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About this series
The Real God
How He Longs for You to See Him
There is a deep sense of unease in our rapidly changing world. Popular culture says that love means self-satisfaction and that status and appearance are what count. Social media reinforces that It’s all about me. This ultimately self-destructive perspective has thoroughly infiltrated the Church as confusion replaces conviction. At the root of our problems lies a distorted view of God. We’ve created a god in our minds that comforts our emotions but is powerless to deliver us from evil or transform our lives – because our creation is actually an idol based on who we think God is, not who He says He is. The way back to truth and hope starts with knowing God as He declares Himself to be. The Real God is an in-depth study of seven attributes of God – His goodness, sovereignty, holiness, wisdom, justice, love, and faithfulness. You’ll see and understand Him in a whole new light. It will revolutionize the way you think about God, others, and yourself. Are you ready for a new adventure? Join Chip on this journey to discover the real God.More from this series
Can you imagine what would happen, hypothetically, what if you loved fifty percent more, beginning tomorrow for the rest of your life? Just fifty percent more? You loved your friends fifty percent more. You loved your co-workers fifty percent more. What if the people sitting down at the United Nations would just love one another fifty percent more than they do now?
That people would start forgiving and listening instead of battling and positioning. What would happen if, in the Middle East, people from diverse backgrounds would love one another just fifty percent more? What would happen if in the inner city and in the suburbs, people would love one another just fifty percent more? Can you imagine the difference it would make in the world?
See, there is an amazing thing going on. I don’t think I could make the statement: What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s what everyone needs, what everyone wants.
I don’t think I could get hardly a person in the world to raise their hand and say, “Excuse me, I disagree. We don’t need any more love. People being kind to one another, forgiving one another, taking care of each other, families staying together, people being sensitive. I’ll tell you what, we’ve got enough of that as there is.”
Now, think this through, though. If universally we agree that the world needs love and we all need to be loved, why is there such little love? It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it?
I put a little statement of three facts about love.
Fact number one: It’s a universal need. We are all looking for love. I have never met a person who is not looking for love. From the moment you came out of the womb, you were looking for someone to hold you, feed you, protect you, love you.
When you got older, you were looking for someone to look into your eye and say, “You matter, you’re secure, you’re significant.” When you blew it or you failed, you wanted someone to say, “You know what? I forgive you. I’m still for you.” Everybody is desperately looking and wanting to be loved, fact number one.
Fact number two is there is a universal solution to the universal need. God loves all people everywhere and longs to meet the deepest needs of their heart for love. God loves everyone! He has demonstrated His love. His heart breaks when He sees what happens to people. He wants to heal, He wants to forgive, He wants to encourage, He wants to affirm, He wants to support, He wants to redirect, He wants to guide, He wants to hold, He wants to heal.
You have a universal need over here of people desperately wanting to be loved, and you have, over here, an omnipresent, all-wise, all-knowing Creator who wants to love and has already loved the world.
Fact number three: We have a universal disconnect. There is a tragic disconnection. You have this unbelievable need and this supernatural, unlimited, boundless availability, and nevertheless, most people remain starved for love. They are starved for love.
Imagine, if you can, can I give you a word picture? Imagine all the people of the world, on every continent – South America, North America, Australia, Europe, China, Asia – every continent, all the people, all six plus billion some people and imagine them all standing, shoulder to shoulder, with this universal need to be loved.
And then imagine that they are in some continent in the center, and we have packed them all together, and every ocean is, instead of water, every lake, every stream is turned into liquid love.
Imagine that word picture. It’s liquid love. And there are three reasons. All these six billion people, starving for love, and there is all this love but some of those people have never seen the ocean. Some of those people were brought up or lived in a desert. They aren’t loved because they are not aware that there is an ocean of love available.
Some people have no idea that God cares for them and loves them. Some of those people have tasted and they know about God’s love, but they have not received it. They were stacked all together, all these people in the world, and someone took them over to the ocean or to a stream or to a lake and it’s just flowing with liquid love.
And you can dive in! You can take a bottle, you can drink it, you can take a bath in it, you can get in the barrels, you can get it in the jugs, you can take it home with you!
And it’s a sense of well-being and purpose and significance, and an overwhelming sense of your importance and security. Unconditional, given by God. But there are countless numbers of people that get to the edge of the ocean and they intellectually agree, There is an ocean full of love, and for whatever reason, I am not worthy of that love, I am afraid if I would receive that love what the demands might be on me.
But there are some people that aren’t loved because they don’t know they are loved. There are a lot of people who are aware that they are loved, but they are standing on the shore and they have never received it.
And then there is a whole other set of people that, at least once or twice, they have jumped into the lake and they have taken maybe a water bottle full of love and they have tasted it and they have experienced it and it has changed their life and they have gotten back on the shore and it was overwhelming, but it was so good and so amazing they start to confuse it with other kinds of love, like how their dad or their mom or an ex-mate or a boss and they are so afraid that, I don’t want to get too radically involved in this kind of love, and they have this experience and for the life of them, they don’t know how to touch it or taste it again.
And it just comes in little windows and they can’t quite figure it out but it often comes when they are so desperate and so thirsty and there is no place else to go, they dive back into the ocean or the lake or the stream of love, and they taste it in their lowest times and darkest moments, and then somehow, when they get filled just enough with love to get on their own, they start living their own way again.
I would say that is at least a decent picture of a universal need, a universal solution, and a very tragic disconnect, among both believers and unbelievers.
Brennan Manning, in his little book called, Abba’s Child, quotes Henri Nouwen and talks about, What is the root cause behind Christians not experiencing the love of God? I think his words are instructive. Nouwen writes, “Over the years I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection.”
Follow his logic closely. “Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are a part of a much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless, unlovable,” when we have voices that you are not worthy, you don’t measure up is the idea, when we carry in our hearts shame and guilt and a sense that we are unlovable, then he goes on to say, “…success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions.
“The real trap, however, is self-rejection…Self rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that God calls us the ‘Beloved.’” We are Beloved in Christ. We are in Christ. “Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”
I have been on a very interesting journey like many of you and in the first decade I learned many of the disciplines of the Christian life and learned to read my Bible and study and pray and share my faith and then in the next decade, probably, learned a little bit more about ministry and then probably in the last twelve to fifteen years, began to learn more about the disciplines of the Christian life and have read very widely, from a lot of different backgrounds.
And I am convinced that if you put a gun to my head and said, “What is maybe the biggest discovery about what it means to have a relationship with Christ?” I would say, “It is coming to believe and accept that God really loves me, completely apart from my performance.”
And separating that love from the love that I have received from people, separating that love from the kind of love that you get if you can do this or because you can do that, separating it from things that feel so close to love like being admired. Things that feel so close to being loved like being affirmed or encouraged or valued, because you can do this or you own that or can give this or can empower others in a certain way.
And I think at the core of the existence of God’s heart, at least in what I am learning, and as I have read many of the people that have walked much deeper in the Christian life than me, it comes to this sense that believing, just as you are, not if, not if this gets cleaned up, not because you do this or do that, but just as you are, because of who God is, that you are the object of His affection.
And that all these things about purity and all these things about caring for others and all these things about life transformation really start if they are genuine, at the very, very core of our existence, when we begin to see ourselves as God sees us: as precious, as valuable, as unconditionally loved, as the object of His affection and concern, as the One who thinks about us, because He is in the eternal and He can think about all of us simultaneously and know all of our thoughts, all of our issues, all of our concerns. And if I can learn that, then it begins to remove me from trying to perform to earn His favor, or trying to impress you to make you somehow think I am either better or more spiritual or more kind or whatever.
Because if I can’t experience God’s love, human love is a good second best. But then what you all keep doing to me is you keep letting me down. And every time I try and find that unquenchable love in another human being, and whether it’s in my wife or whether it’s in a close friend or whether it’s in being a dad or whether it’s with a ministry partner, these human, frail pieces of dust just keep letting me down and somewhere along the line, I feel manipulated and I feel used and I feel abused.
And then that is very painful, except it gets worse. Because then I look in the mirror and I find that I am using and manipulating and abusing others so that I can feel better about myself. And I would say, at the core of our heart and our lives, is beginning to grasp the love of God.
And so I think Nouwen has a point that is very well taken, and so I would like to spend the remainder of our time seeing if we can take a crack, a journey, of understanding what it would be like in increasing, progressive measures, maybe we won’t dive into the ocean of God’s liquid love, but I would like to, at least all of us, get a little water bottle on a regular basis.
And maybe some of us could get some gallon containers and long-term, my dream is that I would like to get one of those big tankers like they have the gasoline and the truck in and I would like to get that thing and back it in and get a hose that comes out of it and have that pouring through that ocean, in that tanker, so I could go out and I could pour out that liquid love to other people with the belief that the more I give and the more I spread, unconditionally, of who God has given to me, is that there is a dynamic principle of the universe of our Lord Jesus, that as I give, it will be given, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and I will never run out.
Because what I think we taste of God’s love is normally about a thimble full in an ocean and the love that is available to us, 24/7, totally apart from our performance, our background, how intelligent we are, our personality, what we have done, what we haven’t done, what we have read, what we haven’t read is not just all the oceans but all the oceans on all the planets of all the world of all the time. It is boundless and limitless.
And there is nothing that brings greater honor to God if we could learn to receive it. How great a love the Father has on us, has lavished upon us, that we should be called the children of God.
So let’s talk about what love is, let’s see if we can move it from that concept, intellectual, in our head, down into our hearts. For me, it’s God’s love is His holy disposition toward all that He has created that compels Him to express unconditional affection and selective correction to provide the highest and best quality of existence, both now and forever, for the objects of His love.
Let me unpack that just a little, because the words were actually chosen fairly carefully. God’s love is holy. In other words, we learned that word, right? It means separate, marked-off, it’s totally other. I want you to know, it’s not like the love of a human being. It’s a different kind of love, it’s a different category.
And it’s a holy disposition. It’s just the way He feels, the way He thinks all the time about you. And it’s that He has created, He has this holy disposition that compels Him to do two things. He is just compelled, not because of something in you, but because of something in Him to express unconditional affection.
I don’t want to get ooey-gooey here, but He just want to hug you all the time! And He wants to express hugs and smiles and affirmation. Some of you here are parents. You know how you feel about your kids? You know how it is to hold them close? You know what it’s like to tuck them in?
It is unconditional affection.
But notice, God’s love isn’t just this ooey-gooey, goodness of wellbeing, but it’s a holy disposition that compels Him toward unconditional affection and selective correction. See, God loves me so much that any time my life, my thought, my relationship, my finances, and my priorities are moving me toward unhealthy things that will do damage to me and damage to others, His love does what? He brings about correction.
See, that’s what God’s love is. He is compelled to do it, but why? In order to provide the highest and best quality of existence. You know the abundant life Jesus talked about? That’s just another way of saying it. The highest, best. What does it mean? Life that is really life! Living to the brim! Living fulfilled! Living, not dependent on people’s response but something that wells up inside where the deepest longings and thirsts of your soul are satisfied.
That’s what God wants for you. And you know what that is? That is experiencing the love of God. And so that is the goal. And so He is compelled by a holy disposition to constantly give, unconditionally, not based on your performance, affection and selective correction.
It’s selective. I use that word because there are a lot of times I am veering off, I’m veering off, I’m veering off and His mercy and His longsuffering says, “You know, Chip could use a little spanking right now but I’m just hoping He is going to catch on a little bit later. I’m just going to keep loving Him.” It’s selective correction.
Anytime He can withhold what is justly due. It’s called mercy. He does. Because I am the object of His affection. And, by the way, this isn’t after you become a Christian. Does the Scripture say, “God so loved the believers that He gave his only Son”? “God so loved the world.” He feels, are you ready? This is how He feels about Saddam Hussein. This is how He feels about Hitler. This is how He feels about the two little ten-year-old boys that raped a seven-year-old girl. This is how He feels about people that, in a moment of uncontrolled rage, abuse one of their kids physically or sexually.
God’s love is other and so absolutely beyond what we can grasp. And so that is my definition.
The characteristics of this love, and I call it agape love. The New Testament writers actually made up that word. They just didn’t have a good word so they said, “We’re going to take this word agape, and let’s sanctify it, put it in the New Testament so it doesn’t get confused with storge or eros or some of these other kinds of loves that the Greek language was familiar with.”
And the characteristics are interesting. It’s a giving love, it’s a sacrificial love, it’s an unconditional love, and it’s a boundless love. God’s love is expressed, primarily, through His goodness, mercy, longsuffering, and grace. And I have a quote here from one of my professors.
I really like what Dr. Ryrie says here. He says, “The love of God is like,” he says, “is like a tree and then there are branches of its expression and they are primarily His goodness, mercy, longsuffering, and grace.” And he says, “Although there are distinctions as you study these words, they are really not exact. God’s goodness may be defined as His benevolent concern for His creatures.”
Do you ever just think of God as, today, this moment? He is concerned about you. You know how some of you moms are? “Hey, call me when you get there. Call me, I want to know you’ve made it okay.” The God of the universe sort of has that attitude. “Hey, I’m checking on you. I want to make sure everything is okay.” Is that how you think of Him?
Or do you think of Him as far away, hard to get to, wish you could get His attention?
The love of God is expressed in His goodness. It’s also defined as a benevolent concern for His creatures as well as, “Mercy is the aspect of His goodness that causes Him to show pity and compassion.” Have you ever just really blown it and just felt so shameful and so bad and just, like, you’re not even lovable. Forget by God, by anybody.
The love of God is expressed in His mercy. And He just looks down and says, “This didn’t surprise Me at all. I’m not even shocked. In fact, before the foundations of the earth, when the Godhead was determining what the price tag of men’s freedom would be, Jesus knew that He would come and He would hang on a cross for that very shameful sin.
It goes on to say that, “His longsuffering speaks of His self-restraint in the face of provocation.” Have you ever thought of God exercising self-restraint? Like you really need a spanking and He just, “Mmmm, ah, I’ll wait a couple more days.” You’ve just got a really rotten attitude, or you’re involved in some blatant sin and the consequences should be swift but He just loves you so much, God is practicing self-restraint in His relationship with you. Why? Because He loves you.
And then the final word there is grace. “His unmerited favor shown primarily through Christ, which makes possible a relationship with Him.” I have taken all that I have learned about God’s love and I thought that if I could put it in a few statements, a few simple statements, to get it from this, God loves me and I have these feelings now and then and, okay, it’s goodness and it’s mercy and it’s longsuffering and I get a little flash of it, but I wanted to give you a little summary of what it would look like if you could see, specifically, what it feels like and how God thinks about you, so you could start to move it from up here, intellectual, to down here to spiritual and emotional.
And as I read these, what I would like you to do is think about this question, lean back, Is this how I see God? Is this how I see God? And if that quick gut reaction is, I might intellectually believe God is that way, but that is not how I see God or think of how He sees me, then what you know is you have some renewal of the mind to do.
Statement number one: God’s love for you means His thoughts, intentions, desires, and plans for you are always for your good, and never for your harm. We looked at Jeremiah 29:11 and James 1. But think of that. Do you, in your heart of hearts, think that His desires and intents, His plans, they are always for your good. He is just a very safe, safe Person to be with. And the plans for the future that He has for you, His desires for you, oh, it’s always for your welfare. See, if you understand the love of God, that’s what you will think.
God’s love for you means that He is kind, He is open, He is approachable, He is frank, and He is eager to be your friend. Do you see Him that – remember?
“I don’t call you slaves, because a slave doesn’t know what His master is doing. I have called you my friends, for all things the Father has made known to Me, I have revealed to you.”
Do you see Him as open and friendly? Or is He distant and unapproachable and you have to be good to be on good terms and when you’re good, He will listen to you, but if you struggle, He probably doesn’t? God’s love means that 24/7, He is open, He is kind, He is approachable.
God’s love for you means He emotionally identifies with your pain, your joy, your hopes and dreams, and He has chosen to allow your happiness to affect His own. Have you thought of the – when you’re in pain and when you are hurt, is He on the other side of the fence and He is maybe causing it? Or is He on the side of the fence behind you with His arm around you, and your joys bring actually happiness to the heart of God?
And your hurts and your struggles bring tears. Have you ever thought of that? Have you ever thought that when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died in John 11, that He wept? That He hurt? That He felt for Mary and He felt for Martha and it broke His heart when He saw what a fallen world and death did. Is that how you see God? That when you are really struggling, instead of being down on you, He weeps with you.
God’s love for you means, fourth, that He takes pleasure in you just for who you are totally apart from your performance or your accomplishments. He is the God of Zephaniah 3. He is the God that is mighty. He is the God who is with you. He is the God that, when there is confusion all around, says, “Just let Me quiet you with My love, and let Me sing over you in rejoicing.”
Is that how you see Him? You know who I am describing? I’m describing the God of the Bible. This is the God of the Bible.
Finally, God’s love for you means He is actively and creatively orchestrating people, circumstances, and events to express His affection and selective correction to provide for your highest good.
Do you think of this God who is not only loving but He is actively orchestrating and allowing relationships and events and circumstances so that He could express affection through a person? Affection through a job promotion. Affection through a discovery of a spiritual gift. Affection through a new friend that really understands you. Affection through a relationship that you never thought you would have. Affection because your body wasn’t working and for reasons that none of us understand, why or when or how, but rather than through medicine He decided just to touch your body.
Or does He also, in His love, just so care that selectively brings circumstances and people to bring about selective correction and bring some pain and discouragement and some depression and maybe you lose a job and maybe you lose a friend because He wants to get your attention?
Maybe your 401k went bloop and maybe your business is going south because, just little by little, you didn’t mean to, but you are drifting, you’re drifting. And He is so jealous and He so loves you and He sees where that is going to head, but He does some things that make you mad at first. But like watching the little kid run out into the street, He runs out after you, grabs you by the neck, jerks you back so the car doesn’t hit you, and then, out of love, gives you a little whack on the rear end and says to you, “Honey, don’t go there anymore. You are too precious.”
Some of you may say to yourself, like I have struggled with, Of all the ones, this is kind of a neat one. If this were true, it would be really neat. You know? That one on justice was kind of hard to take. The holiness was a little overwhelming. The wisdom I kind of liked. But, boy, this would feed my soul. This would change my life. Is it really true?
And so what I would like to do is I would like to demonstrate, from Scripture, that this is the God that loves you and loves me. I’d like to walk through how God reveals His love to us through about one, two, three, four, five, oh, six different things.
God reveals His love to us, first, through creation. Are you ready for this? He made you for Himself. Do you ever think about it this way? Genesis chapter 1 verses 26 and 27: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our own image, in Our own likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and birds of the air, and the livestock, and over the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
He created you in His own image. You are like Him. And He creates this paradise and He wants to have a relationship with you and then in Colossians 1:16 you learn, “For by Him, Jesus, all things were created: things in heaven, things on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and,” I love this, “for Him.”
It’s easy to think, Oh, the earth was created for Him. Angels were created for Him. Everything was created for Him, watch this: you, you were created for Him. He made you so He could be with you.
I remember when I was a little boy, it is so in our DNA because we are in God’s image, I remember going to the beach as a little boy and you know when you play in the sand and it was that wet kind of sand, which you could build stuff? I took about three hours. I dug the hole and got it, I thought it was really deep but it seemed kind of deep. And then I built this wall and I was making this castle. And it was like on a cartoon.
Some big kid I didn’t know, three hours, you feel bad for me already, don’t you? Tell you what, ladies in the front row here, they are going to be permanent prayer partners. Oh, man, Chip! He’s probably psychologically damaged for years! But seriously!
This big kid comes and he kicks it all down. I’m five years old and I can still remember it. And I created a sand castle from a little water and this is how it made me feel. Why? Because what I make for me matters to me.
And what God makes for Him matters to Him, and He made you. He made you. That’s how much you matter.