Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day 26 - God is Perfect Love, Part 1 - 30 Days of Grace

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.
5-6 Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.
7-8a Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.

1 Corin. 13:4-8a 

These well-known and beautiful verses from the Bible's "Love Chapter" are a wonderful description of perfect love.  Many times I have applied these verses to my own life and felt that they were a picture of how I ought to love others.  But I think we can also read these verses as a picture of how God loves us!  God Himself IS love, the epitome of love, love in a Person, love in action and expression.  And since Jesus is the perfect expression of God, the final word about Him, the image of God in the flesh, He embodies Perfect Love.  Looking at Jesus' life, seeing how He treated the broken (like Peter after the cross), the scorned (like the woman at the well), the failures (like Zaccheus), the poor and crippled (like the lame man by the pool), the wealthy (like the rich young ruler), the weak (like the little children), the immoral (like the woman caught in adultery), we can see how Jesus puts a face on God, and the expression on that face is a tender, loving, gentle and compassionate one, rather than a judgmental, condemning and harsh one. Jesus embodies the description of the Love Chapter verses here!  Let's go through them and see how Jesus, who is Love in Person, in the flesh, feels about us, treats us, and acts toward us, no matter what kind of lifestyle we have...

Let's just replace the word "love" with the word "Jesus" and see what happens as we go through the verses.

First we see that Jesus is patient with us. What does that mean?  That means He is long-suffering, doesn't get frazzled if we do the same wrong thing over and over, allows us to take as long as we need to learn new truths, never says 'hurry up' to us!  He is patient with us, not impatient.  He's never going to say that our time is up to 'get better' and since we didn't meet the deadline, we are 'out'!  There is no goal that He is expecting us to reach, and no throwing anyone out!  He is here to stay and will be with us in our mess, no matter what.  Whether we change or not.  He has no agenda for us.  He just loves being with us, and the relationship with Him that He has put into place IS the goal, already reached, and ready to just be enjoyed in all its perfection!

Next we see that Jesus is kind to us.  What does that mean?  That means that He is always doing nice things for us, that He loves to leave us thoughtful little (and big!) gifts, like a pretty sunset or a child's smile at the grocery store.  He has nothing but goodness and kindness for us.  He is tenderhearted toward us and is always looking for a way to show us blessing and joy!  His heart is generous toward us, He just can't wait to load us down with the experience of more and more joy, peace, abundance and blessing from His storehouse, for ALL that He has He already has given to us!  He doesn't hold back anything good from us, and He never gives anything bad to us.  He is all good, only good, ever good, with no shadow or bad side to Him.  We don't even have to fear that He will harm us or hurt us.  He is kind!

Jesus never envies.  What does that mean?  He isn't possessive or demanding. He always leaves you free.  You are free to hang out with Him or free to do something else, and His love and joy over you doesn't change a bit.  He is never disappointed with you, you never 'hurt His feelings' by not talking to Him for a bit!  His love is unconditional - it gives without expecting  anything back from you or demanding a certain response.  Whatever way you relate to Him is fine with Him!  And even if you never talked with Him again while on this earth, He would still be there loving you and working behind the scenes in your life, and He would still bring you to heavenly bliss.  He fully accepts you with no strings attached!  You can't mess this relationship up!  He gives you your freedom and just simply LOVES you, no questions asked, no 'results' or 'change' or 'commitment' demanded!

Jesus isn't boastful.  What does that mean?  He is humble.  He isn't in this relationship just for His own benefit.  He doesn't want you around just to make Him look good or so you'll 'glorify' Him, as if He were egotistical!  He is the most humble being in the universe!  He isn't out 'tooting His own horn' or thinking of Himself, no, He is always thinking of you!! You are His favorite thought!  His love is all for your benefit!  He is completely OTHER-Love, all for the other, not for Himself.  Everything He does is with you in mind, in your best interests, thinking of how to help and bless you!  He loves coming up with wonderful ways to make you smile, loves to whisper His love-words in your ear and thrill your heart!  He isn't all about Himself but all about you!  He isn't saying "Me first" but is actually saying "you first!" He actaually created you just to share His love with you for all eternity, actually created the whole cosmos just for you to have a beautiful place to live and to enjoy friendship with Him!  His love is totally unselfish.

Jesus isn't rude, doesn't act unbecomingly.  What does that mean?  It means that He isn't pushy, bossy, manipulative,  or ill-mannered.  Jesus has good manners!  He never resorts to force!  He never shoves us around.  He never 'makes' us do anything against our will.  His way is never heavy or burdensome but instead is always easy, pleasant, comfortable and light!  He never puts burdens on, He always takes them off!  He is never gruff or harsh.  His words are always affirming, never condemning.  His words will never make us cringe or wound our hearts!  His words will always be like a healing balm, bringing lightness and joy and encouragement!  He always uplifts us, never puts us down.  He always gives us a good word, never a bad word.  He always has something encouraging and uplifting to share with us.  He is a true friend who always treats us well, with honor and esteem, showing that He greatly values us and sees us as people of great worth and dignity in His eyes..  We are so important to Him, and the relationship we have is so valuable to Him, that He treats us with utmost care and tender concern!

Jesus doesn't insist on His own way.  What does that mean?  He means He doesn't demand His own rights.  He doesn't look out for His interest first.  He doesn't demand that we do things "His way or else."  He loves to hear our ideas and is open to them!  He loves to dream with us about the future, and if we have an idea or dream of something we'd like to do, He is with us 100% and is ready to go for it with us!  He loves including us in the dreams and plans He has, but only as we truly want to.  He never forces us to do things a certain way or to follow His ideas.  Our relationship with Him is not built on us following His plan or else.  There is no performance requirement!  It's a friendship, and He is a joy to have as a friend, never pushing or forcing, never out for His own way but truly thinking of us and giving us room to be ourselves and express ourselves and our opinions.  He gives us room to grow, become, stretch, fail, and take off and soar!  He doesn't demand His rights.  If we treat Him poorly, He doesn't change the loving and gentle way He deals with us.  People even killed Him, and yet He asked the Father to forgive them!    There is no certain way that He demands to be treated, He doesn't even get mad if we yell at Him or blow up in frustration when we don't understand why life goes the way it does.  He values our honesty and never recoils from anything we express.  All our feelings are valid before Him, and He never rejects us for feeling a certain way or for any action or word.  We can't mistreat Him, because He has no rules for how we must act around Him, and He loves us no matter how we act!  We aren't going to run Him off with the disrespecting words we may say or with the rebellious ways we may act.  He is here in this relationship to stay!

Jesus isn't touchy.  What does that mean?  He isn't irritable.  He isn't mad at us and will never be!  Nothing we say or do (or don't say or do) will ever cause Him to lose His temper with us!  His wrath is never directed at us, it was directed only at the sin that tried to ruin us, and that sin has been taken away at the cross.  Jesus is in an eternally good mood.  Jesus is easy-going and easy to get along with! We don't have to walk around on eggshells or be careful of our actions, worried that He might fly off in rage at any moment, no!  He is so gentle, calm, even-keeled, and stable.  He is like a Rock of stability and security for us, faithful to ALWAYS act in gentleness, calmness, and tenderness toward us, without any anger, frustration or irritablity toward us.  We will never get on His nerves, no matter what we do or say.  We can count on Him to always, always, always be the same way toward us - smiling in love and grace, accepting and celebrating us, happy with us, and never angry with us.  He promised, in fact, to never be angry with us or even rebuke us!

Jesus doesn't take into account a wrong suffered.  What does that mean?  It means He isn't keeping a record of our sins and  things we do against Him.  He doesn't even notice our sin.  He isn't a performance-oriented Person, isn't grading us on our behavior or even noticing when we mess up!  He really doesn't see our mistakes, they don't affect our relationship at all, they don't change the loving way He feels about us - because He has already removed all those things at the cross and is really not thinking about them, ever!  Our sins don't exist to Jesus!  He is not thinking of them, not worried about them, will never bring them up again.   This includes future sins!  There is nothing we could do to cause Him to view our sins or see us as a sinner, failure, unworthy, messed up, or missing the mark.  In His eyes, we've hit the target, met the standard, and reached the goal!  He sees us perfect as He is, and nothing can change that!  He is not holding our wrongs against us and will never bring them up again.  There is nothing we could do to ruin this relationship or change His feelings of love and favor toward us.  We can't lose His grace, because it is freely given without our having to earn it, given no matter what our behavior, so our behavior or thoughts or words or even faith lapses cannot send it away.  No failure, no amount of doubt, confusion, rebellion, addiction or wrong-headedness can ever change His mind or stance about us - He irreversibly loves and accepts us, holds and keeps us as His own!  HE doesn't pay any attention to our failure; He only pays attention to loving us!

Wow!  Just going over theses truths, I am getting so filled with the Spirit right now!  He is PURE LOVE, isn't He?  Oh, what a wonderful God we have!  This study is so wonderful, let's continue tomorrow with the same passage...

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May the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 2 Co. 13:14