Love Lessons

Have you ever been walking along this journey of life and suddenly it hits you?  “It” can be anything.  And it can be as painful as a brick to the face, or as lovely and wonderful as a vast, starry sky.  That defining moment happens in an instant and soon fades back into the ebb and flow of life, but whatever “it” is, you know that because of it your life is forever altered.

I recently experienced two of these defining moments… both of them vital to my survival.  The first left me completely destroyed and broken into a million pieces.  The second arrived just in time as a soothing salve to heal my gaping wounds and restore my soul.  In the first, I came face to face with my own depravity.  I saw new depths of my sinfulness that I never knew existed and realized that the filth goes even further still.  In the second, I came face to face with the God of glory and grace.  I saw new depths of His love and realized His mercy goes even further still.  We are all sinners and must all confront our sin at some point, and each of our experiences have been/ will be different in that time.  But He never changes, so it’s that second encounter that I want to focus on now.

I have been doing an in-depth study of the book of John with one of my friends for the last several months.  As I was studying chapter 5 one evening God showed up and made His word speak to the very core of my being.  In those few minutes I understood more of His character and more of the Gospel than I ever have in my life.  Even passages that had always seemed pretty straightforward took on new depths of beautiful meaning.

The verse that served as the catalyst for this revelation explosion was John 5:20, which says, “For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing. And greater works than these will He show Him, so that you may marvel.”   I’ve read this verse who knows how many times.  I remember thinking in the past how incredible it is that God shows Christ great things so that WE can be amazed.  Pretty cool, huh?  But that’s not at all what I took away from this verse a few weeks ago.

I couldn’t get past the first six words.  “For the Father loves the Son…”  First of all, I far too easily forget the pure love that exists between the members of the Trinity.  I think about the unity, the perfection, the power, etc., but I forget about the love.  Second of all, that seemingly insignificant little three-letter word “for” makes a very bold statement.  That “for” makes the connection; it shows the cause and effect.  It is because the Father the loves the Son that all these other things happen.

God’s love for Himself (which includes His love for the Son) is His motivation for EVERYTHING He does.  Even His love for us is an overflow of the love that exists within the Trinity.  His love is the only self-centered (not to be confused with selfish) love that generates more love.

Love is often seen as the great motivator; but usually it’s love for money, acceptance, status, etc.  Even Satan was motivated by his love for glory and fame.  But this is where the English language fails me, because none of these are truly love.  So I have dubbed these x-love.  There is a semblance of love, but it puts “me” (whoever I may be) and my desires above everybody else.  Because God Himself IS love (1 John 4:8), anything that does not originate with, focus on, and find completion in Him simply cannot be love.

So, apart from His love, I cannot truly love anyone else or even myself.  Apart from His love I am dead in my sins and utterly unlovable.  Apart from His love, the best I can offer anyone else is my affection or desire, and even those shift and sway like the tides.  Only as I experience His love and allow His love to flow through me can I ever really know love and spread love to others.

I am reminded of the George Strait song What Do You Say to That.  The chorus says: “Life could never be the same without you.  Love was never really love without you.  Here beside you is really where it’s at.”  He might have been singing about a girl, but those words actually describe Christ.

Put it simply, it’s all about love.  God’s love.  I’ve known for a while that it’s not about me, but this takes that to a whole new level.  It really truly 100% is all about Him.  The ridiculously extravagant gifts He lavishes on me are purely the result of His perfect love and are given to me to be used by Him for His glory.

So let’s think about this a bit…
Matthew 22:37-39 ~ “And He (Jesus) said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  The second commandment is ONLY possible as we are living in accordance with the first.

Ephesians 1:3-6 ~ “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.”  Our adoption into the family of God is the result of His love and results in His praise.

1 John 4:7-12 ~ “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”  It is all about Him and His love.

Ephesians 3:14-19 ~ “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  It is God’s love that strengthens and empowers us, and when we truly know the love of Christ we are “filled with all the fullness of God.”

1 Corinthians 13 – The WHOLE chapter is all about love.  Go read it again thinking of God Himself and His love flowing down to you and flowing out through you.

Psalm 13:5-6 ~ “But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”  Even on our darkest days we can have hope because His steadfast love never fails.

And let me challenge you to go re-read (or read for the first time!) all of the prophets and focus on the fact that everything God does is because of His love.  It is all in Him, through Him, by Him, and for Him.  Absolutely incredible!

And now think about the fact that this amazing, powerful, perfect God LOVES you!  He passionately and relentlessly and unconditionally LOVES you!  And because His love for you is because of His love for Himself, it doesn’t change based on what you do or don’t do!  You are LOVED – dearly, sweetly, purely.

When I think about how He loves me I just sit in awe, completely humbled.  My prayer right now is that you too will be overcome by His love for you.

I pray I never get over His love for me!

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