â€œHe who does not love does not know God, forâ€¦ God is love”1 John 4:8
â€œI AM WHO I AMâ€
Or in other words I am the one who is â€˜eternally existingâ€™, outside of time and space, which He has created. John wrote in his Gospel account of the life of Jesus that:
â€œIn Him was life, and the life was the light of menâ€John 1:4
Later in the same Gospel Jesus spoke the following awesome words:
â€œMost assuredly I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AMâ€John 8:57
No wonder the soldiers fell before Jesus when He spoke the words â€œI Amâ€¦â€ to them. â€œI Amâ€ is the name of God which translates into the Hebrew tetragrammaton – YHWH (Yahweh). It is in this name that we discover the essence of God â€“ who He really is. He is life that has always existed, exists now and will exist forever. The flames that Moses encountered in the burning bush did not destroy it because the bush had been created by the Creator. We also read in Scripture that God is a consuming fire – fire as in energy or life. The word â€œlifeâ€ in Greek is the word â€œZoeâ€ which means a life giving force or energy.
Just imagine for a moment an energy source far more powerful than the stars or even the sun. The sun itself is a ball of energy with billions of atoms and molecules whizzing around at high speed. Yet God created the sun and the stars and indeed the whole universe. When we contemplate the night sky or the world around us the evidence of the existence of God is plain for all to see. Nature adheres to laws that have been set in place by a Creator God. For there to be a design in nature there has to be a designer – God. Only a fool says in his heart there is no God! (Psalm 14:1). Atheists are like clay pots who say there is no potter!
What does all of this energy do? God is a consuming fire â€“ but not a fire that destroys â€“ else the bush would have been burnt to cinders. No, this fire is a fire that burns with life. So how does this fire or life express itself? Where does all that energy go? Or does it just burn where it is â€“ just being, just existing, just â€œammingâ€?
When we examine the Scriptures it is clear that God did not want to just â€˜Beâ€™ or â€˜existâ€™ on His own. When we read Genesis 1 we see God creating light, the stars, the planets and the earth, plants and animals and then finally man, in His own image. Man was the crown of Godâ€™s creation; but why did God create man in His own image? Well, what did God do with Adam and Eve after he had created them? Did He just ignore them and let them get on with tending the Garden? No! Instead we read in Scripture that He fellowshipped with them in the â€˜cool of the eveningâ€™. This energy, force, power, this life created mankind for a purpose â€“ relationship. Why? The Godhead itself is a loving relationship â€“ intertwined and inseparable. The love relationship within the Godhead was to be reflected in God having the same intimate and loving relationship with mankind. We read in Genesis 1:26:
â€œLet Us make man in Our image according to Our likenessâ€
Well, that statement in the Word of God just blew away all monotheistic religions! God is ONE but that oneness expresses the UNITY in love of the triune Godhead. A perfect love expressed in a oneness that is indivisible. Didnâ€™t Jesus Himself command us to be one â€“ as He and the Father are one? One united in a bond of love. So, God is one but also three. This is the very nature and mystery of the Godhead. We are also, individually, triune beings â€“ spirit, soul and body made completely in His image. Isnâ€™t that an awesome thought?
Letâ€™s now consider the first three verses of Genesis Chapter 1. Here we find the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters â€“ the Holy Spirit brooding, like a mother hen, full of energy but, as yet, no direction or purpose for that energy to flow. In the Hebrew the Word for the Holy Spirit is Ruach or Chai. This word literally means â€˜breathâ€™. Then God, the Father of this triune entity, thinks â€˜Creationâ€™. However, nothing happens until the Father speaks the Word, the â€˜express imageâ€™ of the Father (Hebrews 1:3). The Word is, of course, Jesus. He is the â€˜Wisdomâ€™ of Proverbs:
â€œWhen He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him as a master craftsmanâ€™Proverbs 8:29, 30
And the â€˜Wordâ€™ of Johnâ€™s Gospel
â€œAnd the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst usâ€¦John 1:14
Notice that the very first thing that God created was light â€“ again energy, power and life:
â€˜Then God said â€œLet there be lightâ€; and there was light.â€™Genesis 1:3
In order for God to extend the relationship already existing within the triune Godhead it was necessary for Him to create another being in His image – a creature that would be able to freely converse and have relationship on the same level as God. Why did God do this? Because â€˜God is loveâ€™ â€“ love within a triune entity. The â€˜all consumingâ€™ fire that Moses met in the burning bush was and is a passionate love; a desire for intimate relationship. This desire can only be expressed fully when there is someone to pour out that love upon. However, love is a gamble. Will that created creature reciprocate or return that love? Rejection is painful. It was a risk that our loving creator God was prepared to take.
Herein lay the challenge â€“ creating a being that can freely choose to love â€“ or not to love. That creature has to have the freedom to choose â€“ otherwise itâ€™s not love but control or manipulation.
Adam and Eve fell into sin and that was their free will choice. They chose to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This violated the â€˜Covenant of Loveâ€™ they had with God – just as a marriage is broken by adultery so Adam and Eve committed spiritual adultery. Instead of love and life, sin and death came to rule and reign in their hearts. The enemy enticed them to break their covenant with God â€“ but he could no more make them sin than God could make them love Him.
So, why didnâ€™t God wipe mankind off the face of the earth and start all over again? Love constrained Him. Love seeks restoration and reconciliation â€“ never separation.
The closest relationship we have in the human sphere to this expression of Godâ€™s love is the covenant relationship that exists between a husband and a wife. Thatâ€™s why divorce is so painful. When there is no one to shower your love upon; you suffer bereavement. Yours raison dâ€™etre (reason for existing) is removed. Likewise God suffered bereavement when Adam and Eve committed spiritual adultery. Sadly, we often look at things from our own selfish perspective â€“ rarely from Godâ€™s. How Adam and Eveâ€™s transgression must have pained Him!
So, a God, who is love, could not wipe out mankind when Adam and Eve sinned. Instead He provided a way to restore that fellowship – so that love divine could continue to flow and express itself.
The Father part of the triune God sent the Word, the Son, to provide a way for the world to be saved through Him:
â€œFor God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting lifeâ€John 3:16
Notice the word â€˜gaveâ€™ â€“ love always seeks to give and never to take. Just as Jesus hung, in naked agony on the cross â€“ so the Father heart of God was naked for the entire world to see. Just as Jesusâ€™ heart was pierced by the Centurionâ€™s sword â€“ so the heart of God was pierced and a river of love gushed forth cleansing the world of sin â€“ for all who choose to come and drink from His cup of sacrificial love. Such amazing love!
Love also trusts. Trust is an attribute of love. You always trust the one you love. That they will never hurt you, leave you or forsake you. When Adam and Eve sinned they broke that trust. The serpent cast doubt upon Godâ€™s Word. Remember his words:
â€œDid God really say?â€Genesis 3:1
Oh if only Eve had adhered to the Wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs 3:5:
â€œTrust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understandingâ€
Adam was as much to blame. He was standing beside Eve. He did not rebuke the serpent and so failed in his duty as steward over Godâ€™s garden. He broke the trust God had placed in him to take care of His creation. Their suspicion, that perhaps God was hiding something from them, gave birth to a rejection of His love.
They doubted His kindness, His goodness and His love for them. They were told not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for their own benefit; just as a loving mother may tell her child not to touch the fire â€“ or it will burn them.
However, love is always ready to forgive. Godâ€™s first action was not to destroy, to seek revenge, or even to teach them a lesson. He is not a God of wrath â€“ whom we must seek to appease â€“ lest He come and strike us dead with a bolt of lightening! Oh no, far from it! Instead He immediately sought a way to restore fellowship. Love does that. God sacrificed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve with its skin. This was the first blood sacrifice ever recorded in the Scriptures.
Why was a blood sacrifice necessary to restore manâ€™s relationship with God?
Adam and Eve saw that they were naked. The glory covering of the Fatherâ€™s love was gone and the glory of God cannot rest upon anyone who is in sin. Sin brings separation just as adultery separates a husband and wife. Only a blood sacrifice can bring restoration to a broken relationship with a holy God. Fig tree leaves will not suffice. Their sin, in that animal blood sacrifice, was covered. However, it was only a covering. Their sin could not be completely erased. Only the shed blood of God Himself could do that.
Imagine a coffee table that has a stain upon it. Visitors are coming and you donâ€™t want the stain to show so you cover it with a white tablecloth. Hence, the blood of animals covered the sin nature of man – but they could never remove it. However, the blood of Jesus was more than sufficient to erase the stain completely. So Jesus, who is God, came and shed His blood, the blood of God Himself, on the tree of Calvary. His sacrifice has now given life to all who seek restoration of their love relationship with God.
But why was it necessary for blood to be shed?
We find the answer in Leviticus 17:11:
â€œFor the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soulâ€Leviticus 17:11
â€œâ€¦without shedding of blood there is no remissionâ€ [forgiveness]Hebrews 9:22
God is love and life is the expression of that love. When life-giving blood is shed as a sacrifice of love then un-forgiveness becomes forgiveness and separation becomes reconciliation and restoration.
God always seeks to have fellowship with us. Thatâ€™s why Enoch was translated (taken up out of the world to be with God forever). God could no longer bear to be without him (Genesis 5:24). We all need to spend quality time with the Lord. The very first ministry of every Christian is to fellowship with God. Remember the first commandment – to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He created us for that reason. All too often we get busy doing things for God instead of being with God. Thatâ€™s why Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better portion (Luke 10:42). It is only from a deep intimate love relationship with God that everything else will flow.
Jesus admonished us to build our house upon the â€˜Rockâ€™. Without our foundational relationship with the Father being in place we can forget about anything else (Luke 6:47-49). The marital analogy is a good one. When a husband and wife begin to spend less quality time together it wonâ€™t be long before that marriage will begin to crumble. Itâ€™s exactly the same concerning our relationship with the Lord.
Oh, how many times have I been in a Church meeting and the Pastor ministers to his congregation our of â€˜dry bonesâ€™! He/she is so busy they have little time to spend with the Lord. Often this is because the five-fold ministry is not in place in many Congregations and the Pastor is trying to do everything. No wonder there are undernourished sheep everywhere living on stale manna instead of on the fresh and living bread of the Lord. Fresh manna can only be given out of an overflow of the heart of the person ministering who has been, and continues to be, in deep intimate communion with the Lord.
â€œFor out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good thingsâ€¦â€Matthew 12:34, 35
Proverbs 8:17 states that our Father loves those who love Him and who diligently seek Him. The word diligent means to be thoroughly industrious – to attend to everything with proper care and attention. We all need to ask ourselves the question â€“ are we seeking Godâ€™s hand i.e. what He can give us or are we seeking His face i.e. God the Father for Himself regardless of any reward.
In Proverbs 4 we are admonished by the Lord to give:
â€œâ€¦attention to My words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.â€Proverbs 4
To â€˜attendâ€™ to something means to give our full undivided attention. How many times, however, do we leap out of bed in the morning and dash off to work without even saying grace over our eggs! Or hurry our lunch and fail to say thanks to the Lord for blessing the work of our hands that morning! How many times do we rush home at night, have our supper, and then collapse in front of the T.V. – feeding our souls on programs that Jesus would never dream of watching. Then, finally, we crawl into bed at night, setting our alarm for the next day too exhausted to even say goodnight to our Lord and Saviour â€“ let alone pray! If we treated our wives/husbands in the same way they would soon be filing for divorce. Too many of us reserve God for â€˜Sunday onlyâ€™.
Oh, how we daily pain our Fatherâ€™s heart – and then we have the audacity to expect Him to reward us! However, the writer of Proverbs, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, quite clearly says that God rewards only those who diligently seek Him. Our heavenly Father causes those who truly love Him to inherit wealth and to fill their treasuries (Prov.8:21). This is the key to walking in Godâ€™s divine prosperity.
â€œI love those who love me and those who seek me diligently will find Meâ€¦
That I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth,
That I may fill their treasuries.Proverbs 8:21
The apostle Paul admonished us not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). God is easily grieved. Why? – Because He is love.
Only as we truly love the Lord for who He is and not for what He can give will we be blessed with long and prosperous lives. The Lord looks upon the heart. He sees our heart motives in everything we say and do (1 Samuel 16:7). So, letâ€™s repent of our luke-warmness towards God lest we suffer the consequences:
â€œâ€¦because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.â€ (Revelation 3:16)
When we are lukewarm we are covenant breakers â€“ we are guilty of breaking the first commandment as I mentioned previously:
â€œYou shall love the LORD your God with all your heart with all your soul with all your strength, and with all your mindâ€¦â€Luke 10:27
With the awful possibility that Jesus may say to us at the judgement seat of Christ:
â€œMany will say to Me in that day, â€˜Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?â€ and then I will declare to them, â€˜I never knew youâ€™â€Matthew 7:22, 23
Intimacy with our Father must always be the number one priority in our lives. Everything else will then fall into place. Whatever trials, tribulations or troubles we may face our heavenly Father has the answer to every one. Nothing is too difficult for our Father who created the Universe. The size of your challenge is dependent upon the size of your God. Remember David and Goliath. David knew that he was well able to slay the giant as he did not consider this â€˜mighty warriorâ€™ towering over him. Instead his focus was on his much mightier Father God with whom he had a blood covenant.
How will you hear your heavenly Fatherâ€™s voice, from many other voices speaking to you, if you donâ€™t spend quality time with Him? How can we know whether itâ€™s His wisdom speaking into a situation? It could be our flesh speaking to us, the pizza we ate last night, or, worse still, the devil.
If an acquaintance of mine phones me I might not immediately recognize their voice. Perhaps I have only spoken to them once or twice before. However, if my son phones up I will at once recognize his voice. Place him in a crowd of a million other boys of the same age and similar appearance and I would still be able to tell him apart from all the others. Likewise, with our heavenly Father. We need to make Him the number one priority in our lives and then we will know His voice. This is easy to do when we have a deep revelation of His love â€“ for He loves us with a love deeper than the deepest ocean, wider than the east is from the west and higher than the highest mountain!
Jesus Himself said that His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him (John 10:27). So, if you are one of the Lordâ€™s sheep then you will hear His voice and you will follow Him.
â€œâ€¦We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purposeâ€Romans 8:28
I will never forget the day when divine love pierced through the darkness of my life. I had recently returned from Greece where I had been responsible for overseeing a travel business. I had a baby to bring up by myself and my mother, whom I loved very much, had just died of cancer. I had no money at the time â€“ just a pile of debts. I was suicidal. I knew exactly how many paracetamols to take to end my miserable existence. However, I myself was constrained by love â€“ love for my baby son. Who would look after him if I took my life? There was no one. Nobody cared â€“ or so I thought.
As my son was sound asleep one night I picked up an old Bible. Iâ€™d not read the bible since I was a child. I remembered with affection my father, who was a God-fearing man. He always insisted that my older sister and I attended Sunday school every week. We had to walk two miles to the local village and back from our Devonshire farm house. I remembered the worksheets we were given to do at school and the strict Christian R.E. teacher urging us to complete them before the bell went for the next lesson. I remembered the times that I was in the Sunday school play and the detestable poetry verses I had to memorise. Once I obstinately refused to memorise them â€“ to the horror of my sister who glared at me from the audience as I stumbled over my lines. â€˜Who cares?â€™ I thought â€˜Itâ€™s only a stupid Sunday school play for stuffy old pew warmers!â€™ I was quite rebellious at times but, in my own way, I believed that there was a God â€“ out there somewhere who had some purpose for my life. I remembered walking through the beautiful countryside near our home. Iâ€™d try to reach up and touch God â€“ but this Creator God seemed to live far, far away up in the clouds. He remained, for me, aloof and distant.
Now, as I took the slim black, rather dusty old Bible in my hands, I remembered with affection, the parables of Jesus I used to read as a child. So I decided to read them again. There was nothing else to do and I was tired of watching the everlasting soap operas on TV â€“ after all the actors on these programmes always spent their time gossiping, bickering and falling out with one another. They certainly didnâ€™t have any of lifeâ€™s answers.
As I began to read those parables again the love of an â€˜aloof and distantâ€™ God began to touch me. The darkness in my bedroom, where I sat, began to brighten until it felt as if the sun itself was shining on those old, worn out pages. I felt an awesome presence of loveâ€™s warmth break through my clouds of despair and embrace me. It was like a shaft of sunlight on a summerâ€™s day â€“ warm and inviting with the assurance that the long, cold winter was over. Love embraced and enfolded me with Her arms – a love deeper than any Iâ€™d experienced in my life before. Tears rolled down my cheeks and, before I reached the Gospel of John, I had received a taste of the divine love of God. A love willing to sacrifice everything for me, even a horrific death on a cross, so that I might have a deep, intimate relationship with Him.
No one had ever died for Alison â€“ no one, apart from my mother, had ever really cared. However, here was God, the majestic, awesome, sovereign Creator God of the Universe, reaching down and wrapping me, a mere â€˜speck of dustâ€™ in the Cosmos, in the warmth of His intense, passionate embrace.
One of my favourite hymns is the one that was written by Charles Wesley – â€˜Love divine all loves excellingâ€™. This hymn epitomizes, above all else, the supremacy of the Agape love of God. Finally, after struggling with such a deep revelation of Godâ€™s love for a pitiful, lonely, depressed and suicidal single mother, I fell on my knees before my Creator.
I didnâ€™t know any eloquent prayers. I didnâ€™t even know how to pray. I simply responded to His love. How? I told Him I loved Him. But that was enough! God, who is love, came rushing into the open door of my heart and Iâ€™ve never been alone since. Whatever happens in life I now know that God loves me.
I had sought for unconditional, sacrificial love all my life. Iâ€™d sought for it in my parents, in friendships, in the arms of a lover, even in my work. I mistakenly thought that, if I were a successful business woman, people would love and respect me for it. I was trying to find my identity and my true worth in what I did. I now know that the only place to find such love, such true and ever lasting love, is in the arms of a loving Saviour. In the arms of the One who will never leave you nor forsake you â€“ no matter what silly, stupid mistakes you might make. Thatâ€™s unconditional love.
The love of God is the all-consuming fire that Moses experienced. Itâ€™s just as intense, if not more so, than if you touch a hot stove. Thatâ€™s the intensity of the love of God. If we truly reciprocate His love then we will never seek to hurt Him. Instead we will always try to please Him in all that we do every day of our lives. Itâ€™s upon this â€˜Rod of Loveâ€™ that everything else, all of Godâ€™s laws and principals, will hang in place. Remove this Rod and everything else will simply fall down – just as a pair of curtains will if you remove the curtain rail. So, letâ€™s ensure our â€˜Rod of Loveâ€™ is always in place â€“ burning passionately and intensely for God – who is love.
By Dr Alison Brown
Extracted from â€˜Images of God â€“ reflected in a Victorious Christian Lifestyleâ€™
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