Last month we learned that Gods will for all believers is that we be conformed into His image by the process of sanctification (Romans 8:29). God wants to reproduce His Life in us so that others might come to salvation. But, we found that to allow God to conform us into His likeness, we must first be able to unconditionally trust Him. Trust, we said, incorporates many things - from knowing what His will is to literally walking it out. Trust doesnt just ''happen''; its a learned experience. We talked about eight principles that make up what we call Gods cycle of trust. Each of these principles, we said, defines some aspect of trusting Him and each one builds upon the last.
The first principle, then, in the Lords cycle of trust is knowing His will: knowing that He wants us conformed to His likeness. The second principle in this cycle, which we want to discuss this month, is knowing that God unconditionally loves us. Simply put, we cannot lay our wills and our lives down to someone and trust them (even God), if were not convinced that they love us. Let me give you an example:
Years ago, when I first began teaching The Way of Agape, I focused on the first two commandments. ''Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind...and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'' (Matthew 22:37-39)
But, after several years of seeing the reactions of the women in those first classes, I realized there was no way they could ever learn to love God with all their heart, soul and mind until they first knew that He loved them. In other words, it was impossible for them to lay their wills and their lives down to Him until they knew, without a doubt, that He loved them. Until then, they just couldnt trust Him enough. Thus its imperative that we know God loves us before we can learn to obey Him, love Him, renew our minds or walk by faith. If we intimately know His Love, then well have the confidence to unconditionally surrender our lives in every area and move forward in our Christian walk.
Knowing God loves us is the foundation upon which our whole spiritual house must be built. Only then will we be able to unilaterally trust Him, no matter how difficult our situations become. Once we know He loves us, we can then move forward and respond to our trials the way He desires.
The Bible tells us that, ''We love Him, [simply] because He first loved us.'' (1 John 4:19)
The procedure goes something like this: 1) If we personally know that God loves us; 2) well have the confidence and the trust to lay our wills and our lives down before Him (i.e., become cleansed vessels); 3) And, because we are clean, well not only experience His Love personally, but also His Love through us to others; 4) And this, of course, gives us our meaning and purpose in life.
If however, 1) we doubt Gods Love for us, then 2) we wont have the confidence or the trust to lay our wills and our lives down to Him (i.e., well be a clogged vessel), and 3) because His Spirit is quenched in us, it will limit our experiencing His Love, both personally and for others, which 4) of course, will affect our purpose and meaning in life.
There is a huge difference between God loving us and His being well pleased with us. He loved us even before we became believers - even when we were ''dead in sin'' - but He was not pleased with us. He becomes pleased with us when we trust, obey and follow Him. Many people often confuse these two terms and constantly try to earn His Love. This is not what is required of us. We must serve Him totally out of a pure heart of love, not one trying to earn His Love.
An Example: ''I Want Out!''
Heres a perfect example: Sandy was a young Christian girl in her late twenties who attended a retreat in Northern California where I spoke. She had had a very hard life and a very troubled background: drugs, alcohol, homosexuality and abuse.
When Sandy came up to the retreat, she had told God, ''This is it. I cant go on anymore.'' She had become so despondent and so disillusioned with her life, her friends, her church and her family, that she decided if God didnt really love her, she wanted ''out.'' She was giving up! Sandy begged God, ''You have to show me this weekend that You really love me.'' She told Him that if she didnt see or hear anything by Sunday, she was going to take matters into her own hands.
Saturday evening we had communion. Sandy, by this time, was totally despondent. In desperation she told God she was going to refuse to take the communion cup until He somehow showed her that He loved her. Now, in general, its not a good idea to give God an ultimatum like this. Its not Scriptural to do so. But God knew Sandys heart and the desperate state that she was in.
After everyone had taken communion and left, Sandy moved up to the front, quietly knelt down at the communion table, folded her arms and lowered her head. She was determined to stay there until somehow she felt Gods Love.
After she had knelt there for almost an hour, the doors in the back of the L-shaped auditorium opened and someone came in. Sandy couldnt see around the corner as to who it was. The person quietly moved over to the fireplace and began to sing in the Spirit.1 Sandy later told us that this person ''sang like an angel.''
Sandy kept her head on the communion table for at least a half hour more, while the singing continued. Finally, she couldnt stand it any longer and came around the corner towards the fireplace to see who was there. The young girl singing seemed startled at first but then, in an very authoritative voice, told Sandy: ''Sit down, God has sent me to you.'' In shock, Sandy sat down and the two of them began to share.
The Lord had laid Sandy heavily upon Marys heart all weekend, but because she was a relatively new believer and Sandy was quite intimidating, she had kept her distance. In fact, she was a little frightened of Sandy. After Saturday nights communion, Mary had gone to bed. She was almost asleep when she felt God directing her to get up and go minister to ''someone in the main sanctuary who needed Him.'' Never dreaming it was Sandy, Mary, at first rolled over and tried to ignore the Holy Spirits prompting, but when no peace would come she finally got up, put on her robe and obeyed.
When Mary arrived in the auditorium she saw no one. But the Lord made her stay, wait and sing. When she saw Sandy coming around the corner, she was scared. She never dreamed it would be her! But Mary immediately gave her fears over to the Lord and He calmly told her what to say. The two young women shared all night long, crying, hugging and laughing together. God had, in His marvelous way, shown Sandy the extent of His Love for her. And He used a precious new believer to do so.
The next morning, both girls got up in front of the entire womens conference and shared what had happened. There wasnt a dry eye in the entire auditorium! I will never forget this wonderful example of the extent to which God will go to show us His Love.
Can We Prove God Loves Us?
So knowing God loves us is critical. Here are four of the many ways that we can prove God, does indeed, love us:
- First, we can prove God loves us because He says so in His Word. Some Scriptures you might want to look up are: Jeremiah 31:3; Isaiah 43:4; 1 John 3:1; and, Psalm 18:4-6, 9, 16-19.
If you have difficulty really believing and intimately experiencing Gods Love in your own life, you might want to pick up the book The Way of Agape and see the supplement, Knowing God Loves Me, on page 351. Make up 3x5 cards with all the Scriptures noted there on how much God loves you. Keep these cards with you at all times - in your car, in your purse, on the mirror in the bathroom, etc. Then when doubt and unbelief overcome you, whip out those cards, confess your doubts and fears to the Lord, and then choose by faith - not feelings - to believe what God says. In His timing, God will align your feelings with those choices.
A second way we can prove that God loves us is that He sent His Son to die so that we might have life. Jesus, Gods Son, came in human flesh to take away our sins and to reconcile us to the Father. As 1 John 3:16 states, By this we know Love, because He laid down His life for us. And, 1 John 4:10 also tells us that He was our substitute offering. He died in our place, so that we could be free from sins penalty. The Bible tells us that there is no greater love than when a man lays down his life for his friends - exactly what Jesus did for us.
Thirdly, we can prove God loves us because He has sent His Holy Spirit to guide us, comfort us and equip us. When we are born again, Gods Spirit unites with our human spirit and we become a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Gods Spirit is like the down payment or the guarantee that His promises are true and trustworthy.
And, finally We can prove God loves us because He has given us His abundant life: John 10:10 tells us that He came not only to give us life, but to give it to us abundantly! Abundant life means that His Life - His supernatural Love, wisdom and power - in our hearts can become our life in our souls if we are cleansed vessels. John 3:16 tells us that we are simply partakers of His life. Abundant life simply means experiencing His life in place of our own. His Love becomes our love, His wisdom our wisdom and His power, our ability. Nothing in the entire world will convince us more that He loves us than this.
Gods Love, then, is our foundation, our building pad and the rock upon which we build our whole spiritual house. Without this foundation our lives would crumble. Hope in His Love is what gives us faith to see beyond the near term, beyond the current situation, beyond the problems and look to Christ for our final victory. If we really knew how much God loves us, there would never be any reason to fear what He might allow into our lives. Knowing God loves us is the second principle in the Lords cycle of trust.
To be continued next month: Obediently Choosing to do Gods Will. This article has been excerpted in part from Nans new book, Never Give Up: The Fruit of Longsuffering.