Real Love

See the source image

This is the week building up to Valentine’s Day, and I plan to write about love all week. Not sappy, “Hallmark movie” love, but the love that is true and perfect and eternal.

I’m intrigued by a verse in 1 John: “Everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and caring out His commands” (5:1-2).  I expected that John would have said “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by caring for one another, meeting needs, sharing the blessings of God, etc.” But he says that love for one another is revealed in our love for God and our obedience to His commands. That seems strange until we realize that love for God will always manifest itself in love for people. A heart that loves God will love what God loves.

The heart and soul of true love—of agape love­—is the love of God. This is perfect love (1 John 4:18). And it is nothing like the “love” this world desires. In our culture today, “love” means “anything goes.” Love, in the modern sense, is unrestrained permissiveness. If I claim to love you, I should never stand in the way of you fulfilling your desires. But what if I know that your desires are self-destructive? If my granddaughter desires to run into the middle of the street (and she does), does love demand that I allow her to do so? No! Because grandmother love has a greater demand: that I do what is in Joy’s best interest. So even though it made her very angry, I stopped her before she reached the end of our driveway.  Should I be any less concerned when I see someone blindly following the whims of this sin-sick world into self-destruction? Real love cares enough to say “This will destroy you.” Paul said that love “always protects” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Is it protective to say, “Because I love you, I approve of your sinful choices.”? Real love doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin.

God is the source of real love. 1 John 4:7 says, “Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Real love is holy love. And because He is the definition of love, anything outside of God is not love. Beloved, it is time for us to speak the truth in love while we also speak the truth about love.

With All Your Heart

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor

This is the story of the spiritual downfall of a king. It’s also the story of how any one of us can fall out of love with God. 2 Chronicles 25 is the account of Judah’s King Amaziah. Amaziah obeyed the Law of God in some circumstances – where it suited him, but not in others. That sounds familiar. When the king led his troops to war against the Edomites, it suited him to disobey God. “When Amaziah returned . . . he brought back the gods of the people of Seir.  He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them, and burned sacrifices to them” (v. 14).  Because of his unfaithfulness, God brought the army of Israel to destroy the city’s protective wall, loot the temple and the palace, and take hostages back to Israel. This isn’t meant to be a political statement, but the king’s failure cost his nation greatly.

There is so much here that we can unpack and it all stems from verse 2, the defining statement of Amaziah’s life: “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.” Amaziah’s heart was divided, which meant that his devotion to God was divided and it showed. The lure of other “gods” pulled him away from the Lord God.

 A half-hearted devotion to God is a wholehearted rejection of God. Here’s the bottom line: you are either all in or you’re not in at all. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6: 24). His immediate context was about wealth, but the principle is the same. As the great missionary, Hudson Taylor said, “Christ is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.”

You and I cannot love God and the world.  We cannot love God and money. We cannot love God and status.  We cannot love God and lust.  We cannot love God and alcohol or drugs. We cannot love God and . . . any other thing. (Now, I am certainly not saying we cannot love our families or our church or people – we love them because God loves us.) If we’re wholeheartedly devoted to God, there’s just no room for other loves in our hearts; God takes up the whole thing.

Beloved, does God have your whole heart? Is it time to reevaluate your loves?

Do you Know God, or Just Know About Him?

See the source image

Did you know that you can believe in God without believing Him? You can acknowledge His authority and sovereignty and still not submit to Him. You can know God and not know Him at all. James said “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (Jas 2:19). The demons, who are fallen angels (Matt. 25:41, Rev. 12:9), know very well who God is.  They knew who Jesus was (Matt 8:28-30 They do not lack knowledge. They lack love.

Knowing God is not the same as knowing about God. One is knowing God with your head.  The other is knowing God with your heart. Knowing God by heart is rooted in love and is visible to others. Paul said “If I have can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2 – emphasis added).

I graduated from seminary with a 3.95 GPA (one lousy B!). I am currently in graduate school at the Bible college where I work and hold a 4.0 GPA. But I was recently told, that for all my A’s in seminary, I am not a godly example for those closest to me. I hope that is not true. That means that all I’ve learned is only “head-deep” and has never made it to my heart. Jeremiah said, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom . . . but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me . . .” (Jer. 9:23-24). The words used here are insightful. Understanding God is gained by “proper learning and observation.” Knowing God comes through intimacy.  In other words, the more we know God – not just know about God – the more we will love God. The more we love God, the more we will love others.

I never want to be puffed up with knowledge. My heart’s desire is to build up others with love (1 Cor. 8:1). I don’t always get that right. But I’m trying. Beloved, do you know God? With your head or your heart? If you don’t know Him with your heart, how will you ever love Him? How will you ever love anyone?

To Know, Know, Know Him

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Matthew 22:37

To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him

Just to see him smile make my life worthwhile

To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him

And I do.

Written by Phil Spector and first recorded by “The Teddy Bears,” this song hit the number one spot in 1958.  Through the years it was covered by many other artists and I bet as you read those lyrics, you were singing the melody.  I know I did as I typed them.  Do you remember those early days of love, when you just couldn’t get enough of your beloved?    You wanted to spend every moment together, learning all you could about one another.  What is her favorite flower? What is his favorite song?  What makes her happy? What makes him laugh?   Her fragrance was intoxicating. You hung on his every word.  You became “a student” of the one you love, trying to discover all the wonderful things about them, like hunting for hidden treasures.  It seemed that the more you knew about each other, the deeper your affection went.

Do you have the same desire to know God?

He is the greatest lover you will ever have, and He offers you the deepest love relationship you can ever know.  What pleases Him? What is His favorite song? What gives Him joy?  Perhaps it never occurred to you that you can know God, but over and over His Word expresses His desire for us to know Him.  The apostle Paul said God wants us to “seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:27) The same principle in our earthly relationships holds true in our relationship with God.  The more we know Him, the more we seek to discover all the wonderful things about Him, the more we will love Him.  By engaging our minds to know Him, our hearts are filled with wonder and love for Him.

But how do we get to know the God of the universe?  The Lord reveals Himself in many ways.

He reveals Himself through His creation. Psalm 19:1-2 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” And Paul said “What may be known about God is plain…because God has made it plain. (Romans 1:19) Look at the stars in the sky, the majestic mountains, and the delicate flowers.  Watch the wind blow and the rain fall as lightning illuminates all of creation.  Hold a tiny newborn in your arms and study her delicate features.  God first revealed Himself through His creative works, and nature still praises her Creator.

God revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:15 says that Christ “is the visible image of the invisible God (New Living Translation) and Hebrews 1:3 declares “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”  Jesus Himself said to one of His disciples, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)” Jesus is God.  If you want to know God, you will find Him in Jesus.  Jesus was God in human flesh.  He came to save us and to show us that God is real, and we can know Him.  It is only through Jesus Christ that we can know to God. He is “The Way (John 14:6)” to God because He is God.

The Bible is the best way that we can know God.  The Bible is God’s Word to man.  It is His revelation of Himself, His ways, His thoughts, words and actions.  God had given us the Bible so that we might know Him, trust Him, believe Him and love Him.   The Bible gives us those intimate, personal details that are so vital to a love relationship. Remember the questions we asked earlier?  What pleases God? – the Bible tells us that faith pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6).  What is His favorite song?  Praise songs! “I will praise You among the nations, O Lord; I will sing praises to Your name. (Psalm 18:49)”  What gives God joy? We do – “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence with great joy – to the only God, our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! (Jude 1:24)” Does God have a favorite flower? Well, I don’t know for sure, but Jesus Christ is called “The Rose of Sharon, a Lily of the valleys. (Song of Songs 2:1) If you truly desire to know God, you must invest yourself in studying His Word.

God calls us to know Him – and He promises to make Himself available to us.  “You will seek me and find me when you see me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, (Jeremiah 29:13-14)” Through His created world, His Son and His Word, God has invited you and me into an intimate knowledge of Him.  I have found that the more I come to know Him, the more I love Him and the more I love Him the more I want to know Him. I have this thought that when I see Him in glory, once I have gotten up off my face before Him; I will see something about Him and I will exclaim – “I knew that about You!”

Can there be any better pursuit for our lives than to seek to know God?  I have committed myself to the life-long journey of knowing Him.  Will you come along?

Holy Father, My heart says of You, “Seek His face!”  Your face Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27:8)  Amen.