What Love Looks Like

Famed minister David Wilkerson, who gave his all in devotion to Christ, once said: “Love is not only something you feel, it is something you do.”

This sounds nice, at first take. An all-in kind of love. A fully committed, holding-nothing-back kind of devotion to the object or person of our affections. It draws us into love that is more than just emotionally intoxicating. It is love that proves itself, by day-in, day-out commitment. I believe we are created to desire this kind of love.

But somewhere along the way of life in a broken world, that desire gets tainted. And that definition of love gets redefined. And redefined love becomes a weapon that does deep damage to our hearts. Until suddenly, we find ourselves living with a cheap, artificial version of love, and living in such a way that we could take or leave it. When really, we were made to be unable to live without it.

Coming from a background of abuse, love that requires action seems dangerous and untrustworthy. “If you love me, you will…” was an early distortion formed to warp my understanding of real love. Sadly, there are many who have been wounded by similar, less than pure versions of love. And these are ripe experiences for forming a fearful rejection of the purest and most necessary love of all: the love that rescues and redeems us from this life of pain and suffering.

When Jesus speaks of love in the Scriptures, He doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t candy-coat it:

“If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15

“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” John 14:21

Just a few verses earlier, He defines belief in Him by a lifestyle that looks like His:

Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do. I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. ” (vv. 11-12)

This seems kind of narrow, doesn’t it? Indeed it does, and for good reason. The narrow path is the only place where real love and real life can be discovered, and God has gone to great lengths to lead us away from the broad and attractive, but deceptive, path that leads to devastation.

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.  But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

It’s easy to purchase art that romanticizes the idea of love, even as it is defined in the Bible, and decorate our homes and hearts with the notion of such love. “Love is patient, love is kind….Love never gives up, endures all things…” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

These are well known and cherished Scriptures that bring comfort to our hearts. We may even be challenged by them. But as mere decorations or t-shirt slogans, they are not binding, and it’s easy to confess and admire them without actually surrendering to them.

As a minister, my heart is always grieved when I see people professing to believe in and love God, but continuing to live lives that don’t line up with His commands. They want the warm, fuzzy feeling of being accepted, and the benefits of having a powerful Father to call upon in their crisis moments, but that is where their experience of love ends. Over and over again, I see people live with an adulterated version of the real thing, and I grieve for what I know the end of that road looks like.

So what does love really look like?

Loving God looks like obeying God. This kind of love isn’t something that only certain people are called to. It’s the call, and the only love that will stand in the end. We won’t be able to stand before God at the end of our lives and get by with a profession that didn’t have a lifestyle to back it up. Not everyone who says, “I love You, Lord” will be able to enter Heaven’s gates.

Ironically, not everyone who says, “I obeyed You, Lord” will be able to enter, either.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.  On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” Matthew 7:21-23

That may sound a little contradictory, but follow me as we dig a little deeper. To do what God commands without an intimate connection to His heart that motivates our obedience is to live outside of His will. God isn’t just looking for robots who will do whatever He says. The love He is invites us into – the Love He defines by His own identity – is not abusive or manipulative, demanding performance. That is the broken version of love.

To do God’s will is more than just to do what He says. It is to live in His love – to live in intimate, committed relationship with Him, which results is hearing and gladly responding to His voice.

As we step into God’s invitation to know real love, as we agree to confront and reject all lesser and counterfeit loves, we also agree to let love be redefined by the One Who created it in the first place. We actually agree to let our lives be redefined by the redefinition of love.

Just because we’ve encountered something in its broken state doesn’t make it the authoritative standard by which all other things are to be measured. And yet, this is the lie which most of humanity falls for at some point. Broken love produces a disdain for that which has left us wounded, and yet we deeply – and often secretly – still desire what we know has caused us the most harm. Why? Why do we live in cycles of choosing and rejecting love?

Because love – before it was broken and distorted, was defined by God as the standard by which we would live, and by which all lesser and untrue loves would be measured. Our lives were created in love, and designed to be defined by it.

Therefore God is always drawing us nearer to Himself to shatter this lie of distorted love, and replace it with the truth, with the real thing.

The truth is that love looks like a mutual relationship which so honors and cherishes both parties that kindness and benevolence become the foundational laws which govern it. Love looks like such admiration and deep appreciation for the object of its affections that it gladly surrenders all for the sake of the other, gladly does whatever is most pleasing for that one. But it does so and can continuously do so because the one it loves will never make this a regrettable sacrifice.

Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength produces in us a desire to obey Him. Obedience is the fruit that grows in the garden of one’s life when it is cultivated by intimacy with the Father. And this kind of love, this kind of life, discovers more joy, less shame, and none of the regret that comes with every other version of love which man, or hell, has derived.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, I call you to examine your love for God today. Does your lifestyle match your confession? Do you claim to love God, but have trouble obeying Him? Are you afraid to obey Him? 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love – which can only be defined by the One Who is love – casts out fear (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+John+4%3A18&version=NLT). The one who fears, Scripture says, has not been perfected by love, or experienced the perfection of God’s love.

Are you living with a less-than-perfect understanding and experience of the Father’s love? There are some places where perfection is more harmful than helpful, but this isn’t one of them. In fact, the dangers of continuing to settle for a less than perfect experience of God’s love are pretty serious.

In the end, which is approaching rapidly, only those who truly love God – which will be demonstrated by lifestyles that look like He said they would – will be received into Heaven. We can’t live however we want to, and cut and paste God’s offer of salvation over our compromised lives, and expect that we will make it. Mostly because only real, authentic love is strong enough to withstand all that’s coming. Counterfeit love will grow cold in the face of real tribulation, because it isn’t rooted in the fire of God’s deep passion for the Bride whose heart is completely devoted to Him.

His will, while it may seem to make no sense in the day-to-day details of carrying out His strange commands (strange because they are foreign to our culture), is ultimately that we should be saved. His desire is for all who call upon Him to be rescued from the darkness and brokenness and pain of this world, and to share eternity with Him in perfection. But between now and then, here and there, love looks like trust that takes the Father’s hand and follows wherever He leads – even and especially when it leads us out of compromised versions of life and love.

Beloved one, now is the time when God is calling you deeper! Now is the time when – though it may be hard – God is asking for wholehearted commitment to Him, in all of your ways. Start with the heart – its commitment to belong to only Him. The rest will come naturally once your heart has been renewed. He produces in the hearts that truly belong to Him the desires which will lead to life and authentic love.

There is little time to waste, and a great price to pay for settling with anything less than God gave Himself up for. I urge you to join me in the greatest pursuit we could ever have in this life: knowing and living in and letting our lives be redefined by God’s perfect love.

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}

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