LOVE

1 Jn.4:8 – Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The simplest truths in the Bible actually open up bottomless oceans of revelation. To put it bluntly, it is impossible to understand the One who is eternal. Take the last part of today’s verse for example, “God is love”. Now the natural man may think that love is God in some metaphysical way but that is not the case. Love that originates from a human is created and limited at best. Others may take this to mean that God will overlook our sins and accept us like we are. That is only partially true. He doesn’t overlook our sins He cleanses them by the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. Being holy He cannot overlook sin, He had to deal with it. That was the whole point of Calvary. So what is this God is love thing? The Lord loves His uncreated Son. He has loved Him from eternity. This love between the Father and the Son is actually so profound that it is actually a person, the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus is the Word of God the Holy Spirit is the love of God. Here are some thoughts from Dane Ortlund describing Jonathan Edwards view on the love of God.

“For Jonathan Edwards, the fountain for all Christian loving is the love of God himself. This love has existed within the Godhead from all eternity, ultimately spilling out in the divine act of creation, an act that filled no need on God’s part but was simply the natural overflow of God’s own joyous intratrinitarian refulgence….. Reflecting on the two places in 1 John where we are told that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), Edwards argues that this assertion “shows that there are more persons than one in the Deity: for it shows love to be essential and necessary to the Deity, so that his nature consists in it.” Love is who God is. For God to love is for God to be God. “The very nature of God is love. If it should be enquired what God is, it might be answered that he is an infinite and incomprehensible fountain of love.”

God loves His Son. How does that impact me? If I am a purchased son of God, Christ is in me and I am in Him. The love that the Father has for His only Son is now focused directly on me. This love is beyond imagination. This is that bottomless ocean.

TEST THE SPIRITS

1John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Most people judge a church service by the way things appear on the outside. They like a certain type of music, a certain length of service, and of course the right emphasis (according to them) in the preaching. Some people will judge a service based on people crying out, clapping, dancing, or jumping in a service. Our church has been criticized because many people fall under the power or make noises in the services. The problem with all these observations is just that; they are just observations. Outward manifestations are no indication of what is actually happening in someone’s heart. Jonathan Edwards dealt with these issues during the Great Awakening. He actually wrote a book that would help in understanding some of the outward things going on. One of his points was that we should judge not by what we see on the outside but if the individual in question is actually changing and coming out from worldly influence. Here is how Edwards said it.

“And therefore if we see persons made sensible of the dreadful nature of sin, and of the displeasure of God against it, and of their own miserable condition as they are in themselves, by reason of sin, and earnestly concerned for their eternal salvation, and sensible of their need of God’s pity and help, and engaged to seek it in the use of the means that God has appointed, we may certainly conclude that it is from the Spirit of God, whatever effects this concern has on their bodies; though it causes them to cry out aloud, or to shriek, or to faint, or though it throws them into convulsions, or whatever other way the blood and spirits are moved.

The influence of the Spirit of God is yet more abundantly manifest, if persons have their hearts drawn off from the world, and weaned from the objects of their worldly lusts, and taken off from worldly pursuits, by the sense they have of the excellency of divine things, and the affection they have to those spiritual enjoyments of another world, that are promised in the Gospel.”

At the end of the day its not noises or lack of noises that determine whether a service is spiritual. What we should look at are the results. Are the individuals involved becoming more Christlike? Are they reading their Bibles and are they excited about spiritual things? Be careful what you judge, you may be judging the very work of God.

THE ETERNAL DANCE

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1John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Have you ever thought about John’s description of God, “God is love”? Many would think that this really means love is God or the new age thought that this love, or God, is in all mankind. Not! God is love is not anything like love is God. God’s love is eternal, no beginning and no end. God has always been love. If God has always been love who did He love before creation? His Son of course. This love the Father has for the Son is unique, it is actually more than an emotion or a feeling. The Father’s love for His Son is actually so unique that His love is a person, the Holy Spirit. That is why John said, “God is love”. Here are some thoughts by C.S. Lewis on the love of God.
“And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions: that in Christianity God is not a static thing—not even a person—but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance. The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person. I know this is almost inconceivable, but look at it thus. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trade union, people talk about the ‘spirit’ of that family, or club, or trade union. They talk about its ‘spirit’ because the individual members, when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they would not have if they were apart.* It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course, it is not a real person: it is only rather like a person. But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the the Father and Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three Persons who are God.”
So step into the love of God. Open your heart to the Father, His only Son, and the incredible Holy Spirit. He loves you with the love He loves His Son with, it is precious and life changing. Before you know it you too will engage in God’s eternal dance.

CHANGED BY LOVE

We love because he first loved us.
1 Jn. 4:19
Religion can be quite frustrating. All of the religions of the world have major similarities, they all have some sort of worship of a deity or deities, and some sort of moral code to improve man’s conduct. All of us want to do better and inside of all of us is some sort of moral compass. Here is where the problem is, we are part of a flawed, fallen race. Something went wrong that has effected all of us. As much as we try to muster up our better selves we all fall miserably short of living a godly life. That’s where true Christianity excels and provides our only deliverance from the dilemma. The answer is in today’s short Bible verse. I can love God and live for God by His love. His love captures us and changes us at the core of our being. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this miracle
“True religion is the essential union and communion of the spirit of the creature with the Spirit of the Creator… Self-love, self-esteem, self-seeking, and living wholly to self, is part of natural man. The natural man is not capable of doing more unless he is touched by the Word of God—the Spirit and the inspiration of God—that leads him to think about God and develop heavenly desires in his spirit. No man can reach God with his love, or have union with Him by it. Only he who is inspired by the Spirit of love—the same love with which God Himself has loved from all eternity—will find God. No heavenly being can begin a new kind of love to God, or love Him, unless the Holy Spirit of love lives within him. Divine love is the only love that can draw people to God. Without the eternal Spirit of love, they have no power of believing in Him or adoring Him. Therefore, the continual inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the only possible ground for our unceasing love of God.”
So maybe you have been living in guilt or shame because of your inability to live a better life. There is hope for all of us. Look to Jesus. Turn to His love displayed for you by His death on the cross. As you do you will begin to taste the love of God as He pours His Spirit over you. It is in drinking this love that everything begins to change.

THE LOVE OF GOD

1John 4:16 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.

From the earliest days of man’s existence,from the time of our fall, our view of God has been clouded. As Paul said, “We see through a glass darkly”. Paul was talking about the clouded view of the Lord that even Christians have. For the lost, they have a veil over their eyes and their view is entirely blocked. Christ came to display, or bring into view,  the love of God. His birth, His life and ministry, His death and resurrection, and His present day heavenly ministry all display  God’s endless love. It is the influence of grace that begins to open our eyes to His matchless love. Amazing grace opens our heart to taste and see the love the Father lavishes upon us in Christ. He loves you more than you know. This love attracts us , satisfies us, sustains us, and empowers us along His amazing journey for our lives. Here are some thoughts by A.B. Simpson on God’s love for us.

“The God who wills nothing but good is a God of love. He does not seek His own. He does not live for Himself, but pours out His love on all living creatures.

The characteristic of love is that it does not seek its own. Love finds its happiness in giving to others; it sacrifices itself entirely for others. Even so, God offered Himself to people in the Person of His Son, and the Son offered Himself on the cross to bring that love to men and to win their hearts. The everlasting love with which the Father loved the Son is the same love with which the Son loves us. Christ has poured this love of God into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, so that our whole life may be permeated with its vital power.”

Jesus displayed this love when he lovingly cleansed the lepers. Love was pouring from His being as He stopped the funeral procession in Nain and put His hand on the casket. Love demanded He feed the multitudes with the little boys lunch. Against unprecedented hostility, love compelled Christ to go Jerusalem to die on the cross. Today, His love is aimed straight at you. He is touched with your troubles. Stop for a moment, think about this love of Jesus. Let His love arrest you. What He has done for others, surely He will do for you.

MATCHLESS LOVE

1John 4:16 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.

From the earliest days of man’s existence,from the time of our fall, our view of God has been clouded. As Paul said, “We see through a glass darkly”. Paul was talking about the clouded view of the Lord that even Christians have. For the lost, they have a veil over their eyes and their view is entirely blocked. Christ came to display, or bring into view,  the love of God. His birth, His life and ministry, His death and resurrection, and His present day heavenly ministry all display the God’s endless love. It is the influence of grace that begins to open our eyes to His matchless love. Amazing grace opens our heart to taste and see the love the Father lavishes upon us in Christ. He loves you more than you know. This love attracts us , satisfies us, sustains us, and empowers us along His amazing journey for our lives. Here are some thoughts by A.B. Simpson on God’s love for us.

“The God who wills nothing but good is a God of love. He does not seek His own. He does not live for Himself, but pours out His love on all living creatures.

The characteristic of love is that it does not seek its own. Love finds its happiness in giving to others; it sacrifices itself entirely for others. Even so, God offered Himself to people in the Person of His Son, and the Son offered Himself on the cross to bring that love to men and to win their hearts. The everlasting love with which the Father loved the Son is the same love with which the Son loves us. Christ has poured this love of God into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, so that our whole life may be permeated with its vital power.”

Jesus displayed this love when he lovingly cleansed the lepers. Love was pouring from His being as He stopped the funeral procession in Nain and put His hand on the casket. Love demanded He feed the multitudes with the little boys lunch. Against unprecedented hostility, love compelled Christ to go Jerusalem to die on the cross. Today, His love is aimed straight at you. He is touched with your troubles. Stop for a moment, think about this love of Jesus. Let His love arrest you. What He has done for others, surely He will do for you.

TRUE LOVE

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

We were made for love. Not just any kind of love, we were created for supernatural love. You see, that is the uniqueness of being human, we are created in God’s image. Even in our fallen state our heart still hungers for the love of God. Nothing less than that can cure us, nothing less can satisfy the longing in our souls. One of the tragedies of our fallen state is being blinded. We are blind to God and we are especially blind to His love for us. As Jesus said, “Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. Upon our awakening we taste His love for the first time. We are stunned by love by our first glimpse of the cross, we are captured by love when the Holy Spirt falls on us, Here is Charles Spurgeon on awakening to God’s love.

“True love to Christ is in every case the Holy Spirit’s work, and must be wrought in the heart by Him. He is the efficient cause of it; but the logical reason why we love Jesus lies in Himself. Why do we love Jesus? Because He first loved us. Why do we love Jesus? Because He “gave Himself for us.” We have life through His death; we have peace through His blood. Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. Why do we love Jesus? Because of the excellency of His person. We are filled with a sense of His beauty! an admiration of His charms! a consciousness of His infinite perfection! His greatness, goodness, and loveliness, in one resplendent ray, combine to enchant the soul till it is so ravished that it exclaims, “Yea, He is altogether lovely.” Blessed love this—a love which binds the heart with chains more soft than silk, and yet more firm than adamant!”

So if you heart seems a little cold and love seems a million miles away, turn your heart toward Christ. As Jonathan Edwards often said, “Put yourself in the way of spiritual allurement”. How can I do that? Easy, read the gospels again for the first time. If you are baptized in the Spirit, pray in your heavenly language (a lot). Put on worship music in your car, at home, and at work if possible. That is putting yourself in the place of allurement and as you do God’s love will fall on you in a whole new dimension.

HABITATION

We dwell in him.
1 John 4:13

Homelessness has become a plague during the past generation. What a tragedy, no one to go home to and no place to lay your head. In a sense, Christ was homeless. It was His choice. He left His habitation in heaven (I hear it was a pretty nice place) to come prepare a place for you and me. The truth is without Christ we are all homeless. We are wandering spirits, separated from our Father and His family, no place to call our home. When we are born again not only is eternity secured, life itself is secured. We are restored to our Father and to His family. We become part of His inheritance. His house becomes my house. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes our spiritual habitation.

“Will you take Jesus and dwell in him? See, this house is furnished with all you want, it is filled with riches more than you will spend as long as you live. Here you can have intimate communion with Christ and feast on his love; here are tables well-stored with food for you to live on for ever; in it, when weary, you can find rest with Jesus; and from it you can look out and see heaven itself. Will you have the house? Ah! if you are houseless, you will say, I should like to have the house; but may I have it? Yes; there is the key-the key is, Come to Jesus. But, you say, I am too shabby for such a house. Never mind; there are garments inside. If you feel guilty and condemned, come; and though the house is too good for you, Christ will make you good enough for the house by-and-by. He will wash you and cleanse you, and you will yet be able to sing, We dwell in him. Believer: thrice happy art thou to have such a dwelling-place! Greatly privileged thou art, for thou hast a strong habitation in which thou art ever safe. And dwelling in him, thou hast not only a perfect and secure house, but an everlasting one. When this world shall have melted like a dream, our house shall live, and stand more imperishable than marble, more solid than granite, self-existent as God, for it is God himself-We dwell in him.”

It’s funny, many people think they are doing pretty good. They have a nice house here on earth but if the truth were known they are homeless. Without Christ we have no eternal habitation. That is what Jesus came to restore. Just after that first last supper, Jesus told His disciples plainly, “I am going to prepare a place for you”. That’s why He came, He came to prepare our eternal habitation. This is why riches in this life are so deceptive. You can have everything this earth has to offer but from Christ’s perspective, you are a homeless person. The good news is this, He has prepared a place for you better than you could ever dream.

IS THIS REALLY GOD?

IS THIS REALLY GOD?

1John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

I remember the night I first prayed to the receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. As I suddenly became aware of God’s power in the room I became afraid. I guess my Baptist roots were rising up in me. Thoughts like “Speaking in tongues is of the devil.” And this classic lie, “That passed way with the apostles”, were going off inside my head. Then I realized that the Presence in that room was glorifying Jesus. That didn’t sound like the devil to me. I opened my heart and was overwhelmed by the beautiful glory of The Lord. That was one of the greatest blessings in my life, forty years later I am still speaking in other tongues.
Sadly, the modern day Pharisees are at it again. Recently, there was a “Strange Fire” Conference attacking the modern day moving of the Holy Spirit. In this conference the working of the Spirit was said to be the work of the devil. Jonathan Edwards dealt with the same accusations during the revival in his church. Goen in his comments in Yale’s volume on the Great Awakening shared Edwards’ points about distinguishing the work of the Spirit from the works of the devil. Check this out.

“Had Edwards stopped with merely trying to turn aside the rising doubts and criticisms, probably few would have been convinced. But he hastened on to his positive signs, five distinctive marks which would lead unerringly to a valid conclusion. People may recognize the hand of God, he argued, in a work which (1) raises their esteem of Jesus as Son of God and Savior of the world, (2) leads them to turn from their corruptions and lusts to the righteousness of God, (3) increases their regard for Holy Scripture, (4) establishes their minds in the objective truths of revealed religion, and (5) evokes genuine love for God and man. “These marks,” he affirmed confidently, “are sufficient to outweigh a thousand such little objections, as many make from oddities, irregularities, and errors in conduct, and the delusions and scandals of some professors.”

These points from Edwards’ sermon “Distinguishing Marks” still serve as good guidelines for the move of God today. If the outpouring of the Spirit confirms the deity and redemptive work of Christ it must be God. If sinners are being saved and delivered from their sinful lives it must be The Lord. If people touched by the Spirit begin to have a new love for the written word it must be legitimate. Rather than being ashamed of the power of His presence we should be bold and confident that this is New Testament Christianity. If I am not mistaken, Paul warned us about last day Pharisees. He said to avoid people who have a form of godliness but deny the power. I love my Holy Ghost church. People may make fun and mock but at the end of the day it is the real deal.

SINNERS LIKE YOU AND ME

SINNERS LIKE YOU AND ME

1John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us.

The fall of man was more devastating than most people realize. Actually, until you are born again it is hard to even begin to know the implications. All of us are born in a state of spiritual blindness. Like a man who was born physically blind, you have no understanding about light, colors, or physical beauty. Until you can see for yourself, those realities are just meaningless words. We are spiritually blind, we have no way of knowing about true love. All of our understanding of love is ultimately focused on ourselves and our own interests. It is not until the amazing love of God awakens us can we begin to know love and actually begin to live. It is Christ’s love for lost sinners, His death for the ungodly, that finally awakens us from our sleep. Charles Spurgeon explains powerfully about the effect God’s love had on us and how it drew us to salvation.

“There is no light in the planet but that which proceedeth from the sun; and there is no true love to Jesus in the heart but that which cometh from the Lord Jesus himself. From this overflowing fountain of the infinite love of God, all our love to God must spring. This must ever be a great and certain truth, that we love him for no other reason than because he first loved us. Our love to him is the fair offspring of his love to us. Cold admiration, when studying the works of God, anyone may have, but the warmth of love can only be kindled in the heart by God’s Spirit. How great the wonder that such as we should ever have been brought to love Jesus at all! How marvelous that when we had rebelled against him, he should, by a display of such amazing love, seek to draw us back. No! never should we have had a grain of love towards God unless it had been sown in us by the sweet seed of his love to us. Love, then, has for its parent the love of God shed abroad in the heart: but after it is thus divinely born, it must be divinely nourished. Love to Jesus is a flower of a delicate nature, and if it received no nourishment but that which could be drawn from the rock of our hearts it would soon wither.”

All of us awaken from are long spiritual hibernation when we hear the whispers of the Savior’s love. It wasn’t my good works, it wasn’t my own spiritual efforts, it was the amazing effect of God’s love on my sleeping soul. I can say without a doubt, “I love Him because He first loved me”. He won me over. I wasn’t sure there was a God and if there was, I was surely looking in all the wrong places. It was absolutely His electing love that awakened me and revealed His love for me displayed at the cross. Christ died to save sinners, sinners like you and me.