Presuppositions are unrecognized assumptions we all have that dictate how we think. We generally never question whether those assumptions are true (biblical) or not. In the last blog posting, I built a biblical case for one of those presuppositions, “free will,” being a non-biblical one, and how that false assumption has influenced how we think about God.
We all believe God is “sovereign,” but we think there surely must, somehow, still be a little wriggle-room for exercising my own free will to contribute something to what God is about in the world. He certainly isn’t “absolutely” sovereign over every tiny thing in my life, is He? I am not a puppet, am I?
We struggle with God being an “absolutely sovereign” God. We feel much more comfortable with a “shades of gray” God ruling over His world, giving us some flexibility to still be a factor in decision making. However, James tells us, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Paul describes God as the one “who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). That, along with the array of verses we saw last week, doesn’t sound too much like a “shades of gray” God to me.
In this posting, we will look at the second pillar supporting “thinking like God thinks,” after the absolute sovereignty of God:
2. The absolute, unconditional love of God. We intuitively have a very non biblical idea of the love of God, making the assumption that His love must be similar to ours, but stronger. We see Him as being made in our image, rather than we in His.
For example, people assume that God wouldn’t want our love for Him to be forced, as it would be if God caused everything because of His sovereignty, but natural and spontaneous. We wouldn’t want those who profess love for us to do so by compulsion, so, if God is like we are, He wouldn’t either.
However, we fail to see the love of God as it is, a totally different love than ours, a difference of kind and not of degree. It is not that God loves like we do just more perfectly. The word for God’s love is defined by the biblical Greek word, agape, and I am completely helpless to produce any agape love whatsoever.
God’s agape love is a love without reason, not conditioned on any behavior or characteristic of the loved one. The Bible says, “For God is love” (1 John 4:8,16). It is His defining characteristic. Paul defines agape love in this way: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Listen to Paul in his prayer for the Ephesians, that they would understand and experience this love, from The Living Bible:
“And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself” (Ephesians 3:17-19 TLB).
Notice in this prayer that God loves us in this unique agape way, not only corporately (“The world” – John 3:16), but also individually. Paul’s prayer is not just that the Ephesians will know the proper theology about God’s love with their heads, as we discussed above, but that each, no matter how sinful and immature, would individually “experience this love for yourselves.”
Do you know in your heart that He loves you, in the midst of wicked sin, just as much as He does when you are reading your Bible or praying? Irrespective of conduct, His love needle does not ever move. He agapes you, no matter what you are doing, saying or thinking, and thinks you are adorable!
Make no mistake, as a sign of that love, He will surely take you to the woodshed (“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” – Hebrews 12:6). This is a “severe blessing,” which may appear to be very difficult, even an unbearable tragedy, but know God has caused it, and it is absolutely necessary for your maturity (“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” – Hebrews 12:11).
Just as with a parent of a child who was disciplined biblically (spanked), our Father’s joy in us is in seeing the power of His firm, constant, agape love melt our rebellious hearts and change us. His joy is not in getting us to love Him back. Paul said, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed (happy, joyous) to give than to receive’ ” (Acts 20:37). His joy is in loving us, giving to us, disciplining us and watching His joy birthed in our hearts as we grow.
So, obeying God, serving Him and loving Him back does not make Him love us more. It is important to Him only in that these are all observable results of His powerful love in our hearts. These results, springing up in us spontaneously as we experience more of His love ourselves, are a sure sign that we are growing in Him. They make us, unconsciously, more productive in the family business of ruling over the earth. We are, suddenly, experiencing the thrill of doing what we were created to do. We too, just like Jesus, our pattern man, are attacking the world with love!
So far, we have two pillars built in order to learn to think God’s way, by faith—God’s absolute sovereignty, and His absolute, unconditional love—and three to go. Next week, we will look at our absolute sin (are you noticing a recurring pattern?). Amazingly, we will see that this third pillar is a cause for great rejoicing!