The Love of God 8 – imparted

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the love of God that has been imparted into our hearts.

Scripture

Romans 5:1-8

1  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Observations and reflection

Context: Paul wrote this glorious letter to the congregations in Roman suffering under mounting persecution of Emperor Nero.

  1. What do you understand by “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God”? (verse 2) [hint: what do Christians believe about life after death?]
  2. Why does Paul “rejoice in… suffering?” (verse 3) Write it in your own words.
  3. Compare verse 5 above with Ephesians 1:13-14.

Ephesians 1:13-14

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

  1. What does Paul teach about the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:1-14?
  2. Comparing Romans 5:5 with Ephesians 1:14 – what do you learn about hope and the Spirit of God in our hearts?
  1. In conclusion, how does “hope” and “the Holy Spirit” and “God’s love in our hearts” relate to each other? (Romans 5:5)? Answer in your own words.

Personal reflection and prayer

Paul encouraged the persecuted Romans church that although they suffer temporarily, they should take heart at the glory that awaits them after death, and that they don’t have to doubt that since God’s love for them is evidenced by the his Holy Spirit who now and forever lives in them.

  1. When have you felt “far from God”? Why?
    1. Considering the Texts we studied today, what would you say to a Christian who says he feels “far from God”?
    2. Do you feel ‘far from God” today? Pray through Romans 5:5-8 and ask God to reveal his personal, secure love through his Spirit living in you.
  2. Hardship or habitual sins tend to make people doubt the love God has for them. Why?
    1. Considering the Texts we studied today, what would you say to a Christian who says he doubts whether God still loves him/her?
    2. Are you struggling under hardship or habitual failure? Then pray through Romans 5:1-8 today and ask God to reveal again his love to you through his Spirit living in you.
    3. Pray for some persecuted church in a country that God has laid on your heart that they may be secure in God’s love amidst hardship.

 

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The Love of God 7 – jealous love

The aim of this devotional study is to grow in understanding and reflect on the jealous love God has for us.

Scripture

Exodus 34:10-17

10  And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

11  “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12  Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13  You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14  (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15  lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice 16  and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.

17  You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

Observations

Context: These are part of the commands which Moses gave the Hebrew slaves which were delivered from Egypt and about to enter their Promised Land.

Definitions: A covenant is a binding agreement by which one party binds itself ceremonially to another until death. Asherim were obscene images, or phallic idols, symbols of fertility and fertility gods.

  1. When you read God made a covenant with Israel, what do you understand?  And what would it imply?
  2. Why God did not want his people to make a covenant with the nations residing in the Promised Land?
  3. How could a covenant with another nation become “a snare” for the Israelites? [Think a bit]
  4. What is the common appeal in the phrases “tear down their altars…”, “a covenant with the inhabitants of the land”, “take their daughters for your sons” and “not make for yourself any gods…”?
  5. When you read “the LORD… is a jealous God”, what do you understand God is saying?

Personal reflection and prayer

  1. The Lord commanded his people to not covenant with or bind themselves to the evil and immoral practices of the people in the Land, since “it will become a snare”. In which way does the evil or immoral practices of contemporary society become a trap to believers today? [hint: which evil or immoral practices entrap millions of people today?]
  2. Are there any partnerships in your life which would provoke the Lord to jealousy?
  3. An idol can be defined as something you adore, something you trust or rely on, or something that you obey. Prayerfully think whether there are idols in your life which provoke your loving Lord to jealousy.

The Love of God 6 – ready to forgive

The aim of this devotional is to reflect on God’s loving nature, which makes him “ready to forgive”.

Scripture

Psalms 86:1-7 [A Prayer of David]

1  Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

2  Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you–you are my God.

3  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.

4  Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

5  For you, O Lord, are good and ready to forgive, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

6  Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace.

7  In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.

 

Observations

Note: In this Psalm David give a reason for every petition he prays or every phrase of praise – it is meant as an encouragement and a teaching.

  1. Complete this Table by filling in the reasons or motivation (in your own words) why David petitions God for help in his troubles:
PETITION REASON
86:1   For audience with the LORD.  
86:2a   For preservation.  
86:2b   For temporal salvation.  
86:3   For gracious consideration.  
86:4   For joy and gladness.  
86:5 [following the previous petitions]  
86:6   For audience with the Lord.  
86:7   For help in the day of his trouble.  

(table from the Believer’s Bible Commentary)

  1. Focus on verse 5: “For you, O Lord, are good and ready to forgive, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”
    1. What do you learn about God’s character and nature in this line?
    2. Consider the Lord’s “steadfast love”, “goodness” and “readiness to forgive”
      1. What do you understand under each of these phrases?
      2. How does the Psalmist see the link between these characteristics?
    3. David wrote this Psalm. Can you think of a particular time in his life when He relied on God’s “steadfast love… ready to forgive”?

Personal reflection and prayer

  1. When you become aware of your character failures or your tendency to sin, do you tend to
    1. Shy away from God or godly people?
    2. Go confidently to God in prayer alone?
    3. Pray with a godly friend or small group/ Bible study group?
  2. What do you think the Psalmist did when he became aware of his sinfulness? And why?
  3. Mediate prayerfully on verse 5: “For you, O Lord, are good and ready to forgive, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”
    1. Are there sins you need to confess to God? He is “ready to forgive!”
    2. Ask that the Lord to reveal afresh his “steadfast love” to you!

The Love of God 5 – Secure

The aim of this devotional is to reflect on the temporal and eternal security we find in the love God has for us.

Scripture

Romans 8:28-39

31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

33  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Observations

Context: During Nero’s reign (when this letter was written), Emperor veneration was again instilled.  Christians refused to worship him, and because of their in growth numbers and influence the church posed a threat to the Romans Empire.  Paul is writing to the Roman church in the midst of mounting persecution, reassuring them of the eternal love of God even as they are about to suffer for a short while. 

  1. What is the main theme of this Text? [hint: verse 35a]
  2. Considering the context, what “charge against God’s elect” is Paul referring to? [verse 33]
  3. Frequently the phrases “if God is for us who can be against us” and “in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us” are used to assure believers that God is bigger than our crisis, and that the hardship will soon be over.
    1. Reading the Text again, what does this Text teach us about God and hardship?
    2. To what does the phrase “all these things” (verse 37) refer? [hint: read the previous two verses]
    3. If Paul wrote “over all these thing we are more than conquerors…” what would that mean?
    4. Paul wrote “in all these things we are more than conquerors…” – what does that mean?
    5. How are we “more than conquerors?” [hint: read the following two verses]
  4. Why could Paul comfort the church that even in death they are conquerors “through Christ Jesus”? [verse 34]
    1. In this Text, what is Jesus pictured as doing?
  5. In summary, what comforting assurance does Paul give the persecuted church in Rome?

Personal reflection and prayer

  1. Considering this Text, what would you say to a friend who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and feels that God has deserted her?
  2. What is the best thing to pray for Christians suffering persecution?
  3. Are you going through hardship? Reflect prayerfully on verses 38-39 and pray that you may know this love of God!
  4. Do you have a friend going through hardship? Pray that they may know this security in the love of God, and encourage them today!

The Love of God 4 – generous

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the generous nature of the love of God.

Scripture

John 3:13-18

13  No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.  14  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Romans 8:32

32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Observation and reflection

  1. Concerning John 3:13-18 (Don’t answer out of your head – use this Text)
    1. How do we know God loves the world?
    2. For what purpose did God send his Son?
    3. From where did God send his Son?
    4. How would God’s Son save the world?
    5. How would people be saved?
    6. In what state are individuals until they are saved?
  2. Concerning Romans 8:32
    1. What has God given us?
    2. What does that say of God’s generosity?
    3. What does that say of God’s love?
    4. What is the implied invitation and assurance in this Text?
  3. Reflecting on these two Texts, what do you learn about the love of God as demonstrated in the giving of his Son?

Personal reflection and prayer

God is not stingy – from his generous heart he has already given his most Precious Gift; what will he withhold from you now?

Oliver_twist
As little Oliver Twist, some people are afraid to upset God by asking for another helping.
  1. Picture yourself when you ask God your Father for things. Do you:
    1. See yourself delivering a formal letter motivating why this request would be beneficial for His Kingdom and for you?
    2. See yourself bowing at His feet pleading for the things you so desperately want or need?
    3. See yourself as the starving little Oliver Twist asking the evil orphanage master for another helping?
    4. See yourself popping God a WhatsApp?
    5. See yourself sitting on Daddy’s lap and talk about what you desire?
  2. Which desires in your heart has God granted you?
  3. Which desires in your heart are yet unfulfilled?
    1. James accused the church in Jerusalem “you have not because you ask not”. Could this be said of these desires in your heart as well?
    2. Take some time and meditate on Romans 8:32 (above). What convictions well up in your heart?
    3. Bring your requests to our generous, loving Father, with thanks for what He have already given you.

 

 

The Love of God 3 – demonstrative

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the security and demonstrative nature of God’s unconditional love.

Scripture

Romans 5:6-10

6  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8  but God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Observation and reflection

Note: “Justified” is a legal term by which one is declared to be faultless or innocent of the charges brought against one (in other words innocent, sinless or righteous).  “Reconciled” means to bring together peaceably, implying that the reason for separation and animosity has been dealt with.
 

  1. What do you understand under the phrase “while we were still weak”? (verse 6)
    1. How does that make the substitutionary death of Christ so much more glorious?
    2. In which ways were you “weak” or helpless before God the Judge when you realized you need God’s grace?
  2. Most mothers would gladly jump in front of a bullet or lion to save their baby. For whom would you gladly be a substitute for torture and death? (verse 7-8)
    1. What typically are the nature of these relationships for whom one wood die? Why would one substitute your life for another?  What does that say of the other person?
    2. What does Christ’s substitutionary death say of you? (Or rather, God’s estimation of you?)
    3. What then does Christ’s substitutionary death say of God’s loving kindness?
  3. How are we “justified by [Christ’s] blood”? (verse 9)
    1. Why would Paul argue that “[then] much more shall we be saved… from the wrath of God”? [hint: see verse 10, but say it in your own words]

Personal reflection and Prayer

God demonstrated his love for us that he ensured our life and reconciliation with him by asking his Son to take the punishment of our sins on himself – even before we sought relationship and grace from Him.  How much more now that we’ve been adopted as His children does Christ’s act of love secure our righteousness before God our Father!

  1. Extended periods of hardships can sometimes make people cry out “has God forgotten or rejected me!?” When have you ever felt this way?
    1. Considering today’s devotional reading (above), what would you answer yourself if you feel that way again?
  2. Sadly, our struggle with sinful habits does not end the day we are born again. These habitual sins lead to patterns of guilt and shame that can easily convince us God has grown tired and has given up on us.  When have you felt this way?
    1. Considering today’s devotional reading (above), what would you answer yourself if you feel that way again?
  3. Thank God his GREAT LOVE THAT HAS BEEN DEMONSTRATED in the death of Christ his son!
  4. Who do you know doubts God’s love because of hardships of habitual sins? Meet them for coffee to remind them of God’s tremendous love!

The Love of God 2 – everlasting

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on God’s eternal love for you and your neigbour.

Scripture

Jeremiah 31:1-7

1  “At that time, declares the LORD, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”

2  Thus says the LORD: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, 3  the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. 4  Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. 5  Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant and shall enjoy the fruit. 6  For there shall be a day when watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim: ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.'”

7  For thus says the LORD: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’

Observation

Context: The prophet Jeremiah promises the restoration of Israel (the northern tribes) after their destruction by the Assyrians and exile from their land.  

  1. Verse two is a rich verse with much information. Find other synonyms that describe what these phrases mean in this context:
    1. “survived the sword”
    2. “found grace in the wilderness”
    3. “when Israel sought for rest”
  2. Verses four to six speaks of the restoration of Israel. In contemporary language describe the promised restoration.
  3. Concerning verse 3
  4. Why does the prophet say the Lord will respond to unfaithful Israel’s pleas? (verse 3)
  5. In the immediate context, what does the beautiful phrase “I have loved your with an everlasting love” refer to?

Personal reflection and prayer

Even in their destruction and exile the Lord has been gracious to Israel, faithfully preserving a remnant and eagerly waiting their pleas for help.  Truly, His love is everlasting!

  1. Do you sometimes feel that the Lord will grow impatient with you? Why?  Tell the Lord that.
  2. Have you ever felt that the Lord has given up on you? Why?  Tell the Lord how you feel.
  3. Take a few moments and mediate on verse three by mulling it phrase by phrase, memorizing it, praying it.
    1. In which ways have the Lord shown his love for you during hardships?
    2. In which ways have the Lord shown his love for you in spite of your unfaithfulness?
  4. Do you know a friend or family member that is far from the Lord at present?
    1. The Lord is gracious, patient, faithful – pray for that friend or family member now.
    2. Is there a message of encouragement you can give to him or her?

The Love of God 1 – rooted and grounded

The aim of this devotional study is to grow in revelation of the immense love of God that stabilizes one amidst hardships.

Scripture

Ephesians 3:13-21

13  So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

14  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Observations

Note: Paul starts with the phrase “For this reason” in Chapter 3:1, but interrupts himself, then picks it up in verse 14.  So the “For this reason” refers to the glorious redemption and elevation of the gentiles who were “saved by grace through faith… a gift of God” and therefore both the Jewish and non-Jewish believer were made one.

  1. Study Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians by answering the following questions:
    1. With what attitude does Paul pray?
    2. To whom does Paul pray?
    3. In summary, what are the things Paul pray for this church?
  2. Paul prays to specifically “know the love of Christ, not the “love of God”. What do you understand “the love of Christ” refers to?
  3. Paul prayed this prayer to a racially and culturally divided church; what elements of unity can you see in this prayer. (Look carefully! Don’t miss the obvious!)
    1. How would prayer “to the Father from whom every family is known” help them in their unity?
    2. How would a revelation of the love of Christ help them in their unity?
    3. How would “being filled with the fullness of God” help them in their unity?
  4. This prayer of Paul was prayed during times of mounting persecution (himself imprisoned for the message he writes about!). What parts in this prayer is aimed to help this troubled church during times of persecution?
    1. How would “being rooted and grounded in love” and a greater revelation of Christ’s love help them in their times of persecution?
    2. How would “being strengthened… in the inner man” help them in their times of persecution?
    3. How would “being filled with the fullness of God” help them in their times of persecution?

Application and Prayer

Paul’s prayer for this troubled church (internally divided, with external persecution) is for strength, for faith, and for a revelation of the love of Christ, to grow in their union with Christ and be filled with his godliness.

  1. With whom and in which ways do you presently experience relational conflict in this season?
  2. In which ways do you experience external pressures these days?
  3. Personalize Paul’s prayer in verses 14-19, considering the relational and external challenges in your life.
  4. Note how Paul ends the prayer in praise with such encouragement in verses 20-21. Spend some time in praise to God who “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us!”