At the start of the New Year, many of us think about how we might change our lives, and ourselves during the year to come. Plans for exercise routines, diets, sleep habits, studies, and more are considered. But have you ever thought about a New Year’s resolution that centers on being loved more? Few things can more impact our growth as Christians such as our perception of God’s love for us. This love is readily available to us, so Scripture tells us, as the Holy Spirit pours it out on us:
Hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)
The Spirit is the one who directly communicates to us the love of God for us. God’s love for us, given through the Holy Spirit, is essential to our sanctification, leading to our holiness in at least the following ways.
1. Softness of heart. Our hearts are inclined toward God and move toward him because we perceive that he loves us and is gracious to us. Had we not perceived this, we would fear him, or hate him or both, but perfect love casts out slavish fear.
2. Repentance. We are willing on a daily basis to repent for we know God, who loves us, to be merciful to his children. His love woos us away from sin and back into his fellowship.
3. Faith. We trust in God knowing that he loves us so that we readily believe his promises when we see that he loves us. His love for us poured out by the Holy Spirit leads us to believe him and to take him at his Word.
4. Relational wholeness/holiness toward God. Holiness is in one sense a relational wholeness, that is to love God. It is God’s initiating love toward us which allows us to love him in return. (“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19) Knowing that he loves us, we want to be in a relationship with him such that we feel the breach caused by our sin and want shalom with our Father again so much, that we want to turn back to him, hence, we are compelled by his love to return.
5. Wholeness in ourselves. The “God-shaped hole in our hearts” is not just a matter of belief, but one of affection. We need his love, in daily doses, in order to feel right about ourselves, to feel good about ourselves. Without God’s love, we vainly seek approval from others, or from various idolatrous systems. With God’s love filling that empty place, we are confident, peaceful, and assured of our worth in a world that constantly questions it.
6. Holiness toward others. The Second Law calls us to love others, but if we walk around empty of love ourselves, we have no ability to love our neighbor. When we are filled with God’s love of us, we are able to love others too.
7. Obedience. We want to obey God when we see his love for us. The child who feels distant from his father remains unconcerned about pleasing him, the one who basks in his love is eager to please. “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Notice that the Holy Spirit does not give us dribs and drabs of God’s love, but needy as we are, he pours it into our hearts in never ending streams of superabundant love. Oh, that we would simply drink in that love and allow it to transform our thirsty hearts, souls, and minds!
Do you want to see real change in your life in 2017? Do you find yourself slow to love God, or love your neighbor? It may well be time for you to seek the love of God poured out to you by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us. Why not make 2017 a year where you focus on perceiving the love of God for you, through Jesus Christ, as communicated by the Holy Spirit? It could very well be then, your best year ever!
Author: Dr. Thomas D. Hawkes