Have you heard Christians say “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship”? Or that a key to Christianity is about “knowing how much God loves you”? I have often heard those two sayings but only recently started to go deep and to understand these principles better. Certainly it’s difficult to love others until we really know that we are loved–or better yet, that we know in our hearts that we are loved Sons and Daughters.
16….God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them….
19 We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:16-19
This importance the Scriptures give love is interesting because the world’s perceived hypocrisy of the Christians is that (in our focus on truth) we are judgmental and narrow minded, in other words, unloving. (You might check out the movie “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers” on Netfilx sometime).
Could it be that most believers simply haven’t received or experienced how much we are loved–and thus our lives are only trying (in our own effort) to do right, and don’t display that “overflowing” measure of God’s love? Yes! So how do we experience this love in a way that changes us?
Before I give my insights, one more important question: Why aren’t the works of the spirit, such as healing, prophecy, words of knowledge, tongues, that are throughout the New testament displayed in most of the churches in the U.S.? It seems as if most Christians believe or act as if these gifts stopped with Jesus’ disciples (cessation). Why do a relatively few believers and denominations seem to have these gifts while many professing Christians and churches do not?
As I’m coming to know God more intimately, to feel His amazing love grow in my heart, I am being convinced that having this intimate love relationship is the key and answer to the problem of a relatively unattractive, fruitless and powerless Christian life. God wants us to have these gifts in order that people may come to know Him, but he’s not going to give them to someone who only seeks the gift and not the gift giver. He wants a true love relationship with us.
The Bible speaks of the priority of love and its primacy to other gifts of the spirit:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 1 Cor. 13:3
When I observe a miraculous healing, someone getting their hearing or eyesight restored for example, what really happens is someone experiences, often for the first time, God’s amazing love for them. Even if they’re an atheist or have some other faith, when you’re miraculously healed, you experience the love of God that penetrates the heart.
It seems obvious to me that experiencing or knowing God’s love is an important key and answer to the problem of the ho-hum Christian life, and the key to effectively witnessing to others. It also is the first step in knowing and trusting God, in listening to His spirit, and probably the gateway for receiving additional spiritual gifts to give to others.
I know I’ve always loved apologetics, the defense of the Christian worldview, and of engaging in intellectual debates, and it does have its important role. But as Phillip Yancey said “No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.”
So how do we experience the love of God and know Him, so we can do His will, have an attractive spirit and to love others? I’ve been listening a lot to Pastor Dan Mohler. He has answered so many questions for me and I think he is an truly amazing witness and pastor for Jesus. He’s very energetic and joyful, knows the Word–and he’s funny! Check out his videos on Youtube. I’ve mixed some of what I’ve learned with my own points (but don’t make this a “formula”):
1) Believe God’s Truth right now, the feelings of love will follow. Don’t let your circumstances (what you see) or your feelings control what is TRUE for you. Knowing, trusting and settling in your heart and mind what God has both said and done, to prove His Love and goodness to you is HUGE. He sent His Son to die for you! Your sins are completely forgiven and effectively gone! His work is finished and complete! All His promises (even the ones not yet visible) are true and His spirit wants to live inside of you! These are non-negotiable, so when things go bad, don’t blame, question or complain in your spirit to God–that effectively throws His truth and your identity out the window. Also, don’t get hung up by Old Testament principles and questions. Remember the New Testament which fully reveals Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is the final word and authority over the Old Testament. The Truth shall set you free–IF you accept it as truth.
2) Know that you are totally loved and precious to God. He didn’t send His son just because you’re such a mess. He sent His son because there’s something immensely valuable about you–just as your kids are precious to you, despite their mess-ups. His love for you moved Him to rescue you. You’re worth the blood of Jesus. He wants to restore you back to your “original value.” He wants to live inside of you. That’s how much he values you.
3) Spend regular quality time giving and receiving love with God in prayer. You can read the bible cover to cover, listen to Christian music and be surrounded by believers all day, and yet never take time to share your heart with your Father. This is a very important key to a transformed life that many if not most “Christians” miss; intimacy with God. He needs to know you, and you need to know Him. Take time daily to make it real with him. Spend time just seeking and focusing on Him without distraction. Read the bible not for head knowledge, but to know Him. Receive and soak in His love and His truth revealed in His Word. In prayer remember to Love, Confess, and Thank Him for His promises as applied to you personally. Surrender, worship and embrace who God is, so you can be more like Him. To me this is so humbling, healing, It feels great. It feels like entering His presence in eternity. But remember, Step 1, start with the truth, else you become lead by your feelings.
4) Stop “trying” to live a Christian life and know you are a Son or Daughter of God; His spirit lives in you. Self-image and identity are often a key to a transformed life. As you trust Him with your life you take on His identity and His heart, your words and actions start to line up with His. Keep focusing on the truth of the one that is living inside or you rather than on any trials you are going through. As you exchange the root of the tree from the old beliefs and the living for self to His Truth and His Will, good fruit begins to come naturally. You’re no longer striving, it’s just who you’ve become.
5) Listen to believers or pastors that stress these keys and demonstrate a transformed life. Faith comes be hearing the Word of God, and it helps if you hear from a believer or pastor that also believes and displays this love. If the Pastor doesn’t have an attractive, loving spirit and or can’t heal people, similar to Jesus, it will be hard for you to accept what the Gospels are really saying–or believe that it’s possible for yourself. I recommend Dan Mohler – youtube search him or try this message here (it’s one of the best I’ve ever heard): Dan Mohler Web Session 1 Free School of Power and Love
6) No longer crave love, respect or “significance,” but Become Love for others. Knowing you are God’s son or daughter gives you great worth and significance and means you get to represent him even in trials and difficulties. So do not be “needy” for love or respect from others, you’ve already received that from God (steps 1-4)! Think of it this way: If you were made an earthly King of some country or “kingdom,” you could be self-serving and demand taxes (love and respect) and control or ignore people so you could do what you want with your riches (your time/occupations, money). But if you realized, because you are now an joint-heir to the true King, and because of the goodness of this true king that made you His Son, you also are “good” and “rich.” There’s no need to strive, you’ve already arrived! From this new identity, you now are inspired to do what’s right; to serve people and the King rather than your self. Because it’s hard to change your old ways, you may cry out to God: “make me a servant!”
7) Love is Doing unto Others & God; put it into practice. Though you’ve “arrived” there is also a process to “realize” this new identity that proceeds with practice. This may be like reversing the polarity on a battery. Your life will flow as you stop serving your self and start and continue to serve others in love. If you feel you’ve been a needy “taker” become an abundant “giver.” Make a habit of praying for others, calling and sharing with others, sharing the truth and love that’s in your heart. Be relational and social, get to know people. Find good things to do to others, whether corporately as a church, or one on one. This can be daunting at first, but know He’s inside of you. Remember to serve even those who are disrespectful to you. Don’t be offended by others who still have the problem of not knowing God’s love as you do! This means you’re consistently patient and kind in traffic, with your kids, your spouse, co-workers and so on. You can love others because he first loved you. And with faith and love, God will also entrust you with spiritual gifts such as healing to give to others.
8) Don’t love you own “life” and selfish desires. Your focus, value and “treasure” need to be much more focused on God and heaven then on any passing thing of this earth. This can mean your ego, identity, plans and self-concept to the extent it interferes with your primary identity as a Son or Daughter and your primary mission to serve and love God and others through God’s spirit of love. You need to be dead to the lust of the eyes (materialism), the lust of the flesh (hedonism or pleasure), and the pride of life (keeping score, the need to be accepted or praised by men). This often means regular fasting, and sacrificing, at least for a time, even the dreams you believe God gave you. You need to esteem your relationship with God more than any dreams or personal desires you have. If and when you really let go, He may give them back to you at the right time.
9) Daily practice “All things work for Good” and let “trouble be an opportunity for joy.” Immediately turn over every fear, conviction, guilt or condemning thought to him and thank God that he’s changing it through his Grace. If you’ve been feeling guilty for some time about something, stop, that’s not what God wants for you! No more. Second, take any fears, anxieties, doubts, condemnation, questions, immoral thoughts that come up through the day and just quickly turn them over to the truth of God that you’re a son, and that His work is finished! Remember if you feel convicted, it’s because God’s spirit is in you and he’s changing you. If you feel condemned (the idea that you are worthy of judgement) — it’s a lie from the devil. Remember, you are not the (same) person doing or thinking what you are convicted of–or you wouldn’t feel conviction! Focus on that! When you do this daily, this is how change happens in a daily fashion. Do this both in a quiet time of prayer, and through out the day. Know that trouble is an opportunity for joy, and that all things work for good… even our trials and temptations!
6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
2 John 2:16
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