Does God still love me when I sin? This is an interesting (and potentially perplexing) question.
by Stephen Yuille on January 13, 2020
Does God still love me when I sin? This is an interesting (and potentially perplexing) question. Years ago, I sat with a man – a professing Christian, and an acknowledged adulterer. I told him God was displeased with him – even angry with him. The man was shocked and offended. He proceeded to quote Romans 8:39, “[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” and insisted that God loved him, and was never displeased with him. Is that true? It depends on what we mean by love. Here’s a tricky truth: God loves His people in two ways.
First, God loves His people unconditionally. This is God’s delight in His people as we stand in Christ. This love doesn’t change. It can’t increase or decrease. And that’s what Paul has in mind in Romans 8:39. A story has been told of Charles Spurgeon walking through the English countryside with a friend. As they strolled along, the famous evangelist noticed a barn with a weather vane on its roof. At the top of the vane were these words: “God is love.” Spurgeon remarked to his companion that he thought this was a rather inappropriate place for such a message. “Weather vanes are changeable,” he said, “but God’s love is constant.” “I don’t agree with you about those words, Charles,” replied his friend. “You misunderstood the meaning. That sign is indicating a wonderful truth: Regardless of which way the wind blows, God is love.”
Second, God loves His people conditionally. This is God’s delight in the holiness that’s in His people as a result of His grace. Our experience of this love does change. It can increase or decrease. Christ declares, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn. 14:23). Again, He declares, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (Jn. 15:10). Clearly, the love (of which Christ here speaks) is conditional upon obedience.
And so, God loves His people in two ways. When we disobey God, what happens? On the one hand, God’s love for us doesn’t change. That’s His unconditional love – His delight in us in Christ. On the other hand, His love for us does change. That’s His conditional love – His delight in holiness in us.
For the Christian, there’s such a thing as a sense of God’s love, but it’s conditional, meaning we can lose it on account of our sin. When we do, the result is anxiety and restlessness. Have you ever experienced restless nights, frayed nerves, mood swings? What about a fallen countenance, a lack of joy and peace, a disinterest in prayer and study, an avoidance of deeper things, or an unwillingness to get close to others for fear of discovery? Have you ever found yourself withdrawing from Christian fellowship, or dismissing godliness as legalism and extremism? What about harshness in censuring others? Do you know what these things are? They’re indicators that all is not well with soul. They’re indicators that sin has dampened our enjoyment of God’s love.
When we find ourselves in such a condition, what’s our only recourse? It’s to pray: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” (Ps. 130:1).