If you ask anyone in the world they most likely have an opinion of God. Some see him as a loving and compassionate Creator, some see Him as a Being that can’t wait to throw us in hell, others say that God is like a watchmaker who made the earth but now no longer gets involved in its matters and still others will say that God is someone who will let you go to heaven but only if you do some good works. I’m sure we have heard at least a few of these opinions.
Unfortunately it is impossible that everyone has the correct opinion of God because many views contradict each other. In the end what really matters is not our friend’s opinion of God. Not even a pastor, monk or priest’s opinion matters. The only viewpoint that will matter is the actions and words of God himself. Today let’s open our Bibles and see what God Himself has to say about His character. Isn’t it only fair that we allow Him to speak for Himself?
But before we open our Bibles lets ask God to help us. Will you bow your head in prayer with me? Below is a prayer that you can read with me.
Father in heaven, today we want to know who you really are. We humbly ask that you show us your character, from your words. Give us your wisdom and understanding so as we read what you have to say may it not be our interpretation but may it be yours. Send your Holy Spirit to be with us as we study today. We pray all these things in the name of Jesus, amen.
When is it the hardest to love someone? About 2,000 years ago, a man named Jesus began his teaching. Recorded by Matthew we hear Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43-48 which says…
“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 sons 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 brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus is making an important but difficult point. Everyone, including tax collectors (who at that time extorted money from citizens) loves people who love them. But Jesus here is saying that we should even love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. He’s saying that true love is more than just loving those who love you, true love is loving everyone no matter their outlook regarding you. This teaching is not only counter cultural but it is against our own nature. If we are honest with ourselves we are far from this point of love, all it takes is for someone to bring a few insults against us and we are on the defensive throwing insults right back at them. This teaching seems nearly impossible. If God is love wouldn’t he even love those who do not love him?
Let’s dig deeper into who God really is to answer that question. During the end of the life of Jesus here on earth, we find Jesus in a situation where he is surrounded by religious people who want to put him to death.
Turn with me to Luke (the third book of the New Testament) chapter 22 verse 63 (Luke 22:63) and let’s read from there to the end of that chapter. Feel free to read till the end of the chapter and then continue reading.
There are two main points that we can focus on for this lesson. First Jesus has been arrested by the religious authorities who do not believe in him. And the guards are mocking and beating him.
The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him.
Second in verse 70-71 Jesus tells them plainly that he is the Son of God, making himself equal with God. Because the people did not believe him, they thought he was blaspheming which in the Jewish law at that time was punishable by death.
They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He (Jesus) replied, “You are right in saying I am.”
Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”
Now let’s see if God really is really loving, if He even loves those who do not love Him. Let’s simply read the rest of the account.
Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate (the Roman judge). And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.”
So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”
Continue to Luke 23:20-25
Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”
But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him (Jesus) to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
After being beaten, flogged (whipped), mocked and then nailed to a cross to die Jesus brings no malicious words or actions against his accusers. Instead he still longs for them to be saved and he even prayed for them while he is up on the cross. Let’s continue.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
While people were trying to kill Jesus he wasn’t trying to stab them back. Instead he was trying to save them while they were trying to kill him. Crazy isn’t it? But that is real love. Not only that, but Jesus even forgave a common thief who confessed his sins and believed in Jesus as the Messiah. The book of 1st John answers the world’s question: Is God loving?
1 John 3:16 – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
1 John 4:7-20 – Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
Indeed God is love. Will you pray to close our study? Let’s thank God for being a God of love and pray that God continue to reveal his true character to us in the days and weeks ahead.
Now that we know that God is a God of love will you chose to learn more about him? Let’s continue to find out who God really is and what is his true character by studying his words from the Bible as much as we can. If you would like to learn more about the life of Jesus please contact us and request free offer # 1 – Steps to Christ. We will gladly mail you a free copy! Or read it online for free now.
– Blue words are from the Bible
– Red words are the words of Jesus