HOW DOES THE BIBLE DESCRIBE GOD’S LOVE?
BIBLE READING: Luke 15:1-7 KEY BIBLE VERSE: Heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:7)
GOD’S LOVE IS FORGIVING.
We may be able to understand a God who would forgive sinners who come to him for mercy. But a God who tenderly searches for sinners and then joyfully forgives them must possess an extraordinary love! This is the kind of love that prompted Jesus to come to earth to search for lost people and save them. This is the kind of extraordinary love that God has for you. If you feel far from God, don’t despair. He is searching for you. BIBLE READING: Romans 8:28-39 KEY BIBLE VERSE: I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) GOD’S LOVE IS BEYOND MEASURE. These words were written to a church that would soon undergo terrible persecution. In just a few years, Paul’s hypothetical situations would turn into painful realities. This passage reaffirms God’s profound love for his people. No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be lost to his love. Suffering should not drive us away from God; it should help us to identify with him further and allow his love to reach us and heal us.
GOD’S LOVE IS ETERNAL.
These verses contain one of the most comforting promises in all Scripture. Believers have always had to face hardships in many forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment, even death. These could cause them to fear that they have been abandoned by Christ. But Paul exclaims that it is impossible to be separated from Christ. His death for us is proof of his unconquerable love. Nothing can stop Christ’s constant presence with us. God tells us how great his love is so that we will feel totally secure in him. If we believe these overwhelming assurances, we will not be afraid. BIBLE READING: John 3:1-21 KEY BIBLE VERSE: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) GOD’S LOVE IS SACRIFICIAL. The entire gospel comes to a focus in this verse. God’s love is not static or self-centered; it reaches out and draws others in. Here God sets the pattern of true love, the basis for all love relationships-when you love someone dearly, you are willing to pay dearly for that person’s responsive love. God paid dearly with the life of his Son, the highest price he could pay. Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for our sins, and then offered us the new life that he had bought for us. When we share the gospel with others, our love must be like Jesus’. We must be willing to give up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God’s love. BIBLE READING: Psalm 136:1-26 KEY BIBLE VERSE: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)
GOD’S LOVE IS INEXHAUSTIBLE.
Repeated throughout this psalm is the phrase, “His faithful love endures forever.” This psalm may have been a responsive reading, with the congregation saying these words in unison after each sentence. The repetition made this important lesson sink in. God’s love includes aspects of love, kindness, mercy, and faithfulness. We never have to worry that God will run out of love, because it flows from a well that will never run dry.
HUMAN LOVE WHAT ARE THE BIBLICAL GUIDELINES FOR HUMAN LOVE?
BIBLE READING: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 KEY BIBLE VERSE: Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
LOVE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN SPIRITUAL GIFTS.
In chapter 12 Paul gave evidence of the Corinthians’ lack of love in the utilization of spiritual gifts; chapter 13 defines real love; and chapter 14 shows how love works. Love is more important than all the spiritual gifts exercised in the church body. Great faith, acts of dedication or sacrifice, and miracle-working power produce very little without love. Love makes our actions and gifts useful. Although people have different gifts, love is available to everyone.
LOVE BENEFITS OTHERS.
Our society confuses love and lust. Unlike lust, God’s kind of love is directed outward toward others, not inward toward ourselves. It is utterly unselfish. This kind of love goes against our natural inclinations. It is possible to practice this love only if God helps us set aside our own desires and instincts, so that we can give love while expecting nothing in return. Thus the more we become like Christ, the more love we will show to others. BIBLE READING: 1 John 2:1-11 KEY BIBLE VERSE: Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the beginning. This commandment-to love one another-is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. This commandment is true in Christ and is true among you, because the darkness is disappearing and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:7-8)
LOVE IS A COMMAND.
The commandment to love others is both old and new. It is old because it comes from the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18). It is new because Jesus interpreted it in a radically new way (John 13:34-35). In the Christian church, love is not only expressed by showing respect; it is also expressed through self-sacrifice and servanthood (John 15:13). In fact, it can be defined as “selfless giving,” reaching beyond friends to enemies and persecutors (Matthew 5:43-48). Love should be the unifying force and the identifying mark of the Christian community. Love is the key to walking in the light, because we cannot grow spiritually while we hate others. Our growing relationship with God will result in growing relationships with others.
LOVE IS A CHOICE.
Does this mean that if you dislike someone you aren’t a Christian? These verses are not talking about disliking a disagreeable Christian brother or sister. There will always be people we will not like as well as others. John’s words focus on the attitude that causes us to ignore or despise others, to treat them as irritants, competitors, or enemies. Christian love is not a feeling, but a choice. We can choose to be concerned with people’s well-being and treat them with respect, whether or not we feel affection toward them. If we choose to love others, God will help us express our love. BIBLE READING: Mark 12:28-34 KEY BIBLE VERSE: Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ’Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
LOVING GOD IS THE GREATEST HUMAN ACT.
God’s laws are not burdensome. They can be reduced to two simple principles: love God and love others. These commands are from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). When you love God completely and care for others as you care for yourself, then you have fulfilled the intent of the Ten Commandments and the other Old Testament laws. According to Jesus, these two commandments summarize all of God’s laws. Let them rule your thoughts, decisions, and actions. When you are uncertain about what to do, ask yourself which course of action best demonstrates love for God and love for others. BIBLE READING: John 21:15-25 KEY BIBLE VERSE: Once more he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) LOVING GOD MEANS SERVING HIM. Peter had disowned Jesus three times. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. When Peter answered yes, Jesus told him to feed his sheep. It is one thing to say you love Jesus, but the real test is willingness to serve him. Peter had repented, and here Jesus was asking him to commit his life. Peter’s life changed when he finally realized who Jesus was. His occupation changed from fisherman to evangelist; his identity changed from impetuous to “rock"; and his relationship to Jesus changed-he was forgiven, and he finally understood the significance of Jesus’ words about his death and resurrection. LOVING GOD REQUIRES EVERYTHING WE HAVE AND ARE. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. The first time Jesus said, “Do you love [Greek agape: volitional, self-sacrificial love] me more than these?” The second time, Jesus still used the word translated from the Greek word agape. The third time, Jesus used the word translated from the Greek word phileo (signifying affection, affinity, or brotherly love) and asked, in effect, “Are you even my friend?” Each time Peter responded with the word translated into Greek as phileo. Jesus doesn’t settle for quick, superficial answers. Peter had to face his true feelings and motives when Jesus confronted him. How would you respond if Jesus asked you, “Do you love me?” Are you even his friend?
A healthy definition of love is crucial to understanding the central message of the Bible. According to the Bible, love is not confined to sexuality, nor is it primarily a feeling at all. The Bible teaches that love is a commitment. As a commitment, love is not dependent on good feelings, but rather on a consistent and courageous decision to extend oneself for the well-being of another. That commitment then produces good feelings, not the other way around. Jesus became the perfect demonstration of God’s unconditional love for us by laying down his life for our benefit. WHAT IS LOVE? John 15:13 . . . Here is how to measure it-the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. Love is willing to sacrifice for the good of others, even to death. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 . . . Love is patient and kind . . . Love does not demand its own way . . . Love never gives up. This famous chapter about love gives us one of the most eloquent descriptions of love ever written. MUST I LOVE OTHER PEOPLE? WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO? John 13:34 . . . I now am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 1 John 2:9 . . . Anyone who says, “I am in the light” but rejects another Christian is still in darkness. John 13:35 . . . Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. 1 Peter 4:8 . . . Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 John 4:12 . . . If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us. Being a Christian comes with certain expectations, and one of them is that we will love others. Our Christian conduct is proof as to whether we love each other, and loving each other is proof that we belong to Christ.
WHAT ARE SOME SPECIAL THINGS THAT COME FROM A LOVING RELATIONSHIP? Proverbs 10:12 . . . Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love covers all offenses. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 . . . Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. The gifts that come from love are many. Here are a few: (1) forgiveness, (2) patience, (3) kindness, (4) love for truth, (5) love for justice, (6) love for the best in a person, (7) loyalty at any cost, (8) belief in a person no matter what. Love does not allow for (1) jealousy, (2) envy, (3) pride, (4) a haughty spirit, (5) selfishness, (6) rudeness, (7) a demand for one’s own way, (8) irritability, (9) grudges. WHAT KIND OF LOVE DOES GOD EXPECT HUSBANDS AND WIVES TO SHOW TO EACH OTHER? Song of Songs 8:6-7 . . . Place me like a seal over your heart . . . For love is as strong as death. Song of Songs is a book about the sensuous love husbands and wives should have for each other. True sensuous love is a giving love, not a taking love, an offering of self rather than a claim to the mate’s self. Ephesians 5:24-25 . . . As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything. And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her. After our love for God, nothing should take greater priority than the giving, sacrificial love we have for our mate. This love helps us learn more about how we are to love God, and it is an example to those who are learning about love. Hebrews 13:4 . . . Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. It is essential that before you are married you make a lifetime, irrevocable commitment to stay married. Then when problems come, you won’t be looking for a way out, but a way through.
HOW CAN PARENTS SAY THEY LOVE THEIR CHILDREN WHEN THEY PUNISH THEM? HOW CAN GOD SAY HE LOVES ME WHEN HE PUNISHES ME?
Hebrews 12:5-11 . . . The Lord disciplines those he loves . . . No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening . . . But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living. Discipline as God intended is meant to correct, to keep us from doing the wrong thing, to protect us from harm. It is life-building. That kind of discipline is true love. Those who don’t discipline don’t really care. CHRISTIAN LOVE INCLUDES A LOVE FOR ENEMIES. Matthew 5:43-44 . . . You have heard that the law of Moses says, “Love your neighbor” and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Only in Christ’s love can we love enemies. WHERE CAN I GET A TRUE LOVE FOR OTHERS? WHERE DOES THAT COME FROM? Colossians 1:8 . . . He is the one who told us about the great love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 . . . May the Lord make your love grow and overflow to each other and to everyone else, just as our love overflows toward you. 1 Thessalonians 4:9 . . . God himself has taught you to love one another. HOW DO WE LEARN TO RECEIVE LOVE? John 13:1-8 . . . “No,” Peter protested, “you will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “But if I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.” We cannot receive God’s love until we put aside our pride and self-sufficiency. Philippians 3:4-11 . . . I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. When we cease our striving to impress God with our accomplishments we are able to trust his gracious gift of love. Luke 18:15-17 . . . Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Jesus encourages us to learn to receive his love with the trust of little children. Hosea 2:19-20 . . . I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as Lord. God’s love is absolutely faithful. We will know the benefits and security of that love when we commit ourselves to faithfulness as well. WE ARE TO LOVE GOD. Deuteronomy 6:5 . . . You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Joshua 22:5 . . . Love the Lord your God, walk in all his ways, obey his commands, be faithful to him. Mark 12:28-31 . . . Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: . . . you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” God wants us to love him, not for his benefit, but for ours. He does, however, require that love for him be complete-with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Psalm 116:1 . . . I love the Lord because he hears and answers my prayers. We love God because he listens to us. 1 John 3:1 . . . See how very much our heavenly Father loves us. 1 John 4:19 . . . We love each other as a result of his loving us first. We love God because he loves us. John 15:10-11 . . . When you obey me, you remain in my love . . . I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! We love God because doing so will bring overflowing joy to our lives. DOES GOD REALLY LOVE ME? HOW CAN I KNOW? Hosea 2:19 . . . I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. John 3:16 . . . God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 1 John 4:7-12 . . . God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. Romans 5:5 . . . [God] has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 8:35-39 . . . Nothing can ever separate us from his love. HOW SHOULD WE SHOW OUR LOVE TO GOD? Matthew 10:42 . . . If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded. We show our love for God by showing our love to needy people whom God loves. John 14:21 . . . Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me. We show our love for God by obeying him. John 21:15-17 . . . Do you love me? . . . feed my lambs . . . take care of my sheep . . . feed my sheep. Hebrews 6:10 . . . He will not forget . . . how you have shown your love to him by caring for other Christians. We show our love for God by guiding and helping Jesus’ followers. Psalm 122:1 . . . I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” We show our love for God by worshiping him and praising him for his love to us. PROMISES FROM GOD: Psalm 23:6 . . . Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life. God pursues us with his love. Psalm 103:8 . . . The Lord is merciful and gracious . . . full of unfailing love. God’s love for us never fails. Romans 8:39 . . . Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. 1 Corinthians 2:9 . . . No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. God is doing far more for us than we could ever imagine. Hebrews 13:5 . . . I will never fail you. I will never forsake you. God will never leave us or fail us.