ONE OF THE MOST PRACTICAL VERSES in the Bible is Jude 21. It begins, “Keep yourself in the love of God.” Notice, it is a command, not a suggestion. Why does the Holy Spirit feel the need to command this? Because we easily slip out of the daily experience of God’s love. We let the tyranny of feelings rule us.
But God’s love is objective. It is always there. If you believe the gospel and cling to Christ by faith (in other words, you are led by his Spirit), it will not be removed. You can disappoint him. You can grieve his Spirit. He will even discipline you because he loves you, but he will never remove his love from you or reject you from his family.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”Romans 8:14-17
Our feelings are the problem. Sometimes we feel like God loves us. At other times, when we are deeply aware of our imperfections, our impure motives, our lustful thoughts, struggles to forgive, or double-mindedness, we cannot imagine him loving us. This is when we need Jude’s admonition. Jude does not command us to feel something. He commands us to believe something. God’s love does not rise or fall on what you do or do not do. He loves his children not because of their performance, but despite its absence.
God loves us on the basis of his Son’s performance. Jesus is the only human being who ever earned his Father’s love. Therefore, his Father owes him love. By contrast, he only owes us justice.
Happily, the Bible testifies that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). This means that the Father wants to owe us love. He doesn’t want to give us what we deserve. He wants to give us the love his Son deserves. When you put your faith in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, your faith unites you with Christ and God considers his performance yours. When that happens God the Father owes you the love his Son deserves, and the angels rejoice.
This is what it looks like to preach the gospel to yourself. You remind yourself daily that God does not give me what I deserve. He gives me what his Son deserves.
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”Psalm 103:10-14
God’s love has nothing to do with your feelings. It has to do with objective reality. Sometimes we feel it. Sometimes we don’t, but it is always there. When we put our faith in that reality, no matter how we feel, we obey Jude’s command to “keep yourself in the love of God.” So, the question is simple. Are you doing this, or are you living under the tyranny of feelings?