Wednesday, February 10, 2010

God is always in a good mood. Or, How can I know the love of the Father?

They say you don't have to tell people God loves them, because people presume that. I take the point but people clearly don't actually know the love of God, otherwise they'd be Christians - they only think they know.

The suggested solution?
Major on hell and all the things people don't want to hear. I do see where that's coming from, and hell is important, but... perhaps we ought to tell people better about the love of God... given neither we nor God actually want people to perish... (2 Peter 3:9)

Paul is concerned that the local church in Ephesus should really know the love of God, he writes out his prayer for them in Ephesians 3.

He gets on his knees before the Father to pray that they'd be strengthened by God's power so that Christ would dwell in their hearts that they'd have strength together with all the saints - not to fight but to "comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" that they'd be filled with the fullness of God to the glory of the abundant Father through the church and through Christ forever. 

Quite a prayer to pray - imagine such an experience of the love of God. 

How can I know the love of God?  
As a gift. It's the answer to a prayer. And prayer is not a contract or a deal with God it's us asking and him giving. Want to know the love of God? Ask. To know him is the essence of his grace to us.

Where can I know the love of God? 
In me, in the church and in Christ. Which isn't a list of three independent options but three things that go together perfectly. 

Warm-hearted John Calvin says union with Christ is the heart of being a Christian. That is, God has made his home in me by his Holy Spirit, catching me up into the life of the Triune God. God is at happily at home in me. He is in "my inner being". Filling me with his Spirit ongoingly.

Inner life is part of being a Christian. But Christianity is more too. Being Christian is a community thing. The dividing walls fall down because of the blood of Jesus. Once impenetrable barriers become paper thin and get take down. We live "with all the saints".

There is no churchless Christianity. We know the love of God with God's people, in our relationships with the members of one local church. This isn't individualism. Reality is relational. The reference point for my life is not how things effect me, it's also how it effects my local church. A behind closed doors relationship with God is important - but a Christianity lived in self-giving relationships is non-negotiable too.

Everything of this is "in Christ". We were dead under divine wrath - Jesus died under that wrath for us!! For us! He was raised and seated and so to are we raised and seated. Everything that happened to Jesus happens to us and for us as we live in union with Christ.

Christ though points us to his Father. The goal is the glory of the Father through the church and through Christ. The gospel awakens us with an inconsolable longing for the expansive, lavish, surpassing, far more, much more, abundant love of the Father, the love he had for the Son and for the church before the foundation of the world!

The Father's power isn't control and oppression, its the power that raised Christ from the dead to make known his love - his power is all about love. The love with which he adopted and redeemed us lavishly to know his Christ-purpose of a global gospel. Everything about God and his gospel is expansive - small-mindedness is anti-Triune, anti-Christian.

Ask to know his love and you'll know the Father, and you'll know and love the Christ and his church. Knowing him leads to a stronger unity between believers, knowing him leads to a more expansive life that embodies the self-giving love of the Father, that stands with people and invites them too to know the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.