“To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love.” Thomas A Kempis.
“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.” Blessed Julian of Norwich.
Love is not just an idea that originated with us humans. Love is divine both in nature and origin. Love is truly of God. Love is a divine ingredient. In fact, it is an important attribute of God. Love dictates all of God’s actions and dealings with all of creation. God is love. Love springs from God: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that 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). What a far-reaching revelation this verse brings. Love is of God. To know God is simply to know love. As far as God is concerned, it seems like love has been exalted as perhaps the greatest force in heaven and earth, the most important issue in life.
“Now abides hope, faith and love but the greatest is love” (1 Corinthians 13: 13). Love is the greatest force on earth. Hope is important. Faith is very important. We certainly need to give the people of God hope and build faith, but we must remember that, of these three, the greatest is love. Love focuses us on the very nature of God himself. God is a God of faith and power, but He is love. God is love. All his actions are governed by love. His dealings with humans are ruled by love.
God’s very nature is love. That means that God’s greatest tendency is to love. He has an inherent propensity to love. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we have done, God loves you particularly and specially. That’s just who he is – Love. God’s love is rich, free, total, and unconditional. God doesn’t have to love you because of where you come from or what you have done or not done. He loves you; well, because he loves you. He is love. He loves you for you. He loves you because it is his nature to love. Loving wholly and unconditionally makes him who he is – God.
‘What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them??’ (Psalm 8: 4, New Living Translation). Look at that. God’s mind is full of you. The means human beings from every race or background: black, white, Asian, Hispanic, rich, poor, literate, illiterate. That’s almost incredible, that God’s heart is full of the thought of you. The human family must be so important to God that he has allowed his mind to be full of us. God’s mind is occupied with the thought of your good. You must be really something special. God sees you that way. The psalmist couldn’t understand what God saw in mere humans that he is pre-occupied with us, with you. The psalmist stands back in amazement, in reverent wonder and exclaims as God’s love hits home, ‘what is man that you are mindful of us? What are we, mere humans, that you have chosen to view us as so precious before you?’ The revelation given to the psalmist is one that God longs to bring to us individually, of his tender care and love towards us.
‘The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an ever-lasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3). Isn’t that particularly reassuring? God says he loves you with an everlasting love, with love that lasts for eternity. Appropriate this love for you. Don’t shift it off to someone else. It’s not only for Israel or for some far away person out there. It is also for you. This is God’s word for you, ‘The Lord has appeared to you saying, Yea, I have loved you with an everlasting love…” Yes, God’s love will endure. God’s love for you is everlasting, unending.
God’s love is unconditional. He loves us at all times and under all conditions and circumstances. Some may protest, “It’s easy for you to say that because you don’t know me or what I have done. You can’t even begin to imagine how badly I have messed up.” Sure, no other human being may know all about you, but God does. Yet, He loves us. He loves us even when we have messed up, although He hates our sins with perfect hatred. It is both because of His love for us and His perfect hatred for sin that prompts Him, through the Holy Spirit, to convict us about our need to set things right. It is His love for us that insists that we repent and allow Him into our heart with His rich treasures of salvation, grace and loving kindness. His love for you seeks only your good.
The point is that God loves you in good times and in bad times. He loves you when you feel like He is near; and He loves you when you feel like He should be far away. His love for you isn’t premised on how good or bad you are as a person. God hasn’t set some pre-conditions you would have to meet before He loves you. No! According to Romans 5: 8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” It bears repeating in different translations. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (NLT). “He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready” (Message). God loved us even as sinners. That’s why He sent His only Son. “God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him” (Message). We weren’t so great a people to whom God was obligated to rescue. We were sinners, God-haters, God-mockers. Still He loved us in that very state, and reached out to us in love.
Christian or not, God loves you as a person. His love brings about God-initiated salvation. But He loves us first. He sends rain and sunshine freely on all (Matthew 5:45). His banner over humanity is love. His love for humankind isn’t conditioned on how good we have been. He has chosen to love us – richly, abundantly, and lavishly. He loves us because it is His very nature to love. Indeed, God is love.
Children of Love
We are children of love. It was God’s love that brought us forth. He chose to make a set of beings, humans, on whom to lavish His rich love. Think about the vast immensity of the universe. The earth seems so small compared to all the galaxy of stars out there. Yet, this small planet called earth is very important to God, for the simple reason that it is where he has chosen to locate his love – the human race. It was love that designed it all: this beautiful love nest we live in, and the very personality we enjoy as humans. Have you ever stopped to wonder about that?
I don’t know why, but it seems clear from scriptures that God is neck-deep in love with humanity, with you, with me. You probably have heard ‘God loves you’ so much that it has become nothing but a worn cliché. But there is no gainsaying the fact that our lives could be radically transformed if we truly understood God’s love for us individually. It is God’s will to have us understand how much the Father’s heart loves us. You are precious in his sight.
Notice how Apostle John phrases this fact: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4: 10). And here is how the Message Bible paraphrased that verse, “This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” Again, Brother John reminds us, God is the one who originated this love relationship. He loved us first. He initiated a relationship with you. In the very beginning, he loved us!
This Love Will Blow Your Mind
So, then, let us step back to that ‘beginning’ as we explore the origin of this God-human love relationship as revealed in scriptures. As we step out of our time capsule, we hear God declare his heart desire, his intention to make a certain class of beings called humans: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26-27). We hold our breath in holy anticipation. There has never been any creature like this human. This new being is all in the creative imagination of God. He has seen something. He wants something. He longs for someone. We hold our breath in wonder, and ask ourselves in awe, why? Why does he want human beings? He has all the angels and heavenly beings to worship him. What will this new human creature offer him that he doesn’t have in the angels already? We yearn for a peek into his divine heart. We long to know a bit about what is driving this new God-venture when, all of a sudden, he seems to shed a little light into our soul and we begin to grasp just a tiny little bit of his divine motives.
Then, as we see a little bit into why he is making this new human race, we are floored with reverence and awe. Is it possible? God almighty actually desires the fellowship of this human? He has chosen to love and be loved by the new human race. He wants their friendship, praise, worship. It will mean a lot to him. He doesn’t need it, but he has chosen to have it anyway. It’s just what he wants. We are dazed. Who can understand it? The one who made the entire universe wants the fellowship of a mere human on a fairly equal basis. It boggles our mind. We stop a while long enough to look into his holy scriptures to see if we can get a confirmation of what we are feeling from His love-heart. Sure enough, we meet Jesus the incarnate God telling us in plain language that the Father is indeed in search of those individuals who are willing to enter a loving worshipful relationship with God. “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).
Dear reader, pause for a moment to reflect on this: The whole idea of creating this new class of beings called humans was to satisfy God’s chosen desire for human fellowship and human worship. No less a person than Jesus himself confirmed to us in the New Testament that, over the years, the Father has been in search of such beings.
But what does Jesus mean that the Father is seeking such to worship him? How about the millions of angelic beings in heaven? Aren’t those worshippers of God? Surely, everything we know from scripture tells us in the affirmative that these angels worship God. They are there to worship him and do his bidding (Psalm 103: 20-21). So, then, why is the Father still seeking for “worshippers” and “fellow-shippers”? Why, of all creatures, is he interested in humans as the choice to fulfill this divine goal? We are befuddled by it all, but intrigued. After all, he alone is God. He can do as he pleases. Who can question his choice or teach him wisdom? We can only echo with other saints and prophets this scripture-sanctioned refrain:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (From Romans 11:33-36).
God Chose You Specially As His Friend
Still, our human mind tries to figure it out somewhat. It stands to reason, we agree, that if he was satisfied with angelic worship, he won’t set out to make humans to worship and fellowship with him. Oh perhaps, he wants the fellowship of humans, not in place of angelic worship, but in addition to it. We look at the angels and realize that they are his servants. Apparently, God is interested in more than worship that is dutiful, even sacrificial. There is only so much fellowship you can have with your servant, even if he or she is the best servant in the world. We wonder, perhaps, God wanted fellowship in addition to worship? But it is going to be fellowship from a new set of beings that haven’t ever been. Unlike the angels, these new beings will have the freedom to worship or not. They will have a choice. They are going to willingly choose to love and worship Him. It gave him immense pleasure just thinking about it. He is purposeful, intentional about it. This human is going to be a friend of God. This human is a creature of God, yes, but a friend nevertheless. This human will worship him as God, yes, but will also share holy fellowship with God. It’s a new relationship heaven hasn’t known yet, just like that between a father and a loved son. The Father chuckles to himself, as he thinks about how lavishly he is going to love this being. Thousands of years later, the elders of the faith captured the mood very well in this revelation: “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:4-5, NLT). It gave him great pleasure deciding to adopt and love on us. We pleasure God, even before we walked on earth.
So, how is he going to go about this? God has chosen to have a friend and a ‘fellow-shipper’ in the human he is about to make. There is no going back on this. If the human will worship God as well as be in loving relationship with Him as a child, then this must be a being with the same order of life that God has. For sure, this doesn’t mean the human is going to be another god. Far from it – he is a being made to worship God. He is a created being; and not the creator. But how can a mere human share fellowship and communion with God unless there is a common life that runs through both? After all, ‘fellow-shippers’ means fellows in the same ship. Fellow-shippers. The law of life and association demands that only ‘fellows in the same ship’ can commune and relate. There are different kinds of life. There is plant life. There is animal life. There is human life. It is difficult for a being in one sphere of life to adequately relate to, and fellowship with, a being in another sphere of life. Humans cannot fellowship with a tree, for example. Only beings within the same sphere of life can share any meaningful relationship. Since God wants a new being who will not only worship him, but also be in a loving relationship with him, then this being is going to have the same kind or order of life that God has. It means elevating humans to a realm of life that is hitherto alien to any other creature. It means, as God himself puts it, making human ‘in His own likeness and image.’ God’s way of achieving his goal of making a new being capable of worshipping and sharing loving fellowship with God is to make the new person in the image of God.
What an amazing love God has shown to this human being who is about to appear on the scene. It has nothing to do with what he has done or not done. What elevated position humanity is receiving even before they walked on the new planet. No wonder Apostle John declared that he first loved us. The psalmist sang in holy awe, a song we are apt to chorus with a reverent and thankful heart:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8: 3-9, NIV).
Now we wait to see how this ‘image of God’ is going to be reflected in the human. What kind of life is God going to give this new being? What form is the ‘likeness and image’ of God going to be revealed in human being? We are eager. We awake early on creation morning, and watch Him go to work in Genesis 1 and 2 making his new love-being with heaven-inspired anticipation. As we look through divine revelation of Genesis 2:7, we get a glimpse into how God is shaping his new friend in His own image: “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being” ( Amplified Bible).
So, from that visually powerful verse, we understand the kind of person this human being is, his very nature and the order of life he was endowed with. First, this human being is a spirit. The ‘spirit of life’ was infused into him. Though his outer form was made from dust, his inner being is spirit. The essence of his being is spiritual. He shares a good dose of organic matter with other earth creatures, but at his core, he is a spirit being. But then the question we ask is, why did God make him a spirit being? Why, that seems rather clear from John 4:24 – God is a spirit, and so his new worshipping friend needs to be a spirit too. God is always looking for those to worship him in the spirit. It is within the spiritual realm that God can commune with humanity. Hence, in order for the new earth-being to have the capacity to fellowship with the Almighty, he must be made a spirit being.
But perhaps, being a spirit is not all there is to the image and likeness of God. After all, we know that angels are spirit beings. Even Satan and his fallen angels are also spirits. So, we reason that there’s got to be more. So, we watch and wait. We observe the Creator at work as he comes close to the fulfillment of the work of his hands – the work of making his new human-friend. We hold our breath as the almighty does something almost unimaginable to all of heaven. He breathes his own breath into this new person – God’s own breath, the very spirit of life, the God-kind of life. It boggles our mind. God is choosing to share his very breath with humanity. A holy thrill runs through our spine as we even dare think the unthinkable, that the God of all creation is now purposefully sharing a little bit of himself, his life, with this new creation. God “breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being”. It was God’s breath of life that made human being a ‘living being’. He had his form as human being alright after those divine hands sculptured him from dust. But he wasn’t yet a ‘living being’ until the very breath of God was shared with him. The ‘spirit of life’ implies that this life is spiritual. It’s a spirit-life. It is both life and spirit. It is a new kind of life showing up on earth; far different from microbial, plant or animal life-forms. It is the God-kind of life. Jesus will tell us a lot more about this kind of life later on. But for now, we marvel that God has done an entirely amazing thing, sharing his very breath, the breath that brings life, with human beings. In a very limited but real measure, the very quality of life that makes him God has been shared with mere humans. Some of the divine principle in God, what scripture called ‘the breath or spirit of life,’ was shared with God’s human friend.
God’s Friend and Lover
Yes, God has his new being fully made. His outer form is organic like all other earth creatures. After all, the earth is going to be his home. He has to be able to live down here on planet earth. But, like God and other heavenly beings, he is spirit. Even more, he has a new kind of life in his veins, the God-kind of life. He is able to relate with God. He has an inherent ability now to be a friend of God. He can commune with God as a friend, a worshipper, a fellow-shipper. We rejoice in God’s joy as He looked at his human creation. He dreamed of this new being, and now, He has human person by His side. Genesis 3:8 suggests that God sometimes visited with Adam and Eve, his new friends, in the cool of the evening. These were his friends, his worshippers, his earth-custodians. We don’t know what those visits were like, but we speculate that these human beings lavishly engaged in grateful worship – worship to a God who loved them freely, deeply, and gave something of himself to them. We can only imagine that the first humans were lost at God’s feet in worshipful contemplation. They loved Him because He first loved them. They gave of themselves to the One who gave them life. What reverent and holy moments those God-human visits must have been. Even the mere thought of it causes us to bow our hearts in worshipful awe. What love is this? Human beings have found a special place in the heart, and by the side, of God almighty. Not because they were something special by what they did, but because He chose them. Angels must have stood in holy amazement. What are human beings, oh Lord, that you are mindful of them?
We don’t know how long this divine-human relationship lasted in the Garden of Eden, but we are jolted with the tragic events in Genesis chapter 3, to which we shall later return. For now though we awaken from our faith journey literally dazed by how great he loves us. Is it possible that the maker of heaven and earth has specially chosen us – yes, all of us – to be his friends, his ‘fellow-shippers’, his worshipers for life? Dare we accept this love freely? What will really happen if we dared receive and submit to his love? A holy chill runs through our spine as we contemplate the possibilities of living abundantly in his love.
The preceding are excerpts from The Treasures of Love: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997117621/
Used by permission of the Author. All rights reserved.
May you experience God’s full and rich love in the new year and always.