as His “Beloved.” I like to say it this way: this means that He is addressing those who (pardon the poor English) “be-loved!” In other words, since this verse is God speaking directly to us, by calling us His “beloved”, He is letting us know that we are greatly loved by Him.
You see, this simple truth, if understood correctly, should help us to embrace the rest of God’s promises contained in the Bible like our Heavenly Father desires us to prosper in every area of our lives and live in perfect health. Why? Because how many of you parents out there who truly love your children want anything less than the best for them? No, you want them to prosper in every area of their life and you certainly don’t want them sick and suffering! Any parent that wills for their children to be sick and to suffer should be locked up with the key thrown away! Why? Because if any natural parent did the things to their children that God has been accused of doing to His, that parent would be incriminated in just about every culture or nation on the earth today.
So how can we believe God is any different—especially when His love for us far outweighs any love that we have for our children? No, you “be-loved” and because God loves you so much, He will freely give you anything else you need in life—spirit, soul, and body! Thank you, Father!
Again, church, I have begun with this one truth because this is where everything else we will be looking at in the coming weeks was derived from—We are saved because God so loved the world. We are redeemed because He loved us enough to pay the price to redeem us. We are blessed because of His love. We are chosen, elected, and adopted because He loved us and wanted us. All of these truths stem from the fact God loves us unconditionally and extravagantly. Look in the mirror and receive God’s love for you today!
In fact, the next time you look in the mirror, point at yourself and boldly say, “You be loved by God!” Your flesh might cringe when you do it, but just know that because you see it in the mirror of God’s Word, you can declare it in the mirror of this world. You be loved and there is nothing you can do about it—save receive it in your heart and confess it with your mouth. Amen!