Thursday, January 14, 2010

Love, The Identity of God - Part 2

* Make sure you read Part 1 below first.

Like Father, Like Son (and Daughter)

I think that there's something quite revelatory below the surface within the seemingly simple statement that God is love. Many "good" people, especially many "good" Christians attempt to love and serve out of their own strength and abilities. I know I used to. It produced limited, often temporary results, but I had no understanding that God is love. Love is not just an action that He performs, it is Who He is. To further explain my point, I believe this is how we, as ones that are born from above, ought to be defined. It should not be about our "doing", but our "being". God does not just love, as an action, He is love – it is His identity. We see His attributes of love because it is Who He is. You could say that when we allow ourselves to become love, in Him as He is love, we can obviously be found loving correctly, effectively, eternally. I believe we ought to adopt this as our character as well as it seems to me that this is the deeper truth of loving as God would desire. To simplify a bit further, if I am made in God's image, have been made a new creation, Christ lives within me and it's no longer I that live, then should I not strive to "be" love as one who chooses to be an Ambassador for Christ? I don't just want to be a good, loving Christian, I want to be a tangible, flesh and bone temple of God, who is defined by love!

I challenge you to see love as an identity, not just as an action.

I'd like to encourage you to stop and read 2 Peter 1:5-7. (Seriously, please stop and read the passage.) Within it we see that there is a process set before us. One step builds upon another. After Peter speaks of these building blocks of Christian growth, he states "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing" they will enable you to be useful and fruitful in knowing Jesus Christ. Interestingly, the last of these incremental steps of knowing Christ – the ceiling if you will of knowing Him - is walking in agape love. It is the absolute peak, the perfected, completeness of the love that is God. Oh how I long to daily dwell in this level of knowing my Saviour!

Enabled By and Enamored With Love

God, through Christ, has enabled us to love the best way – His way. This is so much more than human compassion or emotion that many a man possesses. The world's definition of love is far different than this agape love that we're discussing. We "love" baseball or we "love" pizza. Even the love often shared between married couples is non-committal and wavering. I think it's imperative that we properly and more importantly, biblically, clarify this love that is God. It is not an emotion or a feeling. This perfect, complete love that casts out fear, frees us and makes it possible for us to love at a much deeper, spiritual level (agape) than what this world knows love to be.

Before we see that God is love in 1 John 4:8, we read that "The one who does not love does not know God". To look at this another way, one could say that the one who does not know God does not love. This begs the question, can one biblically love another on this agape love level without knowing God? I think not - not according to Scripture. I believe it is only possible for one who knows the love that is God to be enabled to love as He loves. It is simply unattainable from any other source! No "love language" book can reveal it to you. No psychiatrist can help you discover it buried within your inner self. God alone is the Source of this deep, unwavering, unconditional love! Honestly, I believe that very, very few daily walk in this level of love. I know that I don't. But the ability to is within me as the Spirit of God indwells me and desires for me to attain this depth of love.

Perfect love is entirely found within Him, for He is love. It's not just one of His good qualities, everything else that He does flows from Who He is – He is love. So I ask you, do you truly know this God that is love? How does one even determine such a position? Well, what motivates you to serve Him? What motivates you to serve others? Is it love or is it duty? Is it to satisfy your self-worth assessment? Is it obligation because it's what God wants you to do and you don't want Him to be angry if you mess it all up? When you give or serve, do you expect or need anything in return, like recognition? Or are you compelled to love because of His great love for you? When you see yourself, do you see a failure, undeserving of this God that is love? Or do you dare to believe that He loves you so much that He deems you as valuable and worthy of Himself, ultimately of love? He is love. It's time we understand this simple biblical truth and walk according to its reality.

Many speak of knowing His wrath, His judgment, His laws and His anger – living as fearful children more concerned with disappointing Him than knowing Him. On the flipside, others say they know His blessing, His favor and His desire to bring them prosperity – so fixated on His hand that they never seek His face. But do you know that He is love? Do you intimately know this One Who is love? The One True God that holds everything in His powerful hands. Do you understand what we just looked at regarding the agape love that is God being the catalyst that allows us to know Christ at the deepest level? This is not some one-hour, topical study type of subject. This is something to ponder and to meditate on for the rest of our days as we become conformed into the image of Christ. I'd urge you to take some generous time to study 2 Peter, chapter 1. Do some word studies on the incredible attributes that Peter encouraged us to be building in our lives. See what we need to be busy about doing that will enable us to agape-level love and to, ultimately, attain the knowledge of The Christ. My friend, I urge you today, lay everything else down and seek with all that's within you to intimately know God, for God - my God, my Abba Father - He is love.


Shawn said...

You stated - It should not be about our "doing", but our "being". God does not just love, as an action, He is love – it is His identity.

What a statement! We're taught our whole Christian lives to do do do yet noone ever seemed to teach me how to really know the love of God first. I think you're onto something here.

Joel Spencer said...

Shawn: The way I've come to view it is, until I learn to be like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus, enamored with Him above all else, I have no business trying to accomplish anything on His behalf.

The Christian majority says, with their actions, serve first, and address your spiritual maturity later, if there's time left. Salvation has been belittled into a ticket for church membership instead of a life-altering regeneration.

God's perfect love (agape) is what I want to define me, and when it does the actions of love will (super)naturally follow.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Hi Joel,

Great post. How are you doing? Are you enjoying the love that God has shown to you? Praise the Lord!!!

Joel, love has been a topic that has been overpreached in my estimation, and we still don't get it. I think what is missing is that we have pigeon-holed love into only one type of love - agape. From the Greek I see that agape means "affection" or "benevolence" therefore to me, agape forms the BASIS for all the other types of love, such as agapao (moral/social love), phileo (brotherly love/affection) and eros (sexual love).

When we start to acknowledge love in its fullness and not create artificial distinctions, then we will truly understand God's love in its fullness, and be able to live in love, and not just talk about it.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Here is how I break it down.

For strangers and acquaintances we show - agape and agapao love

For friends and family we show - agape, phileo, and agapao love

In our marriages we show - agape, phileo, agapao, and eros love.

I hope this helps :-)

Anonymous said...

Jesus only said what He was told and did what He was told by the Father - if we are to be like Jesus then that demands we have an intimate relationship with the God who is Love. And yes, I believe I know this God :)

Blessings to you both - Susan

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Just to clarify my statements so others don't get the wrong impression. We have one Love which is agape, from which all other types of love are derived - agapao, phileo, and eros. How we express agape is dependent on the type of relationship we are in with others. All these other forms of love are expressions of agape love. Therefore,

To strangers and acquaintances we show agapao, love

To friends and family we show agapao and phileo love

To our marriage partner we show agapao, phileo, and eros love.


Joel Spencer said...

Susan: Without the perfect love of God, even our best efforts will always fall short. I desire the greater above the good.

Daughter: Thanks for sharing. I personally believe, because of the wording of the texts that use "agape" specifically, that is is the "best" love - it is God's perfect, sacrifical love.

I believe that all other levels of love are completely found within this one love. In other words, to simplify, if I can walk in agape love, all others (as you mentioned) will also be a part of my identity. As always, thanks for your input.

Daniel said...

I'm new here and I'd not thought of the "greater" love of God like this before. He actually IS love!!!!! This is so much deeper than "Jesus loves me" you know. He doesn't just love me, He is made up of love. This is just awesome!!!! (I'm going to email you privately and ask you something, be looking for it, ok?)

Joel Spencer said...

Daniel: OK, I'll respond when I get it. Welcome!