Teaching series from Romans

How To Be Sure of God's Love

Romans 5:5-11

Teaching t07940

Introduction

As we saw last week, one of the great benefits of justification is reconciliation--a restored personal relationship with God. When you come to God through faith in Christ, he no longer relates to us as a holy Judge, but as a loving Father who welcomes us into presence. God wants you to know and to be confident that he loves you. This passage is about how you can be sure of his love.

Why is this so important? Because this knowledge of God's love is the foundation upon which all healthy spiritual development and maturity develops.

We have a close analogy in the area of childhood development. Millions of tax dollars has confirmed through research what good parents have long known through common sense. From failure to thrive of infants deprived of physical nurture, to higher incidence of unwed pregnancies and divorce for children from broken homes, the connection is clear. "All things being equal, apart from the intervention of the grace of God, all of us know that for a human being to grow to a full emotional and interpersonal maturity, the stability of a loving and disciplined home is an indispensable ingredient."1

The same thing is true in the spiritual arena. "To be sure of the love of his or her parents is almost indispensable to the healthy emotional development of a child . . . To be sure of God's love brings even richer blessings. It is the major secret of joy, peace, freedom, confidence and self-respect."2 This is why Paul prays as he does in Eph. 3:18,19 (read). Why does he pray that we may comprehend the extent of God's love for us? " . . . so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God," which is a synonym for spiritual maturity (see Eph. 4:13).

This is also the major path of healing for those of us who were deprived of healthy love in our families of origin, or who are having to raise children in broken homes. Many of us in this room can testify how becoming sure of God's love has substantially healed deep wounds and mitigated the damage we pass on to our own children.

How can you know that God loves you? How can you become increasingly confident in his love so that you grow into the person he designed you to be? In Rom. 5:5-11, Paul discloses the two avenues through which God does this: one is a "demonstration" and the other is a "pouring out."

God "demonstrates" his love by sending Christ to die for us.

Read 5:6-8. How can you know that God loves you? Re-read 5:8. To "demonstrate" (sunistaymi) is to show openly, even to prove. We saw earlier that God demonstrated his justice by sending Jesus to the cross (3:25 - endeiknumi), because there he showed humanity that he will not allow sin to go unpunished. But the cross is also God's demonstration of his own unique love for us.

Now according to the Bible, the essence of love is giving. And the degree of love is measured partly by the costliness of the gift to the giver, and partly by the unworthiness of the recipient. The greater the chasm between these two, the greater the demonstration of love.

Human love at its highest gives costly gifts to worthy people (read 5:7). People are very rarely willing to give their lives for others--even for people they consider to be very worthy. They sometimes do this, but not for people who are bad and unrighteous.

WWII veterans recount G.I.'s who fell on a grenade to save their buddies, but I know of no account in which a G.I. fell on a grenade to save a Nazi. A fireman may risk his life to rescue his neighbor from an arson's fire, but there are no accounts of firemen offering to go to prison for the arson. A parent may mortgage everything he has to ransom his child, but I have never heard of any parent who offered to post bond for his child's kidnapper.

Now this is precisely the way in which God's love is unique. God gives his most precious gift--the Messiah, his own Son.? And to whom does he give this gift? Notice the downward progression of Paul's description of humanity: "helpless;" "ungodly;" "sinners;" "enemies." The gulf between the preciousness of God's gift and our unworthiness is humanly inconceivable. Only a love way beyond our own would do such a thing. Yet this is exactly what God has done! And he did it for us "while we were yet" this way. He did not extend his love to you only after you turned to him; he extended his greatest gift of love to you even while you were headed the other way (Lk. 23:33,34). In fact, it is the realization of this fact that motivates us to turn to him.

There is a beautiful illustration of all this in Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables." Watch closely the interaction between Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson) and the bishop. WATCH VIDEO. This was the "demonstration" that changed Jean's life. It was a decisive proof of God's love for him which (when he opened his heart to receive it) ransomed him from cynicism and despair and led him into a life of loving service to God and others.

How can you know God loves you? Because God has given his Son for you. He did this openly, in history. He predicted by the Old Testament prophets so you could know it was his doing rather than some historical accident. He explained it both through Jesus and his apostles so you could know exactly why he did it. You can go back to this as often as you need to. When the evil in the world around you screams that there is no loving God, when your heart within you is full of darkness and despair--you can come and stand on this ground and be anchored by this demonstration that God loves you.

God "pours out" his love within our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

There is yet another way God communicates his love to us. Read 5:5b. God not only "demonstrates" his love by having sent Christ to die for us; he also "pours out" his love within our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

The image is of a shower of rain soaking parched ground. So God soaks our parched hearts with his love through this work of his Spirit (Jn. 7:37-39). One of the Holy Spirit's main roles is to "make us deeply and refreshingly aware that God loves us."

And this is not something that God does only for a few, privileged super-saints. This is something he does for all who put their faith in Christ to justify them (5:1 defines who the "us" is).

GOSPEL: Maybe you have come to understand that God loves you because he gave his Son to die for you. But knowing this intellectually, as wonderful and necessary as it is, does not make you a Christian, and it does not fill the void in your heart. For that, you need to actually experience God's love for you on a personal level. And God is ready and waiting to pour out his love within your heart, if you will only open the door of your heart and invite Christ in (read Rev. 3:20). What will you experience? Some people experience a dramatic sense of joy. Others experience a profound sense of relief and cleansing. Others experience a subtle but deep sense that they have made the right decision, that they have come home. You will experience God's love in your heart--whatever expression of it that God knows you need. Why not do this today?

But while this "pouring out" happens initially when you receive Christ, God wants it to be an ongoing shower on your soul (ekkechytai is present tense). How does God's Spirit continue to pour out his love within our hearts? This is difficult to describe exactly, because it is profoundly personal. We must avoid demanding of God or prescribing to others how he must do this. Yet the scripture provides us with an outline of what this looks like and how to receive it.

The Spirit personalizes the Bible's teaching about God's love for us (1 Cor. 2:12; Eph. 1:17,18). He opens our hearts to understand that Christ's death was not just some abstract gift that God gave to humanity in general, but that Christ died for me because God loves me. He takes passages and "brings them home" to our hearts so that they nourish our confidence in God's love and goodness. Some of you are experiencing this for the first time, or in a deeper way, even as we go through these early chapters in Romans.

So if you want to experience this outpouring of God's love, you need to get regular exposure to God's Word.

The Spirit helps us to relate to God personally, so that he goes from being an abstract, distant Deity whom we acknowledge through ritual and memorized prayers to a warm and loving Father with whom we share in very personal and intimate ways. He helps us to pour out our hearts to God in prayer (Rom. 8:26,27), and he assures our hearts through this interaction that we really are God's beloved children (Rom. 8:15,16).

So if you want to experience this outpouring of God's love, you need to choose regularly to draw near to God in prayer.

The Spirit grants us God's hope and peace and joy (experiential awareness and assurance that God's good hand is on us) in the midst of painful and anxious situations. This is what Paul is talking about in 5:5, and this is what he says in Rom. 15:13 (read). God not only works through our sufferings to produce his character in our lives; he also assures us of his love in the midst of these sufferings. This is why, while non-Christians point to suffering as the proof that God is not loving, Christians point to suffering as the context in which they experience God's love in deeper ways!

So if you want to experience this outpouring of God's love, you need to choose to go on trusting God and following him when you suffer.

The Spirit expresses God's love to us through his people. He "incarnates" his love through the members of his Body, so we experience his forgiveness, encouragement, affection, etc. in wonderfully personal ways (read 2 Cor. 7:5,6). They speak his word to us, pray for and with us, communicate his peace and forgiveness and hope. And we get to experience God doing this for others through us, too!

So if you want to experience this outpouring of God's love, you need to be regularly involved with other Christians--both willing to receive his love through them, and willing to let him give his love to them through you. The best way to do this is to get involved in a home group.

Conclusion

To summarize, God makes us sure of his love in two different and complementary ways. The work of the cross is public; the work of the Spirit is private and personal. The work of the cross is historical; the work of the Spirit is contemporary. The work of the cross is objective; the work of the Spirit is subjective and experiential.

We need both God's "demonstration" and his "pouring out" for healthy growth and development. Christians who focus only on the work of the cross and neglect the work of the Spirit become sterile. Christians who focus only on the work of the Spirit and neglect the work of the cross become unstable. We need to be anchored securely in the work of the cross and animated regularly by the work of the Spirit if we want stable and vital spiritual development.

Footnotes

1 D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), p. 196.

2 John R. W. Stott, Commentary on Romans, p. 142.

Copyright 1999 Gary DeLashmutt