Morning devotion: Receive God’s love for yourself. Love yourself. Then love God and your neighbor as you love yourself.
If you want to see me cringe, pull up one of those memes (word:picture) art that reads God first, others second, me last. Why do I cringe? I cringe because this method of love and living is not a full/accurate picture of what God told us in the Bible and it is not effective. Why? I have no agape love in me, without first receiving from God, to give to anyone.
I grew up hearing people preach, “You must love God with all your might and love your neighbor. Put yourself last. Give until it hurts. Lay your life down. Be like Jesus.” What those well meaning preachers failed to mention was how much God loves me. They skipped a very important step. People who don’t know God’s love for themselves cannot and will not love others with agape love. It is impossible to give away what is not first received.
The Father deeply loves Jesus. Jesus has always been loved, before the foundation of the earth-loved and one with the Father. Jesus knew the Father’s love for Him. His suffering for us was temporary so we could be included in the family of God (He paid 1 time for our sins). Jesus is not the slave, inferior part of the Godhead doomed to perpetual suffering. The Father gave Him the name above all names. He sits at the right hand of the Father. All authority given in His name. He is deeply loved. So are we. The Father loves us the same as He loves Jesus.
The Bible says:
- We love because God FIRST loves us,~1 John 4:19.
- Love your neighbor AS you love yourself,~Matthew 12:31.
I had to receive His love for me before I would ever be able to love Him back or anyone else.
God invites us into relationship. He tells us to abide in Him, then there is good fruit (John 15:4-5). We are to abide in His love.
I have plants. The few that have survived, they are champions. Some I call resurrection plants-dead today, rising tomorrow. 😉 If I cut off a branch or limb of the plant, it shrivels up and dies. I can scream at it to produce leaves or flowers or fruit, and it cannot. It is no longer connected to the source of life.
I tried striving for years to love God and love people. It left me wounded, hurt, defeated, broken hearted, ashamed (I am not loving like God), self condemned. As much as I tried to live up to the standard (Love God, love people, you last) I failed. Thank the good Lord God is smart to lead us to His truth. God began leading me to passages on abiding, receiving, knowing His love. He beckoned me over and over to know Him and receive from Him. It became my passion and platform; intimacy with God and abiding in Him. For freely we RECEIVE, freely we GIVE.
Loving people is still challenging and quite costly. It hurts sometimes.
Sometimes what we call love is enabling, or codependency, and/or tolerating abuse God would not ask us to tolerate.
If we abide, and love ourselves, we learn to set boundaries. Boundaries are not punishment, they are safeguards set up to do what is best for both parties, not just one person. God loves everyone. Jesus suffered temporarily so we could be saved. He is not the eternal doormat. He rebuked Peter (Mark 8:33) and the Pharisees to their faces. He stayed in the temple instead of being with His earthly parents (Luke 2:43). He had boundaries and love for Himself and the Father. When people sought to kill Him before His time, He fled those places (John 6:15). He allowed Himself to be abused for our sin. We can tolerate abuse for no reason; that is not agape love. Love protects (1 Corinthians 13:7).
We live in a world full of people who do not know, believe, or receive God’s love for themselves. Some are outside the church, some inside. You may ask how I can say this. I do not know every person in the world. I can look around at the state of the world. And I am not looking to judge. I am seeking deeper revelations of His love too. This is not heaven, therefore there are discrepancies between a place with no sin and a place overflowing with things outside God’s will.
Every single sin is rooted in a lack of agape love. For love fulfills the law (Romans 13:10). Abuse, murder, adultery, fornication, lying, stealing, incest/rape, racism, sexism, prejudice, bigotry, hatred, lust, self hatred, insecurity, inferiority, rebellion, gossip/slander, rudeness/mean spiritedness, bitterness, unforgiveness, grudge holding, selfishness, jealousy/envy, self pity, control/domination, pride….every single one is an outward manifestation of an internal deficit of agape (God) love.
The Bible encourages us not to think more highly of ourselves than we are. It does not tell us to believe thoughts about ourselves that are not aligned with God. This means we agree with God and that is not arrogance or conceit, it is God esteem.
God esteem says, “I am deeply loved by God, chosen, seated in heavenly places with Jesus, a coheir with Him. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am an outward expression of the heart of God. Unique, beautiful (handsome), gifted, created with divine purpose, and set apart for His glory.”
When we receive God’s love and abide in His love, we can and will without striving love God and others.
Our self effort is futile, for we cannot manufacture agape. It comes from God, to us and through us. May you and I know (believe) the height, depth, width, and vast expanse of God’s love for us. May we freely receive and then freely give.
We are SO deeply loved. Praying for you friends.
Love in Christ,