Thursday, April 6, 2017

Preparation for Passover - Believing in God's Love

As we approach Passover, we examine ourselves and we meditate on the sacrifice of Christ.

We do this to observe Passover in a worthy manner.

"Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

Notice, we are to examine ourselves and we are to judge ourselves so Christ does not have to judge us and give us corrective punishment for our sins. We are to look at our faults and set our minds to repent and overcome them. But even if we fail to do this and God punishes us, it is for our ultimate good so that we are not condemned with the world.

One way we examine ourselves is by reviewing those parts of the Bible that will show us our faults. Examples include the ten commandments and the sermon on the mount, but there are many more.

And also, we should review the scriptures about Christ's sacrifice, both the prophecies in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 52:13-15, 53:1-12, and the actual fulfillment of those prophecies in the New Testament, such as all the passages concerning the sacrifice of Christ in the gospel accounts. It is especially good to review Christ's words in John chapters 13 through 17.

There is one point of self-examination that directly relates to the sacrifice of Christ.

Many of us - when we go through trials, when our prayers are not answered for a long time, when we struggle against sinful habits and cry out to God for help to overcome, yet may feel we can't overcome even after praying for help - may be tempted to doubt God's love for us. We may not doubt God's love for the world and for the Church, yet we may have doubts about God's love for us personally.

Some may think, "Yes, Christ was sacrificed for the world and for the Church, but that doesn't necessarily apply to me personally".

And yet, the Bible is full of instruction to show us that God loves all mankind, including each one of us individually, and wants as many as possible to make it into His kingdom.

Christ knows and understands our problems. He knows what it is like to have His prayer unanswered (or the answer is, no) (Matthew 26:39-42). He knows what it is like to feel abandoned by God (Matthew 27:46).

Yet God tells us, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

For those who struggle against sin, seemingly unable to overcome, God gives us encouragement through the apostle Paul who also struggled with sin (Romans 7:14-25).

But though God gives us many scriptures and passages of encouragement, to show us that He loves each one of us, and many promises to help us, the requirement of faith still applies. We must believe God's promises. We must believe that God loves us.

And that is where self-examination and reviewing the sacrifice of Christ overlap. That sacrifice, above all, demonstrates God's love for us. But if we doubt that love we are failing to believe God and sinning by doubting His promises to love us and save us. And if we have fallen into that sin, we need to repent and begin to believe and trust God that He loves us and will go all out to save us, EVERY ONE OF US. And we discover that sin through self-examination.

Is God's love for us unconditional?

Yes, there is an aspect of God's love that is unconditional. God is not willing that any be lost, but only those who reject God's salvation will be lost. That shows the unconditional aspect of God's love. God will try, right to the end, to save all of us. If we are lost in the end, it will not be due to God not trying, not going all out, to save each and every one of us.

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

" 'For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,' says the Lord God. 'Therefore turn and live!' " (Ezekiel 18:32).

"Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?' " (Ezekiel 33:11).

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:8-10).

There are many more such scriptures, and those who read the Bible regularly, all of it, will find them.

Is all of God's love unconditional? Well, there seems to be an aspect of God's love that is conditional. Notice this passage. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him...If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (John 14:21-23).

Here, a special love from God the Father and Jesus Christ is promised towards those who love Christ and demonstrate that love by keeping His commandments. That is a condition. "If anyone loves Me...My Father will love Him."

But the love God has for all mankind and everyone in the Church of God, to go all out to save them, is truly unconditional. It is God's desire that everyone eventually fulfill the condition described in John 14:21-23 so they can be fully loved by God, and God will work with us to bring us to that point.

When God calls us, He brings us to Christ. It is then Christ's job, and the Father's job, to save us. And Christ glorifies the Father by working to the end to save each and every one of us, no exceptions. Concerning His disciples, Jesus said to the Father, "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12).

"Jesus answered, 'I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,' that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, 'Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none' " (John 18:8-9).

God has given Christ a certain number of people on this earth to save in this age, those who are called. Your name, and mine, are on that list. God the Father tells Jesus Christ, "Here they are, those who are called - save them." Do you think Jesus Christ will not go all out to save every single one who is called, every person, you and me included, that is on that list? Of course He will. He wants to please the Father. Every single person who is saved glorifies the Father and Christ. It is not just Christ's love for you and me that motivates Him to save us, but also His love for the Father. You can bet your life He'll go all out for every one of us.

There is no greater witness to the love the Father has for all of us than the sacrifice of Christ. The Father will not cheapen that sacrifice by not applying it to every human being who is willing to repent, and God helps us even to repent. And Jesus Christ will not disrespect the Father by failing to go all out to save every single one of us.

God will work with us to help us repent and develop His righteous character. Our human nature wants to resist, and if we are weak it can take a long time, and we may go through a lot of unnecessary suffering and have a smaller reward in God's kingdom. And if we continue to resist, we can lose out, not because of God giving up on us, but because by our choices we refuse God's salvation. But if we do our part, God will save us. He may have to put us through severe and prolonged trials to teach us lessons, but as long as we do not give up on God and as long as we keep doing our part to strive to overcome, God will not give up on us.

"This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day" (John 6:39).

There is an abundance of proof in the Bible that God loves each one of us, every individual, and will go all out to help us "make it", as we say.

But we are being tested, not only in our obedience, but in our faith to believe God's promises and to believe His word that He loves us and will work to save us.

We have to trust God and believe in His promises.

Faith, believing God's word, is one of the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). In other words, believing and trusting God is part of God's law and way of life. If we refuse or resist believing and trusting God, we sin, for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). We need to repent of that sin.

So in our self-examination, we need to examine ourselves by the Bible and judge ourselves if we have been doubting God's love for us. And if we have doubted God's word, we need to repent and believe in God's love, not just His love for others or the world or the Church in general, but for each one of us individually. And that belief in God's love should be a prod for us to give God thanks and to go all out to overcome our sins and live by every word of God.

And whenever we examine ourselves, which we do with special emphasis before Passover (but we should also do to a degree all during the year), we should do so by the Bible, letting the Bible correct us.

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Here are links to other posts in this blog on the subjects of Passover, self-examination, physical and spiritual healing, the sacrifice of Christ, God's love for us, and other related subjects:

"What the Sacrifice of Christ Teaches Us", dated April 1, 2012, link:

"Physical and Spiritual Healing", dated April 2, 2012, link:

"God Expresses His Love Towards Us by the Secrets He Reveals to Us", dated September 28, 2012, link:

"Why Did Christ Have to Suffer and Die?", dated March 21, 2013, link:

"Passover Symbols: What Part of the Sacrifice of Christ Makes Possible the Healing of Our Character? / Should You Partake of the Passover?", dated March 23, 2013, link:

"We Should Judge Our Own Decisions, Not the Guilt of Others", dated August 10, 2013, link:

"Passover", dated April 11, 2014, link:

"Observance and Meaning of Passover", dated April 1, 2015, link:

"Unbelief Is Sin, and We Must Put It Out of Our Lives", dated April 8, 2015, link:

"God's Love for Us", dated July 17, 2015, link:

"Christ's Love for the Church", dated July 27, 2015, link:

"Have Faith in God's Love", dated August 20, 2015, link:

"Easter and Passover - Differences in Motivation", dated April 1, 2016, link:

"Self-Examination, and the Three Weightier Matters of the Law", dated April 18, 2016, link:

"Passover and the Example of Christ", dated April 20, 2016, link:

"Preparation for Passover, and Satan's Big Lie to the Church of God", dated March 22, 2017, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Passover -- the Sacrifice of Christ, Chapter 2

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