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. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:9-10, 19 NIV)
"This is love" - John makes a statement which he is very clear about. He is about to define love for us based on his long and intimate personal experience. I feel as if John is so clear about this that he is not expecting there to be any dispute.
"This is love" - not that we love, but that we are loved. Love originates in the heart of the Father. In fact, it was only because of love that the Father sent the Son to bring us back to himself. He didn't want us to live in independence and rebellion; he wanted a family. He therefore did everything possible to bring us back into that family.
We all want to be more loving of ourselves and of others. No matter how hard we try we will not be able to manage this without first recognising that we need to be loved. We don't receive love in order to give it away. We receive love because we need to receive it for ourselves.
As we are loved it is an inevitable consequence that the love we have received will begin to overflow and touch others. The only way to be more loving is to be loved. We often quote these verses and seem to recognise love comes from the Father. What we fail to do is put it into practice, the practice of being loved.
A simple prayer I often pray and I encourage you pray it too. You can pray this anywhere and at any time of the day.
"Father, will you fill me with your love".
He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you. (Job 36:16-17 NIV)
These verses are probably not well known yet they describe a recurring theme and that is freedom. Here we are in a place of distress (which can also mean anguish, torment, suffering or exhaustion) and there is a promise of something better for us. There is hope. We don't have to remain in this very negative place but we are drawn into a wide open space where there is freedom and the things that have restricted us fall away.
What draws us away from and out of this distressful place? Love. We are wooed; that's an intimate expression of love, gentleness and kindness. As Hosea writes, we are drawn with cords of loving kindness.
We are drawn out of our distress, a place where we feel restricted and into a wide open space where we are free from restriction. Not only that, before us is a table of choice food. This place of refuge is a place of comfort, provision and safety. It sounds a bit like Psalm 23:5 where we see a table of goodness laid out for us in the presence of our enemies. If we are expected to sit at a table and eat whilst our enemies surround us there must be someone else looking out for us. Our Father and his angels are there to protect and comfort us whilst the storm rages around us.
If you feel in distress (or any of the other words that I mentioned above) then allow your heart to come to a place of rest. Can you trust him to bring you through the storm and into a wide open space of freedom? He will comfort and provide, even in the middle of a storm. He can do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.
There are times when it might appear as if the Bible contradicts itself. We read one thing in one verse and then completely the opposite in another. This can be confusing and leave us in doubt as to what is really being said. However, I have come to see that, very often, these apparent contradictions are simply like a before and after photograph. One verse might describe us before something happens and then the other shows what we are like once a significant event has taken place.
I want to look at one of these apparent contradictions.
"And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:13-14 NIV)
In these verses Jesus clearly shows us that he stands in the gap and that through him we have access to the Father. A truly wonderful thing. He will take the things we ask him for, to the Father on our behalf. This is a powerful and comforting truth.
Yet only a couple of chapters later Jesus appears to say the opposite.
"In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf." (John 16:23&26 NIV)
Remember that these two scenarios were both said around the same meal table. Remember too, that the disciples were facing a confusing and tragic story being played out in front of them.
These two verses are not contradictory. They describe two different points in time and something very significant has happened between them. Between these two statements Jesus has reassured his disciples that he will always be with them, but most importantly that they are not being left as orphans. The Holy Spirit of Sonship will fill their hearts and they will be transformed from orphans to sons.
We are given the reason for this transformation: "The Father himself loves you" (John 16:27).
And so it is for us. Because we are being loved by the Father, Jesus says we have direct access to him. We can talk to the Father ourselves simply because he loves us! We are no longer orphans where we hide away and feel we can only come through Jesus. Each one of us can come directly to the Father.
Through the last few chapters of John's gospel we see another transition taking place. In John 15, Jesus says we are no longer servants but friends. After the resurrection we are drawn more deeply into relationship: we are his brothers and we share the same Father. Why? Because the Father himself loves us.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:7-9 NIV)
Last week we looked at 1 Corinthians 13:13 - "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love". I almost feel that this verse in John's gospel could follow on from that - "the greatest of these is love, now remain in my love". Living in love is the most excellent way.
As we read these verses we are presented with a choice, or rather with an invitation. An invitation to remain. To dwell or to abide in his love. To be at home in his love.
The Father is always loving us, he is loving each of you right now and that love is completely unconditional and not dependent on anything we do or don't do. Living in love is the key to a fruitful life. Fruit comes from abiding and not from busying ourselves with activity. That's not to say there aren't things we do, of course there are. But like Jesus, everything we do flows from our relationship of resting in the Father.
As we remain in love we discover the truth of these words:
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:27-30 NIV)
A Father to YOU is a signpost to the heart of the Perfect Father. When we became Christians we were given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Sadly, many of us fail to take up that right and instead continue to live as slaves or orphans. But our true destiny is being sons and daughters who have a permanent place in the Father's family. This blog is an encouragement to help you know who God really is and who you really are.