Experiencing Abundant love
Before you read this “blog” I want you to answer two questions being honest with yourself
1. Do you believe that God loves you unconditionally?
2. In what specific ways do you experience it? (Pause)
I knew that I needed to jot down my thoughts about God’s abundant love, but I’m hindered for at least three reasons. For one thing, where does a person begin to describe the Atlantic Ocean for the majority of people who have never seen it or been on a ship or had a class on oceanography? How do I begin to grasp all that is contained in the ocean? Its vastness is overwhelming.
Another thing is that the Bible is saturated with statements and illustrations about God’s enormous, unconditional love for lost, unworthy, sinful people. There are hundreds of verses that in some way say, “God so loved the world, behold what manner of love, God is love, etc.” So if I say that our heavenly Father loves us in a superabundant way, most of you who read this will say, “You aren’t telling me anything new. I’ve known that ever since I placed my faith in Christ.”
The third thing is that the notion of love has become so watered down that it has lost all significant meaning. For example, pause for a moment and think of the things that you love. (Pause!)
We love our ice cream, we love our new ear buds, we love our dog — or cat, we love our sports team, we love Starbucks coffee, we love the weather, we love these new jeans we got for Christmas, we love our IPhone, we love our shiny new car, we love our favorite entertainer, we love our new house, we love our girlfriend/boyfriend, we love In and Out burgers!
The list is endless. Oh I forgot, I love Jesus too!
So here’s the hitch. Most of us know a lot about “love”, but in reality, know very little about the real thing. We know it and don’t know it. It has become so generic that we toss the term around to mean anything that brings us pleasure. And yes, we talk a lot about God’s love, but a close examination of our lives indicates that we experience little of its reality. If we’ve read the Bible much, attended an evangelical church or been in a Bible study we have an academic understanding about God’s love, but it isn’t a powerful, personal, life altering reality that accompanies us day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. It isn’t a reality that overshadows every difficulty, temptation and discouragement. So can I honestly say that I am experiencing the love of Christ?
One passage of scripture that draws me when I think about God loving us is Eph. 3:14–19. Paul is praying for the Ephesian Christians. The fact that the heart and substance of this prayer is an experiential grasp of Father’s love for us tells me that it is very important to Paul. Here’s what he says.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
I notice that he speaks about “being rooted and grounded in love. . .” What’s that about? And “the breadth and length and heights and depth. . .“ Is that an inner reality to me? “To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” These are big words, powerful statements, thoughts that need to be digested. It’s a shame to read them casually, thoughtlessly and hastily. And even after I’ve read them, meditated on them, prayed for the Spirit’s insight-that’s not the same as living with their reality inwardly.
Here’s what captures my mind and spirit:
1. The fulfillment of this prayer requires the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, I won’t grasp and experience this reality by intellectual understanding, by memorizing the passage, or reading a commentary. Grasping the reality of this superabundant love requires the work of the supernatural Spirit. This tells me something about how I must proceed.
2. Experiencing God’s love does not occur externally, but internally. If I’m expecting to experience God’s love by a change in my life circumstances then I’m going to be disappointed. That’s not where it is rooted. Christ lives in my heart and brings this love with him. In the daily interpersonal relationship with Jesus Christ, I experience his love. The picture I have in my mind is Jesus wrapping his arms around me and holding me intimately until I begin to know “He loves me!” If his arms are wrapped around me when I’m experiencing the worst external circumstances then I begin to understand where his love is rooted. The circumstances don’t change, but I know that I’m loved.
3. This supernatural, superabundant love is more than I will ever be able to grasp. This truth is never meant to discourage us, but to let us know there is always greater depths to pursue. Think of it like an adventure that goes on throughout life, filling it with joy and a greater experience to our Lord’s loving heart.
4. Experiencing the fulness of the love of Christ is beyond our comprehension. Paul, writing to the Roman Christians says, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (5:5). The words “poured out” voices of an unlimited, bottomless supply of our heavenly Father’s love. Notice that it is received through the indwelling Holy Spirit. This might sound like the same thing I’ve mentioned in the previous statement, but it has a different shade of meaning. It helps me realize that I can be celebrating this loving relationship without knowing all the answers. This is why trust is such an important element to a healthy, growing relationship with our God.
5. Experiencing the love of Christ leads to experiencing his presence and fellowship in an ongoing relationship. When I know that I’m loved so completely the relationship grows and I know what it means to be transformed. My failures don’t derail me since I know that he is the one I’m devoted to and he’s devoted to me. He says, “What you did was wrong, but it hasn’t changed my love for you.”
I hope it’s obvious to you by now that there is no short supply of our Lord’s abundant, supernatural love. Discovering its vastness, and entering into the adventure of knowing it as a more and more enriching lifestyle is one of the most precious aspects of being identified as one of his “kids.”