This is the second in a 5-part series of articles which undergird all of the content we publish on hesed.com.
To explore the most effective ways to spread the message of God’s love throughout the worlds of different faiths and philosophies, we must first unpack that message and allow it to captivate our hearts again. It is then that His love will compel us to passionately engage in persuading others to be reconciled to Him and then that our allegiance to Him will lead us to embrace His mission.
So let’s recall the good news of His love for us. Although we offer this primarily as a reminder to those of us who have reconciled ourselves to God and who have submitted to His lordship, if you have yet to cast yourself upon Christ’s sacrifice and swear allegiance to Him as king, we invite you to consider the following as our plea to you to examine the claims of Christ (in this article and the next).
THERE MUST BE MORE TO LIFE THAN THIS
We were all created to be loved. The “makeup” of our hearts is such that we are not complete until we are living in relationship with one who loves us with a perfect love.
The “makeup” of our hearts is such that we are not complete until we are living in relationship with one who loves us with a perfect love. #missions
A perfect love is one which does not demand anything in return, but loves you only for you and because love is part of the nature of the one initiating the love relationship. Not because you do good things. Not because you act correctly. Not because you know the right people. Not because you’re rich. Not because you were born into the right family. But just because of you and because of the nature of the one giving love. No strings attached.
No one on earth is capable of loving us with such a perfect love. Everyone on earth who loves us (our parents, our siblings, our spouse, our children, our friends), no matter how sincere they are, all want something in return for their love. They want to be loved in return. They want our companionship. They want to be treated well by us. They want access to our things or our money. The problem is that since we are not perfect, we can’t always give them what they want. And so their love, not receiving what it demands in return, is fickle. Sometimes we are loved, sometimes we are not.
This leaves us incomplete, longing for something greater and more pure. This longing for a greater, purer love lies behind the feeling we often have that “something is not quite right;” that “this can’t be how life is supposed to be;” that “there must be more to life than this.”
The famous French philosopher Blaise Pascal recognized this incompleteness when he wrote, “There is a vacuum in the heart of every person that cannot be filled by any created thing.”
Because we are not living in relationship with one who loves us with this perfect love, we go through life largely without meaning, without fulfillment, without satisfaction, without a lasting joy.
If this describes your life today, we have good news for you!
— Matthew 11:28-30
A LOVE BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS
Deep in your heart is a desire to come home to the love you were created for. To return to the passion of God’s embrace. To yield to His infinite affection. To be immersed into His love which is so deep and so strong that it cannot be comprehended. To be baptized into unbounded gentleness. Consistent and ever-faithful mercy. Tenderness which is relentless and constantly-pursuing. Lavish, extravagant, and unrestrained kindness. This is God’s hesed (the Hebrew word for lovingkindness) for you. A love which is passionate in the purest sense of the word. A love which has no limits, a love which is totally unselfish, a love beyond your wildest dreams.
Deep in your heart is a desire to come home to the love you were created for, a love beyond your wildest dreams. #loveofgod
God’s greatest desire is to have a close, intimate relationship with you, His creation. He desires to be your closest friend, to lavish His love upon you. Intimate friendship is His goal. He wants you to know how deeply you are loved. He wants you to experience His love, and He wants to experience your love for Him (although He will go on loving you whether or not you ever love Him). He wants to converse and dialogue with you — the way friends do.
A well-known philosopher of the 4th century A.D., Saint Augustine, wrote of this desire: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
— 1 John 3:1
SEPARATED FROM GOD
Although God’s greatest desire is to have a close, intimate relationship with us, there is a barrier which stands between us and the full experience of His love: our unbelief. We are separated from Him because of our unbelief.
At the beginning of time, the first man and woman rejected relationship with God in exchange for the promise of being like God and thus being independent from God. Throughout history, mankind has largely reinforced that decision and continued in a stance of independence from God.
This core sin of rejecting relationship with God is what the Bible calls unbelief. In the biblical sense, unbelief is more than a lack of mental assent to a set of facts or doctrines. It is a lack of trust in God, an ongoing desire for independence from Him.
It doesn’t stop there, though. The core sin of unbelief leads to all sorts of self-destructive behavior: greed, dishonesty, envy, gossip, arrogance, slander, boasting, lust, theft, murder, anger, alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, etc. These (as well as other destructive attitudes and activities) the Bible calls sins.
These activities and attitudes, contrary to what some believe, were not arbitrarily determined to be sinful by God. Instead, God knew that these behaviors and attitudes were harmful for us, that they would ultimately destroy us. And so because of His great love for us, God pleads with us to not engage in these destructive behaviors. He has memorialized His pleas in His laws and has told us that violating these laws will result in self-destruction.
Both the sin of unbelief and the individual sins which result from unbelief have consequences. The Bible says that the wages (or consequences) of sin is death. Spiritual death is the inevitable result of our sin. In biblical terms, death refers to separation from God. From the moment we are born, we are on a path toward that spiritual death and destructiveness. We are separated from God because of our unbelief.
What makes our plight so desperate is that because of the introduction of sin (unbelief) into the world by the first man and woman, all of us have been born with this desire for independence as our natural state. We cannot, on our own, suddenly become dependent upon God because independence from Him is at the core of our nature. We are powerless to solve our problem.
— Matthew 9:36
GOD HAS RECONCILED HIMSELF TO US
God was not willing, however, to leave us in our desperate state. His lavish love caused Him to take action.
God was not willing to leave us in our desperate state. His lavish love caused Him to take action. #loveofgod
In response to our plight, God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived on earth for thirty years before beginning an itinerant ministry among the people of Israel.
During the three-and-a-half years of His ministry, Jesus taught people about living in relationship with God, healed the sick, performed miracles, and demonstrated God’s passionate love to all with whom He came in contact.
Although it was commonly believed in His day that only holy and righteous people, born into the right segments of society, could have any sort of relationship with God, Jesus taught instead that God’s love was available to all, regardless of their lifestyle, background, or standing in society. The Jewish religious leaders of His day were threatened by Jesus and His ministry.
The conflict between Jesus and those religious leaders finally culminated in His crucifixion. The Jewish leaders conspired with one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas, to deliver Him into the hands of the Roman ruler of the Jewish province, Pontius Pilate. Pilate, although he tried to claim no responsibility for Jesus’ death, presided over His crucifixion.
While there were several parties involved in Jesus’ death — Judas, the Jewish religious leaders, Pontius Pilate, the Roman army — ultimately, it was our sin and the sin of all mankind which led to Jesus’ death. It was God’s plan from the beginning of time for Jesus to die for our sins.
Christ died on a cross to take our place. He died instead of us. The wages of our sin is death, but Jesus took the inevitable penalty and consequence of our sin upon Himself.
Not only did Jesus take the penalty for our sin. When He rose from the dead three days after being buried, He also completed the disarming of sin and its power over us. Remember how we said that from our birth, independence from God is at the core of our nature and that we are powerless to solve our problem? On the cross and through His resurrection, Jesus broke the power of that independent spirit.
Christ’s death on our behalf and His disarming of sin’s power in rising from the dead leaves us in a place where we are free to choose to renounce our unbelief and place our trust in God.
Similar to what was said above about unbelief, biblical belief is more than mental assent to a set of facts or doctrines. It is first of all (and we will examine an equally important second aspect of biblical belief in our next article), a casting of one’s entire life upon something other than ourselves.
Now that the power of mankind’s independent spirit has been broken, we are free to cast our lives upon the death of Jesus, believing His sacrifice to be our only hope for entering into a close, intimate friendship with God.
God is not angry with us. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18a that He has reconciled Himself to us:
That means that from God’s standpoint, the barrier that separated us from Him — our sin and unbelief — has been eliminated. From His standpoint, there is no longer anything between us that would keep us from having the close, intimate friendship He has always wanted with us. He has taken the first step toward restoring our relationship with Him.
And yet, it remains to be seen whether or not we will reciprocate, and take the next step and reconcile ourselves to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18b-20):
While God has made clear His desire for relationship with us, it is up to us to accept His invitation.
— John 3:16
What does it mean to accept God’s invitation? What does it mean to reconcile ourselves to God? We will explore this question in more detail in our next article, We Swear Allegiance.