Sunday, July 25, 2010

Oh How Natural It Is

This is an article I wrote in January 2009 that is the basis for the class I taught this morning.  It is Part 3 of a three part series, entitled Understanding the Father's Love.  Click on the links, within the article, to read Parts 1 and 2.  

Our Response
Oh How Natural It Is
©By Debbie Guinn 
"We love because He first loved us.”
1 John 4:19

Last January—January 6, 2008, to be exact—our pastor preached a sermon that has continued to make an impact on my life, even today.  This sermon, titled “Resolutions to Remember” was not your ordinary new year’s resolution pep talk.  It was taken from Matthew 22:34-40 and he challenged us with two resolutions that we not only should make but also showed us how those were resolutions that we could keep all year long…and longer. 

In Matthew 22:37, Jesus tells the Pharisees that the greatest commandment in the law is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Our number one resolution should be to love God with all of who we are…with every single fiber of our being.  Our pastor explained how we often try to put God as our top priority, placing family, friends, careers, etc. in a priority list under Him.  However, that doesn’t work because we often end up separating God out from those other things.  He explained that loving God should be our defining priority—like the center of a wheel—with all of the other things in our lives stemming out from Him (like spokes).  When loving Him is our defining priority, it will influence every other relationship and commitment we have in our life.

Jesus goes on in Matthew 22:39 to say that the second greatest commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Many people have used this verse to say that Jesus is telling us we need to love ourselves before we can love others.  However, that isn’t what Jesus is saying.  He was talking to the Pharisees who had no problem loving themselves; they thought quite highly of themselves already.  Jesus is saying that we are to love others in the exact same way that we love ourselves…to elevate others to the same level we value ourselves. 

Notice that verse 40 says “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  Think about that for a minute.  If I steal, bear false witness (lie), commit adultery, dishonor my parents, covet, etc., my attitude is in a place that says I am of more value than you.  Do you see how all these commandments are summed up under this one?  The Pharisees had created hundreds of laws but all of the God given laws go back to these two commandments right here.

I am constantly amazed at God’s perfect timing.  I have longed to finish the series I started back in June on Understanding the Father’s Love.  Month after month, I have sat down and tried to write this third segment but God has redirected me to another topic.  Today, however, I see how perfect His timing is as I remember just how much He taught me in this very area one year ago today when He convicted and challenged me in my own heart to respond to His love for me by loving in return.

Understanding my Father’s love has been a step by step process for me…one where each step has built on the other. Since it has been so long since I’ve written on this subject, I do want to do just a brief review of what I’ve talked about already.  The first step for me was to fully understand that father/child relationship with my Father…to see myself as a Daddy’s girl.  To read more about this, check out the June article, Daddy’s Girl.  Once, I clearly established that relationship, I began to understand more of the width and length, height and depth of Christ’s love. As I did, I found that I was able to trust God more and more with my life…finding that His love for me was perfect and perfect love does indeed cast out all fear.  My July article, Freedom from Fear, talked about the incredible freedom from fear that I have found as I have learned to trust His perfect love for me.

That brings us to this article.  As I began experiencing freedom from fear, that freedom went far beyond the basic fears of something terrible happening to one of my children, financial ruin, etc.  I also found myself free from other fears such as the fear to love.  I opened my heart to God’s love, trusting in His perfect love, and discovered I was no longer afraid to love…to love not only God but others as well.  So, how could understanding my Father’s love for me enable me to love others without fear?

I didn’t exactly jump from understanding God’s love for me to being able to love others.  It began with loving Him, first and foremost.  Loving God actually came somewhat easily once I understood just how much He loved me.  It really isn’t hard to love those we know truly love us; it just seems to come naturally once that trust is developed.  When we know we are loved by a parent, spouse, or friend, our natural response is to love them in return.  It is the same with God.  The more I comprehended just how deeply God loved me, the more in love with Him I became.

Last January 6th, I made a commitment to God to make loving Him my defining priority. That sermon made so much sense to me.  I had tried for years to make Him my top priority and always failed because I never knew how to find time for all the other important things in life without setting Him aside.  When I heard that simple concept of making Him the defining priority, rather than the top priority, it all made sense.  My constant prayer this year has been that loving Him would be at the center, influencing every single thing that I do.

As I began to really focus on loving God, I noticed a connection between loving Him and being loved by Him.  I so wanted to love Him with every ounce of my being, not because I was commanded to but because the more I understood how much He loved me, the more I wanted to love Him in return.  It was just this natural sense of wanting—a yearning with all that was within me—to love Him in return.  I didn’t need a command to make me love Him…I longed to love Him.  1 John 4:19—“ We love because he loved us first.”—took on new meaning for me.

I am able to love, not only God but others as well, because He loved me first.  It is His love for me that enables me to love.  1 John 4:7-8 begins with a command to love one another.  However, it explains that love comes from God. I must first know God and be born of Him in order to love; I cannot love, if I do not know God because God IS love. As I learn to accept, receive and trust His love then I am free to love in return…and oh how wonderful that freedom is!

It doesn’t end there, though. 1 John 4:11-12 says “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”.  The word we get “complete” from in the Greek means "to bring to an end by completing or perfecting; to add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full.”  It is in loving others that God’s love comes full circle so to speak.  All emptiness and longing to be loved is made full—is perfected and made complete—when I love others out of His love for me.

I am able to love because He loved me first. The more I understand God’s unfathomable love for me, the more I find it impossible to keep that love to myself. I am free to love and long to love God with all of my heart, soul and mind and to love others as myself. As I do so, the deep longing that I’ve always had to be loved is being filled to overflowing with the most perfect love imaginable…the love of my Father.

I challenge you to make loving the Lord your God with all or who you are your defining priority this year…your Number One Resolution. My second challenge is that loving your neighbor as yourself—placing the same value on others as you do yourself—will be your Number Two Resolution. If you can’t do those two things, then I pray that you will ask the Father to help you understand his love for you. (My two previous articles on Understanding the Father’s Love—Daddy’s Girl and Freedom from Fear—might help.)

May you Press in to Him in 2009!

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