In scripture, God lays out His system of love. He gives us a clear pattern to follow. We have referenced this same passage form the Bible several times throughout the previous chapters, so it’s probably becoming pretty familiar. As recorded in Mark 12: 28-31 (NIV), Jesus was asked what He considered the most important commandment in the entire Bible:
“‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’”Mark 12:28-31 NIV
Above everyone and everything else, we are to pursue a growing agape relationship with God, through His son Jesus Christ. This means we must put Him first and seek Him most.
Second, our connectedness to Jesus’ agape love will flow through us like a spring of living water. In John 4:14 (NIV), Jesus assured the woman at the well that, “Everyone who drinks this water (the type of love that life on this earth offers them) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them (the agape love of Christ) will never thirst. In fact, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” We can’t give away something we don’t possess!
Third, we are to allow the agape love within us to flow naturally from us to others. If we are truly filled with the unconditional, agape love of Jesus, sharing it with others won’t be what we do, but rather a reflection of who we are.
Loving God First
Receiving love without paying a cost is something some of us have a difficult time comprehending. We may believe love is something to work for or earn, much like a job with a paycheck. If we believe God requires us to do special things to earn love from Him, we become “performance based.” We will be prone to thinking “God is mad at me,” or “I’m reaping what I’ve sowed.”
If we measure ourselves by His laws rather than by His grace, we will always see ourselves as failures. But the problem goes even deeper. When we are in a performance mode with God, our actions and behaviors try to win His approval to make ourselves feel acceptable. We don’t give Him what He truly desires, which is our burdens, pain, and sin. Instead, we are too busy trying to make ourselves worthy of Him. Trying to earn His love would be like insisting on paying a dear friend for the birthday present they gave you. The reason this cycle of behavior is so dangerous is that God’s love doesn’t rest on our efforts or attempts to be acceptable. It isn’t what we do that makes us worthy in His sight. It’s what He did for us!
True restoration only happens when we embrace, understand, and allow God’s love to flow through us. Our best efforts to produce anything close to agape will always fall short. Remember, true love – agape – is a resource of the Holy Spirit, and we can access it only through a relationship with Him.
The Nature of God’s Love
Here are some of the wonderful characteristics of God’s love:
- Based on grace. It is a free gift that we cannot earn and don’t deserve (see Ephesians 2: 8-9).
- Based on choice. He doesn’t demand or force us to love Him or to receive His love (see James 1:15; Deuteronomy 30:19; Matthew 6:24).
- Given out of true sacrifice. It cost Him dearly to show His love to us (see John 10:11, 15-18; John 15:13, 3:16; 1 John 3:16).
- Is unconditional. There is nothing you can do to take it away or change it (see 1 John 4:7-10; Romans 8:38-39).
- Seeks our admission of sin so He can forgive and restore areas of our lives (see Luke 16:15; Matthew 23:25-28; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 10:3).
- Desires intimacy with the “real you,” not a false, counterfeit version (see Psalm 139; Isaiah 43:4; 1 John 4:18).
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