Afshin Ziafat explains how the unearnable, unending love of Jesus makes us alive.
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“I love Jesus,” 1 John 4:19 says, “because he first loved me.” And that’s what 1 John teaches: “In this is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us and he sent his Son to be a propitiation for us to die for our sins” (1 John 4:10). And so I love God. I love Jesus because he has first loved me and quickened my heart to see his love and to really know what love is. And so God’s love is demonstrated to us in Jesus. He says, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friends” (John 15:13).
I love Jesus because he did this for free. I didn’t do anything to earn it. It was freely given to me and love must be free for it to actually be love. If there’s something I do to earn it then it’s not really love. It has to be completely free. And that’s why Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrates His love to us in this that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, Jesus acted before we did anything to earn it.
I also love Jesus because his love is never ending. In other words, once I have received it by faith, freely given to me, there’s nothing I can do to lose it. And so he says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3) and that “nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:38–39).
And ultimately, I love Jesus because his gift was costly. In other words, it didn’t cost me anything to receive the love of Christ, but it sure did cost him to love me. “God loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). And so when I have received that kind of love, I love him not because I’m trying to gain something from him, but because he first loved me.
This is the key difference between where I am today and the faith that I came out of, Islam, where I was taught that ultimately I had to earn God’s favor by my good works. Many Muslims will ask me, “Why would you live for Jesus if you’ve received his love freely?” I would say that the greatest motivator in life is not fear that maybe you’re going to go to hell if you’re not good enough, but the greatest motivator in life is love.
And so when you’ve received that love, then you will live for him freely because you want to honor him with your life.