The most important truth available to us today is this: GOD LOVES US.
He loves you, He loves me.
One of the most familiar verses in the Bible is –
John 3:16 (KJV) вЂњFor God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.вЂќ
How many of us wish we had a dollar for every time we have heard it, said it, read it (even on t-shirts and cardboard signs at football games)? God so loved the world! He loves the lonely single parent, the latch key kid, the grieving widow, the gay couple next door, and even the child molester. God loves people! We have heard countless messages on GodвЂ™s love for us. So we know, at least in our heads, that God IS Love. But it isnвЂ™t until we hit those road bumps of life that our belief in that love is tested.
God doesnвЂ™t stop loving us, ever. We may go through hard times, even horrible things, but His love is still there. We may not understand why we have to face such trials, other than the fact that we do live in a fallen world, with a real enemy, and awful things happen to people. Those people, wonвЂ™t get saved hearing a вЂturn or burnвЂ™ message. In fact the few вЂturn and burnвЂ™ messages in the bible, werenвЂ™t given to the lost, but to religious people. The lost will come into the family of God when they really believe that He loves them.
How will they know that He loves them?
Leviticus 10:17-18 (NIV) вЂњвЂDo not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.вЂќ
And Mark 12:31 (NIV), The second is this: вЂLove your neighbor as yourself.вЂ™ There is no commandment greater than these.вЂќ
So it starts with two things, we have to love God, and we have to love ourselves. For some of us it is easy to love God, but loving ourselves is a whole different matter. We know us. We know what ugly things we did, the ugly thoughts we have had, those things we donвЂ™t want anyone else to know. But it is part of the command. If you have a hard time loving yourself, then you havenвЂ™t been listening to God. He has wonderful things to say about you. Find out what He says about you, how He feels about you, what He plans for you. YouвЂ™ll find it much easier to love yourself. We have to change our ungodly thought patterns into Godly thought patterns. Ungodly thoughts say вЂњI am no good, no one loves me.вЂќ Godly thoughts say, вЂњI am accepted in the beloved and God loves me.вЂќ
JesusвЂ™ says in John 13:34-35 (NIV) вЂњA new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.вЂќ
After loving God, and learning to love ourselves, we must love one another. If we canвЂ™t love our brother and sisters in Christ how can we love those that are lost and without hope. We always think of loving others as a new commandment, but God commanded Israel, in the book of the law (we just read it) to love your neighbor as yourself. My opinion is that part that is вЂњnewвЂќ is our loving the way Jesus loves us, unconditionally, without restraint or strings attached. It has always been a command of God. Of course, HeвЂ™s all about love!
Now, we come to the part where the world can see the love of God. They see it by our love, for God, for ourselves, for the family of God, and for them. We canвЂ™t stop at any of these steps. If we learn to love God with our whole heart, we wonвЂ™t be able to stop! GodвЂ™s love compels us to love others. But if we get hung up on just trying to love ourselves or other Christians, how will those who really need to know about His love ever experience it?
Ephesians 2:10, (KJV) вЂњFor we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.вЂќ
We have to show them the love of our Father. We need to be a reflection of His love.
Ephesians 2:1-7, 10 (AMP) вЂњAnd you [He made alive], when you were dead (slain) by [your] trespasses and sins. In which at one time you walked [habitually]. You were following the course and fashion of this world [were under the sway of the tendency of this present age], following the prince of the power of the air. [You were obedient to and under the control of] the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience [the careless, the rebellious, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God]. Among these, we as well as you, once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of [GodвЂ™s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind. But GodвЂ”so rich is He in His mercy! Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us, Even when we were dead (slain) by [our own] shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ; [He gave us the very life of Christ Himself, the same new life with which He quickened Him, for] it is by grace (His favor and mercy which you did not deserve) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of ChristвЂ™s salvation). And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One). He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in [His] kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus.вЂќ
Our acceptance off all GodвЂ™s goodness shows by example GodвЂ™s love to the world.
Verse 10 again in the Amplified. вЂњFor we are GodвЂ™s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].вЂќ
We were predestined to demonstrate the riches of his kindness and the goodness of His heart. God is our Father, we are His children and this is our вЂњfamily business.вЂќ He has already given us the gifts and talents to do this. We have all of heaven at our disposal to show the world how much He loves them.
Just doing good works isnвЂ™t enough. We have to let love motivate our good works. If we work to try to earn GodвЂ™s favor, we are building with wood, hay and stubble.
Matthew 6:1(New Living), вЂњ”Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.вЂќ
Verse 16, (New Living), “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.вЂќ
GodвЂ™s word is clear, our motives are important. If we work so other can see us and praise us or admire us, then their praise and admiration are our only rewards. It isnвЂ™t pleasing God, or building with anything that will last through the storms. We can bully, beg and harass someone into saying the sinners prayer, but are they really saved? How does that portray God? As someone who doesnвЂ™t really care about them, someone who just cares about numbers-how many people I converted today.
Please read Letting Love Motivate Us Part II Tomorrow.