2001-01-05 - It's All So Simple
Encore from 1999-01-29
God makes things simple. We complicate them.
John 3:16 (NNAS) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
It's a simple formula: Jesus' death and resurrection + our faith = our salvation.
But we try to add to it. We try to make it "Jesus' death and resurrection + our faith + being at church every time the door is open." Or "Jesus' death and resurrection + our faith + using a certain version of the Bible." But our salvation and love are based on simple grace:
Eph 2:8-9 (NNAS) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
We can do nothing to earn God's salvation or His love. Sometimes I wonder if that's why we have trouble believing it is so simple; perhaps we have trouble believing that love can be given so freely, generously and unconditionally.
I hear from people sometimes that they are worried about losing their salvation or God's love. I think we humans tend too often, to place conditions (often not consciously)on love for each other, and we expect God to also. Our parents may seem to take away their love if we don't follow the paths they want us to. Our friends withdraw their love if we do something that displeases them. Sometimes this is just a matter of our perception; we can equate love with approval.
Of course, if someone does take away "love" because of something that is done or not done, that isn't real love anyway. We flawed humans do not love as we should. But God does. God's love is perfect. God IS Love.
1 John 4:8 (NNAS) The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
Yes, God does expect good works from us -- helping others as we are able, tithing etc. But those are side effects -- not conditions -- of salvation a and His love.
God loves us unconditionally. There is nothing we can do or say that will make Him love us any less. For certain, He will not condone our sin. He will discipline us as a loving Father should. But never, for even one second, will His love for us decrease.
One of the best examples of this unconditional love is Jesus' love for those who crucified Him.
Luke 23:33-34 (NNAS) When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.
Ironically, if we actually grasp this unconditional love for us, it will not render us complacent. Rather, those good works will naturally follow from the gratitude welling up in us. We will WANT to show Him our appreciation and our love for Him. But they do not earn His love.
If we think about it logically, we can perhaps understand it more readily. Think about a young child. Don't you believe that God cherishes that child, even though he can do nothing for God yet? One thing that normally is easy for a child, is the acceptance of love. I believe this is one reason Jesus says we are to be childlike. Young children can accept things at face value; they keep things simple.
Dear Lord, please help us to take to heart Your unconditional love for us, and may that love spur us on to service for You and our fellow man. In Jesus' name amen.