Nothing except ourselves can separate us from the love of God. We must be sure to keep ourselves in His love, to live constantly in Christ. There, the mercy we find in Jesus is the gracious assurance of life eternal and our dwelling place in the love of God.
keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 21)
This may seem, on the surface, like something of a contradiction. After all, in Romans 8:38-39, Paul tells us that: For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is a foundational truth that establishes and empowers our faith. When we look at all the things that cannot separate us from the love of God, it’s an encouragement. But why, then, does Jude stress that we must keep ourselves in His love? It’s because one thing is omitted from Paul’s list, and that is ourselves. We are the only thing that can keep us from the love of God through our choices and our responses.
In His love is an active choice.
Even in salvation, God never withdraws the gift of free will. His desire is always that we choose Him freely and obey willingly. Had He wanted robotic responses, He would have created robots. This freedom to choose is one of the things that sets man apart from the rest of creation. It’s God-given, will never be withdrawn, and determines the course of our lives. Jude tells us to keep ourselves in His love, which is a conscious, deliberate act. We cannot depend on others or God to do this for us. While He will honour our right choices, we must first make the choice and act on it. Today’s verse points out very clearly that our spiritual position and condition is our responsibility. If we find ourselves outside of His love, we cannot blame God or anything else. We are the only thing that can separate us from Him.
The Bible tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us. It teaches that Christ is in us and we are in Him. We know that His Word never changes, so if the Bible says it then it’s the absolute truth. Again, this seems contradictory in terms of today’s verse but is entirely compatible. These promises are from God’s perspective. He is in us and will never leave us, and so is eternally present right where we are. That will never change because He’s eternally faithful. His love is constant, but we have to make an active, deliberate choice to live in His love and keep ourselves there. If we choose not to through sin or weak decisions, it doesn’t alter the reality of His ever-present love. It does, however, raise up a wall of separation. We don’t fully enter into it and we limit its power.
In His love is in Christ.
This is the very practical spiritual truth that God Himself makes it possible for us to keep ourselves in His love. He understands our frail human nature and sinfulness. God knew all along that mankind could never manage to enter into His love in full or remain there. Jesus is the full revelation of the love of God, His love made visible in tangible form. This love manifested in the unction and mercy of God in the cross. Calvary wasn’t simply Jesus defeating the devil and making a way to God. It was Jesus making a way for us to live in His love through the dynamic of Christ in us and us in Christ. In John 15:9, Jesus says, As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. We keep ourselves in His love when we keep ourselves in Christ who is His love.
Christ in us and us in Christ is an exchange, a perfect identification. We choose to live in Him so He can live in us. It cannot be one or the other. Christ in us cannot happen without us in Christ. When we live in His love, His love lives in us. That is the only way to never be separated from the love of God. Outside of Jesus, God’s perfect love still remains. It will never move away and cannot be changed. Salvation brings us into His love when it brings us into Christ. But the responsibility to keep ourselves in it is ours. To live in Christ is to live in obedience and surrender to His lordship. The moment our choices are contrary to the will and Word of God, we step out of our in Christ position. We step out of the love of God.
Mercy is manifest in His love.
God’s mercy cannot be separated from His love. He is merciful because He loves us and has given His Son so that we can remain safe in His love. The very purpose of us in Christ and Christ in us is to keep us in His love, the place where His mercy continues to work on our behalf. Mercy, however, can only operate where there is a need for mercy. We know that as sinners incapable of saving ourselves, we definitely need the mercy of God in every area of our lives. The existence of the need is a very real spiritual truth. But unless we acknowledge that need, mercy won’t operate. It remains available and even necessary, but our choice to repent and admit our need is the only way to receive mercy. If we don’t, mercy remains a passive reality that has no impact on our lives.
This is why Jude stresses that we must keep ourselves in His love. We are inherently sinful and, despite salvation, will continue to sin. The great love of God manifest in His mercy is our only hope. We need the place of no condemnation, the assurance that His mercy is freely available to all. It is the mercy in Christ that is our hope for eternal life – our only hope. We must do all we can to keep ourselves in Christ and not be separated from the love of God in Him. When we are in Christ we are quick to recognise our need to repent and as quick to do it. The mercy manifest by Jesus through His eternal sacrifice brings forgiveness and restoration. In His love, we can be absolutely sure that His mercy will cleanse us and release His life eternal in us.
How to keep ourselves in His love.
Humility, surrender, and obedience are the things that brought us into His love, and they are the things that keep us there. They are the antithesis of self will, which is the attitude of rebellion that separated mankind from God from the beginning. Our responses and attitudes cannot change either the nature or the existence of His love. Nothing in this universe can separate us from the love of God, only ourselves. In Christ is the place of surrender to His lordship. It’s the place of humility, acknowledging our sinfulness and utter dependence on Him. Finally, it’s unquestioning obedience, a willingness to yield our lives so that He can live in ours. We need only fix our eyes on Jesus and place Him at the centre of our lives. The life He gives in return is eternal and immeasurably more than anything we could hope to achieve for ourselves.
Lord, we thank You for Your infinite grace, mercy, and love that is beyond our limited human comprehension. Help us to keep ourselves in Christ and to look always to the mercy that brings eternal life. Keep us humble and repentant, Lord, willing to surrender and walk in obedience so that we will never be separated from You.