God lives in our love toward others

Apologies for the late post this morning. My alarm didn’t go off so I didn’t wake up until 10 minutes after I am normally on the road (thanks, Mom!).

Today’s verse is 1 John 4:16.

16We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

God is love. It’s something we hear all the time. And it’s probably the most famous thing about God, at least in the world at large. If you ask a complete stranger on the street in America about who God is, they’ll probably respond with some concept centering on the fact that God is love.

And it’s true. But how many of us have actually put our trust in that love?

The human concept of someone being love is being detached from personal relationships. After all, if you love everyone, you can’t love one person more than another. Can you? Or you don’t have the time or energy to invest individually in one person. Do you?

Well, God does. And He offers His love freely to every person in the world, but He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. And His love will only make a difference in our lives if we allow it to.

Love always makes a difference in our lives. When you let other people love you, your whole demeanor changes. Once you allow yourself to be loved, you begin to realize that maybe you’re not as terrible a person as you thought you were. Once you allow yourself to be loved, you start to think that maybe you can love other people in return. And that’s just when you allow yourself to be loved by other people.

But once we allow God to love us, there will be some interesting effects in our lives. And as I have discovered, it’s very similar to what other peoples’ love does to us, just on a different level. Once I realized that God really loved me (not my potential or my actions or my talent–but me), I got a whole different perspective on myself.  And once I accepted God’s love in my life, I discovered that His love was too much for me to contain to just myself and I wanted to share it with other people.

And before I knew it, without really even trying, I was living a life of love sharing the love God had given me with everyone I know (and even some people I don’t know and probably won’t ever meet again).

That’s what this verse makes me think of this morning. Once we realize just how much God truely loves us and once we accept His love, it’s too much to contain and we have no choice but to shout His love from the rooftops.

God loves us. So we live in God’s love, and God lives in our love to others.

Does disobeying God’s commandments mean He won’t love us?

Today’s verse is John 15:10.

10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

I had to read this a few times (and in a few different translations) because I wanted to make sure I understood what it was saying. At first glance, if you just skim over this single verse, I’m pretty sure you would think that it’s saying if we obey God’s commandments then He will love us. So, of course, if that is true, then the opposite would be true. That if we disobey God’s commandments He won’t love us. And I know that’s not true.

Other Scripture passages tell us that God loves us in spite of our disobedience. And the Bible never contradicts itself. If there is any contradiction inferred, it is a lack of understanding of Scripture or it is a problem in the translation.

So what could this verse mean, then? What does it mean to “remain in God’s love”? Well . . . I don’t speak Greek so I can’t compare it to the actual original language. But I can compare it to the rest of the verse.

John 15 is one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament. It’s another one of those hallmark chapters that every Christian should know. It talks about Jesus being the True Vine and that we are the branches and God is the gardener, and if we want to produce abundant fruit, we have to abide in Christ. We have to remain in Christ. Because apart from Christ, we can’t accomplish anything.

So is the word remain the same in both situations? In the Greek? I can’t tell. (I really need to take a class in Greek . . . wouldn’t that be awesome?) But in the Amplified Version, both of these verses also incorporate the idea of living in Christ . . . or living in love.

So what does it mean to live in God’s love?

Again, since I don’t speak Greek, maybe I shouldn’t even try to explain this. But to me–and knowing what the rest of Scripture says about following Christ–living in God’s love means being free of religious obligation. It means that since there is nothing I have done to earn God’s love to begin with, there’s nothing I can do to earn it in the future.

He loves me because He is love. I don’t deserve it. And there’s nothing I could ever do to deserve it. All I can do is accept it or reject it. There are no rules to follow. No rituals to complete. No ceremonies that must be finished in order to put me in good standing with God. He already loves me more than anything else in the universe.

Living in God’s love is accepting that.

Okay, so how does that jive with the rest of the verse?

10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

Doesn’t John 15:10 say there are commandments we need to follow? So how does that work with being free of rules and rituals and obligations?

Well, you have to consider what the commands are. Love God. Love people. Those are the most important commandments.

The commandments aren’t rules. I guess you can look at them that way if you want to, but that’s such a shallow view of such a beautiful opportunity. My awesome Pastor did a message series at church on blessings called Bless U . . . and I tell you what, it revolutionized my perspective on God’s commandments. God’s commandments aren’t a list of dos and don’ts. Every commandment in God’s Word is an opportunity to receive a blessing. When we obey God’s commandments, it gives God the opportunity to bless us, to reward us.

As believers in Christ, we are not bound by the Law. No one–except Christ–has ever been able to keep the Ten Commandments. The Commandments weren’t given to us as rules to live by so that we could gain entry into heaven. The Commandments were given to show us that we can’t ever be perfect. And that we needed someone who was perfect to pay for our sins.

John 15:10, to me, means that when we keep God’s commandments, God is able to give us what we are seeking to achieve, over and above what we are expecting. When we keep God’s commandments, it gives us the opportunity to live in God’s love on a daily basis, remembering that it’s not by rules or rituals or religion that we are granted entry into heaven . . . but only by the grace of God.