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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“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.”—1 John 4:10 (NKJV)
There’s a rite of passage most middle school boys are forced to take. It’s an experience they’re unlikely to forget for as long as they live! It sort of sneaks up on them in drips and drabs; an announcement here, a parental mention there. But before they know it, the moment suddenly swoops down on them like an unforgiving bird of prey.
There they stand, on the threshold of the unknown, uncertain in their mind and queasy in their gut. It’s the first school dance.
It’s one of the most awkward moments a boy will ever know, made all the more awkward by the expectation that he will walk across that gymnasium floor, approach a female classmate, and initiate an invitation to dance. If you’ve experienced this scenario, you can probably recall it with photographic clarity!
Why this ungainly stroll down memory lane? It illustrates something that curiously connects to the passage that the apostle John presents to us here. And that’s this: There’s something incredibly powerful about the principle of initiation. At a middle school dance, it possesses the power to absolutely terrify you. But it has the exact opposite effect when we parlay it to God’s interaction with us.
John reminds us that we weren’t the ones who initiated a loving relationship with God. The Bible tells us that if anything, we were stuck in a cycle of pursuing and being systematically destroyed by sin. We were caught in this loop, and we were content to stay there.
But it was God who initiated a loving relationship with us by sending His Son to die to set us free from our sin-cycle. He was the One to take the first step, not us. And when He did initiate this saving relationship with us, it wasn’t with the timid hesitancy of a seventh-grade boy. It was with the boldest form of love imaginable. A love that never looked back over its shoulder but decisively, determinedly, and undauntedly strode straight to the cruelest fate imaginable.
We need to be reminded of this: God initiated a relationship with us! It’s necessary to know this because if you’ve been in relationship with God for any length of time, you know that time can have the effect of warping truth in our minds. Gradually, unnoticeably, we can forget God’s pursuit of us and come to think that our connection with Him is due to our own good motives and efforts. Well, after all, I am a good person. Just look at the place I give to God in my life.
When we start to think this way, we open ourselves up to a sense of spiritual pride and arrogance. We think more highly of ourselves than we should. And when that happens, it’s not too long afterward that we begin to look down on others in self-righteous judgment.
That’s twisted! Again, none of us can claim to have initiated our relationship with the Lord. None of us can take credit for any knowledge that we have of Him. He initiated with us, it has always been so and it will always be so, never to change one iota! It’s critical that we remember this.
The effect of God being the initiator in our relationship has the simultaneous effect of humbling and encouraging us. It humbles us because we know we would be absolutely lost apart from Him doing what He did. There’s no room for pride or the self-righteous condemnation of others in light of this. But it also encourages us, because it demonstrates that God’s love for us isn’t predicated upon us; therefore, it cannot be broken by us.
As sure as those butterflies felt on that middle school dance floor, God loves us and always will love us, regardless of who we are or what we do. This was proven as He took the first step toward us when He could have passed us by. But God did take that step, a step of sacrificial suffering, so that we could know the greatest of all things, a saving and loving relationship with Him.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.