God Is Love: Book Study – Chapter 3

09 February, 2015

GOD IS LOVE“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

Jesus reveals to us the God who has existed in eternal relationship as Father, Son, and Spirit. In complete oneness they have existed before time began in a relationship of love for one another. Love is at the core of this relationship because God is love. The Son was given because this was his declaration of love for his world. A declaration that was rooted in historical reality. The son became man, lived, died, rose, and ascended in actual history because God loves us.

Yet this extravagant love is hard to fathom because we know we’re not that lovable.

Why would God do this for me?

What must I do to earn this kind of love?

If I can’t earn it then at least I can pay it back right?

In one of my earlier books Jesus In The Margins I recounted this story:

When I was twenty-three years old, I believed that God could not love me. It was a lie that was imbedded in my soul. It’s not that I didn’t know the Bible taught that God loved me; I just didn’t believe it. Instead, I would try to fill the void with working hard so that people would think I was really great. The whole time I was betraying the deepest love I had ever experienced, the love of Jesus Christ. I was running about because I couldn’t fathom Jesus’ love for me. When it finally hit me that Jesus really loved me, that the good news of the gospel was true for me, too, the weight of “performing” for love just blew away. 

This is the hope of the gospel; that we are invited into God’s love! Not that we earn our way in or perform our way in, but that God freely and extravagantly loves us.

“For this is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:9-10 (NIV)

Study Questions

Feel free to engage one or more of the following questions and to interact with one another as well.

1. “How we understand God shapes how we see the world” (47). When you hear the word “God,” what or who comes to mind?

2. Does your image of God drive you toward relationship or toward religious performance?

3. We are made in the image of God, and God’s image is an image of relationship. Does this truth shape how you understand yourself and the world? How?

4. Throughout this chapter Rick explains our role as that of a child enjoying the extravagant love God gives us. Is this a role that you are comfortable being in with God? Why?

Previous Chapters

To engage previous chapters follow the links below.

1. http://rickmckinley.net/the-cry-for-freedom

2. http://rickmckinley.net/live-fully

6 Responses to “God Is Love: Book Study – Chapter 3”

  1. Ruben J. Alvarado

    #1 and #2—-I think of God as a the God of creation, a powerful entity. He chose to create us. He endeavors to bring us back into his grace. I also envision him as the King of Heaven, as a heavenly Father who gave up his only Son to reunite us to Him. A God who wants us to trust the love he has for us. He loves to see us have an unshakeable faith in times of insurmountable obstacles. He is a God willing to help according to our faith. After reading “The Answer to our Cry”, I have come to understand a God that wants us be united with him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. #2 My image of God is one of relationship. I talk to the Lord unceasingly. In times of trouble, I t turn to him. I praise him with prayers of gratefulness, when filled with his mercy , kindness, and overwhelming beauty of His creation. Presently, I seem to be relating to him in fear, leaning on doubts instead of his Word and promises. My unknown status after surgery has me faltering in faith and trust. Since I’ve been getting better each day, I relate to him my gratitude. I prayed for healing before the surgery and signs seemed hopeful, but it soon became clear that I would have to go through the operation. After the operation, I did not relate to God with ill will, but leaned on him and his word even more. He guided and helped me through this recovery journey. Initial reports are good, but final prognosis is not until Feb. 23. I am so afraid of the unknown. I don’t like leaning and relating to God in fear. I want to have the complete freedom and boldness to trust Him completely without reservation I want to be free of this disease, so I can be free to serve him and those whose love he has blessed me with. No better love has he demonstrated to us by giving us his only Son. So I’m doing my best to overcome the spirit of fear, and trust the Spirit he has given to us. Greater is he that is within me, than He who is the world.

    Reply
    • Rick McKinley

      So glad to hear that the book helped you understand God’s desire to be in relationship with you. The fear you speak about during this time of uncertainty and physical illness is so common. God understands this fear. The Son experienced life just as we do and He faced physical suffering as we do. It can be a great relief to know that we are in relationship with a God that not only created the world in his great power, but also walked through our world with a physical body capable of suffering. That God does not bring guilt or condemnation for our fear but comforts and loves us in the midst of it. Often it’s in these times that we grow closer to him. Not that He necessarily goes about causing suffering to draw people closer, but that in the midst of it He draws us closer to Him as a loving earthly father would even do for his child who hurts. Thank you Ruben for your responses here. It seems like God is doing a great work in you.

      Reply
  2. Heidi Dahlin

    When I was young, there was a Bible on our bookshelf that pictured an old man with a flowing beard and hair. He was carrying two stone tablets and on a mountain surrounded by dark clouds and lightning. He was very angry. I thought he was God. That was my first image of God and I carried it in my mind long after I figured out that it was really supposed to be Moses. I know now that I formed an image of God based on my own Father: stern, distant, silent, angry. He could never be pleased and it was best to avoid him. I spent a lot of time as a child hiding in a closet, hoping not to be noticed. I wish I could have had this book 30 years ago. When I became a Christian at 20, I could trust Jesus: I grew up singing “Jesus Loves Me” and could embrace a savior that would die on a cross for me. God, however, was a scary dude that should be avoided at all costs. One wrong move and something very bad could happen: floods, plagues, fire from heaven. I remember being warned that if I took communion wrong, I could die. For a person already driven by fear, I walked on eggshells as far as God was concerned. Thank goodness He’s not that way. It was in reading the book “The Shack” that I could begin to envision a God that was not a stern, scary Father, but a loving entity desirous of having a loving relationship with me. Then it only took me another 10 years to go from believing it in my head to feeling it in my heart. God was so patient and loving, revealing himself as I was ready to know him further. I agree that the nature of God is relationship. I no longer fear and dread communion (would this be the month I’d be struck by lightning at the table?), but see it as a place for my husband and I to draw close to each other and God. I love this book!

    Reply
    • Rick McKinley

      Heidi, this story of God having brought you from a false understanding of Him as stern and uninvolved to a true understanding of Him as loving and relational is inspiring. It gives encouragement that we can let go of our false notions and accept God for who he truly is.

      You mentioned in your story that you related God to your own father. This is such a common thing. We hear that God is a Father, and for some of us that is helpful. It brings to mind a loving and involved father. For others it brings to mind painful memories, and an image of a father that is unloving and distant. It is so important that we come to an understanding of God as Father in the best sense of the word. A Father who loves unconditionally, who gives generously, who lovingly corrects and who guides in truth.
      It can be a slow and difficult process for many of us. Thank you for reminding us that God our loving Father is patient with us as He leads us to that understanding!

      Reply
  3. Erica Beller

    1 and 3. My understanding of God depends on what I’m going through. I realize that’s imperfect. I remember going through my early 20’s and I had left my childhood church for a charistmatic one. I started seeing God through this lens of romantic love. He picked verses for me. Blue flowers were a reminder of his love. He was so in tune with all of my prayers silly and big. It was a lot of wonder and emotion. After much religion and service it was a bit self focused. When I had my son my view of God changed again. When I saw my crying, helpless child I saw how God saw me, and how he must have delighted in me all those 27 years. Loving that new baby helped me understand a new depth to God’s love. Or, when I stopped “feeling” God, it was crushing. I felt painfully rejected. I felt into a trap of trying to explain God’s silence. I tried not to take it personal but I did. It felt intentional. I’ve been a wife for a year and a half. I honestly don’t feel I’ve given my husband a glimpse of God’s glory, but I’ve seen a new way of understanding God through his servanthood. He loves and my walls go up. He provides and I don’t say thank you much. It’s often how I react to God. I would never dream of leaving God. I have it good. My husband is the same. He’s incredible and the person I respect most in this world.
    4. No, not a comfortable role. I don’t feel comfortable speaking for God. What if the purpose is to suffer? What if it is to correct someone’s life? I think of the boldness of children but also of the mistakes they make. I feel like I often mislabel God’s intentions or actions. So in deciding my own actions it’s hard to know if they were the correct response. I think the only area God has broken in is money. It’s not perfect but I’ve had so many years of God providing I don’t question it much. It doesn’t matter how poor I’ve been I know I can get rid of as much money in the church offering and I’ll find a stack of it somewhere in my house. You can’t out give God.

    Reply
    • Rick McKinley

      Hi Erica,
      You’re not alone. Many of us view God through the things we are going through. The problem with that is that we let our circumstances shape our understanding about Him instead of our understanding of Him shape our circumstances or our response to them. You bring up a great point about gratefulness. We often know that God loves us and provides for us and yet we aren’t particularly grateful. Your honest responses here show that you desire to see God for who He is and to let Him break through in other areas of your life. Your final statement about not being able to out give God serves as a reminder of God’s great generosity toward us. He gives so much more than we could ever imagine or expect. He gave himself to redeem us, and he gives himself to us in loving relationship. This gift is ours regardless of our circumstances. Do you find it hard to accept this generous gift from Him in the same way that you accept his generous provision financially?

      Reply

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