Does God love me just the way I am? Dr. Ligon Duncan explains how the good news of the gospel helps us to better understand God’s love.
Sometimes, people will say that God loves us just the way we are. But the Bible has even better news than that. Sometimes when people say, “Does God love me just the way I am?” what they’re asking is, “Is there some sort of conditionality in God’s love that is based upon me cleaning up my act? Is the idea that God will love me if I get my act together and then come to him, then God will love me?” And when people say, “God loves you just the way you are,” they’re saying that you don’t have to clean your act up in order to come to God or to receive God’s love. God meets you in the place of your need, and he shows his love to you, and that’s certainly true. But the gospel truth of it all is even better.
God loves us no less than he loves his own Son, and he loves us in spite of the deepest sin and shame that we bear.God loves us no less than he loves his own Son, and he loves us in spite of the deepest sin and shame that we bear. And that is amazing news. Jesus himself prayed that all those who trust in him alone for salvation as he is offered in the gospel will receive and enjoy the same love which the Father has for him. That’s in the high priestly prayer in John 17. If Jesus hadn’t prayed it and I had said that, it would have been heresy. But Jesus himself says that he wants us to enjoy the love that the Father has for him, and we see that supremely displayed at the cross, don’t we? He who spared not his own son, but delivered him up freely for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things? We see the love of God for his people in the giving of his Son on the cross. That’s why John says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” You see the love of God for sinners in the giving of his son.
And so, the beautiful thing about God’s love is his eyes are wide open. He knows what we are like. He knows the sin and rebellion and brokenness and shame in our lives. He sees every last drop of it, and in Christ, he comes and he embraces all of us. It’s not like he glibly passes over the dark places of our hearts and our lives. He knows them and he loves us yet in Christ with an everlasting love. And that’s so much better than just saying “God loves us the way we are,” as if he just sort of glances over the deep sin and rebellion in our lives. Oh no, he knows it. In fact, he absorbs the consequences of the sin and rebellion of our lives in the death of his Son, in his love for us, in order to make us his children, children who are loved and who love him. Children who are changed. God loves us so much that he changes us and conforms us to the image of his only begotten Son. That is really good news.