One question that seems to come up over and over is the question of activity. People have said to me that they want to “do things for God”, they want to be useful and they aren’t sure what He wants them to do. I’ve heard the frustration and confusion and uncertainty in the voice of people when they tell me how they feel like they are stagnating and they are searching all around for some way that they can be “used by God” and that thought and that drive consumes them, and they feel as though their life and time is being wasted doing nothing.
Let me tell you today that while I certainly understand the heart behind those feelings and the desire to do something, I must also tell you today that the answer I give to each person who expresses those feelings to me is the same… and it is a word from God that catches a lot of people off-guard.. maybe God wants you to not do anything right now, but receive His love. You see, most people are so busy looking for something to do for God, they have forgotten the real reason why they were created in the first place – to be filled with the Spirit and the fullness of God and receive His love. This is what we will be studying today.
The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16, everyone recognizes that verse; signs used to be held up by people in the crowd at sporting events with it. But do we truly understand what the verse says?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I want to focus for a moment just on the first half of this verse… For God so loved… that He gave, two very important and vital phrases. The first phrase “For God so loved the world” is an expressive phrase – it is basically saying this is how God loved the world. If you ever doubt the love of God, look no further than what He gave. So many people look at their current circumstances and life experiences as a barometer of God’s love, when in-fact His love is made manifest and clearly seen in the giving of His only begotten Son, Jesus.
Notice also that God gave… this is not a payment for services rendered, nor is this an earned reward for good behavior or works of any kind – it is a gift. Rewards are earned, Income is paid, but gifts are given. And Jesus Christ was the gift given, and God is Love. Consider 1st John 4:7-11:
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.
He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
Verse 7 says Beloved, this is key, we need to start owning the fact that we are the beloved of God. We are loved, God loves us. If you don’t grab hold of this truth first, the rest of it all falls flat. This is why the verse addresses us as beloved. A lot of people are looking for love in all of the wrong places, seeking after this and that and getting themselves into relationships all because they are looking for love; all the while not realizing that they are already loved by God who is the source of love. The vertical relationship between God and you must be connected before the horizontal connection between you and another person.
So the verse says Beloved, let us love one another. Do you see how the one comes before the other? You receive His love for you personally first, you become His beloved first, then it flows out of from you to one-another. Do you see how the love of God is to flow into you first? You receive His gift of love and then share it with others. No-one loves first, without first receiving the love of God personally for them. (1st John 4:19)
Beloved, let us love one another, then we see the reason why: For (or because) love is of God. Love comes from God, God is the source of love and if you truly have God then you have His love because they are one, they are a package deal. The rest of verse 7 and onto 8 makes this clear, however a lot of people misinterpret them and read them backwards, as if you need to love to prove that you have God – however what these verses are really saying is that those who are born of God love out of the overflow of the love which is received from God for them – or in essence if you see someone with love, it’s because they are born of God and know God… Their relationship with God is the reason for that love.
In verse 9 we read again basically the same message from John 3:16, that the sending of Jesus Christ, the gift of God for us, demonstrated the love of God for us… so we do not get our identity, self-worth or value from the daily experiences of life, but from the reality of the truth of the love of God, demonstrated in His Son.
I hear people say a lot, “if God loves me, then why did this happen”, but that’s the wrong question… If God didn’t love you then why did He send Jesus? You see we must proceed from the proper foundation, not from worldly experiences.
The rest of verse 9 tells us what the effect of Him sending His Son is… and this is so important and so vital, and most people who claim the name of Christ still have not grasped this fundamental reality… that we might live through Him. You see this is the result of receiving Jesus and and His love. You live through Him; notice that it doesn’t say you live for Jesus, but through Jesus. This is the purpose of His coming, to restore us to Himself though Himself and we live through Him because He is the very essence and source of life. We were dead in trespasses and sins, even though we were walking around and we thought of ourselves as being alive, we were dead. But when we received Christ, our old nature and all that we were in corruption and sin and death, died on that cross, and when Jesus raised again, we were raised with Him in newness of life as a new creation. That’s the very thing that you testify to when you get baptized – it’s an outward testimony of the inward spiritual reality.
However there are a lot of people who were baptized as merely a Christian ritual or tradition and they have no real understanding of being a new creation in Christ… I have had people argue with me over the fact that they don’t even believe that they have become a new creature; and I asked them why they were baptized then, what it represents, and they became enraged and stormed off.
The life that you now have and now live is through Jesus Christ. This means that you have His life, His righteousness, His holiness, His position, His authority… everything that is His is yours. You were raised with Him as One, and you are seated with Him at the right hand of God the Father. This is who you are now. If you don’t receive this truth of your position, your new nature, and your relationship with Him, then you will get caught in the trap of simply trying to live for Him, instead of living through Him, and you’ll get stressed out, worn, out frustrated and dry; you’ll get stuck merely trying to serve God out of your emptiness, and you’ll become works-minded and you will slowly become condemned in your soul – and let me tell you, that is a terrible place to be in. And it’s not the abundant life that Jesus came to give.
Take a look at verse 10, Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us. The reason this starts off with “Here is love” is because many people don’t know where to look. They don’t know where to even begin. Well, X marks the spot, and the X is the cross. That is where it starts, and that’s the place where love can be found. And love doesn’t start with you loving God… you have no love in and of yourself; but it starts with His love for you. Start there, you won’t be disappointed. Let His love fill you, and then your cup will indeed overflow with abundance. We are so blessed, we get to start at the finishing line! We get to start where He finished.. and that is where your life begins; that is where you became a new creation, and if you don’t start there and own your new identity in Christ, you will never live well.
He sent His Son, to be a propitiation (that is an atoning sacrifice) for our sins all of our falling short, all of our lack, in every way, was done away with on that cross… your sin was judged, and punished on that cross in the body of Jesus Christ, so there is no reason for you to carry what He carried if you truly own your identity in Him. If you still see yourself as the old person, and as dirty or unloved, and you still let your feelings, emotions and the experiences of life define you – then they are really your lord because you are letting yourself conform to that image instead of to Christ. The entire reason that Christ came was to restore you to Himself, to restore your created value, your image and your identity in Him, and He does it by and through Himself; His love for you.
Look at verse 11, and again we see Beloved, everything proceeds from that place… Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. If you receive His love, there will be an outpouring. You won’t have to worry about it or try to struggle and conjure up a fake smile and a fake attitude as some people in church do; it will be genuine. The word “ought” there, is stronger in the Greek, it means must, not optional. The divine love of God will be such a wellspring in you, that you won’t be able to contain it. And you will love both God and people, effortlessly… because you will have the relationship. When you sing songs to God, they won’t be dead, lifeless or robotic. They will be genuine, because you will be in love. When you greet someone with a smile, it won’t be forced because people expect it of you, it will be real, because you will know God, who is love, and you will have the joy unspeakable, and the peace which passes understanding.
This is the Gift of God’s Love; Jesus Christ, given for you.