by Ian Hamilton
Some years ago I was sitting in a ministers’ conference enjoying very much hearing God’s Word preached with grace and power. The preacher, a dear friend, paused and said something that riveted me. He quoted some words of Geerhardus Vos, ‘The reason God will never stop loving you is that he never began.’ Vos was reflecting on Jeremiah 31:3, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.’ I suppose I had read those words many times and in prayer had blessed the Lord for loving me with an everlasting love. But the truth Vos drew out from those words all but overwhelmed me.
It is a biblical commonplace that God is love. It is a gospel commonplace that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.’ But how much of a commonplace in our lives is the fact and knowledge and joy of God’s love? If God’s love for his people in Christ (he has never loved us outside of Christ) truly is an everlasting love, a love that has no beginning and will have no end, do we sufficiently allow that astonishing truth to impact our minds, amaze our hearts, and transform our lives?
Perhaps more than anything else this truth is intended to breathe unfailing assurance and hope into our often distempered lives. Life for a Christian in a fallen world can be difficult. There are times when remaining sin seems to rule over us, though its rule has been decisively broken in our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. There are times when our circumstances seem all against us, when it is a victory simply to get through the day. There are times when dark disappointments threaten to overwhelm us and leave us angry with God, protesting that if he really cared he would not have withheld some hoped for blessing from our lives. At such times we need to stop and recall to our minds Jeremiah 31:3, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.’
God’s love for his believing children – all of them – is the bedrock of contented and assured godly living. It is an anchor that keeps us firmly attached to our God. Not an anchor that will keep you from being buffeted by life’s violent storms; but an anchor that will keep you from being sunk by those storms. In the midst of life’s unexpected trials and troubles, the believer’s greatest need is not an explanation of why, but an assurance that come what may, nothing will separate him or her from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:38-39).
One of Satan’s most destructive ploys is to sow seeds of doubt in our minds that God really and truly loves us. Most often he uses disappointments and the world’s relentless hostility to suggest that God has abandoned us, or at best has lost interest in us: ‘Would a God who really cared allow this situation, this person, to afflict you?’ At such times we need to redirect our minds to the truth of God’s everlasting love and bathe our souls in its refreshing truth. Above all we need to take ourselves to where that everlasting love most manifests itself, in the cross of our Lord Jesus. The cross was not the place where Jesus won for us the heavenly Father’s love. The cross was where the heavenly Father’s love for us was displayed in all its unfathomable magnificence. It was because God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son!
It is the most wonderful of things to know that you are loved unconditionally and eternally. Not unconditionally in the sense that no matter how you live God will always be there to love you. If we live any which way we choose, we simply show that our great need is to be born again and saved from the coming wrath. But our heavenly Father does love even his errant children – and in that love will chastise us ‘that we may share his holiness’ (Heb. 12:10). God’s everlasting love is not an indulgent love. When parents indulge the follies and sins of their children, they are not loving them, rather they are despising them. We do the greatest damage to our children when we fail to discipline them. Our heavenly Father loves his children too much not to discipline them.
‘Loved with everlasting love; led by grace that love to know.’ The Christian life does not rise any higher. This is your greatest privilege as a Christian – God loves you, and loves you with an everlasting love. Stop what you are doing and bless him for such grace. Take time, make time, to marvel that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you (Rom. 5:8). Truly this is love, ‘not that we loved God but that he loved us and gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). Bathe your weary, distempered souls in that pure fountain of divine grace.
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church, Cambridge, England. He is a Trustee of the Banner of Truth Trust. This article first appeared on the Banner of Truth online Magazine, November 29, 2013.