Father God, Your love is pure and perfect. Work in us to purify and perfect our love for You and others.
Last week’s study centered on the question of whether one word for love was enough. We explored different kinds of love and how God uses them and pours them out into our lives. He is pure unadulterated love.
In our homework, we read Psalm 136 and looked for actions God took on our behalf because of His great love for us. What action words did you find?
- He made…
- He brought out…
- He overthrew the enemy…
- He led His people…
- He struck down great kings…
- He gave a heritage…
- He remembered…
- He gives food…
God’s love motivates Him to act on our behalf.
This week’s memory verse is also picture of God’s love for all He created.
Recite John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:16-17 NIV
God’s love longs to save, not condemn or punish. He sent Jesus as a loving sacrifice to make the way for reconciliation and redemption.
Did you find yourself acting purely out of love this week? If so, how?
Focusing on love as a selfless emotion, an other-centered action, made me realize just how selfish and self-centered I am! Yikes!
Every complaint comes from a perspective of what I don’t have or think I need. Every judgmental thought reveals a lack of love for others.
The week became an exercise in seeing just how much He needs to transform me.
Read Romans 12:9
Let’s look at several translations of what is written:
Let love be genuine. —ESV
Love must be sincere. —NIV
Let love be without hypocrisy. —NKJV
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. —The Message
Paul is teaching Believers in Rome how to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). He discussed serving the body of Christ and putting love into action. Love must be sincere is his introduction.
What do you think about what Romans 12:9 says about love?
According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary for students, sincere means having or showing honesty; being what it seems to be. Paul began his teaching on love with one thought. Love must be sincere, genuine, honest, without hypocrisy. In other words, you just can’t fake it.
Recently a very close member of our family chose to leave their spouse. One of the most devastating statements she made to her husband after seventeen years of marriage was, “I knew after the first year I didn’t love you.” It sent us all into a tailspin.
I thought about it for days. Can you really fake or pretend love for decades? Have children? Go on vacations? Smile and seem happy and content? I reflected on our times together as a family during the early years. The love didn’t seem fake to me. It still leaves me wondering even as I write these words.
I get faking love for a short period of time, even pretending to like someone you really don’t. But not this. I don’t understand and maybe never will.
Is there a time you tried to fake loving or even liking someone? What was the result?
God’s Word calls us to sincere love. Where does this kind of love come from?
Read Galatians 5:22
Love is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.
We can try to fake love, pretend to care for others or like those who are difficult, but Believers are called to a different way. We are called to sincere, genuine love. Fruit can’t be faked. A pear tree cannot produce fake fruit. It’s always the real deal… genuine.
Christian character is not mere moral or legal correctness, but the possession and manifestation of nine graces: love, joy, peace — character as an inward state; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness — character in expression toward man; faith meekness, temperance — character in expression toward God.
Scofield describes love, joy, and peace as character as an inward state. When the Spirit is at work in our lives our character changes. Love, joy, and peace do not come from our own inner strength or willpower. They come from the Spirit living in us. We can’t manufacture any type of lasting love, but God can grow us to a point of loving others. The question is: How do we get there?
We must first recognize we are unlovable and yet God still loves. In fact, the only reason we experience love at all is because He first loved us.
Read 1 John 4:19
I would say the message of 1 John 4:19 is the foundation of my faith and it didn’t come easily. When the assignment came in Bible class to create five belief statements, I struggled. I was in my mid-twenties and there was a long list of things I believed. I had opinions about worship and baptism… about good and evil… heaven and hell and how to get there.
I remember driving home reflecting on the conversation in class. So many strong statements about what to believe and why we believe it, but which ones were true. And more importantly, what five truths were the basis for my faith. As the miles passed I kept thinking one thought, “God loves first.” I didn’t have the Scripture reference, didn’t even know if the thought was true or biblical.
When I got home I started digging. At the time, it wasn’t as easy as doing an internet search. I turned to the concordance in my Bible and began the task of reading all the verses about love cited there. Near the end, I came to 1 John 4:19.
It’s true! I love, we all love, because He first loved us. This is where it all begins.
When did you recognize God loved you first? How did you respond?
Read Romans 5:6-11
What words are used to describe who we are before we respond to God’s love?
Weak. Ungodly. Sinners. Enemies.
God loved us while we were His enemies: weak, ungodly sinners. Until we respond to His love, receive His love in Jesus, we are unable to love anyone the way God intended us to love. And we remain His enemies.
As Believers, He calls us to love in specific ways. We’ve already talked about how love must be sincere. And last week in Obedience – An Act of Love, we talked about the greater love in John 15:13, which lays down its life for its friends. Let’s look at other verses which define the way of love.
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul gives an inspired definition of the love God calls us to. What it is, and what it is not.
Love is… Patient. Kind. Rejoices with truth. Always protects. Always trusts. Always hopes. Always perseveres. Never fails.
Love is not… Envious. Proud. Dishonoring to others. Self-seeking. Easily angered. Keeping a record of wrongs. Evil.
When you look at these lists, what first comes to mind? Do you love well? or not so well?
Not only is our love to be sincere and honest, it is to be earnest, fervent, deep. Earnest, according to Merriam-Webster’s, is an intense and serious state of mind.
What does this kind of love do?
Covers a multitude of sins!
Have you experienced this kind of love? either giving? or receiving?
We are also told who to love. Last week we talked about Jesus’s command for us to love the family of Believers as He loved us (John 15:12).
Who else does Jesus call us to love?
When we love our enemies, who are we identified with?
Have you had an experience in loving your enemy?
I’ve been called to love an enemy lately. One with a flesh and blood face.
Now understand, our enemies include all unbelievers. If one is not for Jesus, then he is against Him (Matthew 12:30). Christ died for us while we were still His enemies — unbelievers.
This particular enemy invading my life is a perfectly nice guy, as far as I can tell, but a staunch unbeliever. Therefore, my enemy.
He’s entered my life in such a way I cannot avoid him without harming other relationships. So, I hear His call: But love your enemies… and I ask Him the question, What does it look like to love my enemy? And I pray: I can’t but You can. I’m willing to have You love him through me.
The one love God calls us to is a love we cannot produce on our own. As we have already discussed, godly love is an aspect of the Spirit’s work in our lives, growing something new in us.
What feelings rise when you think about loving your enemy? or stepping out in the love Paul described? or giving the selfless love of greater love — laying down your life for a friend?
Loving our enemies, loving sacrificially, loving selflessly is risky. When we take risks of any kind, there is one common emotion: Fear. It can be a fearful thing to love as Jesus calls us to.
Read 1 John 4:18
Is there fear in love? What is at the root of fear?
What does perfect love do?
The Greek word translated as perfect is telios which means not only perfect, but full grown, mature (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). Love, like all aspects of faith, requires sanctification, maturation. There is a growth process involved when it comes to love.
Perfect love is only perfect/fully mature when there is no fear, worry, or anxiety involved. No fear of our needs going unmet. No fear of getting hurt. No fear of loss for ourselves or others.
How can fear interfere with our love for others?
My worries and fears for my children regarding where they are in their lives right now, only interfere in my relationship with them.
Fear causes me to question them about their choices, which makes them defensive, which makes them not want to talk to me.
Fear causes me to warn and give unsolicited “advice,” which makes them defensive, which makes them not want to talk to me.
Fear keeps me from simply enjoying their company and makes it hard for me love them right where they are. My love becomes obtrusive rather than inviting.
My fear also reveals my lack of trust in God and His love for my children and for me. In fear, I cannot receive His love perfectly, therefore my love for Him is imperfect, and my love for my children is imperfect.
When we allow fear to enter our love relationships, God’s love becomes unappealing to others.
We began with the question whether one word for love was enough. The truth is there is only one word for love. His name is Jesus.
Jesus, the Word made flesh, revealed God’s great love by stooping low. The Creator becoming part of creation, serving those He created face to face: healing, teaching, freeing. Jesus, who willing died in our place so we might live, manifests God’s love. The One who is love and defines love.
The One who loves, longs for us to love Him. Our spiritual discipline this last week was Centering Prayer. Spending quiet time in His presence. We hope you had a good experience centering your thoughts on Him.
Time together is one way we show our love to others. He is your heavenly Father who loves you and longs for you to spend time with Him. This is the aspect of His love we will dig deeper into next: A Father’s Love.
The spiritual discipline we’re asking you to do is Interview a Father.
Men and women are different in many ways, therefore fathers love their children in a different manner than mothers. We, being women, have experienced receiving a father’s love, but did you ever ask your father about his love for you?
This week, interview a father you know about his love for his children. Ask him how he loves his children. What does it look like? How does it feel?
Some of us can’t interview our own fathers, because they are gone, so seek out another father you know. Your husband, if you have children, or your son if you have grandchildren, or a brother or brother-in-law who has children.
Take what you learn to your heavenly Father. Ask Him how His love is similar and different from the father’s love you heard about.
Ask Him how your own father loved you well and how he failed.
Ask Him to help you receive and know His perfect fatherly love for you.
Thank You for Your great and awesome love. Grow me to love like You.
Click here for a PDF of next week homework: Going Deeper – Week 22 – A Father’s Love – Homework