This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
A love that is not earned and cannot be lost is true love, and such love is found only in Christ. We did absolutely nothing to deserve this love. God did not love us because we were good; God did not love us because we were successful; God did not love us because we were lovable; God loved us simply because He chose to love us before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), wholly apart from anything in and of ourselves. Should you ever start thinking that there simply must have been something “special” about you that caused God to choose you, I encourage you to reread 1 Corinthians 1:27-30 –
God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us . . . our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.
If there was something that caused God to select you or me, you can be sure that it’s nothing that we want to brag about! When you read the Old Testament account of God’s chosen people, you find this same “true love” truth. Moses told the people of Israel, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors 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” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Later in the same book we read that the Lord did not bring His people into the Promised Land because of their “righteousness or uprightness of heart” (Deuteronomy 9:4). The covenant promise of God’s “true love” will always act according to His eternal purpose, in spite of our rebellion . . . because God is love.
Understanding this true love is the first portion of God’s promised rest (Hebrews 4:1). To be sure, that rest will not be fully realized and experienced until we get to the other side of the grave, but along the way, we begin to experience this rest as we cease from our man-centered attempts to make God love us. We no longer have to try and broker God’s favor and blessing. We no longer need to fear His judgment and curse. We can stop doubting our standing before God. Why? Because Jesus paid the penalty of our sins in full, bringing us into an intimate, personal, loving, eternal relationship with God.
Like a child who has done nothing to earn the love of his or her parents and knows nothing of the fear of losing it, we must be child-like in our understanding of the true love we have been given from above. Do you know this love? Do you experience this love on a daily basis? Better yet, do you experience it moment by moment? Remember, God so loved you that He sent Jesus to die in your place that you might live with Him forever.
We read in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world” . . . God “so loved” you! This is true love, and true love is rooted in the God of love, who loves you perfectly today, tomorrow, and forevermore. And because we are so loved, we are now free and filled to go forth and “love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!