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Friday, December 11, 2015

As a parent, one thing I’ve come to learn is that true love for someone does not mean you give them whatever they want.  For example, my children would like to eat donuts every night for dinner.  In this situation, my love for them is the very reason that I deny them what they want.  When I deny them, they may be tempted to think I don’t love them.  But real love desires the person’s long-term good, over giving them what they want all the time.

It’s very helpful to me to remember that God loves me with such a perfect love, that He will deny many of my earthly desires.  To someone who doesn’t know God, this may look like God doesn’t care for or love them.  But whoever knows God as their loving Father, they will no doubt be thankful for the many prayers and desires He didn’t answer, knowing that when they come into eternity they will look back and say “I’m glad He did things exactly the way He did.”

So if real love for my children doesn’t look like ‘giving them whatever they want’, what does it look like?  The Bible – our foundation of truth tells us what real love is and what it looks like.  I’d like to list out many practical examples of love the Lord has burdened my heart with, that illustrate the principles of real love as defined by the Bible.  This isn’t meant to be a complete exhaustive list, but a list of examples God has put on my heart as practical goals I can have as I try love others, and God better.

 

CHILDREN

Real love toward my children should look like:

•  Asking God for wisdom to raise them (James 1:5)

•  Praying for them consistently

•  Taking their sin and disobedience very seriously, and not brushing it off

•  Carefully disciplining them and rebuking them when it will build them up, not too severely and not too lightly, and never out of anger (Prov 3:11-12, Col 3:21, Heb 12:5-8)

•  Teaching them that God loves them and is always with them, so they never have to be scared, and they can talk to Him any time  (Heb 13:6)

•  Teaching them the Bible, giving them foundational godly wisdom for life and godliness (Prov 4:5)

•  Being patient with them (Eph 4:2)

•  Not ignoring them

•  Spending quality time with them

•  Encouraging them (1 Thess 5:11)

•  •  Not losing my temper and snapping in anger at them (responding verbally or physically in a harsh way that is driven not by desire for their good but anger)

•  Playing with them and laughing with them

 

SPOUSE

Real love toward my wife should look like:

•  Praying for and encouraging her  (Heb 3:13)

•  Plain and simple kindness (Eph 4:32)

•  Considering what burdens she’s had throughout the day when I’ve been away at work

•  Holding my tongue and keeping quiet when I am tempted to be angry or frustrated (James 1:19)

•  Working hard at my job to provide for her what she needs (food, shelter, etc) without getting in to debt and making our family a slave to others outside our home (1 Tim 5:8)

•  Being faithful to her - not committing adultery in the heart by looking lustfully at another woman (Matt 5:28)

•  Being a servant, sacrificing time and energy to make things easier for her (John 13:12-14)

•  Helping with household chores

•  Not leaving messes around the house

•  Sharing little words that God has spoken to me - ‘salting the conversation’ (Col 4:6) with the things of God, and ‘washing her in the Word’ (Ephesians 5:26)

•  Expressing appreciation for her

•  Laboring to present her as a spotless bride to Jesus (Ephesians 5:27)

•  Rooting for her to grow in the Lord

•  Playfully joking with her to make her smile, and to let her know that I enjoy her (Prov 5:18-19)

 

THE CHURCH

Real love toward my church should look like:

•     Being quick and eager to forgive others (Eph 4:32, Prov 19:11, Luke 17:3)

•     Encouraging them - letting them know how special to God they are and loved, and how necessary to the church body they are (Heb 3:13)

•  Encouraging them to seek for an intimate life with the Lord, desiring that they would be enraptured with Him and not anything else in this life (2 Cor 11:2-3)

•  Challenging them to become Christ-like  (Heb 6)

•  Praying for them in secret (Php 2:3-4, Matt 6:6)

•  Not gossiping or speaking negatively about others  (Psalm 41:7)

•  Doing what I can to help them if I become aware of some need they have (James 2:15-16)

•  Thinking of them throughout the week and bearing burdens of others, praying with real meaning for them and pouring my heart out to God (Gal 6:2, Matt 6:7)

•  Never comparing myself with anybody in the church  (2 Cor 10:12)

•  Being real, not a fake hypocrite – “Let love be without hypocrisy” - being open about my own weaknesses and not trying to hide them so people think I’m godly (Rom 12:9), and thereby discouraging them making them think they are ungodly because they still have struggles

•  Getting ‘under’ people by serving them and doing things quietly in the background, instead of trying to climb my way above everyone by seeking honor  (Php 2:5-8)

•  Weeping with those who are going through a hard time, not saying “I’m glad it’s not me” (Rom 12:15)

•  Not being envious, but rejoicing with them when something good happens for them, cheering for them

•  Exhorting them always to keep pressing into Jesus – to be persistent and consistent, to keep going even when things are tough (Matt 24:13)

•  Gently rebuking them when necessary, so they can become aware and repent of their sin (Gal 6:1)

 

GOD

Real love toward the Lord should look like:

•  Seeking Him alone and not His gifts (Psalm 73:25)

•  Obedience, both inwardly and outwardly – “For this is love the love of God: that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3)

•  Presenting my body as a living sacrifice to Him, and my body parts as His instruments of righteousness (Rom 12:1, Rom 6:13)

•  Considering everything else on this earth besides Him as worthless, and living like that (not chasing after money, comfort, success or the pleasure of this world, but only chasing after Christ) – (Php 3:8)

•  Laboring to build up His church (not in numbers but in Christ-likeness) “Do you love me? Tend my lambs” (John 21:15-17)

•  Seeking for gifts that can build up the church in Christ, and eagerly desiring those gifts not to feel good about myself or significant, but desiring them for the sake of others (1 Cor 14:1-12)

•  Being eager to spend time with Him and having a desire to always be in His presence, regardless of wherever I am or whatever I’m doing  (1 John 1:7)

•  Leaving anything He asks me to give up (even if not sinful) because I always want to be close to Him (Psalm 73:25, 28)

•  Going to Him when I am struggling with some issue, and not trying to solve my problems myself without Him  (1 Peter 5:6-7)

•  Hating sin because it grieves Him (Eph 4:30).  Not wanting to hurt the One I love the most

•  Not complaining when something goes wrong or doesn’t turn out as I’d have hoped, but surrendering myself to it as God’s will, and praising Him in spite of the outcome  (2 Cor 12:8-9)

•  Being faithful to work hard at doing the mundane day to day tasks, because I’m doing it for Him (1 Cor 10:31, 1 Thess 4:11)

•  Seeking eternal life – which is to know Him intimately (John 17:3)

•  Cleansing myself because I want to be like Him (1 John 3:2-3)  -  (by cleansing, not just outwardly but cleansing all the evil that's inside – things like anger, selfishness, greed, loving money and material things, a gossiping tongue, laziness, lukewarmness toward seeking God)

 

Up to this point I’ve only tried to illustrate what I believe real human love looks and doesn’t look like.  But I’ve also been blessed to meditate on and see in God’s Word what His perfect love for me does and doesn’t look like.

 

God’s love for me doesn’t look like:

•  Answering every prayer and giving me whatever I ask, no matter the consequences (2 Cor 12:8-9)

•  Withholding all sickness, physical issues, job or family problems

•  Withholding every temptation from me (1 Cor 10:13)

•  Making me very wealthy (Matt 19:23)

•  Giving me only easy relationships (at work, in my family, in the church, etc)

 

God’s love for me looks like:

•  Giving me many precious promises in His Word so I can partake of His nature (2 Peter 1:4)

•   Justifying me through Christ and now seeing me as righteous, just as if I’ve never sinned (2 Cor 5:21)

•  Filling me with His Spirit so I can live in righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit (Romans 14:17)

•  Always being with me (Heb 13:5)

•  Not just changing my location forever (from Earth to Heaven), but changing what I am forever (2 Cor 5:17)

•  Putting boundaries around me that will guide me to seek for Him (Acts 17:26-27)

•  Willingness to subject me to hardship for my eternal good (Romans 8:28)

•  Willingness to discipline me (Hebrews 12:6)

•  Always providing my needs, both physical and spiritual (Luke 12:29-32)

•  Always thinking of my eternal good over the temporary earthly gain I could have (Mark 8:36)

•  A fervent desire and joy to fellowship with me and be close to me (Zeph 3:17)

•  A fervent desire to see me grow in the image of Christ, and working all of my circumstances to achieve this goal (Rom 8:28-29)

 

And the most special illustration to me of what God’s love for me looks like is:

Not holding back what was most precious to Him - sending His Son to earth to become a man forever, and as a man to die for me so I can have an intimate relationship with Him, knowing Him as my loving Father: 

 

John 3:16, John 17:3

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life – And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent

 

Luke 15:24

"For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."