keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 21)
One of the most ‘speaking’ illustrations of the love of God is that of a light shining in the darkness – a light that illuminates, that guides, that warns, and that leads the weary traveler home. Today’s verse tells us to keep ourselves in the love of God – to keep ourselves in the light – and to focus on the mercy of God. It’s important to realize that this verse occurs within the context of end times inasmuch as it refers to apostasy, that great indicator of the age of grace drawing rapidly to a close. It provides a challenge to those who will hear.
To remain in the love of God we must grasp the truth that the focus of His love is always ‘the world.’
We often hear phrases like ‘the light of God’s love.’ These create an image that has the potential of ‘warm and fuzzy’ that plays to our modern-day perception of God’s ‘unconditional love,’ a sense which somehow ‘sets us apart’ in some wonderful, feel-good bubble where we’re untouchable because God loves us. We’re special, set apart, and a holy people. Much of this is, of course, entirely true, but we need to look beyond our personal relationship with God to understand the full meaning of the love of God, a love which extends far beyond our single, personal interaction with Him.
There is currently a rising flood of arguements against the love of God from agnostics, atheists, and apostates. All of these have the primary focus of self, of ‘me-myself-I.’ They a question His love, portraying Him as a despot who forces or manipulates people to accept a ‘love’ which is entirely selfish by punishing those who do not conform or obey. The overriding logic, of course, is that of self-will – we should be entitled to choose, to do or believe as we wish without any repercussions. All these arguments contradict the fundamental reality that consequences exist. It’s a reality every parent teaches their children, for example. Every choice we make has consequences, and what we choose will determine what follows.
The other side of the coin is the presumption that, because we are saved and set apart for God, we’re special. Their is a growing trend towards Christians being ‘untouchable,’ a belief that is rooted in truth but which has become a perversion of the truth. We only need to read the Epistles to find warning after warning against this kind of spiritual presumption. Yes, every believer has a special place in the love of God, in His eternal family, and in His kingdom. But His love for us isn’t some kind of magical antidote to sin. It does not remove us from the world, nor does it exclude the possibility of bad things happening to us. If anything, the Bible teaches us that persecutions, trials, and sufferings will increase during end times.
This misconception of the love of God is, I personally believe, the Christian’s greatest weakness. Feel-good theology and the teachings of comfortable Christianity create a delusion. God never promises to protect us from things. Rather, He warns us that they will happen and protects us in them according to Christ’s prayer for us. The fundamental principle of this is beautifully illustrated in the description of God’s love as a light in the darkness. The power lies in the truth that, without the darkness, the light would not be needed, or at the very least, its brightness would be diminished. We must remember the principle in Genesis – God separated the light from the darkness. He never removed or destroyed the darkness. The darker the darkness, the greater the light.
We also need to recall that wonderful statement in John 3:16 that ‘God so loved the world.’ His love for us occurs in a ‘universal’ context. This does not diminish the love he has for each one of us but it’s not ‘selective.’ The concept of selectivity has emerged from that of pre-election which teaches that God has already determined who will be saved, that He has somehow picked out His children and loves some perhaps even more than others. This is an outright contradiction of the truth that God so loved the world. The love of God is for the entire world, and we have free will to choose whether or not to accept it.
It goes one step further. The purpose behind the love of God is transformation. This is the inherent power of His love – a resurrection power – to utterly transform us into the image of His Son, to so cover us with the blood and nature of Jesus that the remain in His mercy and grace. He loves us despite who and what we are, to the point where He was willing to lay down His own life in Christ to empower us to be transformed. God loves us and He loves the world – not as it is but in spite of what it is. His principles are an outright challenge to the world, like the light is to the darkness. He has provided the way for us to remain in His love, and every single person in the world has the choice to accept it or not.
There can be no doubt that our world is growing darker. While, for example, the Internet provides the means to share the Gospel simultaneously to every corner of the world, the devil is working it just as hard to attack the work of God. The proliferation of anti-God sentiment, be it mockery or vilification, proves this. Ready access to sin and depravity is increasing. Doctrines of demons are spread rapidly, and false teachers and self-proclaimed ‘prophets’ are rampant. The love of God remains, however, and it is always focused on ‘the world.’ We have reached a point where we need to evangelize the ‘church’ as much as we need to evangelize the world. The lines of separation are blurring, and it’s because we have lost sight of the true nature of the love of God in our obsession with self.
Today’s verse highlights this in a very simple way – we are to look for God’s mercy. That is what keeps us in the love of God. When we live in the constant reality that, were it not for His grace and mercy, we would go the way of the rest of the world, we are constantly preserved in His love. Reminding ourselves that God so loved the world puts things in context. This the height, depth, and breadth that Paul talks of. This is the magnitude of God’s love – total and complete, for the whole world. That people don’t choose to follow Him never diminishes the love He has for them, or the grief He feels as He watches them choose spiritual consequences that He has given all to enable them to avoid. Heaven celebrates when a single sinner comes to grace, because God grieves when they do not.
We must understand that to keep ourselves in the love of God we must remain in His mercy. This demands humility, repentance, and surrender. It means that we not only live in His love, but we ‘pass it on.’ Living in the love of God means living the love of God. This is not the time to draw inward and raise the drawbridge. It is the time to take hold of the truth and to ride out in faith. God loves you and I because He loves the world. Now, more than ever, we need to shine the light of His love into the growing the darkness.
We cannot expect that it will make our lives easier. The Bible teaches something entirely different. But it will keep us in His heart, in His love, and in His power. We need to hold fast to what we have – to His love, mercy, and grace – and boldly shine those out to a dark world. Time is short. If we live in His love and look to His mercy, we must live it in a way that the world can see it. Many will not choose the path of His love, but if we manifest the love in us, the love for the world – not for its ways but for every individual – we will be living in the purpose for which He called us.
Lord, help us to shine for You in the gathering darkness. Keep us separate from the depravity around us, but help us to reveal Your love. Help us to be willing, to accept the cost and to remain faithful, to manifest Your purposes in this dark and desperate world.