God’s Wonderful Expanding and Abounding Love

god-is-love

Sunset over Mica Peak – Photo taken by Michael Clark

I think that it is safe to say that real Christian maturity is measured by the amount that God is present in a life-changing way within us. Paul wrote about this growth as “the increase of God.”

“Holding fast the Head from whom all the body being supplied… increases with the increase of God.” – Col. 2:19.

If God is love as John wrote in His letter, then it stands to reason that with an increase of God’s presence within us there would be an increase of His love as well! Paul wrote about this very thing.

“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1Thess 3:12-13, ESV2011)

When God and Jesus come down and abide in us we feel their love in our hearts often so greatly that it overflows outward to others, breaking down all barriers that once were in us against others. Paul felt his heart ever expanding with the love of God and from that love he wrote to the Corinthian church about their lack of love for him and one another. They had many spiritual gifts which they held over one another as if they were personal trophies and even divided from one another in a party spirit claiming to be followers of either Peter, Apollos and or Paul. He rebuked them for their carnality because it was an affront to the love of God and the gospel of Christ.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians about his love for them and their lack:

Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians [we are hiding nothing, keeping nothing back], and our heart is expanded wide (KJV- enlarged) [for you]! There is no lack of room for you in [our hearts], but you lack room in your own affections (Greek – splagchnon – bowels). By way of return then, do this for me–I speak as to children–open wide your hearts also [to us]. (2Cor 6:11-13, AMP)

As we read in 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen, they lacked the greatest spiritual attribute–they lacked the love of God. For many years after I became a Christian I followed the example of other Christians around me. Just as children follow the example of their parents, I followed those in church authority who were over me. My father had an expression, “Do as I say and not as I do.” Of course I did what he did instead. He smoked and drank and as soon as I joined the navy, I smoked and drank. Like the Christian leaders I admired, I pursued spiritual gifts, wisdom, Bible knowledge, ascending above my fellow believers, worldly power and notoriety — all to the stifling of my real spiritual growth — growing in the love of God.

In the above verse Paul spoke of his expanding heart as it opened wide with the love of God for the Corinthians. I also have been feeling this enlarging Paul wrote about in my own heart. I have felt the Source of that love within me growing even stronger in the last few weeks. For the last four or five years, God has had me focus on the unity of the Father and the Son and their desire for us to be ONE in them just as they are one. With this came a deep desire to know this strong unity with my fellow believers in Christ (See John 17:21-26). But as I went through these verses and meditated on them, the Spirit took me beyond the theme of spiritual unity into the reality of the love of the Father and the Son and how they love us and desire that same love to be in us. John ended that chapter quoting Jesus:

And I have declared unto them your name, and will declare it: that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26, KJ2000)

Often when we read this verse we get hung-up on wondering what the name of God is which He declared unto them. The Greek word for “name” here is onoma which means “authority and character.” Jesus is not speaking of God’s moniker, but the very character of the Father that He lived out before them as His perfect Son. It is the rest of the verse that has caught my attention, “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them”! This is the goal of the gospel, dear saints, that we might not only be one with the Father and the Son, but dwell in their unity together and become instruments of their great love for one another. John wrote to the saints of God:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1John 4:7-8, ESV2011)

Paul felt his heart enlarging for the Corinthian believers, but they were closed off and did not reciprocate in love to him. What a heart pain it is when those whom we love don’t love us with the same open and enlarged hearts as we have for them.

The love of God is a very powerful thing. It is the greatest positive force on earth because it can change people into sons and daughters of God and even win over our enemies. Paul spoke of this love being in his heart, but also of it being in his “bowels.” This word in the Greek splagchnon, includes our whole torso and abdomen. I started feeling love’s overflow coming from my expanding heart and going further down in my body and rising up into face as well. There was a tingling from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet! Paul wrote about this filling as Christ totally fills us up with His presence:

May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; [That you may really come] to know [practically,  through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! (Eph 3:17-19, AMP)

Being totally filled with God and His love is a wonderful, all consuming experience that touches us in ways that cannot be easily spoken of with those who have not had it. Once our hearts have been enlarged by Him, the love of God can become all consuming because God totally fills us up with His presence. Austin-Sparks wrote,

What the Lord needs is an open pure spirit towards HIMSELF, and love toward ALL saints, the Lord will bring into His greater fulness where there is a genuine love one to the other – IN HIM. The sure way of being locked up and limited is to have a closed heart to any of the Lord’s children. LOVE is the way to spiritual increase. The Ephesian letter in which there is the fullest unveiling of heavenly truth in the deepest teaching concerning the Church, the Body of Christ, there is from start to finish the golden thread of LOVE running all through, this is significant when you consider what the letter contains.

(…)

The measure of our spiritual life is no greater than our heart; the knowledge that is in the head is not the measure of spirituality, the way for your release, emancipation, increase, abundance is the way of the heart. Spirituality is not mental agreement on things stated in the Word, it is the melting [welding] of one heart to another – to all saints. The devil has locked up a number of the Lord’s children as in a padded room of their own limitations; frozen their love by something between them and other children of God. The way out is by increase of love; and we shall remain locked, up until we are there!

“Speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into HIM, who is the Head, even Christ; from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.” – (Eph. 4:15-16, A.R.V.)  (1)

Can you see here that the expanding of His love in our hearts also makes for the expanding of the body of Christ who share this love? This is true spiritual growth. This is also the growth of the church. The early church overflowed with the love of God and thousands were touched by their mutual love and were added to their numbers. The most effective evangelism happens through a body of believers who are in love with Christ, the Father and with one another. In “the information age” words are cheap and the world is full of them, but as the love of our Father changes us and overflows from our hearts to all who are around us, THAT not mere words will change the world.

The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another. – 1 Thess. 3:12.

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, (1Thess 4:9-10, ESV2011)

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002964.html

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14 comments on “God’s Wonderful Expanding and Abounding Love

  1. ” ‘By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another’ ” (John 13: 35). Christ’s words sound simple. Yet the treatment by Christians of one another across the centuries, and the modern face Christians present to the world are all too often diametrically opposed to the principle. That fact greatly undercuts our credibility w/ non-believers.

    I am not by any means suggesting we compromise our essential beliefs. But we celebrate at this time of year the birth of Christ, Love personified. Surely, we can find it in our hearts — no, not our hearts, but His — to treat one another (of whatever denomination) and those who do not yet know the Lord w/ something more closely approaching loving kindness.

    The world is bleeding and broken. We ought to be on the front lines w/ outstretched hands, sharing the Word of God and the Good News of salvation.

    Have a blessed Christmas, dear brother. God’s light shines very clearly in you.

    With love,

    A. ❤

    Liked by 5 people

    • Michael says:

      Anna,

      You are right about your assessment of Christianity and the visible church, I am afraid. Even in its works of mercy it eventually falls so short and becomes inwardly focused on its own mechanism and soon loses sight of the need for God and His love to empower us in all things. Or as Paul observed,

      “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.”

      It has become evident to me that God is limited in what He can do by our lack of Him and His love abounding in us. It is so important to first pray for His guidance and then act by the power of His love abounding in us.

      May the Lord make us increase and abound in love for one another and for all, so that he may establish our hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. Amen.

      Your friend,
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

    • Mrs. N says:

      Anna-Amen. You are so right.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Michael, your article was so good that I had to include a link to it into my latest blog post. I really felt that our two articles fit like a glove although mine who was posted afterwards and seems to be step one, that means, I expounded on what our part is to get there where you have been as of late as you so beautifully described and confirmed in your writing. Thank you for the wonderful description of how it feels when God’s Spirit spirit meets man, even in his body! Or in other words, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Cor 4:7 ESV)

    I believe that the real church who is to be found IN Christ will grow automatically when we cannot help joining these two apostles as written below.

    And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:18-20 KJV

    Every blessing,
    Susanne 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • Michael says:

      Yes, dear heart, we have this treasure of “Christ IN YOU, the hope of glory,” in these jars of clay for sure, but what a wonderful experience to feel His glorious love for us filling us up to overflowing! Oh, the mystical love of God! What a joy to feel His glory in us. Like you said, “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” And… that (we) should seek the Lord, if perhaps (we) might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being…”(Acts 17:27-28, KJ2000). Once again, these wonderful feelings come after we have sought the Lord and find ourselves IN HIM with our whole beings. Wow! What a wonderful salvation we have in the Son! ❤

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Pat Orr says:

    Thank you for the blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mrs. N says:

    This really blessed me-thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Grover says:

    I used to think that unity only meant agreement until I spent some time meditating on the “oneness” that Jesus prayed to His Father (John 17.) That they (his disciples and anyone who heard their testimony) would be one with Us as we are one (Father and Son.) Wow… that’s the high calling for believers. ONENESS is SO much more than agreement! As we live in the oneness with the Father and Son, enjoying God’s presence by the Holy Spirit, THEN we have the added blessing of experiencing oneness in His body. Thank you, Michael for your good word.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Michael says:

    Thanks for your insightful comment, Grover. Yes, John ch. 17 truly puts things into their proper perspective. Unity in the New Testament church was not centered on doctrinal beliefs as it is here in our western culture. Unity among them was all about the family UNIT! They were one big family and God was their Daddy and Jesus was their Brother and they were all brethren IN Christ. The problem with the western church we have inherited is that it is still heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and reason and Roman imperialism and institutional rule. Take the Spartan culture for instance; in it children were taken from their families when they were about two years old and put in military school to be raised as heartless shoulders. In the western culture we have government schools and institutions doing the same from age 2 1/2 through early adulthood.

    Yet, the Jewish culture of Bible times raised their children in a close-knit family, surrounded by relatives in small villages and a young man learned his father’s trade working with him until he was in his early thirties and was able to take over the family “business.” The young women were taught of their mothers at home as well. So, you have Jesus living at home as a carpenter with his mother (and Joseph until he died) and his siblings until He was about thirty, when He was called out of that to be about His heavenly Father’s “business.”

    What I am saying is that we in the west are steeped in a cold institutional mindset in our churches and we read the Bible from that perspective and make it a rule book instead of a love letter from our Father. As you said, my brother, “As we live in the oneness with the Father and Son, enjoying God’s presence by the Holy Spirit, THEN we have the added blessing of experiencing oneness in His body.” So true and that oneness is founded and nurtured in the common love for one another that is ours as we abide in the love of the Father and the Son.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Michael

    Liked by 2 people

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