Growing in God’s Transformational Love

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Peggy and I find yard work to be relaxing and gratifying, and of the two of us it is usually she who has the clearer mental picture of a well-tended garden. It helps me to know what she is thinking, so before planting or pruning, I’ll proffer one clarifying request: “Just give me a vision for what you’re thinking.” Then with the same end in mind, we pursue it immediately and over time—we’ll know success as it blooms. In a far more wondrous way, God has a vision for what He is shaping us to be: when Christ returns, we will be like Him. We see ourselves as unworthy and think this to be impossible, and indeed in and of ourselves, this would be true. But God’s love is transformational love, steadily pruning and growing us toward the unimaginable: to be like Jesus and to share in His glory. This is where we are going.

Then how is it that we become like Jesus? Must I who have been saved by faith in Christ now somehow find it within me to change myself into His image? Thankfully, no. God’s command for us is this: “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”1 John tells us, “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”2 Long before the Messiah “became flesh and made his dwelling among us,”3 God foretold of a day when “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”4 It is through His Spirit in us that God unites us with Himself and changes us to be like Jesus in character, action and fruitfulness. Paul writes, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who … contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”5 He will never lead us in directions displeasing to God, but always in His ways of love, joy and peace, and “[a]gainst such things there is no law.”6 So today when we hear the Spirit’s voice, may we open our hearts and hands to Him, and follow. We will be changed.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 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.” (1 John 4:10-12).

Father, thank you for your great love. Do as you will: make us like Jesus, and be glorified in us. In His name we pray. Amen.

1 1 John 3:23
2 1 John 3:24
3 John 1:14
4 Ezekiel 36:27
5 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18
6 Galatians 5:22, 23

Serving in God’s Relational Love

Why is it, the best we ever feel is when God works through us to assist another in need of help? Personally, no monetary compensation has ever offered the more lasting and fulfilling joy of having been a blessing to someone in some way. Strange, isn’t it? But then, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, for Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”1

This Biblical love of which Jesus speaks is active love. It elicits warm feelings and noble thoughts, certainly, yet it stirs also in the deeper chambers of our soul, awakening the servant within from its slumber. This love does not chafe at personal inconvenience, nor does it shrink from the enormity of its call. God’s love never stops at obstacles; it moves mountains—it loves anyway. And in love, God grows us even through failures too numerous to count. Here are a few lessons learned along the way.

Follow Jesus’ lead. Jesus did “only what he [saw] his Father doing”2 and said “just what the Father … told [him] to say.”3 We are likewise called to speak and act only as His Spirit leads us, for we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”4

Join in. For years, I sensed a call to share God’s love with the incarcerated, but it was only when a friend invited me to serve on a prison ministry team that I actually engaged. If you sense the Spirit urging you to minister in some way but you don’t know how, join someone already doing as you are being called to do.

Use your gift. The Spirit gifts us just as He determines,5 so each of us has a role amid all of us. Whatever your gift may be—helping, teaching, administration, intercession, leadership, hospitality or another—act in it. Then listen to the symphony of the Spirit’s wind flowing through an entire orchestra of individual instruments, that is the church.

Seize the day. Life presents its momentous occasions along the way, but it chiefly comes at us in daily doses of small measures. The call to actionable love also comes in ways unexpected and easily overlooked. God has prepared these for you—and you for these—so watch for them, and step into them as they unfold before you.

Do it anyway. If others discourage you from God’s call to sacrificial service or Satan entices you elsewhere, or if you if you simply don’t feel like being selfless, step into the moment anyway and serve as you’re being called to serve. There will be fruit.

Embrace God’s favor. Before you do anything in Jesus’ name, His love for you is already infinite. Serve then not to gain God’s favor, but in the joy and humility that you already have it.

Father, you have poured out your love and grace upon us. Show us and lead us in what you are calling us to say and do today. Be pleased with us, your people in Christ Jesus. Amen.

1 John 15:10-12
2 John 5:19
3 John 12:50
4 Ephesians 2:10
5 1 Corinthians 12:11

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