In Jude, verse 21, I read the simple command: “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” This implies that God’s love for me remains constant and unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He loves me with an “everlasting love.”
This command also implies that I can either remain in the sunshine of God’s love, where I enjoy all the good things that God wants to do for me, or I can move into the cold, dark shadows, where, if I remain, I will be deprived of all of God’s benefits.
So I ask, “What must I do to keep myself in the love of God?” Jesus also commanded me to abide in his love and added, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (John 15:9f.). But Jesus gave many commandments, and so I might fail to remain in his love by not keeping them all in mind at once. Therefore, I will succeed best at keeping myself in God’s love if I can focus my attention on the one command that is at the heart of all the others, namely that we love one another as he has loved us.
Many passages in Scripture make it clear that in order for me to obey this command I must trust God: “God’s kindness will continue to be extended to you,” Paul tells me in Romans 11:22, “provided that you remain in his kindness.” And just before this Paul says, “You stand fast only through faith” (vs. 20). So I remain in God’s kindness by trusting him.
Likewise, in 2 Chronicles 20:20 I read, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” And according to Isaiah 7:9, “If you will not believe, surely you will not be established.”
When John writes “God is love” (1 John 4:7ff.), he means that God’s deepest desire for me is to bring great blessing to me. But if this is so, why doesn’t God just go ahead and bless me? Why will he bless me only if I trust him to take care of me?
The answer is that God cannot be indifferent to whether or not I trust him. My trust in someone, or the lack of it, says everything about how I esteem that person. I know I (and everyone I know) regard someone’s trusting me to be the greatest compliment, whereas someone’s saying, “I don’t trust you,” constitutes the greatest insult. And if this is true on the merely human level, how much more is it true in relation to God?
God says in Isaiah 48:11 that he cannot allow his holy name to be profaned. Since God is the best and most praiseworthy of all beings, he would be unrighteous to do anything that implied he was indifferent to the honor of his name. And God would surely dishonor his holy name were he always to bless me if I continued to insult him by not trusting his promises and the guidance he provides through his commands. If God blessed my proud unbelief, he would be saying that my reputation was all that mattered and that his own integrity was not worth upholding.
Just as unbelief makes it impossible for God to bless me, so faith obligates God to keep his promises. When David Livingstone went into the unexplored interior of Africa, he said that God’s promise to always be with him and to help him was surely as good as that of any gentleman who, as such, would always feel under the utmost obligation to be a man of his word.
I obligate God to bless me when I believe him, but not because I have performed some service which shows that I have a worth which he ought to respect. Instead, my believing obligates God to bless me because, by the promises and commands he has set forth in Scripture, he has put his own integrity on the line. So I share with you what I have learned: God loves the worth of his own integrity. According to Psalm 138:2, God has based his reputation on keeping his word to be exceedingly gracious and utterly faithful to those who demonstrate their delight in his glory by trusting in him. This is the only way we can expect to experience his goodness. So let us either come into—or keep ourselves in—the love of God by resting our souls on the trustworthiness of God’s Word. God’s love is certainly worth our complete confidence, for with the very zeal he has for the honor of his name he works to benefit us as we trust him.