The love of God is usually presented as flowery and poetic, the thing of greeting cards, figurines and cute sayings. There is nothing wrong with those things, but the love of God is so much more. The love of God is mighty and powerful! It is the key to transformation and renewal in your life.
It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). I used to think that you had to preach fire and brimstone to bring change to the church. It didn’t. I used to hear guilt producing sermons on “Why You Should Go to the Mission Field,” but all it did was produce guilt. It wasn’t until I found myself immersed in the revelation of how much God loved me- then I was motivated to go to China. When I found out that He wasn’t angry with me each time I messed up in life, it drove me to worship and give thanks. Fire and brimstone convicted me of sin, but the gospel convicted me of God’s grace and love.
Power for Today
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). When you realize that God is not angry with you and that He really loves you, you will find power to live a godly life. The good news, not the bad news, is the power. But most Christians don’t really believe that God loves them. They know it, perhaps, as a doctrine. They will agree when someone says it and they may even say it to others. But they don’t appropriate it and believe it for themselves. 1John 4:16 says, we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. You have to know it AND believe it. Knowing that God loves us is one thing, but you have to believe and make it personal. You have to believe and say, “God loves ME!”
This is hard to do, isn’t it? We often barely like ourselves. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And it only gets better. Many Christians first believed because they heard they were loved. Then they joined the church and learned that God was angry with them and that they were never measuring up. But that is not what the Bible teaches.
If God loved us when we first believed, He loves us even more now that we are His: Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Rom.5:9-10). This means God is not just “tolerating you.” If He was good to you when you were a sinner and not even caring about Him, He is all the more good to you now that you love Him and live for Him. He is not taking notes on your every failure! He sees you in Christ Jesus!
People often get encouraged by hearing a message like this, but then they go out into the real world and life hits them. The warm feeling of God’s love seems to have flown away. They then get discouraged. This is often because they have misunderstood what it means to live in love.
The Nature of Love
The world teaches that love is all about feelings and emotions. The media portrays it as having a certain “zing” go off on the inside and boom- you’re in love! When the feeling goes away, so goes the love. We buy into that, and then the minute something goes wrong, we feel like it is all over. This is why so many marriages break up. They think they’ve fallen out of love when they have simply lost the “zing” feelings. But feelings come and go.
True love is based not on feelings but commitment. Jesus probably didn’t have a “zing” feeling when He died for us as sinners. But Hebrews 12:2 shows His commitment: who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. He saw something past the unloveliness of sinners. He saw the joy of men and women restored to their right image of God, and reconciliation.
We can live in love when we stop worrying so much about feelings and circumstances and see the joy set before us. That joy is all that God has provided, including eternal life. When I say the joy is before us, I don’t just mean future. God did it all for us in the past. Goodness and mercy follow us (Psalm 23:6). We are surrounded by the love of God, past, present, and future! We are in a love bubble, so to speak. And it’s a bubble that supernaturally cannot burst!
Breadth, Length, Depth, and Height
I believe this is why Paul prayed that we would comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of this love (Ephesians 3:18). It is to show that we are enveloped by God’s love, or surrounded. He could have simply said the depth of God’s love, or the height, or any of those. But he spoke of all of those!
To live in God’s love we have to own it. The word, comprehend, means in the Greek to take hold of or to seize. We have to own it- own it as the voluminous love Paul describes, based not on our worthiness but the worthiness of Jesus. If you cry, “how can God love me?” You are looking to your own worthiness (or lack thereof). The gospel frees us from ourselves and says Jesus is worthy- receive it!
To live in God’s love you have to agree that the love of Christ passes all knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). This doesn’t mean that you can’t know it, for the same verse says that you can. But it surpasses all knowledge of love that you already have. What is the greatest act of love you have ever seen or can think of? Jesus demonstrated it. Yet God’s love goes even beyond that knowledge! There are oceans of His love that are waiting to be tapped! We don’t always feel it, but we can agree that it is there and that we own it.
If I told you that I scattered millions of dollars throughout your property and you agreed that it was true, it would change the way you live. You would make it your life pursuit to find all of it. Some days you might tap into some of it to enjoy, while other days it may seem hidden. But you know it is still there and you don’t worry just because it seems gone for the moment.
The truth is that God never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5)! That love is always there. That means we don’t have to panic when the feeling goes. It also means that we don’t have to worry about what others think of us. We don’t have to define ourselves by the approval of others. If your spouse has not treated you well, or your parents, or your children, or anybody else, you are not defined by that. You are loved by almighty God, and with a love that passes knowledge! That frees us up to forgive those who have wronged us. It is not pleasant or good when a relationship is bad on this earthly level, but ultimately we have to say, “it won’t hurt me. Almighty God loves ME!”
When it comes to rotten circumstances, we can say, “I am surrounded by God’s love. This will work out; or I will be healed; or etc.” Our circumstances don’t define us. God’s love in Jesus defines us, and nothing can separate us from it (see Romans 8:38-39).
Actually there is one thing that can separate you from it: YOU. He doesn’t stop loving you, but you separate yourself when you fail to believe it, own it, agree with it. Jude 21 says, keep yourselves in the love of God… when you start to believe otherwise, when you start to feel like a sorry sop again, get back to the truths of God’s Word and focus again on the love of Jesus. Stay inside of the love bubble!