Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us — He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. (I John 3:1a, VOICE)
Want to know the formula for far more life?
Accepting God’s lavish love
+ Being transformed by it
= Far more life
Love is the key to far more life, but not just any love: only God’s lavish love. When I hear the word lavish, I imagine a warm bagel topped with a thick layer of cream cheese — so thick that taking a bite leaves teeth marks. This is an extravagant amount of cream cheese, more than anyone needs. But it makes eating the bagel an unforgettable experience. No skimpily-covered bagel can compare with the lusciousness of that lavish bagel.
God lavished His love on us. Calling us His children demonstrated an extravagance that reshaped our definition of love. But He didn’t stop there; He continues to lavish us in love. He doesn’t give us the minimum we need to get by. He wraps us in so much love that all other love looks skimpy by comparison.
The more we understand and embrace God’s lavish love, the fuller and richer our lives become. Lavish love has the power to change us from the inside out. It can transform our beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors. But most of us do not reap the maximum benefit of His lavish love. Rather than throwing open our hearts and saying, “Go anywhere!” we put up “Do Not Enter” signs at the places we need Him most: our most vulnerable and painful places.
We limit God’s lavish love because we misunderstand it. We may think God’s love is defined by what He does for us. Or we might assume it comes with strings, that He expects certain responses from us. Too often we believe we have to earn it and fear He will find us unworthy. These misperceptions are not surprising since His love is so different from the imperfect human love familiar to us. Sometimes we pull back from God’s lavish love in fear. But fear is actually the opposite of what He offers:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:18, NIV)
God’s children have no need to fear Him because He will never punish us. We can be confident that God will always love us perfectly and lavishly! He will not withdraw His love when we disagree with Him. He will never manipulate us or take advantage of our vulnerabilities. He does not lay guilt trips on us. He does not berate us for failing to make Him look good. He knows our weaknesses and is not surprised by them. He knows all of our sins (in advance, even!) and has willingly paid the price for them. When we accept His love, we also gain His unconditional acceptance and unshakable security — now that is truly lavish love! I remember the peace I felt when I finally grasped this truth: I was set free to love God without reservation. I was released from fear that my imperfect love for Him was not enough. I found far more life and felt free to enjoy it. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord, you have this freedom, too!
God’s love is vastly different than human love. Not only is His love unconditional, it also comes from a different source:
God is love. (I John 4:16, NIV)
We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:19, NIV)
God’s love is not a response to us. It is not what He does or feels for us. Love is who God is; lavish love is part of His character and identity. He doesn’t have to generate love; it simply flows from Him and infuses His interactions with His children. God does not show us love because we deserve it; He simply offers Himself to us. His love blesses us in the deepest way possible because He knows us — and our needs — intimately. Grasping this truth changes how we look at God. It brings far more life.
I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. Yes, may you come to know his love — although it can never be fully known — and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19, GNT)
As we grow in understanding the limitlessness of God’s lavish love, we are transformed. We stop seeing Him as a harsh judge and start realizing He is a wise and loving Father. We recognize the emptiness of many pleasures this world offers and instead focus on making an eternal impact. We grow in trusting Him and His motives even when life doesn’t match our expectations. It becomes easier to trust the parts of His Word that seem to contradict our human experience. We are permanently and profoundly changed by God’s lavish love. We grow in confidence and security. This allows us to eagerly embrace the mindset and practices of far more life.
How have you experienced God’s lavish love?
Where have you put up “Do Not Enter” signs? What do you need in order to let God into those areas of your heart and life?
Are you afraid of fully embracing God’s love for you? If so, confess that to Him. (If not, thank Him for that freedom!)
Thank God for the ways His lavish love has transformed you.
Enjoy far more life this week!
Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso