HOW DOES GOD LOVE YOU? – August 6, 2016 – Pentecost 9 – Romans 8:28-30 – David R. Clark
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Dear friends in our God of grace,
Do your parents love you? Is it only true on your birthday or Christmas morning? What about when you had to be inoculated, and a nurse pierced your skin with a needle? What about when you needed to be disciplined for bad behavior? Did your parents love you then? How do you know?
Does God love you? Does God love you when you are experiencing disappointments or tragedies or when your bad behavior is being disciplined? The way many people answer a question like this is based on what’s going on in their lives at the time. Does God only love people who are happy or when things are going well? Maybe there’s a better question to ask: How does God love you? St. Paul wants you to know that God ALWAYS love you.
- By planning for you in the past
When did you first love your children? Even though you don’t know how many children God will bless you with, don’t you love them even before they are conceived? Once a woman is pregnant, she and her husband start preparing: the prenatal care, getting the baby’s room ready, the car seat, making sure everything is just right. That’s also true of how God loves you. Paul says it this way: 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Christians in Rome needed to hear this. Many had not grown up knowing the true God. Think what that would have meant to people, who before they were Christians had been adulterers. Perhaps they had been dishonest businessmen, cheating anyone they could and considering it good business. Perhaps they had treated their spouses and their marriages as disposable commodities to be thrown away at the slightest disagreement. Did God love them? Yes.
Sometimes new members of a congregation look at themselves as being new recipients of God’s grace. But that is not true. The love God has for them is so deep and so great that he loved them even before they knew who he was. His love was so great that God had planned for them to become more and more like Jesus, even before they were born again as children of God.
This is how much God loves you. He has loved you since before you were born. Sometimes we rejoice in the length of time we have known people. Even though you may have known Jesus Christ a short time (and as far as that goes, what is even 70 or 80 years in comparison to eternity), God has loved you forever.
- By watching over your present
With all we do to prepare for a baby, when the baby finally comes there is even more. We keep them fed, clean, rested, and safe. We pick out godparents who will encourage our child in what we believe. We provide Christian Education to them, we make sacrifices. We show our love by watching over them day by day.
A Roman Christian knew and believed that God provided food, drink, house, and home. But what about when there was persecution. What could you say to someone whose marriage disintegrated because they remained faithful to Christ? Or what could you say to a Christian who is devastated because their child has rejected the gospel and followed a pagan lifestyle. Some people pay a high price for their faith. Under such circumstances the best of us might be tempted to give up and turn away.
So let us be clear. Your God loves you. He understands and loves you by comforting you with the promises he shares with you in Jesus. He planned for his own Son to suffer for you. God punished him for all the times when you have denied the faith or refused to correct your children or considered earthly love and relationships as more important than heavenly ones. He did this so that in a world that has gone mad with unchristian temptation, you would have something to trust in and be comforted by. This is his love for you.
- By promising future blessings
One of the way he comforts us is pointing us forward. 28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
We can’t care for grown children the same way we did when they were under our roofs. We assure them that we will be there to help them as they need it. We continue to pray for them. The word we use to describe these actions is love.
As Christians we have blessings yet to come. We are assured of eternal life in heaven. We know that when we die, we will live in heavenly mansions forever. That’s a blessing to which we all look forward. But it is not the only proof of God’s love for us. He has promised that when evil comes into our lives, he will turn it into a blessing for us.
If there was ever someone who understood that, it was Joseph, the son of Jacob. He was treated so unfairly by his family. But Joseph recognized God’s love in this way. He said to his brothers: (Genesis 50:20) You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Joseph recognized that God was in control of his life turning evil into good for him.
God loves you just as much. Even if evil or trouble has found you in such a way that you can’t imagine how you will ever get out of it, he still loves you. Put your faith in his promises. Put your faith in his love. Sometimes we will be privileged to see the evidence of that love in the future, sometimes we won’t. But don’t doubt. Only believe. This is how he loves you. Amen.