“Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate…. Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you.” Alexander McCall (in Love Over Scotland)
“An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as full as if there were no others.” A. W. Tozer.
With God’s heart so filled with love for us, it must be a wonder to angelic beings that we do not revel in this love daily. Angels marvel at this extravagant love, but our heart seems often unmoved by it. Is it possible that all of heaven is baffled that there are many sincere children of God who go to church regularly, perform the duties required of them; and yet are not satisfied in the innermost being with his love, lavishly conceived and lavishly given? They grope through life looking for acceptance and significance, yearning for something deeper. They know there is a life more exciting and deeper than what they have. For many of these people, the Father’s heart is bursting with love, longing to embrace and cover them with his love banner. The divine heart seems to be asking, ‘will you receive my love’? ‘Will you let me love you, just as you are?’ Truly receiving the love of God frees up a soul to live and love fully, to experience the true riches of life.
Here is a Scripture that could help us as we embrace God’s love: “As we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:16, 19).
Do you notice something very significant in those two verses? First, it says that we have known and believed the love that God has for us. So, then, to know and believe the love that God has for you is the first step to receiving God’s love. We shall dwell on this extensively in this section. Our Christian walk will take a new turn when we begin to understand the great love of God has for us. The more we understand his love, the more our long-field fears, insecurities and wrong dispositions melt away.
Notice also that Apostle John concluded that, having understood and believed the love God has for them, they simply love him. It is that easy. We love him because He first loved us! That is the way it works. No person can understand the love of God for him who will not love God dearly in turn. Love, by its very nature, is reciprocal. You have heard people say that several times, but we have hardly given thought to it. It means that love reciprocates love. Love will give back love. Love gives back what it gets. To love is to be loved in return. Love compels a love response. Love demands what it gives, by its very nature and working. Hence, if God wants us to love him, all he does is to love us so much that we cannot but respond to him in love. This is all the secret there is to loving and being loved. He’s got to give us love for us to give it back to him. Do you understand God doesn’t ask you to give him something you do not have? He first gives us and then asks us to give Him a bit of it. Understanding God’s love frees us to love in return.
Pain and Hurt as Obstacles to Receiving God’s Love
Dear friend, God loves you dearly. He has already demonstrated His love for you by sending the Lord Jesus Christ to die for your sake. God counts you most valuable. You are so important to God that He had to give His life (through Christ) in order to have you saved. Do you remember the parable that Jesus told of the lost sheep? The sheep owner left the 99 in search of the one missing until he found it and brought it home with great joy (Luke 15:3-7). This is amazing! Jesus is saying that even if you were the only person in the whole world who needed God’s care and pardon, God would have still sent Jesus just for you! This shows how much he loves us.
Your life counts with God. I know, we sometimes find it very hard to believe his love in face of painful trials and difficulties. Sometimes when we have suffered so much deprivation, sickness, lack, disappointment and frustration, it is difficult to imagine that we are still loved by God. But the devil is a liar. The devil’s goal is to steal your joy and confidence in God. His tactics are to rob you and blame God. He sets obstacles on your way and turns round to blame God in your heart. “If God really loves you, why is he allowing all these evil to happen to you?” The devil is the one putting such doubtful suggestions into our hearts. His chief goal is to get us to doubt God’s love and care for us. Friend, the most important person in this whole world to God is you. He loves you most dearly. He cares affectionately for you. Nothing else matters to God more than human beings – you.
“Casting the whole of your care (all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all) on him, for he cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully” Peter 5:7, Amplified. Hallelujah! God cares for you affectionately and watches over you carefully. Do you notice that word “affectionately”? God is affectionate and passionate about you. God likes you. You are, indeed loved! Don’t you accept any other lie. Trials are no proof that God does not love you. Difficulties, disappointments are no proof that God has abandoned you; these are simply the challenges of life. Since the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, the world has been invaded by evil. In fact, the bible called the devil the prince of the present evil world (Ephesians 2:2, John 12:31, Matt 4:8-9). Adam’s sin was that of treason and betrayal. He handed over the authority God gave him over the earth (Gen 1:26-28) to the devil. So, in a sense, the devil is the under-ruler of this present evil world. But the good news is that when we accept Jesus as Lord and savior, we receive redemption, full and free, from the devil (Ephesians 1:7, Col 1:14). So then, we may be in this world, but we are not of the world. “I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17: 13-16).
God’s children are not of this world, although they live and have their daily existence in this world. They are of God, from God and are going back to God (1John 4:4). They are born of God; they are not under the government of Satan any more. There are presently two governments in the world today: one is government of the devil, evil forces that pervades the whole of the unsaved world. Then, there is the government or the Kingdom of God that rules in the hearts of all those who belong to it through faith in Christ. Many people may not realize this, but we are either under one of these governments or the other. Those who are under the government of Christ are ruled by the word of God, the Holy Spirit and assisted on earth by the church of Christ. Their thinking and manner of living are dictated by this invisible but real kingdom of Christ.
You ask, “If these Christians are no more under the dominion and authority of Satan, why are they still suffering? Why doesn’t God shield them from all the sufferings and afflictions in the world?” The point is that “the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world,” says Jesus our Lord. Christians have challenges in this world because they are going against the tide. We are not going in the same direction with the rest of the world. As a result, there are conflicts. The world system is simply against the system of Christ. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). As long as we are still in this world, there are going to be challenges here and there. Of course, the more we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey his word, the less of these tribulations we experience. However, the point is that we live in the midst of a lawless and loveless world, where selfishness is king and greed is prince. So, if we are going to stay in such a world and live a godly life characterized by love, then there are going to be conflicts. The devil is going to oppose us doing that in this world. The exciting news, however, is that each time we hurt God hurts with us! He longs to reach out to us and help. Our problems are his problems too. You may never know how deeply God hurts each time you shed a tear. Someday, Christ is going to get us finally out of the present evil world that we might be with him in the kingdom of heaven (John 14: 1-3).
God is affectionate and passionate about us. He doesn’t bring us problems, but in the midst of it all, he loves and protects us. “Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And he said, “where have you laid him?” they said to Him, ‘Lord come and see’ Jesus wept” (John 11:33-35). You remember the story, don’t you? It was about Lazarus, Mary and Martha, the friends of Jesus. Lazarus had been ill, so the sisters sent to Jesus, “The one whom you love is sick”. You would have expected Jesus to hurry down to Lazarus’ place and pray for his healing. That’s what we all expect God to do in our trials. If God loves us, then, he had better hurry and help us. But God doesn’t ever seem to be in a hurry, yet he never comes late. Have you noticed? So, true to his nature, Jesus did not hurry down to heal Lazarus. He lingered until he was dead! Can you imagine what would have been going on in the mind of Mary and Martha? Why did Jesus not answer us when we needed him most? Why would he allow Lazarus to have died when he could have healed him effortlessly? Did Jesus really love Lazarus? If he loved him as He claimed, why did he allow Lazarus to die? Didn’t Jesus know how terrible it would have been on us to have allowed our only brother to die? We thought Jesus cared. Are we mistaken? Can we ever trust Jesus again? That is one of the greatest obstacles to our accepting and believing the love of God for us. Problems create doubts in our hearts. How is it that God who claims to love us so much still allows so much harm to come to us? How can we ever trust such a God? What kind of love do we call that? Hence, many of us stumble. We become offended at God. We tell him accusingly, as Martha did, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” That speaks volumes. We know you have the power, if you had cared enough to come when we called, our brother would have not died. That is what gives us even more problem understanding the ways of God – we know He is all-powerful. He can do all things, so why doesn’t he just hurriedly intervene and save us from our heart-aches?
We don’t understand, neither can we explain it. So, we conclude that God must be indifferent toward us. Our quiet submission (to ourselves) seem to be that God is big and almighty but doesn’t care so much for us as individuals. But is that the truth? In the case of Lazarus, for example, can it be said that Jesus was indifferent to the death of his friend and the grief of Lazarus’ sisters? If there was any doubt he cared, the Bible was quick to dispel that by noting that Jesus was so moved that He wept with them. It was a genuine demonstration of love. He didn’t do it artificially, it came from His heart. It hurt Him so much to see Mary, Martha and the Jews weep so much. Jesus wept! He hurts when we hurt; you may think his delay in intervening is proof of his indifference towards you. But he thinks differently. You know, sometimes the delay is calculated, as it was in this case, to give more glory to God. At other times, we are the ones hindering God from quickly intervening either by disobedience, carelessness, disregard of the promptings of the Spirit in us, our inability or unwillingness to yield to him. But what does it matter? We always blame God! After all, he is omnipotent and omniscient. So, why doesn’t he just intervene by over-ruling our sins and mistakes, since he claims to love us? Whether the delay is deliberate on God’s part or as a result of our ‘unyieldedness’ to him, the point is that God hurts when we hurt. He longs to help us out, if we trust him with a steadfast, child-like faith.
We have a high priest who cares about us. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). God is touched by the feelings of our infirmity. God has been touched by every pain or abuse or neglect that you have suffered till date. You may not have felt like it, but he was there all the same. The tears might have blurred our sight of Him, but he was there nevertheless. You might have kicked against him and blamed Him, but he won’t leave you all by yourself. You matter too much to Him to let you alone. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you” (Isaiah 43:2). God has been faithful to this ageless promise. You may not have sensed his presence, but He is always there by your side. Imagine if God hasn’t been with you! You probably won’t even be alive today. How could you have survived all those ordeals if it had not been for God who was on your side?
How to Submit to His Love
It is time to drop all the bitterness of years past. Lay down all your suspicion of God today at his feet. Confess your distrust of Him and receive his love. “God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against him and prospered?” (Job 9:4). Come to God now and drop all those bottled up anger and frustration you have held against Him in your heart. It is hindering you from experiencing the fullness of the love He has for you. Job too could not understand why God would allow evil to happen to him, a righteous man. He spoke with anger and frustration against God’s ways. But when he repented, God revealed himself (Job 42:1-10). As soon as Job repented and appropriated God’s love for himself, God restored to him double fold everything he had lost. Look beyond your trials. Look up to the face of him who knows all things. Challenges may come, but if you fully understand that he loves you more than this whole world, then, you will be able to trust him and worship him no matter what happens.
Let us learn to bless the ways of God! His ways are perfect. Our knowledge is limited, our understanding parochial. Only God has the big picture. Don’t let problems harden you against God. Be open to him. God loves you much more than you can ever conceive. “Perfect love casts our fear” (1John 4:18). To understand God’s love is to drop all fear or suspicion of Him. To know his love in deed is to let go of ourselves in his hands. There is no fear in love! Open up to God and enjoy a rich dose of love you never dreamed possible in your present life. Remove the limits off of God! Drink in His love, no matter the situation.
Feeling of Unworthiness is a Hindrance
Another reason why it is difficult for many of us to receive and enjoy God’s love is the feeling that we are rather too unworthy for such depth of love! Isn’t it surprising that we could withdraw from the love of God simply because we don’t think God should love one as dirty or as unfit as we think we are? But many times, that is precisely the situation. Many of us refuse God’s love because we believe that if only God knew our true selves, he wouldn’t love us so dearly. As if God is blind. God knows all the mistakes, failures and secret deals of the past. Yet, he loves us in spite of it all! He loves you so much He died to get you out of such ugly past. Unresolved guilt is a destroyer. Many times, in my role as a minister, I have come across numerous Christians who are plagued by unresolved guilt, usually about some ugly thing they did before they became Christians. From time to time, the devil reminds them of those things, and consequently, they shrink away from God’s love and from expected answers to prayers. They may jump and clap with everybody else in church, but the heart knows its own pain. They may appear bold and confident in God outwardly, but inside, they withdraw from Him. In fact, many of these nice Christians, unconsciously, are punishing themselves and wishing themselves evil as a compensatory measure.
The answer is to stop struggling and receive God’s love! He loves you just for you. He knows our ugly past, yet He loves us. Accept his word about you. He means exactly what he said about your case: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). For some inexplicable reason which, we seem to like verse 8 better than verse 9. We seem to like to remember our past sins. But he said “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. The moment you truly repent and confess your sins to God and turn from them, God is not holding them against you. If God accepts you, then you had better accept yourself, so that you can enjoy His love. If he forgave you in Christ, then forgive yourself also.
Have you repented and confessed your sin to God in Christ? Then it is blotted out by that Eternal Blood of Jesus. Don’t attempt to retrieve it. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). You have been accepted by God in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6). God counts you fit and worthy to relate with him. God sees you worthy to receive the best He can give. Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light (Col 1:12). Hallelujah! God has qualified you. Don’t disqualify yourself. God has called you fit in Christ. Don’t you dare call yourself unfit to share in the inheritance of the saints. God loves you freely, unconditionally and supremely. Accept yourself the way God has accepted you. You have as much right as any other Christian anywhere to receive the best that God can give. It is not your works that justified you in His sight. It is simply your trust in His love. Your faith in Him is the access you need to the best he has in store. Even if you were a harlot, a murderer, a robber etc., now that you have genuinely accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, he also has accepted you wholly as His beloved child. When Jesus accepts a person He accepts him wholly, as this verse from an old song says:
I said “if He knew, he wouldn’t want me. My scars are hidden by the face I wear.” But He said, “My child, my scars go deeper, it was love for you that put them there” (Mary Mckee and the Genesis).
The scars that Jesus got on the cross for your sins are deeper than the scars of your past sins. Let the blood of Jesus bury them away for good. You are not only forgiven if you are in Christ, you are actually the very delight of God himself. It gives him pleasure to have you and to love you. God is actually proud to have you as His child. How dare you allow the devil to tell you that what God delights in is unfit, unworthy and useless? God has chosen you as the object of his love. Don’t you dare point an accusing finger at his sense of judgment. It is going to be far easier for you to love God and his people if only you will accept freely the love that he has for you.
However, this pre-supposes that you are now a child of God; that you have actually faced up to the issue of sin in your life and dealt with them according to the word of God. There is no use pushing anything under the carpet. They will always come out to haunt you. Whatever disturbs your conscience today must be faced and dealt with before you can truly have this assurance of his peace and love. Attempting to experience his love in spite of these ‘ghosts’ won’t work. “For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 John 3:20-21). So, you see that God is greater than our heart. He knows what is in there. We can never be able to deceive God, so don’t cover up your sins or pretend they are not just there. They won’t go away simply because we hid them away. Only the blood of Jesus can wipe away sins. If your heart condemns you over any issue, no matter how simple or irrelevant others my think it is, go right ahead and bring such matter to the feet of Jesus, and leave it there. Deal with it squarely, and then, leave it forever at the Hands of Jesus. The power of Christ’s love is freeing you today.
Don’t Be Defined by Other People’s Opinion
Another factor that could hinder you from receiving the full love of God for you is the opinion of others about you, and your response to that. Many people are handicapped and hindered by what others think and say about them. Often, we forget that what people think about us is just their opinion about us, nothing more than an opinion.
It helps to remember that an opinion is simply “a belief that is not based on proof”. Oh yes, whatever others think or say about you is only their opinion – that doesn’t make it true or right. Not matter how educated or how popular the opinion is, it is still an opinion. It is simply, at best, an ‘educated’ or popular belief, not based on proof. The fact that some people think your eyes or your nose or your lips are too big or too small does not matter. Who determines the parameter of measuring the correct size? Is it your friends or God? What people think about your height is simply their opinion. God love you for you. He is satisfied with you.
Even when those opinions are based on some facts, we must remember that God knows us better than anyone else, and still loves us. He chose us, not because we are already perfected, but because he chose us. He is working on us, so long as we are with him on this journey. The one who began a good work in you isn’t done yet. Like the holy writers of old, we must remember and take to heart these sacred words of grace: “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth. It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone ( Ephesians 1:3-12, Message).
You have to accept who God has made you. That is the only time you will be free to love God and others. Stop letting what others think about you define your life. You are unique in creation. No other creature can be like you exactly. Comparison is futile and foolish. “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Yes, it is not wise to compare yourself with other people. In the first place, there is no basis for such a comparison, because God made each and every one of us to be uniquely different from others. God made you uniquely. No matter what else somebody may have in common with you, he can never be you. Variety is the spice of life, they say: so God made some tall, others short. He made some black, others white, etc.
It is sad to see much talent and resourcefulness buried simply because we allowed the opinion of others to affect us negatively. People may think you are dull and unintelligent but that does not mean that is who you are. You see, until you accept what others say of you, it makes no difference whatsoever in your life. You remember Thomas Edison, that great inventor? He had over 100 inventions to his name before he died. Yet, not one invention could have been possible if Edison did not disregard the opinion of others about him. Thomas Edison had only three months of formal education in his life. His teachers were said to have considered him too dull to ever make it in school, and so, recommended that his continued stay in school was not only a waste of public funds but a waste of their ‘precious’ time. Consequently, Thomas Edison was withdrawn from school after only three months. But his mother believed in him, and he also believed in himself. He knew that what his teachers thought and said about him was only their opinion. Only you know your real potential, ability and creativity. Nobody else will be able to fully understand you. Only you and God know who you really are and what you can do.
Thomas Edison set out to invent the electric lamp first. He failed for at least ten thousand times before he eventually succeeded. And after that, the world could not keep pace with the rapidity of his inventions. The point is this, what if Edison listened to other people’s opinion about him? After several attempts at the electric lamp, he would have been tempted to give in to the popular, even educated opinion about him. He could have stopped trying; he could have sulked and blamed God for creating him a dull fellow. He could have allowed his failures to define him. But thank God he didn’t. The world today is a better place partly because Edison did not pay attention to the world’s opinion about him. People may have their opinion regarding you; but remember that it is just their own opinion. What God says about you may be vastly different from what others are saying. I don’t know if Mr. Edison was a believer or not, but aren’t we glad he did not let his failures and failings define him early in life?
Our identity is in God. Accept who God has made you and be free. It is only by knowing our true source and accepting ourselves for who He has made us, can we then be free to love and be loved. “There is a spirit in man and the inspiration of Almighty gives him understanding” (Job 32:8). God is in us! Your worth is on the inside of you. God lives in you. He created you in His own image. He is totally satisfied with who he made you, the way He made you. You are his special delight. He wants to love you like you have never been loved. Open up to him, receive his love for you. To accept ourselves in Christ is to accept the One who made us. To refuse negative opinions about ourselves is to welcome God’s verdict on ourselves. To refuse to compare ourselves with others, even to contrast ourselves with others, is to be wise. We look up to God who made us and love him who has made us so wonderfully and fearfully.
The preceding are excerpts from The Treasures of Love: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997117621/
Used by permission of the Author. All rights reserved.
May you experience God’s full and rich love in the new year and always.