This focuses on the unconditional love of God and how guilt can be the greatest struggle believers have. It is a transcript of a message given by Gregory Reid and is very comforting for those who have been spiritually abused by Worldwide Church of God, Philadelphia Church of God, or any related high demand offshoot.
As I was in prayer today, the message that I felt that the Lord was saying is: “Tell my people that I love them.” And that’s such a message that we don’t ever really understand what that means. We think that’s kind of a nice pat on the back from God, but it’s not. I mean the love of God is the most powerful thing motivating our lives. As a matter of fact, in Hebrew 6 it talks about doctrinal foundational things and he says, “therefore let us leave the foundational doctrines of laying on of hands and of baptism and of eternal judgment and of faith. Let us leave those principles and go on.” But the one thing it doesn’t say to go on from is love. Why? That’s the beginning, the middle and the end of everything in our Christian experience. Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. And we need to really get a grip on what God is saying to us about that.
God Will Never Leave You Nor Forsake You
The word that will get you through these final times is, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” If we really understand that, I believe that is the foundational word that will get us through these last times. The realization that no matter how hard things get, no matter how many things come across our pathway that we have to deal with, Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, will never leave our side. He is always, forever, eternally with us. And that the security that this world cannot provide. It’s a security we can’t even provide for one another. We can’t say that we’re all going to be here for each other for ever. We can’t say that. I’ve had enough relationships that have been broken or separated or through death or through problems to know that no human being can always be there. We don’t have that guarantee. All flesh is as grass and as the flower fades away, so is all flesh. Gone like a vapor of smoke. But Jesus promises that, though every person leaves us, He will always be with us. Even Paul said that “everyone has forsaken me. Only the Lord has stood with me.” But if you know that, and if you grasp that, and really get that in the foundation of your heart, you have the security to get through anything that comes across your path because there’s that knowledge that He Who is mighty, loves us and dwells in us and walks with us every second of the day, in this life and then through eternity.
That’s a very brief idea of what I want to share with you tonight. I hope you just grasp the heart of the Lord as I started to grasp it in prayer today. And in order to show you what I feel like the Lord is saying to us, I want you to understand there’s the world’s love and there’s God’s love and they are usually two diametrically opposed institutions. They have very little in common.
The Difference Between the World’s Love and God’s Love
I will start out talking about the world’s love. The world’s love is a conditional love. The world’s love is: “I love you if… You do this and that and then if you don’t hurt me, and if you do all the right things, and if you say all the right things, and if you’re always a nice person, I love you. Well, if you do those other things, I’ll have to think again.” Right?
God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is a love, period. Not “I love you if,” not even “I love you because.” God’s love is I love you, period. End of statement. There’s no qualifications to His love for us.
Why don’t I read Roman 5:6-11. (And I’m reading out of the Living Bible because it really says it well.) Try to grasp this because if you really understand this, it will just absolutely boggle your mind. “When we were utterly helpless, with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners, who had no use for him.” That’s unconditional love. How many people do you love who have no use for you? Who have hurt you? Who have injured you? Who have been bitter toward you or tried to destroy you? But while we treated God the same way when we said, “God, we don’t need you. We have no use for you,” it was at that point in time that Christ died for us because of God’s love for us.
[Verses 7-9] “Even if we were good, we really wouldn’t expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” That’s unconditional love. And since by his blood he did all this for us as sinners, how much more will he do for us now that he has declared us not guilty?“
The greatest struggle I think believers have is guilt.
God Has Declared You Not Guilty
I saw a poster in a magazine just recently. It was just Christ’s hand with a nail going through it and the caption was, “An end to guilt.” And I believe this message of love is God’s attempt to put an end to guilt in our lives. Guilt is such a subtle thing. Guilt can be so spiritualized. Guilt is a thing that we can put on someone else in such a spiritual way that they think it’s a conviction of the Holy Spirit, and we have to be very careful. In my particular ministry God has not given me an easy word for the body of Christ. He’s given me a very difficult word. There’s been many times I’ve just cried out and said, “God, why didn’t you just give me some nice things to say, some real comforting things?” But there’s a time and place for comfort and there’s a time and place for exhortation. But the problem is–in a very delicate balance–not taking things that we don’t like and putting guilt on people about them when it’s not the conviction of the Spirit, but it’s only our own personal…so maybe something we’re struggling with. I know a lot of preachers that will preach just hell-fire and damnation sermons about something, and they’re struggling with it themselves. So we have to be very careful, the word we hear and how it’s brought about.
He has declared us not guilty. Now he will save us from all God’s wrath to come [verse 9-10]. And since, when we were his enemies, we were brought back to God by the death of his Son, what blessings He must have for us now that we are His friends, and He is living within us!” The King James version uses the word, “atonement” [Romans 5:11] or “reconciliation.” [II Corinthians 5:I8-19] I love that word because to be reconciled means that God is not mad at us anymore.
Do you ever get to a place where you say, “God, do you like me? Are you mad at me?” God, once for all at the cross, put an end to His wrath against us because we were in darkness. It’s over with! There’s no more condemnation for us. There’s no more guilt. Guilt is not something that motivates people to serve God. Guilt is something that motivates people toward despair and failure. Satan is the guilty one, and so he naturally is the one that brings the guilt on the believer.
God Doesn’t Condemn You
Now conviction, that’s another thing. Well talk about that in a little while, but conviction and guilt are two different things. If you feel guilty about something and start to feel condemned, that’s not from God. I can tell you right away that’s not from God because God does not condemn His people. He doesn’t. That just the truth.
Roman 8:1 says it very clearly, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” And a lot of people misread that first and they say, “Well, yeah, if you’re walking after the Spirit instead of after the flesh, then there is no condemnation, but if you walk after the flesh, there’s condemnation.” That’s not what it’s saying. If you are in Christ Jesus, you are not walking after the flesh anymore. If you are in Christ you are walking after the Spirit and there is no condemnation. Not a little condemnation. None. Zero. No condemnation for those that are in Christ. That will set you free. That will set you free to serve God, not out of guilt. There’s a lot of people that serve God out of guilt and out of fear. “I don’t want to go to hell, so I guess I’ll serve God.” What a lousy reason to serve God. The only motivation to serve God should be the love that we extend back because we realize that He first loved us.
Roman 8:31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” There’s so many times when we’re out in the world, facing pressures–this has been one of those pressures weeks for me, where you don’t want to go to the bank because you’re afraid that the president could come and bite your head off. You’re afraid to get gas in your car because they’re gonna tell you you’re doing it wrong. You know what I’m saying? And you go home and you say, “Why are you doing this to me, God?” as if it’s His fault. And it’s easy when all those pressures start to happen and things start to fall apart, to just blame it on God and say, “You’re not for me. You’re working against me.” One of the prophets said that. One of the prophets said, “You act like you’re my enemy.” And sometimes we come to that place. But it’s clear, if God is for us, who can be against us? Nobody. And we need to have that confidence in Him. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” [Verse 32] This is my favorite portion of Scripture, Romans 8, this particular portion. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” [Verse 33]
Believer, I’m going to tell you something, if you’re condemning yourself, you’re crossing God’s will. Because if God is justifying you, who are you to say that you’re not justified in the sight of God? You’re sitting there saying, “Oh God, I’m so guilty.” God’s saying, “I’m justifying you. You’re working against me. I’m trying to love you through your problems. I’m trying to deliver you from the things that are binding you and you are stopping Me from doing that because you won’t let your hands off of the wounds. You make them worse with your own knife. You’re just digging it in, saying, ‘I’m condemned. God doesn’t love me. God can’t love me. I’m unlovable’.” And God’s saying, “No, I justified you and no one is higher than Me and if I haven’t condemned you, who are you to condemn you?”
[Verse 34-37] “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” This part is my favorite right here: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Not because the problems are absent, not because we are out of situations we’d like to get out of, but in the situation we are more than conquerors because the situation doesn’t move us. The situation doesn’t hinder the security that we have in Christ.
[Verse 38-39] “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Not even my own self-condemnation can separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. ~Psalm 103:12
God Loves You For Who You Are, Not For What You Do
The world’s love is based on works. You have to do things for people to get them to love you. God’s love is based on grace. And this is a very important portion here. We work for people’s love because we don’t think that we’re loveable if we don’t do something. We have to do something in order to make people like us. That’s just the way the system works. But this work trip that we get on comes from a feeling of being unworthy and having to prove that we deserve love from people and acceptance and being liked.
First to understanding we need to differentiate between the world’s love and God’s love, is that God loves us not for what we do. He doesn’t love us for what we do. It’s for who you are. It’s for what we are. Nothing more, nothing less, because He created us and He doesn’t despise anything that He creates. The works that we do in the flesh come from guilt, and I’m speaking particularly in relationship with God. I see a lot of Christians doing this and I’ve done it myself. I’ve had to be convicted of this this week. That we work for God, we want to do all the right things, say all the right things, don’t hurt anybody, don’t cross anybody. Thou shalt not 1 to 100. And the fact of the matter is that that actually motivates a person–here’s the guilt again. We try to work for God’s approval because we feel guilty for things we’ve done in our past that still haunt us and still make us feel like if we don’t make up for it somehow, God’s not going to fully approve of us. Thank God that God is not on an honor situation where, you know, a bell curve. “Let’s see how they did this week. See if they deserve a few blessings.” God does not work that way.
If you think that you can make yourself more worthy by doing works, you’ll become proud because you’ll think, “Well, if I am unworthy, but if I can work to be worthy, then I can really be worthy. And then God can’t tell anything bad about me because then I’ll really, really be worthy. And I’ll be able to say, “God, see everything I did for You.” And that turns into pride and that becomes legalism. That how you see a lot of legalistic people that tell everybody else how to live their lives, “Do this, do that. Taste not, handle not, touch not.” Because they think they’re better. Read through the stories of the Gospels and find so many things about the Pharisees. But you know, I learned something about the Pharisees. They’re too close to my heart to be comfortable for me. I used to point to it and say, “Oh those bad Pharisees. I’m so glad I’m not like them.” The Lord said, “Really?” By saying that you have proven that you’re closer to their corner than you think, because anytime we start thinking I’m glad that I’m not like somebody else, then we are guilty of that same sin. I used the word “guilt.” See, it’s a tricky little thing, isn’t it?
When we have this idea that we can earn God’s grace, earning equals deserving in our minds. And when we start to earn it we think, “Well, God has to love me. Look at all those neat things I did for Him.” And that’s a horrible bondage to put on yourself because what happens if you can’t do those things? Then you come under complete condemnation because you think, “Well, I was doing okay, but now I’m doing really bad so God must not approve of me.” Or fear also drives you to work. “If I don’t do the right things, God will send me to hell,” or “If I don’t obey all the Ten Commandments and all the laws in the prophets, then I’ll be in big trouble.”
What does the Scripture say? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself” and Jesus said, “On this hangs all of the law and the prophets.” “He that loveth hath fulfilled the law.” That’s why this element of understanding God’s love is so critically important. If you miss it, you’ve missed everything. If you grasp it, you’ve grasped everything; you’ve grasped the whole heart of the Gospel, the heartbeat of Almighty God toward us.
Understanding God’s Grace
A person who really understand grace and grace means “unearned or undeserved favor–free gift” rests in God’s love. They’re not out to work; they’re not out to do things for God. They’re out to rest in God’s love. And when you do that, then if God’s got something for you to do, you’re in a perfect position to do it. Otherwise, you’re out there trying to alleviate your guilt by doing nice things and you’re never hearing what God’s really wanting to say to you. And you may be missing some very important work–God’s work–not our works, but God’s work that He may have laid out for us to walk in and to do. I really believe that understanding the grace of God is a deterrent to sin. See, when you think that you can either earn or un-earn God’s love, then when you earn God’s love and you fail, then you think you’ve un-earned it and it’ll just make you want to sin because you think, “Well, I’ll never be what God wants me to be.”
The thing that caused me to walk the way God wanted me to be, even when I was in deep sin, was the fact that every time I sinned He would stand over my bed and say, “I still love you.” And it would just break me up. I’d think, “How can you still love me? How can you still love me after all this?” When I started to get that deep down in my heart, I didn’t want to go out and sin anymore, because if He loved me that much I knew that if I did turn and sin, it would hurt Him; that it would hurt His heart and that He would continue to love me. God’s love hurt me on the inside when I was sinning, but when I turned from that sin it wasn’t because “Well, I better stop doing that; God’s going to punish me.” It’s because He wouldn’t punish me. I would rather Him take the hammer down on me because then I could say, “Well, I deserved it.” But it’s something about the fact when somebody stands in front of you and says, “Look, no matter what you do or what you say, no matter how bad you’ve been, no matter what you do, I’m still going to love you.” It just destroys you. There’s just this complete sense of helplessness, and that’s exactly where God wants us to be. That puts you in the position of receiving the grace of God and then being able to walk in that anointing of the Spirit of God that breaks the yoke of bondage. It’s grace that breaks the yoke.
Christian, I’m going to tell you something. Somebody got real off base when they started preaching out of Galatians about the verse that says, “Ye have fallen from grace.” And I’ve heard so many preachers get up and say, “You’ve fallen from grace because you’re out there sinning, and that means you’re no longer in the grace of God.” And that is not what the verse is saying. Paul was talking to those that were into works. Paul was talking to those that thought they could earn their salvation. He said when you’re working for God’s favor you have fallen from grace. It’s not talking about sins. It’s talking about thinking you can do it yourself. When you do that, you cannot receive God’s grace. It puts a whole different light on it, doesn’t it?
Nothing You Can Do to Earn God’s Love
I think guilt is the biggest motivator to sin that I know of because guilt is an unbearable burden that makes you feel like, “There’s no way that I’m ever going to make it, so why don’t I just go out and live it up.” Let’s read Romans 4:4-5: “Now to him that worketh not, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” In other words if you’re working for your own salvation, then there’s a sense of debt in your heart, either that God owes you something or you owe God something you’re not able to pay. So a sense of debt.
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” The greatest act of faith you can perform is to believe that there’s nothing that you can do to earn God’s love. All you can do is walk in it. That’s an act of faith because you know that you’re justified not because of anything you did, or could do, ever–or are currently doing–but just because God decided to love you. Then you are righteous in His sight. You’re holy because you believe that God can do that and that He has done that on Calvary.
[Reads Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” ] You can’t be “good enough” for God, ever. All that you need right now, you have to be justified and holy in God’s sight. [The gift] isn’t free when it’s earned, so if you’re trying to earn God’s gift of grace and salvation and love, it’s not free, you can’t receive it as free. In your heart, there’s that sense of “payback” somehow.
Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. Now this next verse says, “For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Now I want you to see a process that God is laying out for us here. Doesn’t James say “faith without works is dead”? (James 2:17) Yes, it does, but the “faith” is believing that if you are in Christ and Christ is in and you are dwelling in love (“He that dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him.” – I John 4:16), then you understand what this is saying, that we were created in Christ for the purpose of good works, that we should walk in them. In other words, if you are dwelling in the love of God, right before your path will be that good work that God wants you to walk in. You are not inventing it. God is saying, “Here it is.” It’s not something that you are doing. It’s something that you are just walking into and allowing Him to do through you because Christ is the one that’s doing it through you. Do you understand that?
This whole thing that I am outlining to you brings an end to the American work ethic program. “You gotta earn your way through life.” “You gotta earn your keep.” “You don’t ever take anything free from nobody.” “No handouts.” “No welfare.” “No food stamps.” Well, that stinks as far as God is concerned. Not on a political level. I’m not talking politics. But we think, “I’m not going to take anything from God that I can’t earn or work for. I’ve got to be able to say that I did it myself.” And that’s nothing but stinking pride in the sight of God.
I’m sure you’ve all had this happen at Christmas. You get around the Christmas tree and you give somebody something and they say, “Oh, I can’t take that. You can’t… Oh no, no, you can’t. You shouldn’t.” Anybody ever had that happen to you? You know how much that hurts when somebody does that? It really hurts when somebody does that. But there’s nothing more beautiful for the person that’s giving than that the person that is to receive it, receives it and just says, “Thank you. That really means a lot to me.” That does not mean that you are not grateful. It means that you really understand what went into it because to receive a gift means that you care so much for the giver that you want them to get an equal joy out of being able to give it to you. And it’s the same way with God. It hurts Him so much when He wants to give us of Himself and we say, “God, I don’t deserve this. God, you really shouldn’t.” He just wants us to receive it and to bask in the light of that grace and love.
I want you to understand a principle. You may have to take it home and meditate on it, but it’s very important. God cannot love you more than He does right now. He will never love you anymore than He does right now because He loves you perfectly. He’ll never love you–do you hear me?–he’ll never love you anymore than He does right now. Not one bit more. But–He’ll never love you any less. Now think about that. Meditate on that. He will never love you any more, but He will never love you any less because He loves you perfectly. He loves you so much, He loved you before you were ever created. You were a thought in God’s mind trillions of billions of trillions of years ago. He saw you trillions of years ago in his heart. You were a thought of love in His mind and He loved you just as much then as He does now and He will love you just as much 15 trillion, billion years ago as He does right now. And if you understand that, folks, you will grasp and understand that to be perfectly loved is to be perfectly accepted and to receive that is life and it’s deliverance and it’s freedom to walk in that love and to give that love to other people. Because if God loved us that way, we need to be able to love each other in the same way.
I’ll never forget one time, I had a dear loved one of mine that I had raised in the Lord, who was very close to me, and he was in another part of the country. And someone called me long-distance to tell me some of the most hurtful, damaging, hateful rumors I’d ever heard. (Some of them had a ring of truth–it wouldn’t be a very good rumor if it didn’t have a ring of truth. All dirt has a speck of fool’s gold in it somewhere.) And when I heard what was being said, I had to accept the reality that maybe it was true. Maybe this person really did do all these awful things, maybe I had been deceived, and I was weeping before the Lord and I said, “God, even if that were true, even if they did all the things that I was told, I would not love them any less and I would believe in them the same way I did before.” And God said, “Greg, that’s exactly the way I feel about you.” And it just devastated me to realize that depth of love. God will never believe in me any less than He does right now. He will always believe in me and He will never–nothing I can do–can make Him not love me. And I’ve tested it out, folks. Not intentionally. But if anybody does not deserve to be here, I believe I can say with Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” I’m sure we could draw straws and take a vote. The reality is, we are all here because we don’t deserve God’s love, not because we do. Because if we deserve it, we had to get to the place where we deserved it, we’d all be back in the bars and in the world, doing our own thing, hurting people and destroying ourselves.
When you rest in God’s unconditional love, there’s no pride in your achievements. Did you hear that? There’s no pride when you achieve something. You can’t pat yourself on the back for it, but there’s no guilt in failure. That’s the glorious thing. There’s no guilt in failure. Please understand, when you sin, God is more ready to forgive you than you are to ask. You don’t have to go around for the next three months saying, “God, please forgive me, please forgive me.” The minute you ask you have received that forgiveness. It’s like I told you before. How many sins did you commit when Christ died? Zero, right? You weren’t born yet. If that’s true and He died for all the sins of the world, then that doesn’t mean that you are just forgiven for the sins that you commit up until the time you get saved and then you gotta be real careful. How many sins did He die for? All sins! Every sin you could commit, past, present and future, are paid for. That is propitiation. It is paid for. It was written above the cross. That ordinance that was written against us, is paid for in full, marked out, He took the whole thing. And if you understand that, you will never, ever, ever be proud about your accomplishments again. And you will never, ever, ever feel guilt for being under condemnation because you failed. When you understand that, then you can receive forgiveness immediately and feel the restoration of fellowship with God.1 I find people that don’t understand that concept are the ones that do tend to fail more. We all fail, but those that think they can earn it end up failing more than others. Those who really understand that they can’t earn it, as the Scriptures say in Proverbs, they shine more and more unto the perfect day.
God’s Love is Unilateral
Another aspect of the world’s love that I want to touch on is what I call payback or back-scratching. (“I’ll do this for you if you’ll do this for me.”) And we carry this on to God, “God, if you bless me, then I’ll have to do something for You in return.” Or, “If I do something for You, God, then You have to do this for me.” It’s another part of our works trip because we don’t understand the reality of the love of God. God’s love is not only unconditional, but it’s unilateral. It’s completely one-way blessing. He gives to us, not because we earn it or deserve it or manipulate or do the right things or say the right words. He does it because He wants to. And a lot of times we beg and plead and cry and groan and pound the Bible and shove it in God’s face to get Him to do things for us and He’s saying, “If you’ll just relax, I’d be able to do something for you. As long as you’re struggling, My hands are tied. As long as you are trying to force Me to do something, I can’t do anything for you because it wouldn’t mean anything to you. You’d think you did it yourself.” Isn’t that true? And if you understand this unilateral love of God and that it’s not a back scratching (“You tickle my fancy, and I’ll tickle yours”); it’s not that at all. The reality of it is, is that God’s gifts and blessings are not a sign of earning. It’s not a sign of achievement when God blesses you. On the other hand, His chastisement is not–or when He withholds something–is not a sign of punishment. Because when you understand the love of God, you understand, “When I’m blessed, I’m blessed.” What does the Scripture say? “The blessing of the God, it maketh rich and He addeth no sorrow to it.”
How many times do we get blessed and say, “Okay, God where’s the catch? I still have to struggle with that. That was a really neat blessing. I wonder how much that one is going to cost? No. When God blesses, He blesses because He wants to. And when He chastises and when He withholds blessings, or withholds something that we want, it’s not because He’s punishing us. It is actually an act of love. Can anyone say that you can determine what is best for you? Not me. I don’t know. Somebody might quote that Scripture and say, What about the Scripture that says, “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly?” That’s right. No good thing. Sometimes the things we think are good things are not what God thinks are good things. But if it’s from His perspective, really, no good thing, truly good thing, eternal value thing, will He withhold. And if He does withhold some thing, it’s because it’s not best, it’s not God’s best thing. And His best things sometimes come in packages and we wouldn’t exactly chose. Now we don’t quite understand–then we’re going to know. We’re going to be thankful for the things we’ve walked out. When you understand God’s desire to bless when we don’t deserve it and God’s chastisement not as a form of punishment, but a form of love, then that will be the full receiving of the love of God. If God just blessed us all the time and gave us everything we want, we would only know half of God’s love. We wouldn’t understand the full picture of God’s love.
God’s Love is a Walk, not a Work
I think the “faith by works” thing is really an enemy of God’s love and grace. If you think you can pump up your faith; if you can manipulate. Faith is a gifts, folks. It is a gift. And it is a fruit of the Spirit. I never saw a tree that struggled to grow apples. So if you are trying to work up some kind of faith (“If I just believe God enough, it will happen.”), that’s not faith, that’s witchcraft. But the thing is, faith is something that God implants in your heart. God puts it in here. When I have walked in faith and believed God for something, it has not been an effort. It has not been a struggle. It hasn’t been that kind of thing where I say, “I believe God, I believe God, I believe God,” and in my heart I’m saying, “Boy, I better say it right, or God’s not gonna answer my prayer.” I’m thankful God’s not like that, because that’s a plain and simple works trip of condemnation. Because what happens if you don’t have enough faith? “Boy, I’ve really failed.” And then what happens? Condemnation. Many of us have been through that. It doesn’t work that way. Faith is a gift of the Spirit. And faith is a fruit of the Spirit that comes as we walk in love. What does faith work by? Love. It is faith that works by love. Why? Because when you understand and receive the love of God, it’s not a work. It’s a walk.
Understand the difference. God implants the faith. God gives you the object of faith to believe for and then God grants the grace to believe for it and to receive the actuality of it. It has nothing to do with anything you can do. God is not playing games with the hearts of His children. God is not a big heavy trip on you and saying, “Well, if you would just have good enough faith, then I just might be inclined to listen to you. But if you don’t, well, I just haven’t got time. I’ve got to go tend to these people who have faith.” That is so far from the concept and actuality of the love of God. I just can’t even impress upon you enough. When you rest in love, then faith is no longer a work of the flesh that we pump up. There again, it’s trying to get God’s approval. “I just want God to approve of my life, so I’ll do all the right things, because if I don’t, He’ll bring down the hammer or He’ll take everything away, just like He did with Job.” That’s nonsense and I hurt for Christians who have been brought under this bondage. Just receive God’s love and then you’ll know.
I’ve been going through this thing this week. That’s why I’m speaking this way about it. I’ve been asking God in prayer for something and it’s a pretty big thing I’m asking for. I mean it’s way over my head. And I’m saying, “God, I know you’re big enough” and I catch myself every morning when I get up, saying, “Now, did I remind God enough that I really want this?” What do the Scriptures say? He knows before we even ask, what the petitions of our heart are. And we can rest in that. I think we are really afraid if we don’t do this. That kind of faith is motivated from fear. “If I don’t do the right things, I’m afraid God won’t answer my prayers.” But if our earthly fathers know how to give us good gifts, how much more will our Heavenly Father give of His Spirit to His children? All you have to do is ask. It’s real important that we understand that because I want condemnation to be off of us. And anything that speaks of a “work” in that respect concerning faith is condemnation. It is not receiving of the love of God.
This kind of back-scratching, “Okay, God, I will give a hundred dollars if you will give me a thousand dollars.” Or, “I’ll go out and save somebody if you’ll save my grandmother,” if that happens, then that back-scratching, that payback that we have with God, leads to demanding from God. “God, You promised that You would do this and that.” I can’t think of anything that would hurt a father more than to want to give his child something and to have his child come up to him and say, “You promised you would give it to me, Dad, now give it to me.” Can you imagine how much that would hurt a father? Well, that is how much it hurts God and even more. He wants to bless us! And we stop Him because we demand like little, impetuous children. He just wants us to love Him and to be at His feet and to ask and to receive and to know that when we’ve prayed–prayer is so simple, when we’ve asked anything, in accordance with His will, He will do it. And if we pray and say, “God, I don’t have the judgment on this. If You want me to have this; if you want this to happen, thank you, in advance it will happen. And if you don’t, I’m going to bless You and praise you anyway.” Then you can rest. That’s security. You don’t have to worry to get God to answer you. He’s so willing. That’s what I want you to see. He’s closer to us than we can even imagine in our hearts, in that willingness to give to us of His Spirit and of His love.
The World’s Indulging Love
The world’s love is an indulging love. It’s a kind of love that accepts any behavior as long as it doesn’t hurt you or inconvenience you and as long as the person keeps on liking you or loving you. And we do that with a lot of people. We say, “Well, I’m just trying to accept the person.” What we are really thinking is, “Well, if I draw the line with him…” Particularly when it’s dealing with believers that may be caught up in one sin or another, when we know because the Scriptures say if we see somebody that’s in sin and we don’t warn them, it’s a very serious thing. And a lot of people approach others on the avenue of, well, we want to be accepting, and at the same time we are accepting the behavior, which is really not love. We always accept the person, but we should never accept sinful behavior in our lives or anyone else’s. We don’t condemn the person, but we don’t accept that behavior. There’s a big difference. And the world’s indulging love says, “Just do whatever you want, just as long as you don’t hurt anybody.”
Well, you can’t do that. Somebody always gets hurt when you do your own thing. Always. And other reason we do that, even as Christians, when we see somebody that is doing something sinful and we don’t say anything–and, of course, that’s a very careful area, we have to be very careful with, because we can’t just go around pointing out people’s sins. Because every time you point one finger at somebody else, you have three fingers pointing back at you. We should be motivated to help people away from sin because we see that they are being hurt, not because it’s a pet peeve. But when that happens, that’s true love. And a lot of times we won’t point out a sin that we see or we won’t try and exhort a person on it because we are harboring our own sins that we feel guilty about and we think, “Well, if I point out their sin, then God’s gonna start really coming down on me.” And here’s that element of guilt again. I’ve done it myself. I’ve seen somebody that’s doing something and I say, “I gotta say something,” and then I think, “I better not because if I start telling that person what’s wrong with then, God is going to come down and really take me to task.” Guilt. Rotten, stinking guilt.
You all know the Scripture, so I’m not going to read it, but it’s Hebrews 12:5-11: “Those that God loves He chastises and scourges every son that He receives.” If you are not being chastised, then that is a good indication that you are probably not in the family of God. That’s God’s Word. That’s definitely not my word, that’s the Word of the Lord. And in Revelation 3:19, Jesus said to the church, “Those that I love, I rebuke and chastise.” Now God’s love is a disciplining love. A no good father is a father that lets his children do anything they want, take over the house.
I think Dr. Spock did more damage to child rearing than anybody in the last five million years. “Let your children express themselves.” I have an aunt and uncle that are in show business. We went over there one time and the little boy was just scribbling all over their bedroom wall with lipstick and ink and my Aunt Jane was just going, “Isn’t he just cute?” Lady, you have mental struggles. I can tell right now that you really need help, to let somebody do that. That’s not love. And a lot of this is an area that I particularly think that mothers have to be careful with because a lot of times if they are insecure in their hearts, then they allow the child to go to great lengths without stopping them because they’re afraid of rejection themselves. And it’s so important that you don’t judge your child rearing on the basis of, “What will they do? Will they still like me? Will they still love me?” It’s something you do because you know they don’t know better and if you let them run wild, then they will take it as far as you will let them. And I believe that rebellion in children is a cry for boundaries. Did you catch that? And God’s love for us brings discipline, because He knows that if we just go our own way–God’s just “Santa Claus” to us–then we’ll destroy ourselves. We’ll be spiritual imps and infants in the life to come. And God loves us too much to allow us to do that.
The World’s Weakening Love
The world’s love is a weakening love. The world’s love is the kind of love that it’s sloppy agape, as they call it. It’s an emotional thing. But God’s love is deeper than that. God’s love is a strengthening thing. The world’s love is a sheltering love. If I’ve had to learn one thing as a spiritual father, it’s been this, do not shelter those you love from hard things. Press them right out into the cold, because that is where they will get the strength they need to survive. As I shared with you before, what good parent would keep their child home from school until they were thirty, because they are afraid of them getting hurt? That’s a weakening love and Amy Carmichael wrote one of my favorite poems. This verse has been going through my head for several weeks now and I can’t get rid of it. It says:
From love that seeks, that I may be
Sheltered from the storms that beat on Thee
Oh Lamb of God, deliver me
And God would not want that we should be sheltered from the storms that beat on His own Son, because as He is, so are we in this world, and we will walk in that path. I don’t want to be sheltered anymore. There was a time when I did. “God, why can’t I have all my warm fuzzies? It seems like every time I turn away, you are taking something away from me.” Yeah, I’ve had a few pacifiers taken away, but if I didn’t, I doubt if I would still be walking with the Lord today. I thank God that He did not shelter me from the storms that beat on His own Son. That’s a strengthening love.
The world’s love is an outward love. The world’s love is based on behavior, status, money, the kinds of friends you have, popularity, beauty, how witty you are, how clever you are, what kind of skills and abilities you have, and the tragic thing is, my friends, is that this goes right into the realm of church circles. If you ever want to go to a beauty pageant, just show up on church Sunday morning. Everybody is dressed to kill–for the Lord, of course. They kind of flash in the front door, praising the Lord, and hoping everybody is going to notice their new high heel shoes, or whatever. Let’s face it, what is the church circle that we know most commonly based on? Success. How successful are you? Wealth. We put the people that got the most money on the front pews. Just like James said not to do. Popularity. The people that are the most popular in the church remain the most popular. It’s the loners that still sit there and hurt, service after service after service.
Like I’ve told you before, the most tragic thing for me is to preach at a service and the people that make it up to the front first for prayer or to talk are the people that need it the least usually. They’re the ones that want to come up and say, “Oh, I love your preaching. You’re so cute.” Not really, but you know what I’m saying. But it’s the people that need it the most who hang on the back of the building hurting, desperate, lonely. But the successful ones made it to the front first. The people that are rich and full and fat and spiritually lazy, that need it the least, that consume the time that could be spent on those that are hurting the most. The church is no different than the world, almost everywhere I go. It runs on the same stinking immoral values and it’s got to change. It’s based on beauty; it’s based on outward nice things. There’s no room for outcasts; there’s no room for losers. How many people want to have a church full of losers? I mean if you asked all the pastors in the world, “How many of you want a church full of losers?” Not many. I want a church full of losers. If I was ever to be a pastor, give me the ones that are struggling, give me the ones that are hurting, because those are the ones that God wants.
You’ve heard Jesus’ story how the man called out for the banquet, said go out and call the people. And one man says, “Well, I can’t come, I have to tend to my wife.” Another one says, “I can’t come, I have to take care of my cow.” The other one says, “Well, I can’t come because I have a field I have to take care of.” And the master says, “Fine, they don’t want to come, let ’em go. They will never get into this banquet. Go out to the highways and byways and the hedges and compel them to come. Tell them the door is still open. Get the lame and the blind and the halt and the crippled and the ruined and the broken and invite them to come.” Those are the ones God’s heart seeks after. I’m going to tell you something. Those often that have the outward beauty are the most miserable and ugly people inside. Not always. But many times, those that think, “Boy, I’m really something special.” You get down on the inside of them; they’re a big fat zero. And they know it, and that’s why they have to spend so much time on themselves, because they don’t think of anything in their own hearts, they don’t think they’re anything. That’s right. The more time you spend on your personal appearance, folks, that’s a real strong indication of how little you think of yourself on the inside.
Hurting People Need to Be Accepted
I really believe that we as a church, that we reject the handicapped and the sick a lot of times for two reasons: out of guilt and fear. It’s one thing to want to see people healed because we have compassion. It’s another thing to want to do it because they embarrass us and God help us if we have that kind of a heart, if we feel guilty. “How come I’m healed and they’re not? So I better pray for them, because they better get healed; otherwise I’m going to feel guilty because I’m not sick, I’m not crippled, I don’t have problems like them.”
The other motivation is fear. I’ve seen this so many times; at Bible school it used to drive me crazy. My friend was deaf and I learned sign language specifically because I wanted to befriend him because I saw so many people going up to him and praying for him. “Brother, the Lord told me He’s gonna heal you.” And they’d turn to me and say, “Interpret that for him.” And this happened time and time again, and there was no healing. And finally my friend just said, “Tell them not to pray for me anymore, because I’m tired of them doing it because they’re embarrassed by me.” We had a deaf ministry at that school that the administration wouldn’t even acknowledge, because deaf people are supposed to be healed. So they ignored those hurting people. We want people to come up to our level. Folks, it’s time for the church of Jesus Christ to go down to the level of the people where they are at. Don’t seek for a deaf person to be healed. Love him and communicate with him first. You say you love him enough to be healed? Love him enough to know how to talk to them. You say you want a person that’s blind to be healed? Learn him enough to know his needs as a blind person, to know what’s happening on the inside of him. Then you can say that you love that person and not until.
But there’s that fear. Why? Because we see someone that has a physical malady or problem or handicap and we think, “I really want them to be healed, because what if God does that to me? What if all of a sudden, I wake up that way?” And it makes us uncomfortable because the ways of God are not our ways. What did Jesus say? He says, “You think you are any more holy that the people that the tower of Siloam fell on?” Jesus’ whole point was, the tower fell because it fell, not because they were sinners and you didn’t get out of getting killed by the tower because you’re righteous. So many times we see a tragedy and we think, “Well, they did something to deserve that,” or “They must have really sinned.” Folks, let me tell you something. Some times things just happen. And we don’t need to look at world events and make some kind of spiritual judgment. That’s what Jesus was saying. He says that the tower of Siloam fell because it fell. Period. And people are handicapped because they’re handicapped.
The disciples went through this. I think the disciples went to some of our Bible schools. “Lord, who sinned? This man or his parents?” He was born blind. “It had to be somebody’s fault. We have to be able to explain this. Jesus said, “Neither did this man or his parents sin, but that God might be glorified in him.” It didn’t have anything to do with who sinned and who didn’t. The fact is, here he is now, blind, and God is going to work through his circumstance. He’s a God that works through our present circumstances. If it’s healing, it’s healing. If it is continuing in the distress, we continue, that God is glorified and magnified no matter what. And I really believe that it’s time for the church to understand that God’s love is different than that kind of outward flashy, showy, set-up that we’ve set before us. God is concerned with what’s in your heart, not what you look like, not what you smell like, not how you’re dressed, not how much money you’ve got, not how successful you are, not any of that stuff. But with who you are in your heart.
Many outwardly successful people are miserable failures. I have to point to this. A dear brother in the Lord, outwardly successful man that committed suicide this week. On the outside he was successful, enormously successful his whole life, but something on the inside was so failing, so hurting that it had to end this way for him. We can’t go by what’s on the outward anymore. We need to be able to recognize the signs of people like that who are hurting. No matter how many smiles they put on, no matter how many good impressions they are going to make, we need to pray for God’s eyes and look right to the heart and see what’s in there, just as Jesus did.
[I Corinthians 1:26] “You see your calling brethren how that not many wise after the flesh, not many noble are called, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. The things that are weak to confound those things that are strong.” So you want to know the truth? Whether you are successful or not successful, whether you are pretty or ugly or whatever, we’re all a bunch of losers (not for Christ). God picked a pretty motley bunch with us and He knew exactly what He was doing. Right?
I think it is important we see this because we as the church, if we only accept those who are acceptable and love those who are loveable, we are missing out on so many blessings. I have a friend that probably the world would reject. He’s got a lot of problems. But he’s been such a blessing to me just in sharing and relating. Just because I took the time, I saw something deep inside of him. And this is the way we need to see each other and ourselves, not for what we are, but for what we’re to become. For the end result of that dream. Now we can struggle through the immediate problems. We can say there are problems right now, but praise the Lord, like the sign, “God isn’t finished with me yet.” He’s not. But we can know that He that has begun a good work in us shall complete that work [Phil. 1:6] and we can see what we are to become and rest in what we presently are.
Gifts From Those That Were Outwardly Unsuccessful
Some of the greatest gifts that have been given to the world in the church are people that we wouldn’t have accepted.
Helen Keller, deaf, blind. It’s one thing to be blind or deaf, but to be both? Can you imagine the darkness? That woman could see, she could hear because someone took the time to care.
Amy Carmichael. I keep referring to her because I just happen to think her writings are some of the most profound things I’ve read. At the dawn of her mission in India for pretty close to 55 years, before she died [she] spent 20 years unable to get out of bed, unable to move out of bed, and she wrote her deepest, spiritual works during that period.
Fanny Crosby. “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine, Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.” [hymn] Blind. Would she have written those things had she not been able to see? Not with these eyes. It was something more. I’m not saying to be blind is a blessing, but I’m saying living with the reality of things can be if you can learn. For the child of God there are no handicaps.
Abraham Lincoln. I’m sure you’ve heard the story. He must have lost twenty races for different things, for the senate, congressman, failed in his first business, had so many failures. Then all of a sudden, one day, he was the President, and probably I would have to say the most beloved President the United States has ever had, even in the world.
Joseph we would have considered a failure his first few years of life. He ended up going into prison for years.
Jesus. We would have considered him a failure if we looked at the outward. He was the Son of God. He ended up a criminal on a cross as far as the world was concerned, rejected, despised.
Paul. We would have considered him a failure. We have 2/3 of the New Testament because Paul was a failure in the eyes of the world, but a great success in the eyes of God.
Understand that and see that for yourself, will you? No matter what you think your handicaps are, no matter what you think your own personal problems are, that if you are walking in the Spirit of Christ, you are a success in God’s eyes.
Understanding God’s Love Brings An End to Guilt
The world’s love is a changing love. The world’s love is an insecure love. You never can count on it. Even as believers we can’t always count on each other. If that was true, we wouldn’t need God. God’s love is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, forever. [Heb. 13:8] That is security. What did Jesus say? “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the age.” [Matt. 28:20] How many believe that we are at the end of the age, or real close? I believe that. If that’s the truth, then He’s going to fulfill His promises in a way that we’ve never experienced before. What does this all mean for us? What am I trying to say to you? I’m trying to say that really understanding the love of God brings an end to guilt in our lives.
Guilt and conviction are two entirely different things. When conviction comes, it’s a gentle voice of love that may say you’re wrong, or you need to repent, or this is a sin in your life, but it’s not the kind of devil-oriented stuff of “You idiot, you’ve really blown it. You’re a jerk. What’s wrong with you? You’re a loser. You’ll never make it. God doesn’t love you anymore. You’ve got a big wart on your nose.” You know what I’m saying? Anything that even sounds like that is not God. We are not appointed unto wrath, but unto eternal life. And if that’s true, we know His voice and it’s a voice that, folks, even in its sternest is the most love-filled voice I’ve ever heard.
There is No Fear in Love
Guilt brings fear and that brings disaster because fear is a magnetic attraction to disaster. And, as I’ve said before, I think there’s more to the verse that says, “The thing that I’ve feared has come upon me” than we realize. When fear is a motivational drive in your life, you will attract the things that fear you. I find this happening to me. I had an experience this week with my apartment manager. I had to give notice after three months and I had a six-month lease. “Oh, she’s gonna kill me.” And from the day I met the lady I was kind of, “Don’t hurt me.” She just a very hard-lined businesswoman and I knew I had to break my lease. So I went in and I said, “I think I’m gonna have to break my lease.” She said, “What? Speak up!” “I’m gonna have to break my lease.” She said, “Well, Okay, are you going to be able to stay thirty days?” I said, “Well, I’ll try….” I got through that ordeal, went home and collapsed for a couple of hours. And that night I was praying through most of the night and the next morning I woke up and the Lord made it very clear to me that I was only to stay until the 15th. I said, “Come on, I have to go back into her office and tell her that?” But there was a sense of faith and a sense of confidence. I said, “God, I’m not even going to listen to the fear,” and I walked right into her office, gave her the papers and said, “I’m sorry, I can only stay ’till the 15th.” She goes, “Oh, well, that’s Okay, just as long as you can pay that much rent. That’s fine.” Just as sweet as molasses.
And I learned something through that. And this is not any kind of reproach on my manager, please understand this, Okay? One thing I know about animals, particularly dogs, the thing that will make a dog attack a human is fear. When that animal knows that you are afraid of him, he’ll attack you. Now, as we were children of this world, living among those who are children of darkness, operating on animalistic instinct, when they sense that you are afraid or guilty or intimidated, they’re gonna move right in on you and run you over. But when we know who is our defense and our life and our stronghold, I shall not be afraid of any man. I will not be afraid of what a man shall do unto me. The fear of man brings a snare. And that kind of guilt and fear–folks, don’t apologize for being alive, I know you’ve all had those kinds of days. You know, you get up in the morning and say, “Pardon me for living.” “Okay, but don’t let it happen again.” God doesn’t want us to have that operating in our life. He wants us to walk in confidence and when you understand the full range of grace and love and forgiveness, you can walk in confidence and that will bring favor in your every endeavor as you walk through this life.
God’s Deep Love For Us
Finally, a couple of Scriptures that will put the cap on what I’ve been trying to say to you. I John 4:10, and I love this verse. It’s got to be one of my favorites in the Bible, if not my very favorite. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” We didn’t love Him, but real love is indicated by the fact that when we didn’t love Him, He loved us and paid the price for our sins anyway. Verse 18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear because fear has torment.” Fear carries with it the element of punishment. And if you walk, thinking that God is going to punish you, you’re not walking in love. “He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” Verse 19: “We love him, because he first loved us.
Jeremiah 31:3: “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying,–[and write this on your heart]–Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Our Father is a loving, gentle Father. He does not want to hurt us. Even the times when we think we are being hurt by God, it is only because He loves us and He is drawing us to Himself in lovingkindness.
Zephaniah 3:17. I love this verse. “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will–[this will do wonders for your self-image]–he will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over you with singing.” I used to imagine myself as little baby, being lullabied to sleep by God Himself.
Hosea 14:4. This is perhaps a word for some of you maybe who have sinned or done something that you’re ashamed of, or from God this is special word for you. “I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely.” God is saying to you tonight, whoever you are that this is speaking to. No matter what you’ve done, God is going to heal that backsliding and love you freely and openly. He’s not ashamed of his love for you. He’s not ashamed to call you His own.
John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I may have told you this story before; I don’t even know if it’s a true story, but please indulge me if you have heard it. The man who was kind of the manager of the train trestle that went over a river and the boats would come up and he would lift the train trestle and the boat would go through; train would come over and he would lower the trestle and the train would go over. Well, one day while his son was down playing underneath the train trestle and the train trestle was up, a train was coming by that was unexpected. And his son was underneath the train trestle. And he had a choice. He could either lower the train trestle and kill his son or rescue his son and see hundreds of people on this train killed. And in that split decision he decided to lower the train trestle and kill his own son, so that all those people that didn’t even know whose blood was shed under that train trestle could go and be free from death.
Some of you say, “God, prove you love me.” Take a look at the cross. That’s the proof. All that God ever loves you or ever will, you’ll find at Calvary. That is God’s love statement. Jesus said, “I love you this much.”
By Gregory Reid
Transcribed by AJW
Exit & Support Network™]|
Footnote by ESN:
1Christians are not “in fellowship” and then “out of fellowship.’ When Christ Jesus died, He died for all our sins, past, present and future; therefore, He does not hold them against us anymore. The sin question is now over.