Sunday, June 24, 2012

God's Love or Your Love?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
1 John 4:7-12 NKJV

How do you love? Have you ever really examined yourself to see if you love the way that God intended and demonstrated towards us? So many of us simply believe that either you love someone or you don't and that's all there is to it when God's love is so much more than that. As you might expect, I had the opportunity to talk about love with each of my daughters when they grew to a certain age and one of the first things I tried to explain to them is that love is not a feeling, but rather a commitment. Now that is certainly different than the world's perspective so it is important to realize that we need to examine love from a biblical point of view to completely understand exactly what God thinks about love.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 NKJV

This verse is one of my favorites simply because I think we all know what God thinks about sin. Yet God loves us so much He put into place a plan to deal with sin and to allow us the opportunity to stand in His presense forgiven of all our sin long before we had ever made the choice. The one thing I can't forget about this verse is the fact that God made the first move. He didn't wait for us to come to Him, He loved us enough to put the plan into place before we ever loved Him. He loved us while we were still sinners and didn't love Him. If that's not love what is?

We love him, because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19 NKJV

I think the best teaching on God's love comes from Jesus when He spoke to the multitudes in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount.

"But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. "And if you lend [to those] from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
Luke 6:32-35 NKJV

I want to share with you just a few things I see when I look at this passage in the hope that it might help you as well to understand this whole idea of loving as God loves.

God's Love is different. In this passage Jesus tells the people that loving with God's love is the one thing that sets us apart from the world because His love in us allows us to love others in ways the world could never do. Notice the contrast Jesus makes between the love that sinners have and the love believers are expected to demonstrate. Loving those who hate us and doing good for those who hate us will certainly be noticed because it is the exact opposite of what the world teaches. Most of us try very hard to fit in and not be different, but to love as God loves will certainly make us stand out in the crowd. God's love is very different from the world's.

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
1 John 4:12 NKJV

God's Love is unconditional. In the passage from Luke Jesus goes even further to tell us that we are to not only love our enemies, but even those who do not love us in return. The world says love those who love you, and if they don't you have reason enough to turn your back on them. Can you look at yourself honestly and say your love for others is not affected by how they love you, or how they treat you, or how they talk about you? I only have to look at my relationship with God to see His love is unconditional. How often I disappoint Him, offend Him, ignore Him, and yet He still loves me. I have given Him plenty of reasons to turn His back on me but He never has and never will.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
John 13:34 NKJV

God's Love is fruitful. How often do we love with the expectation of what we will get in return? That is certainly the way the world loves, yet Jesus tells us that God's love gives no thought to what is given in return. In fact, the passage from Luke tells us to not even hope for anything in return. The point here is seems to be that what we get from God as a result of loving others with His love is far more rewarding than what we might get from the ones we love. Jesus makes the promise that “our reward will be great” if we love in this way and I think we would all agree that a reward from God is more to be desired than anything else we could possibly imagine.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Galatians 5:22 NKJV

We get to make a lot of choices in this life, but as believers, when it comes to loving others, it seems the choice is very clear. We either choose to love God's way or our way. I for one am so very glad God's love is different and there were no “preconditions” for Him to choose to love me. I love Him because He loved me long before I ever knew Him. If you have never told God you love Him, and have accepted His love and salvation in return I encourage you to do it today. God has made a way for you to enter into a relationship with Him by sending His Son to die for your sins. You can respond to His love for you by praying this simple prayer right now.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

Keep watching.