by Scott Stephens
Scott Stephens is the counseling pastor at West End Baptist Church’s West End Counseling Center, a board member of Redeemer Biblical Counseling Training Institute, and a PhD student in the Biblical Counseling Program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. To find out more about our counseling center (WECC), please call the church at 864-232-7312.
The sanctifying work of the Spirit is to help us become more like Jesus in this world. He gives us the ability and desire to follow God’s commands… this includes the command to love others. But learning to love others is not a task that can be learned overnight. In some situations, it may take a lifetime. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we know that love is a gift from Him (Gal 5:23). We also know that we will have a greater understanding of true love as we become more like Jesus (1 Pet 1:1-2).
As we consider the lordship of Jesus Christ, and the fact that through sanctification we will become more like Him, there are a few things that are foundational when we consider the topic of love.
The Bible tells us that we are able to love because God first loved us (1 Jn 4:19). John explains that we should love one another because love is from God. He goes on to say that “whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. In this love that God showed us, God sent His only Son into the world to be Savior of the world” (1 Jn 4:7-11). 1 John 4 helps us understand that God is the origin of love and the source of love, and those who truly LOVE… know, and love God. If we claim to be followers of God, we will love God with all our being and love others more than we love ourselves.
An essential part of the character of God is love. Everything that He has created, everything that He does, everything that He communicates, and everything that He has provided for us stems from His love. His love is so astounding that when He created us out of His love, He created us with the ability to love too. Sadly, our ability to love changed during the fall of Adam and Eve. The ability to love that Adam and Eve had at creation was a pure and undefiled love for God, and for each other. After the Fall, that love became defiled by sin. It became a selfish love, inward focused, one that no longer truly loved God and others.
God is the source of love and origin of love. If He is the One who first loved, then he gives us the ability to love and understand love. That means that all true love comes from Him.
One of the things that I try to help people understand when I am doing pre-martial or marriage counseling, is that love is not a feeling. I’ve heard some couples say, “I just don’t feel the same way I once did. We’ve fallen out of love.” Love is not a feeling; love is an action. How do we know this? We get this from the example that God provides for us. John 3:16 tells us that God loved us so much that He gave us His Son. We read the same declaration in John 4. That passage tells us that God sent His only Son into the world to be the Savior of the world. Only an unexplainable and undeniable love could make a sacrifice like this!
John 14 tells us that if we truly love Jesus, We’ll keep his commandments.
The verse 15 states, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Now let’s skip to verse 21, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”
The greatest evidence of our love for Christ is when we show an obedience to His Word… to His commands. We read in the Bible His commands regarding how we are to love others. We read that Jesus ushered in a new command for us to love one another (Jn 13:34-35). We know that the greatest command is to love God with all our being. We also know that we are to love others sacrificially (Mt 22:37-39) . By obeying these commands, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we keep our focus on serving our King. As we serve our King, we have the ability to love others and provide care for them. As we show true love and care to others, we are showing the people of the world to whom we belong.
Remember, when we show love to one another, we are showing that we belong to Jesus. We are showing them who our King is.