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Abounding in Love

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
August 4, 2022 9:00 am

Abounding in Love

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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August 4, 2022 9:00 am

Everyone wants to feel loved and cherished. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that we don’t deserve unconditional love. So why does God pursue us anyway?

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Jonah finds God's love scandalous because God's love reaches out to people that Jonah knows are completely unworthy of God's mercy and his love and his forgiveness. The irony of the book of Jonah is that Nineveh is not some random bad city that God throws in as if to say, hey, there's a few really bad people I love along with all of you good people. Nineveh is us. Hey, thanks for joining us here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer of the Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. Do you ever wonder why so many movies and songs are focused on romance? Maybe it's because every one of us in the deepest places of our hearts longs to feel loved and respected. But if we're honest, we know that we don't deserve unconditional love because eventually we'll stumble and fall short, disappointing the people that we care about the most. Yet God knows that we're like this, and yet he continues to love and pursue us.

Why? Pastor J.D. answers this question today in a message he titled Abounding in Love. Today, Exodus 34, if you have a Bible is where you would want to begin to turn. We are going to look at how love is a part of the essential description of God's name. We're going to ask questions like, how do you know that God loves you? How what do you do when you can't feel the love of God? What do you do when you feel like you don't have any love for God in your heart? Has the love of God overwhelmed you? That's the kind of questions we're going to answer or try to at least. So Exodus 34, if you have a Bible, again, take that out and turn there.

All of us know what it's like to have a situation where someone doesn't love us as much as we seem to love them. I was with several of our pastors as you're turning in your Bible. I was at a pastors convention earlier this summer in Columbus, Ohio, and one of the nights was game six, which turned out to be the final game of the NBA finals. And so the pastors that I was with and I thought it'd be great to go watch the game were in Ohio. It's probably going to be exciting.

It was actually downright disappointing, not just because of the outcome, but because it was just, I thought it'd be more, you know, people into it. But the fourth bar, which is pretty famous, was half deserted. So we're in there, we're watching a game, we're eating our wings or whatever, and just kind of engrossed in conversation. I look up and suddenly the bar is now kind of getting filled up, but they're all women in their mid-30s and they all are dressed like they would have been dressed in high school.

And I thought this is like an odd group to watch a basketball game. And so we go back, eat our wing again, having a conversation. And then I look up, I promise you, it wasn't more than three minutes later. I look up and the place is now shoulder to shoulder, standing room only, people kind of flowing out the doors, all of them, women in their mid-30s who were dressed like they would have been dressed when they were in high school. I look out the window and out in the street are 1500? 1500 women, all in their mid-30s, all dressed like they would have been dressed in high school. And I thought, what is happening right now?

Because we're on the streets of downtown Columbus. So I turned to one of these girls who stand around, I'm like, what is going on? She's like, oh, the New Kids on the Block concert right down the road just let out this reunion tour. And so we're all here to see that.

And I'm like, now it makes sense. I went home and told my wife that probably a good 40% of those women were convinced when they were in middle school that they were going to marry Donnie from New Kids on the Block, right? You were going to get all dressed up in your best tube top outfit with your parachute pants. And you were going to go stand on the front row with all the other girls. And you were going to scream, I love you, Donnie, with all of them. But you were going to yell just a little bit louder than everybody else. And he was going to turn and you guys were going to lock eyes. And in this one kind of moment of enchantment you were going to have. And then later in the concert, a bouncer was going to bring you a note that said, you got the right stuff, baby.

You're the reason why I sing this song. And you guys are going to get married and you're going to have cute little kids with floppy hair. But it never happened.

It never happened, right? Because right now you're married to Phil from accounting. He's sitting right beside you this morning.

He is slightly overweight, balding, drops a minivan. It just didn't turn out. Now you look at some of these girls doing the same thing with Justin Bieber and you tell them, it ain't never going to happen, sweetheart. And it comes from a slight place of bitterness in your heart because you didn't marry Donnie. But that's okay because you're discipling the next generation.

And part of that is helping them to live on planet earth, right? You got to shake them to wake them from that bad dream, right? Well, you may or may not ever have been a groupie at some point in your life. In fact, I would, as some of you look kind of guilty. And so like, you started like, and then you started shaking your head.

So I know that some of you were, but most of us, even if you haven't been a groupie, know what it's like to love somebody who doesn't love you back or be into somebody that's just not that into you. I think for me, one of the most mind blowing things in scripture, one of the things that's hardest for me to get my mind around is that we see God, the almighty God, the self-sufficient creator, which means that he doesn't need anything. Theologians call that the aseity of God. He doesn't need anything or require anything to be happy.

He's happy in himself. We see that God continually putting himself in that position. We find him constantly reaching out to love people who don't love him back when he really has no reason to. And I'm going to tell you this weekend that understanding that one thing about God will probably do more to change your life than any other realization you could have in your life. I began this series with this statement by A.W.

Tozer. What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. What comes into your mind when I say God is the most important and most defining thing about you because we tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.

You begin to resemble what you worship, whether it's for ruin or restoration. The most determining fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives of God to be like. What you believe about God is the most life-defining, relationship shaping fact about you. If you believe that God is angry and distant, then you're going to feel fearful and insecure.

If you see God as a judgmental tyrant, that means you'll become an intolerant bigot. But when and if you come to see the steadfast love of God, it's going to give you a joy and a fullness and a freedom that will redefine you and all of your relationships that will transform you into being the kind of loving person that you've always wanted to know and that you've always wanted to be. Y'all, our deepest longings are for love, aren't they? I mean, we know that.

Just listen to the songs that we sing and watch the movies that we put out. We want love, true love. That's what our souls want. Exodus 34, 6 and 7. Moses asked God if he can see God for who he really is, and so God puts him into a cave in a mountain and covers him with his hand. And God says this, Exodus 33, 19.

We'll back up a little bit there. I will make all my goodness, God says, pass before you, and I will proclaim before you my name, the Lord. That's how I'm going to reveal my glory to you. My goodness is going to be expressed in a name, my holiness. 7 to 34 verse 5. And the Lord descended then in a cloud, and he proclaimed the Lord. In Hebrew, he used the proper name of God.

Yahweh literally means I am. I am a God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving in equity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty. The element that dominates this description of the name of God is love.

It is presented here in this name like a many-sided diamond. So let's walk through, because you get several descriptions that all kind of turn the diamond of God's love and show you different dimensions of it. Merciful and gracious. That may at first sound to you like needless redundancy, like saying something is redundant and repetitive, but merciful and gracious in Hebrew have slightly different shades of meaning. Merciful comes from the Hebrew word rachum, and it is about a feeling of compassion. The word translated gracious is wachanun, and it comes from the action that you take when you feel rachum.

Rachum is the feeling, wachanun is the action. God felt his people's pain, and then he acted on their behalf. He saw us in our pain, and he couldn't just sit by. The rachum in his heart forced him to take an action.

He had to do something to deliver us. Slow to anger. His love does not preclude his anger.

His love makes him slow to it. He is angry about sin, but he loves us even as much as he hates our sin, so he overcomes his anger because he wants to save us. Y'all, it is a perverse and twisted idea to say that God's love precludes his anger, because when you really love something or someone, it demands that you get angry at certain things. It is because I love my kids that I am angry at the things that I see destroying them.

If I see them, for example, lie or do something that I know is going to hurt them, it makes me angry, not in spite of the fact that I love them, it makes me angry because I love them. People say, oh, you know the Bible says, 1 John 4.18, that God is love, and they use that somehow to conclude that God never gets angry or judges sin. He's just a sentimental deity who's just sappy all the time. God is angry at sin precisely because he loves us. The same writer who wrote 1 John 4.18, God is love, also wrote 1 John 1.6, God is light and in him is no darkness at all.

The light of God's presence exposes and drives out darkness. God wants us to be filled with light and goodness and love like he is because he loves us. His love is a purifying love, not being satisfied with only goodness in himself. He wants goodness and love in those that he loves. It's kind of like the way you love a cancer patient.

You don't simply rejoice in the fact that you're cancer free because you love them, you hate the cancer that is eating away their body, and you desire them to be cancer free as well. So God's love does not preclude anger at sin, but it does make him slow to it because he loves us more than he hates our sin, and he would rather rid us of our sin than he would get rid of us because of our sin. His love, Moses says, or his love God reveals is steadfast. Steadfast means it does not change based on his moods or how worthy or not worthy we are on a given day. His love is more of a settled resolve, something like what I would feel for my children. In fact, this is how King David said it. Psalm 103, as a father has compassion on his, compassion by the way, rahum, as a father has rahum on his children, so the Lord has rahum on those who fear him. You're listening to a message titled Abounding in Love on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. You know, we usually blame our lack of prayer on a lack of discipline, and we try to fix it by making resolutions, but really it's not so much a discipline problem as it is a theology problem. You see, deep down we really don't feel like it makes a difference, and even more, we don't truly realize the love that God has for us. So this month we are offering a bundle of resources to help make praying regularly a little easier. It's three books, each of them called Five Things to Pray. They will cover how to pray for your city and community, for your kids, and for your parents. You can take a look right now at jdgreer.com.

That's J-D-G-R-E-E-A-R dot com. Now let's return to today's message. Here's Pastor JD. There's probably nothing that has taught me more about the love of God than having children. There is something about when, as a dad, I see one of my kids suffer, even if the suffering that they're in is their own fault. I do not stand above them and say, wow, it's your own fault.

You deserve it. I might say that at first, but when I see them suffer, my heart always begins to change, and every parent knows this, right? You look at your kids, and it's not rhetoric.

It's not, if I could take the pain from them, even its pain of their own doing, and if I could somehow take it into me so that they would be happy and I would suffer, I would gladly do it. This is how a father feels about his child. This is how God feels about you. He has this.

He's wrapped up his emotions in yours. Isaiah will probably take it even further. Isaiah 49. Can a woman forget her nursing child that she would have no compassion on the son or no rahum, on the son of her womb? Have you ever seen a newborn child and their mother? I've known a lot of women over the years who, we're not baby people at all. They didn't like your baby, but all of a sudden they have their baby, and all of a sudden they become suddenly in tune with this baby, and it's like this tenderness and this rahum, this mercy begins to come out of them. My wife has always been a baby person, so I'm not talking about her, but when we did have our first baby, there was a part of her that, I mean, she used to, we'd be in bed at three o'clock at night, and our first daughter is two or three weeks old, and all of a sudden she would sit up in bed like a dog that heard a dog whistle, and I don't have any idea what's going on. I'm like, well, you know, she's like something, Charis is something, you know, it's the slightest whimper, and she would just, she bound out of bed, and she's trying to get up to Charis' right, she's, you know, she's half asleep, so she's bouncing off the furniture like a pinball, trying to get out of the room, and, by the way, made a rookie mistake.

This is for you future dads from Uncle JD. About three or four weeks after Charis, I was like, I feel like Charis has been sleeping through the night now for the last week or two. I had been sleeping through the night, Charis rocking, so after that I learned my lesson, I'll be like, oh yes, of course, I heard her too, but I wanted to give you guys time to bond as you had at night, but a mother with a newborn child, of course not, they could never forget them, they're something, but look what Isaiah says, yeah, even these may forget, yet I will never forget you. Behold, I've engraved you on the palms of my hands.

I have actually made you part of who I am. I am more in tune with your pain than the most starry-eyed mother is with their newborn. God's nanny cam is always on, and He knows when even a single hair falls from your head.

I know a lot of attentive, obsessive mothers. I do not know one that can tell you the number of hairs on their child's body and when one single one falls off, yet that is how your heavenly Father feels about you. The depth and the length of God's love revealed in Scripture is shocking. In fact, it is so shocking that God chooses to reveal to it to us through a series of stories rather than a set of propositions, because there are some things that really cannot be explained adequately. They really have to be sensed and felt. So when God begins to describe His love, He very quickly goes to illustrating it for you so that you can identify with it and understand what He's talking about.

Let me show you what I mean. Let's start with the book of Jonah. The book of Jonah is a place where you're going to see Exodus 34, 6, and 7 come back up. God called a prophet named Jonah to go and preach salvation to the Ninevites, and Jonah didn't want to do it. If you remember, when I walked you through this book of the Bible, I told you that before we get all self-righteous about Jonah and be like, well, he should have done what God told him, we ought to stop and at least consider who the Ninevites were and what they had done to Israel. They were pretty close neighbors of Israel, and they were some of the cruelest people that we know about in the ancient world. Not too long ago, some archaeologist uncovered an ancient Assyrian library, and one of the books in that library was a book of records of the conquest of the kings of Nineveh, and some of those conquests would have involved Israelites. Here are some of the actual statements that come from that book that they unearthed.

These are real. A mountain of heads I erected from his city. Their youths and their maidens I burnt up in the flames. Another one said this, I cut their throats like lambs. I cut off their precious lives as one cuts a string.

Like the many waters of a storm, I made the contents of their gullets and their entrails run down upon the wide earth. Their hands I cut off. I flayed him. His skin I spread upon the wall of the city. I pierced his chin with my dagger. Through his jaw I passed a rope. I put a dog chain upon him, and I kept him in a kennel in the city square.

I tied them up and made them listen to the frozen soundtrack both day and night. One of those is not real. I'll let you decide which one it is. But you can see why Jonah doesn't want to plant a church in Nineveh. Jonah says, I don't want these people to be saved.

I want them to die. So God brings on the whole whale incident that you if you grew up in church you know about. Eventually Jonah relents and he goes and preaches to Nineveh, not because he loves them and he's had a change of heart, but because he doesn't want to be whale bait.

And sure enough they repent. So Jonah says this, chapter 4 verse 1, but it displeased Jonah exceedingly. And he was angry. He said, Lord, is this not what I said?

I told you this was going to happen when I was still in my country. This is why, verse 2, I made haste to flee to Tarshish, for I knew, I knew that you were a gracious God, a wakanun God. And I knew that you were rahum. I knew that you were slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. That's a quote from Exodus 34, 6, and 7. I knew you would relent from disaster.

I knew it. Jonah finds God's love scandalous because God's love reaches out to people that Jonah knows are completely unworthy of God's mercy and his love and his forgiveness. I remember I explained to you the irony of the book of Jonah is that Nineveh is not some random bad city that God throws in as if to say, hey, there's a few really bad people I love along with all of you good people. Nineveh is us. And the whole point is is that God doesn't love a few bad people along with the good people.

God only loves bad people because that's the only kind of people that there are. We are Nineveh. And one day you and I will see with clarity the love that God extended to us and how much he had to forgive us. And when we actually see that, we're going to have a hard time believing it because we think we're Jonah in that story.

But nope, we're Nineveh. And you see in that when Jonah looked at these people and says, they don't deserve forgiveness and love. And God says, that's how I feel about you. I'm going to come as the real Jonah and I'm going to die for the real Ninevites.

And Jonah, you're a Ninevite and this is how I love you. Some things can't be explained. They have to be felt and experienced. That means if you've ever had the experience of being really betrayed like by a son or a daughter or a parent or neglected by a friend or a spouse, but for whatever reason, you can't stop loving them and you keep reaching out toward them. In that moment, you get a glimpse of what God feels and what he has done with you. Some things can't be explained.

They have to be experienced. And Jonah felt that and God said, that's who I am. Let's go to Hosea, another prophet. Shortly thereafter, Hosea was a prophet of God who was given the most unusual assignment in the Bible. God said to him, Hosea 1-2, go Hosea and marry a prostitute.

Bet you didn't see that one coming, Hosea, and have children with her. And this will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods. How would you like to get that job or that calling in seminary? You're going to be a pastor and you're going to be a youth pastor. You're going to be a missionary and you're going to lead a denomination and you're going to marry a prostitute.

Enjoy. So Hosea is given that assignment because God needs to demonstrate some things about his character. So Hosea, who has to be the most underappreciated man in the Bible, obeys and he goes and marries a prostitute named Gomer. It's bad enough she's a prostitute. Her name is Gomer.

And he doesn't just go through the formalities, evidently. Hosea says that he actually falls in love with her. He has kids with her. But soon after they marry, she cheats on him and eventually she leaves him for a man that is abusive to her and a man that will not even provide for her most basic needs. Throughout the book, Hosea pleads with her to come back but she won't do it. Hosea even gives the man that she is living with now money so that he can take care of her basic needs. But she seems willfully to stay blind to the fact that the money that is being used to care for her comes from Hosea. Eventually this man sells her back into the sex slave trade and God tells Hosea, he comes and appears to him a second time and he says, go and buy her back off the auction block.

You can imagine Hosea saying, buy her back. She humiliated me. She has dishonored me. She has broken my heart. She's in this situation because she messed it up.

And now you're telling me to go humiliate myself again and buy her back? And God says, yes. Chapter three, verse one, the Lord said to me, go again and love this woman who is a serial chronic adulterous. Even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, which includes you Hosea, though they turn to other gods, Hebrew scholars tell us what the scene would have looked like.

Slaves, sex slaves in those days were stripped down naked so that the buyers could see what they were getting. And there with all these men that are just putting in prices so they can abuse these women and use them for their needs, there stands Hosea in front of his wife, now stripped naked, who has cheated on him again and again, being bet on by men who are going to mistreat her. And finally Hosea stands up and raises his hand and says, I will top the highest bid.

I am going to make her mine again. God was trying to reveal his nature to Hosea. He was trying to give Hosea a glimpse of his love. And he says, Hosea, you and I have given our hearts to people who utterly reject us and we're going to spend our time and our lives and our efforts going after them. Hosea, there's some things I cannot explain to you in proposition. You have to feel them. And until you experience these things, Hosea, you're never going to understand the depth of my love or how my heart works.

In fact, I think the most remarkable verse in Hosea, maybe the most remarkable verse in the whole Old Testament is Hosea 11.8. God says, how can I give you up Israel? I can't. How can I let you go?

I can't. My heart is torn within me. In other words, God has bound up his happiness in ours.

He can't be happy until we are happy. If you were Gomer's friend, if you were her girlfriend, and she came over to your house and just confided in you, and she basically says, man, I'm leaving my loving husband who's giving me a great home and our wonderful kids. I'm leaving it for this guy who mistreats me and abuses me and doesn't even provide for me. If you're her friend, you're like, stop it fool.

Don't do that. I won't say she ignores your advice, but then she comes back over to your house night after night after night and you have the exact same conversation. At some point you're like, we're done. I'm not going to have a friendship with somebody that is this hard-hearted and this just won't listen to the most basic advice. But if that person, if Gomer is your beloved daughter, or if you're married to her, then your heart has become so bound up with hers that her wounds have become your wounds.

Your happiness is now contingent on her happiness. This is how God reveals he feels about his people, about you. That's a shocking, scandalous reality about the love of God from pastor J.D.

Greer. You're listening to Summit Life. This month, our featured resource is a set of three books on prayer. These short books select 21 key areas of spiritual growth and character development. For each one, there are five short prayer prompts drawn straight from the Bible.

You could work through it as a part of your daily quiet time or pick it up whenever a particular need arises. Either way, it's worth stepping out of the busyness of daily life just for five minutes to pray meaningfully for your parents, your community, or even your child, grandchild, God child, kids in your church, from tots to teens, and every age in between. We'd love to hear from you and get you this five things to pray set of books. We'll send them as our way of saying thanks for your financial gift of $35 or more to support this ministry. Join this mission today when you give by calling 866-335-5220 or go online to give and request your copy at jdgreer.com. While you're on the website, don't forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter. Get ministry updates, information about new resources, and Pastor JD's latest blog posts delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up when you go to jdgreer.com. I'm Molly Vitevich. Be sure to tune in tomorrow as we continue this study of God's abundant love. We'll see you right here Friday on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-16 11:19:03 / 2023-03-16 11:30:27 / 11

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