Posts Tagged ‘Love of God’

Also, there are very many who so conceive of God’s mercy that they receive almost no consolation from it. They are constrained with miserable anxiety at the same time as they are in doubt whether he will be merciful to them because they confine that very kindness of which they seem utterly persuaded within too narrow limits. For among themselves they ponder that it is indeed great and abundant, shed upon many, available and ready for all; but that it is uncertain whether it will even come to them, or rather, whether they will come to it….

Therefore, it does not so much strengthen the spirit in secure tranquility as trouble it with uneasy doubting. But there is a far different feeling of full assurance that in the Scriptures is always attributed to faith…there is no right faith except when we dare with tranquil hearts to stand in God’s sight. – Calvin, Institutes 3.2.15.

Here indeed is the chief hinge on which faith turns: that we do not regard the promises of mercy that God offers as true only outside ourselves, but not at all in us; rather that we make them ours by inwardly embracing them. Hence, at last is born that confidence which Paul elsewhere calls “peace” [Rom. 5:1],… Now it is an assurance that renders the conscience calm and peaceful before God’s judgment. Without it the conscience must be harried by disturbed alarm, and almost torn to pieces; unless perhaps, forgetting God and self, for the moment sleeps. And truly for the moment, for it does not long enjoy that miserable forgetfulness without the memory of divine judgment repeatedly coming back and very violently rending it…. the apostle does not consider the eyes of our minds well illumined, except as we discern what the hope of the eternal inheritance is to which we have been called [Eph. 1:18]. And everywhere he so teaches as to intimate that we cannot otherwise well comprehend the goodness of God unless we gather from it the fruit of great assurance. – Institutes, 3.2.16

Still, someone will say: ‘Believers experience something far different: In recognizing the grace of God toward themselves they are not only tried by disquiet, which often comes upon them, but they are repeatedly shaken by gravest terrors. For so violent are the temptations that trouble their minds as not to seem quite compatible with that certainty of faith.’ Accordingly,we shall have to solve this difficulty if we wish the above-stated doctrine to stand. Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. On the other hand, we say that believers are in perpetual conflict with their own unbelief. Far, indeed, are we from putting their consciences in any peaceful repose, undisturbed by any tumult at all. Yet, once again, we deny that, in whatever way they are afflicted, they fall away and depart from the certain assurance received from God’s mercy. – Institutes 3.2.17

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I’ve been reading from the book Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry. One of the chapters written by Dennis Johnson is entitled Simul iustus et peccator: The Role of Justification in Pastoral Counseling. I think these insights are crucial:

Pastoral counseling is, as the older shepherds called it, “the cure of souls,” healing the heart of its deep and complex maladies through the wise application of God’s infection-exposing law and his conscience-cleansing gospel. (p. 399)

Although the assurance that biblical justification imparts may seem, both to legalists and to antinomians, to work at cross-purposes to Scripture’s summons to strenuously pursue holiness, in fact only this assurance can produce a holiness that springs from love for God rather than an exploitation of God for our own ends.  In other words, only when our obedience flows from a justification-secured assurance of the Father’s approval of us for his Son’s sake is our obedience an expression of love for God above all, rather than an attempt to obligate through our efforts. (p. 402)

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I just got back from spending the afternoon at the ocean.  And I’m still struck with the glory and splendor of it. God surely is an awesome creator to fashion such a magnificent landscape and presentation. And to think that this is only the first-fruits, that He’s not done yet, and we’re only getting a taste of the new creation.  Why we don’t wrestle with elation is now quite beyond me.  However, perhaps what caused me to ponder such thoughts was that I was also blessed with the company of a copy of the Heidelberg catechism (part of the Three Forms of Unity) and was attempting to read through it for the first time (yes I admit it).  And what I found was joy beyond joy.  Oh the beauty and rapture of the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed to us miserable sinners, now saints — simultaneously sinful and yet justified.   I never knew there was so much gospel in the Heidelberg!  That’s what it is — amazing good news! A clear and precise explanation of the gospel!  One article after another. One (out of many) which stood out to me:

Question 26. What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?

Answer: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them;  who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence)  is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father;  on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body  and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage;  for he is able to do it, being Almighty God,  and willing, being a faithful Father.

[That] he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body.


…for he is able to do it, being Almighty God,  and willing, being a faithful Father.

This is just so encouraging and true.  We need to be reminded of this… That God surely will look after us and provide all that we need… All things for our good, in this life and surely, in the life to come — eternal salvation.   And that he not only is capable of doing this (being all-powerful and sovereign, not letting any slightest thing happen outside of his will) but that he is also willing!  Brothers and sisters, do you know how encouraging this is?  We can think of Christ our Lord when he spoke that if our earthly fathers give good gifts to their children, how much more will our heavenly father give good gifts to those who ask him. (Mat 7:11) And what greater gift then life everlasting? Indeed we have a most wondrous God. Most gracious and good.  How can we not worship? How can we not adore?

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“Consider that it is the greatest desire of God the Father that you should have loving fellowship with him. His greatest desire is that you should receive him into your souls as one full of love, tenderness and kindness to you. Flesh and blood is apt to think hard thoughts of God, to think that he is always angry and incapable of being pleased with his sinful creatures, that it is not for them to draw near to him, and that there is nothing in the world more to be desired than never to come into his presence. ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ say the sinners in Zion. ‘I knew that you were a hard man’, said the evil servant in the gospel.

Now, there is nothing more grievous to the Lord, nothing that serves the purposes of Satan more than such thoughts as these. Satan rejoices when he can fill your hearts with such hard thoughts of God. Satan’s purpose from the beginning was to fill mankind with lies about God. The first blood that murderer shed was by this means. He led our first parents into hard thoughts about God. ‘Has God said so? Has he threatened you with death? He knows well enough that if you eat of this fruit, it will be much better for you.’ With these lies he succeeded in overthrowing all mankind at once. And remembering this great victory, he readily uses the same method with us.

Now it is exceedingly grievous to the Spirit of God to be so slandered in the hearts of those whom he dearly loves. How he remonstrates with his people. ‘What iniquity have you seen in me?’, he asks. ‘Have I been a wilderness to you, or a land of darkness?’. But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me’. And see the Lord’s reply: ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you’ (Isa. 49:14-16).

The Father knows that his people can bring no greater hurt to his loving heart than to have such hard thoughts of him. He knows full well what fruits this bitter root is likely to bear. He knows what alienations of heart, what drawing back, what unbelief this bitter root will bring forth. And worst of all, he knows how it leads us to avoid walking with him. How unwilling is  a child to come into the presence of an angry father! Consider, then, that receiving the Father as one who loves us gives him the honour he desires and is exceedingly pleasing to him. Scripture sets out his love in a noteworthy way. ‘He commends his love towards us’ (Rom 5.8). ‘Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us’ (1 John 3.1). Why, then, this foolishness? Why are we afraid to have good thoughts of God? Is it too hard to think of God as good, gracious, tender, loving and kind? I speak of saints. How easy we find it to think of God as hard, austere, severe, unable to be pleased and fierce, which are the very worst characteristics of men and therefore the most hated by God (Rom 1.31; 2 Tim 3.3). How easily Satan deceives us! Was it not his purpose from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God into our hearts? Assure yourself, then, that there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep our hearts filled with him as the eternal source of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.

Many saints have no greater burden in their lives than that their hearts to not constantly delight and rejoice in God. There is still in them a resistance to walking close with God. Why is this? Is it not because they are not skilful and so neglect having loving fellowship with the Father? But the more we see of God’s love, so much more shall we delight in him. All that we learn of God will only frighten us away from him if we do not see him as loving and merciful to us. But if your heart is taken up with the Father’s love as the chief property of his nature, it cannot help but choose to be overpowered, conquered and embraced by him. This, if anything, will arouse our desire to make our eternal home with God. If the love of a father will not make a child delight in him, what will?

So do this: set your thoughts on the eternal love of the Father and see if your heart is not aroused to delight in him. Sit down for a while at this delightful spring of living water and you will soon find its streams sweet and delightful. You who used to run from God, will not now be able, even for a second, to keep at any distance from him.”

John Owen ‘Communion with God.’ Pages 31-33.
Abridged and made easy to read by R.J.K. Law. Banner of Truth Trust 1991, 2008.

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