I am the one He loves.
I regularly remind myself of God’s love for me because it is the only thing that gives me the confidence and boldness to do everything He’s called me to do.
I feel like I’m good company because I’m reminded of John, who called himself, “the disciple that Jesus loves.” I sometimes wonder if John believed—the same way I do—that receiving the love of God is often the beginning of everything you will ever do for the Kingdom of God. After all, we love because He first loved us.
Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” And I read that verse as a promise: If I am walking in faith, repentance, and forgiveness, and I ask for something in prayer, believing that I have received it, it will be mine. Which means the only way the enemy can win a battle with me is if he can keep me from believing I’m receiving from God. And in my life, the first thing the enemy tried to keep me from receiving was God’s love.
I grew up in a Christian home and was raised in church, but addiction came into my life when I was young. And because of it, my salvation story didn’t meet my expectations of what it was supposed to look like when I gave my life to Jesus. Since the pull of addiction didn’t immediately go away after I repented of it, I started to doubt my salvation. Every time I heard an altar call, I would re-dedicate my life to Jesus, and I would hope, “Maybe this time it will work. Maybe this time it will fix me.” But it never seemed to.
That led to years of believing the Father couldn’t love me. How could He, when I couldn’t even love myself?
The Turning Point
Everything came to a head one day when I was in college, and I finally just asked God: “Is it really possible for You to still love me?” And as I mentally prepared myself for the no, going through my laundry list of sins, He flooded—and I mean wrecked—me with His love for me. I remember actually falling to my knees in true, whole-hearted repentance because I was so overwhelmed by His love. And in that moment, I realized that I had known about God my whole life, but I had never really known His heart.
That was a turning point for me. One that ultimately led to me learning to receive the love God had for me, which made me fall more in love with Him and allowed me to finally fall out of the addictive cycles I had been stuck in. Sin no longer had the same appeal. I started diving into Scripture with a newfound zeal. I was on a mission to know the heart of my Father. And every time I opened my Bible, I would ask Him: Will you meet me here? Will you reveal Yourself to me through the power of Holy Spirit? And the Word starting coming to life.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of God. - Romans 10:17
As I spent time in the Word of God, I started hearing the voice of God, and then my faith started to grow because I started to understand the heart of God. The most important thing I had to do in that process was let go of my assumptions about who God was and let Him tell me Himself.
In doing so, one thing I learned was that it was easy for me to think of the Father as the one who wanted to punish me and Jesus as the one who kept me from that punishment. I thought of myself as the troubled child that Jesus brought home for dinner—where God kind of tolerated me because Jesus brought me home, but He probably wouldn’t have invited me Himself. Somewhere I had picked up the belief that God only loved me because of Jesus. I completely missed the truth that God sent Jesus because He loved me. That there was a plan set in motion before the foundation of the world because of how much God “so loved” us.
In Lamentations 3:33, it says, “For He [God] does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men.” Then in Jeremiah 32:41, it says, “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.” So our Father doesn’t afflict from His heart, but when He does us good, He does it with His whole heart and His whole soul. And that’s in the Old Testament—that was His heart toward us even before Jesus came and died for our sins.
The Father’s Heart
God’s heart has always been the same: to get His family back. In Genesis, when Adam and Eve were in the garden, walking and talking with God, He told them, “If you eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will die.” And they ate it. So he clothed them and then kicked them out of the garden so they wouldn’t eat from the tree of life and death and live forever separated from Him. He had to let them go then so He could get them back later.
And the same thing happened with the Old Covenant—the 10 Commandments and the law—God told man, “If I give these commandments to you and you break them, the punishment is death.” And they said, “We can do it!” He gave them the laws, and they broke them. Since He couldn’t break His own Word, in His mercy He created the sacrificial system and in His love He sent His own Son to fulfill the law covenant—all so He could create a new covenant and get His family back forever.
The Exact Imprint
And if you want a deeper insight into the heart of the Father, look at Jesus. Hebrews 1:3 says (of Jesus), “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature…” Jesus was the exact imprint of the nature of the Father—His innermost being. His heart. The heart of Jesus toward you is the same as the heart of the Father toward you.
Jesus, who gravitated most naturally to sinners and sufferers. Jesus, who was moved by compassion to feed the hungry and wipe the tears of those who wept. Jesus, who told the leper: Of course it is my desire to heal you. Jesus, who forgave and then embraced those who desired but did not deserve His forgiveness. Jesus, who rejoiced every time someone was willing to receive something He offered them. Jesus, who did not leave people in the sin that would only bring them pain and death, but out of an abundance of love showed them how repentance was the key to the light of life. Jesus, who came to finally bridge the gap between God and man and Heaven and earth forever. Jesus, who never gets tired of meeting you with fresh forgiveness, fresh grace, and fresh mercy because that was the joy set before Him.
The life of Christ is the heart of the Father on display. And His heart is set on you.
So be undone by His mercy as you love your neighbor as yourself. Be confident in His grace as you turn from anything in this world that holds your heart. And be emboldened by His love as you share the Good News that the Kingdom of God is here.