Thoughts on Love
About the Guest
With Valentine's Day upon us, most of us are thinking of the ones we love. Perhaps we should be reflecting instead on the One who loves us - the author of love, the Lord Almighty. Dennis Rainey explains why it's important to rest in the knowledge of God's love. Find out what benefits we reap daily from his everlasting care and concern.
Dennis Rainey explains why it’s important to rest in the knowledge of God’s love.
Thoughts on Love
Bob: On Valentine's Day, our thoughts often turn to love; but we can't think about love very long before we start thinking about the Author of love—the living God. Here is Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: He is not some impersonal, granite god—a rock of stone or of wood—but a God who has a heart. His heart is not neutral toward you and me. His heart has reached out, from eternity; and He redeemed you by offering His Son.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll look today at a love, as the hymn writer says, “Excels—a love that is divine.” Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition—the Valentine's Day edition. When our thoughts often turn to romance, and passion, and hearts, and flowers, and chocolate, and all of that kind of stuff—but what we really ought to be focused on is: “What’s at the heart of all of that?” and that is real love; right?
Dennis: There is no doubt about it. I think, if there has ever been a generation who needed to be tutored from the blueprints of life—that's the Bible—it’s this generation. We need to know what real love is. I was having lunch with a business leader the other day. I just pulled out First Corinthians 13 and just read it to him because I wanted him to hear what real love truly is. I think Hollywood has done a good job of completely distorting it.
Bob: Well, and I'm afraid that there are a lot of couples, who look at their marriage relationship—and if the sparkle feels like it's gone or if there is some conflict that's come in—
they think: “Well, the love just isn’t there. We fell out of love.” Love is not something you fall into and out of. It’s really a decision that you make; isn’t it?
Dennis: It’s a commitment. Love is a commitment. In fact, we could stop right there in this broadcast—I think—would be effective because most of us don’t understand that it's not a feeling. It, indeed, is a decision to be able to respond to another person the way Jesus Christ responds to you.
Bob: You spoke to our staff on this subject. You decided to pull back and take us to what the Scriptures have to say about love—just so we could have a little mind renewal, right there, on the subject of love. Here is our host, Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: Have you ever read some of the great letters of history? Here is one from Napoleon. Napoleon is known as a great war lord / a great leader—prolific writer, though, of many letters.
He, in fact, penned more than 75,000 letters in his lifetime—many of them to his beautiful wife, Josephine, both before and during their marriage. The following is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to her, shortly before their wedding in 1796: “Paris, December 1795. I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening, which we spent yesterday, have left my senses in turmoil—sweet, incomparable Josephine. What a strange effect you have on my heart.”
Have you ever had a love letter sent to you? Ever have someone pen you a mighty love letter? Well, this past week, I didn't get a love letter; but I did get a letter, of sorts—
from Joni Eareckson Tada. She concluded it in a very fascinating way. She said: “So God bless you, Dennis, and your work. We wish FamilyLife Ministries every success in the years to come. I leave you with these encouraging words from Second
Corinthians 3:3, ‘You are a letter from Christ, written not in ink, but with the Spirit.’”
I thought, “I don’t remember reading that in the Bible.” So, I opened my Bible to Second Corinthians, Chapter 3, and looked. Here’s what it says—Paul writes, “You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink,—
but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”
C.H. Spurgeon wrote: “The love of Christ is not mere sentiment. It is active and energetic.” God’s love for us is an active, energetic love that wants to turn your life and mine into a living love letter. He wants you and me to be penning our lives—on the hearts, not of stone, but hearts of flesh. What kind of love letter are you?
Well, in our time together, I want to give you three points that you need to have if you're going to be a great love letter to other people. First, to be a living love letter, you must know the Author of love.
John 3:16—we memorize it from the time of our youth: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This Author of love—this Creator of love, this One who has penned the words of the greatest love letter of all time, the Bible—says in First John 4:7-21—a lengthy section about love. Follow with me:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
We have seen and testified that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him, and he in God.
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love,—
and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
We love, because He—the Author of love—first loved us.
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
I want to give you three applications about the Author of love.
Because God is love, number one, you can experience His love and forgiveness and have eternal life. Eternal life is the result of His love for you. He is not some impersonal, granite god—a rock of stone or of wood—but a God who has a heart. His heart is not neutral toward you and me. His heart has reached out, from eternity; and He redeemed you by offering His Son. Because of that, we experience forgiveness. We experience His love, and we have the promise of eternal life.
But, secondly, because God is love, you can have a personal relationship with the Lord God Almighty.
Remember Jesus’s invitation in Revelation, Chapter 3, verse 20? “Behold, I stand at the door, and I knock [Sound of knocking]; if anyone hears My voice—hears My knock, and bids me to come in, I promise—I will come into him, and will sup with him and dine with him—and fellowship with him and experience a relationship.” The gods of the world don’t offer a personal relationship. The gods of the world offer ritual, rules, regulation, do’s and don’ts; but the Lord God Almighty offers to each one of us—because He has a heart—He’s a God of love—He wants a relationship with us.
Third, because God is love, you can trust His plan for your life.
Remember Job’s words? “Though He slay me, yet, will I trust Him.” It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year in college. My life in junior college could be described in very few words—self-absorbed, successful, and empty. Everything I had touched my freshman year turned to dust. Everything I touched my sophomore year turned to gold. But I was doing it on my own.
That summer, I went back to a musty, basement Bible study with a pastor teaching the book of Romans. It was the love of God—the love of God—who slowly began to turn my life around. He, literally, loved me into a relationship with Him. That summer, I moved from being a mission field to being a missionary.
My living love letter started that junior year in college.
Well, there is a second key component if you want to be a living love letter. If you want to be a living love letter, you must read and reread the greatest Word of love in history. John, Chapter 1—it says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is no ordinary word that God has written to us; but the eternal Word—the living Lord Jesus Christ who showed us what love looks like. How would we have known what love looks like if we hadn’t seen Jesus?
Romans, Chapter 8, speaks of the love of Christ: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress,—
or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things”—look at this—“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Christ who loved us.”
Now, look at this description: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Ephesians, Chapter 3, has probably been where I have parked and meditated most as I’ve thought about the love of God. Paul writes:
For this reason, I bow my knees—
before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
Now, look what he prays for the believers at Ephesus:
and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
These were people who already knew how to love others. They were rooted and grounded in love, but Paul did not stop there. And by the way, neither should we.
may be able”—he said—“to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and width and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
One very simple point on this, from these passages, I want to share with you.
Because God is love, you must never stop growing in your understanding of His love. Your life is a love letter, written every day, for a lifetime. That’s why you and I must be on the upward ascent of pursuing the love of God.
Well, one last point to be a living love letter. You must write upon broken tablets of flesh. God has not called us to write upon perfect tablets of stone. He has called you and me to love imperfect people. Were it to be that God—that we could love perfect people. Wouldn’t that be easy? But guess who God has called you to love?—broken tablets of flesh.
John 15, verse 12: “This is my commandment,—
that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” First John 3: “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him….For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;…We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Ephesians, Chapter 5, verse 1 and 2, adds this: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
Three more points about being this living love letter. First point—you have the responsibility to imitate Him and His love. Because God is love, you and I have the responsibility to imitate Him and His love.
A second way that we are to be a living love letter is—because God is love, you and I have the responsibility to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Forgiving one another just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you.”
Have you ever been in a relationship with anyone who continues to wound you, and hurt you, and lance with you a sword? I have. The most unnatural thing I can do is forgive and to keep loving. The most natural thing, my letter wants to write—
in the words of my mother—is: “Give them a piece of my mind and some hateful words.” My mom was a great lady. She—mind you, she wouldn’t really say it to other people—but she would talk about, “I’d like to tell him off!” Well, you know what? I understand those feelings; but because the Spirit of God is in me, I don’t have the option of telling off other people. I can’t tell them what I’m thinking all the time. Instead, I must forgive as I’ve been forgiven.
Third point—because God is love, you have the responsibility to lay down your life for another—to sacrifice for another. I have to admit this is not much of a sacrifice, but it has taken some time. I’m in the process of writing all my adult children a letter that I hope will be a keeper—
a letter of encouragement, a letter of belief, a letter of affirmation—a letter that, I hope, they’ll read many, many times. Why? Because God has called you and me, not to write our words on stones and on monuments, but to write our words on human hearts—broken tablets of flesh.
The question is: “What kind of love letter will your life be?” I want to give you an assignment. I want you to start writing a love letter to someone that God has brought to mind in this message by way of application. I want you to start thinking, “If my life is to be a living love letter, what’s one letter I need to write right now?” My exhortation to you is to write your life—
on tablets of flesh, not tablets of stone. Why? Because of this last verse: “But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Bob: Well, again, we've been listening to a message from Dennis Rainey on the real meaning of love and how we live that out in our lives and in our relationships. You know, when you do a message like this and it gets taped, that means there’s going to be some accountability. So, have you continued writing these letters that you talked about in this message?
Dennis: You know, I’ve been tested on this. Bob, I want to be known as somebody who loves other people; and I don’t think I’ve gotten there yet. [Laughter]
But I think the application for each of us, coming out of a message like this, is: “Who are you supposed to write a living love letter to?” It may not be an actual letter in writing; but it may be an act of kindness, it may be doing good to somebody who has been doing evil to you, it may be forgiving someone who you’ve been carrying a grudge toward for a number of years.
You can always tell if you’ve forgiven someone because forgiveness means you give up the right to punish that other person. So, your first step of love may be to relinquish punishment, and give up the right, and, actually, forgive them. Then, say: “You know what? I love you.” Do what God’s asked you to do. The question is: “What’s God’s assignment for you right now? What tablet of flesh do you need to write a living love letter on?”
Bob: You know our friend, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, wrote a book about forgiveness that I have—
recommended and passed on to a lot of folks because this is a—this is a hiccup point for a lot of couples. They just can’t get over the hurdle of—they’re afraid, if they forgive another person, it just sets up them up to be hurt again. So, they keep a wall up. Nancy wrote a book called Choosing Forgiveness. We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how to get a copy of Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book, Choosing Forgiveness. You can order online if you’d like; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
I should also mention that, in addition to understanding and knowing about divine love, Dennis and Barbara Rainey know a little bit about marital love, as well. They wrote a book called Rekindling the Romance. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been making this book available—
to our FamilyLife Today listeners who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. We are listener-supported. Those donations help us advance the mission of this ministry—making FamilyLife Today possible to more people in more places than ever before.
And we want to thank those of you who have partnered with us in the past. If you can make a donation today, simply go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make a donation online. When you do, we’ll send you a copy of Rekindling the Romance by Dennis and Barbara Rainey—half the book is for the husband / half the book is for the wife. It would be good for both of you to read the other person’s side, too.
Again—FamilyLifeToday.com—click the button that says, “I CARE”. Make an online donation, and we’ll send you the book. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation over the phone and ask for the book on romance. We’ll get it to you. Or you can write a check and mail it to FamilyLife Today. Our mailing address is:
P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. And our zip code is 72223.
And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Hope you have a great weekend and hope you and your family can worship together this weekend in church.
On Monday, we’re going to talk about the differences between men and women. Larry Crab will join us to talk about how we can appreciate and enjoy those differences. Hope you can be here with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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