Summary: God’s love toward us is unconditional.
God is gracious. What does that mean? That God has good manners? That He’s courteous? No. "God’s grace is His free and unmerited favor". Let’s examine that. God’s grace is "unmerited". It is undeserved. It is unearned. It is purely a gift. We receive good things from God, not in response to anything good we have done, but only because of His free choice to set His love on us. We aren’t accepted by God because we are worthy of his love. In fact, it’s just the opposite. God loves and accepts us in spite of our unworthiness.
Now, most Christians recognize that we cannot earn our salvation. We understand that forgiveness of sins and eternal life are not earned.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast." - Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
Nothing we did, or could do, would ever merit salvation. But Jesus Christ did it for us. He lived a perfect, sinless life in our place. His death on the cross paid for our sins. It’s not something we could earn, it’s something we can only receive as a free gift through faith in Christ. That’s fundamental.
But what I want to focus on this morning is not our initial entry into the faith. What I want to focus on is our continued relationship with God.
· Let me ask you a question: How does God feel about you right now, today, this morning? What’s His attitude toward you? As you imagine Him looking down at you, what expression does He have on His face? Is he smiling? Frowning?
· Here’s the second question: Why? If God’s attitude toward you is positive; if He’s smiling, why is that? Is it because you came to church today? Because you put a check in the offering basket? Because you read the Bible this morning? Or, if you feel that God is frowning, why is that? Because you lied to your boss this week and called in sick? Because you can’t remember the last time you prayed? Because you yelled at the kids in the car on the way to church?
God’s love is unconditional
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, if you feel that God’s attitude toward you is influenced by your behavior, then I have good news for you. God’s attitude toward you is positive. And His acceptance of you is not influenced at all by our behavior - good, bad, or indifferent. His love is unconditional.
Is that a surprise to you? It shouldn’t be. We freely acknowledge that God’s love is unconditional when we’re talking about how someone first comes to faith. We understand that good behavior doesn’t help, because no one is good enough to earn salvation. And we understand that bad behavior doesn’t matter, because Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was sufficient to cover any sin, no matter how sinful. But somehow, when it comes to our relationship with God after conversion, we live as if the rules have changed. Many Christians live as though God’s love, and approval on a day-by-day basis depends on how good they are, how religious they are, how well they keep the rules. They live as if God’s initial acceptance of them was by grace, but that his continued acceptance of them has to be earned. Friends, this is absolutely false. God’s goodness toward us is just as much a gift every day of our lives after we come to faith as it is on the day when we first believe.
"You foolish Galatians! . . . I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" - Galatians 3:1-3 (NIV)
God’s attitude toward you does not fluctuate on an hourly basis, depending on how you are behaving at that particular moment. His love for you does not increase or decrease according to how much time you spend in prayer or how much you read the Bible. He doesn’t love you more when you are good, or less when you are bad. His approval, and affection, and love are constant. Why? Because they are based on Christ’s merit, not yours. God’s love, every day of your life, is a gift; it doesn’t depend on you being worthy to receive it.
We have a hard time accepting God’s unconditional love
We have a hard time with this idea. Deep down we still suspect that God likes us more when we are good. Why is this? Well, one reason is that every other relationship we are familiar with works that way. Husbands, wives, parents, children, friends, church members - we love one another imperfectly. People being what they are, there is usually a very clear connection between how we treat someone, and how that person feels about us.