Last Monday, I began to write about the concept of understanding God’s love, and mentioned I would continue the discussion today.

To recap just a little, I talked about what abiding in Christ Jesus looks like, that abiding in Him is abiding in perfect love, which casts out fear, and I talked about God’s commandments to love each other, and that this command does not come from a God who is demanding and punitive, because abiding in him removes all fear of punishment as we begin to grasp the message of the good news of the gospel, which comes down to faith in God. This same God who gives commandments to obey him, does so from a posture of humility not forcing himself on anyone, but rather he respects our free will that He himself gave us, fully understanding that love cannot truly exist without choice. God wants us to love Him, and receive His love. He is on a mission to pursue our hearts and let us know just how much he loves us by sending his son Jesus, to take the punishment of sin upon himself that we may go free. This is the good news. Very simple, yet so hard to embrace… A free gift? What’s the catch? By faith alone? Can’t be. Must be earned. He loves me unconditionally? No way. No one can love like that. Conclusion: He must have a hidden agenda and is not to be trusted, and so we continue to live our lives independent from the love of God, which he desperately longs for us to embrace by faith alone, and by the evidence he gave us by taking away the punishment for sin, by having his son take it on himself, thereby allowing God to be perfectly just and perfectly merciful at the same time. Perfectly just by demanding that justice be done for evil, and perfectly merciful by allowing us to go free from the consequences of sin by embracing the idea that Jesus took all of our sins, past, present and future on himself, and paid the price we couldn’t.

So coming back to the concept of abiding in God, aka, perfect love, which encompasses the idea of keeping his commandments, let’s take a look at these commandments and how to apply them in our lives.

“But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility, receive the word implanted, (Jesus) which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he is, but the one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer, but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. This is pure and undefined religion in the sight of our God and Father: to visit orphan’s and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:19-27

“So speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty, for judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy, for mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:12-13

“For whoever keeps the whole law (Old testament law) and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” James 2:10.

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor, love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”, for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust is conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” James 1:13-15

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in you? You lust and do not have, so you commit murder, you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask God, and when you ask, and do not receive it is because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:1-3

“Even so, consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies that you should obey it’s lusts, and do not go on presenting your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead and present the members of your body as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are a slave to the one whom you obey, either of sin, resulting in death, or of obedience, resulting in righteousness?” Romans 6:11-16

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law (old testament) could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as an offering for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the flesh, but those who are according to the spirit, the things of the spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not subject itself to the law of God for it is not even able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if indeed the spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Romans 8:1-10.

Again we come back to the concept of abiding in God, in Christ, and the spirit of God, and the law of liberty which sets us free from the old covenant law of sin and death. The law of liberty is the good news of faith in Christ. If the spirit of God lives in us, we have the power through the spirit of God to condemn and put to death our sinful behavior, not of our own strength, but enabled by the spirit of God living within us.

The law of the spirit of life in Christ (or the law of liberty through his sacrifice on behalf of our sin), has set us free from the law of sin and death that judges and condemns us. But there is no more condemnation if I am IN Christ, or abiding in Christ.

“So then, brothers, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to it, for if you live according to the flesh, you must die, but if by the spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are being led by the spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons, by which we cry, Abba, Father!” Romans 8:12-15

Here we come back to this concept of fear again. Our sin nature, the desires of our flesh that wage war within us, enticing us to sin, are what lead us back into the fear of judgment and condemnation. Our sinful acts are what the enemy of God (the devil, or satan) uses as ammunition to judge and accuse us before our Father God. (see Revelation 12:10,11) When we receive and accept his accusation against us, we submit ourselves again under the law of sin and death, rather than the law of liberty which deals with mercy triumphing over judgment and also deals with love casting out the fear of punishment. If we are In Christ, we live by the law of liberty, trusting and knowing and believing that Christ has already paid the price for our sinful nature. We must continue to put to death those inherent sinful desires and choose to live in love which is the fulfillment of the law, rather than living a selfish lifestyle, but also understanding there is grace when we do sin.

The enemy tempts us to sin, and when we yield to sin and are carried away by the lust in our sinful nature, he accuses us before God trying to cause us to subject ourselves again as slaves to sin, so that we forget what Christ has accomplished for us on he cross by laying his life down for us, in our place. The enemy appeals to our self-centeredness, or selfishness, which is why abiding in love keeps us under the law of liberty. Because this kind of love, God’s love, is unselfish. When we abide in Christ, in love, we are putting to death our sinful nature, resisting the devil and the desire to yield to sin, and close doors on the devil to legally accuse us before God, because we come to God, abiding in Christ, the law of liberty, and when we are accused, God sees Jesus abiding in us, and simply says “paid in full.”

If we abide in the word of God, we are able to overcome.

“For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For whoever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that had overcome the world – our faith. And who is he that overcomes the world? but he who believes that Jesus is the son of God.” 1 John. 5:3-5

The commandments of God are summed up in loving God and loving each other. God’s love is the fulfillment of the law. God’s love fulfills the requirement of the law -perfection’. Perfect love drives out fear of punishment. Christ lived a perfect, sinless life, and his love was perfected by laying down his life for us, in our place, fulfilling the law and allowing us to go free from condemnation and accusations.

Could it be that as we abide in love for each other, (and as we do, God also abides in us), that we are presented with the opportunity through relationship, to encounter the specks and log’s within each other’s lives, giving us the ability to see our own faults as we are otherwise blinded to see through our pride, which deceives us, and through loving each other as God loves us (preferring each other above ourselves) we are made aware of our sin nature and are then able to crucify our sin nature because of love? When we truly begin to love each other, we find this law at work: “love does no harm to its neighbor” and our consciences are grieved when we see our own sin nature (selfishness) affecting the lives of the ones we love and when love begins to take precedence in our lives, we find ourselves empowered to change, thereby taking authority over our sin, and submitting it to God. Just some food for thought.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:10-12

Propitiation means “to appease because of Christ’s sacrifice. The benefits of Christ’s death to man. Not only the benefit of reconciliation with God, but the manner by which we were made friends of God. He is both the sacrifice and the high priest from the old testament, sacrificing himself.”

What is this love that we’ve been talking about, that drives out fear?

Love -agapeo from the greek, means “to love, indicates a direction of the will and finding it’s joy in anything. Agapeo is used of God’s love toward man and vice versa. Phileo (from the Greek) means to contend with, common interests, befriending. Agapeo stands higher above phileo because of its moral import; love that expresses compassion.

Agape, also from the Greek, is another word used for love, meaning “charity, meaning benevolent love. It’s benevolence however, is not shown by doing what the person loved desires, but what the one loving deems as necessary or needed by the one loved. God gave us not what we wanted, but what we needed, as perceived by God (the one loving). God’s love for man is doing what he thinks is best for man and not necessarily as man desires. It is God’s willful direction toward man. For man to love God, he must first appropriate God’s agape, for only God has such an unselfish love.”

“For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, that whoever believes in him, has eternal life.” John 3:16

Faith comes from hearing the word of God. Believe it. God loves you. No matter what. He has only been recklessly pursuing us since the beginning of time, since the fall of man into a sinful condition separating us from the ability to receive God’s love, because of the knowledge of sin and death and our mistaken beliefs about the character and goodness of God’s heart. He had to do something radical to show us how much he loves us and desired intimate fellowship with us. He sent his son in our place removing the curse of sin from us to prove that his heart toward us is good. To show us he wants relationship with us and will go to any length of humility to gain our love. He has set himself up for rejection again, by paying the ultimate sacrifice and removing the consequences of sim from us if we receive his free gift of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We can still reject this love if we so choose. But if by faith, we receive this gift, the love of God, we will be saved from the consequences of sin.

“Now for this very reason, applying all diligence, in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self control, and in your self control, perseverance. And in your perseverance, godliness, and in godliness, kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

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