A group of men from my church along with some other guys have formed a Men’s Book Club. Before you laugh, let me assure you this is a very manly book club. If you would have told me in High School that when I was 34 years old I would be a part of a Book Club I would have either laughed or cried. But I digress…
Each month we rotate which guy picks the book for the next month and leads our time of discussion. This month my friend Dan Shearer (illustrious board member for Consumed) picked the biography of Rich Mullins life entitled, “An Arrow Pointing to Heaven”. James Bryan Smith writes the biography and he does a phenomenal job of incorporating the lyrics & journal entries of Rich along with testimonies from Rich’s close friends and family. I feel as I read the book that I am not just learning about the person Rich Mullins. I am also being challenged to love God & people in a more intensified way.
I recently finished the chapter entitled “The Love of God: Encountering the Reckless, Raging Fury”. I found myself really resonating with much of what Rich wrote and believed about God’s love. I wanted to share a few of these thoughts with you…
“It is hard to love an angry God. It is also difficult to see ourselves as God’s beloved children if we believe we are worthless. Rich had become familiar with the spiritual foes of fear and self-hatred.”
Unfortunately I find myself in conversations with people that truly believe God sees them as worthless, wretched sinners. To make it sound more spiritual they will throw the magic words “saved by grace” on the end of the previous sentence. But I am sorry…I just don’t see that type of language used of God’s children in the New Testament. I see terms like “beloved, children of God, heirs, co-heirs of Christ, redeemed, saints, slaves of God”, etc. We will not know and experience the love of God fully if we believe deep down in our guts that we are nothing more than filthy scum. The bottom line is God is love and He chooses to love us. Paul wrote this to the church of Rome – “God demonstrated His love towards us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!” He loved us so much He gave us Jesus. And when we accept this gift of salvation offered by God we are placed into His family and He sees us as new creatures. Salvation provides us entrance into the family of God and nothing we do or don’t do can remove us from our Heavenly Father loving us.
“…it (God’s love) is also not something we can merit. Our world functions on a system of rewards and punishments. If we do well, we are rewarded and we feel loved. If we fail, we are punished and we feel unloved. But the love of God is not something that is contingent on what we do. It is constant. Unfortunately, many Christians are desperately trying to earn a love they already possess and are fearful of forfeiting a love they can never lose. This whole system has to be unlearned.”
This is another amazing thought by Rich or James Smith or whoever thought of this. I just know that I completely agree. When Christians try to either “earn a love” from God or try not to “forfeit a love” from God they are putting the control of God’s love on themselves. Honestly, it is a very humanistic way of looking at our relationship with God. I believe this kind of thinking is both damaging to us and it cheapens the love & grace of God. Paul said “nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8). God always loves His children no matter what we do. James Smith (author of the biography…just in case you forgot) goes on to explain that Jesus told many parables about God’s love to try and help us or “shock us” (Smith’s words) into learning this truth. He told the parables of laborers working various shifts in a day but receiving the same paycheck and a selfish son that squanders his dad’s inheritance but receives a party when he returns home broke. In both of these stories the point is clear – we are not in control of God’s grace & love. We are simply the beneficiaries. The actions of the workers in one parable or the sons in the other parable did not effect the wages or parties thrown (metaphors for God’s love, grace, & forgiveness). As a receptor of God’s perfect love I can tell you this – I desire with all of my heart to love my Heavenly Father right back.
So much more could be said on these topics but I will cease for now. I write because I honestly believe that many do not understand the depth of God’s love for them. This love of God assists us in living the abundant life Consumed Ministries is passionate to share. This love is why we exist and many other ministries like ours. We want all to know the vast ocean known as the love of God. I leave you with the prayer of Paul for the saints in Ephesus. It is my prayer for you and me as well:
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”