Happy New Year! As 2017 has come I’ve been praying and thinking about what this new year holds. Every year you hear about people’s New Years resolutions. But this year and every year, I only want one thing and that is expressed perfectly in Ephesians 3:19 “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” I’ve talked some in my previous posts (see post “To Know the Love of Christ“) about why knowing and understanding the love of Christ is so important. Today I want to focus on how the love of Christ changes us and ask you all to help me walk this out better this year. I have been studying God’s love for us quite a bit over the last 5 months. 1 John is one of my favorite combinations of the practical and theological aspects of God’s love.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
16 So 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.
17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.
First off we see in verses 7 and 8 that we are called to love one another. But what is love? We see the answer to this in verses 9 and 10. First, we see that perfect love is sacrificial. God demonstrated His love for us in the sacrifice of Jesus for us on the cross. Second, we see that perfect love is unconditional. God loved us before we deserved it and before we loved Him back. In our culture today, there are 2 main problems with the way we view love, and particularly God’s love. The first problem is that we tend to see love as very performance driven. We carry this into our relationship with God as our Father. We feel His love is conditional. We feel His pleasure when we are obeying, but we feel His displeasure when we are being disobedient. When we are disciplined by the Lord or allowed to suffer the consequences of our sin, we tend to think that means that we are no longer loved or that we must do something good to counteract the sin and once again earn our place as God’s child. That thinking is exactly why it is so important to remember why God loves us. (I’ll talk about this in a min.)
The second problem within our culture is that we associate love with acceptance and approval of whatever someone desires to be or do. We are told that it is most loving to encourage people no matter what and to never discourage or discipline. But what God says in Hebrews 12 is that true love is so much more. True love is looking at the big picture of someone’s life and encouraging or exhorting them to do the things that will allow them to bring honor and glory to God. True love is discipling, exhorting, encouraging, faithful, and gracious. The things God asks of us and the rules He gives us are for our ultimate good and to protect us from harm. Obeying God is hard because it goes against our sinful nature, but God doesn’t leave us helpless.
These two problems have distorted our view of love and thus distort the way we view God. But God’s love is different!
As we continue in 1 John 4, we see in verses 11-12 that the practical application of knowing God’s love for us is that we in turn love each other. That means that we are to love those around us sacrificially and unconditionally. Not an enabling love, but an empowering love whose power comes from the Holy Spirit as stated in verse 13.
Verses 14-15 remind us that when we receive Christ as Savior we become one with Him. Our old nature is gone and the new nature in Christ has come. 2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Verse 16 pretty much summarizes what I am trying to communicate. Knowing the love of God and allowing it to permeate our lives changes us. I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 which says “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” The love of God that has been given to me should take over and control my actions. It makes me one with Christ so that He lives my life. I no longer live for my own will and desires, but live out the will and desires of God!
Verses 17-19 are beautiful conclusion that reminds us that the perfect love of God is not based in fear of punishment, but is based on reverence and a desire to please God from the gratitude and love within our hearts.
I’ll end with a quote from Helen Roseveare “More and more, I have come to realise that love for my dear Lord and Saviour has to displace all other loves. Nothing else really counts. I must allow his love so to possess me that anything that hurts him hurts me. Equally, anything and everything that he loves, I am happy to love equally. But, even knowing this fact, I found it was not easy to let go of all else…Has he the power to enable us to give all these attitudes to him and to allow the Holy Spirit to deal honestly and truly with all that displeases him? I am not really asking ‘Has he enough power to do what needs to be done in me?’ but rather, ‘Have I enough grace and humility to acknowledge what I need and to allow him to make the necessary change?’ Yet I know that the needed grace and humility are his. And he certainly has enough of both to fulfil my need.”
My heart and prayer for this year is to know the love of Christ more and more so that I can be a pleasing aroma to Him and share His perfect unfailing love with everyone I meet! I pray that you too will know and be filled and captivated by this love!
Now for the update. Mary, our tetanus patient, went home a little over a week ago just before Christmas. We are thankful for her improvement, though she was discharged in order to go to her father’s funeral as he committed suicide. She didn’t have much of a relationship with him, but it’s still very sad and the family could use your prayers! Our premies that were discharged have continued to gain weight and we are thankful for that! Hopefully we will get to see them one more time before we leave.
We have just one week before we fly out of Uganda to Nepal on Jan 9. We can’t believe how fast 5 months went! Please be praying for this week as we finish up at the hospital and spend time with our siblings. This place has become home and it feels a bit weird to be leaving, but both Courtney and I are excited for all that God has planned next. The details for the end of our trip have been changed many times in the last 5 months. The final result of all those changes are that we will now only be in Nepal for 2.5 weeks and will not going to India at all. Though things did not go how we thought, I have full confidence and peace in God’s perfect plans! He again is reminding us that He is in control and to just let go and trust Him. Even our time in Nepal is not completely planned as God has asked us to be flexible and allow Him to live through us. So, pray for us to listen well to His voice and obey as He speaks. We thank you all for your support of us throughout this trip and can’t wait to get home and tell you more in person!
Much love in Jesus,