“Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are.” (1 John 3:1 HCSB)
As I mentioned in my last post, the simplest and most delightful of the spiritual exercises – and one absolutely necessary for a tangible transformation in the Christian’s life – is deliberately embracing the knowledge of God’s love. To know God is to know His love. If we doubt His love for us, then we do not know Him as we ought. Being inwardly persuaded that we are loved, and will always be loved despite our sin and ugliness, is a powerful force that transforms our attitude, and reconstructs our conduct as nothing else can.
Yet, the inner persuasion of being loved can be easily shaken, because in this world, we experience very little unconditional love. We may, if we are fortunate, have known a few people, perhaps only our parents, who have loved us in this way. As we grow older, we find ourselves forced to earn the affection and respect of friends and co-workers. In the workplace and in the home, we are conscious that a wrong word or a careless deed can upset the balance, and change everything for us.
God’s love is beyond human understanding – our earthly minds and hearts, constrained as they are by the sin barrier, have trouble receiving it. Still it is God’s will that we should experience the transforming power of His love.
John writes about the Father’s great love for us; and the joy contained in his words seems to bubble over. The reader is left in no doubt that the beloved apostle had tasted the deep love of God. When we have tasted and experienced God’s love, we are motivated to serve God and others, not out of a sense of duty, but out of the overflowing love and joy within our hearts. Our works will no longer weary us; rather we will be able to accomplish all things with a joy and lightness in our spirits. “For My yoke is easy and my burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls.”
How can we experience this love of God? Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that they might know the Father better. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17 NIV).
This should be our prayer too. Let us pray each day, and as often as we remember that we – and others – may be given new insights into the fatherhood of God, and His amazing love for us. Let us pray in faith, with thanksgiving, being confident that we will receive a greater understanding of God’s love and be transformed accordingly. For it is truly the love of God which overcomes the power of sin within us.
As we pray that our minds will receive and be transformed by the divine outpouring of God’s love, we should be careful to do 2 things, in order to retain and grow in the knowledge of His love.
First, we must prepare ourselves – as St Francis of Assisi prayed – to be channels of His love. Be determined to share something of God’s overflowing love with everyone we meet. We must aim to do a little each day, never over-exerting ourselves in this regard. A smile, a kind word and a non judgmental attitude can be a blessing to others. For example, when a co-worker is flippant about their work or does something that irritates us, we must actively resist the critical and unkind thoughts which rise in our minds; and as far as possible, find pleasant ways to resolve problems and set situations right.
Second, we need to activate faith, to keep our channels from getting leaky. Just as we access God’s love through faith, so we must use faith to remain in God’s love. Something as precious and life changing as the springs of God’s love, flowing out of our beings, to nourish the thirsty souls around, inevitably, becomes a target of enemy attack. The devil knows, even better than we do, that if he could diminish our confidence in God’s love, the springs could be stopped, and we would be rendered powerless as Christians.
When trials and difficulties come our way, the enemy aims his darts – negative and discouraging thoughts – to crush our spirits. Sometimes these darts are sent singly, but at other times in a torrent, that we hardly know how to stand. We begin to lose sight of God’s love and care. Our thoughts go awry, and we are tempted to linger on the thoughts which the enemy flashes before our minds; thoughts such as ‘God does not love you’, ‘He does not care about your happiness’, ‘He is angry with you’ or ‘He has rejected you because of your sins’.
When we are thus attacked, we must lift up the shield of faith, and consciously reject every negative thought. We must resist them, saying aloud with our lips, “I will not accept this idea or thought, for it contradicts the word of God. God’s word says I am loved, cared for, protected and forgiven; and this is what I choose to believe.” Faith forms a shield around our hearts and minds. We must confess scripture verses, for God’s word is the sword to fight the enemy (Ephesians 6:16-17). We overcome the devil by the word of our testimony (Revelations 12:11).
Finally, love, not fear, is the true guardian of our Christian character. Perfect love casts out fear. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith… we rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance… character… hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit…” Romans 5:1-5 HCSB
Father, grant us a revelation of Your love. Help us to remain in Your love, and share this love with all those around us. May the power of Your love transform our character, so that we may become true witnesses of the cross of Jesus.