The Riches of His Love (The unfathomable depths)
Just after the Last Supper Jesus said to His disciples, "A new commandment I give to you that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).
In other words we see the greatest commandment of Jesus Christ. It was the full expression of His heartbeat. He longed to see His disciples as living examples of His very nature Ė love. He had chosen them as channels through which his love was to be poured to the whole world. It was of vital importance, therefore, that his disciples should love one another as He loved them. Any failure on their part could be a seaming failure of His own mission. Jesus therefore made an impassioned appeal to His disciples in John 15:9-12; "Just as the Father has loved me I have also loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Fathers commandment and abide in His loveÖ This is my commandment that ye love one another just as I have love you."
Jesus revealed in these words the important truth that it is by loving one another that we abide in His love. This shows how Godís love operates and reaches out to humanity. The words of Jesus also reveal that love is the essence and true test of discipleship. And the standard of that love is the same as that of His love towards His children. Therefore, in any discussion about discipleship, the subject of Godís love is of crucial importance. A disciple receives the love of God when he first responds to the call of Jesus. God pours His love into him through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). At that moment he may not understand it, but experiences it, just as a child experiences the mothersí love without understanding it. But as he grows into maturity, his spiritual eyes are opened to see the love of God in its dimensions.
The apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers that they might be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit that they might comprehend what is the length, breadth, height, and depth of Godís love. Ephesians 3:16-19 "That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." It is this revelation that enables the disciples to understand Godís love in any appreciable measure. Human intellect must honestly confess its incompetence to comprehend Godís love for the simple reason that it cannot be analyzed in cause and effect relationship. God is love because love is the very nature of the Godhead. The Bible declares that God is love.
Godís love is self-existent and self-motivating. It is part of His personality and is unaffected by any change such as disobedience or rebellion in the objects of His love. It is also eternal and enduring. Godís love is spontaneous. It is not caused by any intrinsic value in the objects of His love. On the contrary, the value and worth of the object is increased by Godís love that is bestowed upon us. Humanity in general is the object of Godís love. Although God knew what the plight of man would be after his rebellion and disobedience yet, he loved man because of His love. It is also eternal and deeper than the deepest of all manís love. Godís love was so great that He was willing to limit His sovereignty to a certain measure and to suffer for sinful man. It was love that demanded the highest sacrifice.
Ephesians 1:3-12 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ."
Godís love is transcendent and benevolent and the source of all grace and blessings. Ephesians 2:4-7 "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Godís love is measureless and unfathomable. Jesus Christ is the personification of Godís love. Colossians 2:9 says, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" and 1John 4:8 says, "God is love." It is through Him that the love of God was revealed to humanity. We see the Fatherís love through Christ. Those who hear this call of love and respond to it in obedience are grafted into Him and partake of His love. 1John 2:3-6 "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." Colossians 1:9, "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." Colossians 12-22, 2Peter 1:2-3 "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue."
The life and works of Jesus were an expression of Godís love. In Him people saw the love of God. John 14:9-11 says, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." Jesus loved His disciples as the Father loved Him and called upon them to love one another in the same manner. Seeing the plight of humanity lost in sin, Jesus came down to this sin cursed world. He came, knowing full well that He would be rejected, ridiculed, mocked and tortured. He also knew that He would be crucified Ė an ignoble death on a cruel cross. It was love in action. When it was close to the time that Jesus should be crucified, he told His disciples, "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruitÖ Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy nameÖ And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die." (John 12:23-33)
He came with words of love; He moved with love and compassion. He exchanged His love for their scorn and hatred - fanatic love indeed!
Jesus loved us with an everlasting, unparalleled love and expects us to love Him and others whole-heartedly. He pleads with us, "as the Father has loved me so have I loved you. Abide in my love." He longs for our love, something too wonderful to believe.
"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Love is the inner spiritual energy that constrains us to offer the highest sacrifice for the loved one. It is the response of the whole heart as a result of the working of the Holy Spirit in the human heart in relation to God. 2Corinthians 5:14 says, "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." The purpose of His dying for us is then shown in the Verse 15 "And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." Love is the wholehearted obedience to His commands and expresses itself as humble and true worship. "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24). "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9).
It is Godís love that impels a disciple after Christ. Godís love is so satisfying and challenging that for a disciple whose heart is filled with that love, discipleship becomes a delightful walk with Christ. We must confess sadly here that a great majority of followers of Christ are content with a minimal measure of Godís love. The chief reason for this starvation level experience is the divided loyalty of the heart where "self life" asserts its authority. It is for this reason that Jesus demands His disciple to deny self and follow Him. Luke 9:23-24 "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." Mark 8:36-38 "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
But a small minority of Christís disciples in all ages have experienced the fullness of Godís love. And this is true even in the present age. This life (which ought to be the norm for all disciples) has been called by various names as the "Victorious life," "Deeper life," "Spirit filled life," "Abundant life" and the like. However, owing to the fact that a great majority of Christís followers live content with a "starvation level" Christianity, the minority who experience the fullness of Godís love are, by popular consent, called "Disciples", and thus the word disciples becomes synonymous with a small group of "super Christians."
The division of Christís followers into these two distinct groups seems to have gained wide acceptance throughout Christendom. A number of books on this subject of discipleship are firmly based on this assumption for which there is hardly any scriptural support. Hence, the popular support to the notion of a two-tier Christianity is nothing but candid admission of a low level Christianity and an excuse for it. This is simply an unbiblical and untrue version of Christianity that many refer to as "Carnal Christians." The problem is, these that are called "Carnal Christians" are not true Disciples of Christ and there is no scriptural support for the notion that they will make heaven. Itís a good example of the two types of virgins (called the wise and foolish virgins) given in the parable of Matthew 25:1-13. The teaching is clear that the foolish virgins were not saved. "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
Most Christians who prefer to know Christ and His love are like children who play on the seashore and exult at the sight of the waves and conclude that they donít know much about the great ocean but it is only a preliminary sight and experience. The great depth, length, and breadth of His love remain to be proved and experienced. This knowledge and experience is possible only when in the power of the Holy Spirit we deny self and crown Christ as Lord in our hearts. God then gives us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.
This is the proof of Christianity and one who claims to know God. Matthew 22:36-40.
1John 3:9-10, 14-18, 23, 4:7-13, 16, 20-21 "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brotherÖ We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truthÖ And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandmentÖ Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his SpiritÖ And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in himÖ If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also." John 15:12-14 "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
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