Experiencing God’s love
God’s love is perfect. He is full of grace, love and compassion and will never forsake us. Yet every one of us has had a broken image of God at one time or other. How can we know God’s love in our hearts, and not just in our heads?
Psalm 145:8 NLT The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Here is what else the Bible says about God:
- God is not ashamed to be called our God | Hebrews 11:16 NLT But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
- God rejoices over us when we repent | Luke 15:7 ESV Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
- God delights in us, He sings over us | Zephaniah 3:17 ESV The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
- God remains faithful to us regardless of what we do | 2 Timothy 2:13 ESV If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
- God loves us with an everlasting love | Jeremiah 31:3 ESV the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
- God gives good and perfect gifts to us | James 1:17 ESV Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
- God’s plans are for us to thrive and flourish | Jeremiah 29:11 ESV For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
- God will never let anyone snatch us out of His hand | John 10:28 ESV I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
- God will never let anything separate us from His love| Romans 8:38-39 ESV For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When God speaks in such absolute terms, He means it absolutely. Therefore, when we truly believe and experience God in our hearts – without all the bias from our own experiences with people and the views of this world – it is hard to ever feel depressed, accused, condemned, alone, afraid, abandoned or unprotected.
Too good to be true? The subtle assault of unbelief…
So what is it that blocks us from believing and basking in God’s perfect love? The simple answer is unbelief. Unbelief can be very subtle and innocuous.
We do not have to reject God outright.
Unbelief can be as innocent as:
- placing more weight on how we feel rather than what God says,
- believing what others say rather than what God says, or
- only partially trusting what God says.
When we grow up hearing worldly phrases such as, “there is no such thing as a free lunch“, “you have to prove yourself” or “you’ve got to earn it“, we can’t help but believe that in order to deserve God’s love:
- “I must always perform well.”
- “I must do more.”
- “I must be perfect.”
As ironic as it may sound, people find it hard to believe that God isn’t as calculative and judgmental as the rest of the world. He accepts our imperfections, because He has the power to transform us to be more like Him through His Holy Spirit. There’s nothing we can humanly do to be good enough.
2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Equally destructive to our belief in God’s love are sayings such as, “What goes around comes around“, “that’s karma” or “you got what you deserve“. When we listen to such sayings, we end up believing we don’t deserve God’s love once we fall into sin:
- “I am defiled.”
- “I am hopeless.”
- “I am bad.”
The truth is, we will never deserve God’s love, no matter how much good or bad we have done. That’s the power of His grace. God will always love us and forgive us lavishly when we seek Him with all our hearts. He loves to be generous. In His grace, Jesus said that He came to call us to repentance, not perfection.
Luke 5:32 ESV I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
The source of our unbelief: lies from Satan
1. God is not of this world
We tend to forget that God is not of this world.
John 17:16 ESV … I am not of the world.
John 18:36 NLT Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom… But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
2. This world is corrupted, God is not
This world is imperfect because of “the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4).
God, who is sinless and inhabits eternity, is far above the ways of this temporary world.
Isaiah 57:15 ESV For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
When God created this world, it was “very good”. In fact, everything God creates is good and perfect. This world only became corrupted when man decided to buy into Satan’s deceptions and rebel against their Creator.
Genesis 1:31 ESV And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good…
3. We confuse God’s love with this world’s corrupted love
One of the biggest obstacles to faith in God’s unfailing love is our tendency to use this world as a standard or benchmark to “measure” God’s love. It is hard to imagine God’s immense love for us when we have only experienced faulty, conditional and selfish human love in this world.
Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
4. Satan works hard to corrupt our understanding of God’s love
Sadly, Satan continues to be called the “god of this world” because too many people continue to buy into Satan’s deceptions. Our minds have been confused or duped into disbelieving God’s love.
2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Here are a few examples of how we have often been confused and duped.
- “He is not with me.” | God’s Spirit is everywhere, it is impossible to escape His presence. Psalm 139:7-8 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
- “He doesn’t notice me.” | God constantly watches over us and keeps us from harm. Psalm 121:7 NLT The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
- “He won’t bother to show Himself to me.” | God wants to reveal Himself and great and hidden things to us. Jeremiah 33:3 ESV Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
- “He’s not listening to me.” | God is neither deaf nor powerless. He is majestic and awe-inspiring. Isaiah 59:1 ESV Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
- “He is angry with me.” | God is not spiteful. He is gentle and full of compassion. Isaiah 54:9-10 ESV “… I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
- “He holds my sins against me.” | God is not petty. He readily forgives and forgets our sins. Isaiah 43:25 ESV “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
- “He is ashamed of me.” | God takes no pleasure in disgracing us. He wants to help us. Isaiah 50:7 ESV But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
Satan tempts us to model our misguided beliefs about God on people, and not on Jesus Christ. Our unbelief can be so nuanced and subtle that most of us don’t even realise that we harbour unbelief in our hearts.
How can we rid ourselves of unbelief in God’s love?
1. Repent of unbelief
No human being would willingly give up a rich abundant life for someone else’s broken one, but this is exactly what Jesus did for us.
Not only did the Son of God go through public torture, disgrace and death for us, He also made us a co-heir in His inheritance in heaven. By human standards, this doesn’t make any sense. Why lavish such privileges on an unbelieving people? The only plausible explanation is that God is extravagantly generous in His love towards us.
John 15:13 NLT There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Romans 8:16-17 ESV The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…
Let us therefore turn our hearts around and repent of any unbelief in His perfect love. We should command the father of lies (Satan, the thief) to leave us in Jesus’ name and ask the Holy Spirit to show us the footholds we had given Satan to “blind our minds”.
John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
2. Take back mental and spiritual footholds from Satan
When we place our belief or faith in anything other than God, we give the devil an opportunity to corrupt our minds. It is as if “an evil spell” has been cast on our minds. This is what happened in the Galatian church, where they started to place their faith in human works rather than God’s redemptive love.
Galatians 3:1 NLT Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.
Ephesians 4:27 NIV and do not give the devil a foothold.
When we unwittingly subscribe to human-made beliefs, superstitions and witchcraft, we give the devil a foothold to blind our minds from seeing the truth about God’s love. The more we dabble in such activities, the stronger such footholds can become. To take back strongholds from Satan, we must repent of having taken part in such things in Jesus’ name, even if we were previously ignorant of their corruption. These include:
- Fortune telling: Ouija boards, fortune cookies, tarot cards, face, handwriting or palm reading, birthdate reading, horoscope etc.
- Pagan dedications: Food offerings, burnt offerings, dedications as children, name dedications etc.
- Pagan or demonic festivals: Ghost festivals, Halloween, ancestor worship etc.
- Bowing to foreign gods or deities: Praying to statues or dead people, bowing before altars, yoga poses etc.
- Superstitions: Philosophy, human traditions, cultural sayings, belief in good luck charms, lucky lanterns or scrolls, myths, legends, moon worship, folk religions etc.
- Mind blinding activities: Chanting, mindfulness or yoga meditation, hypnotism, music therapy etc.
- Ungodly spiritual activities: Astral projection, new age healing sessions, qigong etc.
Matthew 4:10 ESV Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
Colossians 3:2 ESV Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Thank God that He is not ashamed to be our God when we repent and turn our hearts 100% back to Him. God Himself will restore, strengthen and establish our minds in Christ.
1 Peter 5:8-10 ESV Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith… the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
3. Forgive those we hold a grudge against
We also give Satan the opportunity to keep us in darkness and blind us to God’s love when we hold on to grudges and anger. To overturn Satan’s power over us, we need to repent and forgive others.
Jesus bought a pre-paid “insurance policy” for every human being so we can have a relationship with God through salvation in His name. When we refuse to forgive those who have offended us, Satan gets to write off and nullify the insurance policy due to us. Let us not give Satan that opportunity.
We have a responsibility to forgive others from our hearts as God has forgiven us. Therefore, let us be careful to pray, “In the name of Jesus, I forgive (name)“, rather than praying half-heartedly, “Father, please forgive (name)” or “Father, please give me the strength to forgive (name)“.
Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
Matthew 6:14-15 ESV For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Acts 26:18 ESV … turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God…
4. Seek counselling for deep wounds
If we find it hard to forgive someone, it might be wise to first seek counselling for the pain they have caused us. Painful festering wounds in our hearts can cause emotional cancer that spreads toxins to our thinking.
Painful memories often form the basis for the deepest spiritual strongholds. Counselling should help us understand our brokenness so we can surrender them to Jesus for healing and overcome our strongholds with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Proverbs 15:21 ESV Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
5. Invite the Holy Spirit to personally reveal God’s love for us
God wants to reveal Himself as well as great and hidden things to us, through His Holy Spirit. Once we have renounced all past spiritual strongholds that previously blocked our knowledge of God, we can invite the Holy Spirit to help us receive the fullness of God’s love.
2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 ESV But, as it is written,“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Thank God that like the Prodigal Son said in Luke 15:11-32, we can now testify, “I went and said to God, “Father, I am no longer worthy to be called Your son/daughter. Please treat me as one of your hired servants.” But while I was still a long way off, my Heavenly Father saw me and felt compassion, and ran and embraced me and kissed me.”
6. Strengthen our minds with the truth
We all need some “brainwashing”.
The truth is, the world has already brainwashed us so much that our minds are all clogged up with spiritual sewerage. It can be very difficult to understand the magnitude of God’s His love when we only have a small gap left for Him in our minds.
We need to become childlike again and drop all “arguments and lofty opinions” that work against our knowledge of God. Like little children who “go back to school”, we ought to unlearn the lies about God and relearn the truth. We do this by studying the Bible, memorising Bible verses and meditating on God’s Word.
Matthew 18:2-4 ESV And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
7. Set up a boundary around our thoughts, don’t let them “run wild”
A sound mind is too precious to waste with corrupted arguments from this world. Let us focus our minds on God and things above instead. As 2 Corinthians 10:5 pointed out above, we must learn to “capture” our thoughts that run away from us and bring them back to follow Jesus Christ.
Colossians 3:2 ESV Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
The Prodigal Son ended up in a pigsty because he let his thoughts run wild. His wild ideas took him away from his father and left him poor, hungry and filthy. Fortunately, he came to his senses and returned to his father in repentance. Thank God that like the Prodigal Son’s father, our Heavenly Father will joyously welcome us with an embrace and kiss, because of His great love.
Luke 15:15-20 NLT He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
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