The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. – Zephaniah 3:17
By Frank Christel
Pastor John Piper recently answered an astounding question in his Desiring God column: “…I feel close to God. I know God loves me, and the shed blood of his Son proves it… But the question I more often struggle with is this: Does God actually like me?”
For those of us who endured fractured relationships with parents, it is indeed possible to hold the idea that they “loved” us in an obligatory sense, but didn’t like us. Drawing on that imperfect model, many have imagined God perpetually sits on his throne, waiting to whack us broadside when we step out of line.
Staci Eldridge instead describes the true Jesus: “He has inscribed you into the palm of his nail-pierced hand. He knows your every thought, numbers your every hair, and cherishes your every tear. Jesus weeps for you and with you, longs for you, hopes for you, dreams of you, and rejoices over you with singing. He is the one who has battled all the forces of hell to free you and who battles still… His gaze is on you. He has pledged his love to you and betrothed you to him forever. He is unchangeable, and his love will never fail you.”
It was God who took the initiative to woo us. Forgiveness of our sins through Christ was His idea, not ours. When we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9), we are saved from an eternity of agony. At the instant of our death we will see God as He truly is. Then, on the basis of what we have confessed and believed in this life, we will either be perpetually in agony about being separated from Him or will eternally be in ecstasy.
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, oh what a foretaste of glory divine.” Hymn writer Fanny Crosby and countless mystics over the centuries wrote about life with God, right now, who really, really, really likes us. Paul says we were given the Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). Why would we be given this engagement gift if He wasn’t crazy about us?
In “The Great Divorce”, C.S. Lewis wrote: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
In one of his letters he added: “Of course God does not consider you hopeless. If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is)… Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.”
Sins which separate us from God are completely wiped away from His memory when we confess them and ask for forgiveness (Isaiah 43:25). Our past deeds are then flung away as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). God’s utmost longing is for us to enter into an intimate relationship with him.
So, what remains about you for Him not to like?