I have a small favor to ask of you reading this: would you kindly donate a vital organ to me?
Most of you reading probably just laughed out loud, “A small favor? Right. Who does this guy think he is?” Don’t feel bad – I’m not as selfless as Jesus; and I probably wouldn’t lay down my life for a stranger either.
But could you lay down your life for, say, your son or daughter? For most of us that isn’t even a question. I wouldn’t have to think twice if one of my children needed a heart transplant. I’d cut open my own chest and hand my heart to the doctor if need be.
What’s the point? Simply this: your love level dictates your capacity for sacrifice. Your commitment to God and to keeping His word will never and can never exceed your love level.
John the Beloved said it this way, “If anyone is able to keep God’s word, truly the love of God has been perfected in him” (1 John 2:5).
Did you get that? Your ability to keep God’s Word isn’t linked to your willpower or to your spirituality or to any other thing. Rather, your ability to keep God’s Word is inseparably linked to your love level. We fail at keeping God’s Word, not because we don’t mean well, not because we didn’t try our hardest, but because our love level initially can’t sustain the commitment level of God’s Word.
John later gives us a “thermometer” to take our love temperature – “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Too many Christians read this passage backwards or with a skewed view of love. They think, “Ok, if I want to love God, then I have to keep His commandments.” No. That’s backwards. Love comes first. Obedience comes second. Never the other way around. Really, that passage is consistent with the first passage we read and is essentially saying that if you don’t love God, you can’t keep His commandments.
If you try this whole “Christianity thing” any other way than love-first, you have a scenario where you can try and try and try again, but eventually you will fall. Sin-free living is the by-product of a heart filled with love, not the means to a heart filled with love. But for most of us, loving God is an obligation – a Christian duty – that is evinced in how well we get our act together.
John gives us the benchmark: if there is obligation, if there is burden and effort and grit and sweat in the process of keeping the commandments, then your love level isn’t where it needs to be. If stopping porn is this huge sacrifice that you think is really “slaying the big one for God,” this is evidence that there’s a major love wound in your heart crying out. And the good news is God wants to heal it! God’s plan isn’t that you perfect the flesh so you can love or be loved – it is that you perfect love – then the flesh won’t be an insurmountable burden.
If you are struggling with the flesh, you don’t have a flesh problem, or a lust problem or a porn problem- you have a love problem.
Love Changes Things
When I truly realized I had to be free from lust, my wife and I committed ourselves to praying daily and to “falling forward.” If I would fall, I would get on my face and cry out for answers, “Father, where did I go wrong? Where was the open door?” For roughly three years I’d run to God, and He’d remind me of His love for me, which I quickly and foolishly brushed aside, “Yeah, yeah, God. I know you love me, just show me how to stop looking at porn.”
After three years, it finally got through my thick skull: I didn’t know God loved me – at least not in my heart or any meaningful way that manifested change in me. I knew God loved me intellectually. I knew the theology that God loved me. But I had no experience of it or revelation of these facts in my heart. Having the knowledge of God’s love is very different from actually having God’s love.
The truth was I felt so dirty and unlovable that I was unable to receive God’s love. I remember when I first read John 15:9 and 17:23, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you… that they may know that You have sent Me and have loved them as you have loved me.” Jesus loves me as much as the Father loves Him?! The Father loves me as much as He loves Jesus?! This much love available to me seemed impossible!
Maybe that is where you are as you read this. Maybe the notion God loves you as much as He loves Jesus seems unfathomable. But the first step is to stop fighting with what God says. Simply take God’s word at face value and say, “Ok. Sin, imperfections, lumps, warts and all, God loves me enough to send Jesus to die in my place. What’s more? He didn’t stop and never will stop loving me this radically! God loves little old me enough that if it were possible, He’d do it all over again with no regrets.”
God loves you so much that the Bible says He sings, rejoices and dances over you (Zeph. 3:17). God thinks you are worthy to be celebrated. He’ll brag about you to all the angels if you’ll let Him. Can you let Him?
Fixing Your Priorities
God isn’t waiting for you to get it all right before He loves you. He isn’t waiting for some perfect future version of you to be proud of. He perfected you in Christ. He’s proud of you today.
Believe it or not, God’s first desire and priority isn’t that you stop sinning. Yes, He wants you to stop sinning. But the Bible makes it clear, we achieve this through the outworking of God’s love in us.
You can’t stop sinning by trying to stop sinning. It just doesn’t work that way. There are too many Christians whose entire focus of faith has become to stop sinning rather than to start loving. It is time to put our priorities back in line with God’s and find that everything then falls into place.
Think about it: God is love. He created us to be loved and to be lovers. This was “Plan A” for mankind. He designed love to be at the center of relationships – both human and divine. God doesn’t want a “relationship” with you that exists apart from love. So He created this God-life to only work through love. If you could manage to stop sinning in your own human willpower, it wouldn’t make you a lover of God – it would make you a Pharisee. Your life, your calling, your relationship with God, your victory over sin –all these things are designed to operate when love is fueling them.
Get this: stopping sin doesn’t get you more of God’s love – getting more of God’s love stops sin. We have had it backwards for too long. We’ve made the secondary thing the main thing, and the main thing the secondary thing. The reason I was stuck in sin after reading all the “right books,” after going to counseling, after using filters and cyber-sitters, after going to groups and having accountability is because none of those things filled or fixed the love wounds in my heart.
The Fast Track of Love
When I finally “got it” and realized my sin was rooted in a love-lack, it was like God pulled me out of the mental quicksand I had been stuck in. God began doing more in my heart in mere days than had happened in years before.
Satan tempts us to think getting God’s love is some insurmountable thing – or that it will take years. That’s a lie. Remember: God is love. Because of who He is, He loves loving. He’s been waiting to flood your heart with love since He first conceived your existence. There is a tidal wave of love ready to overtake you and change your life.
As Scripture says,”God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or imagine according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20). What is the power this verse is referring to? What is the power that enables God to exceed our expectations and wildest imaginations?
Paul answers these questions three verses earlier: being rooted and grounded in love (Eph. 3:17). Love is the power of God. Love is the “nitrous boost” that accelerates your momentum in God. Getting rooted in love gives God the ability to do more in you and do it more quickly than you could have ever imagined. Love is a fast track.
Men come to our ministry or to a Mighty Man Small Group jaded from the same long, discouraging process I had gone through. They hear they need to change their pursuit and they get discouraged thinking this will add years to their journey or undo years of what they’ve learned. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A revelation of God’s love accomplishes more in weeks than years of man’s effort. Love makes everything else work. This foundation of love gives men both the desire and the emotional capacity to finally overcome lust because they have something deeper and more powerful to draw from than the pull of lust. Love is an anchor that keeps the storms of temptation from rocking your vessel.
If you have been pursuing freedom through knowledge or self-will or ten steps or any other means without also coming into the fullness of what your heart truly needs, make love your first pursuit and build on that strong foundation.
If you would like more teaching about laying this foundation in love, you may want to read our book, “The Mighty Man Manual.” It helps lay a powerful foundation that, simply, makes everything else work. Visit www.mightymanministries.com for more information.
Wow. I think I need to read this 10 times in a row. Wow.
It’s always disappointing when authors misquote scripture to make a point. I’ve checked 24 different translations of 1 John 2:5 (http://biblehub.com/1_john/2-5.htm) and not one of them reads “If anyone is able to keep God’s word …”. They all say, “If anyone keeps God’s word …” or some version of that. There are other ways of arguing that the ability to obey comes from loving God. Please don’t misquote the Bible in the process. It destroys your credibility.
Can you elaborate please?
The Greek wording of 1 John 2:5 in a literal translation from the parallel New Testament reads as follows: But whoever may keep His word, truly in him the love of God has been perfected. I don’t see a misquotation by the author or a loss of credibility.