Last time, we saw that God is love. Wow! Imagine being in a relationship with someone who is not only loving and full of love, but is love itself! We never have to doubt whether something was for our good, or whether God cares about us, or whether He still loves us. God is love.
This can raise a multitude of questions, however. For example, if God loves us so much, and says that when we love one another, we put each other first, why does He tell us to put Him first and glorify Him? If He loved us, wouldn’t He seek to glorify us? Is he some sort of self-centered, narcissistic, arrogant god who only cares about what He can get out of His followers?
No way! Not at all! God wants us to glorify Him so that we understand His love. If we think that we are self-made people, we will fail to understand how much He loves us. When we recognize how much God has done for us, and how He is working in our everyday lives, we will better understand His love.
You see, God does an incredible amount for us. The Bible tells us that “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) In His love, God does many things that we do not even know about.
Ironically, in fact, when we fail to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, God is not able to demonstrate His love to us by providing for our needs. When we try to do things on our own, God is not able to help us. In order to truly experience His love, grace, and power, we have to glorify Him! Just as we cannot help those who will not accept help, God is unable to fully demonstrate His love toward us until we allow Him to do so.
God tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
It is only because God loved us and sent His Son to die and rise again for us that we can follow Him and live for Him in the way that He wants us to. We cannot boast about how well we serve God, because we are only able to serve Him because He, in His love, gives us His grace to enable us to do what is pleasing to Him.
God didn’t have to send Jesus to die for us. He wasn’t duty-bound to rescue His creation. He could have just figured that if we were so rebellious, we could burn in Hell. See if He cared!
Don’t fall for Satan’s lie that God owes you something. God doesn’t owe anything to you. He’s done so much for you already. It is only because of His love that He continues giving His grace and power, helping us in our difficulties, seeking us when we go astray, leading us into an ever-closer relationship to Himself.
Returning to 1 John 4, we read:
We know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)
It’s very important to understand God’s love so that we do not live in fear of Him. If we live in fear of God—that is, that we are afraid of Him, afraid to die, afraid of His judgment, afraid that we’ll make a small misstep and be brutally disciplined—it shows that we do not understand God’s love and/or are not in a right relationship with Him. We need to seek to be made perfect in love.
How do we become perfect in love? Part of it, at least, comes from God dwelling in us, and us dwelling in God and His love. In His love, God works in our hearts, if we allow Him to do so, and fills us with His love. As He does so, two things happen: we know His love (in other words, we experience His love), and His power enables us to do what is righteous and loving so that we do not have to fear His judgment.
God loved us when we did not love Him. God does not ask us to love Him, and then if we love Him enough, He’ll love us in return. On the contrary, He loved us while we were still sinners, and He asks us to love Him in return.
God says that the reason that we love Him is because He loved us first. This is why Satan wants to deceive us about God’s love and distort God’s love in any way possible. If Satan can prevent us from knowing God’s love, we will not love God in return. This is why it is crucial that we understand God’s love and know what our Father is really like!
There is an incredible phrase in this passage: “As He is, so are we in this world.” In other words, with God dwelling in us, we become like Him! Whoa! Did God really say that? Yes, He did!
Talking about “understanding God’s love” makes it sound very academic and sterile. The reality is simply that we need to really know our Father. However, we sometimes struggle to understand or really accept the many incredible things He has revealed about Himself in His Word. So what’s the answer?
Photo by fady habib via flickr