读经：诗108:1-5 加3:26-4:20 赛43:1-44:23
God is Nice and He Likes You
‘This seemingly insubstantial fact revolutionised my life,’ wrote Adrian Plass, author of The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37 ¾. He continued, ‘I became a Christian when I was sixteen years old, but it wasn’t until I was thirty-seven that I absorbed an essential truth. God is nice and he likes me.’
Sadly, deep down many people think that God is not that nice, he does not like us very much and he spends most of his time being cross with us. This could not be further from the truth.
In the passages for today, we see how much more than just ‘nice’ God is – his goodness, amazing love and faithfulness. We also see that not only does he ‘like’ you, he loves you – you are his precious and honoured child.
1. Higher than the created universe
Psalm 108:1-5Scientists today are revealing more of the vastness of our universe – how high the heavens are. And yet, God’s love and faithfulness are even greater than we can imagine.
Focus your worship today on God’s love and faithfulness. God’s love for us is so great. It is higher than the heavens. His ‘faithfulness reaches to the skies’ (v.4). ‘The deeper your love, the higher it goes’ (v.4, MSG).
David worships God with music and singing early in the morning: ‘I will awaken the dawn’ (v.2b).
Lord, thank you that your love for me is higher than the heavens. Thank you that your faithfulness reaches to the skies. I can never thank, praise and worship you enough. ‘Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth’ (v.5).
2. Greater than any human love
Galatians 3:26-4:20Imagine the greatest human love in the world – for some people it might be the love a parent has for a child. Yet, God’s love for us is even greater.
When you put your faith in Jesus, you also become a child of God: ‘You are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ’ (3:26). We were baptised into Christ. You have clothed yourself with Christ (v.27). This is how close your relationship with Jesus has become.
In Christ, no distinction of race, rank or sex exists: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (v.28). We are ‘all equal… all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ’ (v.28, MSG).
There is no excuse for discrimination, prejudice or hatred. Paul does not say that differences do not exist; rather, he says these differences simply do not matter.
If we belong to Christ, we are heirs to all the amazing promises that God made to Abraham (v.29). You have now inherited ‘the whole estate’ (4:1).
In this passage, Paul uses an analogy from Roman law. In ancient Rome, until the age of fourteen, an heir was under the control of a tutor who had been nominated by his father. Until this age a child was treated in the same way as a slave. Usually, the heir became a free agent at the age of fourteen. Paul explains that while the people of God were under the Mosaic law, it was much like being under a tutor. They were under a form of slavery (v.3).
But now, Jesus Christ has set you free: ‘Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance’ (vv.5–7, MSG).
How amazing it is to have the full rights of a child of God and that God sent the Spirit of Jesus to live in you. As a result you can address God in the same intimate way that Jesus addressed him.
Paul continued to warn the Galatians against slipping backwards, as if they were still under the law. Before, they ‘did not know God’ (v.8). Now, they do know him – or rather they ‘are known by God’ (v.9). It is more important to be known by God than to know him. But, of course, living in a relationship with God means that both are true.
He urged them not to go back to a kind of legalism (vv.10–11). False teachers were trying to lead them astray.
Paul pleaded with them. He reminded them of their love for him when he first preached the gospel to them. They welcomed him as if he was Jesus Christ himself (v.14). When he came to them he was ill. It may have been an eye condition, because he said, ‘You would have torn out your eyes and given them to me’ (v.15). That is how much they loved him.
Now the false teachers were trying to alienate them from him (v.17), but Paul’s love for them remained constant: ‘Do you know how I feel right now, and will feel until Christ’s life becomes visible in your lives? Like a mother in the pain of childbirth’ (v.19, MSG).
When we know God’s love for us – that of a parent for a child – and his Spirit comes to live within us, he gives us a love for others, which again is like a loving parent for a child. It was this kind of love that Paul had for the Galatians.
Sometimes not getting what we want can be the best thing that can happen. Paul felt frustrated at not being able to be with and speak face-to-face with those he loved. He did not want to be ‘reduced to this blunt, letter-writing language’ (v.20, MSG). If Paul had had his own way, the letter to the Galatians would never have been written. As it was, he was forced to do something he did not want to do and countless millions of lives have been changed and blessed as a result.
Lord, thank you that you have poured your love for us into my heart by the Holy Spirit. Help me, like Paul, to love others in this same way, to care passionately, even if it involves ‘the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in [them]’ (v.19).
3. More valuable than anything else
Isaiah 43:1-44:23All of us will face trials, tests and temptations. We will go through ‘fire’ and ‘rough waters’. There will be times when ‘you’re between a rock and a hard place’ (43:2, MSG). These are difficult times. Sometimes we want to give up. We cannot understand what is going on.
God says, ‘Don’t be afraid… You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you… it won’t be a dead end’ (vv.1–2, MSG).
God is shaping us (44:21, MSG). He often uses the difficulties and challenges in our life like sandpaper – to smooth the rough edges. He uses them to strengthen our character, change us and advance his purpose in our lives.
He is always acting in love: ‘I am God, your personal God… I paid a huge price for you… That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you’ (43:3–4, MSG).
That is how much God loves you. You are precious and honoured in his sight because he loves you (v.4). He paid a huge price for us. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, wrote, ‘My worth is what I am worth to God; and that is a marvellous great deal, for Christ died for me.’
In all the struggles and difficulties of life, God has a good plan for your future. He says, ‘I’m about to do something brand-new… I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands’ (v.19, MSG). If you are in a ‘desert’ or the ‘badlands’ right now, trust God that he has a good plan for your future.
God’s love and forgiveness are amazing. Later in the passage God says, ‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more’ (v.25). We know that this is what was made possible through Jesus Christ and what he did for us.
Isaiah goes on to warn of the absurdity of worshipping idols (see 44:6–23). When we worship anything or anyone other than the God who made us, we are worshipping a lie. We are worshipping ‘created things rather than the Creator’ (Romans 1:25).
The Lord urges the Israelites to return to him. He says, ‘I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings. There’s nothing left of your sins. Come back to me, come back. I’ve redeemed you’ (Isaiah 44:22, MSG).
Lord, thank you that you paid a huge price for me. Thank you that you have swept away my offences and sins and that I am forgiven. Thank you that I am precious and honoured in your sight. In all the challenges and difficulties help me to keep on trusting that you have a good plan for me.
These are such wonderful verses and so encouraging when you, or someone you love, are facing something really worrying. God may not take it away, but he has promised to be with you, to walk with you, to protect you as you go through it.