When the Bible says that “God is love,” what does it mean? How is the love of God different than our love of junk food? Today AMBrewster presents the most gorgeous and life-changing love in the universe and teaches us how to mature in it.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a family resource from Truth.Love.Parent., a ministry dedicated to rooting families in God and maturing families for God so they can harvest blessings from God.
Discover the following episodes by clicking the titles or navigating to the episode in your app:
“TLP 128: The Four Family Loves, Part 1 | it’s something we have to do”
“TLP 129: The Four Family Loves, Part 2 | the “love” that takes”
“TLP 130: The Three Family Loves, Part 3 | the love that should be natural”
“TLP 131: The Three Family Loves, Part 4 | the love that feeds each other”
“TLP 132: The Three Family Loves, Part 5 | the love of God in us”
“TLP 133: The Three Family Loves, Part 6 | the character of God’s love in us”
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Welcome to The Year Long Celebration of God!
This is a unique and dynamic discipleship experience that helps you know, understand, and love God better as you help the other believers in your life to do the exact same thing.
Our goal is that all of God’s people would give Him the worship that He deserves every moment of every day. We know that won’t be perfectly accomplished until we see Him face to face in glory, but that’s not going to stop us from growing.
If you’re new to the show, we welcome you. If you’d like to understand what we’re doing here, I recommend three things. 1. Go to CelebrationOfGod.com to see all of the resources we have available for you there. 2. Listen to our introductory episodes. They explain in great detail how this discipleship resource works. And 3. For this specific discussion concerning love and Valentine’s Day, make sure you listen to episodes 40 and 41 before listening to this one.
And, if you’re not new to the show, we welcome you. We hope you’ll subscribe, rate and review the show, share it with your friends, and help us reach our goal of discipling God’s people all over the world to celebrate Him in their High Days and low moments.
And, as always, holiday-specific resources, episode notes, and transcripts are all available to you at CelebrationOfGod.com.
Last time we talked about storgē love and phileō love. Both are nice, both are important, but there is a love that — when compared to the other loves — is like the sun to a candle.
It’s powerful, pure, unconditional, and glorious. It’s the veritable love of God Himself in us.
In the Bible, this love is referred to as agapē.
Last time we observed that versions of the word storgē show up three times in Scripture. Even phileō is only used just over twenty times.
But agapē and its other forms are used over 300 times in the New Testament!
Now, we can’t possibly look at all of those today, so we’re going to survey them and draw general truths that will help us understand why agapē is so fundamentally different from the others, and we’re going to try to be practical as we prepare to celebrate this season of gracious love.
First, we must define our terms. And — as you can imagine — there are many different ways to define agapē. Nearly everyone has their own understanding. Some of those definitions come from the way the Greek word was commonly used. Most of them tie in the biblical concepts.
As we look at the basic definition of the Greek word, we’ll see that this love doesn’t sound too special. Remember, the word was commonly used by the Greek-speaking culture. It wasn’t made up to communicate a uniquely spiritual reality. But God chose to use this word, and He chose to explain how He wanted us to understand the word.
So, we’ll look quickly at the basic, technical definition, then we’ll trace the origin of True Love, we’ll look at the recipients of True Love, and then we’ll check out the Characteristics of True Love so we can discuss a biblical definition of True Love.
Alright, let’s start with the technical stuff.
Here are five unique things about the Greek concept of agapē.
In John 3:19 Jesus tells us that, “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” The word used here for love is the verb form of agapē, agapeō.
In II Timothy 4:10 we’re told that Demas agapeō-ed this present word and deserted Paul.
II Peter 2:15 tells of Balaam who agapeō-ed gain from wrongdoing.
And I John 2:15 warns us not to agapeō the world.
And then, not only can it be used in a selfish way, but even Christ-honoring agapē can fade away.
In Matthew 24:12 Jesus tells us that agapē can grow cold.
And Revelation 2:4 we learn that the Ephesians abandoned their first agapē.
So, we see that — in the Greek — the basic word, “love” can still be pretty flexible. But, these are only a small handful of the many times the word is used, and the picture God paints for us of the True Love He wishes us to experience so dwarfs the observations we just made that we just need to move on and revel in what love is supposed to be.
So, from now on, I’m going to try not to use the words agapē or agapeō. I’m also going to try to avoid the word love.
From now on, when referring to this unique love, I’m simply going to call it True Love or God’s Love.
Now, I know that the phrase “True Love” has been tainted. When someone says “True Love,” I can’t help but picture that scene from The Princess Bride where the priest utters, “Wuv. Twu Wuv will fowō you foweva.”
But I think it’s imperative that we define words the way God does. As we’ve already noted the world has no cohesive, final, and absolute definition for anything. Nowadays, words mean what people want them to mean — which means they mean nothing.
But God’s unchanging Truth allows us to have a working and decisive definition.
Okay, so, now, let’s discuss The Origin of True Love.
Simply put — God Himself is the origin of True Love because God Himself is love.
God didn’t say He was eros or storgē or phileō. He claimed that His very nature was True, Divine Agapē. And because of that and more, God can command us to love.
1. God can command us to love because of the nature of love. True Love is volitional. It’s not an emotion, it’s not a feeling. It’s not something into which we fall. The object of our love doesn’t have to be lovable.
2. God can command us to love because He is love. Now, even though we haven’t yet seen the extremely high biblical expectations for True Love, I’m sure we can still appreciate the seeming Mount Everest of True Love God’s commanding us to climb. That’s why it’s a comfort to remember . . .
3. God can command us to love because He’s powerful. But we’re also going to find out that not only is it a comfort that God will help us out if we struggle having True Love, we need Him to have True Love in the first place. We can’t do it on our own. It’s impossible for anyone in your family to truly love anyone else without God.
4. God can command us to love because we’re forgiven . . . or at least, we should be. I can’t go into any more detail on this point, so I’ll direct you to the description of today’s episode where you’ll find a much more robust study of biblical love I did for Truth.Love.Parent. In that study we discuss many of the same concepts, but I share much more Scripture and spend far more time teaching and applying biblical love to our families. So, make sure you check that out. In the very first episode I talk about how God can command us to love because we’re forgiven.
Now, let’s discuss The Recipients of True Love.
1. We’re commanded to love God.
In the “Four Family Loves” series I just referenced, I share twelve biblical proofs to determine whether we have True Love for God. That’s a list we should post on our Celebration Walls because we constantly need to be working on it.
In fact, I’ll make sure a copy of that is available with the other Valentine’s Day resources so you can easily print it out and add it to your Celebration Walls.
2. We’re commanded to love our neighbor.
Ephesians 5:25; 5:28; 5:33, and Colossians 3:19 command husbands in particular to love their wives.
I Peter 2:17 tells us to love the brotherhood.
II John 1:5 commands all Christians simply to “love one another.”
We can’t escape the fact that having storgē or phileō for the people in your family is simply not enough. We are commanded by God to have True Agapē Love for everyone in our lives.
And that includes . . .
3. We’re commanded to love our enemy.
There are many passages that describe this, but I’ll let you listen to the other episodes to learn more.
So, now I want to look at The Character of True Love and — in so doing — come up with a solid Definition of True Love.
Let’s consider eight Truths about True Love:
1. True Love flows from, is empowered by, and must return to God.
Romans 5:5b, “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It comes from Him.
II Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us.” It only works when God’s in charge of it.
I Thessalonians 4:9b, “You yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.” We couldn’t have learned it any other way.
II Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love.” Again, it comes right from Him.
I John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” It would have been impossible to love God had He not loved us first.
So, we see that only God-worshippers can choose this highest form of love.
Unlike storgē and phileō, God’s Love in us is not accessible to unbelievers. That means, if you’re listening to the sound of my voice right now, if you do not first choose to submit to Christ and follow Him, you will never be able to truly love anyone the way God does.
I hope that’s a significant reality for you.
2. True Love must permeate all we do.
I Corinthians 16:14, “Let all that you do be done in love.”
That was pretty straightforward.
3. True Love is the proof of genuine faith in God.
John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love.”
Now, because True Love comes from faith in God and the power of the Holy Spirit, and because it must permeate all we do, it needs to conform to God’s will at all times.
4. True Love is evidenced by obedience.
In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
In John 14:21 the Messiah says, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.”
In John 14:23 and 24, the Son of God commands, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word,” “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
In John 15:10, the incarnate Christ tell us, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.”
Romans 13:8 says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
Romans 13:10 proclaims, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
In I John 2:5, the disciple who Jesus loved tells us that, “Whoever keeps [God’s] word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.”
Later, in I John 3:18, we learn, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
And in II John 1:6 we’re told very clearly, “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments;”
Friends, we can’t escape it. If we’re sinning, we’re not loving. If we’re disobeying, it’s impossible to love.
We do not love when we do not obey. And since the opposite of love is hate, then we must conclude — no matter how uncomfortable it may be — we hate the person we disobey. That includes human authorities . . . and God.
But True Love will strive to obey in all things.
And beyond all of that . . .
5. True Love does the right thing even when it’s hard.
Hebrews 12:6, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Like we saw last time, if we truly want to be loved, we need to accept the correction of God. And if we truly want to love, we should be willing to be used by God to correct our fellow disciples the way God commands.
But, if that weren’t challenging enough, in addition to having to correct the ones we love, there is something even harder that True Love constrains us to do.
6. The greatest proof of True Love is that a person would sacrifice his/her life for his/her friends.
John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
There is so much to say about this, but time is failing us, so we must move on.
However, one observation we can make is that . . .
7. True Love has the best interest of others as its highest priority.
Romans 12:10 doesn’t use the word agapē, but the principle is clear in the second part of the verse: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Romans 14:15 illustrates this for us more specifically when it says, “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.”
This is just one simple example, but it gives us a clear picture of the extremes to which we should willing to go to prefer others above ourselves and outdo each other in honor.
And because this is the True Love of God, and because we’re sinners . . .
8. True Love never stops growing.
Philippians 1:9, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more.”
So, with those observations, I want to share with you my definition of True Love. “True Love wants and works toward God’s best interest for the ones we love.”
There’s so much more that could be said, but as we look forward to Valentine’s Day and every day beyond, I want to finish by focusing on how our love — and our fellow-disciples’ love — is to grow.
With this final list we will be done.
Most of you are probably very familiar with I Corinthians 13. Again, I go into far more detail in the “Four Family Loves” series, so I recommend you spend some time listening to the final episode in order to appreciate these points to their fullest.
In I Corinthians 13, Paul shares 9 truths about True Love that should guide our growth . . . the first of which is a general truism concerning the nature of love.
1. Love is necessary to make life work.
I don’t plan to explain the others ones in any detail, but it’s important to understand this first one.
Verse one tells us, ”If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
This verse teaches that communication doesn’t work without True Love.
Verse two says, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
Here we learn that even religion doesn’t work without True Love.
And verse three tells us, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
This is interesting because it actually tells us that the “Love Languages” don’t work if I don’t have True Love. Excuse me, it teaches us that actions that appear to be the most loving things a person could do don’t work without True Love.
So, the big three — my communication, my faith, and my relationships — will all fail if I do not have True Love.
If you don’t learn anything else today, learn this: Life doesn’t work without True Love.
And how does that True Love live?
2. Love is patient.
3. Love is kind.
4. Love is humble.
5. Love is selfless.
6. Love is holy.
7. Love is strong.
8. Love is optimistic.
9. Love is eternal.
We could take the next few weeks studying the applications from any one of those characteristics.
Again, I encourage you to listen to the “Four Family Loves” series in order to bask in the glory that is biblical love . . . as well as mature in our love for God and others.
Wouldn’t it be sad if Valentine’s Day came and went, and we didn’t love any better than we did last year?
Please check out CelebrationOfGod.com for all of our Valentine’s Day biblical resources, and share this episode with those you love.
And join us next time as we prepare to prepare for Easter. That’s right, we’ll be talking about that thing called Lent.
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.