One of the great privileges of the Christian life is delighting in the love of our heavenly Father. Each day as we look up to the light of the sun we ought to be reminded of the warmth and brightness of the Father’s love, which shines down on us in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. John Owen, the great Puritan spiritual writer, once wrote a book called Communion with God. In it he dares the reader to spend a few minutes meditating on the Father’s love. Owen says,
Put, then, this to the test: exercise your thoughts upon this very thing – the eternal, free, and fruitful love of the Father, and see if your hearts be not changed to delight in him. I dare boldly say, believers will find it as thriving a course as ever they pitched on in their lives. Sit down a little at the fountain, and you will quickly have a farther discovery of the sweetness of the streams. You who have run from the Father, will not be able, after a while, to keep at a distance for a moment.
Owen is advising that, if we will just sit down and cast our minds on the heart of the Father, the thought of His love will result in a cascading flood of worship and devotion. We will soon find such joy in the company of the Father that, like a child racing to greet his dad when he comes home from work, we will not be able to keep from his side.
Yet, if this is true, it raises a question. If the Father’s love is so sweet, refreshing, and enthralling, why do a lot of believers struggle to delight in this love? Why does it often feel as if there is something like a cloud impeding the warmth of the Father’s love from reaching us? The answer to this question is the age old problem of the devil and his lies. There are three lies, in particular, that the devil uses to insulate us from the comfort of the Father’s embrace.
Lie 1 – The Love of the Father Is Purchased
John 4:10 says, ‘In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins’. One of the devil’s favourite tactics is to reverse the order of this statement. Rather than God’s love being primary, and our love being a response to His love, the devil wants us to believe that the opposite is the case. Satan’s revision of John 4:10 is this: ‘In this is love, not that God loved us, but that we first loved Him’.
The danger of this logic is that we begin to think that God’s love is dependent upon our love. If we falter in our feelings toward God, the relationship between us and Him crumbles. Thus, when we adopt this mindset, we lose our ground of confidence before God. Instead of knowing the security of being an adopted child, we feel the anxiety of an employee facing a daily performance review.
Our best protection against this lie is to meditate on Scriptures that speak of the freeness of the Father’s love. One of my favourite passages is Isaiah 55:1-2:
Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters’
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, but wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Such is the love of the Father. The gifts of His love are not purchased, but freely available to anyone who is willing to draw near to His embrace.
Lie 2 – The Love of the Father Is Finite
Some resources are scarce. If you are in a lifeboat with only one bottle of water, you will be exceedingly careful to watch the water lest you run out. Other resources are abundant. No one reprimands a child for drawing a bucket of water out of the sea. A child can fill a bucket as many times as she likes with no worry that the volume of the sea will be diminished.
A common tactic of Satan is to convince us that the Father’s love is a finite resource. The devil wants us to believe that each of us is only allotted a small portion of divine favour. Once the supply is spent, there is no way of refilling it. Once again, Satan loves to subvert the order of Scripture. Whereas the Psalmist says, ‘His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life’, the devil wants us to believe the opposite. He wants us to think that love is fragile and fleeting and that anger is firm and enduring.
As always, the Scriptures are our best protection from such lies. If anyone is beginning to imagine that the love of the Father is a scarce resource, he needs to sit and ponder Psalm 36:5. The Psalmist says, ‘Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds’. Here is a picture of love so vast that not even the heavens can contain it. To try to fit the love of God into the universe is like trying to fit the ocean into a thimble. Few things are worthy of being called infinite. God’s love is one of them.
Lie 3 – The Love of the Father Is Changeable
People in Scotland often talk about there being four seasons in one day. The idea is that the weather in Scotland is so changeable that you can experience a touch of summer, autumn, winter, and spring, all in a few hours. One could equally say of the human heart that there are often four seasons in one day. The heart is fickle and changes on a whim. We can quickly – and often unpredictably – shift from love to anger, from irritation to laughter, or from joy to sadness.
It’s important to know that God’s love is not like ours. The living God is not like a pagan deity whose mood changes based on the performance of subjects. The love of God is eternal and unchanging. God can no more stop loving His children than the sun can stop shining. It’s simply not in the nature of God to love one minute and desist the next.
My encouragement for those struggling to accept this truth is to meditate on Ephesians 1:3-6. The eye of Father saw us and loved us before the foundation of the world. He loved us even though He knew we would rebel against Him. He loved us so much that He sent the Son to be a sacrifice for us. This is not a finite love. This is not a purchased love. This is not a changeable love. It is a love more durable than the laws of physics. It’s a love whose dimensions can only be measured in the shape of a cross.
For a deeper look at this topic watch the Equip session on ‘Intimacy and Communion with God the Father’.