Living in God’s Eternal Love

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)

Thomas had voiced the question the other disciples were likewise wondering, and Jesus’ answer had been profound; now it was Philip’s turn to speak up: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”1 It had to be a frustration for Jesus on the eve of His crucifixion—he had covered this ground with them before—but at the heart of the matter was life itself, so Jesus taught them. “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? … Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me…”2 We can sympathize with Philip, for the Father and the Son being one, each living in the other, is an enigmatic existence for finite minds to comprehend and a deeper intimacy than timid hearts will dare to brave. Yet this is who God is, and it is this unifying relationship into which He calls us, having paid the ultimate price to do so. Looking ahead to His resurrection, Jesus continued, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”3

This is difficult for us to imagine, but it is true—“All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.”4 Then as “God is love,”5 we can love as He does, for “love comes from God.”6 This is pure love, the patient and kind sort of love that keeps no record of wrongs and rejoices with the truth—always protecting, trusting, hoping and persevering.7 It is liberating love, so complete and secure that we can “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us].”8 Yet God’s love is also the gauge by which we know our incomplete notion of love falls short. We are tempted, then, to condemn ourselves and withdraw from God in shame, or to make love a rule for us to keep in order to gain His favor. God does not condemn us, however, nor should we. And true love is not our means of reaching up to God to earn His favor, rather it is proof that He has reached out to us to show us His grace. Then, “[A]s we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.”9 This is His doing; this is our joy.

Father, we pray your love will grow more abundantly in us and flow more fruitfully from us to those we encounter today. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.

1 John 14:8
2 2 John 14:9-11
3 John 14:20
4 1 John 4:15 NLT
5 1 John 4:8 NLT
6 1 John 4:7 NLT
7 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
8 Matthew 5:44
9 1 John 4:17 NLT

Resting in God’s Personal Love

“My life changed when I realized Jesus really loves me,” recalled a friend. I drew a quick, short breath, startled not at what he said, but by the fact he was the third person in the short span of one year to say this same thing verbatim. All three had been believers for quite some time beforehand—trusting in Christ alone for salvation, and grateful for it—yet for each there had arrived an epiphany point in life when eyes opened, barriers fell, love flowed and life changed. Their stories resonated with me, for my life, too, had changed when I realized Jesus really loves me. I had begun a daily pattern of reading God’s word, then writing down what it was saying to me, how it was affecting me and, in turn, my response. Soon I began to sense more deeply both God’s immeasurable love for all of humankind and His personal love for me. The palpable presence of His Spirit opened this heart to joy, and over time I have found myself criticizing less and caring more, stressing less and resting more, doubting less and trusting more. He was doing in His love what I couldn’t do by my will—He was changing me. Thankfully, He still is; it’s a process.

Of the disciples, it was John who understood—or at least expressed—most deeply the intimacy of Jesus’ personal love. Five times in his gospel account, this former fisherman self-identified as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”1 This was not to suggest the Messiah loved him more than the others: all of the disciples rightly could have realized the same for themselves as well, and perhaps each of them did. Rather, John’s confession was a matter of identity, as if to confess, “my worth is complete in this, and only this: Jesus loves me.” John savored this wonder; he embraced it and expressed it over and over again as if to process the unfathomable. Jesus really loved him, and his life had changed.

Jesus once urged His disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,”2 and indeed sometimes the most vital next step for us in life is to stop for a time and rest in His love for us. Perhaps for you today this means reminiscing on specific things He has done for you—and in you—in the past. Maybe it is going on a walk with God, speaking openly and listening quietly to Him who calls us His friends. Priority time in the word of God is reliably transformational, for through the word of God the Spirit of God speaks the truth of His love into our longing soul. As He leads, sit with this for a while, contemplate God’s love for you, and take it personally.

Father, your word says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”3 Calm me, that I would be still before you and know your love for me. I give thanks to you, for you are good, and your love endures forever.4 Amen.

Savor these Biblical promises of God’s personal love:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9)
[Jesus prays to the Father for us:] “I have made you known to them … in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9, 10)

1 See John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; and 21:20.
2 Mark 6:31
3 Psalm 46:10
4 1 Chronicles 16:34

Retaining Our Focus

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

My niece Meghan was an outstanding middle-distance track athlete in high school, frequently winning her events. At the team’s annual awards banquet her sophomore year, the coach said of her, “Meghan learned to run through pain,” a quality often distinguishing the best from the rest. She had grown in grit, exchanging comfort for excellence; she had matured as a runner and become a winner. Perseverance has a transforming effect all its own, and Meghan was named the “most improved” member of the team that season.

It was James, the Lord’s brother, who wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”1 We know from Paul the test of physical persecution, of course, yet our trials also include worldly enticements that distract us and devilish deceptions that discourage us from growing up into Kingdom effectiveness. Jesus taught, for instance, when we let “life’s worries, riches and pleasures” choke us like weeds, we remain immature and unfruitful.2 Too, He said we can expect people to insult, persecute and falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of Him.3 These are meant to intimidate us, yet in reality they are but hindrances and entanglements we are called to “throw off” as we “run with perseverance the race mapped out for us.”4 For we run not just to reach a finish line: there is impactful work for us along the way. Indeed, Jesus said that by persevering those who hear the word and retain it produce a good crop.5 Paul summarized a life of purposeful pursuit this way: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”6

Then we run with focus, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith,”7 and we “consider him who endured such opposition … so that [we] will not grow weary and lose heart.”8 “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” we, like Paul, “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.9 For “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”10 We mature as runners; we become winners.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

Father, lead us in the course you’ve mapped out for us today. Strengthen us to throw off all that would hinder and entangle us. Grace us to fix our eyes on you and to run well in Christ. Amen.

1 James 1:2, 3
2 Luke 8:14
3 Matthew 5:11
4 Hebrews 12:1
5 Luke 8:15
6 Acts 20:24
7 Hebrews 12:2
8 Hebrews 12:3
9 Philippians 3:13, 14
10 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18