I’m working on the post I promised regarding the differences between Allah and YHWH, but I feel I must interject with this bit of insight that YHWH has put into my heart recently.
I grew up in a Christian home, and, with the exception of a period of doubt and wandering in my adult life, I have always been a believer in Jesus. I was, however, envious of the church at Ephesus when I read this verse:
Rev 2:4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first!
Why? This doesn’t strike one as a situation to be envied, but the thing that I felt jealous of was the fact that having lost a first love seemed to imply that there had been a first love to be lost. I have never lost my first love for Jesus or for my brothers and sisters in the Lord. For most of my life, I have longed in vain to ever experience a first love. One cannot lose what one has never possessed.
I used to hear about how people loved Jesus and couldn’t do without Him and how He was the most important and lovely and worthy and desired person in their lives. While I agreed that these were noble and good sentiments, I never was able to figure out how to relate to them. I didn’t grow up in a cold atmosphere by any means. We were involved with a wonderful church–well, at least the adults were. I think the children were just kind of there. It was a good thing to witness, a good thing to grow up with, but not a thing that we were personally invested in. We had fun and were loved and safe, but we were not really a part of the deeper things.
I’m not sure how I missed this central experience of Christianity–it’s no one’s fault but mine, undoubtedly, but I did miss out on the memo of how to love God. In the interest of saving you from the same frustration, let me share with you some things I’ve learned in my quest to come to know and love Him.
- You do not have the ability to love God.
- You cannot love someone you don’t know, and know well. You might develop a crush on a celebrity, but you aren’t in love with the person, but in love with your perception of him/her. Likewise, you can love God in this way without knowing Him, but it is not the true, deep, satisfying love He intends for you to participate in.
- All love ultimately comes from God. He is the only source of love in or out of the world.
- God wishes to be pursued. He wants you to desire Him. He is not interested in making you love Him. Like you, He is only interested in love that is freely given.
- We have to ask God for love, since He is the only source of love.
- We have to receive this love from God before we can return it to Him.
- We have to wait patiently in His presence, humbly asking for His love. This is hard on our pride–to admit that we cannot conjure up some kind of love to give to Him first–perhaps so that we will feel worthy to receive His love? We have to come as petitioners, not something that comes easily to a “fiercely proud people” or people who come of “independent stock” or people who are proud of “pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” No, we have to come as poor, helpless, needy children; children who have done wicked things and entertained wicked thoughts and who are utterly born in depravity and worthy of death, begging for God’s undeserved mercy and love. This should mean that we are willing to wait as long as it takes–our whole lives, if necessary–and not complain of being made to wait.
- As we wait before Him, allowing Him to bestow His love upon us, eagerly looking at His face through the scriptures which tell of Him, we will begin to notice that a love which is not the poor, insipid thing we have created and called love, has begun to flow from us to Him. His light is shining into our hearts and being reflected back to Him.
- The more we receive His love, the more it is reflected back to Him and to those around us. The more we open our hearts to Him, the more love they can contain, and the more love our hearts can hold, the more we can give back to Him. This is the wonderful and never-ending circle of life–not that we are born and die and our children carry on after us, but rather that the love and life of God circulates from Him to us and back again, and in the journey, flows over all those with whom we come into contact.
- Naturally, nothing impure or unholy can be allowed to contaminate this stream of love–this holy force that powers the worlds. Nothing. It is not good enough that our “good deeds” outweigh our bad deeds. Nothing less than purity can be allowed in such a holy river of love. Sin is worthy of death, and what is death besides separation from the source of all good–God? The evil must be destroyed, and the evil is us. Yet God loved us even when we were still sinners and didn’t want to put us out of His presence.
- I don’t intend to go into the whole mechanics of salvation in this post. Suffice it to say (and this is all you need to know in any case) that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. In Him, all we who believe have died to this present world, and our sin–all of it; past, present, and future–was nailed to the cross. In Him, the penalty of separation from God forever has been paid. Our sin has been separated from us, and we are made pure and able to abide (remain, live) in His presence. We cannot earn this blessed state by doing good works–indeed, we are incapable in ourselves of doing anything good–we can enter this river of love only by placing ourselves in His hands and utterly at His mercy. We must simply jump in and abandon ourselves to Him in utter and complete surrender.
- So we come full circle. How do we love God? In ourselves we cannot, but when we come before Him as poor beggars, and place ourselves in His hands, and wait patiently before Him, YHWH graciously and gently pours His love into us until we become full and begin to overflow and reflect that love back to Him. And so the circle is completed.