1 John 4:19 “We love because He loved us first.”
God’s gift of love is not primarily about us learning to be more loving. As we grow in grace, we will likely learn to love others more; but first we must learn to receive love.
For many of us, this is a problem because we think that the Christian walk is about what we do and what we give. We fail to grasp that we cannot give what we have not received. Quite literally, receiving love must precede giving love.
Accepting God’s love means, in a very practical way, accepting the love of others. To put it another way, if we do not accept the love of people we will find it impossible to actually accept the love of God.
And since only God is perfect and His love is the only perfect love, accepting the love of people means accepting imperfect love, which is risky.
Imperfect people loving us imperfectly will sometimes include betrayal and breaches of trust and feeling let down.
On the other hand, choosing to trust someone to love us even knowing that there will be moments of let down, opens us up to actually receiving love –both the love of people and the love of God. And as we receive the perfect love of God, we now are able to begin (imperfectly) to love others.
We love (imperfectly) because He loves us (perfectly). Receiving precedes giving.
Accepting God’s and Forgiving Others
The Forgiveness Mandate
In the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:12-15, Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” In other words, to ask that they be forgiven to the same degree or extent that they forgive others.
While teaching the Lord’s Prayer, He reaffirmed the importance of forgiving others by saying, “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.”
Another time when Jesus was teaching on prayer (Mark 11:25), He said, “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your sins.” This would imply that Jesus was serious when He said that if we don’t forgive others, Father will not forgive us.
In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the king forgave an enormous debt.
When the forgiven servant refused to forgive someone else, however, the king re-instated the entire debt. Jesus concludes this parable by saying, “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
The mandate is pretty clear. If we want to be Jesus followers, we must learn to forgive. We actually already knew this. Even unbelievers know that forgiving is the right thing to do. The problem is that we’re not very good at it.
Fortunately, there are principles we can learn and practice and we can get better at forgiving others and receiving God’s forgiveness.
Healing, Deliverance, Sanctification
Restoring Our Spiritual Houses
Think of our spiritual lives as buildings -spiritual houses. Before trusting Jesus for salvation, we lived under the devil’s domain. Under the devil’s domain all sorts of spiritual doors got opened.
Some doors got opened by our own sinful choices; some were opened by sins that were done against us; some were opened by the sins of our ancestors; and some were opened simply by the difficulties of life -things like lack and trauma.
These open doors allow ungodly spirits to influence and defile our thinking, our beliefs, our emotions and even our physical bodies.
When we trust Jesus for salvation, He takes ownership of our spiritual house.
We are forgiven of our sins, but the damage done to the interior of our houses while we lived under the devil’s domain is often extensive. We are saved, but we still need healing and restoration. We need some spiritual house cleaning and repairs.
Biblically, this spiritual house cleaning process is called sanctification. Sanctification is not something done to us; rather, it is something done in us as we cooperate with God and submit to His leading and lordship.
Prayer & Warfare
In Jesus’ Name
After His death and resurrection, Jesus claimed that all authority in heaven and on earth had been restored to Him. When we become Christians we are joined to Jesus, who now has all spiritual authority.
This principle of being ‘in Jesus’ is a common thread running through the Epistles of Paul throughout the New Testament:
“But he who joins himself to the Lord becomes spiritually one with Him.” (1 Cor 6:17)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17)
If Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth, and we are in Him, we are no longer under the authority and dominion of Satan. Instead, those who are in Christ have authority over Satan and his demons.
Satan (and the demonic) have no authority over Believers; yet, Satan (and the demonic) still are powerful and destructive. Believers actually have authority over the demonic. Believers, however, are not in their own strength powerful. What this means is that there is an important distinction between power and authority.
Authority trumps power because authority sets the boundaries within which power may or may not function.
To illustrate, consider the difference between a professional football player and a football referee. The football player is by far much stronger. The referee, however has authority. Because the referee has authority, the football player must obey the referee.