PERFECTING THE LOVE OF GOD

1 John 4:12 – No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

The subject of the love of God is enormous. John reminds us that no one has seen God at any time. Jesus was the manifestation of God in human form. “He who has seen Me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9). John goes on to say that “God abides in us.” If we have repented of sin and received God’s love in the person of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is abiding in us. If that is true, then His love is being perfected in us as well. In Christ, we are in a state of growth and development that has its manifestation in God’s love. He gave us the Holy Spirit for the purpose of developing in us the same love of Christ revealed in Jesus’ earthly life and ministry.

John writes, “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” How can we reconcile the divisions and many times the mean-spirit seen in the body of Christ? First, we need to understand that John is giving us the ideal. The goal of maturing is the “love of God” manifested in a believer’s life. God’s love is being perfected in us. Second, it is understood that believers are in a state of development, “working out their own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). There are some who deal with the brokenness of their lives for many years. The important factor is an effort to press into God’s love and allow His love to be expressed through the stages of growth.

Many wrestle with their own security in the “love of God” because they have difficulty receiving His love for themselves, let alone abiding in His love, and then releasing it to others. This is why it is so important to take time in the initial process of coming into the Christian faith. It is tempting to hurry people through the process like cattle, rather than leading them like sheep. We make joining the organization the greater importance, when healing of their past wounds and receiving God’s love for specific areas in their life should be our objective. As the believer learns to die to “the old” self and embrace “the new” in “the Holy Spirit,” they can learn to abide in God’s love and His sustaining power.

IN THE CROSS, LOVE IS BIRTHED

John 13:3-4 – Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

The thirteenth chapter of John brings together a number of important insights for our own development in the love of God. Before the Feast of Passover, Jesus knew His time had come to die, passing from this world to the Father. The Scripture says of Jesus, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1b). As Jesus partakes of His last meal with His disciples, He knows that the devil already put it into the heart of Judas to betray Him. He knows, that the Father had given all things into His hands. With that knowledge, He prepares to wash His disciple’s feet.

Once again, Peter becomes an example for us. His human nature is so much like all of ours. I thank God for Peter. Jesus came to Peter to wash his feet. Peter responded in a way which was typical for him when he said, “Never shall You wash my feet!” (John 13:8a). Jesus was very clear with Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8b).

The love of God was being demonstrated in the upper room toward these disciples. Jesus the Servant, modeled the love of God to each one of His disciples, even with the knowledge that one of them was about to betray Him. He told His disciples, “You are clean, but not all of you” (John 13:11). The love of God was about to be demonstrated to the whole world as Jesus, God’s Servant, hung on the cross for our sins. He took the punishment for sin and death. He went to hell in our place. He overcame death and hell and now reigns in victory over all. By faith, as we embrace what the Lord accomplished for each one of us, the love of God is born in our hearts.

In his letter to the church, the Apostle John is very clear about the operation of God’s love in the believer. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this, the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (John 4:8-9). The manifestation is in the transforming work of God’s love in us. The world can only know the “love of God” by what is manifested in our lives. When someone is “born again,” they are born into the love of God. The true sign of God’s rule in our life is God’s love.

Maturity in Christ is evaluated by the manifestation of God’s love. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (John 4:10-11). Jesus came to bear our sins. We then, must forgive others. Forgiveness demonstrates the love of God in our hearts. Let me be clear, the believer is in a state of growth. Some have worked through their issues of unforgiveness more than others. Our salvation is witnessed by God’s love manifested in us. The Holy Spirit wants to show us the areas we have not yet developed in His love. If You are aware of issues in your life where you do not have God’s love manifested in you toward others, the Holy Spirit wants to help you.

Father, I thank You for Your love poured out at the cross through my Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the cross, I thank You for the Holy Spirit who is now poured out in the hearts of believers such as myself. Fill me with the love of God, especially towards those who are difficult to love.

THE LOVE OF GOD HAS BEEN POURED OUT WITHIN OUR HEARTS

Romans 5:4 – The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Imagine, the God of all creation has poured out His love in the heart of every believer. The Lord does this through the Holy Spirit when He is given to the believer. We have been devoting ourselves to the subject of faith and hope. We now will consider love and how it is the foundation to faith and hope.

“In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). A major issue which Paul had to address was the question concerning the need to be circumcised in order to legitimately be a Christian. Paul is clear on the subject. Only faith working by love matters.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians and listed many things that confirmed his calling and apostolic ministry. Within the list he cites, “. . . in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love” (2 Corinthians 6:6-7). Every believer has been called to freedom in Christ. This freedom empowers us to serve others. The heart of the gospel of the kingdom is in “serving others.” This involves reaching out to another who is hurting, broken, and trying to find their way to God. We are to use our freedom for their benefit. We are to never take advantage of a brother or sister to benefit ourselves. Paul says, “Through love serve one another.”

The love of God is difficult to grasp. It is foreign to the various types of human love. The love of God requires one to give up their life for the sake of another. It is impossible to operate in God’s love without the Holy Spirit’s participation. He has to impart the Love of God and then we must receive His love. Finally, we choose to administer His love to another.

In John 21:15-19, the Lord sought to help Peter come to know the love of God by asking him, “Do you love me more than these?” Jesus did this three times. Each time, as Peter answered in the affirmative, Jesus directed him to take care of His lambs. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas were called by the Holy Spirit to go to the Gentiles, proclaiming the love of God. They experienced beatings and stoning in their ministry. In spite of the despicable way they were treated, they pressed forward in faith and hope motivated by the love of God revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I ask You to fill me day by day with Your love, drawing me ever deeper into intimacy with You. I pray to know more and more of the love of God found in Christ Jesus, my Lord. I ask You to help me to grow up into a fuller manifestation of Christ’s love for others, and to come closer to loving as You love.  

HOPE AGAINST HOPE

Romans 4:18 – In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So Shall Your Descendants Be.”

This is an interesting scripture. Abraham “hoped” because he believed. All the evidence was against such a position. The Scriptures indicate that Abraham gave consideration to his body and his age, but he did not become weak in his faith. Abraham trusted the “promise” of God. At age 100, He did not waver in unbelief, even though all evidence suggested he should just accept his physical condition. Physically speaking, he could not produce children. “Abraham grew strong in faith giving God the glory” (Romans 4:20). Abraham was fully persuaded that what God had promised, He was able to perform. Is it any wonder he is called the “father of the faithful”?

As believers in Christ, it is important to realize that we received our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. Our greatest expectation is hope of the glory of God. At the same time, we glory in tribulation. The reason we are to glory in tribulation is because it produces a number of attributes. “Tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Abraham knew tribulation, but faith grew because he believed God’s promise over rational reasoning. This kind of language and suggestion is an offense to the natural man. It is why the Scriptures speak of the cross as an offense. How can belief in the death of Christ bring about eternal life for individuals? It just does not make sense to the rational man. On the other hand, the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit because they are spiritually understood. It takes the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ. It takes the Holy Spirit to give us faith and hope. Through the Holy Spirit, love is poured out within our hearts.

Faith, hope, and love are three cords that cannot be easily broken. The greatest of the three is love. It is love that undergirds everything else. As a believer, it is important to nurture these three attributes. They find their greatest development in a believer’s life through challenges which create an atmosphere for their development. What challenges are you facing today? Inquire of the Lord about developing faith for those challenges. Let faith become the substance of hope toward your challenge. Trust the Holy Spirit to help you walk in faith by love.

Father, grant me grace to live a life of faith, producing hope, and working by love. As Abraham of old had hope against hope, I pray that I too, might live in a high level of hope when facing impossible circumstances in my life.  

FAITH, THE SUBSTANCE OF HOPE

Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 lays the foundation for faith. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews has been called “the honor role of faith.” Note how the writer begins verse 1, “now faith is.” What a powerful expression of absolute trust. The writer does not say faith might be, but is! Is what? It is the assurance of the things hoped for. I like the way the King James expresses this passage. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” KJV. I appreciate the word “substance” because it speaks of the spiritual material from which hope is formed. Material objects have “molecules”, whereas biblical faith is the spiritual molecules of “hope.” This expectation of hope means “an absolute confidence.” It is so real it is made of the “evidence of things not seen”.

The rational mind has great difficulty with this kind of thinking. The spiritual person knows this kind of thinking is what causes miracles to take place through a believer. As a believer in Christ, our hope is in His resurrection power. “We had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. He will yet deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:9-11). This is New Testament Christianity! Listen how Paul expresses hope to the Roman believers. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Jesus, when quoting Isaiah 42:2 declares “He will lead justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20). The Pharisees had gone out to conspire against the Lord how they may destroy Him. Jesus, aware of their plans, withdrew Himself and then healed the sick and gave the people warnings. He quoted Isaiah 42:2-3 so the people would know He was the one fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic declaration. Our hope is rooted in Jesus because He fulfilled the prophetic words given by the Prophets of old. God’s word has proven true. Christ’s resurrection established God’s covenant forever. As we trust in Christ, we are brought into a place of “assurance and conviction” that makes up our faith. Faith is the substance of our hope. We can experience peace and joy presently, while waiting for His return. “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).   

Our faith flows out of our hope in the resurrection. We are to work His works in faith as we wait for His return and the glory that will be revealed. Pray to grow in the substance of faith that your hope may be firm and increase unto His coming. Let hope be settled about who you are in Christ. Grow in faith that will move mountains of resistance. By faith see the victory over sin, sickness, demonic strongholds, and anything else that would dare to resist God’s purpose in your life.

Father, by Your Spirit, I ask You to help me be one who moves in faith. Cause hope to increase in me as the substance of faith enlarges and my confidence grows. Give me courage to resist doubt and unbelief. Use me to bring others to faith and hope through the power of Your Holy Spirit residing in me.

HOPE THAT WILL NEVER BE MOVED

Psalm 31:24 – Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

Strength and courage come from a “hope in the Lord.” This is because the Lord never changes. “I the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6). We can have confidence because the Lord is the hope of our salvation.

Our minds need to be trained in a hope that is rooted in God the Father. The world teaches us to hope in ourselves and become self-reliant. David learned to hope in the Lord. “For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. By You, I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; My praise is continually of You” (Psalm 71:5-6). This is the kind of mind-set we must develop in this matter of hope. It begins by knowing the Lord had an important part with our birth. Before we were converted, the Lord was already at work in His purposes for us. Some of us experienced times when our lives might have been shortened, except the Lord “sustained” us. I am grateful to have the same testimony as David, “You are my confidence from my youth.” Regardless of what stage of life we came to know the Lord, it is important to understand He had His hand upon us.

Hope is developed from a love for God’s word. “I hope for Your salvation, O Lord, and do Your commandments. My soul keeps Your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly. I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies, for all my ways are before You” (Psalm 119:166-167). The hope David possessed was not a maybe hope, but a sure knowledge of God’s faithfulness and enduring mercies. His confidence came from his relationship with God. Even in his failures, he trusted the Lord based upon God’s character and not his own perfection. “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2).

Solomon was taught by his father, King David, who had learned to hope in the Lord and trust His commandments. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life. The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded” (Proverbs 13:12-13). In his later years, Solomon forgot his own counsel. He experienced the “debt to the word.” Solomon began to depend on his own human wisdom. He was not able to transfer to his son what he had received from his father David.

Biblical hope affects more than our own life. It affects the generations. David’s hope in God has had a profound effect on millions down through the ages. David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, came to establish hope for mankind. Because of the cross and the resurrection, the Holy Spirit is able to impart an eternal hope that will fully be revealed at the Lord’s appearing. Tomorrow, we will consider “hope” as a New Covenant believer in Christ.

Father, I thank You for Your servant David, who laid such a wonderful foundation of hope through his words and his life testimony. I pray You will help me be established, day by day in the hope which the Holy Spirit imparts.