I recently read Ray Ortlund's book Supernatural Living for Natural People: The life-giving message of Romans 8. I recommend the book to you. In it, he offers insight to Romans 8:32 and answers the question: How can I feel loved by God? I love his answer. Read below:
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32
"Do you see something else here in verse 32? Paul just takes it for granted that God's greatest gift of love to us is his Son. We do not take that for granted. We do not prize Christ as God prizes Christ - the greatest gift of love that could possibly be given. What gifts do we want from God? We want a new job, a new car, a new marriage, whatever. And when God does not give us what we want, we feel unloved and we pout and complain. But the problem is not a failure in God. The problem is that we have devalued Christ.
"The problem is that we have devalued Christ. We have arranged our affections so that, to us, a new job is more to be desired, more to be sought after, more to be rejoiced over, than possessing the Son of God."
We have arranged our affections so that, to us, a new job is more to be desired, more to be sought after, more to be rejoiced over, than possessing the Son of God. But Paul could write Romans 8:32 because his affections were so arranged that he gladly suffered the loss of all things that he might gain Christ (Phil. 3:7-8). If we want to feel loved by God, we must repent that we have disrelished God's greatest gift and plead with him that from the heart we would esteem Christ above all else. That way, having him, we know we already have God's best. We know he is going to throw in everything else we need to enjoy his greatest gift fully. And that is when we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and start to feel loved."
As a college student, I often get the urge among the hours of tedious studying, and piles of thick, dense textbooks, to take a break and indulge in literature that was not written for the classroom. And being a book nerd, I often find myself buying nearly every book that catches my eye! Yesterday afternoon, this book just happened to be the original “The Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. The story of the woodman caught my attention and reminded me of the way many Christians fight sin.
This metal, heartless, funny character has a story that seems to be beyond belief. Being a woodman by trade, this man decided that he would build a house and get married to a particular girl. So the next day, he began vigorously to chop wood for his new home. However, because of a spell placed on his axe by a witch, he accidentally chopped his arm clean off! Coincidentally though, he knew a metalworker that was able to build a new arm to replace the old one. The next day, the woodman began to chop wood once again, but accidentally chopped off his other arm! Luckily, the metalworker had another arm made out of tin that he was willing to sell to the woodman. This trend continued until every single part of the woodman’s body was made out of tin including his chest! Having no chest meant he had no heart, which meant that he could no longer love the girl he was pledged to be married to.
Now, we may think “How could the woodman do that?” “Doesn’t he have enough sense to notice what is bound to happen?” However, think about your own Christian life. Is there a sin that you struggle with? Is there a sin that you cannot seem to, no matter how hard you try, find a means of escape? Let me make a daring suggestion: Maybe you are, although sinking in sin, still finding yourself out in the woods chopping your axe at the same old trees that are resulting in your loss of limbs. Maybe you are, although increasing your addiction to sin, finding yourself home alone, or on a computer without a filter, or in a car alone with a girl, or driving home from work on the route that takes you near a bar. Maybe you are finding yourself talking to others that gossip, or conversing with those at work that tell dirty, impure jokes. Maybe you pray every day to be delivered from sin, but are not taking the necessary measures that God has given you by his grace to be free from that sin! This is what the tin man did. He hated losing limbs, but found himself every day out in the field chopping wood until he wasn’t recognizable any longer.
There are three ways in which we can prevent becoming like the tin man in our Christian lives:
In 2 Corinthians 7:9, Paul says “Yet I am happy, not because you are sorry, but because your sorrow led to repentance.” In the fight against sin, many people mistake being sorry as repentance. However, Paul says here that sorrow is simply a road that is meant to lead to repentance. John Macarthur said that “It is impossible to talk about seeking after God without talking about repenting and turning from Sin.” If you are seeking to grow closer to God today without repentance, you will not accomplish your goal. If you are attempting to conquer that besetting sin without first repenting to a Holy God, your attempts to grow in relationship with him will be in vain.
Galatians 6:1-2 tells us to “Carry each others burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Biblical Accountability is very important. However in the church today, being accountable is simply thought of as a last second resort in the fight against sexual sin. Yet, if you are a Christian attempting to grow in holiness, and you are not accountable to other men, you are not living a biblical life. Are you accountable to what you look at on the computer? Are you accountable with your time? Are you accountable with your money? With your words? Biblical Accountability is important in the life of the church, in the life of a family, and in the fight against sin of any sort.
"If you want to conquer the big besetting sins in your life, it is going to take bigger and more drastic changes in the discipline of your every day to conquer those frustrating sins."
3. Radical Measures
In Matthew 5, Jesus exclaims “If your right eye causes you to stumble, cut it out and throw it away.” The Messiah obviously isn’t telling you to literally take out a knife and cut your own eye out. However what he is telling you to do is just as drastic. He is commanding you to take drastic measures to ensure that you are turning from your sin, and pressing on in holiness. What kind of drastic measures are you taking today to ensure that the sin you are struggling with does not befall you once more? If you are struggling with gambling, are you unaccountable with your time? If you struggle with sexual sin, do you have a computer that is unfiltered? If you want to conquer the big besetting sins in your life, it is going to take BIGGER and MORE DRASTIC changes in the discipline of your every day to conquer those frustrating sins.
I think we have all seen the image above at some point. Reason being, everyone can relate to it. We all love leaders and hate bosses. We love people who lead us forward by service and despise bosses who sit on their throne and command others.
But the question we must ask is how can I be a leader, not a boss? Three ways:
1. Don't Lead Someone Into Something You Wouldn't Do Yourself
When someone is trying to lead you to do something they wouldn't do themselves, you know it. The result of you knowing this is a lack of motivation and passion to carry out what your assignment. Let's not be those people. Always be willing to do whatever you're leading your people into. Personally, I will never ask someone to do something that I would not be willing to do myself if that person were not able to carry out the task in the last minute. A boss will make commands that they themselves would never follow when a leader will make commands that they themselves would follow.
2. Constantly Remind Yourself Of Your Own Brokenness
Constantly remind yourself of how messed up you are. Seriously. Sit back and think about all the ways you fall short. Why? So that you remember you are not much different than those under your leadership. A boss will think of themselves as in a separate category above everyone else. A leader will recognize that they are broken just like everyone else. This changes how they relate to their people and lead their people forward.
3. Model The Greatest Leader To Ever Live
Learn from Jesus. He was meek and bold. Tender and firm. Grace and truth. He came not to be served, but to serve those around Himself by giving His life for those that would trust Him by faith (Philippians 2). The best leaders are those that are most like Jesus. Keep your eyes on Christ and be like Him.
Interesting question, isn't it?
Am I weak enough for God?
Our culture asks another question: Am I strong enough? Our culture worships strength and self sufficiency. Books are overflow the shelves of your local bookstore about greater productivity, greater influence, how to have an unshakeable will, do it yourself, and on and on they go. The world looks down upon those who are weak and laughs. The weak are viewed as the unfortunate, the exiles, and the unwanted. If you want to be great in the world, do it yourself and give the credit to no one. God isn't like this.
In God's Kingdom, weakness is not powerless, it's powerful. God loves weak people. Time and time again we see in the NT that it is those that are weak in the world's eyes that get grace and those that are strong and well-off that get rebuked. Why? Because God works through weakness. He loves it. God doesn't stiff arm weak people, He lifts them up to display His power (Phil. 4:13). What is weakness, you ask? Weakness is viewing oneself the way God views us. In God's view, we are broken, weak, and can do nothing without Him (John 5:19). When I look at myself through the lens of the Bible with the help of the Spirit, I see a weak man who can do nothing well without God. Is this depressing? In the world's eyes, it's crushing. What hope do we have if we are weak? What can we hope to accomplish? God says we have everything to gain (Phil. 1:21). Are you weak enough for God? How can I get weak before God? Perhaps the better question to ask is not how can I get weak, but how can I have a greater perception of what I already am? I am already weak, I just need to realize it more, everyday.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." This is something we will never understand fully. Sure, we can know we are weak today, but tomorrow God may graciously grant you the ability, through the Spirit, to see how much weaker you really are. God telling us "My grace is sufficient for you" is not something we experience all at once and than 2 Corinthians 12:9 is no longer applicable to us. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is the Christian life. We do not grow outside of God's grace. We need it. And we see it's power and effects through weakness.
Are you weak enough for God? Let's be weak, together and see His power made known through us for His glory.
It seems obvious, does it not? That Jesus is better than Facebook. We know this. We've tasted this. We've experienced this.
So why do we live like this isn't true?
Why do we constantly feel the pull of hitting that little blue square to scroll through the endless status updates, shared pictures, and many comments? Why do we put our foot on the gas pedal of our minds when thinking about Jesus but seemingly slam on the brakes when browsing Facebook?
Could someone look at the way you spend your leisure time and conclude "They don't just SAY Jesus is better than Facebook, they REALLY believe it!"
Friends, let's not allow our minds to wander to the short-lived pleasures of scrolling through Facebook. Let's fix our minds on the pleasures of Christ. Let's press into the Gospel of grace and have our hearts awakened from our dull mindedness. I need this. You need this. So let's stumble towards it, together.
Jesus is better than Facebook. God, help me to remember and live like this is true.
I am a Husband to Clarissa, Pastor at Liberty Baptist Church, reader of many books, and tweeter at @brad_merchant.