God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn 4:10).
“God is love.” No more glorious words have ever been uttered by the human tongue. God loves freely. God loves bountifully. God loves me – poor, sinful me – so much that He sent His Son into the world to die for my sins! May the theme of my life and of my mouth ever be the love of God.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, we naturally begin to think about the great theme of love. No greater love has ever been demonstrated than the love God has for the human race. Nothing can change God’s love for me. Nothing can diminish His love for me. However, I fear that too many people forget that God’s love has limits. Simply because God is love does not mean that God will act every way as I might wish Him to act. Let me explain.
All of us have limits – boundaries – to our love. Simply because I love my children doesn’t mean that I’ll give them everything their hearts desire; in fact, they often think I’m the worst father in all the world because I don’t let them have everything. The overwhelming love I have for my wife does not mean I’ll approve of everything she does. My love of country doesn’t mean I’ll condone every action made by those in authority. The same principle works with our God.
Some limits of God’s love.
- God’s love does not prevent judgment. God loves man immensely, and He sent His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world. However, God will judge. God has a long history of judging. You don’t believe me? Ask the people living at the time of the Great Flood, ask the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, ask Nadab and Abihu, ask the Northern Kingdom as the Assyrians press in, ask the money changers in the temple, or ask those who die outside of Christ. There is coming a day in which God will judge all the world and all of mankind will stand before Him; those who are not right with Him shall be cast into an eternal hell (Rev 20:11-15).
- God’s love does not prevent suffering. Suffering is a part of this fallen world whether we like it or not. God’s love will not keep us from suffering – Job, the most righteous man living in his day according to the word of the Lord, suffered immensely; Elijah, a righteous prophet, had to run for his life; Daniel and his companions, although righteous, suffered the Babylonian Exile; and Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, suffered untold agony at Golgotha. Suffering is in this world because of sin (Rom 5:12), and suffering shall continue until God wipes away all tears in the New Jerusalem.
- God’s love does not remove the consequences of sin. God’s love (and even my repentance and reconciliation with Him) does not keep me from suffering the consequences of sin. If I’m sexually promiscuous, I may suffer disease; if I drive drunk, I may be killed; or if I embezzle from the church, I may spend time in prison. God’s love doesn’t keep me from the consequences of my actions.
- God’s love does not require Him to accept my behavior. One of the greatest lies Satan tells in the modern world is that love means that I accept someone’s behavior. God has never accepted sinful behavior. Moses learned that lesson the hard way when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as the Lord had said (Num 20:2-13). The woman caught in adultery heard that lesson when Jesus told her, “Go, and from now on sin no more” (Jn 8:11); yes, Jesus forgave her, but He also made clear that her actions were sinful and she could live in them no more. God’s love does not mean that He must accept my behavior.
- God’s love does not mean He’ll change His Word. I’ve seen it happen time and time again: Someone understands the biblical teaching concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage, but when someone in his family violates Matthew 19, Jesus’ teachings get twisted; someone knows homosexuality is sinful, but when her son “comes out,” God’s word suddenly “changes” to fit the situation. “Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn 10:35). Not one iota of Scripture will ever be changed to suit you: Period. I don’t care what scenario or situation – real or hypothetical – you ever bring to the table, God’s word is unchanging and unchangeable.
- God’s love does not keep Him from saying, “No” to prayer. Yes, God loves me. Yes, God wants what’s best for me. Yet, He is perfectly free to reject my petitions based on His perfect will. Jesus prayed – begged His Father – in the Garden that the cup of the cross be taken from Him, yet the Father’s will required Jesus to die. If God told His perfect Son, “No,” who do you think you are that God must always tell you, “Yes?” I don’t mean to sound trite or facetious, but God is not Santa Claus, and He does not owe me everything for which I ask. May we, like the Lord in the Garden, always pray that God’s will be done.
- God’s love does not remove chance from life. “I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all” (Eccl 9:11). God’s love for me will not keep the drunk driver from killing me and my family on our way to Bible study. God’s love for me will not keep the tornado from killing me. God’s love for me will not keep me from working at a company getting ready to downsize. God has set natural and human laws in motion; His love does not change that.
- God’s love for me will not prevent His patience from being exhausted. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Pet 3:9-10). Yes, God is patient. Yes, He wishes all men to come to repentance. Yet, Peter uses the word “BUT” – God’s patience is not limited; one day Jesus will return and all of God’s patience will have been exhausted.
I know I’m not supposed to talk like there are any limits to God’s love. The health-and-wealth preachers and others who wish to water down the Gospel have a difficult time recognizing that even a loving God has His limits. Oh, He does!
Tomorrow, I plan to discuss all the positive benefits of God’s love. Until then, be blessed!l.