1 John 4:9-10, 19 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. We love because he first loved us.
In the very beginning, we humans were designed and created, male and female, in the ‘likeness and image of God the Creator himself (Genesis 1:26-27). In this state, we lived in perfect harmony between us and our Creator, and our ‘perfect’ world.
But it was not long before that whole idyllic scenario changed. We rebelled, and exactly in accordance with what God had decreed, we lost our life-giving, life-sustaining connection with him. The result, as expected, was eternal death for the whole human race (Romans 5:12). We were in a helpless, hopeless situation from which we were totally incapable of ever saving ourselves, just as God had warned us.
it is clear, therefore, that everything we do which gives expression to our being made in the image of God can only be a response to God’s prior work in us; it is always he who takes the initiative. The Apostle Paul expresses this much more effectively than I can: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1-5).
It is not rocket science to conclude from all this that even our faith that saves us can only be a response to God’s loving, merciful action. That is why Paul goes on to say we are saved by grace and through faith, ‘not from [ourselves], it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8). As John says here, we can only ‘live through him’ because God’s initiative of love sent him into the world to die for us for this very purpose. So even our love for God, and for each other, is not our gift to him but a response to his gift to us. Once we have settled this in our hearts it will affect our attitude to ourselves, to God, and to one another. Everything we do will be done with humble gratitude for God’s love and mercy to us, and not with a sense of pride, achievement, condescension, self-satisfaction or a desire for acknowledgement or reward; and it will be done spontaneously and often, not out of a sense of duty. As C.T.Studd put it: “If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.”
– Bruce Christian