In a sermon on Hosea 14:4-5 (I will heal their apostasy, I will freely love them, for My anger will have turned…. HCSB), Richard Sibbes did a great job applying the truth that God’s love for us is free – that is, not earned or deserved. Below are a few of his points of application. Basically, Sibbes explains in some detail that we should look outside of ourselves to the love of God for comfort, assurance, and Christian confidence. Here are his own words:
It is for reproof of God’s dear children, who, because they find no deserving in themselves, are therefore discouraged at the sight of their own unworthiness; whereas, quite contrary, the sight of our own unworthiness should make us the more fit subjects for Christ’s free love, which hath nothing to do with them that stand upon deserving. Many of God’s dear children are troubled with temptations, doubts, and fears of God’s love and favor towards them, because they expect to find it in the fruits of grace, and not in free grace itself. If we would have any sound peace, let us look for it in free grace.
[In the free love of God] we may also be comforted in the certainty of our salvation; for that grace, and love, and favor, whereby we are saved, is in God, not in us. Now, whatsoever is in him is immutable and sure. So saith the apostle, ‘Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his; and let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,’ 2 Tim. 2:19. Where speaking of election, which comes from the free love of God, he makes that a sure foundation to build on. If there be a reformation ‘to depart from iniquity,’ we may be comfortably assured of our salvation. And as it is with election, so is it with all the other fruits of God’s love: vocation, adoption, justification, and perseverance.
And let [the free love of God] likewise breed confidence in us to God, in all our miseries, both for pardon of sin, help in distress, and comfort in sorrows, because he ‘loves us freely,’ and did love us whilst we were enemies. Make, therefore, upon all occasions, the apostle’s use of it. ‘For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life,’ Rom. 5:10.