Knowing the Author of Love
About the Guest
With Valentine's Day upon us, most of us are thinking of the ones we love. Perhaps we should be reflecting instead on the One who loves us - the author of love, the Lord Almighty. Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey explains why it's important to rest in the knowledge of God's love. Find out what benefits we reap daily from his everlasting care and concern.
With Valentine’s Day upon us, most of us are thinking of the ones we love.
Knowing the Author of Love
Bob: On Valentine's Day our thoughts often turn to love, but we can't think about love very long before we start thinking about the Author of love – the living God. Here is Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: He is not some impersonal, granite God, a rock of stone or of wood, but a God who has a heart, and His heart is not neutral toward you and me. His heart has reached out from eternity, and He redeemed you by offering His Son.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 14th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to look at a love today that the hymn writer said is "Love divine, all love's excelling." Stay tuned.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition, the Valentine's Day edition. This is going to be nice today. You know, we've spent some time over the last couple of weeks talking about romance and intimacy and passion in marriage.
Dennis: Now we're going to talk about love. After we've talked about all that, now we're going to talk about real love.
Bob: It is nice to remember that there is more to real love than just the passion and the intimacy, right?
Dennis: There is no doubt about it, and I think if there has ever been a generation who needed to be tutored from the blueprints of life, that's the Bible, it's this generation. We need to know what real love. I was having lunch with a business leader the other day, and I just pulled out 1 Corinthians 13 and just read it to him, because I wanted him to hear what real love truly is. I think Hollywood has done a good job of completely distorting it.
Bob: Well, and I'm afraid that there are a lot of couples who look at their marriage relationship and if the sparkle feels like it's gone, or if there is some conflict that's come in, they think, "Well, the love just isn't there. We fell out of love," and love is not something you fall into and out of, it's really a decision that you make, isn't it?
Dennis: It's a commitment. Love is a commitment. In fact, we could stop right there, and this broadcast, I think, would be effective, because most of us don't understand that it's not a feeling; it, indeed, is a decision to be able to respond to another person the way Jesus Christ responds to you.
Bob: You spoke to our staff on this subject. Actually, it was last year at this time, it was on Valentine's Day as we were having a staff meeting, and …
Dennis: As I recall, you skipped that staff meeting.
Bob: No, I was at that staff meeting. I was there. In fact, I spoke to our staff as well.
Dennis: Oh, that's right.
Bob: I was Dr. Love that day.
Dennis: That's why I didn't see you. You were getting in costume.
You should have seen this, folks. In fact, Keith, our engineer for today's broadcast. Would you put a picture of Dr. Love – Dr. Love …
Bob: I don't know if this is where we want to go with this.
Dennis: … on the website. Our listeners need to see what Dr. Love looks like. They need to hear what love is on today's program. But let's see what Dr. Love looks like, which is Bob Lepine, of course.
Bob: You decided to pull back and take us to what the Scriptures have to say about love, just so we could have a little mind renewal right there on the subject, and so we're going to hear this week parts 1 and 2 of a message on the subject of love. Here is our host, Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: [from audiotape.] Have you ever read some of the great letters of history? Here is one from Napoleon. Napoleon is known as a great war lord, a great leader; a prolific write, though, of many letters. He, in fact, penned more than 75,000 letters in his lifetime, many of them to his beautiful wife, Josephine, both before and during their marriage. The following is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to her shortly before their wedding in 1796.
"Paris, December 1795. I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening, which we spent yesterday have left my sense in turmoil. Sweet, incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart."
Have you ever had a love letter sent to you? Ever have someone pen you a mighty love letter? Well, here are some others I found from history. This one is from a Czech journalist and writer – "When you have received a letter you, first of all sit down, cutting open the envelope is done slowly and resolutely as though diffidently raising the lid of an enchanted chest."
But the next one is my favorite, Merlyn Allen, a Welsh folk artist and teacher, to his future wife, Lucy, in the early 1930s – "Yours 'til the sphinx winks." Isn't that good?
Well, this past week I didn't get a love letter, but I did get a letter, of sorts, from Joni Eareckson Tada, and she thanked me for a video piece I'd done for the "Day of Discovery" along with honoring her and Ken, I also honored Dr. Robertson McQuilkin. It was aired a couple of weeks ago, and she just wrote me to say thanks.
And then at the end of her letter, she concluded it in a very fascinating way. She said, "So God bless you, Dennis, in your work. We wish FamilyLife Ministries every success in the years to come. I leave you with these encouraging words from 2 Corinthians 3:3 – "You are a letter from Christ written not in ink but with the spirit."
I thought, I don't remember reading that in the Bible. And so I opened my Bible to 2 Corinthians, chapter 3, and looked, and here's what it says, Paul writes, "You are our letter written on our hearts known and read by all men. Being manifested that you are a letter of Christian cared for by us, written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts."
I've had the privilege to be meditating on the love of God now for about a month, and, quite honestly, I don't think I've ever taken a concentrated period of time like this to meditate on the love of God, but it has been rich. As I have looked at the number of Scriptures that over and over and over again speak of the love of God and challenge us to pursue the love of God; to know the love of God; to experience the love of God.
And I have to admit, in my study and preparation for this message, I have been rebuked. C.H. Spurgeon wrote, "The love of Christ is not mere sentiment, it is active and energetic." And God's love for us is an active, energetic love that wants to turn your life and mine into a living love letter. He wants you and me to be pinning our lives on the hearts not of stone but hearts of flesh. The question for this morning – what kind of love letter are you?
I was recently at the World Series with my son, Benjamin, and the gentleman we were with asked Benjamin a really important question. He says, "What do you remember most about your dad, growing up? Describe your dad in one word." And I thought, "That's a really good question. I want to know how my son answers that." And I'm sure I've thought about how I thought he might want to answer it, but he didn't pause for a second. He said, "Oh, that's easy – intentional. My dad is purposeful. He doesn't do anything just to do it. He has always got a purpose and a mission about him."
Now, frankly, that's a great compliment, but if you would give me my druthers of what I wish he'd said, I wish he'd said, "Dad is a great lover of people." Now, why do I say that? Because 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, "But now abide faith, hope, and love, these three, but the greatest of these is" what? "Love."
I watched Bill Bright become a greater lover as he aged. As I age, I don't want to become a crotchety, cranky old man. Do any of you know crotchety, cranky elderly people? I think it's the natural bent of the flesh. I can understand how it begins to happen. You just kind of wind down, and there's arthritis, and there's aches and pains and disappointment, and life is just becoming cynical.
But this book doesn't call us to that, because the God who wrote a love letter on our hearts, who calls us to be a living love letter, calls us out of that spiral downward to being love letters to others.
In our time together, I want to give you three points that you need to have if you're going to be a great love letter to other people. First, to be a living love letter you must know the author of love, you must know the author of love.
John 3:16, we memorize it from the time of our youth – "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." This author of love, this creator of love, this one who has penned the words of the greatest love letter of all time, the Bible, says in 1 John 4:7-21, a lengthy section about love. Follow with me – "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
By this, the love of God was manifested in us that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. And this is love not that we love God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us His Spirit. We have seen and testified that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him and he in God.
We have come to know and have believed the love, which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with this so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
We love because He, the Author of love, first loved us. If someone says I love God and hates his brother, he is a liar, for the one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him that the one who loves God should love his brother also."
I want to give you three applications about the Author of love. Because God is love, number one, you can experience His love and forgiveness and have eternal life. Eternal life is the result of His love for you. He is not some impersonal, granite God, a rock of stone or of wood, but a God who has a heart, and His heart is not neutral toward you and me, His heart has reached out from eternity, and He redeemed you by offering His Son.
And because of that, we experience forgiveness. We experience His love, and we have the promise of eternal life.
But, secondly, because God is love, you can have a personal relationship with the Lord God Almighty. Remember Jesus's invitation in Revelation, chapter 3, verse 20? "Behold, I stand at the door, and I knock. If anyone hears my voice, hears my knock and bids me to come in, I promise I will come into him and dine with him and fellowship with him and experience a relationship."
The gods of the world don't offer a personal relationship. The gods of the world offer ritual, rules, regulation, do's and don't's, but the Lord God Almighty offers to each one of us because He has a heart. He's a God of love, He wants a relationship with us.
Third, because God is love, you can trust His plan for your life. Remember Job's word? "Though He slay me yet will I trust Him." We've had plenty of fresh illustrations for that around here at FamilyLife recently, haven't we? Because God is love, we can trust His plan for our lives.
It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year in college. My life in junior college could be described in very few words – self-absorbed, successful, and empty. Someone has said a person who is all wrapped up in himself makes a very small package. Well, I was a very small package. Everything I had touched my freshman year turned to dust, everything I touched my sophomore year turned to gold. I was elected student body president, almost made a 4-point to my parents' shock. There were all these good things happen to me. I started my last basketball game in junior college. If we'd won, we'd gone to the national championship. I was on a roll, but I was doing it on my own, and that summer I went back to a musty basement Bible study with a pastor who had spent a year at Dallas Seminary and three years at Southwestern who knew the Word, and he was teaching the Book of Romans.
And, you know, you just have to wonder about pastors who are slugging it out in secret whose names aren't on books, who don't have radio programs or a video series or who don't lead mega churches or even churches of this size today. But God bless Alan Harrison. Alan Harrison, in that little basement Bible study – as I recall, there were three or four of us in that Bible study. By human standards, no way that could have been successful. But through his faithful teaching of the Book of Romans, and me hearing a justification by faith and the pursuit of God's love for a boy, a young man, who was running from God as fast as he could, the love of God, it was the love of God, the love of God who slowly began to turn my life around, and He literally loved me into a relationship with Him.
And that summer I moved from being a mission field to being a missionary and went to the University of Arkansas as a zealot and on fire, pretty arrogant, but on flame for Jesus Christ follower, and I want to tell you, there's a statement made by Spurgeon. He said, "If you're on fire for Christ, someone will come to watch you burn."
Well, I don't know how many watched me burn, but I went all over the campus sharing Christ, and Barbara and I did all kinds of things. Do you know what transformed my life? It was an encounter with the Almighty God who slung a billion galaxies into outer space but who personally confronted me with His love for me.
I have never recovered from that encounter of the love of God. My living love letter started that junior year in college.
Bob: Well, we've been listening to part 1 of a message on the subject of love from our host, Dennis Rainey, and as I was listening to you share that story again, Dennis, I thought of 1 John, chapter 4, verse 19, which is the verse that we had put on our wedding invitations when we sent them out. It says, "We love because He first loved us." The capacity to love someone else is really bound up in knowing that someone has loved you first.
Dennis: And when that someone is God, you're in good company. I just can't – you know, Bob, I've never recovered from that love. I've taken steps away from it over the years, as I know our listeners can identify with, but He's kept loving me, and I've kept coming back and, you know, to that person who does not know the love of Christ, who has maybe lived in self-condemnation and guilt, realizing they have not matched up to the law, they've not been perfect as He is perfect – turn to the love of Christ, turn to the Savior who gave Himself for you and died on a cross for your sins and turn to Him in faith and give your life to Him. Just totally abandon yourself and yield to the love of Christ that was poured out on a cross. There is no greater news on the planet, and there is no greater love than that.
Bob: And undoubtedly, right now, there is somebody who is listening, maybe many folks who are listening who would say, you know, "As I look at my life today that's what I need. I need to know God, I need to have my sins forgiven, I need to have my life transformed, I need hope."
Dennis: I need to know how to love, and as you said earlier, Bob, this is how you begin to learn how to love – when you experience it. We love others because He first loved us. And I'd just say if that's you right now, pull off to the side of the road, stop what you're doing at work, at home, and make this encounter with God today the beginning of the rest of your life.
Bob: And then we'd love to send you a book that helps you understand what it means to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The book is called "Pursuing God," and if today you would say to yourself, "I need to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I need to understand what it means to be His follower, what it means for Him to be my Lord and my Master and my Savior."
You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and simply request a copy of this book, and we'd be happy to send it to you. If you go to our website, FamilyLife.com, on the right side of the home page screen, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast." You click that box, and you can look for more information about this book or call 1-800-FLTODAY and just mention that you'd like a copy of the book, "Pursuing God." We are happy to send it out to you at no cost to help you begin a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
And then there's a second book I want to recommend to you. It's really a classic, and when I meet somebody who is young in their faith, I always encourage them to get a copy of the book by Dr. J.I. Packer called "Knowing God." The chapters are very short, and they're simple and easy to understand, and yet they explain the God of the Bible, His purpose and His plan for us in a way that has been helping people for decades.
Again, we'd love to send you a copy of the book, "Knowing God," that there is more information about how to order a copy when you go to our website, FamilyLife.com, or when you call us at 1-800-FLTODAY. Someone on our team will let you know how you can have a copy of this book sent out to you.
And then, finally, if you are able to help the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month with a donation of any amount, we'd love to send you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey's new book, which is called "Moments With You." This is a devotional guide for couples designed to help you grow together as a couple and grow closer to God as a couple. This is a daily devotional that a husband and wife can read through together. There is an opportunity to pray together and to look at the Scriptures. There are questions to spark discussion and, again, this book is our gift to you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month with a donation of any amount.
If you are donating online, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, just type in the word "moments," and we'll know to send a copy of this book to you. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, you can make a donation over the phone and, again, we're happy to send you a copy of the book, "Moments With You," by Dennis and Barbara Rainey as a way of saying thanks for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Now, tomorrow we're going to hear part 2 of Dennis's message about being living love letters to those around us. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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