Lift Your Glad Voices!

Today, we celebrate the most wonderful part of Christianity: that Jesus rose from the dead! God tells us that if this were not so, we would be the most miserable people around:

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now Christ has risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruit of those who slept. (1 Corinthians 15:19-20, MKJV)

I would like to share with you our family’s new recording of “Lift Your Glad Voices”, praising the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

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Lift your glad voices in triumph on high,
For Jesus hath risen, and man cannot die!
Vain were the terrors that gathered around Him,
And short the dominion of death and the grave.

He burst from the fetters of darkness that bound Him,
Resplendent in glory to live and to save!
Loud was the chorus of angels on high,
The Savior hath risen, and man shall not die!

Glory to God, in full anthems of joy!
The being He gave us death cannot destroy:
Sad were the life we may part with tomorrow,
If tears were our birthright, and death were our end.

But Jesus hath cheered the dark valley of sorrow,
And bade us, immortal, to Heaven ascend.
Lift then your voices in triumph on high,
For Jesus hath risen, and man shall not die!

 

Happy Easter!

For more Easter music, check out the song my brothers and I recorded last year: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

The Backwards Secret to a Big Inheritance

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. — Jesus

Hey, I don’t know about you, but inheriting the Earth would be pretty cool. But what’s up with this meekness stuff? What does it mean to be meek, anyway? Spineless? Wimpy? Weak?

Nope! The Greek words translated “meek” and “meekness” in the NT mean “to be mild and gentle”; not rude, obnoxious, overbearing, unkind. A meek person is not a wimp or a pushover. We can kindly say no, and we can stand our ground without being angry or overbearing.

The Greek words for “meek” and “meekness” are often translated as “gentle” in modern translations. This probably is a better term to use in our modern language than “meek”, which can have a negative connotation. However, for the purposes of this article, I want to use the term “meek” because it means not just “gentle”, but also having a mild spirit. In addition, “gentle” can also wrongly give the impression of a person who is a pushover.

A meek person is one who relies on God, not one who trusts in their own power, might, and charisma. They are strong on the inside instead of the outside. Just because someone looks strong on the outside does not mean that they are strong on the inside. It can simply be a front to hide their true inner weakness.

Throughout the Bible, God shows us that meekness is a characteristic of Godly people.

But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control. Against such things there is not a law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
(Note how many things in this verse have the implication of calmness, mildness and kindness: love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, temperance. That’s about ¾.)

Then I, the prisoner in the Lord, exhort you to walk worthily of the calling in which you were called, with all humility and meekness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Therefore, as elect ones of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassions, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, bearing with one another and forgiving yourselves, if anyone has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also you should forgive. And above all these, love, which is the bond of perfectness. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and don’t lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion and every evil deed. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)

The world wants you to believe that a meek person is wimpy and weak. Remove that picture from your mind and replace it with these ideas:

  • Gentle
  • Kind
  • Mild
  • Peaceable
  • Loving
  • Even-tempered
  • Humble
  • Bold
  • Strong
  • Courageous
  • Full of faith and conviction

Those last four are very important. Remember, they are what God has called His people to be: bold, strong, courageous–the same people that He calls to be meek. Meekness and boldness are not opposite. Instead, they are both the characteristics of a good leader.

Anybody who knows the life of Jesus knows that He was no wimp. He openly confronted the top religious leaders and called them “hypocrites”, “serpents”, “children of Hell”, and other strong terms. He even went into the Temple–twice!–and drove out those who bought and sold in it.

But this same Jesus said:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus, the king of all creation, said that He was meek and humble. If He is meek, then surely we should be as well.

The kingdom of God is not built by those who make a lot of noise and create a great following of their dynamic personality. That is how carnality happens. The kingdom of God is built by the meek, who point others to God.

As God prophesied of His Son:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen; my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit on him. He will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not strive, nor shout; neither will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a smoking flax, until he leads justice to victory. In his name, the nations will hope.” (Matthew 12:18-21)

Sexual Abuse Recovery: Why We Help the Abuser and Shoot the Victims

It was a meal together after a funeral. I was sitting at a table with a couple of my great-uncles, and the conversation turned to dealing with sexual abusers. As we talked, it became clear that their first priority was how to deal with the abuser and help him to be able to get back to a more-or-less normal life. For some reason, they didn’t have much to say about helping the victim(s) to find healing from their trauma.

Since then, I have observed this same phenomenon with others. They will talk about the dreadful effects that sexual abuse had in the life of the abuser, when they face the punishment for their acts, but fail to give equal thought to the effects on the victims. Why?

There are three reasons that I see:

Age

In the case of child sexual abuse, there is a good chance that the abuser is a grown man–or woman, for that matter. (Actually, there is also an excellent chance that the abuser is a teenager, but we will leave that age group for right now.) If the abuser is a church member, all the adults in the church are peers. The abuser may even be a leader of some sort in the church and well-respected. Contrary to what you might think, an abuser is often not someone who you would suspect as an abuser. They might be friendly, outgoing, respectable people–who do terrible things.

So when the well-respected peer is convicted of sexual abuse, the people around them are naturally going to think of their friend first. They may feel that he/she was unjustly accused or given too harsh of a sentence. They want the abuser to be able to come clean and return to normal life.

The child victim, on the other hand, may be someone they don’t even know. At the very least, they probably don’t know the child as well as the abuser, even if it is the abuser’s son or daughter. If they’ve never met the victim, but know the abuser well (or at least respect him/her), they can easily forget about the needs of the faceless victim.

Especially if they have…

Ignorance

Many people are unaware of the effects of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. This includes many victims.

The trauma of abuse causes many effects on the victim, especially when it is repeated and comes from someone they trust, such as a family member. The victim may “shut down” emotionally or develop certain coping habits or thought patterns. They may blame themselves for the abuse. And they may “act out” in ways that appear rebellious, irresponsible, careless, or sinful. Those who don’t realize what is happening will react improperly and condemn the victim for their behavior, further traumatizing and alienating them.

The potential effects and results of sexual abuse include:

  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Helplessness
  • Anger
  • Loss of trust
  • Poor school performance
  • “Spacing out” and daydreaming to disassociate from the abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Running away
  • “Acting out”–rebellion, crime, cruelty to animals, sexual promiscuity, drug use/abuse, physical aggression to others
  • Self-destructive behaviors–cutting themselves, slitting wrists, burning themselves, suicide
  • Confusion about what is healthy sexuality
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Shame/shaming others
  • Over-responsibility and perfectionism
  • Promiscuous behavior

(Taken from Helping Victims of Sexual Abuse by Lynn Heitritter and Jeanette Vought)

It is important that we understand the true effects of abuse on its victims so that we are able to empathize with them, understand why they do what they do, and help them to find healing. They need safe people to talk to, people who will care about them, listen to them without condemnation, blaming, or shaming, and respect the privacy of the victim by not sharing the information with others. They need people who are filled with the Holy Spirit and can help them to find true healing through the power of Christ.

Some people, though, will still not care enough to help, because of a…

Lack of Christ-likeness

Jesus defined His ministry early on by reading in the synagogue of Nazareth:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)

The Scriptures foretold:

“[Jesus] will not strive, nor shout; neither will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a smoking flax, until he leads justice to victory. In his name, the nations will hope.” (Matthew 12:19-21)

Jesus has a great heart of compassion for those who are hurting. He came to earth and gave His life for us because He cared so much for us.

Jesus also expects us to have the same heart for those around us. He tells us that in the judgment, He will separate those who serve others from those who don’t.

“Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Notice that this is not about preaching a gospel of good works. The righteous were not doing these things because they were trying to earn their salvation. They didn’t even realize that they were helping Jesus. It was just part of who they were as God’s children. They had compassion on their brothers in Christ (“the least of these My brothers“) and ministered to them.

Jesus wants us to reach out and help the hurting, especially those within the church. If we lack this desire and compassion within our hearts, could it be that we lack the love of God?

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does God’s love remain in him? My little children, let’s not love in word only, or with the tongue only, but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:17-18)

But Don’t Throw the Abusers Under the Bus

From what I’ve read, 40-50% of sexual abusers have been abused themselves. Their actions can be part of their “acting out” and trying to cope with their abuse.

This does not excuse their abusive actions, but it does bring something to the forefront: the abusers need help too!

Christians have something to offer that no one else has: the power of the Holy Spirit to enable people to lead holy, righteous lives, free from abuse and other sins. While the world can only offer prison and therapy, Christ has the power to actually change people from the inside out. He has the power to heal the hurts, the wounds, the pain, and to take away an abuser’s desire to abuse others.

However, there is one catch: it only works if the person actually wants to be helped. It only works if they are willing to repent and accept the working of Christ. Jesus does not force anyone to accept His forgiveness and cleansing.

As long as an abuser is unwilling to fully repent, be cleansed by Christ, take full responsibility for his/her actions, and pay any necessary criminal penalties, he or she will never find true freedom from their sin. There are many people, unfortunately, who will never experience true freedom in Christ because they are unwilling to do one or more of these things I just mentioned.

Before I wrap this up, one more important point: sexual abuse is a crime. It doesn’t matter whether it was full-blown rape or “just” some inappropriate touching. Both are traumatic to the victim, and both are criminal. Some people, such as pastors and counselors, are required by law to report sexual abuse to the authorities. If they do not, they themselves will be held accountable by the state.

We want people to find repentance and cleansing through the power of Christ. But the law has been broken, and the penalty must be paid. The church is not capable of handling abuse “in-house”.  It must be dealt with in a court of law.

And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall not do any more wickedness like this among you. (Deuteronomy 13:11)

 

Jesus is the God of justice,
And He wants us all to be made free.
Let us follow in His footsteps,
Bring the world His liberty!

Bind Up the Wounds

New Recording: “For God So Loved”

To go with my final post in the “Learning to Know Our Father” series, I felt God leading me to record the song He gave me a couple years ago, “For God So Loved”. This song is really my personal testimony of coming to know God in new and deeper way. From the sheet music page:

I was raised in the Mennonite Church and the Advanced Training Institute homeschool program, both of which confused my view of God and left me without a real understanding of His love and grace. People looking on thought that I was a very Godly young man, on fire for the Lord, but under the surface, Jesus wasn’t really in charge of my life. I struggled to make necessary changes in my life, but with little success. My dad wasn’t sure if I would ever become the man that God wanted me to be.

Finally, I realized that I could not ever correct my life in my own strength, and I began to seek God’s grace and power to become who He wanted me to be. In October, 2014, I finally surrendered my life 100% to Christ. He began to reveal Himself, His Word, His love and His grace in a new way to me. A couple months later, He gave me this song.

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Sheet Music and Lyrics

For more songs that God has given me, see the Sheet Music page.

Learning to Know Our Father, Part 5: Responding to God’s Love

In our study of God’s love so far, we’ve seen that God is love, and that He doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him. We’ve seen that we need to understand His nature, including His love, in order to not be afraid of Him. We also need to glorify Him and seek His help, so that He has the opportunity to demonstrate His love for us. And when we don’t understand His love, we need to ask Him to show us what His love is really like.

As we learn to know our Father better, and His love fills our hearts and lives, how do we respond to that love? And how can we find others who truly love Him?

Since God is love, part of the evidence of His love in our lives is when we have love for each other.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love has been perfected in us. (1 John 4:10-12)

You would think, perhaps, that God would say, “Since I have loved you this much, you ought to love Me in return.” But instead He says, “Love one another.”

Jesus says, “Because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40) When God adopts us into His family, we become brothers of Jesus. In fact, Jesus dwells with each of God’s children, and so, when we show love to one of God’s children, we are showing love to God!

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is loving God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:1-5)

I used to read these verses and believe that it was my job to keep God’s commands on my own, with His help. I thought that anyone who was saved got as much help from God to keep His commands as any other Christian. In other words, I believed that all Christians, including myself, were receiving God’s help to obey Him, and if I had trouble following Him, I needed to try harder.

Brothers and sisters, it doesn’t work that way, for two reasons. One is that some of us need more help than others, and some of us need help in different areas than others—for example, overcoming an addiction. The second reason is that God doesn’t help us unless we allow Him to do so.

God is not a control freak. He does not force us to do what He wants us to do. Nor does He force us to accept His help. He definitely gives us guidance, changes circumstances, and works all things together for good. But He knows that, if He were to control us into doing the right thing, it would not lead us to truly love Him. We would just be robots.

Forcing people to do the right thing can actually be detrimental. When a person has a personal drive to do something, they will work with a will and try to accomplish the task. However, if someone forces them to do it, or bribes them to do it with some sort of reward/punishment system, it kills the person’s inward drive. This, I believe, is one reason why some homeschool families have fallen apart, despite looking so good when the children were young. Because the well-meaning parents tried to control their teenagers into doing the right thing, it actually turned their children against the parents and against the “right thing”.

Spiritually abusive systems, which stress human effort to achieve a man-made standard, prevent us from receiving God’s love and help, while loading us down with guilt and shame over our inability to follow God (and the pile of human commands the system gives us). This is one reason why you may have to change your beliefs about God and His nature in order to receive His love. If you’re always trying to live the Christian life on your own, God never has a chance to demonstrate His love to you!

The truth is that, when we put our faith in God, realizing that on our own strength we will never measure up to His standards, He gives us the victory to overcome the world and keep His commandments.

Jesus said, “One who has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him.” (John 14:21) In other words, when we love God, we will naturally want to keep His commands. I used to think this was run in reverse: you keep God’s commands, and then He loves you.

The truth is that we love God because He first loved us. If we don’t know the love of God, we will not love Him in return. If we think He is just a hard taskmaster who is burdening us down with a grievous load, we will never love Him, and we will despise the very commands we are endeavoring to keep.

What Jesus is saying is that, when we know God, receive His love in our hearts, and love Him in return, we will also love His words and keep them. This is not a “if you really loved me, you would do…” guilt trip.

God is love. Therefore, without God, we will never have true love. Moreover, since we cannot manufacture God, we also cannot manufacture love. If you find yourself unable to love others properly, don’t just “try harder” to love them. That will never work. Ask God to fill you with His love and give you love for others!

So what does that look like? What are loving actions, anyway? We already saw part of the answer to that question earlier: God’s commands explain what loving actions are. They were written in love, and they are our guidelines for walking in love. Someone who claims to love Jesus, yet fails to obey Him, does not love both Jesus and his fellow men.

Not only that, though, God shows us from day to day how to love one another:

But concerning brotherly love, you have no need that one write to you. For you yourselves are taught by God to love one another… (1 Thessalonians 4:9)

With God’s love ruling in our hearts, He will teach us how to love one another. He will guide us how to help one another in the most beneficial way. He will show us areas where we lack love for one another or are treating one another unlovingly.

Remember, love for one another is the result of God’s love first dwelling within our hearts, and then overflowing in love for others. It is not something that you can create on your own!

If you would like to study God’s love some more, I recommend the free e-book He Loves Me! by Wayne Jacobsen. I do not endorse this book completely; I believe that Jacobsen downplays the fear of God too much. God does tell us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), and unless we recognize that He is also holy, just, righteous, and all-powerful, as well as loving, we will not serve Him or even love Him as we ought. However, I recommend this e-book for those who have heard much about the fear of God, yet do not understand the love of God. It will help to shift your thinking in the proper direction.

God’s blessings to you as you learn to know Him!

Photo © Can Stock Photo Inc. / grace1221

Learning to Know Our Father, Part 4: How to Understand God’s Love

As we saw in the last post in this series, when we don’t understand God’s love, it keeps us from having a great relationship with God. The love of God is the basis for our love for Him and others. Since He is love, if we don’t know His love, we don’t know Him.

You may be like me, however, and come from a spiritually abusive background where God’s love was distorted, minimized, and ignored. On the other hand, you may come from a background where God’s love meant that “everything goes” and God doesn’t care what you do. Reading the Bible, though, we see that God is neither a harsh dictator nor a soft fuzzy teddy bear.

So we realize that we don’t really know what God’s love is all about. Maybe, you know in your head that God loves you, that He sent Jesus to die for you because He loved you, blah, blah, blah—but you don’t know that love, from personal experience, even though you’ve been a Christian for years. This was my experience.

What do you do?

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he included a beautiful prayer for them that I believe gives us an answer.

For this cause, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be the glory in the assembly and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

“Ask, and it will be given to you,” Jesus said. If you want to know the love of God, then ask Him to show it to you, and help you to comprehend it. Wow! Isn’t that simple?

I know. It sounds trite. But it’s true! It may not happen right away, but if you come to God in faith, He will show His love to you. Otherwise, He would be a liar!

I will warn you that in order to understand God’s love, you may have to give up some of your pre-conceived notions of what He is like. Sometimes, we believe things about God that prevent us from understanding His true nature and entering into a full relationship with Him. When you understand His love, you may find that some of your beliefs are wrong and have to change. But it will be for the better.

God further tells us that He is able to go exceedingly abundantly above anything we can ask or think to show His love to us and to help us to understand His love. Stop and think about that a moment. Imagine this: Whatever you can imagine—is the first level. God can surpass that imagination. But God can do even more than that. In fact, He can do abundantly more that you can imagine. But He can even surpass that level and do exceedingly more abundantly than anything you can ask or think: “exceedingly—abundantly—above—all that we ask or think.” Wow! That is how powerful God is! And that is how far He can go to reveal His love to you.

I believe that we should also follow Paul’s example in these verses and pray for others as well, that they, too, would know the mind-boggling love of Christ. We should pray, even for those who are seasoned Christians, that God would continue to reveal Himself to them and lead them into an ever-closer walk with Him.

Before we leave this passage, I would like to point out that part of being filled with all the fullness of God is to know the incredible, mind-boggling love of Christ. “…to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19) This, again, shows why it’s so important to know and understand Christ’s love—so that we can be filled even more with Him!

In the next part, we’ll conclude by looking at what we are to do with God’s love.

Learning to Know Our Father, Part 3: Digging Deeper into God’s Love

Last time, we saw that God is love. Wow! Imagine being in a relationship with someone who is not only loving and full of love, but is love itself! We never have to doubt whether something was for our good, or whether God cares about us, or whether He still loves us. God is love.

This can raise a multitude of questions, however. For example, if God loves us so much, and says that when we love one another, we put each other first, why does He tell us to put Him first and glorify Him? If He loved us, wouldn’t He seek to glorify us? Is he some sort of self-centered, narcissistic, arrogant god who only cares about what He can get out of His followers?

No way! Not at all! God wants us to glorify Him so that we understand His love. If we think that we are self-made people, we will fail to understand how much He loves us. When we recognize how much God has done for us, and how He is working in our everyday lives, we will better understand His love.

You see, God does an incredible amount for us. The Bible tells us that “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) In His love, God does many things that we do not even know about.

Ironically, in fact, when we fail to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, God is not able to demonstrate His love to us by providing for our needs. When we try to do things on our own, God is not able to help us. In order to truly experience His love, grace, and power, we have to glorify Him! Just as we cannot help those who will not accept help, God is unable to fully demonstrate His love toward us until we allow Him to do so.

God tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

It is only because God loved us and sent His Son to die and rise again for us that we can follow Him and live for Him in the way that He wants us to. We cannot boast about how well we serve God, because we are only able to serve Him because He, in His love, gives us His grace to enable us to do what is pleasing to Him.

God didn’t have to send Jesus to die for us. He wasn’t duty-bound to rescue His creation. He could have just figured that if we were so rebellious, we could burn in Hell. See if He cared!

Don’t fall for Satan’s lie that God owes you something. God doesn’t owe anything to you. He’s done so much for you already. It is only because of His love that He continues giving His grace and power, helping us in our difficulties, seeking us when we go astray, leading us into an ever-closer relationship to Himself.

Returning to 1 John 4, we read:

We know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)

It’s very important to understand God’s love so that we do not live in fear of Him. If we live in fear of God—that is, that we are afraid of Him, afraid to die, afraid of His judgment, afraid that we’ll make a small misstep and be brutally disciplined—it shows that we do not understand God’s love and/or are not in a right relationship with Him. We need to seek to be made perfect in love.

How do we become perfect in love? Part of it, at least, comes from God dwelling in us, and us dwelling in God and His love. In His love, God works in our hearts, if we allow Him to do so, and fills us with His love. As He does so, two things happen: we know His love (in other words, we experience His love), and His power enables us to do what is righteous and loving so that we do not have to fear His judgment.

God loved us when we did not love Him. God does not ask us to love Him, and then if we love Him enough, He’ll love us in return. On the contrary, He loved us while we were still sinners, and He asks us to love Him in return.

God says that the reason that we love Him is because He loved us first. This is why Satan wants to deceive us about God’s love and distort God’s love in any way possible. If Satan can prevent us from knowing God’s love, we will not love God in return. This is why it is crucial that we understand God’s love and know what our Father is really like!

There is an incredible phrase in this passage: “As He is, so are we in this world.” In other words, with God dwelling in us, we become like Him! Whoa! Did God really say that? Yes, He did!

Talking about “understanding God’s love” makes it sound very academic and sterile. The reality is simply that we need to really know our Father. However, we sometimes struggle to understand or really accept the many incredible things He has revealed about Himself in His Word. So what’s the answer?

Stay tuned.

Photo by fady habib via flickr