I was at a leader’s conference this week and the speaker, Bill Vanderbush, asked us if we had and could describe our life message. Our life message is what fills us with passion. We can share it without needing any notes or preparation, but it’s always fluid because God will take us places in our life message we’ve never been before because we weren’t ready for it before.
I’ve found this to be true in my own experience. My life message for the last 20 years has always centered around John 15:9-12:
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12 NIV)
Just about everything I teach will gravitate around an aspect of this passage. I can summarize what it means to me as follows:
- God loves you and me exactly the same as He loves Himself. How much does the Father love Jesus? Can you imagine that, or even measure it? That’s how much He loves you and me!
- You and I are to remain, or stay connected to this love. This is my starting point. I “remain” by meditating on this reality so I’ll have a mental grid to receive more of His other-centered, self-giving love into my heart. As Paul said, “Love is the mark of true maturity.” (Col.3:14)
- The result of remaining in His love is that my joy overflows with His joy!
- Therefore, I obey God’s commandments by first receiving God’s overflowing love for me and loving others with His love, for it’s no good to just love others. We’re called by Jesus to “love each other as I have loved you.”
This also directly relates to what Paul calls a great mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col.1:27) What does this look like with regard to Christ’s infinite and unfailing love for me and you?
First, we must understand that there’s no such thing as “outside” of Christ. He holds the molecules of the cosmos together and makes our existence possible (Col.1:16-17), as David realized in the following psalm:
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12 NIV)
Even the pagan philosophers intuited that “in him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28). Why don’t we seem to know this?
Our problem is that we live under a persistent illusion of separation from God. We learned this from doctrines and salvation schemes based in pagan dualism. We may even think hiding from Him or dismissing Him is a possibility. But this is about as silly as a child’s game of peek-a-boo. Thus, we live much of our lives with our hands over our eyes, thinking we’re keeping our distance from God because, after all, we dare not imagine what would happen if God really knew our deepest, darkest secrets.
But, beloved sought out one, He is there…in you, in the middle of your crap, while you were engaged in your worst, seemingly unforgivable sin. He’s taken residence in your mess, your worst pain, and this is true even if you hate Him or vehemently deny Him.
God was in Christ when we shouted, “Crucify Him!” And He’s here right now…”not counting our sins against us anymore” (see 2 Cor.5:19).
Whether you believe in Him or not, He has never stopped believing in you. Even if you’ve lost hope in yourself, He has determined to give you a hope and a future.
What Jesus is inviting every single human being on this planet into is not religion. Religion was invented by man trying to save himself while keeping God at a safe distance. What He wants from us is to give up our illusion of separation and embrace His unrelenting love.
The truth is, you died with Christ 2,000 years ago, for He loved you before you did a single selfish thing. He brought you and me with Him, where He is, into the trinitarian life in God. And His desire is that we would experience and walk in the same love He has had with the Father from before creation (John 17:24).
Notice our condition when God raised us up with Christ:
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Eph.2:4-6 NIV*)
What this is clearly telling us is that God raised us up with Christ in heavenly places while we were still dead in our sins. Actually…before you and I were even born.
Our problem is not separation; it’s our blindness. We’re blind because our hearts are closed to His love, for the gatekeeper to our life is our heart (Prov.4:23). We only begin to see when our heart believes (Rom.10:10).
Nevertheless, if you’re in Christ, which you cannot be anywhere else, and He’s in you and loves you the same as He loves Himself—even during your worst, most vile behavior—then what does that say about the nature of God’s love?
For me, it says that if God loves me and never leaves me at my worst, then why would I ever want to continue hiding from Him in the bushes behind my fig leaves of religion (or non-religion)?
More to the point, why would I ever want to refuse overflowing joy and infinite love!
Beloved of God, Jesus is ever extending His invitation to you to be in relationship with Him, which means knowing and experiencing His unfathomable love and fullness of joy, and then sharing that same love and joy with others.
I think this is what the world needs now, don’t you?