When we are loved, we love. What then does God require of us? To the broken, the struggling, the hurting, the tired, the worn-out, the bruised and abused off-casts of toxic religion I say this: Stop beating yourself up. When we have matured in love, we will love like He does, and keep His command to love.
This message was preached as a result of a spontaneous song and exhortation that came forth as part of a Sunday morning worship service on November 24th, 2013. I felt the theme of the song perhaps required further explanation, and so on December 8th, 2013 I preached this message as a follow-up.
As the song developed I became aware of a flow of revelation concerning the Father’s heart of love for us and how gracious He is in allowing us to grow in this love, and not demanding of us what we have not yet become.
It concerned me that some people will listen to the song and think that I am advocating the erroneous teaching that says we do not have to worry about sin in our lives and just live how we please. I am not saying that. But preaching grace will always leave itself open to this misunderstanding, as Paul anticipated when he said, “What then, shall we sin that grace may abound?” I was careful to include this admonition as part of my exhortation at the end of the song, in an effort to ward off any criticism of this nature.
It is difficult to give a complete doctrinal thesis on this subject in one song. It is my prayer that the intent of the song will not be misunderstood, but rather those who need to rest in the Father’s love will find a place of healing, and will simply come to Him knowing that they are accepted and loved just as they are. As they grow in this place of security they will eventually come to a place of maturity where they will love the way He loves.
The following study on growing in love explains this a little more.
In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
What is the greatest commandment? God gave the Israelites a list of 10 commandments to follow, and many more besides. It was a daunting list of rules to follow. But in Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus reduces the weight of the entire Law to one essential element, the command to love.
By the juxtaposition of these two verses we hear Jesus in effect saying, “If you say you love Me, then keep my commandment to love.”
In John 13:34 Jesus introduces a new commandment, that you “love one another; as I have loved you.”
In John 15:10 He says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”
In this last verse especially we gain an understanding of what it means to keep His commandments – to walk in His (and the Father’s) love. To obey Him and walk in love are essentially the same thing. He is asking us to abide in Him and naturally produce the fruit of who He is in us and through us. This is not the result of human self effort responding to an external demand engraved on tablets of stone, but the result of having the Law written on our hearts by the Spirit of God who dwells within us.
I sometimes struggle with the use of the word, “commandments” because it has overtones for me of some authoritarian person demanding obedience to a set of rules in such a legalistic way that I do not feel loved or cared for by that person. And I do not feel empowered to obey, but rather to resist. But I know God is love, so my perception of this word “commandment” is in someway misconstrued. The word in the Greek definitely has connotations of “authoritative injunctions” but I do not believe God demands of us in the way that some of us have experienced our earthly fathers doing so.
I once had the Lord speak to me regarding some issues I was having with legalistic attitudes. When I asked Him to help me identify what the problem was, He simply but clearly said, “you must.” Right there I understood what was wrong with the spirit behind my dealings with my children and people in general. There was a “you must” behind every thought, request or even questions. A spirit of control was operating and a lack of grace betrayed that although I thought I was enforcing what I considered to be Biblical standards, my method of correction was not from the heart of love, but legalism.
“The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
The efforts of man to produce the fruit of the Spirit will come to nothing.
God’s approach in dealing with us is quite different. He says to us in effect, “I want you to live like this,” and then He empowers us to do so, by creating a heart in us that desires to live righteously. Does He still want us to keep His commands? Yes, but the manner in which He gets us to keep them is not by demanding adherence to a set of rules from an external source, but rather creating in us the desire and the ability to be and perform the righteous acts of a righteous person.
And thus it is all by grace. Our complicity in the process is essential, but it is by His grace nevertheless. “It is not of him that wills, or of him who runs, but God who shows mercy.” (Romans 9:16)
Hence even the desire to serve and follow Him is something that God grants us. (Consider that God grants man repentance. 2Tim. 2:25)
John 2:3 says, “by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.”
This is often erroneously interpreted with such a legalistic bent as to put us all back under the law again. If the new commandment is to love, it will be self evident that we are abiding in His love when we have the fruit of His love in our lives.
John 5: 3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
If God is love, and we abide in Him, we too will love, just like Him. If we are abiding in the vine and the life of the vine is flowing through the branches, by simply being “in Him” we will naturally and effortlessly perform the works of grace that flow from a life that is empowered by the Spirit. And in this way the command to love is not burdensome. The demands of the law placed upon man require great self effort and are a burden. But the command to “love one another” that Jesus gives us under the covenant of grace is not a burden. It simply taps into the Divine love that flows from a heart connected with the Father of Love.
John 4:16 says, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
The passage then goes on to talk about being perfected in love, and “he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
The revelation that came to me as I was singing this song was simply this - when we are mature in love, we will love maturely. But until then, our love will be imperfect, and our obedience will be imperfect. But when love has been perfected in us, we will love perfectly, and perfectly obey the command to love. But until love has been perfected in us, we will not. And the answer is not to strive to be the perfect believer who wins points with God because of His behaviour score. Anyone caught in this subtle form of legalism will soon find themselves back under the condemnation of the Law. The answer is simply to first be loved.
1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”
When we are loved, we love. If we are not yet mature in love it is because we have not yet been transformed by love. And if we have not been transformed we have not yet beheld the depths of His love, for it is in beholding Him that we are changed. (2 Cor. 3:18)
What then does God require of us? To the broken, the struggling, the hurting, the tired, the worn-out, the bruised and abused off-casts of toxic religion I say this: Stop beating yourself up. JUST STOP IT. Come to the river. Let Him wash you. Let him love you. And when you are loved, you will love. Just be the object of His incredible affection. He loves you with outrageous grace.
A lifestyle of love and righteousness will flow out of a life that is loved. We will love Him, because He has first loved us. When we have matured in love, we will love like He does, and keep His command to love.
Listen to the spontaneous song Love me, love me
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