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What Can Separate Us From the Love of God?
Not too long ago I was in a hospital visiting a man from our church. He was in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit in San Diego, CA. When I went into his room there was another man in the room also. My friend was in the second bed meaning that I had to walk in front of this other man to visit the person I had come to see.
While I was speaking to my friend I noticed that this other man was listening to me minister and pray for this friend of mine. As he did these words came up in my spirit, "he has forsaken the words of his mother." This man not only was in this intensive care unit, but he was also handcuffed to his bed with two law enforcement officers watching him.
When we concluded our visit and was leaving the room we had to pass by this man's bed and as we did he said, "I am convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God." This was obviously a quote from Romans 8:35, which many Christians are familiar with. When this man stated this the Lord started dealing with my heart about what can separate us from the Love of God. Let's read from Romans 8:35-39:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (37) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (38) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (KJV)
When we read the above passage of scripture we can easily conclude that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the Love of God. However, I would like for you to consider the Prodigal Son for a moment. In this very familiar story the son was separated from the father's love in that he did not benefit from that which his father would gladly have provided. Yes, the father's love was still manifested but the son did not benefit from this love because the son choose to separate himself from the father's love.
If you notice, everything in the verses we just read are external. The only thing not mentioned is us! So the truth of this Word is that there is nothing external in our lives that has the power to separate us from the power of the Father's love except our own decisions. Let's take this a step further and consider 1 John 4:16:
"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."
First I would like you to notice the phrase, "God is love." Therefore, when we are talking about being separated from the love of God we are speaking about being separated from God Himself. The last portion of this verse talks about our ability to "dwell in" this love. Therefore, there is a responsibility on each of us to dwell in this love, which would also mean we have the power to choose to dwell some other place. This is exactly what the Prodigal Son did. He chose to dwell outside the realm of his father's love.
Allow me to point out five areas of our life where we have the power to separate ourselves from God's love. These are very common areas, but it should be our purpose to dwell in God's love all the time. It is in this place of God's love that our life is secure.
The First Separation
The first is probably one of the most obvious. It is found in Luke 23:38-43. In these scriptures we find Jesus on the cross between two thieves. One thieve turns to Jesus and starts mocking Him proclaiming that if He is Who He said He is deliver Himself and them also. The other thieve, understanding that he has rightly been condemned, ask that Jesus would remember him as He came into His Kingdom.
The one thieve was promised he would be with Jesus in Paradise that day, the other thieve was separated from the love of Christ. Therefore, if we don't accept Jesus for Who He is we will be eternally separated from the love of God.
The second method of separation could be illustrated with a multitude of scriptures. However, I will use the very first instance of its occurrence in the scriptures. In Genesis 2:16-17 Adam is instructed that he is not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree. I am sure you know the end of that story. Adam and Eve eat of the tree and they enter into the death cycle and are completely separated from God. Death is separation from God.
Throughout the Old and the New Testaments, God tries to get His people to do what He says. Even Jesus in Matthew 7:21 makes the powerful declaration, "Why do you call me Lord, but don't do the things I say?"
Even in the New Testament we find the following (Titus 1:16):
"They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."
Just because we talk a good talk doesn't mean that we are dwelling in the Love of God. In fact, according to this verse, the works of our life speak more to who we are then the words of our mouth.
The second way that we separate ourselves from the Love of God is through disobedience. Our disobedience does not nullify John 3:16, but as with the Prodigal it is us that has chosen to separate ourselves from God. God expects us to do what He has instructed. This aspect of God is very clear throughout the Bible.
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In Mark 10:17-22 we find a very interesting story. There is a man who is very excited about Jesus and His message. In fact, in verse 17 we are told that this man is running to Jesus and kneels before. This man who is so excited about Jesus asks the Master what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. After a brief discussion and Jesus finding out that he had kept all the law, verse 21 declares that Jesus "loved" him. Then Jesus tells this man that he loved that there was one thing that he was still lacking and instructs him to go and sell what he has.
In verse 22 we read that the man separated himself from this love that Jesus had for him because "he had great possessions." So, the third area that we can separate ourselves from God's love is when we love things more than we love God.
There are many who love things more than God. The pursuit of money, toys, recreation seems to be in the forefront of American living. We must guard ourselves to be God chasers and not thing chasers.
In Matthew 18:23-35 we find a very interesting story that Jesus tells. It is about the Kingdom of Heaven and a King who had a servant. This servant was in great indebtedness to this King and the King required payment. Because the servant could not pay the King declared that he and his family along with all that he possessed be sold and for payment to be made.
This servant fell before the King and asked for extra time and the King was moved with compassion and forgave all that he owed. Then this man went out and found another man who owed him something and forgetting all that he had been forgiven had this man thrown into debtors prison until such a time as he could repay what was owed. When the King heard of this his compassion turned to anger and he brought the servant back before him and had this man delivered to the tormentors.
In verse 35 Jesus makes a powerful statement. He says, "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
The fourth area of separation is when we don't forgive. Jesus paid a hefty price for our sins and expects us to offer the same compassion that was shown to us. When we harbor grudges, get offended, or just refuse to forgive we separate ourselves from the compassion of God. Many will respond to such proclamations of forgiveness with, "but you don't know what they did!" However, there is no place in the Bible where the level of hurt or wrong determines whether we are to forgive others. We have a command to forgive those who have wronged us.
Our last form of separation that I want to share with you is found in John 5:41-42. In these verses we find that if we don't honor God we separate ourselves from God's love. How do we honor God? There are many ways.
- When we do what God has told us to do we are honoring His Words
- The book of Honor (Malachi) speaks of how we honor God with our tithes and offerings
- When we work to build the Kingdom of God through service, witnessing, or attending church we honor God.
When we reverence or consider Holy the Lord and not make light of His Word we honor Him.
There are many ways to honor the Lord of which I have only listed a few. However, throughout the Word we find that God wants to be esteemed as His is; mighty, marvellous, and glorious.
Let me encourage you to stay hooked up with God. We are living in a time where the message of God's love has really gotten perverted. It seems that many Christians think that they can live however they want and because God is love that they are still abiding in His love. We bare responsibility to stay in God's love. Don't be as the Prodigal who separated himself from all that his father wanted to provide him.