So, what has motivated God to move so graciously in the ways of men? It certainly is not because we merited it in some way, but simply because He loves us. God chose Israel, too—not because they were special but because He loved them. He chooses us, as well—not because we have earned it, but just because He loves us.
It’s good to be with you again, sharing with you precious truths out of Scripture that have made the difference between success and failure in my life and can do the same in yours.
The theme I’ve chose for this Christmas season is: The Love of God. I don’t know of any phrase that better expresses the essence of Christmas. I believe my talks on this theme will give you a new and deeper understanding of the events that we celebrate at this season, and in this way your whole Christian life will be strengthened and enriched.
In my talk yesterday I spoke about Knowing and Believing the Love of God, passing beyond just knowing, to believing or relying on. I spoke about something that takes us beyond the realm of our limited understanding, and that as we do this in faith, we are enabled to grasp dimensions that cannot be measured by the intellect and we are enabled to know love that surpasses knowledge. I want to emphasize that phrase once more: to know love that surpasses knowledge. There is a deliberate paradox in that phrase. How can you know something that surpasses knowledge? It’s not by intellectual knowledge, but it’s by faith. It’s through the Holy Spirit, it’s through self-yielding, commitment, through releasing oneself into the arms of God, as it were, no strings attached, no preconditions, no reservations. That’s the only way to enter into this experience of love that surpasses knowledge.
Today I’m going to speak about love as God’s Ultimate Motivation. The real reason why God does things. It is His love. The Bible makes this very clear in various places. First, of all I want to speak about God’s love for His people, Israel. I want to turn first of all to Deuteronomy, chapter 7, verses 6 through 8. These are words spoken by Moses to Israel just before they entered the Promised Land, and Moses is telling them what kind of people God wants them to be. And he also tells them why God wants them to be a special people. Deuteronomy 7 verses 6 through 8:
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” (NIV)
That’s a tremendous statement. “The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the earth to be His people...” And yet we know through the New Testament that it becomes true individually of every Christian. The Lord has chosen you out of all the people on the earth.
Now let’s see why the Lord chose Israel. It will help us to understand something important about why the Lord chooses you and me. First of all Moses explains reasons why the Lord did not choose Israel, verse 7:
“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous that other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples...” (NIV)
“It wasn’t because you were great or impressive or mighty. That was not the reason. Never be mislead about that,” Moses is warning them. “Don’t ever begin to think that there was something special about you that you were so strong and mighty that the Lord chose you for that reason. No, the Lord did not set His affections on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.” Verse 8:
“But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (NIV)
So, not because... but because. Not because you were great or mighty, but because why? Because the Lord loved you. Why did He love you? Moses never even tries to explain that. And that’s true not just of God’s people Israel in the Old Testament, it’s true of every one of us. It’s not because we were so tremenedous people, not because we were so clever, or so talented or so gifted, but because He loved us. That is the mystery. The unexplained mystery.
And then further on in the Old Testament in the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah develops this theme too, or rather the Lord develops it through the prophet. Isaiah 43, verses 1 through 4:
“But now, this is what the Lord says, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.’” (NIV)
Again, we have this same unexplained mystery, ”because I love you”, God never offers any explanation of why He loves. But He says because I love you I will do everything that I’ve committed myself to do. I’ll manipulate all history to bring my purposes and my promises to you to fulfillment. He doesn’t say I’ll keep you from suffering or from difficulty or from danger. He doesn’t say you’ll never pass through the waters, you’ll never walk through the fire, but He says when you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you walk through the fire, I will be with you, you will not be burned. To anybody who knows even a little of the history of the Jewish people one can say surely that has been true. That’s why there is a Jewish people still today. No other people has ever passed through the waters or walked through the fire like that people, the Jewish people, God’s people Israel. God didn’t keep them from it, but He said I’ll be with you in it and I’ll manipulate history. I’ll give other men and other nations in your place to fulfill my promise to you because I love you. But why God loves He never even offers an explanation.
And then the next words in Isaiah 43:5, the next verse, “Do not be afraid...” I pointed out yesterday that there is a love that drives out fear, that leaves no room for fear. And that’s the only way we could enter into this relationship with God is through the love that takes away the fear that would keep us back from fully yielding.
Now I want to go beyond God’s love for Israel. I want to speak of something yet more Wonderful, God’s Love for the Whole World.
First of all I just want to point out to you briefly out of Scripture the condition of the world, of the human race, without the love and grace of God. This is so clearly stated in Psalm 14 verses 1 through 3:
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (NIV)
That’s the human race as God sees us apart from His grace, His mercy, His love. We don’t even seek God. We’ve turned away from Him. We are not conscious of Him, we’re not conscious of our need of Him. We’ve turned our back on Him. “The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. [The answer is...] all have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
And then we pass from that awful scene, this unexplained mystery of the love of God into the very familiar verse, John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (NASB)
Remember what the world was like that God gave His Son to win. It was a world that had turned aside. A world that was altogether corrupt. A world in which there was not one person that, by his own nature, was doing good. A world in which man didn’t even seek for God. So every good motivation, every good response of man is prompted only by the love and grace of God. For a world like that, God gave His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. That’s the mystery behind human history. That’s the mystery behind our individual experience.
Let me suggest to you today that you should never try to earn the love of God. I’m going to speak about this more fully later. Never find why out why God loved you. Never look for reasons in yourself because you’ll be disappointed. The more you look the less you’ll find. Just be willing to know and believe. Rely on the love that God has for you. I discovered the love of God in personal experience more than forty years ago, but I didn’t have a real full release because I was always looking for reasons in myself why God should love me or how I could earn His love. Then one day I came to this conclusion, I can’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, there is no reason for it, I’m just going to believe it.
Well, our time is up for today. I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this time. Tomorrow I’ll be explaining one of the most important facts about God’s love. One that I’ve touched on already today: It Cannot Be Earned.