Janet Smith – 9-29-19 ©gardenministries.org
Psalm 34:4-5 I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed.
God’s love promises to drive out all my fear, grace me with a humbled dependence on Him, and topple all my mountains of self-serving pride. If loving my friends and family is challenging, how will I ever love my enemies? I need a different love. One that doesn’t fail. I need God’s big love as it is revealed in the unshakeable love of Christ.
1 John 4 tells us that the big price behind knowing God’s love is worked out in how well we love others. Verses 10 and 19 hint at a distinction between human love and divine love. The invisible God becomes visible as we manifest His Truth in Love within our circles of fellowship. But who’s love are we manifesting? Our own human affection or His divine love? There’s a difference.
1 John 4:7, 9-12, 15-21 NASB: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [i.e., appeasing sacrifice and soothing balm] for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us…
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
God’s love manifests in us when we live through Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9). What does it mean to “live through Him?” The key word is “through.” In Greek, the word for “through” is, “dia.” Dia means: across (to the other side), back-and-forth, to go all the way through; successfully across. To go back-and-forth and across to the other side describes the process we undertake as we seek to know God and believe He loves us perfectly.
David sought the Lord and He answered David and delivered him from all his fears. The more we seek God, the more His divine love and truth confronts our fear and pride and whittles away the walls of rejection fortified by lies. Day by day, brick by brick, the wall of fear and pride crumbles under the weight of His love as He tenderly draws us into His sword of Truth and cuts away the blinder veils cast between soul and spirit (see Hebrews 4:12).
The circumcision of the heart is painful and sweet. Every time I let His Word draw me to face and acknowledge my fearful, guarded places of unbelief, I can expect my pride bubble to get pierced and the oozing infection of pain formed around it to drain. If I keep my eyes on Jesus and trust Him as He cleanses and covers my wounds, I’ll continue on toward healing (see Isaiah 19:22).
1 John 4:17-18 describes how fallen human love lacks confidence because of the fear of punishment. When we make people’s love our source for feeling loved and put their love above God’s, we will punish these people when they don’t love us well enough and reward them when they do. Why do we do this? Depending on people’s love is easier to control and manipulate than depending on God’s love. That’s why we do it. We want control of our lives—and others.
To the degree we seek control of our lives and others is to the degree we will punish and reward for falling short or succeeding in what we falsely perceive as love. The problem is: we don’t see in Truth. We’re in charge and Jesus isn’t. We are not rooted and grounded in His divine love, we are established in our own tainted perceptions and conclusions about love. We go back-and-forth within these shame and performance-based cycles that have nothing to do with God’s love. It’s a broken system.
We have no hope of ever being loved well enough by any human love because it’s impossible for humans to love us like God loves us. Since the fall of mankind in the garden, human love was separated from God and became entirely self-centered. No one can love perfectly except those who live through Jesus Christ and manifest His perfect love. What a relief. I can stop trying to love or be loved according to my carnally-minded human nature.
In order to access the deep wells of God’s love, we will have to risk surrendering our preconceived ways of being loved and showing love. It’s time to throw the scorecard away once and for all. We don’t get to lead the charge on this process—nor can we. It’s God’s call on how He will show us His love and He doesn’t play by our corrupt, self-centered rule book. We have to throw it out and depend on His insightful leadership.
The Spirit of God loves us uniquely and His ways of showing His love confront and comfort us. God’s love will always resist our attempts to hide behind pride and fear. His Truth hits hard when it finds stony, unbelieving pride and His Truth acts like a sponge when it dries up mushy, reluctant fear-ridden shame.
I cannot perceive God’s love without surrendering to the Spirit of Truth who alone reveals God’s love to me and through me. The love of God is completely outside of my unsanctified human capacity to understand. I am not able to relate through the lens of my self-centered human affections. The love of God is a power I cannot know unless and until He reveals it to me. As long as I stay in control of how I’m loved based on my own self-serving leadership and humanistic perception of love, I am limiting how much I will know and experience of the true and lasting, eternal love of God.
When I try to make love fit into my limited, fearful, controlling human box, I am not open to know the full extent of God’s true love. When I try to control how I’m loved by others, I subject my heart to them and give them power to define love to me in ways they cannot deliver. People are not in charge of my emotions and my heart. God is. When we separate divine love from human love, we see Ephesians 3:14-21 make more sense. It describes the completely other-than nature of the love of God and that we can only gain access to it through faith in Christ, not in people.
Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Paul prayed that we be strengthened by the Spirit in our inner man so that we “may be able to comprehend” love. This means we cannot comprehend it without God’s strengthening and enabling. There is an individual enabling and a corporate enabling “with all the saints.”
With this in mind, I am free to view my human relationships as a mirror on how well I am comprehending, responding to, believing in, and walking in the transformative BIG LOVE of God. If I view God’s love through my own set of controls, I will measure love within my self-centered perceptions and experiences of love. When I define love through my corrupt lens of fear and pride and call it “God’s love,” I am trying to make Him fit in my box and He will not—because He cannot.
The revelation of God’s love will transcend my human perceptions and controls. His love blows my grids. It takes humility to even want these preconceptions blown. I must want my selfish ways of relating to God crucified with Christ to gain access to His ways of relating to me. Jesus knew the human heart could not be trusted (see John 2:24). He only entrusted Himself to the Father Who judged every situation and relationship righteously (see 1 Peter 2:23). Just as Jesus modeled for us, our eyes must stay fixed on the prize of knowing Jesus and seeking the revelation of His love. If we seek Him, He will answer our prayers. He will tear down the walls of pride and lift the valleys of shame entrenched with lies. He will do this for us. Will we let Him?
The BIG LOVE of God cannot be experienced except that we first accept the BIG PRICE Jesus paid to redeem us from our broken and sinful estate. From there, further revelations of His love come from our back-and-forth crossing over through daily seeking and believing in His word. As we ask, seek, and knock, the Spirit of God faithfully confronts our fearfully proud and hostile mindsets. God is big enough to deliver us from all our fears. Fear and pride are intricately connected. Will we let Him confront and tear down any mountains of pride standing in our way? Or will we hang on to the controls, justify our excuses, and let shame’s mushy mire keep us looking at ourselves or others for answers?
Matthew 10:37-39 NASB He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus boldly declares that it is divine love that carries the day and all human love pales in comparison. He followed His declaration by telling us to take our cross and follow Him. What cross is He asking us to take? We have to stop putting human love above or on par with divine love. They are not compatible because they are not born from the same source. Human love is sourced in the uncrucified, self-centered soul whereas God’s love is sourced in God and expressed in the unshakeable love of Christ. It is in the putting down of our fickle, soulish love and its self-centered control of others that we are transformed into Christ’s likeness and made worthy of Him.
Unshakeable confidence born from God’s love will not grow apart from developing complete dependence on His ways of dealing with our fear and pride. Our faith and confidence in God’s love can only grow as we abide in Him. We abide in God by believing the love He has for us and by letting Him transmit it to us and to others through Christ’s indwelling presence (see 1 John 4:16). Our confidence, born from God’s love for us, will manifest in authentic love for others—even our enemies. Without this confidence, we are only pretending to love. The fruit of fake love will tell on us sooner or later.
In the days ahead, we will need the perfect love of God to hold us when nothing else will. Love is not a thing. Love is a Triune-natured Person we can call with affection: Father God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us His compelling story and we must respond. Do we believe He is love and His Word is true?