THE LOVE OF THE FATHER
By Simon Verdouw
Just now we were singing a song with the words: “Oh Lord, let everything I think, be full of your love.”
Every time I sing that line, - which I do with all my heart – I think: “That is no small thing!”
I think of my own thoughts, of my life throughout a whole day, and then to “let that be full of Your love, Lord”, ……to give content to that, to make it your own, make it your own way of behaving, that is certainly no small thing.
Well, this morning I want to talk with you about that: about the love of the Father. And I want to read with you 1 John 3 verse 1.
How great is the love that the Father has shown to us, that we are called Gods children. And that is what we are!
In an other translation (the RSV) it says: “See, what love the Father has given us.”
We need to open our eyes this morning to see the love which the Father has given us.
Let us now read the first 2 verses of Jude:
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ. Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
Brothers and Sisters, many have made songs about love. People are desperately searching for love. Yet few have found it.
In the world around us, we see hearts growing cold and hardening, we see lawlessness. And yet in my opinion, we live in a time in which all the outward religious behaviour will be pushed aside and in which the irresistible love of God will be revealed and be seen more and more. Love wants to be recognized, wants to be known. And God will not be stopped by anyone or anything: “See whatlove the Father has given us.” His love can be seen by those who have observant eyes and are looking for it.
Gods love can be seen from His actions. Love wants to be seen and expresses itself in actions. And God’s greatest intervention after creation, was a deed of love, when He gave His only Son for a lost world. He gave His only Son, who was to take upon Himself the sin of the whole world, to carry the sickness and infirmities. This was a love-act of God. That is why we can see the love of God in its purest form in Jesus. The love of the Father for His Son, the love of the Son for the Father and for all humanity. It is the greatest wish of Him who created heaven and earth, the almighty and invisible and eternal God, not to be referred to as God , but rather be called and be known as ‘Father’ by His people.
In Jeremiah 3:19 God cries out form the depth of His heart:
“I thought you would call me ‘Father,’” God is missing it. The almighty, great God has this one desire: that His people may know Him and experience Him as their ‘Father’ and will call Him by that name. It is therefore moving to see that the first words of Jesus recorded in the Bible, when he was a twelve-year old boy, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”
When you look at your own prayer life, to whom do you speak? How do you address the Almighty? You should try and see what happens inside you when you start praying to God calling Him ‘Father’. That could be quite a confrontation. Especially when people have not had a father, or had a father who has not treated them well, it can bring up a lot things in their hearts. But there is something that goes beyond that in the Father, from whom all fatherhood originates, when we call Him ‘Father’. Jesus says: “I have to be in the house of my Father.” He wants to show the relationship He has with God, how well he knows Him. What security, what knowledge of who He is, where He came from and where He was going.
“Didn’t you know that I had to be in God’s house, no, in my Father’s house?
And what is the very first prayer Jesus is teaching us? What are the first words of that prayer? “Our God”? No, “Our …. Father”. That goes deep, doesn’t it?
A person’s deepest desire is to be known, to know that you are accepted; that your life has a purpose; that you have a home, a future.
“See, what love the Father has given us.” All the things that can be said about God can be contained in this one word: “God is love.” That is Who He is, that is His nature. And in this He is not locked up inside Himself, but He is always open towards that which is outside Him, such is the nature of love. He is open towards His creation, towards man. His love is searching for a place to work in the lives of people. God’s love for man is so great.
Now the verse in Jude talks about those “who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”
It is more than worth the effort to take time and studyabout and to think about the love of the Father. I believe that it is necessary to do this, now more than ever; to try to find out the level of His love; to search for the real meaning of His love; not just to study it, but to experience it and to express it in the world to other people through my life.
The nature of God’s love sometimes is more directed to what He sees as necessary for man rather than to what we, as human beings, think about our direct need for love. That is why it was God’s love that made Jesus die for the sin of the whole world, however strange that seemed to be. That is why Jesus accepted it as God’s love for man that He was to be the person to take this upon Himself. That surely is love of a very high standard and very deep. Jesus Christ died for the sin of the whole world and God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.
If you see a little bit of the love which the Father has for His creation, and you are far away from that God, I would like to urge you to take the step towards Him. Discover and accept the love He has for men, a love that made Him give His Son in order to bring all men back to Himself. Let that love touch your heart and be convinced by that love, and let it bring you back to God, if that is necessary.
Dear people, that love is so great, you can’t contain it in a church! That love is revealed in all its fullness in Jesus Christ. But that is still not enough, in one person! He is the First One. Love never wants to stay alone. Love is searching for people. God is searching for the whole human race! That is why it says in Ephesians 3:18 “that you, together with all the saints, may have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”
Not only to understand that love, but also to experience it, to feel it.
God is love, He wants to pour His love out in all of mankind, because God Himself is love.
A personal encounter with Jesus Christ can take away many wrong presumptions. It can, all of a sudden, reveal so much of the Love of God to your heart; it can let you experience His love. Then you can pray: “Lord, open my eyes that I may see it. Take away every hindrance in seeing that love. Lord come to me.”
Love wants to be discovered, doesn’t it? Real love seeks to be known or not? Love also wants to give. That is how God is. Therefore, a prayer to Jesus or the Father that says: “Show me your love,” is a prayer after His heart.
One night, at the beginning of the year I was not able to sleep. And when you lie awake at night, the best thing to do is, to start praying. I was thinking about today’s subject and asked God: “Father, show me your love.” At that very moment, my thoughts went back to the time when I was a boy of about sixteen or seventeen. That is when I lost my father. He died after a short, severe illness. I didn’t have a bad father. I am thankful for my family, but I didn’t have a real close relationship with my father. And when he died, it didn’t mean too much to me. In that same period I met my wife Nel, to whom I am married for many happy years. She thought: “I am going to find a boy, grieving deeply about the loss of his father.” But he was not!
In our marriage we have been blessed with 4 sons, they are all over 20 years of age now. For them I became a father. I did my very best and gave all I had to bring them up. And at one point in their upbringing, I became aware that I was giving them what I myself had never received. It just shook me and made me very sad. All of a sudden, I realized what I had missed.
But you know, the wonderful thing about that meeting with God, - in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep – was this: When I prayed and I asked the Father to let me experience His love, it took me back to the time of my youth, when I was sixteen or seventeen and He made me experience God and His love for me at the time that I lost my own father. He saw me then! At that very moment I saw the sadness I experienced and I knew that God saw it and that it touched Him. At the same time that I realized what I was missing, or felt the pain and the grief, I also experienced the love of God pouring into me and making it all melt away.
Three things were happening inside me at the same time. That was very moving and it brought me to tears. So my prayer: “Father show me your love,” brought me back into that situation and gave me some experience of the real love of God; the experience of His ’fatherly love’, a Father who understood and was right there in the situation and who at the same time filled up the void and brought healing.
The love of the Father.
For me that was the moment in my life that I ‘saw’ what love the Father gave me. And you may have your own experience and testimony about this.
So if you pray for this and it happens to you, open yourself up to it. Let His love pour out freely. We sing that often in songs: Surrender yourself. It can happen to you, just as it can happen that you fall in love!
Brothers and sisters, God is love. In 1 Corinthians 13 we find a wonderful and practical description of this. It is good to speak about that love in a very practical way. And we read in verse four that love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. The love of God has no limits. The love of God creates space! The love of God waits. Look at the story of Noah. God in His love is waiting, He gives opportunities, waits for the right moment. He does not allow anything to force Him, He is not in a hurry, but He waits until the time is ready. The love of God is patient. You can see that in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every time I think about how Jesus moved around together with His own disciples, how He put up with them and loved them to the very end, it stirs me, moves me and encourages me, it admonishes me. What love did Jesus show His unbelieving disciples who left Him all alone. He continued to love them.
He was patient: “He loved them till the very end.” A love that is shows itself in friendliness and kindness, a love that is always merciful, with arms around those who are weak, hurt and vulnerable. He says: “Come on, you and I will walk on together.” He brings real warmth and security nearer to us. That is how God is, how Jesus is. That love is in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. That love does not envy, is not jealous. The love of God can endure and can be glad that things are turning out well for others.
Do you know how far God goes? He steeps very low to lift us up.
Love is self-assured. Real love knows itself, it does not set itself aside or disclaim itself, but accepts itself. There is a kind of inner peace about who you are, that you are alive, that you can be who you are! Love is not jealous, it knows its place, its own talent, its own task and assignment and with that its boundaries. I don’t need to be able to do all you can do. I should not even try. The task the Lord has given me, creates space around me. I should not try to go beyond that space, otherwise I become nervous. Love knows its own limits and margins. Love notices the other person and recognizes what is in him. And love will always stimulate me to discover the other person, to recommend, encourage, bless and help him to move forward. That is how God is, that is love of God. That is how it worked perfectly in Jesus.
That love of God is poured out into our hearts, can do its work in us. That love does not show of, does not know how to boast, does not exaggerate. Jesus says: “I am not seeking my own honour, but I seek the honour of my father.” I sometimes ask myself questions, – I don’t know whether you do this sometimes -. One is: “When would I be the happiest in my life? What is real blessedness for me?” Sometimes I am thinking about that. I am searching for this. I want to serve the Lord. In my search I ended up at the words of Jesus when He says: “It is my deepest hunger to do the will of God, to seek for His glory.” My conclusion is that this is what makes you really the happiest as a human being. And I want to become happy as a human being. I don’t want to seek my own glory, I want to seek the glory of my Sender.
Love is not puffed up, is not boastful. Never exalt yourself or look down upon someone else.
I read somewhere: “The love for one another, for the brethren, shields a Christian for both pride and low self-esteem.”
If you read that love is patient, not jealous or envious, that it is not boastful and puffed up, then you can easily see that if you have problems in these areas, these are caused through the absence of love.
What I mean is this: If you have a struggle with jealousy in your life or if you have the need to hold your own in this life or want to exalt yourself, then the love the Father gives, can set you free you from this, can bring you healing.
In 1 Cor.13:5 it continues: Love is not rude, it does not hurt people’s feelings. God never hurts people’s feelings. Read the gospels carefully and tell me: did you ever read that Jesus hurt someone’s feelings? Jesus never hurt the feelings for what is honourable. Jesus never acted in a dishonourable way. He never acted disrespectfully or rudely. I read somewhere that ‘agape’, the Greek word used for love, is never rude or insolent. It does not want to take the opposite course or contradict. Love will do anything to maintain the good atmosphere in the church. This is because love has a positive attitude towards every member of the church. It respects it’s fellowman and shows it by the way it treats him or her. A Christian is a well-mannered person and will discuss the problems he has with a brother or a sister privately with the person concerned.
You can also state it in a different way: “If the love of God is in me and works in me, I am less vulnerable. Apparently there is a strength in that love that enables you not to be hurt when people are very negative towards you. The hurt is not able to penetrate into your heart. In me I have love for the other person who is unable to move me out of my position. That is love I receive from God. The love of God which has been poured into my heart not by force, but through the Holy Spirit. That is how I am training myself, how I am trying to work with it. Then you will become less vulnerable.
Love is not seeking itself. God is not seeking Himself, He is not looking for His own benefit. Seeking your own benefit, selfishness, it is not present in love. It is foreign to love. Love has the characteristic that it does not put itself in the center, that it doesn’t need so much attention for itself. There is a deep inner peace that makes you look around and ask yourself: “What do you need, what does the other person need? What problems does the other person have? How can I be a help to him or her?” It can bring about in your life that you consider the other person higher than yourself and that you are looking for his welfare. It is so wonderful when you experience this: that there is someone who wants the best for you without ulterior motives; that there is someone who is giving himself to help you move forward, without setting conditions first. This is how God is. This is how Gods love works, This is the way Jesus walked, how He lived. We can hear it in His words: “Father not my will, but Yours be done.” (Matthew 26:39)
Love of God carries within itself the ability never to become bitter. Have you ever been angry and bitter? Sometimes you have a legitimate reason for that. Anger can be legitimate because of what has happened to you or has been done to you. There are people who have experienced the most terrible things in their lives. And they have a reason to be angry. However, where anger continues or is hidden and you could not cope with it, there is the danger of bitterness and hardening of the heart. Then you really need the love of God, which can not become bitter, so that you may receive healing. You have to learn to cope with the problems. There is in love the quality to work that out in your life, bringing cleansing and healing. Love is able to make hard hearts mild and meek and to warm up cold ones.
The love of God does not keep a record of evil things. In 2 Corinthians 5 verse 19 it says that God in Christ reconciled the world unto Himself, not imputing their tresspasses unto them. Do you know the story of Stephen what he cried out when people were stoning him to death? He said: “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) Jesus prayed, when he, though innocent, was judged and crucified: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
How far will love go? What a treasure can you experience in true love, the love that is in God, that works in Jesus and through the Holy spirit, and is poured into our hearts.
1 Corinthians 13: 6 says: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Real love has a deep hatred for sin, for lies, for sickness. God spoke a word of love when he said to Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers.”(Genesis 3:15) It is love, real love that objects, that cannot stand injustice and unrighteousness. This love is therefore the greatest power to eliminate evil and to make you capable of resisting the powers of darkness. This love does not rejoice about the wrong steps and set-backs of others, Love is not glad when the other acts wrongly and when you are suffering because of that. Love is not happy about things like that. On the contrary, love puts up resistance to that; it has the attitude of going into action to remove all unrighteousness. It is love that makes you say: “I am not accepting this situation, the way things are in my life. I do not want to continue this way. There has to be a way out for me, out of this sin, out of all these sinful things that are happening.” It is love that makes you refuse to accept that somewhere in your life is still darkness; this love is the power that mobilizes everything to break down that darkness. He who holds on to Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, will always find help for cleansing, deliverance, and healing of all unrighteousness.
Finally it says in 1 Corinthians 13:7: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (RSV translation) That is a lot, isn’t it! It bears all things. In another translation it says: Covers all things. Love covers everything. Love creates a secure and safe place. In this covering love protects, puts it’s arms around a person. Everything that is first covered in this way can later be brought to a solution and be healed at the right time through the same love. That is the way God works.
Love believes all things, hopes all things. “Hopeless” is a word that you ca not find in the dictionary of love. Love endures all things. How impressive: this is what love is like, the love that is in God and which through His Spirit, is also in us. A love that never gives up, that bears and endures all things. That creates space for one another. All this is enclosed in the power of the love, - the Father IS that love and He gives it to us.
Love always trusts. Love expects it always from God and love never gives up! Love never ends. Therefore you don’t drop one another, but through giving love to another, you call the other person to come out into the light.
In Romans 8:38 and 39 it says: “ For I am convinced that neither death not life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Shall we pray together?
Father, this word calls us to “see what love the Father has given us”. Therefore I want to ask you: Father, open our eyes, open our hearts. Give us in these moments a new sense, a stronger realization, a touch of the love which is in You and reaches out to us. Open our eyes, take away the covers and veils from our eyes. May your love touch us, through the Holy Spirit which is poured out into our hearts. I pray that your love may touch my brothers and sisters, young and old, may touch them in those area’s where they need it, where they feel pain. May your love be as a covering and protecting power. May your love work out that we receive hope and faith again. May it be a spring wich removes all the trouble. May your love heal us as human beings, and may your love restore what has been broken, creating a beautiful inner being.
Lord Jesus, help us. We pray that your Spirit will do this mighty work in us, by which the love of God has been poured out into our hearts. We open up ourselves to You and we pray that we may allow Your mighty hand to move in and through our lives, that Your love may restore everything. And may it happen that all fear as well, will be banished from our hearts through the perfect love in us and that we will be set free completely.
We want to thank You, we praise You for the love of God at work in our lives. And we bless each other with this, in the name of Jesus.