Tag Archives: Rom. 6

The Two (Different) Types of God’s Love (and why it matters)

I am reading the great revivalist, Charles Finney’s, lectures about revival.   Finney lived and preached and prayed until his death in 1875, before which he led the Second Great Awakening, a revival that swept through America and saw hundreds of thousands come to know Christ.   It has been said of Finney that just the sight of him would cause people to fall to their knees and repent to God for having been in the presence of such a holy man.    His work continues to point people to Jesus today, including myself, as evidenced by the page dedicated on this blog to showcasing the pre-revival work he would require to be done, which changed my life when I did it myself.

Charles_g_finney

In my reading last night I came upon a couple phrases I was unfamiliar with in large part because Finney is writing in the 19th century and the meanings of words often change.    He was talking about the “love of complacency” and “disinterested benevolence” and in the context they both sounded like good things, though different.    After Googling it I found a great article that explains all of it in great detail (and it’s worth reading!).    At the risk of messing it up, Finney distinguishes between 2  types of love God has for us.  One is a selfless love of “benevolence” which seeks to see the whole world saved.   It’s the sort of love which compelled God to send His Son into the world.   The other, however is a love God has reserved for those who walk in righteousness, who strive to walk holy, as He is holy.    This is the love of “complacency” or, in 21st century language, “approval” and “friendship.”    Jesus said, “You are my friends if you obey my commands” (John 15:14).

This distinction – between the general benevolence of God to all and the particular love of God towards some – rocked my world a few years ago and was the thing I fought against most in my transformation.    My sin blinded me to God’s holiness for so many years that it became necessary, and easy, to believe the love of God was uniform and universal, in spite of my sin.   I remember saying in an interview once, “If God has loved and saved me, and knowing the mess I am, then surely everyone must be loved and saved!”   How I presumed upon God’s love!  I was guilty of the charge Paul lays out in Romans 2:4ff…

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

I was silenced, shut-up, by God’s word.   The only way out was for me to confess that I did not truly love God with the love of “complacency” but merely one of “benevolence.”  I was not truly known by God as a friend, but only in a general sense, in the same way God loves all the world.    When I confessed this  – when the truth became clear to me – my heart’s cry then and still today is that I would be known and loved by God as a friend!   And what a joy it is to know God as friend!

When you come to know this particular love of God reserved for His friends you know what it means to walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh.   You begin to see the difference between a walk that was enabled by God’s kindness, which was for the purpose of leading you to true repentance, and a walk that is empowered by God’s Holy Spirit, which is reserved for the “children of God.”   And this is not a spirit of fear, but one of adoption, by whom we are able to cry out “Daddy!  Father!” (see Rom. 8:9, 13-17), and through Whom we are able to crucify the flesh, live free from the sin that has enslaved us, and be used by God as instruments of righteousness (see Rom. 6:5-14).

Below are the concluding remarks from the article I referenced above about Finney.    I recommend reading it in it’s entirety, but here is a snippet:

It is the grand truth in the study of God, that “God is love”(1John 4:8). And, anyone who professes to know God, while walking disobediently, exhibits neither disinterested benevolence nor the love of complacency toward God or man. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments: and His Commandments are not grievous” (5:3). The essential or fundamental difference between disinterested benevolence and the love of complacency, is that disinterested benevolence is owed to all without regard to character, i.e., “For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life”(John 3:16), while the love of complacency is due only those who are holy or lovingly obedient, i.e., “He that hath My Commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him”(14:21).

The danger of confusing these terms that Charles G. Finney labored his life to teach the Philadelphian Church of the 1800’s, is that:

(1) The Ungodly will claim that, if the God who is love died for the world, then all men will be universally saved, e.g., Universalism. But, that would be to neglect the paramount truth that only those who “believe on the LORD Jesus Christ” shall “be saved”(Acts 16:31), because that only is the “faith which worketh by love”(Galatians 5:6).

(2) The Backslidden will maintain that obedience to the Moral Law is not only unnecessary for salvation, and that, outright disobedience to the same Moral Law does not separate us from the love of God. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear”(Isaiah 59:2). It would be the same as if they advocated that it is unnecessary to love God with all your heart– as demanded by the Moral Law (Matthew 22:36-40)– in order to be saved, i.e., “But if any man love God, the same is known of Him”(1Corinthians 8:3). Further, they would be purposely obscuring the fact that “whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not”(1John 3:6), and that “if we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the Truth”(1:6). And,

(3) The Honest But Ignorant Saints will become so confused by an improper understanding of the love of God, that they will often find themselves falling back into sin, making little headway in their Christian walk, while finding their pace to be much like the Laodicean Church around them. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the Oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat”(Hebrews 5:12).

The Sin of Self-Gratification: Taking on the “M” Word (Part II)

Introduction: In the second part of this series I intended to outline some practical ways you can break free from the sin of self-gratification, particularly if this is a habitual problem for you.  However, as I got to writing I felt God leading me back to the issue of the heart, for that is where it all begins and ends.   Before we can even think about the “hows” of freedom we must reckon with the Why and the Way.   Both are the same:  Jesus.    Thus, the “hows” will come in part III and IV.    What follows here will sound harsh and heavy to some and salve and grace to others.   I know that when I was in the depths of my sin, which I called an addiction, I took offense to those who shot straight with me.   Looking back, I can see it was God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit drawing me.   My pride blinded me to it all, however, until I lost it all.    I don’t want you to have to lose everything before you wake up to real dangers of the fire you are playing with and the distance it has and will put between you and God.   I pray that God would use my offering here to draw us all closer to Himself.

In the first part (read HERE) I attempted to explain that this is first and foremost a matter of the heart.   If you are stuck in a cycle of self-gratification (masturbation) you won’t have real freedom until you lay down all your excuses and rationalizations for doing it and reckon it for what it is:  sin.   You must come to a similar place as King David in Psalm 51 who cried out,

Against you [God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment (51:4)

Without first repenting, the road towards holiness, which is God’s will for your life (1 Thess. 4:3), cannot begin.    Let me say a word here about what repentance is NOT.

Repentance is not being sorry that your life is a mess because of your mistakes.   For many years I cried out to God to help me stop doing the things I was doing but my motives were selfish.    I was sorry that I got caught or sorry over how all this made me look to others or sorry that others were upset and disappointed in me.   I was fearful that I might lose my family, my job, that someone “important” might find out, and even sorry that my work in ministry, which I took great pride in, might be hampered by my sinful choices made in secret.

I have found that many Christians, particularly those in some form of ministry (self included), want freedom from their addiction to pornography or self-gratification because they sense that it is preventing them from being all that they could be in their vocation.   This is not repentance but spiritual pride.     A great example of this is found in Acts 8 with the story of Simon the Magician.   Simon became a Christian and desired to be great in the work of the church.   When he saw the power the apostles had to impart the Holy Spirit he craved it for himself.  He wanted to be used mightily by God!   Who doesn’t, right?   But Peter’s admonition is sobering to all of us who desire to be great in our ministries:

You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you (Acts 8:21-22).

Friends, if you desire freedom from your addictions or hang-ups so that you can be a better pastor, youth leader, worship leader, Sunday school teacher, husband, wife, parent, friend – whatever – then your heart is not right before God, nor are your intentions.   Freedom comes only when we see ourselves in the pure light of God’s holiness and desire nothing more or less than to be in fellowship with him.   When we realize that without holiness we will not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14) we are on the path of godly sorrow which leads to life rather than our selfish worldly sorrow which brings only death ( 2 Cor. 7:10).

When I realized this about myself it changed the way I pray.  No longer do I pray as I once did, asking God to increase my ministry or make me useful or even great in His kingdom.   Instead, my constant heart’s cry is that I might know Him more fully, intimately and truly.   And not only that I would know Him, but that He would know me.    That I would be counted among his friends.   Jesus said his friends are those who obey him (John 15:14).   I want to be Jesus’ friend!   Do you?

God’s word declares that those who are “in Christ” have had their flesh crucified with Jesus and are raised again to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).   Paul goes on to say in that same chapter that those who have been united with Jesus in his death have been set free from sin.   Therefore, “let not sin reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Rom. 6:6,12).   He concludes,

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (6:13-14)

Romans-6

Sin will have no dominion over you!   This is GOOD NEWS!    Jesus didn’t die on the cross for you and I just to make us better, more well-adjusted people in the midst of a fallen world.   He died to destroy the works of the devil and to make you and I into NEW creations!  (2 Cor. 5:17).    The extent to which we are not walking in this newness of life and freedom from sin is not because God’s word has failed but because we refuse to die.   Our pride tells us we are just fine with God and God is just fine with us.  We sing “I Am a Friend of God,” convincing ourselves that if we sing it enough it must be true while lacking the self-control and the obedience that comes from being crucified with Christ and alive in His Spirit.

The reason I am spending so much time on this, even at the risk of coming across as harsh, is because I would still be dead in my sin if it weren’t for people speaking hard truth into my life.   I assume most of my audience here are church-going people who have convinced themselves over time that their life with God is an 8 on a scale of 1-10 but would be a 10 if they could just rid themselves of this “one little problem.”     I know this because I said the  same thing for over 20 years!   It wasn’t until God’s word pierced my heart and showed me that my so-called “righteousness” was nothing but filthy rags so long as I justified my lust as an addiction I was saddled with as opposed to sin which Christ died for.

But upon seeing it for what it truly is – sin – the remedy became a reality in my life.   Not overnight.   There is a phasing out period that many will experience.   But the bondage will be gone.  No longer will you feel as though you cannot say no when temptation strikes but you will find that you have a real choice in the matter: to obey or not.   It is the Spirit of God at work within you, causing you to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).   As we learn how to put off the “old man” and put on the “new” we will find that there is great joy in obedience and great freedom in holiness.

I hope you’ll join me for the next post as we examine practical ways we can put off the old and put on the new.