From the desk of Fred Carpenter
Tears in the city
But nobody’s really surprised, you know
My heart’s taking a beating
Existence is bleeding me dry, you know
But way down in my heart of hearts
Way down in my soul of souls
Way down I know that I am a fortunate man
To have known divine love.
- Mark Heard, “Heart of Hearts”, 1982 – Click Here for Music Video
It is one thing to know about God, it is quite another to know Him personally and experientially. The Bible says that not only does God love us, but He actually IS love. To know God is to grasp the meaning or meanings of what love is, and to engage with Him so as to encounter love in all the ways He intended from the very beginning of time.
The English language uses the word, love, to describe many things. But the writers of the New Testament have 4 words for love.
Eros – sexual love
Phileo – brotherly “platonic” love
Storge – natural, innate love, such as the love of a mother for a child
Agape – unconditional, divine, love
All of the scripture below deals with divine (agape) love. When the writer of 1 John met the challenge of defining the infinitely complex, all powerful, all knowing, majestic, glorious Creator of the universe, he wrote only 3 words, “. . . God is love” – 1 John 4:8.
Over the next few weeks, we will contemplate together, the human experience of knowing divine love. To start down this path, let’s consider the importance of knowing divine love.
1) To really know God, personally and experientially, you must be “rooted and grounded” in divine love.
Eph 3:14, For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father,
Eph 3:15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,
Eph 3:16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,
Eph 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
Eph 3:18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
Eph 3:19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
What does it mean to be rooted and grounded in God’s love? Webster defines root as: “the usually underground part of a seed plant body . . . , which functions as an organ of absorption, aeration, and food storage or as a means of anchorage and support.” This example from nature provides a great image for us as Christians. God has designed our relationship with Him so that we are rooted in His love. We are fed by and anchored in His divine love! The word, “grounded,” in this verse comes from a Greek architectural term which refers to the actual foundation of a building, wall or city. The unchanging agape love of God is the strong foundation upon which our life in Him is built!
2) Divine love takes away the shame of all who receive it.
Rom 5:5 (ESV) – and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Because of what Christ has done for us on the cross, we are accepted for who we are in Him, not for what we do. We are filled with God’s love through the indwelling Holy Spirit and there is no room for shame there. Digging deeper into the verse we learn that this divine love that is being poured into our hearts is an ongoing process. In this verse, there is a difference in verb tense between “has been poured” and “has been given.” Here’s what John Piper says about this . . .
“God’s love poured into your heart is not the same as God’s love proven to your mind. God’s love poured into your heart is a real heart-experience of being loved by God. God’s love proven to your mind is the conclusion of an argument, with or without the sweetness of feeling loved by God in the heart. I want you to know this sweetness. I want you to enjoy this gift: the outpouring of the love of God in your hearts.
Verse 5b: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
I wish you could see it in English, but there is a difference in tense between “has been poured into” and “has been given to us.” The second one means the Spirit is given to us once for all, but the first one means it can keep on happening. So we receive the Spirit at conversion once for all, but the outpourings of God’s love can come again and again.”
You may want to reread the story of the prodigal son to consider how unconditional love replaces shame with honor. – Luke 15:11-32
3) Divine love casts out fear.
1 Jn 4:18 . . . perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
John Piper says, “perfected love refers to God’s love in us coming to completion.” In John 19:28 Jesus said, “I thirst” in order to “fulfill” the Scriptures. The word translated “fulfill” is the same as the one translated “perfected” in 1 John 4:12 and 17.
In other words, when His perfect love is perfected (fulfilled, completed) in us, there is no room for fear.
Rom 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Rom 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
Rom 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
All of the things Paul lists here are things we have no control over, but they are in God’s control. And He is causing all things to work together for good. There is nothing that can circumvent God’s purpose and nothing that can separate those who are called according to His purpose, from His love. If we cannot be separated from His love, what is left to fear? How can we not be victorious? Whatever God allows, or brings, into our life is filtered through, and flows from, His loving hand. When we are convinced of that, it changes how we look at life.
5) To persevere with purpose and in power, you must be propelled by the love of Christ
2 Cor. 5:14 – For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
The word for “controls” in this verse is synechō which is to channel or direct. Just as an aqueduct channels and directs the powerful forceful flow of water from a mountain source to a city, through Christ, God’s love is channeled to us and also through us to each other and also back to God Himself. We love, because He first loved us, 1 John 4:19.
When the night sky glows with the red fires of war
And the threat of annihilation pounds at your door
You don’t have to pretend that you got nerves of steel
To believe that the love of the Lord is actual and real
- – Mark Heard, “Eye of the Storm”, 1983 – Click Here for Music Video
For Further Reading: 1 John 4:7-21 – God’s Love and Ours