October 31 - November 6
The God of Love
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Ps. 103:2-4; Hos. 11:8; Matt. 22:36-40; John 3:16; Rom. 5:7, 8; 1 John 4:16.
MEMORY TEXT: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7, 8, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: God's love for humankind, revealed in nature and the Scriptures and demonstrated perfectly in His Son's life, knows no limits of season, geography, or culture. It reaches out to all.
LOVE IS A FLAME THAT WARMS, a light that glows, a magnet that draws, a fragrance that refreshes, a cup that cheers, a mountain that endures, a smile that reveals.
When you see love, you know it. When you experience it, you recognize it. When you lack it, you need it and want it. When you experience the new birth of conversion, you experience a new birth of love-toward God and toward all the world about you. "God is the source of life and light and joy to the universe. Like rays of light from the sun, like the streams of water bursting from a living spring, blessings flow out from Him to all His creatures.... "When the love of Christ is enshrined in the heart, like sweet fragrance it cannot be hidden. Its holy influence will be felt by all with whom we come in contact....
"Love to Jesus will be manifested in a desire to work as He worked, for the blessing and uplifting of humanity. It will lead to love, tenderness, and sympathy toward all the creatures of our heavenly Father's care."Steps to Christ, pp. 77, 78.
If there were only one word to describe God, what would that word be? 1 John 4:16.
Love is the very nature of God. Everything He does is prompted by love. We may see His love in all His works. His wondrous love is revealed in the things of the world about us and in the infinite expanses of the heavens above. If we would see love, we must see God. No one can see love without seeing God! Those who feel the touch of God feel the touch of love.
Because human vision is limited, we do not always see love in the ways of God. Children do not always perceive their parents' love in deeds of the greatest wisdom and most tender concern. The more fully our eyes are opened and the more comprehensive our understanding becomes, the more clearly we are able to see that God, indeed, is love. Were it not for a God of love, there would be no world and no one to inhabit it, Were not God a Being of love, He would not be the embodiment of infinite wisdom and power. God's power exerts itself always, and only, in love. God's wisdom shows itself in constant outpourings of love to make us truly happy.
Love is personal. It must have someone to love, someone with whom to share. Unless it can expend itself in deeds of honest concern for the welfare of others, it is not happy, and it is not love. Love craves love and creates love. The more it manifests itself, the wider will be the circle of happiness and love.
What two words describe the Christian's relationship to God's love? Eph. 3:17. What effect will such a relationship have on our fives?
1 . ______________________________________________________________
All of our highest attributes are due to love, and therefore due to God. Unselfishness, truthfulness, sympathy, justice, goodness, and mercy all come from love and cannot exist without it. These attributes find their fullest expression in God. He is "merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exod. 34:6, KJV).
|Describe what life would be like without love. What impact has God's love had on your life?|
What was Jesus' summary of the Ten Commandments and the teaching of Scripture? Matt. 22:36-40.
"Our duty to obey [God's] law is to be the burden of this last message of mercy to the world. God's law is not a new thing. It is not holiness created, but holiness made known. It is a code of principles expressing mercy, goodness, and love. It presents to fallen humanity the character of God, and states plainly the whole duty of man."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 1104, 1105.
There can be no greater law than love. Love embraces every duty we have-to God and to those in the world about us. If we have supreme love for God, we will do all that God commands. If we love others, we will do nothing against their best interests. In heaven, the law of angels is the law of love. They need no other law, for their every thought and deed is always, and only, love. With us, however, that is not the case. The details of right and wrong in our relationships with God and others need to be set before us in more specific detail. That is why God gave us His Ten Commandments, the first four pointing out our love and duties to God and the last six, our love and duties to others.
"Man's natural tendency is to make self first, irrespective of obligations incumbent upon him in his relations to God and to his fellow men. To be completely selfless in dealing with his fellows, a man must first love God supremely. This is the very foundation of all right con duct."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 484.
The saving acts of God in our lives form the basis of our relationship to God (Deut. 6:5; Exod. 20:2). God brought Israel out of Egypt with a mighty arm, and so the Israelites were to recognize Him as the one true God. They were to remember His acts of Creation (Exod. 20:11) and deliverance (Deut. 5:15). They would be moved to respond in love. You and I have experienced God's love in our lives. Thus, we are moved to thank Him and to love Him. When God instructed Moses to tell Israel, "Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy" (Lev. 19:2), one of the specifications was, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (verse 18). Love was as important in the days of Moses as it was at the time of Christ. It was ever the basis of God's law as it is ever the foundation of God's eternal throne.
|How do we show we love God? John 14:15; 1 John 5:2, 3. How can Christians have both love and hate in their heart? Ps. 97:10; Amos 5:15.|
How do we know God takes His love for us seriously? Rom. 5:7, 8.
God has shown His love in untold ways-in His works of Creation and preservation, in bringing into existence holy beings who are to be eternally happy, in maintaining an endless universe by boundless wisdom and love. But God's greatest demonstration of love was the love He showed toward sinners who were in rebellion against Him. "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5:6, NKJV).
Sinners need love. But they do not deserve it. What they deserve is death. But it is from death that God purposes to save them. Only love could have prompted that purpose. Justice demanded that sinners should die, But God's love provided a substitute.
God loves not only good people but bad people; not only one person but all persons. God loves people who do not love Him. He loves people who reject His love and spurn His mercy, who love sin rather than righteousness, and who choose ways of death rather than ways of life. God loves people who despise and reject His Son, who came to save them. He loves them even though they would put His Son to death on a cruet cross, demanding death for the Prince of Life but mercy for a servant of the prince of evil.
Because of God's great love, of what may we be confident? Rom. 8:38, 39. What about Paul's life qualified him to write these verses?
Paul lists a number of elements that might be strong and that we think might prevent God from reaching us with His love. But Paul holds these elements up to ridicule. Not one of them is more powerful than God. Not one of them can be considered an obstacle to God's saving grace.
It took just such love to save us. Nothing less would have worked. Unless God had been willing to give up His Son for sinners, they could not have been saved. Unless Jesus would have given up His throne and His life for sinners, they would have perished in their iniquity. "We, like the rest, lay under the dreadful judgement of God. But God, rich in mercy, for the great love he bore us, brought us to life with Christ" (Eph. 2:3, 4, NEB).
|What about your life qualifies you to believe the way Paul does? How can the Holy Spirit help you in your daily life to share in Paul's vibrant life of faith?|
Read Psalm 103:2-4. The word translated "lovingkindness" has been translated in a number of different ways: "mercy ... .. kindness," and "goodness" in the KJV. The RSV translates it "steadfast love." Two related ideas are "covenant" and "faithfulness." (Compare SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, pp. 719, 720.) The thought of the psalmist seems to be that God has given a covenant to His people and has been faithful to it, and this relationship can be considered as honorable and glorious as the wearing of a crown.
God's ways are ways of incomparable kindness. His gifts are those of the most tender love. No parents ever displayed greater love for their child than does God for His children. Where God is, there His loving kindness is revealed and His goodness and mercy are displayed. Wherever we find loveliness and harmony, grandeur and virtue, it is because of God's goodness and love. If only the eyes of our spiritual vision were opened, we would everywhere see evidences of God's tender, all-pervading, never-failing love. We would see God's love in rain as well as sunshine, in the clouds above and the grass beneath.
What is the basis of true happiness? Ps. 144:15.
"God's love is revealed in all His dealings with His people; and with clear, unclouded eyes, in adversity, in sickness, In disappoint ment, and in trial we are to behold the light of His glory in the face of Christ and trust to His guiding hand. But too often we grieve His heart by our unbelief. . . ."My Life Today, p. 12.
"God is neither capricious nor petty, neither remote nor repressive; but a God of holiness and love, of wisdom and power. The God of the Bible is greater than any man's experience of him, far greater than human powers of expression; but while far above us in majesty and might, he cares for us, deals with us individually, and grants to those who trust him fullness of life. He is the God of light and truth, of strength and beauty and peace. Not only did he create, but he is ever active, working in infinite patience and with endless resources. Happy are the people who acknowledge such a God, wait for him, live with him, obey him in thought and speech and deed. His peace is in their hearts, his liberty and Joy in their minds, his omnipotence at their disposal."The Interpreter's Bible, vol. 4, p. 739.
|What special blessings come to those whose relationship with God is right? Ps. 103:1, 3, 5. What is the greatest blessing you have received from God, and why?|
In the verse below, circle the two words that tell us God's love is universal.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, NIV).
God's love is like an artesian well. We do not have to sink a shaft hoping to strike water. We do not need a bucket or a pump to bring the water up. It flows freely. It cannot be stopped. The symbolism of water in the Bible portrays the picture of God's generous, refreshing, life-giving, ever-flowing, never-failing love. (See Ps. 1:3; Isa. 12:3; John 4:14; Rev. 22:17.)
Christ's perfect love enabled Him to love even His enemies. Why are we to do the same? Matt. 5:43-48. How is it possible to love our enemies when it seems so impossible?
We usually discriminate in our love. But that is not true of God and must not be true of those who claim to be Christians. The Christian standard of relationship to other people is that of God, who distributes His gifts bountifully without regard to worthiness or response. The main criterion is that of need. The good and the bad alike need sunshine and rain, and God supplies them impartially. Does my enemy need my witness? If so, then it is my responsibility, as a Christian, to reach out a helping hand and do what God would do if He were in my place. Everything, animate or inanimate, constantly experiences the care of God (see Matt. 10:29-31; 6:26-31). "The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works" (Ps. 145:9). "The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing" (verses 15, 16). "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth" (verse 18).
God sent Israel into Canaan with the charge "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fall thee, nor forsake thee" (Deut. 31:6). Has God helped to transform an enemy to a friend by His love? If yes, what valuable lessons have you learned from this experience?
|How has God displayed His universal love to you, even in difficult times? Now think of ways you can share God's universal love with someone you consider to be your enemy.|
FURTHER STUDY: What is God's attitude toward people who are unworthy of His love? Hosea 11:8. Admah and Zebolim are two cities of the plains that were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah. (See Gen. 14:2; 19:25, 29.) Fire and brimstone rained down from heaven (Gen. 19:24) and the "smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace" (verse 28). There comes a time when God must punish evil. But it is not a pleasant task for a God of love. To learn more of God's attitude toward the sinner, read Ezekiel 18:31, 32; 33:11. Also read The Desire ofAges, "The Divine Shepherd," pp. 476-484.
"All the paternal love which has come down from generation to generation through the channel of human hearts, all the springs of tenderness which have opened in the souls of men, are but as a tiny rill to the boundless ocean when compared with the infinite, exhaustless love of God.... You may study that love for ages; yet you can never fully comprehend the length and the breadth, the depth and height, of the love of God in giving His Son to die for the world. Eternity itself can never fully reveal it."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 740.
SUMMARY: Do you marvel that God could do so much for so many who are so ungrateful? Will you just now let Him lead you to this river of gracious love, where you may drink from these waters of life, never to thirst again?
Ten-year-old Eglute Ratkute is a quiet, girl who lives in Kaunas, Lithuania. When she learned about Jesus Christ, she wanted to follow Him. In doing so, she led her mother to Christ as well.
Shortly after Communism fell in Lithuania, Eglute's mother heard about some Bible lectures and decided to go. Eglute wanted to go, too, but she was just seven years old then, and her mother wondered if she could sit still through the meetings.
As they entered the lecture hall, Eglute's mother noticed that no other children were present. She worried that Eglute would be bored, but the little girl was fascinated with the slides of the ancient city of Petra and listened carefully to the lecture. After the meeting a lady invited Eglute to the special children's meetings, but Eglute wanted to attend the adult meetings.
Eglute attended all the lectures with her mother. She heard the speaker explain the importance of following Christ. When he asked who wanted to follow Jesus, Eglute raised her hand. When the speaker presented the topic of baptism, Eglute again raised her hand; she wanted to obey Jesus and be baptized.
Later at home Eglute told her mother she wanted to follow Jesus and be baptized. When Mother told her that seven years old is too young to be baptized, Eglute began to cry. Mother tried to console her, but Eglute could not be persuaded to wait.
Eglute's mother talked to the pastor about her child's wish to be baptized. He agreed that probably she was a little young, but he asked Mother, "Have you considered baptism?" Eglute's mother shook her head; she had not seriously considered it.
Later at home, Eglute began to talk to her mother about following Jesus. "You really should do what Jesus says," Eglute would urge her mother. Mother's heart was touched, and she decided to follow Christ in baptism. Eglute joined her mother in the baptismal class. She studied the doctrines, and a few months later mother and daughter were baptized together.
Eglute is now 10 years old, After attending adult Sabbath School for a year, she was persuaded to join the children's Sabbath School, where she happily takes part.
Eglute Ratkute (left). Charlotte Ishkanian is editor of Mission.
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