Thursday, August 2, 2012

So Many Today are Saying "Love One Another" But What Exactly is God's Kind of Love?

God loves you. God loves me. God loves us. There's no failure to get that message out there. Yes, God does love us. There are three types of love: eros (romantic or erotic love), philos (friendship between two people) and agape (unconditional love). God's love would obviously be of the type of agape love, and the Biblical definition of love can be found in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love

The thing about God's unconditional love for us, though, is that His love is not indulgent.  If you consider the average American family, I am sure you would agree with me that parents today are very indulgent with their children.   As a fifth grader, my son was constantly badgering my husband and me to get him a cell phone, an Ipod, a certain type of shoes, or style of clothing, even down to pencils, binders and other  school-required supplies -- all because ALL THE OTHER KIDS HAVE THEM.  Do they ALL, in fact, have them?  I couldn't say postively, but I have been out and about enough to know that a great majority of kids are indulged in this way.

Because we are indulgent with our children, we expect God to be indulgent with us.  That, however, is a false expectation.  God is God!  He expects our love, respect and obedience just because of who He is.  He is all knowing -- he knows the beginning from the end and everything in between.  He is omni-present - everywhere at all times, and He is always good.  Consider Psalm 139:

    O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 7Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," 12even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. 19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain!21Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
God (being all knowing and always present) always does what is best for us in the long run (Romans 8:28), but it is not easy for us to understand God's love.  It is fairly easy for us to believe that God loves us.   He took the form of a human being and came to dwell among us in the person of Jesus Christ and gave His life on behalf of every human being who would ever grace the face of the earth from that time on.  All each one of us is required to do is (1) believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, that he came to pay the penalty for our sins by living a sinless life and dying on the cross and (2) confess it with our mouths.   "But that's too easy" you may say, and you are exactly right, it is too easy, and some people who profess really have not experienced the saving knowledge of Christ at all.  Yet when a person really sees him or her-self as they really are and really see God in all his holiness, glory and "God"ness,and understand what He's offering, they can't help but be transformed.   When one considers their immense lack and inability to attain the perfection required by God without His help, and then believes and confesses, God sends His holy spirit to live within them and He begins to work in them changing them into His likeness; sometimes with small baby step changes, sometimes with huge 180 degree life changes, but it's never just a one time thing.  It's a daily task of looking at Him and looking at oneself and asking Him what He wants to do in us today. 

Step three in this process is the hardest, obviously, not just because we are so unlike Him, but because deep down, we like our sin and we have an aversion to change.  But as we are faithful to spend time in His presence and reading His love letter to us (The Bible), and as He sees that we are willing to change, He does, in fact, cause us to change to become more and more like Him.

I believe one of the big struggles in the life of a follower of Christ is that sometimes God "feels" far away.  For myself, I think it's because He has brought me to a place where He wants more change than I am willing to accept, and until I see the light of why it is best for me, I feel kind of lost and out of sorts.   BUT once, I accept the change that God wants, my relationship with God gets back on track and I can go forward.  It's the word "feel" that gets us in trouble because the relationship God wants with His people is not based on feelings - it is based on in what God tells us and faith in what God expects us to believe. 

You see, just like in the Old Testament when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt to take them into the promised land, He is leading us out of our own personal Egypt into the promised land.   Just as then, God is delivering us from a life of bondage and slavery to sin and giving us a land flowing with milk and honey known as the Kingdom of God, Heaven and eternal life.  It is a hard journey and one where we will have to make sacrifices and lean totally on God for directions and strength to get there, and if we don't have the ability to believe that this is the way to salvation and life more abundant and free, we'll never get there.  The whole original host of Israelites, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua (yes, not even Moses), never got to enter in because of their lack of faith and trust in God and His Word - only the children of those who had actually been slaves got to go in. 

That leads me to where I'm head with this today.  Sometimes I get really down on myself for my failures (past and present), but as I read the story of the Israelites, it hit me, that God said  they didn't get to enter in because they did not believe in  His word as salvation and that that goes for me, too.  God loves me, and I have to press on in faith that what He has said in His Word is true.  He says if I mess up, I just need to know it, confess it, don't do it anymore and go on.   Again, isn't that too easy?  For someone who's a part of the crazy, mixed up world today when there are so many ifs, ands and buts to everything, yes, it is, but God is different. His ways are different than ours and His thoughts are different than ours; but of course, that's one of the main reasons I love Him.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love.  Thank you, also for your Word which gives us reassurance of who you are and that what you say, you will do.   Thank you for making our salvation something that we have to invest ourselves in by showing you our faith.  It is hard, Lord, to simply believe and trust in what your Word says, but it is so much more rewarding when that lights goes off in our minds and we "get it".   I pray for all people everywhere today, Father, that they will come to know you and love you.  I pray for your people all over the world working to get the Word out today.  May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven today.  In Jesus' name.


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