So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.I remember being fourteen and reading the following verse for the very first time:
So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image (Revelation 16:2).
I had just completed a series of Bible studies and had one burning conviction:
I had better do what God asks of me, or I’m going to get the plagues! So it was a no-brainer. Yet it was at this point that I entered into a very dark era of my journey with God. He became someone I truly feared. And although this fear did keep me from a lot of self-destruction during those first few years, what I did not understand then was that “[t]he fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7, emphasis added). What God wanted for me is something much deeper, more fulfilling, more resonating. God had made me for love, and “there is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18).
Nonetheless, it was a beginning. I had decided to follow God, based strictly on how He would treat me if I didn’t. (And the plagues sound really painful, honestly!) But two years later, I would have a life-changing encounter with the heart of God. My picture of Him would be radically transformed. It was 6 a.m., and my nose was in a book about God; but honestly, I was following Him only for the motive of self-preservation, to escape punishment. But what I experienced that morning would forever change my life. I saw for the first time, the heart of God. I encountered His love for me, for the very first time, and I was left on my knees in tears. Just me, by myself, alone with the heart of Infinite Love.
What I saw that morning, in short, is the God Jesus spoke about in Luke 6—a God, who, if I were His enemy, would simply respond by loving me. If I hated Him, He would simply respond by doing good to me. If I were to curse Him, He would simply respond by blessing me. And if I misused and mistreated Him, He’d simply intercede for me even more (see Luke 6:27, 28).
You see, up to this point I had been following God because of how He would treat me if I didn’t. But at that point, something changed, and I began to follow God that morning because of how He’d treat me if I didn’t.
Yes, I know those are the same phrases, but they mean two totally different things. Today, we find two types of Christians. (And you can tell the difference by how they treat others around them.) Two different pictures of God are in the church today, producing a coexistent growth of both wheat and tares. Both are very religious and morally abiding, but one is following God for how He’ll treat them if they don’t, and the other is doing the same, but with an entirely different understanding what that treatment would be.
So this week, I ask you, what is your picture of God? When you read the question, “How will God treat you if you don’t follow Him?” your response reveals the depth of the motive that moves you to follow. But, in all transparency, if God is the type of being who loves His enemies, and I mean truly loves, then a God like that is worthy of my heart, even if there is nothing in it for me.
I wish you God’s best this week.