What Is Love? -- God's Point-Of-View (Part Two)
by Bobby Bruno 2/06/2014 / Christian Apologetics
Here, in Part Two, we will continue looking at love from God's point-of-view through the definitions of love from the pages of a Bible dictionary. God's love is far, far different from the world's view of love. God's love is real, never forced or coerced from Him to us. God will never force His love on those who do not want it, but He will wait until their deaths for their call to Him to save them from a life without Him in eternal hell. Once a person has died without acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior they will never get another chance, for once they are dead, God will no longer hear their cries for salvation. Only in this life can we call out to God to save us from the pit of Hell. Only in this life will He hear and respond to our call for His free gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. God is gracious enough to let us decide where we want to spend eternity even though His mercy is available to everyone whose feet have walk this earth.
This leads us into the next definition of love. God's love is for individuals -- all individuals -- you and me everyone. There is not one person who has ever walked the face of this earth that God's love cannot reach. God's love is extended to all those who want to know His love. Why do I say those who want to know His love? Unfortunately, there are those who have walked this earth, and who walk it now, who do not want God to interfere with their lives for fear that He will not let them do the evil and wasteful things that they want to do with their lives.
Let's face it: things are going bad in this world simply because so many have decided that God is not needed or wanted in their lives. They may be prospering but, without God, their prosperity is fleeting and will fail them when they need it the most. Without God to guide them they are living lives with no meaning and purpose. Only God can give our lives meaning and purpose because He has created each of us differently. He has given each of us different talents and gifts that we are to use not just for our own enjoyment, but also to show others the love of God by using these gifts and talents to reach those who refuse to give their lives up to God's leading. Believe it or not, there are many people searching for fulfillment and purpose who are actually seeking God's purpose for their lives, even if they don't realize that this is what they are doing. We are to use these gifts and talents to reach these people so that they can know the true love of God where they can find true peace and joy so they can truly enjoy their lives to the fullest.
Once a person has made God the leader of their lives, so that He can use them to show others His love, a dramatic change occurs not only in their lives, but also in the lives around them as others see Jesus flowing through the Holy Spirit who takes up residence in the soul of the new believer. As stated above, God has given each one of us gifts and talents that He expects to be used to bring individuals to Him to receive His grace, mercy, forgiveness of sins, and for eternal life with Him in Heaven. Why does God expect this of us? Galatians 2:20 states it well when it says that "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Jesus willingly died on the cross for me to take my sins upon Himself so I could freely live for Him and then fulfill the purpose for which I was born.
When I gave my life to Jesus, His Holy Spirit took up residence in my soul, and now I freely let Him guide me to where He wants me to be so that He can live out His life through mine. It is no longer I who live, but is now Christ who lives in me. Where I once lived my own life, which led me to the very brink of destruction through many suicide attempts, I now choose to let Jesus live His life through me. If you would have told me that, one day, I would be writing articles about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that would be read my thousands of people all around the world I would have laughed in your face. If you would have told me fourteen years ago that I would go to a bible college and would graduate with an Associate's Degree in Biblical Studies with a 3.87 GPA, I would have fallen to my knees out of breath from the laughter that would have been issuing from my mouth. But because I have allowed Jesus to live through me I have achieved great things in my life that I would have once thought impossible for me to achieve. Jesus has changed my life so I could better serve His life He has placed in me. Only God knows exactly what He wants you to do with your life. If you let him, He will give you work to do that exactly fits you and will bring great joy to your life since the work you will be doing is exactly the work you really want to be doing. Can you imagine the joy you will feel if you let God place you in the work that your heart has always wanted to do? He knows what is in your heart when it comes to what you really want to do with your life because God is the One who has placed the desire there for you to see. If we all followed our true hearts, we would never fail to find the joy, peace, comfort, excitement, and fulfillment that we have been looking for all of our lives. Give God your heart and watch Him go to work.
Next, let's look at God's love for each and every individual, including sinners. Too many people walk around believing that God could never forgive them for the things they've done or said to themselves or other people. But that's just not true and it is a lie from Satan himself to keep people from finding out the truth that God loves everyone He has ever created, even the worst of sinners. How do we know this is true? Through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus Christ went to the cross to take every human being's sin with Him into His death so that our sins would die with Him, never to be remembered by God forevermore. Why did God allow His Son to die on the cross for our sins? 1 John 4:9-10 tells us that "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." Jesus died for every human, not just a chosen few. He died for everyone. Now it is up to each individual human being to believe God and accept His Son as the Lord and Savior so they, too, can love others for Christ.
Many may still ask "How do I know that God loves me even after I give Him my life?" Jesus answered that question Himself when He said "the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God" (John 16:27). God holds a special place in His heart for those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus spoke of believers with a heart so full of love that He continually prayed to God for the lives that have chosen Him to follow. Jesus prayed to His Father, "24"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world" (John 17:24). Jesus wants us to be with him forever in peace and harmony along with our Father, God. Jesus also prayed "I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:23). These two verses prove just how much Jesus loves us and want us to be with him. It brings all of Heaven great joy when even just one sinner gives their life over to the leading of God ("I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent"/ John 15:7).
Before we obtain God's love from Him, we just don't know how to love others properly. It might look as if we do. We feed our families, tuck our kids into bed at night, and we may even mow our neighbor's lawn once a year just to be nice. But is this the kind of love that God gives us? Not in the slightest. God's love is so much bigger and encompasses a much deeper sense of compassion and mercy. God's love forgives every offense; makes a person feel like they belong; and makes a person know that they are loved unconditionally, without reservation.
But how do we mere mortals obtain the kind of love that God wants us to give and show to others? The next definition tells us that love is created in the believer by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 answers this question in telling us that "hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." When we accept Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior, God places His Holy Spirit inside of us to teach us how to love others the way God loves them. Day by day, as we allow the Spirit to lead us into all knowledge of who God is and the love He shares with us to share to others, we suddenly see people in a different way, and we begin to see a change in ourselves in how we relate to all those who surround us each day.
But what are these changes? What will I notice about myself that lets me know that I am showing others that I not only love God, but that I love them as much as God does? Galatians 5:22-23a gives us the attributes that we will see in ourselves as we grow in the love of God "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These fruits of the Spirit will not all show up all at once as if a magic spell was placed on your heart and soul. These fruits of the Spirit will be found within you as you learn and grow under God's tutelage. Each day, as you see God working in your life, you will see just how much He loves you. The more you learn about God and Jesus, the more you will become like them in compassion, love, mercy, and forgiveness.
Then comes the chief test that we have obtained God's love, told to us in the books of Luke and John. How do we know that we are now a disciple of Jesus Christ? The verses from John and Luke seem to greatly contradict each other Luke 14:26-27 gives us a beginning. The first part of these verses from Luke sound very harsh if taken literally. Still, the explanation of them shows us God's great love for us, even if it is not apparent upon a first reading. Jesus says in these verses, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sistersyes, even his own lifehe cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Then Jesus comes along and tells us something different and quite the opposite. Or does he? Jesus says in John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Previously, Jesus had said in John 3:14, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death." After reading these verses, the next question must be "How can I hate and love at the same time?" and "Why must I hate those closest to me when I should be loving them as well?"
Have you ever said that you hated someone you love? When you were a teenager, did you tell your parents that you hated them at least once when they wouldn't let you do something they felt was inappropriate or dangerous for you to do? After some time had passed, didn't you calm down and give your mother a hug for loving you as much as she does? When Jesus tells us to hate those closest to us, He is saying that you must love Him more than you love them, even your own life. Jesus is saying that He must come first in your life. You must be willing to give up everyone you love to follow the plans that Jesus has for your life. Most times it is a foregone conclusion that when Jesus gives you work to do most of the people around you will question the details, especially family members who know you better than even your friends do. Even though you know that Jesus Himself is sending you, most people will want proof that it was in fact Jesus who spoke to you and not an idea you came up with yourself.
When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you give Him the right to use entire life as He pleases to show others His love and to show them the way into God's Kingdom and Heaven when they die. Now and forever, you must be willing to go anywhere Jesus sends you, even if it means leaving family and friends behind for good. Jesus may send you to another country or just around the corner from your home, but you must be willing to go the second Jesus says to leave. The more we follow the leading of Jesus, the happier we will become, and the more loving we will be to those we used to hate. Even if those people we hate we consider to be enemies.
This brings us to the next definition of love from the pages of a Bible dictionary. Once you have found salvation in Jesus Christ, you have promised Jesus that you would love your enemies just as much as you love Him and all those you call family and friends. In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus tells us why we must love even our enemies -- "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Jesus is saying that, if you don't love your enemies, then your love comes not from God, but from your own evil heart. We are supposed to love our brothers and sisters in Christ more than we love those who are not born again, but we are still supposed to love all others as God sees them lost sinners in need of a Savior. God loves all people, evil or saved, and He is expecting us to do the same.
Romans 12:19-20, Paul gives us the reasons why and how we should love our enemies: ""Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."" You must treat your enemy as your friend in every way. You must forgive your enemy for the things they may had done or said to you in the past. Remember, you are not forgiving them for the deeds they have done, that is between them and God, but you are to forgive them for yourself so that you will not feel the need to take revenge on them for hurting you, or someone you love. It is up to your enemy to approach God for the forgiveness he needs to settle things with God who will forgive him freely to all who ask Him in sincerity. And when your enemy turns to God to gain His forgiveness, his heart will no longer be dead to love but will finally find life. 1 John 3:14 assures us of this: "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death." Without a heart softened by God, a person cannot love another as they should. But a God-softened heart loves all people the same. Does this mean that we never send a person to jail or prosecute them when needed? Not at all. Forgiveness does not take away the punishment for committing the sin; it only takes you out of the equation and the need to get even.
We must also love one another without hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is defined as words people say that do not follow their actions and visa-versa. For example, if I say that I am a Christian but do not treat others the way Jesus commands me to then I am a hypocrite. I say that I love Jesus with all my heart, but I do not act as He did to those who persecuted Him. Romans 12:9 says that "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." This doesn't mean that we are to hate evil people themselves, but hate the evil things that they do because they are contrary to the teachings of Jesus. We are to pray for those who don't know Jesus to seek Him for the betterment of their lives, and those of the lives they touch every day. But also remember, even as Christians, we may stumble and not treat others the way Jesus did, simply because not every born-again Christian is at the same stage in development as a believer in Jesus. This is why Christians rely on God's forgiveness every second of every day. Non-Christians may not forgive a Christian if they do anything thought to be non-Christian, but God will immediately forgive His children when they realize they messed up and admit to Him that they did not follow His way of love. Plus, we can't expect someone who has only been a Christian for two months to know how to treat others as Jesus did as a Christian of twenty years would. Becoming a complete Christian is a progressive learning process. You can't learn to follow Jesus without the guidance of the Holy Spirit who takes up residence in your soul immediately after giving Jesus your life. It takes years to become like Jesus; in fact, it will take the rest of your life. Once you have entered Heaven, you will be exactly as you would have been if Adam and Eve hadn't failed the human race by entering into sin and being discharged from the Garden of Eden.
This is why we need the perpetual forgiveness of God; we as Christians will make mistakes simply because we have spent more time as fallen creatures than we have as spiritual saints. Shedding ourselves of our fallen nature takes as much time as we want it to. The more we allow the Holy Spirit to change us, the faster we grow into a Jesus-like position. From God's point-of-view, we are sinners saved by His grace and it is by His grace that we grow into spiritual people little by little each and every day. God does not rush us because He is a gentleman in that He allows us to follow our own way until we realize that His way is the better way and we make those changes in our lives that bring us closer to being Jesus than we were the day before. God will never push you where you do not want to go. But, if you decide that your way is better, you just may miss out on the better thing that God has for you, and that would be shame.
Most teenagers think that their parents have it in for them when they tell their child the things they should and shouldn't do, things that could harm them and put them into danger. The parents won't force their child but will give them the freedom to find out for themselves whether or not the parent's advice was sound and true. Unfortunately, too many teens have found out the hard way that their parents were right all along. And the same goes for those who go their own way, including born-again Christians, the more they choose to follow their own advice, the more they find out that they have no idea what they are doing. Why do so many who believe still choose to follow their own way? Control: plain and simple. It is hard for us humans to give control of our lives to people we don't trust; especially to someone who we can't see or hear with our own physical members. Following Jesus takes a lot of faith. Without faith we cannot see Jesus in us. It takes faith to believe that Jesus is God, and it takes faith to let Him take over our lives so He can give us back the kind of lives we have always wanted to be living.
This brings us to the last definition of Love from God's point-of-view. Without faith in Jesus to change our stony hearts into the soft and pliable hearts we need to allow others in, we will never know the love of God itself. The Bible says that without faith we do not seek after God because our faith is misplaced in the things of the world ("there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God"/ Romans 3:11). God actually has to give us the tiny bit of faith that we need to even see that He is calling us into salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. Unless He gives us this faith, we will stay stuck in our sinful nature and never know the freedom that being sinless can give us. Faith is the most basic attribute we need to become children of God. It is vitally related to love. From God's point-of-view, faith is the basis in which He works His will upon our lives. If we have the faith that He will do all of the things for us that He says He will do in the pages of the Bible, the more we will come to resemble Jesus Christ, and the more we will enjoy our lives and the purpose for which God gave us life in the first place. Don't get me wrong, God is calling everyone, but, unfortunately, only some will respond to His call. Let's look at the Scriptures that tell us all about this faith and how it pertains to the love of God and why He wants us to have this faith in the first place.
In John 6:28-29, when those following Jesus asked "What must we do to do the works God requires", Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." God says "first you must believe that I exist, and then you must believe in my Son whom I have sent to you. Once you do these two things then I can set upon you the work for which I have created you to do for Me." Hebrews 11:6 tells us "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Without faith that the Lord will lead you into and through the purpose for which He has created you, you can do nothing that would benefit anybody in the proper way. As I have quoted before from Charles Swindoll if God is not in it, it's chaos; if God is in it, it flows. Have you ever tried to do something to help another person only for your deeds to either be misrepresented or mistaken as being done for selfish reasons? Only God knows the inner heart of another person, so it stands to reason that God would also be the only one who would know exactly what a person needs at the moment they need it. Jesus once said that without Him we can do nothing ("I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing"/ John 15:5).
From God's point-of-view, when we become His children, we are expected to love all others as Jesus loves us by giving up his life for us on the cross. If we are to be faithful to God, then we must be willing to love everyone regardless of their heritage, culture, or way of life. We may not agree with this, but God expects us to see others as He sees them lost sinners in need of salvation. The Apostle Paul, in the Book of Galatians 5:6, 13 tells us "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." Being free in Christ simply means that we may serve others in love regardless of any persecution we might incur from helping those that humanity deems unworthy of the time and money it would take to help them sufficiently. God sees all humankind as worthy because He has created everyone to be worthy to Him, especially when they accept His Son as their Lord and Savior, just as He expects all of humanity to do whether they agree with Him or not. Paul is also saying that we should never use our freedom in Christ as a way to puff ourselves up or to think ourselves as higher than any other person God has made. Serving in love truly means that we seek the needs of the people around us and then fulfill those needs to the best of our abilities without asking for anything in return.
James 2:17-26 sums up all very nicely the topic of faith. James says, "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe thatand shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
Do not mistake these verses as works-oriented salvation. There is nothing neither you nor I can do to gain salvation in Jesus Christ by any good works we may perform for others. There are so many people in the world doing good works for others, and this is a good thing. But many of these people believe that their good works will get them into Heaven at the end of their lives. God explains in His Word that works cannot get you into Heaven any more than standing in the Oval Office at the White House makes you the President of the United States. You can only get into Heaven by accepting His Son, Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Savior. Selfish faith is faith in yourself alone. When we do good deeds out of selfishness then patting ourselves on the back is the only reward we will ever receive. If you are doing good deeds to prove to others that you are somebody, then this is all the reward you will receive from anyone.
Whether you like it or not, God should receive all the glory from your good deeds, for it is He who gave you your life and the ability to give some of it back to others when they need help. For example, it may be me who is writing these words. It may be my fingers typing every word and thought that seems to flow from my mind, but this knowledge I write comes straight from the mind of God through His Holy Spirit partnering with my spirit to teach both me and you the things He wants us both to know about Him and His love for us and the entire human race. I freely, willingly, and gladly give God all of the glory for what He has taught me over the past fifteen years, just as I freely, willingly, and gladly impart it to you who read these words and gain comfort and knowledge from them. Before I knew Jesus, I had nothing to be proud of. Today, my life overflows with God's love and peace from all of this heart-knowledge I have gained from Him. From God's point-of-view, I am His child and all that He teaches me will forever be given away so that others may gain His salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Approx. 5,320 words.
Copyright 2014 by Robert W. Bruno
Coming next: What is Love? God's Point of View (Part Three)
All Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION . Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved."
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.