How to Know God Loves You
AUGUST 2, 2023
I’m working on another book, Dragon Slaying 101: Dealing with Guilt, Shame, Fear, and Regret.
You’re kidding. You just finished one.
I know, but if I finish this one, it won’t be out for at least two years (if that). By that time, I won’t even remember what I wrote. You would be surprised by how often I’m forced to defend something I didn’t even know I had written in book interviews. So, when and if I finish this book, it will be new to you . . . and to me, too.
Who knows? Maybe this one will become a major bestseller and bring millions into Key Life’s coffers.
Do you know the story of the little girl drawing a picture of God? Her father said, “Honey, nobody knows what God looks like.” She replied, “They will when I finish!”
I’m not exactly sure how we deal with guilt, shame, fear, and regret, but I’ll know when I finish the book. And if I don’t, I’ll tell you so.
Be that as it may, one of the things I’ve discovered in researching the book is just how often our “rational” thought process robs us of the good news of the Gospel. I’m often accused of teaching “easy believism” and “cheap grace.” (Frankly, I couldn’t do it if it weren’t easy. And I couldn’t afford it if it weren’t cheap.) When I read the criticism, I often think, “That makes sense. It’s rational and probably right.” If it weren’t for the Holy Spirit, these letters would be about working harder, serving better, and obeying more . . . how to get better and better every day in every way. I would urge you to be faithful to please God.
The truth is that God is already pleased. That isn’t rational, it doesn’t make sense, and it shouldn’t be true, but it is.
Rationalism is a philosophical, epistemological position (held by Descartes, Spinoza, and others) that reason is how one gains knowledge. Descartes famously wrote, “Cogito, ergo sum,” “I think therefore I am.” By the way, one time, Descartes went into a bar. After his first drink, the bartender asked if he wanted another one. He said, “I think not,” and promptly disappeared.
But if reason is the only way we attain knowledge, a lot will disappear, our knowledge will be incomplete, and our lives will become as boring as watching paint dry. Some of life’s most important truths are not garnered through reason but through one’s heart by the application of God’s Word to the hearts of God’s people. When Barry Goldwater ran for president, one of his campaign slogans was, “In your heart, you know he’s right.” His political opponents countered, “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.” Actually, truths that our hearts perceive as true may be deeper and more profound than most people think.
Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French mathematician and Catholic philosopher, wrote in Pensées (a compilation of his “thoughts” and observations),“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of . . .” Pascal wrote:
“The reason, therefore, that some intuitive minds are not mathematical is that they cannot at all turn their attention to the principles of mathematics. But the reason that mathematicians are not intuitive is that they do not see what is before them, and that, accustomed to the exact and plain principles of mathematics, and not reasoning till they have well inspected and arranged their principles, they are lost in matters of intuition where the principles do not allow of such arrangement. They are scarcely seen; they are felt rather than seen; there is the greatest difficulty in making them felt by those who do not of themselves perceive them. These principles are so fine and so numerous that a very delicate and very clear sense is needed to perceive them, and to judge rightly and justly when they are perceived, without for the most part being able to demonstrate them in order as in mathematics; because the principles are not known to us in the same way, and because it would be an endless matter to undertake it . . . Mathematicians wish to treat matters of intuition mathematically, and make themselves ridiculous.”
The Christian faith is often counterintuitive and sometimes doesn’t seem rational. Paul called it “foolishness” and then wrote, “. . . but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the foolishness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:24-25). In other words, the truths of the Gospel are sometimes only perceived, not contrary to but apart from a pure rationalist perspective.
Much of our culture’s words like freedom, forgiveness, love, and mercy, while often true in their definitions, are nothing but wishes, albeit wishes that God may have implanted in our DNA. “Amazing Grace” is one of history’s most popular, best-known, and often-sung songs. When people sing it, there is often deep emotion and even tears until our “head clears” when we realize that the song is a nice thought but simply too good to be true.
But what if it were true? How would that affect our struggle with guilt, shame, fear, and regret? It would change everything! In fact, those “wishful thoughts” point to truth. Among other things, being a Christian is knowing and believing those truths. So, when a Christian struggles with guilt, shame, fear, and regret at the deepest level, the solution is irrational—the “foolishness” of God.
Because of that fact, hardly anybody is argued into the Kingdom of God. It’s not that apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith) is useless, but it is the Holy Spirit’s supernatural work to convince and convict. Paul wrote, “ For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ . . .” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
I’ve been a Christian and a Christian teacher for a long time. I would probably win the argument if you weren’t a believer and wanted to debate the faith. Not only have I read all the books, I “talk good.” While you might not have become a Christian by the time we finished the debate, you would at least stop making jokes and laughing about it.
But I don’t know because of the books. I know because . . . well, uh . . . I know because I know that I know.
One time, I was on a Miami talk show when a caller wanted to debate the issue of the Sabbath. The caller was sure he was right in asserting that the Sabbath was Saturday, not Sunday. Then he asked me, “How do you know Sunday is the Sabbath?” I said, “Because my mother told me Sunday was the Sabbath. Are you calling my mother a liar?” The caller then became very quiet. He knew it was never wise to say anything bad about Santa Claus or mothers, especially in a debate.
How do I know God loves me? Because God told me, and anybody who tells me otherwise is wrong. It’s irrational because there is very little lovable in me. It’s irrational because the existentialist has declared love meaningless. It’s irrational because so many people don’t love me, and for good reason. It’s irrational because I’ve been shamed so much that I honestly think a just God would never love someone like me. But still, God loves me so deeply, completely, and unconditionally, I can hardly believe it.
Don’t put your thinking cap on.
That’s probably not the best way to make the point. Too many people believe that to be a Christian, you have to believe what is patently not true. Actually, the Christian faith is propositionally true. And in most cases, it is provable. Of all the worldviews, the only one that fits the facts and explains the world’s complexities is the Christian worldview. But knowing that God loves you, that you’re forgiven, that heaven is real, and that you’re going there is different. That’s where you set aside the world’s “rational” systems, take your thinking cap off and put your “heart hat” on. Those truths are true because once the Holy Spirit teaches you, you just know.
When Christians struggle with guilt, shame, fear, and regret, they know that solutions are not ultimately found in psychology, sociology, or philosophy. While those disciplines may adequately define the problem, they are grossly short on solutions. A Christian may still struggle with problems, but when their “heart” is restless, they know where to find a solution. We know that God made us restless on purpose so that our “hearts” would find their rest in him.
Someone tells of an elderly woman in an undeveloped country. When she heard for the first time that there was a God who loved her enough for his Son to die on the cross for her, the woman cried out, “I knew it! I knew there must be a God like that somewhere.”
In your heart, you knew it, too!
Jesus asked me to remind you.