“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” (1 Jn. 3:1)
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:5-8)
How can you know that God loves you?
To become confident in the love of God, we must see it and experience it!
Confidence is a soulish reality… kinda like a knowing on the inside, in your heart of hearts. A person feels confident when they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what they are experiencing is reliable and trust worthy. When we become confident in the love of God it becomes the truth that stabilizes our belief system and strengthens our hope. The Apostle John says, “Behold” or look intently, at the kind of love the Father has bestowed or lavished upon us… see and experience its quality, its depth of passion and its supernatural power. It will transform how you see yourself and others, because you will see His beauty and extravagance toward all people… sinner and Saints alike!
The 2 Ways of Seeing & Experiencing Love: 1st) It is demonstrated in the Cross! 2nd) It is poured out by the Holy Spirit!
- The Apostle Paul tells us that God reveals His love in two different and complementary ways. The demonstration of the cross is public; the work of the Holy Spirit is private and personal. The demonstration of the cross is historical; the work of the Holy Spirit is contemporary. The demonstration of the cross is objective; the work of the Holy Spirit is subjective and experiential.
1st) God demonstrates His love at the cross… sending His Son in our place!
To “demonstrate” something is to make a show of it openly, even to prove it as the truth that matters most. God demonstrates two important things with the cross: His justice (Rom. 3:21-26) and His love (Jn. 15:13). In the cross, He shows all of humanity that He would not allow sin to go unpunished, but in that same cross; He also demonstrates His unique love for us… by giving an immeasurable gift, the Sinless Lamb of God. It was the richest gift heaven could offer, given for those who had lost their way.
Now according to the Bible, the essence of love is giving… “God so loved… that He gave us His Only Son” (Jn. 3:16). And love is measured partly by the cost of the gift to the giver, and partly by the unworthiness of the person receiving it. Since man was hopelessly lost in sin, it helps us recognize the price of this gift. Mercy, the compassion to not give us what we deserve; was involved in the demonstration. How could any sinful man deserve forgiveness… only God would love so much as to pardon the sinner, without a guarantee of any remorse or reconciliation. It was an act of love and tender mercy… and when we behold the manner of love God gives, it moves us to make some kind of decision. We can embrace the gift and let it change how we see or reject it and live with the counterfeits of lust, pride and selfish ambition.
2nd) God “pours out” His love through the Holy Spirit!
There is a unique reality to the love of God… and its the reality of relationship! God communicates His love toward us, because He is passionate about our fellowship. God not only “demonstrates” His love by having sent Christ to die for us; but He also “pours out” His love for us to experience – Him, in all His fullness. He does this through the Holy Spirit!
*The Holy Spirit teaches us by revelation. The Holy Spirit speaks into our hearts about God’s love for us (1 Cor. 2:12 & Eph. 1:17-18). He opens our hearts to understand that Christ’s death was not just some abstract gift that God gave to humanity, but that Christ died for “me”, because He loves me. He takes passages from the Bible and opens them up to our hearts so that they nourish our confidence in God’s love and goodness.
*The Holy Spirit helps us to relate to God personally. The Holy Spirit creates the open door of fellowship, so that God is not perceived as a distant “judge”, but as a warm and loving Father, with whom we share in very personal and intimate ways. He helps us communicate with God in prayer (Rom. 8:26-27) and He assures our hearts that we really are God’s sons and daughters (Rom. 8:15-16). Our confidence increases by our familiarity with His heart toward us!
*The Holy Spirit comforts and strengthens us. God’s hope and peace and joy are made available to us in the midst of painful and anxious situations (Jn. 14:26-27, 2 Cor. 1:3-7 & Eph. 3:14-19). The Holy Spirit not only works through our sufferings to produce God’s character in our lives; but He also assures us of an abiding love in the midst of trials and tests. This is why, while non-Christians point to suffering as the proof that God is not loving, Christians point to suffering as the context in which they experience God’s love in deeper ways!
*The Spirit expresses God’s love to us through His people. He is moving in the Body of Believers, the Church; so we experience forgiveness, encouragement, affection and favor in spiritual and personal ways (2 Cor. 7:5-6 & Eph. 4:29-32). They speak His Word to us, pray with us, communicate His peace and offer forgiveness and hope. And we get to experience the Holy Spirit moving in us for others, as well!
Perhaps the greatest reality of all is that we were made to receive and give love… “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 Jn. 4:16).
“Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up.” (Ex. 40:36-37)
It is dawn in the Israelite camp, and the first thing on the minds of people as they wake up is, “What is the cloud doing today?” Hebrew children are peeking outside of the tent to catch a glimpse of God. They are looking for the rising of the cloud. Their attention was on His Glory! Any movement was an indication that it might be time to raise the tent pegs, break camp and move forward. The question on everyone’s minds as they emerged from their night was, “What is God doing?”
The wilderness was a unique journey. It was training, in perhaps humanity’s greatest weakness… paying attention. In all the travels of the Hebrew people, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set their heart as pilgrims, but if the cloud did not lift, they did not go anywhere… not until the day it lifted.
Fast-forward to the 21st century…
This is the generation of the smart phone, the iPad, the tablet, the computer, the TV remote control. Never before has there been such instant and personal access to email, social media and all manner of communication. We are more likely to wake up and reach for our phones, than our Bibles. Our minds are distracted with the constant buzz and noise of our personal worlds. God is still speaking, but I wonder who is giving Him their attention?
Many times, the things that distract us are good things, but they are hindering us from focusing on the best things… the first things (Mt. 6:33)!
We are a generation in which there is a “contention for our attention” like never before. The enemy knows that what captures our attention draws our hearts, commands our worship, and impacts our ability to hear the voice of God!
What draws our attention takes our time, and therefore; our life flow. I want to remind you to pay attention to God’s purposes, give Him your time and awaken every morning looking for His directives for the day. He is moving and you and I are called to move at His pace… and for His Glory! His Presence needs to be evident in our lives, beyond the occasional prayer meetings and Sunday morning worship. Ultimately, what captures the attention of God’s people also affects the eternal destiny of people around us.
Pay attention to the “cloud” and you will not be lost in the “fog”!
Jesus says it best: “When you pray, believe.” (Mark 11:24)
Crisp, clear and to the point, Jesus tells us exactly how to have an effective fervent prayer life. We can create all kinds of theories and teach about the five ways to approach God or three hindrances to our answers; but the key is “FAITH”. Believe in God’s ability to do what He has said He will do! And can I suggest something here… get over the issue of sounding religious! Faith is most easily found in relationship; because it works by love, not by rituals or perfect theology (Gal 5:6).
Faith Hears in the Spirit:
Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” (1 Kings 18:41)
This verse illustrates the confidence of the Prophet Elijah who believed God for what He had promised. I will repeat that “…for what God had promised”. The story of Elijah’s prayers holding back the rain in Israel is only climaxed by his bold confidence in proclaiming Ahab’s demise if he didn’t make haste for Jezreel. Rain is coming, because God said so… and I can hear it!
What exactly was it that Elijah heard? Nobody else seemed to hear the rain nor did they see it. The fact is, there was no indication that even one drop of rain was going to fall on any part of Israel! But faith comes out of a spiritual kind of hearing (Rom 10:17). Faith operates from a platform of putting hope in the promise of God (Heb 11:1).
Elijah heard the rain before it was manifest, much like we might trust our friend to send us a package in the mail. If the promise is good, then our confidence dictates our hearing. I will be looking for that package in the mailbox and praying in faith for its arrival. I’m speaking to God in prayer and speaking to others with testimony from a confident stance. “The Promise is on the way!” Its not to be hindered, not to be delayed, not to be destracted or crushed or stolen or intruded upon in any way… God has promised and I’ve heard it in my spirit.
I love Christ and follow Him, not because of what He can do for me; but because of what He is doing in me. He created me, called me, fashioned some incredible opportunities for me and then He anointed me for something great. When I fell short He redeemed me and never has He ever led me into trouble! He loved me before I knew Him and He’s been infinitely patient with me as I surrender each moment to His leading.
My love for Him grows more and more each day and its not because of where He is taking me but rather where we are going together… as co-laborers.
“HE” is Jesus – the greatest leader of all time!
As leaders following in the Master’s footsteps; there are certain things we must give our complete attention to:
1st. Go when He tells you to go… it will keep you out of trouble!
“In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonites and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath.” (2 Samuel 11:1-2 NLT)
2nd. Stop when He tells you to rest… it will keep you full of grace!
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:1-3 & 10)
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Some friendly advice to my fellow laborers!
If you want to experience a fresh reality of life, influenced by the power of God; you need to discover how to live beyond your limitations. There is a Living Resource in Jesus. He is the Christ – the Son of the Living God, mighty to deliver and faithful to strengthen the weary. I can almost hear: “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say. If you were in my situation you would see that it’s not that easy to change things.”
Changing things will not change things!
For most people there is a natural resistance against the unknown, even if it is wanted desperately. People do not like to be where they are… but they are afraid to risk what they have relied upon.
I want to let you know of the 3 things that will limit God’s power in your life and offer you the alternative that will not require you to change anything… God will do it for you! These might feel like baby steps, but they will benefit you and your awareness of God’s activity in your life. Sometimes our biggest hurdle is that we lean on ourselves when we think we are trusting God! So, let these sink in…
1. Fear limits God – So Let God Love You!
When we are afraid we start becoming anxious and reason things out. Fear of men, fear of rejection, fear of success, fear of failure, fear of losing friends, approval or your job, all kinds of fears come to the surface when life gets overwhelming. Let me remind you that love casts out ALL fear! The people who do not know the love of God, fall apart like a house of cards in a wind storm. They cannot handle the weight of adversity, because they cannot trust His care for them. To know God is to allow Him to love you, just as you are… warts and all. You can always tell the size of a man’s character by the size of the problem it takes to discourage him.
2. Unbelief limits God – So Let God Prove Himself!
Unfortunately we live in a culture of unbelief. The news, our friends and family, and even most churches; often speak and act out of unbelief. You may not doubt that God can do amazing things, but you might wonder why He would do anything for you… its about His willingness to do it. Recognize God is willing, because He likes you.
I can have the faith that God can heal, but at the same time not believe that He will do it right here, for me. That is how the leper felt when he asked Jesus if He was willing to heal him (Mk. 1:40-41). Jesus was willing!
I can know that God supplies all my needs, but still not walk in an assurance that He will do it when I’m in a tight spot. That is how the Apostle Paul felt when he was in need (2 Cor. 7:5-7) for when he arrived in Macedonia (Acts 20:1) he had a difficult time “with trouble all round – conflicts outside and anxiety within”. But God, who cheers the depressed, gave him comfort by the arrival of Titus. That encouragement and strength was what the Apostle Paul needed… supernatural grace to reign in life!
3. Disobedience limits God – So Let God Speak to You!
If God tells you to do something – do it, even if it might not look like the smartest thing to do. Who cares about what other people say when you have a word from God? You might need some wisdom in how or when to step up, hut remind yourself that you’re not alone. God can even bless a mistake made out of faith more than a mistake made by doing nothing! If you step across the line and stop over thinking what God should you, you will see His power begin moving in your life.
So get rid of fear and unbelief and be obedient to what He says and you will see greater miracles in your life. You will find yourself trusting in the One who makes the impossible possible… in the One who is always for you!