Can Anything Separate You From God’s Love?
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—ROMANS 8:38, 39.
1. In what ways is God’s love manifested daily?
GOD is love. In life-sustaining ways this is expressed to us daily. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat—all come as manifestations of God’s love. Moreover, they come to good and bad alike, whether appreciated or not. Jesus testified to this when he said of his heavenly Father: “He makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) Every living creature on earth owes thanks to God for its sustenance.—Psalm 145:15, 16.
2. How was Jehovah’s great love for mankind shown, and how did Jesus show appreciation for what Jehovah wanted?
2 For human creatures God’s love went far beyond just sustaining this present life that fades like the flower and withers like the grass. (1 Peter 1:24) He made provision for mankind to live forever: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) This provision was made at great cost to both Father and Son. In Gethsemane on the night before his death, Jesus fell upon the ground and prayed in such agony that “his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.” In this moment of distress, Jesus was mindful of the reproach that was being heaped on God’s name, and he even asked that the cup be taken away. But he added: “Yet not what I want, but what you want.” (Luke 22:44; Mark 14:36) Although Jesus was in extreme agony, what Jehovah wanted came first. Not even the prospect of scourging and a slow death by being nailed to a torture stake could separate him from God’s love.
3. What words of Paul do Jehovah’s Witnesses today take up as their own, and with what consequences to themselves?
3 What Jehovah wants also comes first with Jehovah’s Witnesses who today are walking in Jesus’ footsteps. “If God is for us,” they say, taking up the words of the apostle Paul, “who will be against us? Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword? To the contrary, in all these things we are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:31, 35, 37) During this century Jehovah’s Witnesses have been mobbed, beaten, tarred and feathered, mutilated bodily, raped, starved, murdered by firing squads, and even beheaded in Nazi concentration camps—all because of their refusal to separate themselves from God’s love.
4. How are you impressed by one young man’s refusal to separate himself from God’s love?
4 Forty-four years ago, a young man, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, wrote his parents from a Nazi concentration camp, saying, in part:
“It is now 9 o’clock of the day of my trial, but I must wait till 11:30. I am writing these lines in a solitary cell of the state military court. I have such peace, which is really hardly believable; but I have also committed all to the Lord, and so I can calmly wait for this hour and to the constant fetters. They told you that I shall not be chained. Lies! Day and night: only to dress and undress and for cell cleaning is one unchained . . .
“12:35. It is all over now. In view of the fact that I maintained my objection [to their demand that he give up his worship of Jehovah God], the death sentence was decreed. I listened, and then after I had spoken the words ‘Be thou faithful unto death’ and a few other words of our Lord, it was all over. But never mind that now. I have such peace, such tranquillity, that you can’t possibly imagine. . . . This peace, this joy which came over me already in the courtroom, which the world can never understand, suffused and overwhelmed me as I re-entered my cell . . . Do not weep. . . . This is the best that I can give you, and all beloved brethren today, the last Sunday before my execution (beheading), on which day I am unfettered.”*
“He Will Make You Firm, He Will Make You Strong”
5, 6. What assurances given by Paul and Peter are comforting to those who are sorely tried because of holding fast to God’s love?
5 This young man was separated from life but not from God’s love. Similar atrocities have been inflicted on Jehovah’s Witnesses down through the centuries. The ability of God’s servants to endure such persecutions, even unto death, is not in their own strength but in God’s. “God is faithful,” we are assured by Paul, “and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) When under test, Jehovah’s faithful witnesses today have been able to say as did Paul when he was imprisoned: “The Lord stood near me and infused power into me.”—2 Timothy 4:17.
6 The apostle Peter, after warning us to be on guard against the Devil, who prowls about like a roaring lion seeking to devour us, gives assurance: “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all undeserved kindness, who called you to his everlasting glory in union with Christ, will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong.” (1 Peter 5:8-10) Considering all this divine support, one thing is apparent: God’s love is unfailing; any separation from it will be our fault, not his.
7. What tactics did Satan use with Jesus, and how did Jesus defeat him?
7 Satan does not always attack like a roaring lion. Many times he comes on as a ‘subtle serpent’ and even as an apostate “angel of light.” He has evil designs on us, and we must be alert so as not to be overreached by him. We must put on the complete suit of armor from God “to stand firm against the crafty acts of the Devil.” (Genesis 3:1, The Jerusalem Bible; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:13-15; Ephesians 6:11, Ref. Bi., footnote) At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Satan came to him quoting scriptures, misapplying them in an effort to tempt Jesus into wrongdoing. Three times he tempted Jesus and three times he failed. Jesus turned aside Satan’s twisting of Scripture with properly applied texts. Then Jesus told Satan to go away. But Satan only “retired from him until another convenient time.”—Luke 4:13; Matthew 4:3-11.
8, 9. In what deceptive ways did Satan return to attack Jesus, and what did Paul direct us to do for our protection?
8 Satan is persistent. He keeps coming back in different guises. He returned to Jesus by means of the religious clergy of that time. Jesus understood this and frankly told them: “You are from your father the Devil.” Some people may even serve Satan’s ends unintentionally. The apostle Peter did this when he, though well-meaning, rebuked Jesus, saying: “Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.” Jesus had to admonish Peter sternly: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me.” (John 8:44; Matthew 16:22, 23) Similarly, Satan’s purposes may be inadvertently served by an employer, a workmate, a schoolmate, a friend, a relative, a parent, or a marriage mate. We must constantly be on guard and allow nothing to weaken our relationship with Jehovah.
9 So it is essential to “put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil; because we have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against . . . the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.”—Ephesians 6:11, 12.
Sin’s Grip on the Fallen Flesh
10. What does the word “sin” mean, and what practices will separate us from God’s love?
10 Satan strikes where we are weak. He accordingly makes our fleshly inclination to sin a favorite target. (Psalm 51:5) The Greek word translated sin is ha·mar·tiʹa. The verb is ha·mar·taʹno, which basically means “to miss the mark.” (Romans 3:9, Ref. Bi., footnote) The more we miss the mark and fail to keep God’s commandments, the more we draw away from God’s love, for “this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” (1 John 5:3) Adultery, fornication, sexual perversions, drunken bouts, wild parties, free rein of fleshly passions, jealousies, fits of anger, materialistic covetings—all such things separate us from God’s love, and “those who practice [them] will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—Galatians 5:19-21.
11. How can sin progressively take hold of us, with what result eventually?
11 Movies, books, plays, TV programs—peppered with materialistic, me-first, sexually oriented commercials—promote the pursuit of unrestrained and uninhibited pleasure. The first sin makes the second easier, the third and fourth follow, and soon the plunge into worldliness is at full speed. Ultimately, those who are “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God” become preoccupied with “planning ahead for the desires of the flesh.” (2 Timothy 3:4; Romans 13:14) Both old and young are swept into the maw of sin, and their consciences become totally seared. “Having come to be past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.”—Ephesians 4:19; 1 Timothy 4:2.
12. What scriptures show sin’s power over us, and how did Paul lament this?
12 Those determined not to be separated from God’s love must fortify themselves against sin’s grip on the fallen flesh. It is a formidable foe, as the Bible repeatedly stresses: “Every doer of sin is a slave of sin,” “all [are] under sin,” “all have sinned,” “do not let sin continue to rule as king in your mortal bodies,” “you are slaves of him because you obey him,” “the wages sin pays is death,” and all are in “the custody of sin.” (John 8:34; Romans 3:9, 23; 6:12, 16, 23; Galatians 3:22) Paul was “sold under sin,” a “captive to sin’s law,” causing him to lament: “The good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice.” (Romans 7:14, 19, 23) So he cries out: “Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?” Then comes the joyous answer: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”—Romans 7:24, 25.
13, 14. (a) By what means are we freed from sin? (b) How can we remain in the love of Christ?
13 Until Christ Jesus came, “sin ruled as king with death.” (Romans 5:14, 17, 21) But with Jesus’ death and resurrection, king sin was dethroned for those who respond to God’s loving gift of His Son. He saved us from our sins, washed them away, cleansed us from them, loosed us from them, and completely blotted them out for us. (Matthew 1:21; Acts 3:19; 22:16; 2 Peter 1:9; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5) Thus not only the apostle Paul but all those putting faith in the shed blood of Christ Jesus should give thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord for opening the way for release from the miserable fleshly bondage to sin and death.
14 So it is imperative not only to avoid any separation from God’s love but also to remain in the love of Christ. The formula for remaining close to Jesus is the same as it is for drawing close to God. Jesus pointed this out, saying: “Just as the Father has loved me and I have loved you, remain in my love. If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.”—John 15:9, 10.
The Danger of Drifting Away
15. To what are we vulnerable, and what must we do to avoid the danger?
15 Do not lose this liberation from bondage to sin and death by slipping back or drifting away. It can happen so gradually that we may be taken unawares. As Galatians 6:1 says: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” Even as one counsels another, he must ‘keep an eye on himself.’ We are all so vulnerable! “It is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.”—Hebrews 2:1.
16, 17. What illustrates the danger of drifting away spiritually, and what should we do to avoid it?
16 Drifting is effortless. That is why it is so easy—and so dangerous, spiritually speaking. You can find yourself separating from God’s love before you realize it. It is like the sheep that strays. How does it get lost? A shepherd explains: ‘It nibbles itself lost. It sees a tuft of green grass a few feet off to one side, goes over to nibble on it. It spots another patch ten feet away and goes to nibble there. A third patch looks inviting, and the sheep goes to nibble on it. Soon it is far from the flock. It has nibbled itself lost.’
17 So it is with those who drift spiritually. It may start innocently enough with a few material things, or worldly associations, or speculations on certain scriptures. But little by little, such ones move farther and farther from the flock of God, and soon they have separated themselves from the congregation and from God’s love. They did not heed Paul’s urging: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.”—2 Corinthians 13:5.
18, 19. How do we make the Devil flee from us, and how do we draw close to God?
18 “Oppose the Devil,” we are told, “and he will flee from you.” By skillful use of “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,” we can turn back the subtle assaults of Satan. That was how Jesus in the wilderness made Satan go away. We are also told: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (James 4:7, 8; Ephesians 6:17) Like the writers of the Psalms, we should keep close to God by clinging to his word: “The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.” “To your reminders I keep showing myself attentive. Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway. . . . From your reminders I have not deviated.”—Psalm 19:7; 119:95, 105, 157.
19 By prayer, by studying God’s Word, by loving our brothers and meeting with them regularly, by telling others about God’s Kingdom—in all these ways we draw close to God and his love as manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord.—1 Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 12:2; Hebrews 10:24, 25; Luke 9:2.
20. What determination did Paul declare that Jehovah’s Witnesses today make their own?
20 In a sweeping and powerful declaration, Paul voiced the determination of all of Jehovah’s faithful witnesses on earth today, saying: “I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is [made visible, JB] in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 8:38, 39.
The Watchtower, August 1, 1945, pages 237, 238.
Do You Recall?
□ How is Jehovah’s love shown in his provisions for life?
□ To separate Jehovah’s Witnesses from God’s love, what methods has Satan tried?
□ What scriptures show sin’s grip on us, and how may this grip be broken?
□ Why is drifting away so dangerous, and how can it be countered?
[Picture on page 13]
A sheep strays little by little until it is lost