As Christians, the love of God is something that many of us have gotten accustomed to hearing about. If you’ve been in church more than ten minutes or so, you should be able to quote John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Truly though, there is nothing more powerful than a revelation of God’s love. God’s love isn’t a feeling and it’s certainly not what the world says love is. The Bible says that God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6). His love is not a license to live contrary to His word. In fact, it’s the only thing that will set you free to live the way His word says you can live!
John the apostle wrote in 1 John 4:16, “we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” John is an interesting disciple, because in his gospel, he referred to himself many times as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Why? It almost sounds arrogant, right? Can you imagine being the other disciples reading that? I can almost picture them rolling their eyes. It isn’t because he was arrogant, though, or because Jesus actually loved him more than any of the other disciples (though he may have disagreed). John understood how much Jesus loved him, to the point that it was how he identified himself. What if we thought about ourselves this way, too? You are the one who Jesus loves, not the one who isn’t good enough; the one who messed things up; the one with anxiety; or whatever wrong thing you’ve identified with, that you may not even verbalize. What if you identified yourself only by the truth that Jesus loves you so much that if you were the only one He was dying for, He would go to calvary again?
Jesus made clear over and over again that He loves every single one. He stopped for the broken beggars that the religious tried to silence. He stopped for the widowed woman that no one else noticed. He stopped for the lepers that others refused to touch. Jesus, who is the Word made flesh and a picture of the Father’s heart, was a demonstration of a love so deep, so vast, so radical, that we could never actually understand it. Paul prayed for the church in Ephesians along these lines, asking that they “being rooted and grounded in love, would have the strength to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” He prayed that they would know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Wait, what? How can we know something that we can’t know? Romans 5:5 says, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can know in our hearts what we could never know in our heads. As John said, we can know and believe the love that God has for us, and he goes on to say, “By this is love perfect with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:17-18)
The greatest commandment is that we love God with our whole hearts, but that’s something we can never do in our own strength. We love only because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). What God challenged me this week with was this: What if you actually lived as free as you say you are? God is challenging me to live like I know He loves me, so I’m challenging you, as well. What if we actually lived like we knew we were loved? You are not whatever negative thing you’ve identified with. As a child of God, you are the one God loves; the one Jesus died for; and the one the Holy Spirit abides in and there is nothing in the world more freeing than knowing you are fully loved!