The Expository Files.

Keeping The Love Alive

1 John 4:19


The American statesman and lawyer William Jennings Bryan was having his portrait painted when the artist asked why his subject wore his hair long over his ears. Bryan responded, "There is a romance connected with it. When I began courting Mrs. Bryan, she objected to the way my ears stood out. So, to please her, I let my hair grow to cover them." "But that was many years ago," said the artist. "Why don't you have your hair cut now?" "Because," Bryan winked, "the romance is still going on!"

It's obvious that the statesman thought of his love for his wife regularly and made his decisions to correspond to and affirm that love. What about your love for the Lord? Is the romance still going on?

When most people first come to Christ and are baptized for forgiveness of their sins, there is an exhilaration in knowing they are part of God's family and their sins are washed away. Their hearts overflow with love for Him and they long to please Him in the things they do.

As time passes, however, the zeal cools, the exhilaration wanes, and the flames of love smolder and die. It's the kind of thing that, though felt inside, is manifested externally. Prayers drop off because you can't think of anything to say to God, Bible reading is neglected because you don't think God has anything to say to you, and worship attendance lapses because you just don't feel like worshiping Him. As the Righteous Brothers used to croon, you've lost that lovin' feelin'! The question is, how do you get it back?

First, consider that love to God is a response to His love for us. John writes, "We love Him, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) But how does He love us?

The psalmist writes all about God's love in Psalm 139 although the word "love" is not mentioned once. David writes that God knows us intimately (vss 1-6), He's with us everywhere (vss 7-12), He Himself has formed us (vss 13-16), and because He thinks of our well-being, He provides strength and courage to us in the face of adversity (vss 17-22).

Consider Psalm 139:1-6. That God knows you even better than you know yourself ought to be a comfort. Because of His knowledge of you He can best take care of you and that is personified in Jesus. Though we have been rebellious and sinful, "God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8) Surely, realizing that God knows us, the good, bad, and ugly, ought to cause us to respond in love and gratitude for His willingness to take care of us in spite of us!

In Psalm 139:7-12, David writes that there is no place anywhere that he can escape the notice of God. The Hebrew writer reminds that "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Heb 4:13) To some, this may be a frightening thought but it needn't be. Again, John writes, "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." (1 John 4:18) To know that there is no place we can go and no trouble we can face where God's love and support cannot reach us should not cause His children to dread but instead to reply in adoration and devotion.

"How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with you." David seems amazed that God would take time to include him in His thoughts. Actually, to know that God thinks of us should knock our socks off as well! In spite of our propensity toward sin, God has given man a crowning place in His creation. (Psalm 8:3-8). But even more than that, His thoughts are always for our good. To ancient Israel God said, "'I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the LORD" (Jer 29:11-14a) Why would we think that His thoughts toward His children today are any different? When we consider that God includes us in plans for our ultimate good, it should instill in us courage against His (and our) enemies, and a stronger desire to stand for His cause. Truly, we do love Him because He first loved us!

As the sweet psalmist of Israel closes this amazing testimony to the love of God, he appeals to God to show him if there is anything in him that would interfere with the loving, provident relationship initiated by his Maker. Such should be our prayer. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way." (Ps 139:23_24) Keeping His love always before us as David did will help us to respond in kind and regain that "lovin' feelin'" that expresses itself in gratitude, courage, and love for one another.
By Zeke Flores
From Expository Files 11.8; August, 2004