Ruth has fallen in love with Brennan Manning’s book The Ragamuffin Gospel. She keeps telling me that I need to read it because much of what I’m trying to say in these blog posts is so close to Manning’s thoughts on law, grace and love. She is convinced that I would be totally blessed by the book. But, since I’ve been slow in picking the book up she has taken to reading me long passages from it these last couple of mornings. And, as usual, she is right. The book is a gold mine of mature thinking on grace and love.
A couple of nights ago we watched Manning’s sermon, “God loves you as you are not as you should be,” on Youtube and I have to say it is the best sermon I have ever heard. It’s the first time I’ve found myself cheering through a sermon.
Then early this morning I couldn’t sleep so I started reading the chapter in his book called the Second Call. Manning believes that as Christians many of us move into a more mature faith as we grow older. It’s when we realize that the things that we were pursing all our life like, power, money, fame, or whatever, are shallow next to learning the truth of God’s love for us.
He says second journeys “usually end quietly with a new wisdom and a coming to a true sense of self that releases great power.” (p. 164) This second call, as he names it, is a call to a deeper relationship with God totally based upon a more mature commitment to faith. But, none of what I’ve written so far is the true reason I’ve written this post. We could say this is a simple introduction to the following paragraph.
“The call asks do you really accept the message that God is head over heels in love with you? I believe that this question is the core of our ability to mature and grow spiritually. If in our hearts we really don’t believe that God loves us as we are, if we are still tainted by the lie that we can do something to make God love us more, we are rejecting the message of the cross.” (p. 165)
Couldn’t you just bathe in that one thought, “God is head over heels in love with you,” all day? It makes you not want to do house work, go to the store, cook dinner, do anything but contemplate the magnitude of such an idea. It makes you want to sit in your favorite chair, turn the television off, put the cellphone on buzz and think about what a fortunate person you are for having the God of the Universe love you unconditionally and in spite of all your failures, broken promises and sin.
We can’t comprehend such love because we can’t love like that. All our love, whether we like to think so or not, is conditional—God’s isn’t. Legalists can never grasp this point, that when we begin to dwell upon the love of God we change. We never change by striving to be better, do good things, or provide a “certificate of merit to God”. We only grow and mature in love and faith when we behold the love and grace God has for us. The reason we can’t work our way into the heart of Jesus is because we are already there. Remember, Jesus didn’t die to make God love us, Jesus died because the Father already loves us.
We who only know conditional love can never obtain perfection of character through works or any other means. The reason is because we can never grasp and carry out in our lives unconditional love, which is the very nature of God. Jesus hung on Calvary’s cross as God. He willingly carried the entire sins of the world to that cross and died under the weight of those sins. The sins of indifference, hatred towards Him, rejection, mockery, twisted views of who He is, all of it and more hung there at Calvary. And the wonder of the cross was that, as He suffered, He only loved us more.
At the cross Jesus cried out to us, you are free from a world of toil, striving, working, to try and please me. I’ve provided the way home for you; I’ve done the work you couldn’t so you never have to fear again. “In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love: because to fear is to expect punishment, and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 To live without fear because of our total trust in God is the goal of what it means to be a Christian.
This is good news! We never have to fear the judgment and it is not because of what we have strived to do but because Jesus loves us. “Truly. Truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life, he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24
To believe in Jesus is to believe that He loves you unconditionally and that that love led Him to the cross. If we accept God’s unconditional love for us, then we have passed from death into life and do not come into judgment because Jesus, and the Spirit’s love poured over us like a waterfall in Jesus selfless sacrifice at Calvary. It is no wonder John cried out, “He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:8
I’m not saying love is a substitute for old work and now becomes a new work you have to practice to please God. I’m simply saying, when we reflect upon God’s love, His unconditional love, we are changed. We crash at the foot of the cross in thankfulness and joy at such sacrifice and love for us. And when we stand again we know in our hearts that there is nothing we could ever do in a million, billion years to add one iota of merit to such a complete love motivated sacrifice as Jesus gave for us.
Yes, God is head over heels in love with you! Accept it and allow that thought to live in your minds, your hearts and your actions. You are loved unconditionally so rejoice in it and let it fill your life with assurance. There is no maybe, possibly, or I hope so about our salvation, it is assured because we are loved.
“I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13 Amen
* Please take the time to read some of the stories of Christians who are experiencing persecution for their total commitment to Christ. They need our support and prayers.. http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…