What Do You Love?

Love is complicated, they say. I agree, but maybe not for the reasons most people who use this phrase would expect.

One reason love seems complicated is because we overuse the word. Love — or the red heart that commonly represents it — is used to promote tourist attractions, products, brands, breeds of pets, and much more. Social media encourages us to love what others share. And numerous emojis include hearts to relay a variety of love messages via texting. But do we really love all these things? Are you as committed to your favorite vacation destination as you are to your family? Is the love you express to your pet the same love you express to a brand of vehicle? Does loving someone’s picture on social media mean the same thing as loving the person who posted it? Are any of these the same love we have for God or He has for us?

God is the originator of love, the prime example of love, and has a lot to say about it. The Bible provides many historical accounts, poetic expressions, letters, and prophecies describing His love. He put His love for us into action by sending His Son to take the punishment we deserve for sinning against Him. So it is no surprise that He speaks authoritatively in His instruction for how we, His children, should and should not love. Here is a warning He gives us:

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. (I John 2:15-17, NLT)

Do not love the world. The Greek word translated love is agapao. It means to long for or esteem. It is a love of choice, selection, and reason that leads to taking pleasure in the thing or person you love. So God is telling us that far more life does not long for this world. It does not prioritize the values of this world above the values of God. It does not choose to take pleasure in pursuits or activities that are contrary to what God has instructed. The same word is used in other passages to tells us who and how to love:

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  (Luke 6:35, NIV)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34, NIV)

Do not love what the world offers you: craving for physical pleasure. There are many things in this world that we can love for the physical pleasure they produce. Food. Nicotine. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Experiences and activities that raise our endorphins. We forfeit far more life when we place more value in obtaining these pleasures than in living for God. We miss out on true love when we choose them over righteousness. Instead of craving physical pleasure from the world, God gives these instructions:

Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2, NIV)

…Live then as children of the light. The light produces in men…everything that is wholesome and good and true. Let your lives be living proofs of the things which please God.  (Ephesians 5:8-10, PHILLIPS)

Do not love what the world offers: craving for everything we see. Living in the information era, we see more of the world than any previous generation. This can cause us to develop a sinful longing for the best lifestyles, experiences, power, and influence the world has to offer. But Paul’s prayer for the saints in Ephesus describes the cravings of far more life:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19, NIV)

Do not love what the world offers: pride in our achievements. Most people I have talked to about heaven believe they will spend eternity there because of the good things they have done. They value achievements and believe theirs have earned God’s favor. But God offers far more life to those who achieve one thing:

The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. (John 6:29, NIV)

Do not love what the world offers: pride in our possessions. We miss far more life when we love our possessions more than we love God and people. When our life goal is acquiring that car, house, “toy”, or material item, then that possession is what we love and value most. Far more life takes pride in heavenly treasures instead:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV)

Love does not have to be complicated. When we long for God, when we choose to put Him first, when we adopt His values, we can share His love and enjoy far more life.

Sisters,
How do you overuse or minimize the word love?
In what ways are you tempted to love — value, long for, or choose — the world over God?
How do you love craving pleasure or what you see more than God?
How do you love taking pride in your achievements or possessions more than God?
Ask God to help you love Him most and experience the blessing of far more life.
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Filled with Love

Sometimes you read a verse and ask, “Did God put this in the Bible just for me?” He loves you and wants you to have all that you need to experience far more life every moment of every day. God’s truths apply to a wide variety of situations we encounter. His Word has met human needs for generations. And will continue to do so until Christ returns. He is so good!

I was recently reminded of a verse that contains truth I need during this challenging time:

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. (I Timothy 1:5, NLT)

I like to break multi-faceted truth down into parts and think how each one applies to my life. The first truth I read in this verse is that all believers — including me – should be filled with love. Love toward those who are easy to love and those who are hard to love. Love toward the people who are putting others in danger through their unwise actions. Love toward those who are spreading fear. Love toward those who are selfishly hoarding supplies and food. Love toward those who are inconveniencing us. Love toward those whose perspective is unthinkable to us. Far more life has enough love to share generously with others. Always.

God knows we cannot manufacture this love on our own. He doesn’t even want us to try doing that! Rather than expecting us to resort to fake love, the rest of the verse reveals the source of true love: a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

First, genuine faith. God is the creator of love and the source from which it flows. When we put our faith in Him, trusting His character and His instruction, we are filled with His love. It is unlike any love we have ever known: unconditional (Romans 8:38-39); complete (Ephesians 3:17-19); self-sacrificing (Romans 5:8); eternal (Psalm 136); generous without reservation (2 Timothy 1:7); unfailing (Psalm 143:8); and more. His love is a gift that enriches our lives and is intended to enrich others’ lives.

…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34, NIV)

Far more life does not hoard love, it gives it away, in faith, knowing it will remain filled! When we have genuine faith, our source of love is eternal and we can freely love others.

Once we have a relationship with God, we can love because He has made our hearts pure.

Now may God himself, the God of peace, make you pure, belonging only to him. (I Thessalonians 5:23, NCV)

A pure heart belongs only to God. It has chosen God as Savior and Lord. It makes knowing, praising, and following God the priority. It desires to please Him and make Him happy. But we have old habits and thought patterns that sometimes overshadow our pure hearts. Rather than allowing our pure hearts to give love, we fall back into fear, worry, defensiveness, or coldness toward others. Before Christ was in our lives, we were powerless to overcome these patterns. But now we can! Far more life recognizes when we have reverted to old patterns and chooses love. It chooses to view others through the lens of truth and grace, striving to see them — and their actions — as God does.

The third aspect of being filled with love is a clear conscience. Our conscience makes us aware of our sinful actions and motives.

A man’s conscience is the Lord’s searchlight exposing his hidden motives. (Proverbs 20:27, TLB)

When we know we are wrong, our focus moves off God and onto ourselves. Love and sin cannot coexist in pure hearts. So we must choose which we are going to follow. We do not need to wallow in shame and guilt. We do not need to punish ourselves or pay penance. When God forgave us, He knew we would continue to sin; He forgave us anyway. But our genuine faith and pure hearts give us a desire to stop sinning, to keep a clear conscience. Far more life is listening to our conscience and choosing to bring our thoughts and actions in line with what God says is good and right. This is repentance: recognizing we are wrong and choosing to turn from wrong to right. Love flows through our hearts again when we repent. And that love enables us to treat others with compassion and look beyond their actions to the heart behind them. It opens our eyes to see their hurt, fear, and desire to experience love that flows from genuine faith, a pure heart, and a clear conscience.

When we obey the instruction in God’s Word, everyone wins. God is revealed through us and gets glory. Others receive His love. We experience far more life. I can think of many times where this has been proven true in my life: getting up in the night to feed a hungry baby; answering the phone when I felt unsocial but knew a friend was struggling; keeping a commitment when I was tired; spending my “just for me” money on a gift for someone else. In each case, letting a pure heart, clear conscience, and genuine faith fill me with love led to moments of far more life. Fill your day with love and far more life!

Sisters,
Is your heart filled with love right now?
Have you placed your faith in Christ? If not, what is stopping you? (If you want to talk about this, I am available at farmorelife@gmail.com.)
What old habits and thought patterns are overshadowing your pure heart? Ask God for help to recognize and replace them.
Is your conscience clear? If not, confess your sin to God, repent, and choose what you know is right. If you cannot break sin’s hold, ask for help; some false belief is keeping you in bondage, but you can break free!
Be filled with God’s love — and far more life — today!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso