If you don’t hear anything else today, hear this: God loves you. He knows all of your issues, your secrets, your past, and your problems, and He still loves you beyond measure - and He badly wants for you to love Him in return!
God loves you. He knows all of your issues, your secrets, your past, and your problems, and He still loves you beyond measure - and He badly wants for you to love Him in return!
So how can you perfect your love of God? Practice!
We learned last week that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have the perfect relationship and are the model for perfect love; they pursue God’s purpose together and glorify each other. So whenever we think or talk about love, we must refer to what God says about love, not our own versions of love that may bring pain to us or others.
God is love. 1 John 4:8
Love is obedience to God. 1 John 5:3
Love is based on truth, not a feeling. 2 John 6
1. Love is perfected over time by God’s loving hand.1 John 2:5
Our brains are comprised of two hemispheres. Among many other functions, the right brain controls our emotions, while the left brain is involved in decision-making and problem-solving. While a child may be afraid of a playground slide at first sight (right brain), once he has had a few safe experiences on the slide, he understands the slide is fun and can make a decision to approach it boldly (left brain), despite the earlier emotions he experienced.
Similarly, our emotions may initially stop us from obeying God, and if we never take the steps to do boldly as He asks, we stay stuck in obedience to our own feelings. For example, we may not apologize after an argument because we believe the other person is at fault and we feel injured. But by practicing obedience in small things little by little, such as apologizing for our own actions even when we feel wronged, we can learn that our emotions need not control everything we do and that obeying God is fruitful, powerful, and more important than obeying our own desires. We can increase our faith and bring our ability to be obedient into better completion and maturity.
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:3-6
God never lets us down, so we must learn to trust Him by saying “yes,” even when we feel like saying, “no!”
God didn’t empower us with the Holy Spirit so that we could please ourselves or love our own friends. We don’t need supernatural power to do what we would normally do! He’s not into “cruise control” living; He wants to bring us out of our comfort zones and for us to live out our faith and love by being obedient. Obedience to Him is really the only proof we can give that we truly love Him!
2. Love requires a renewed mind. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6
God will sometimes tell you to do things that your mind doesn’t want to do. It doesn’t always make sense to us to serve, give, pray, sacrifice, be humble, or confront others in love, but when our minds say “no,” we must have the ability to override and decide to obey God above ourselves. We can quote Scripture all we want, but if we are not living it, then we are just Pharisees!
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6
Though not everything our culture practices is wrong, there are world views, arguments, and politically-correct practices around us that are against the Word of God. This is why, whatever we read, discuss, or ponder with our minds, we must bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. We must decide if we are going to obey God - or our impulses, our culture, or our friends. This is where the rubber meets the road.
3. Love must be received before it can be given. 1 John 4:19
You have a natural ability to love, but God wants to give you His supernatural love.
The Bible says that God loved you so much that He sent His only Son to give His life that you might be saved (John 3:16). Jesus did this willingly because of supernatural love. The Bible also says that if you believe and confess that Jesus is the Christ, then you will be saved (Romans 10:9). The Holy Spirit then comes to live in your heart and pours of the love of God into your heart (Romans 5:5).
When the supernatural love of God is poured into your heart, you have a level and intensity of love for people that is way beyond your natural ability. You can even forgive people you wouldn’t normally forgive, just as Jesus forgave His persecutors even while dying on the cross (Luke 23:34).
Though loving by obedience doesn’t always feel good or comfortable, God can empower you to love in any situation. Despite feelings of fear, discouragement, anger, resentment, etc., by practicing daily obedience to God, you can grow in maturity and grow in your ability to love and obey God day by day by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Miles challenged us to a discipleship exercise this week: write down 5-10 things that you know God wants you to do in your daily life that you are not currently doing. As a start, choose one thing off that list and commit to practicing obedience in that area every day - and see what happens!