Friday, January 14, 2022

Nothing Has Separated Us From the Love of Christ

Image result for john piippo first baptist church joliet illinois
(Redeemer sanctuary)

When Linda and I were pastors at First Baptist Church in Joliet, Illinois (back in the mid-70s), our church hosted a coffee house. Every Saturday night, twenty to fifty young adults would gather in the basement of our building. Someone would bring a teaching. And, we would worship.

The worship stayed with me. We had great instrumentalists, and some phenomenal vocalists. Some of those songs, repeated over and over, have become furniture in the room that is my heart.

One was a simple worship song that repeated Romans 8:35:

Who can separate us from the love of Christ? 
Can affliction or hardship? 
Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, peril, or the sword?

Follow Jesus long enough, and you will go through some of these things. Most have experienced affliction, hardship, persecution, and peril. Linda and I have had the death of loved ones. We have experienced persecution, sometimes coming from within our church families. We have known financial hardship (many pastors have, BTW). I have encountered perilous situations while ministering to people in dark environments.

And... there are these days we all are now in.

Still, through it all, the experience of God's love remains.

Love is an experience, not a theory. (See Leading the Presence-Driven Church, Chapter 2, "The Case for Experience.")

God's love is felt. It is known, in the Hebrew sense of knowing. 

Linda and I have never been cut off from this.

Dallas Willard writes:

"When our first child was born, I realized painfully that this beautiful little creature was separate from me and nothing I could do would shelter him from his aloneness in the face of time, brutal events, others’ meanness, his own wrong choices, the decay of his body and, finally, death. 

That would be the last word on the subject, except for God. He is able to penetrate and intertwine himself within the fibers of the human self in such a way that those who are enveloped in his loving companionship will never be alone." (Willard, Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, p. 51)

Paul concludes with these words. Write them on a card. Carry them with you today. Read them often. Ingest them. Draw them on a poster. Hang the poster on the walls of the room that is your heart.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors 
through him who loved us. 
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, 
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, 
nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth, 
nor anything else in all creation, 
will be able to separate us from the love of God 
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39