Surprised by Love

Years ago, I had a brief but vivid dream. I dreamt that a friend came to me with a message directly from God: “Jurie, you must never doubt that you are very special and that I love you very much.” I woke with a start and wondered what the dream could mean. Why was I so special and loved that the Lord considered it necessary to convey this message to me in such a direct manner? For years I kept wondering, until one day I realised: all people are special and loved! God doesn’t have favourites. We are all so utterly loved and special because he created each one of us personally – precisely as He wanted us to be, in His image and likeness. We are replicas of Him, representatives of Himself here on earth.


Before time existed, millennia before we were born, each of us began as a thought of love in God’s mind. He personally invented us, designed us, and when the time came, artfully wove us together in the womb! Bishop Brannon said it well: “We were loved into being.” Each of us looks precisely as we were planned, including our temperament, personality, talents, gifts and abilities. Each of us was born at precisely the right time God wanted so that we, like David of old, could accomplish God’s plan and goals in our generation” (Acts 13:36).


God loved you with a burning passion long before you performed a single good deed in your life – way before you were even born and capable of believing in Him! That’s exactly what Paul writes in Romans 5:8 (NIV): “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” John, the apostle of love, confirms this this by saying, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).


John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son …” However, we twist and warp it in our thoughts so that it turns into, “For God grew so frustrated and exasperated with the world (with us) that he gave his one and only Son …” There is a life-changing, liberating truth that every person on earth is meant to discover: God loves each one of us unconditionally, with His whole heart – as if each of us is the only person on earth! God’s love is startlingly strange; how can He love imperfect beings like us so unconditionally and passionately? The dictionary defines “unconditional” as follows: “without conditions or limitations.” God’s unconditional love is the origin of all things and our whole life is merely our response to that.


How big is this unconditional love? Listen to Jesus when he prays to his Father, “I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). In other words, the Father loves each one of us as much as He loves Jesus – the same love that binds the Trinity together, connects us to God. Let that sink in! Almost without exception, people who have had near-death experiences tell of being caught off guard by the overwhelming, indescribable love they experienced in the spiritual dimension. It’s so intense that they feel like a fragile snowflake melting in the burning heat of the noonday sun. Many of them suffer from shock and depression for a while after they’ve been cut off from it and must continue living in this broken world.


You are worth far more than you think! The value of anything is determined by the price that has been paid for it – you have been bought by the precious blood of the Lamb, with God’s own life (1 Peter 1:19)! Someone wrote: “if we remove love from an angel, a demon remains, but when we remove love from God, nothing remains, because God is love!” John formulates it as follows, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).


How do we know that we are beginning to understand God’s love? We feel safe with Him. It’s shocking, but true – our churches are full of Christians who don’t feel safe with God. They feel unworthy, condemned and guilty. They serve God mainly because they fear going to hell. This, when it couldn’t be further from the truth! John writes, “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” (1 John 4:18).


This unconditional, passionate love of God is illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son, who insisted that his father give him his inheritance before his father had even passed away. His father stood between him and a life of pleasure. His actions actually said, “Why are you still alive? I wish you were dead so that I could enjoy my life with the things you worked your whole life to earn!” What an entitled, ungrateful creature! In Luke 15, Jesus describes how the father obliges and the son goes on to squander everything on wine, women and pleasure, until he’s reduced to wearing rags, herding pigs and longing to eat their food.


We know the story: he sees the light and decides to return home, to beg for forgiveness and permission to live among his father’s slaves and work for the rest of his miserable life. However, Jesus draws a shocking picture of God the Father’s unconditional love: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’” (Luke 15:20-24).


The father (God) sees the son from a long way off because he’s been waiting for the little good-for-nothing! Furthermore, he doesn’t listen to the runaway’s story; he ignores it completely and immediately gives the order that his son be restored in all the privileges he enjoys as a member of the family! There is a lot to think about here.


The fact that God is unconditional, passionate love, makes it possible for you and me to live without fear. It liberates us from a sense of inferiority, doubt and fear. Never again can you doubt when you pray, nor can you doubt that you are a part of God. When you finally realise that you are so loved and known in heaven that you can truly feel safe with God, you can never be the same again. Do not waste your time on earth doubting that God loves you deeply and personally!

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