“Love is patient, love is kind . . . it does not seek its own.” —1 Corinthians 13:4-5I would like to ask you a very serious question this week and I would like you to ponder it honestly. If there were no heaven to gain or hell to shun, would you still be a Christian? If there were no eternity, just this life and this life only, would you still be a friend of God?
This question is well worth considering because its very heart reveals our innermost motives for why we do what we do. For many, we want to be saved. We want to live forever! But Jesus very clearly stated, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it” (Matthew 16:25). This is alarming to many, as their primary motive for serving God is to “save their life.” Yet, is this really the low level of relationship God intended for us?
First, serving God simply for what we get out of it is very egocentric. Serving God because one does not want to go to hell and die is not conversion, it’s self-preservation. Conversion is where a person’s center changes from themselves to others. With conversion the self dies, without the contingency of immortality.
Second, to paint God as a being who manipulates people through fear of punishment or hope of reward is sick. I’m not saying there is no heaven or hell, but is God holding these up before us to force us into behavioral conformity, or is He holding up His love seeking to win us at a deep heart level to friendship with Him, the Lover of our souls? Meditate on this statement. What does it mean to you?
“The exercise of force [manipulation] is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened.” (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 22)
Hear me. Our God lived for us when He thought there was no heaven in it for Him.
“I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength, forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more….” (Psalm 88:4-5, emphasis added.)
“But now with the terrible weight of guilt He bears, He cannot see the Father’s reconciling face . . . Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal.” (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 753, emphasis added.)
Doesn’t He deserve to have you live for Him even if there was no heaven in it for you? God is so beautiful, so self-abandoning, so other-centered, and so selfless that even if we were to get nothing out of this in return for ourselves, He is simply worthy of being loved the way He loves us!
Would you like to enter into a friendship with God based on these principles, rather than just the egocentricity of what’s in it for you? We have been told what is needed to attain this friendship.
“Love is the basis of godliness . . . But we can never come into possession of this spirit by trying to love . . . what is needed is the love of Christ in the heart.” (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 384)
We need to know the love that Christ has for us in His heart. Before we can have God in our hearts, we must know, believe, and feel that we are in the heart of God. Then, and only then, will love, by love, be awakened. Only then will love truly become the compelling power in our friendship with this being called God. This is why Paul so desperately prayed that “with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”(Ephesians 3:18-19, The Message) For “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
Only then will we be able to say with all sincerity, “The love of Christ constrains us . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
I wish you God’s best this week.