John 13:35 tells us that one of the ways other people can tell if we are “Christians” or not is if we are sharing God’s Agape Love...
By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have Love (Agape) one to another.
Agape is the supernatural Love of God that is poured into our hearts the moment we invite Christ to take control of our lives. It’s God Himself who comes into our hearts at that moment. He is that Love! (1 John 4:7-8) This personal Love is what makes Christianity so totally different from all the other religions in the world. Christianity is the only religion where God Himself (who is Agape Love) comes to dwell within each of our hearts.
If we are believers and God’s Love dwells in our hearts, one of the questions we must then ask ourselves is: how does that Love show itself in our lives? Does it flow automatically from our hearts out into our lives? Does it come out on its own? Is it produced involuntarily? No way! Romans 14:23 tells us that anything that is “not of faith” will quench God’s Spirit of Love in our hearts and prevent it flowing out into our lives.
What is it, then, that “we” must do in order to release God’s Love? The answer is: learn to love (agapao) Him with all our heart, soul and mind. (Matthew 22:37)
What does loving God really mean? According to the Bible, loving God means totally surrendering ourselves to Him—“with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind.” The Greek word for the verb love in this Scripture is agapao, which means “to totally give ourselves over to something.” Agapao is not just an emotional feeling, but what we relinquish our lives to. It’s what we put ï¬rst in our lives. Agapao means a total commitment of our wills and our lives to something.
Now, if I asked you, “Do you love God”? most of you would automatically say, “Yes, of course I do!” But if you are really honest with yourself, how often do you seek to put His will and His desires above your own? How often are you consumed with what He wants for your life and not what you want out of life?
Can you honestly say that you desire God’s will above your own happiness?
This question puts it right into perspective, doesn’t it? People everywhere are seeking happiness and contentment as their ultimate goal. Is this your goal? Or is it to set yourself aside and love God?
Loving God means no longer living for ourselves. Loving Him is a demonstration of complete selï¬‚essness. Our motive in surrendering ourselves to Him and in doing acts of kindness for others is not to earn His approval or earn our way to heaven, but simply because we want to please Him. This entails continually setting aside our own thoughts, emotions and desires, and doing what He wants.
A Beautiful Example
Let me share with you a beautiful example of this: Many years ago, I met a woman who was in a terrible marital situation. She was totally convinced, however, that God wanted her to stay in her marriage in spite of the circumstances. Her husband no longer loved her and he had told her so in every way possible. When she related some of the appalling things he had done to her, I was absolutely shocked. (Now none of these things were sexually deviant, evil or weird in any way, but just plain mean.)
I remember thinking to myself, “How could anyone be expected to stay and withstand such cruel behavior”? Her husband had simply tired of her, wanted her out of his life and was pushing her to file for divorce first (it was financially more advantageous to him if she did so). He was thus doing everything he could to make her life miserable.
Certainly she would have been much happier out of the house and away from her tormentor. Yet, she knew that God had not given her permission to leave. And she was more concerned about doing God’s perfect will than her own momentary happiness.I’ll never forget her, because I too (at the time) was in a difficult marriage, but I had never experienced the things that were happening to her. She made such a big impression on my life.
I happened to run into her years later at a party, and she ran up to me with incredibly wonderful news. God had totally changed her husband’s heart. He had repented, truly asked her forgiveness and was now doing everything he could to make things up to her. God had restored their mutual love and had healed their marriage. I am convinced that the “miracle” was due to her selfless, yet God pleasing, attitude—she was more concerned about doing His will than doing what she knew would bring her momentary happiness.
This is what it means to love (agapao) God. (Before you jump to the conclusion that God’s Love is a “doormat” kind of Love, be sure and read my article from last month, “The Fruit of the Spirit is Love.”)Also, keep in mind that the Greek verb agapao can have a negative connotation. In other words, we can agapao—totally give ourselves over to—bad things like “darkness” (John 3:19); “the praise of men” (John 12:43); “this present world,” as well as “good things like loving God and others. So don’t confuse the verb agapao with the noun Agape, because they mean totally different things. Agapao is what we totally commit ourselves to and what we surrender our lives to, which can be good or bad. Whereas Agape is the supernatural, one-sided, other-centered, and unconditional Love of God. Agape never has a negative usage in Scripture, so don’t confuse the noun Agape (God’s Love) with the verb agapao (what we give ourselves over to).
The Bible gives incredible promises to those who love God. For example:
Hearken My beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world [the humble, the receptive and the yielded] to be rich in faith, to be heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him.
This Scripture is saying that if we love God—if we totally give ourselves over to Him—then He promises to make us heirs of His future kingdom. What a glorious promise! (If you are interested in learning more about loving God and loving others, I might recommend our book The Way of Agape.)
The Greatest Commandment of All
So, loving God and loving others is God’s supreme will (Mark 12:30–31). Even in the Old Testament it says:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the ï¬rst commandment. And the second is this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
Deuteronomy 6:4–5; Leviticus 19:18
The Bible is virtually summed up in these two commandments. And God promises that those who actually live and keep these two commandments will be the ones who needn’t worry about the upcoming Judgment Seat of Christ where our future reward of inheritance will be given out. 1 John 4:17 tells us as much: “Herein is our Love made perfect (complete), that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world.”
In other words, loving God produces the “fruit of the Spirit” (Agape) and that is what we will be judged on at the Bema Seat. Some of the questions that Christ might ask us at the Bema Seat are:
• “I gave you My Love at your new birth, what did you do with it?”
• “Did you love Me?”
• “Did you love others as I told you to?”
• “Did you multiply My Love or did you bury it like the unproï¬table servant?”
• “Was I your life? Or was I just your crutch?”
Think about how you might answer these questions.
Believers in Christ really have two lives: One is called our “self-life,” which is made up of our own natural thoughts, emotions, and desires. It’s the “old man.” The other life we enjoy as believers is called “God’s Life,” which is made up of His supernatural Love, wisdom, and power.
In order for God’s Life to come forth from our hearts, however, we must continually choose to “put off” our sin and self, and give ourselves over to Him; i.e., become a clean and open vessel. Then, we’ll not only personally experience His Love, but also be that vessel carrying His Love to others. When we don’t choose to do this, Matthew 24:12 tells us, His “Love will grow cold in our lives.” This, of course, will then affect our place, our position, and our status in the coming kingdom. The Bible, therefore, can really be summed up in three little words: Learn to love.
To be continued next month: “God’s Dunamis Power.” This article has been excerpted, in part, from Chuck and Nan’s book, The Kingdom, Power and Glory.