May 18 Esight, 2008

“For the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this, that one died for all, then all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”— Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15″Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment”—Ghandi

“It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders.”—Ellen White, The Desire of Ages p. 483

“The law of love being the foundation of the government of God…God desires from all His creatures the service of love–service that springs from an appreciation of His character. He takes no pleasure in a forced obedience; and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service.”—Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets p. 35

Fear definitely works on the surface. I remember being fourteen years old and having been introduced to Bible truths for the first time. It was a presentation that I sum up as “Do it or get the plagues.” It worked! I conformed. I made lots of changes. I mean, honestly, it was a no-brainer. Follow God or be punished. So, I cast my lot. I was in!

It was two years before this would all begin to unravel. To make a very long story short, I will simply say that I found myself one morning, at age sixteen, on my knees. I had been overwhelmed, for the very first time, by the fact that God loved me. (For more on this please listen to He Already Had on our free Sermons / Downloads page.)

Loved! This was new. This was different. Even the word does not do justice to what I sensed was in the heart of God for me. I fell to my knees, having never encountered anything like that, and, with tears streaming, decided I would spend the rest of my life endeavoring to help others have this very same encounter. Nothing else mattered. This love was paramount. All else paled in comparison.

Recently, a very dear friend of mine looked at me and blurted out, “I just can’t love a God who says ‘serve me or I’ll kill you’.” Wow! I was taken back. I looked into her eyes and, with all the clarity I could muster, sought to explain: God isn’t saying that at all! God is saying, “Sin brings death, you’re dying, let me save you! Let me give you life!” Two very different pictures of God.

Through Renewed Heart Ministries, I spend an inestimable amount of time each month seeking to reach out and help others see God for what He truly is. Yes, it would be easier to scare people into following God. Yes, there would be larger numbers, greater statistics and baptisms by the droves. I think, however, that as great as these things are, God desires more. He doesn’t want just your behavioral conformity. He wants your heart. He wants you to see His heart. He wants to usher you into an encounter within the veil. He desires an encounter of Love between just you and Him. We must stop to consider that if our service to Him is not based on a voluntary response to His love for us, how fulfilling would it really be for Him? Having said that, I will say that I concede that obedience from any motive is good for us in the sense that, at the very least, it keeps us from self-destructive behaviors. The question is: How meaningful can it be for God to know that we are only following Him because we feel like we have to? Doesn’t He deserve more? Doesn’t He deserve to be loved with the same kind of self-abandonment with which He loves us? Doesn’t He?

Do you desire to have this type of intimate relationship with God? Voluntary. Fulfilling. Meaningful. Free. A relationship based on Love rather than fear of punishment or hope of reward? Allow God, this week, to usher you more deeply into an encounter with three things that are promised to take our hearts captive: Amazing Grace, Extravagant Love and Intimate Friendship. It is in these themes alone that redemption, reconciliation and restoration truly find their accomplished end in us.

I wish you God’s best this week, keep your eyes on His heart…