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He rescued me because he delighted in me (Ps. 18:19). 

As I prepared to preach from this verse, my first thought was, Tricky! How will I navigate this?

Navigate what? you may be thinking. Seems perfectly straightforward.

I hope that's what you're thinking because the verse is pure gospel goodness. But I'll admit that often I fall into a foolish and dreadful mistake. I regularly get the love of God backwards.

Backwards Love

Here is my error. I imagine that Jesus died so that God could love me. I figure that God saves in order to love. He cleans me up a bit and then gives me his grace. His atonement leads to love, not the other way around.

So when I encountered Psalm 18 speaking of the Lord delighting in me and therefore rescuing me, well, it seemed backwards. I had to let the Word confront me again.

Because in the Bible, God loves the world and so sends his Son to save it (John 3:16–17). In the Bible, it’s because of his great love for us that God makes dead-hearted rebels alive (Eph. 2:4). In the Bible, God demonstrates his love for us through his Son’s death for his powerless, ungodly, sinful enemies (Rom. 5:6–11).

His love leads to atonement, not the other way around.

Do you see what these verses are saying? God loves and so he saves. It does not say God saves and so he loves.

Breathtaking Love

Why is this important? For one thing, it means Christ loves me, sinner that I am. He doesn’t just love the saved me (though of course he does). No, he loves me at my putrid worst. Again, he doesn’t clean me up in order to love me; he loves me and so cleanses me.

Which means when I ask myself, Does God love me?—I can look to the cross alone. I don’t have to check my saved status. I don’t have to worry whether the cleansing has taken sufficient effect to allow me into his affections. I can simply look at Christ crucified and say, “God loves me.”There is his demonstration of love for rebels at war with him. He hasn’t fixed his love on me at my best. He has fixed his love on me at my worst.

He hasn’t fixed his love on me at my best. He has fixed his love on me at my worst.

My salvation—won through his blood alone—proves his love for me. His love isn’t a bonus for the godly; it’s aimed at his enemies. And such love is the very ground of all he does. If I’m looking at the Son lifted up on the cross, then I’m seeing God’s love for me, because there I’m seeing my salvation. I’m seeing infallible proof of God’s immovable, inexhaustible, unfathomable affection for me.

He rescued me because he delighted in me (Ps. 18:19).

Christian, God speaks that word to you right now. Believe it.