The Father’s Love for His Children
By Steven J. Hogan
There’s no greater subject than the love of God. As Christians, we’re extremely blessed to know God and to be loved by Him. But God is not just the Lord, the Creator, the Ruler of all things – He is our heavenly Father, a perfect Father, an eternal Father, a most loving Father. In Psalm 63:3, David speaks of the supremacy of our Father’s love when he says, “Your lovingkindness is better than life.” Did you get that? The love that our heavenly Father has for us is greater than anything else in this world, greater than a good meal, greater than a good friend, greater than marriage, greater than a good job, greater than going on vacation, greater than watching your favorite movie, and greater than anything you possess or could ever own.
My concern for the church is that we don’t know and believe the love of God like we should. Now I’m not talking about knowing it in your head, but knowing it in your heart, knowing specifically what God’s Word says about His love, and knowing it in such a way that it dramatically, totally, and forever changes your life. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and then you are to love one another. But only as your heart is filled up with the love of God will you then be able to rightly and passionately do this. “We love because God first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
It is important to know that it is only through God’s Word that you can know about God’s love. Your understanding of God’s love does not come from your own thinking or your own ideas. It does not come from the world, and it’s wrong ways of thinking. It does not come from some false religion, and it does not come from the book of Mormon, or the Koran or some other false teaching. The truth about God’s love comes only from God’s Word. That is why it’s imperative to read God’s Word, God’s love letter to you. Let me share some thoughts about the love of our heavenly Father.
GOD IS LOVE
“God is love.” 1 John 4:16. Love is who God is, it is His very essence. When we talk about God we have to first know that He is love. To say that love is who God is, that God is love, is I believe, the most important way to define love. In this verse love is a noun, and because God is love (a noun), then He loves (a verb), and He is loving (an adjective). God is love, and this is who He is. God loves and that is what He does. God is loving and this is what He is like.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD’S LOVE
As believers we need to know that God’s love is foundational to and specifically related to His attributes. That is, God’s love is the heart, the reason, and the motivation for other aspects of His character. Let me share some examples:
– God is powerful and He uses His power to show you His love.
– God is omniscient, He knows everything, and He uses His omniscience to love you.
– God is omnipresent, and He uses the fact that He is always present with you to love you.
– God is patient, and He uses His patience to love you.
– God is compassionate, and He uses His compassion to love you.
– God is wise, and He uses His wisdom to love you.
– God is forgiving, and He uses His forgiveness to love you.
– God is truth, and He uses His truth to love you.
– God is holy, and He uses His holiness to love you.
We could also say it this way, that God’s love is the reason and motivation for His power, for His omniscience, for His patience, wisdom, forgiveness, truth, etc.
We see then this intimate relationship between the fact that God is love with other aspects of His character. And it is these other attributes that help to further describe the love that God has for you. They are like adjectives giving you more details about God’s love. We can speak of God’s powerful love, His patient love, His compassionate love, His truthful love, His wise love, etc. And all these attributes harmonize together, expressing themselves in God’s loving work in your life, and in the entirety and the eternality of your salvation, your past justification, your present sanctification and your future glorification. Might it be abundantly and supremely clear to you that God does nothing for you apart from His love for you.
THE LOVE OF GOD IS BASED ON THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST
There is this great distinction between God’s love and God’s justice. Before you were saved you couldn’t experience your Father’s love, for you weren’t His child, for you were a sinner deserving of God’s wrath. But “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16. God’s Word tells you that Jesus Christ experienced God’s justice and wrath for you. Therefore, because God is loving, because Christ died for you, because you repented of your sins and believed in Christ alone, then you are forgiven of your sins, and you will never then experience God’s justice and wrath. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10. God could then forgive you because He was satisfied with what Christ did for you. God’s justice was poured out on His Son so He could then pour out His love on you. The love that God wanted to bestow upon you could only be obtained through the death and resurrection of His Son. Only through Jesus Christ can you know God and His love for you. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
THE INFLUENCE OF GOD’S LOVE ON YOUR LIFE
God’s love for you is to be a controlling and constraining influence in your life, and this is a very good thing. This love, this central and most important part of His being, relates to everything that He does for you. Let me give you some examples: God’s love for you moved Him to save you – Ephesians 1:4. God’s love for you moved Him to have His Son, Jesus Christ, die for you – Romans 5:8. God’s love for you moved Him to make you a child of God – 1 John 3:1. God’s love for you moved Him to give you eternal life – John 3:16.
This great and awesome love of God affects everything He does for you, and should then affect everything you do. God’s love for you should motivate you to love others – 1 John 3:16. God’s love for you should affect how you use your time – 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. God’s love for you should affect the decisions you make and the things you do – Philippians 1:9-11. God’s love for you enables you to be fruitful, to have a positive effect on the lives of other people – John 15:1-7. It is God’s love that influences and impacts your life more than anything else in the world.
SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD’S LOVE
God love is eternal. You have eternal life, and this means that you will be loved eternally by God. You can’t really grasp this truth, but it is true. There is no end to this love that God has for you. It is a love that is forever and ever, and that is because God is eternal, and therefore He will eternally love you. The One who is the Lord of all, the God who made this universe, and the One who made you, eternally loves you. Psalm 136 – “His love is everlasting.”
God’s love is continuous. It is not just that God’s love for you is eternal, but that God’s love for you is continuous – there are no gaps or breaks in His love for you. God does not love you for just eight hours a day, or for just three days a week. He does not love you one minute and then not love you the next minute. God loves you all the time. In geometry you can talk about a series of points, but God’s love for you is not defined by a series of points, even though you may sometimes think and feel that He loves you that way. God’s love for you can be illustrated by a line, by a solid, continuous and never ending line. God loves you every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year… God never stops loving you. He always loves you. And He will always, continually love you. Psalm 136 – “His love is…”
God’s love is unconditional. The love that God has for you is based on God’s will to save you and His work in saving you – it is not at all based on your will or your work. In fact, there’s nothing you did to deserve God’s love, and so there is nothing you can do to cause God to take His love away from you. God’s love for you is by grace and not by works. This is a wonderful and amazing truth, that God will always and forever love you, and there is nothing you can do to change it, for it’s not what you did but what God did for you and will continue to do for you. God loved you and He will always love you. And that is because of Jesus Christ, because of what He did for you in taking away all your sins. Therefore, God is completely satisfied with Christ’s payment for your sin, and therefore has all the reason to love you, and no reason not to love you. You are not only forgiven but you are also righteous, and righteous as Christ, and therefore you are loved like God the Father loved Christ His Son. Not only that, but God forever sealed you with His Holy Spirit. This is truly good news, the best news there is. “It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy… So then He has mercy on whom He desires.” Romans 9:16, 18. “Just as the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love.” John 15:9
God’s love is sufficient. I mean by this that you don’t need any more love than that which God gives you. You don’t need love from anyone else. You should not look for love from someone else. You should not seek to be loved by anyone else. You may think you need love from others but you don’t. And if you think you need love from others, then it is because you have not sufficiently received love from God. God is always showing you His love, and wants you to experience His love and to receive His love all the time. You may want to be loved by others, you may desire the affection, kindness and compassion of others, but you must not seek it – you must seek love from God, and see then that God’s love will do. It is truly sufficient. You need to ask for God’s love and expect His love, and not because you deserve it, but because God really wants to give it to you. This does not mean that God will not show His love to you through the lives of others, for as you are involved with other believers, then God will most always show His love to you. The point here is that God wants you to see that His love for you is sufficient, however you may receive that love. “The Lord is my portion… may your love comfort me… may your compassion come to me that I may live.” Psalm 119:57, 76-77
God’s love is satisfying. God has loved you and He will love you, for you are His child, and He wants you to be satisfied, to be content with His love, to be enjoying His love, to be filled up with love. As an unbeliever you went after things and people in the world to be satisfied. And you always came up empty, unsatisfied, unfulfilled and disappointed. Might you not go back to your old ways – might you not be deceived by the world, the flesh or the devil. By faith, might you go after God and seek Him and His love day after day. The Psalmist prayed it well, “Satisfy me in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, and then I will sing for joy and be glad all my days.” Psalm 90:14. You needto ask God to satisfy you with His love, and He will answer your prayer.
God’s love is perfect. There are no flaws, no blemishes, no imperfections in God’s love. God’s love is altogether pure and holy, perfect in every way. And because God’s love is perfect then it is sufficient for you, and can satisfy you, and your greatest spiritual needs. God’s perfect love is perfect for you. In His wisdom, God knows how to perfectly love you now and forever. This means that God’s love for you is never deficient, never lacking, and is always able then to comfort you, encourage you, sustain you, and satisfy you. This too is a wonderful and marvelous truth, that God’s love for you is always perfect, and always perfect for you. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts.” Isaiah 6:3
God’s love is holy. The love that God has for you is holy in that it is unique, different than any person’s love for you. You must see this or else you will easily seek the love of man. God’s love is so great, so supreme, so wonderful, so perfect, so good, so satisfying – it is a heavenly love and not an earthly love, and you need to know this heavenly and holy love of your Father while you live on this earth. The love of God for you is also holy in that you need to be holy to fully know the love of God. Hebrews 12:6 talks about how the Father disciplines His child. “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines.” And why? Because the Father loves you and knows that only as you are holy will you be able to know the full expression of His love. “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
God’s love is infinite. There is no limit to God’s love, to the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for you. It surpasses knowledge, it surpasses comprehension, for it literally is infinite. You never need to fear that there is not enough of God’s love for you. You never need to think that there are too many people in the world for God to love, and that His love will run out when He gets to you. There’s more than enough love for you and for everyone else in the world. Just as there is more than enough water for a child’s little pail at the ocean’s edge, so too there is more than enough love for you and everyone else in the world. “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:11
God’s love is personal. God knows how to personally love you. The love God has for you is tailored for you – it is designed and personalized for you – it is just what you need. God knows you inside and out. God knows your past, the things you went through growing up. He knows of any deficiencies in your upbringing. He knows your personality, your weaknesses, your sins and temptations. There is no one else like you in the world, and He knows just how to love you. His love for you today is what you need today. His love for you tomorrow is what you will need tomorrow. Might you be thankful that God’s love for you is both personal and perfect. “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 13:1
SOME WAYS THAT GOD SHOWS HIS LOVE TO YOU
God’s love for you is shown in so many ways. I want to share some of the ways God manifests His love to you. This is important that you are fully aware of His love for you, that you know this love, that you see this love, that you experience this love, that you feed on this love, that you are encouraged and strengthened by this love that God has for you.
Forgiveness. One of the greatest ways you are loved by God is that He has forgiven you of all your sins. Because of the work of Christ on the cross in paying for your sins, because of the work of the Spirit in your heart, and because of your faith in Christ and in what He did for you, then you are forgiven. You are forgiven of all your sins, past, present and future. You are forgiven of little sins and big sins. You are forgiven of sins in your thoughts, words and actions. You are forgiven of unseen sins, of unknown sins. You are forgiven of sins of commission and omission. This truly is one the most amazing and refreshing aspects of God’s love, that He completely and totally forgives you. Therefore, you have no reason to ever feel distant from God, or think God is against us, for God is always a forgiving and loving Father. “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
Adoption. We live in a world where there are many dysfunctional families, and where there are many dysfunctional fathers, fathers not functioning in a godly and righteous way. And oftentimes children have no fathers, or their fathers are absent. Therefore, one of your greatest needs is to have a heavenly Father, to have One who is never absent, who is always with you, who deeply loves and cares for you, who protects you and who provides every one of your needs. This is a most wonderful way that God shows you His love, for as a Christian you have been adopted by God into His own family, and have become His child, His precious child. Now you have a heavenly Father, a spiritual Father, an eternal Father, a perfect Father, the most loving Father. “In love, God predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself.” Ephesians 1:4-5
Compassion. Each of you have trials and temptations, physical problems and spiritual problems, internal struggles and relational struggles, and sickness and illnesses. Your Father knows that you are needy, that you are living in this physical body that is but flesh, that gets weak and tired, that is daily tempted to sin, that gets worn out with age. A good mother has a strong love and strong feelings for her child, but how much more so is your heavenly Father like this to you. You don’t realize the great feelings and emotions God has for you. And so God shows His love by being compassionate towards you. He feels when you are hurt; He’s concerned when you are troubled, when you go through trials, when you are tempted; He sympathizes and empathizes with your weaknesses. Indeed this is a very important aspect of God’s love for you, that He is genuinely concerned for you, that He really cares for you, and that He has great compassion for you. “Just as a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13
Protection. As a Christian you are in a great spiritual battle, a great spiritual fight against a wicked, ruthless and unseen enemy, one who hates you and is against you much more than you realize. God is fully aware of every aspect of your spiritual battles, of how you are being attacked, of the specific temptations you are encountering, of the schemes Satan is devising against you. And He’s watching over you, protecting you in ways that you don’t even realize. This protection is by means of God’s Word, by means of the Spirit, by means of the angels, and by means of the church. This protection also results from the fact that Jesus Himself is personally praying for you. He prayed for Peter when he was being viciously attacked by Satan, and He also prays for you. Don’t be naïve about the battle that rages around you and against you, and don’t be a casualty. Be humble and look to God to help you, to protect you, to be your strength, to energize you in this spiritual battle. And please put on your spiritual armor. “Be strong in the Lord … our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12
Provision. It is true that you need to do all you can to provide for your own needs – you need to work to make money because you don’t want to be dependent on others. But it is also true that you need to depend on God, to be looking for Him to meet your daily needs. In the Lord’s prayer you are instructed to pray for your daily bread, to be looking to Him to provide for your needs. Know that ultimately it is God Himself, who in His great love for you, provides for all your needs. He is the One who gives you your food, shelter and clothing. He gives you your health, your job, your friends, and everything else that you need. You need to realize that God Himself is watching over you every day, with the goal to make sure that all your true needs are met. But you must also know that God doesn’t just provide your physical needs, but He also provides your spiritual needs. He gives you the Holy Spirit, His Word, the church, godly believers, His grace, His wisdom, His peace and His joy. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1, Ephesians 1:3
Goodness. God is good to you, and in fact, is very good to you. Throughout your life God has consistently shown His love to you in that He has given you so many good things. He has given you a wonderfully designed body, a body that can see and hear and talk and touch and taste. He has given you a body that has arms and legs, a body that can get you places. God have given you a world to live in, with the sun and the stars, with the land and the seas, with the wind and the rain, with plants and animals, and with beaches and mountains. He gives you a place to live and a car to drive. He gives you good food to eat. He gives you family and friends. He may have even given you a wife or husband, and with that, children. And He gives you weekends off and vacations for rest and relaxation. God is very good to you, and this goodness is an expression of His great love for you. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” Psalm 100:4-5
Patience. God loves you by being patient with you. None of you do everything right, and in fact, as Christians, you do quite a few things that are wrong. But when you do something wrong, when it’s your bad, God doesn’t always correct you right away, He doesn’t always discipline you right away. Can you imagine what it’d be like if God corrected you right on the spot for everything you did wrong. But God is so patient with you – He puts up with you much more than you realize. Part of the reason for this is that there are many areas in your life that are still deficient, and for your sake, God usually only works on one or two things in your life at a time, and then is patient and forbearing with the remaining areas in your life. Just like good parents are patient with their children, so too God is patient with you, and let me say, very patient. “Love is patient.” 1 Corinthians 13:4, Nehemiah 9
Wisdom. God shows His love by being wise in His dealings with you, and in fact, perfectly wise in His dealings with you. God knows exactly what He is doing in your life and through your life. God is supremely smart, infinitely intelligent, and is therefore most wise in dealing with every aspect of your life. God’s wisdom relates directly to the purposes and plans He has for your life. His wisdom relates to how He trains you, corrects you and disciplines you, and helps you become what He wants you to be. His wisdom relates to the mind He has given you, and the work He wants you to do. His wisdom relates to the family He has given you, the church He has given you, and the relationships and friends He has given you. Everything that God does in your life relates to His perfect wisdom, to His perfect love for you. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
Purpose. God loves you by giving you a purpose, a reason for living. Now it is true that God gives each one of His children the same general purpose in life, that we are to love Him and love one another. But God has made you a certain way, a unique way, and has given you particular abilities, talents and desires, and with that, a very special purpose and very specific plans for your life. And these plans for your life are good plans, great plans, the best of plans. They may relate to a job, a task, a ministry, a marriage, a relationship or to children. And these plans are for your good, your usefulness, and for the good of others, and for the glory of God. Be excited, be overjoyed, and be thankful for how God shows His love for you by having great purposes and plans for your life. “I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139:13-16
Fellowship. One of the main ways God loves you is through the lives of other Christians. As you are involved in the church family, then you will be loved by other believers. This love may be seen in their compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness or gentleness towards you. It may be seen in their commitment and loyalty to you. It may be seen in that they pray for you, or that they share God’s Word with you. It may be seen in that they want to spend time with you. But if you’re not involved with the church family, if you’re not fellowshipping with other believers, then you’ll miss out on all the love that God desires to give you. I hope you can see why this area of fellowship is so important, for if relates directly to the love God wants to give you through the lives of other Christians. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” Romans 12:10, Hebrews 10:25, Ephesians 3:14-18
Communication. God loves you by communicating to you. If someone says they love you but they don’t talk to you or rarely talk to you, then you have to wonder if they really love you. But God loves you by communicating to you, and His primary way to communicate to you is through His Word. It’s important then you for to daily and carefully read the Word, for God has a great desire to speak to you and to share His truth with you. More than you realize, He wants to use His Word to encourage you, comfort you, instruct you, correct you, and tell you how to live your life in a purposeful, meaningful and God-glorifying way. There is no doubt that the one who reads and heeds God’s word will know and experience God’s love more than the one who does not. You also need to realize that God is not vague or imprecise in His communication with you – His communication to you is clear and specific. That’s why God’s Word is His main means of communication, for it has been carefully and precisely written out. Of course, God will also teach you through trials, and through the lives of other people, but first and foundationally, it must be through His Word. “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end.” Psalm 119:32
Prayer. God shows His love to you by talking to you, but He also shows His love by letting you talk to Him. What a wonderful blessing that you can talk to God anytime you want, anywhere you want, and as long as you want. You have the Holy Spirit who is the Person and the means by which you can talk to your Father. And what is so encouraging is that God understands you, knows exactly what you are saying and exactly what you mean, and is concerned with what you are saying, and then will respond to all your prayers. Whether you are the youngest or the oldest Christian, you can talk to God. You can share your joys, or share your sorrows; you can cry out for help; you can ask for wisdom; or you can intercede for others. But the most important thing in prayer is that you worship God and tell Him that you love Him. “I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.” Psalm 145:1
Hope. One of the greatest ways that God shows His love to you is that He gives you hope, and this hope is His future love for you, a future reality not yet realized. Hope is God’s promise, God’s guarantee to you of what He will give you in the future, and in particular after you die or are raptured, and leave this earth. You all know how you can be excited about something taking place in the future – it may be that you are looking forward to the weekend, or to Christmas, or to going on vacation. But most importantly, God wants you to be looking forward to the great future He has for you – when you’ll be in heaven, a perfect place, a perfect home, when you’ll be with Jesus, the perfect person, your Savior and friend, when you’ll have a new body, a perfect body, a beautiful, powerful and immortal body, and when you will be with all the other believers in heaven. “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5
1 John 4:16 – “We have come to know and have believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in Him.” I can’t think of anything more important than knowing, believing, understanding and experiencing the great love God has for you. Please take the time to be with God, to worship Him, to read His loving Word, to know and believe the love He has for you, to abide in this love, and to then love Him. Every day think specifically about how God greatly loves you, and thank Him for His great love for you. “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High, to declare your lovingkindness in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.” Psalm 92:1-2. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5