I passed the annual milestone that indicated I’m another year older and it prompted a review of my life’s purpose. I asked myself, “Am I investing my life in the things that will matter when I come to the end of my life?” When I consider that God is love (1 John 4:8), I am confident that I’ve made a wise choice. I’m on an adventure to know God and live to love with Jesus for the rest of my life. I want to encourage you to join me in the journey.
Foundational to this goal is knowing God’s love. I’ve heard many good definitions, but the definition one of my mentors shared with me came from one of his seminary professors: "The sustained direction of the will toward the highest good of another no matter what the cost." Let’s unpack this definition, one phrase at a time, as we look at the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
The sustained direction of the will
Love is a choice. These verses in Romans 3 should fuel our gratitude that His actions toward us are not based on feelings about our actions toward Him and our fellow man.
There is none righteous, not even one; Romans 3:10
There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; Romans 3:11
All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Romans 3:12
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
Later in his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul showcased the love of God when he wrote, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s love revealed in Christ is a love based upon His will, namely, that those who would be justified before God would enjoy their right standing based upon God’s choice to love them in Christ from before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4-6 underscores this wonderful reality for us.
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Don’t miss how long God has sustained this decision to love and adopt us to Himself through Jesus Christ: From before the foundation of the world! God’s affections have been settled on us from eternity past and will continue through all eternity. This means that God’s love for us cannot be short-circuited, revoked, or fail because of anything we have done or will do. Therefore we are secure in His love.
God’s love is directed toward our highest good
When we consider what God has said about those He loves in Christ, we should be overwhelmed with gratitude, relief, and joy. What is the highest good for those God loves and justifies in Christ? We probably would like for it to be what we wish and pray for such as our temporal comfort, success, and happiness. Although He often does give us good things in this world, that’s not our highest good. The Scriptures indicate that our highest good is our union with Him resulting in our ultimate conformity to the image of Christ for His glory. Again, Paul made our highest good clear when he wrote to the Romans.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
And these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30
This process isn’t always comfortable or happy. The path to our being complete in Christ will take us through some deep valleys, unpleasant circumstances, and difficult to impossible relationships. This is explained and summed up by James. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). So these verses teach us that God’s love for us is sustained toward one glorious end—our union and conformity to Jesus Christ.
No matter what the cost
What did it cost Jesus to love us? Perhaps Philippians 2:6-8 best informs us of the great sacrifice He made to love us.
Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8
The Father gave a detailed definition of His love in His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the exact representation of God, who is love, revealed in flesh and bone. He suffered for us as our substitute. On the cross, He became sin for us, bore God’s wrath, and paid the ultimate price so that we could know what love is willing to do so that others could experience God’s highest good for them. That’s God’s kind of love: the sustained direction of the will toward the highest good of another no matter what the cost.
In contrast, have you noticed that many have a sustained direction of the will toward their own highest good, no matter what it costs others? It’s amazing how determined people are to secure happiness, security, significance, and success for themselves at other’s expense. That’s not love, but lust, control, and selfishness on display. John wrote that this is the love of the world and does not come from the Father (1 John 2:16).
I hope you’ll meditate on how God has loved you for a few moments before returning to the busyness of your day. Consider what a privilege it is that God has given you another day of life to live to know and love Him and to love others as He loves you. There’s a good chance that before this day is over, God is going to give you an opportunity to demonstrate His love to someone. Are you already committed to love in His name? Will you consider what is their highest good, and will you act accordingly regardless of what it costs you, for the glory of God? I hope so. May we grow in love for God and others.