“God’s Eternal Love”
Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” Have you ever wondered if God really loves you? Oh, there are times in our life when we might ask that very question. Things aren't going right. Our prayers are not being answered, the way we think they should be answered. We might even believe we are not getting our fair share of God's blessings. And we might even wonder if God has forgotten us. Oh, these things and others like them happen to everyone! At one time or another, we all might believe we are on the so-called short end of the stick. And yet, in the midst of life's uncertainties and all the challenges we face, there is one thing that remains the same: God's love is always present. It never goes away. He sees and knows exactly what is happening in your life and in mine; and He cares for us. In today's lesson, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will be reminded, from one of the Psalms, just how much God really does love us. And that is something we can never forget. I hope you will stay tuned to this station for the next few minutes as we study together the lesson entitled “God's Eternal Love.”
Our lesson today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” comes from what has been called the songbook of the early church, and that is known as the Book of Psalms, which is found in the Old Testament. It is a very beautiful psalm that we will look at for the next few minutes, and it contains a very powerful message. I want us to focus on six verses in particular, as we talk about God's eternal love for us. Let's notice the reading here in Psalm 103, beginning with verse 8 and going through verse 13. <The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.> There are at least 12 different qualities or characteristics of God which are identified in these six verses. And with that in mind, I want to make four observations about God's eternal love. The first one is this: God has a long fuse. You know, that is the essence of what we read there in verse 8. God does not get angry at us for the purpose of destroying us, but rather it is to turn us from our sinful ways and to prevent us from destroying ourselves. And that is a testimony not only to God's love, but also to His grace and mercy. He abounds in steadfast love. Now, those type of characteristics and qualities are found in various other places in the Old Testament, as well. I’m especially reminded of Exodus, chapter 34, verse 6: <The Lord passed in front of Moses proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God who is slow to anger…”> Oh, that verse goes on to talk about a number of other qualities of God, but I want us to think for a moment about God being slow to anger. The very same thing is recorded in Joel, chapter 2, verse 13, along with Jonah, chapter 4 and verse 2. And here is the way the apostle Peter puts it in 2nd Peter, chapter 3, verse 9: <The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.> You know, it seems most of us do not do slow very well. You know what I mean, don't you? It seems that we are always in a hurry to get to somewhere where we are not. Whether we are talking about waiting at a traffic light or in line at a restaurant, we want to get to where we want to go just as soon as possible. Well, no, we're not very patient people. If things do not go according to our timetable, then we want to know what's wrong with our watch, or perhaps we want to know what's happening on the other end that's causing the delay. But that's not the way it is with God. God is not in a hurry. He is not quick to get angry or to judge us. He is not quick to condemn or to destroy. Did you realize that God has all the time in the world because God created time and He is in control of it? In fact, Peter also wrote in 2nd Peter 3, in verse 8, “One day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as one day.” So first of all, today, we can be thankful God has a long fuse. Here's the second observation: God has a short memory. You know, a short fuse on a piece of dynamite is not a good thing for the one lightning that piece of dynamite. A short leash on a mean tiger is not good for the one who is holding that leash. But a short memory from our loving, heavenly Father is a good thing. As we notice, God forgives our sin; and when He does, He moves on. He forgets about the past. He doesn't bring up our past mistakes; and if He doesn't do that, then neither should we. Oh, it is no secret we all sin and we all mess up. We stumble. We fall on a regular basis. And as a result of that, we disappoint God. We disappoint Him with our disobedience, with our pride, our arrogance, or a host of other things. And even though we are a part of God's family, even though God's Spirit has been entrusted to us, we still mess up. We still make mistakes. And obviously that does not make God happy. He does not want us to do those things. Rather, He wants us to walk by the Holy Spirit, who lives within us. He wants us to have that right relationship with Him. But here is the good news: When we do mess up, God does not abandon us. God does not turn His back on us. God is not going anywhere. Yet, our Father in heaven sees what is going on in our life, and He cares for us. We are weak. We are easily tempted. In fact, as we read just a moment ago, we notice that we are but dust. He remembers who we are because He created us. And as a result, God is patient and understanding. His arms are always open and He always welcomes us when we turn our hearts back toward Him. Whatever happens in the past, God not only forgives it, through His son, Jesus Christ, but He also forgets it. It's gone. There's no need to bring it up again. And when we understand how God does that, how He forgives the sin in our life, and then He forgets it, He puts it behind Him, we are to do the very same thing. What good is it for God to forgive our sin if we keep bringing it up over and over again? We, like God, are to forget the mistakes of the past and to move on to the future. You know, that eliminates the blessing of forgiveness, doesn't it? If we keep bringing up the same things that we have been forgiven for in days gone by, what's the purpose of even being forgiven in the first place? And so God has a short memory, and we can be thankful for that. He doesn't remember our sin, but He forgets them, as He forgives them. And so that's point number two: God has a short memory. Here's observation number three: God has a thick skin. God is more interested in us coming home to Him than He is in punishing us. He doesn't want us to be lost. He wants us to be found. And that is the image that we get, especially from Luke chapter 15, in those parables, or stories, that Jesus told there about the lost sheep and the lost coin and the lost sons. He wants us to be found. And then we think also about Jesus' words in Luke, 19, verse 10; how, He came to seek and to save what was lost. And when we turn our back on God, He does not turn His back on us. Now, we may or may not intentionally do that. But when that happens, God understands. God is compassionate and kind toward us, even when we are not. And even though we offend Him, He does not treat us as our sins deserve, like we read just a moment ago. Our sins may offend the Lord; but the key point is, our sins do not drive Him away. He has a thick skin. He understands our humanity. And yet, no matter what happens, His holiness will never be hurt or damaged in any way. God remains the same yesterday, today and forever. In other words, God loves us eternally. His love is immeasurable and He will not be hurt. We may say or do things that hurt the feelings of other people, and that person may respond to us in a negative or hurtful way and they say or do things in retaliation back toward us. Yet that's not the way it is with God. He does not hold grudges. He does not do that. He does, in fact, just the opposite. He has already taken the initiative in making things right, even before they went wrong. And He did that through the relationship we can have with Him, through His son, Jesus Christ. And so today, we can be thankful God has a thick skin. Well, here is observation number four: God has a big heart. We may know people who are continually giving to and serving other people. They may even go overboard in the gifts they give or the sacrifices they make in order to bless people. And that's a good thing. We appreciate people like that. We might even be on the receiving end of those wonderful gifts, and we appreciate their big heart. On the other hand, we might think of ourselves as being like that. We give and we make sacrifices. We try to bless the lives of other people. And we, too, want to have a big heart. But no matter how big your heart is, or my heart might be, there is no heart that is bigger than God's heart. God is a good and giving and gracious God; and none of us can ever measure up to the bigness and to the goodness of God's heart. Yes, God goes overboard in showing and demonstrating love and compassion, He loves us more than we will ever know. And as we noticed in that passage, a moment ago, His love is indescribable for those who love and fear and obey Him. No matter what our lives look like, we can be on the receiving end of God's love and compassion; and we are. His big heart connects with our broken hearts. He welcomes our dependence upon Him, and He wants to provide for every need in our lives. Yes, observation number four is that God has a big heart, and we can indeed be thankful for it. When we think about our Heavenly Father in these tangible ways, it helps us to connect with Him, doesn't it? We can identify with God's eternal love for us, and we can rejoice that we have received these blessings as He pours them out into our lives every day. Now, with all of those things in mind, we realize that we cannot keep those blessings for ourselves. God wants us to share what He has given to us, His love, with those people who perhaps have never seen it or realized it first hand. And that is our response to Psalm 103 verses 8 through 13. And so what is our response? In one phrase, I believe it is simply this: We imitate our Father's love. That's what we do. We follow His example. We notice these words from the apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter 4, beginning with verse 31, <Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.>. Paul encourages us to get rid of six things and then to focus on three things. And those three things are important; kindness, compassion and forgiveness. And those are some of the most important qualities or characteristics we can possess, and, no doubt, God already possesses. In other words, we treat people the way we want to be treated. We treat people the way God treats us; and that is with kindness, compassion and forgiveness. We see other people as being created in the image of God. And when we do that, we realize that's the way we have been created in His image. And we, like our heavenly Father, are to have a long fuse with those who offend us. We are to have a thick skin when people do things to us that are not good or right. And it all begins by getting rid of those negative things, like bitterness and rage and anger and anything else that keeps us from loving God the way He has already loved us. Notice how many of these qualities are found in Psalm 103. In fact, the passage here in Ephesians chapter 4 may be as close to Psalm 103 as any other passage in the New Testament. And as children who belong to God, we represent Him in this world. We represent His eternal love in all of our relationships. The apostle Paul writes a similar passage in the letter called Colossians. There he writes to a group of people who are looking to add something to the salvation which they have already received. They believe if they can become just a little bit better in other ways, unlike other people around them, then they will be accepted by God just a little bit better than other people. And Paul tells them, you don't need to do that. You already have everything that you need through Jesus Christ. You have the Spirit of God living within you, and He provides everything that is necessary. With that as a background, he writes these words in chapter 3, verses 12 through 14: <Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.> We find some phrases and words repeated here that we found in Ephesians chapter 4. And the three that, again, jump out to me are compassion, kindness and forgiveness. Those are the big three, it seems, aren’t they! But then Paul goes on to add humility, gentleness and patience. And when we think about those words, those six words, we immediately think, that's God. That's how He is demonstrating His love to us. And when they are at the core of our relationships, then we are truly representing the character of God. But then, in addition to that, we notice the words that we are to bear with one another. Have you ever thought about what that means? Well, in perhaps a crude way it would mean we put up with each other. We deal with some of the problems or issues that other people might have that are difficult and challenging for us to accept. But we bear with one another, we are patient with one another, because that's the way God deals with us. There are some issues and problems in our life, but yet God bears with us, doesn't He? And as we receive that, we receive His acceptance and His forgiveness. And the end result of living like this, as we notice, is a spirit of unity; that believers come together with the same goal in mind. There is one purpose in imitating our Father's love, and that is to be unified as the body of Jesus Christ. Here is a third passage for us to think about as we respond to God's eternal love for us. These are the words of Jesus from Matthew chapter 5, beginning with verse 43. <“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."> Verses 44 through 47 are examples of God's love. He is the perfect God and He perfectly loves people. And God does things that may not make sense to us. His love, the sun, the blessings, the rain, all fall upon the good and the bad, the righteous and the unrighteous. And that's a great picture of God's love. He doesn't judge, He doesn't evaluate, He just distributes His love everywhere. And if we were in that position, I wonder if we would do the same. And then according to verse 48, we are to follow that example. We are to be perfect in our love for others. That may not always happen, but yet that is the goal. And then here is one final passage that perhaps summarizes all of our response to God's eternal love. Again, from Ephesians, this time in chapter 5, verses 1 and 2. <Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.> God is perfect in His love for us. He demonstrates that love to us over and over again in so many and various ways. The apostle Paul tells us, just follow that example. Just do what God does. Be perfect in your love toward other people as God is perfect in His love toward you. Our loving heavenly Father has shown to us what His eternal love looks like. And now we are called upon to share that same love with the people whom He puts into our life. We follow His example in all of our relationships. Let us know that God's eternal love is to never end with us, but it is continually displayed in our lives with others. I would encourage you today to never forget how much God loves you. God's love never runs out on you. And I would encourage you to take that love and to share it in a perfect way with other people.
One of the most amazing and remarkable things I have ever experienced happened just recently. For many years now, people have been working on what is called the Webb telescope, and that telescope is used to take pictures up into the sky, into the heavens, far beyond anything we have ever seen before. And we are getting glimpses of what is beyond what we can see, the sky and the clouds. We're getting glimpses of galaxies far, far away. We did not know they existed. And the images that come back are truly amazing. Perhaps that is the closest thing we have to describing the eternal love of God. It is far greater than we can ever imagine. It is far beyond our depth of understanding; that God's eternal love never runs out on us. God's love is never ending, just like the galaxies and the skies far, far above us. God's love never quits. And that's good to know, isn't it; especially when we feel all alone or overlooked and neglected in this world. God's love for you and for me reaches to the heavens and far beyond. When things don't go well in your life, when you feel overlooked or run down or neglected by people, when bad things happen in your life, I want you to remember something: God loves you. His love for you is greater than you will ever imagine or could ever dream. I would encourage you to be thankful today for God's eternal love in your life.
Thank you for watching today's broadcast. Hopefully this message about God's eternal love was a blessing and an encouragement. Our goal at “Key to the Kingdom” is to offer messages from God's Word that help us in our relationships, not only with the Lord, but also with one another. There are several ways you can listen to or view this message again. Please go to our website, keytothekingdom.com; and from there, this lesson can be downloaded in a variety of formats. Other messages are there as well, and none of them require any cost or any kind of obligation. I trust you will find those messages that are of special interest. Other ways to access this ministry include Roku® Television, a free app for smart-phones, and Facebook®. Once again, there is never a cost to download any of our messages or material. You might also find the one minute and two minute messages to be of interest, as well. They are all accessible through our website, and you can also find them on YouTube®. Thank you again for tuning in to today's program. And may you enjoy God's blessings in your life. Remember, God's love is eternal! I hope you will join us again next week at the same time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”