Lord, I am so thankful that You chose me! You wanted me and sought me out until I finally heard Your voice and surrendered to Your call. I’m so glad that You pursued me with such a mighty love and that You refused to give up on me. What else can I say to express my heart to You? I can only say, “Thank You, Jesus!”
This is an excerpt from a devotional posted from a dear friend recently on Facebook. I read it with amazement for it so aligned with what I was writing below. And this motivates my prayers for those who have not yet fully capitulated to His unending love - not that their will would be changed for that is not within my jurisdiction, but that His love would be so relentless that they would find no way of escape. “Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” Psalm 139: 7-8
Perfected in love
John wrote in his first letter: “In this is love: it was not that we loved God, but he has loved us, and he sent us his Son, the atonement for the sake of our sins.” 1 John 4:10 ISV That the love of God comes forth from Him, is maintained by Him, and is perfected in Him is an exigency that cannot be abrogated of the Divine prerogative. For His love is “forged in the eternal furnace of his changeless will.”
To attribute the capacity to love to the innate will of man is to reduce it to the realm of whimsy. That which is incapable of failure will become subject to forfeiture for it ultimately rests upon the worth of its object–that is the perishable rather than the imperishable.
This is the way Charles Spurgeon puts it: For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? Any common sort of man will love those who love him; even the scum of the earth can rise to this poor, starveling virtue. Saints cannot be content with such a groveling style of things. “Love for love is manlike”; but “love for hate” is Christlike. Shall we not desire to act up to our high calling?
The effulgence of love
There is no command of the Lord that does not come with it the requisite provision. The capability of love for God does not exist in the heart of man until it is first placed there by the Spirit of God. “because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5 It is from this effulgence that we derive our capacity to love. At His sovereign bidding he calls His own to “test me now in this.” For here we have the immutable agency of God coupled with the eternal omnipotence of His Love–upon what greater security could the believer call? Our surety is absolute for in Him there is no prevarication: “and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1:22 ESV
Just heard a Christian leader say on the radio that we are commanded to love our neighbors. Certainly that is a truism and it makes for good preaching, but can we leave it at that? Does there not remain a caveat that will spare us from certain condemnation? Let’s delve into this a bit further. I would say that if the pure genesis of love is a commandant it is not love at all. Can the point of the spear engender love from the heart of its trembling object? To take this a step further, can the fear of punishment be the source of love? Nay, for in fact fear is the absence of love–can dark give rise to light? Even further, can the dark fear of hell give source to the bright light of pure love? “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 NIV
A motivation based on fear has an expiration date - one motivated by love is eternal.
Object of love
John records these words of Christ: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34 In reality this was no new commandment for it was as old as Leviticus. What was new was the means with which to fulfill it. John expands on this in his first epistle: “Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.” 2:7-8 The NAS and the ESV among other literal translations initiate this clause with the salutation: “Beloved!” In English it means the one who is the object of love. In the Greek it is derived from “agape.” Agape is love which is of and from God, whose very nature is love itself. It also means self-sacrifice: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
The love of God loves its object before the object has any worth deserving this same love. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6 This type of love imparts worth to its object and along with that - out of the overflow - the ability to return love. We give to God what He has given us to give to Him. From Spurgeon: “Lord, give what thou dost command ; then both the grace and the glory will be thine alone.”
Constrained by love
For Paul love was not a choice but an inward compulsion - for he had been apprehended by Someone far greater than himself. “For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” 2 Cor 5:14 The word compel here and in the KJV “constraineth” has the meaning as to be controlled in the grasp of a fever–that is to exist in a state that is outside of our normal capacity. And Paul was no mean individual where the greatness of accomplishments were concerned.
As an epilogue we turn again to Charles Spurgeon: "For I am persuaded, that neither death; nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Now, soul, is not thy love refreshed? Does not this make thee love Jesus? Doth not a flight through illimitable plains of the ether of love inflame thy heart and compel thee to delight thyself in the Lord thy God? Surely as we meditate on "the love of the Lord," our hearts burn within us, and we long to love Him more.
Hope of love
Turning again to John’s first letter: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:1, 3 He had this confident conviction for as he had leaned on Christ’s breast he heard the Savior utter these loving words of petition to His Father: "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” John 17:9 The authoritative “may be” here has no kin to the indefinite maybe of our language.
The loving grace of God is never a license to sin. Rather, it is the motivation and means by which the elect do not continue on in patterns of sin. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age
What greater hope can enter into the heart of man than the Divine awareness of being the unswerving object of unfailing love? Nothing less, nor nothing more can demand absolute surrender. We may sing “no turning back” to the point of exhaustion, but if we are not firmly held in the grip of changeless love it is all futility.
It is all very simply really - the love of God cannot, will not, is utterly incapable of failing. And this is quite independent of the worth of its focus. Love initiates, its object responds. “Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” Lamentations 3:22 NIV
And from the melody of hymnody our benediction:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts 1707
From a more recent pen:
Neither life, neither death,
The highest high, the deepest depth
Nothing can separate
Neither tears, neither trial
Certain as the sun will rise
Nothing can separate
Michael W Smith