Experiencing God’s Love

Introduction

How do we know that God loves us?? We read about how he loves us and how Jesus came to die for us, but in real everyday life, we are left groping for some sort of sign or feeling to enforce the knowledge that we have of God?s love for us.? Sure I could say that it is wonderful that the God of the universe loves me and that is a great thing.? However, what difference does it make if I can?t feel it or experience it somehow?? It?s like knowing that you have a million dollars in the bank, but not knowing what it feels like or not experiencing what that means in your life.

The Bible tells us that God demonstrated his love for us by giving his only begotten son that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have everlasting life.? That is great and we learn that as little children in church, but what does that feel like?? How can I feel or experience the love of God?? I have knowledge of God?s love for me, but how do I get that knowledge to translate to something in my heart where I can experience it?

Let me give you an illustration here.? We learn about the laws of electromagnetic forces in schools such as the relationship between voltages and currents and the relationship between current and magnetic fields.? We then build experiments where we can actually see those physical laws at work.? Of course, we may also experience some of those very same laws first handed by getting shocked or actually building something where knowledge of those laws is essential.? In other words, we come to experience those things and they take on a whole new meaning to us because they are not just facts in our heads, but rather something that we have experienced.

Wouldn?t it be nice if we had the same type of thing in regards to God?? What if we could experience God beyond mere knowledge of the scriptures?? What if there was something that we could do such that the knowledge that we gain from the Bible could enter our hearts as experience and not just facts that we know about God?

We read in the Bible of men and women who actually did this very thing, namely experience God.? No, it wasn?t in a lab where God could be put to the test, but they experienced God first handed nonetheless.? How could we have the kind of experiences that Moses, Abraham, Joshua, Paul, and many others had of God?? Well, that is what we are going to discuss in this study.

We are going to discuss the topic of experiencing God beyond the mere words in the Bible, but rather as it applies to the heart and I dare say reality.? I say ?mere words? to distinguish the true experience of God in daily life from knowledge of the scriptures that reside in the head.? There is one thing that I find in the scriptures especially in the New Testament and that is the importance of things residing in the heart and not merely in the head (mental assent).? We want to experience God in our hearts where mere knowledge is superseded and mere facts come to life as we live with those experiences.

?

The Importance of Experiencing God

I have to give you one more illustration to make my point of how important this experience is.? I gave an illustration earlier of the laws of physics that we learn in school and how those laws come alive when we perform experiments or otherwise use our knowledge of those laws to see them come to life in real life.? Consider another illustration that I?m sure you will be able to relate to.

Remember when you were in school and how you studied the material that was assigned.? You did study, didn?t you?? Anyway, you read the material in the book assigned and you perhaps reviewed the notes that you took in class in an effort to learn and understand the material.? Well, think about it for a moment.? What were the things that you remembered more readily?? You remembered the things that you saw in action after doing homework assignments, labs, or other things where you had to put your knowledge to use.? You know as well as I know that book knowledge is one thing, but the knowledge gained from experience is a whole different ballgame so to speak.? No one can argue with experience because if it works it works regardless of what your knowledge says it should be or what it should do.

I can tell you another example from my own experience.? My occupation deals with information technology, which involves computers, networking, programming, and internet technologies.? I remember beginning my journey on this IT path by reading a book that I purchased for MS-DOS.? Some of you youngsters may not remember MS-DOS, but that was the operating system for IBM PCs and clones that predated the pretty pictures of the Windows environment.? Anyway, I would read that book all of the time and I learned a lot.? However, gaining the knowledge from that book only took me so far because actually performing work required experience.

In other words, book knowledge gave me information that I could use, but actually doing the work is when I really learned the trade.? We all know from our own life experiences that experience transcends knowledge.? You would feel more comfortable with someone who has had 20 years of experience remodeling homes than you would with a person with one year experience.? They both may have knowledge, but experience is more meaningful when it comes to doing the work.

Experiencing God is very similar because the knowledge that we gain from the scriptures come alive as we learn to experience God if indeed we learn to experience God.? We can do much more than recite scriptures to spawn some hope and comfort in a given situation.? However, if we experience God then we can rest in that experience knowing far more than knowledge could ever reveal.

?

Example From Relationships

Let?s move a little closer to home in regards to the importance of experiencing God.? Consider a marriage relationship, which is the standard used in scripture for illustrating our relationship with God.? A marriage is bound by the commitment a man and a woman have made to each other.? We call this the marriage vow.? However, even this is something that is far greater than just words that are recited at a wedding ceremony for mere tradition.? It is supposed to express what is already in their hearts.? Anyway, let?s say that the husband constantly tells the wife that he loves her, but there is nothing else that expresses that love.? In other words, his love for her is only in mere words.? He is never there for her.? He does not spend time with her to talk to her or just to be with her.? Instead, he goes about his normal life proclaiming his love for her and nothing else.? There is no evidence that he loves her besides his words.

After a while, his proclamation of love would become meaningless to her because his love would be compared to a mere ideal.? We have all heard the phrase, ?talk is cheap.?? Well, talk is truly cheap if it is not accompanied by action that someone could experience.? The husband could say he loves his wife until he is blue in the face, but those words would eventually be meaningless if there was nothing else to support it.? Soon the concept of love would fade from the wife in regards to her husband and she could easily fall into a state where she does not feel love because she is not experiencing love.

The same thing applies to our relationship with God.? It?s one thing to read in the Bible how God loves us, but that will only take us so far.? After a while, one could easily say, ?So what God loves me!? What difference does it make in my life?!?? Do you see what I mean?? Just like the words of the husband would become meaningless to the wife if they are not accompanied by experience so would the words of the Bible be meaningless unless we could experience this love that is so abundantly proclaimed in the scriptures.

First, let?s establish the fact that God does love us.? After all, we cannot experience something that is not really there.? The wife cannot experience love from the husband if that love is not really there in the first place.? Of course in a relationship, it is also important that we learn to communicate on the same wavelength in regards to a particular topic too.? For example, what I call love may not be the same thing that you call love or the way I express my love for you may not be the same way that you express love.? Therefore, we have to learn to relate to the other person?s perspective so that we would gain understanding and therefore experience.

OK.? Does God love us?

  • Romans 5:8 (NKJV) — {8} But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • John 3:16 (NKJV) — {16} For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
  • John 14:21 (NKJV) — {21} He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.?
  • John 14:23 (NKJV) — {23} Jesus answered and said to him, ?If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
  • John 16:27 (NKJV) — {27} for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.
  • Ephesians 2:4 (NKJV) — {4} But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

?

The Bible plainly reveals to us that God loves us.? So there is no question of whether God loves us or not.? A better question would be, ?Does God love me??? Now, what do I mean by that?? We see that the Bible says for example that God so loved the world in John 3:16.? However, is that personal?? Is God looking at me and saying, ?I love you and I sacrificed my son for you? or is he looking at humanity as a whole?? We all want to experience God?s love on a personal level and not just be included in some type of collective.? Does God know me personally?

?

Personal Love

God loves you personally and not merely as part of a collective.? What I mean by that is that God loves each?person with his heart.? How could that be you may ask?? Well, for one thing, we have to consider the magnitude of God?s love and of course, remember that we are talking about God here.

One of the attributes of God is that he is infinite.? That means everything about him is boundless (no limits or boundaries).? Therefore, it would stand to reason that God?s love is boundless.? His love for you is infinitely greater than a parent?s love for their child.? We should be careful not to underrate the love of God towards us.? Think about it for a moment.? If God?s love was a mere general love for humans collectively then why should we be expected to love him personally?? Shouldn?t our love for God be collective or a general human love?? Well, how could our love be general if individuals don?t love him and if that is the case then how many individual loves would it take for God to say that humans love him.? No.? We have to love him individually just as he loves us individually.? Here is an example that illustrates this point.

Luke 15:1-7 (NKJV) — {1} Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. {2} And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ?This Man receives sinners and eats with them.? {3} So He spoke this parable to them, saying: {4} ?What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? {5} And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. {6} And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ?Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!? {7} I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

God does care about the individual.? If so then the message that Jesus gave in the scripture above would make no sense.? He would not leave the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one that was lost.? He would have had most of the sheep and one loss wouldn?t make a difference.? No that was not the case.? God cares about the lost sheep, i.e., the lost person regardless of the many that have already been saved.

So the point here is that God has a personal interest in you and that he loves you personally.? Our problem is that we don?t know how to experience that love or we allow other things to interfere with experiencing that love.? Some of the things that may interfere with experiencing God?s love are:

  1. Persistent guilty feelings of the past
  2. Spiritual attacks
  3. Past pains and hurts
  4. Thinking that there is not one reason why God would love you
  5. Feeling unworthy of God?s love
  6. Doubts about God?s goodness
  7. Feeling that God does not think highly of you
  8. Wanting to see a sign

Let?s discuss these now.

Hindrances to Experiencing God?s Love

We listed some things previously that could hinder you from experiencing the love of God.? Let?s go over these now so that hopefully you could overcome them and begin your journey to experience God?s love.

?

Persistent guilty feelings of the past

How could God possibly love me after what I have done in the past?? A lifetime of good deeds will never make up for the sins that I have committed.? Do these sound familiar to you?? Are you looking at the sins of the past and rationalizing how it is impossible for God to possibly love you?

Well, you have to realize that God?s love for you has nothing to do with you.? Let me say that one more time so that it would sink in more for you.

God?s love for you has nothing to do with you!

Romans 5:8 (NKJV) — {8} But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Stop thinking that God is counting up your sins to determine if he will love you or not.? God will erase your sins if you would simply put your faith in him.? By erase, I mean that he will forgive you of your sins and not hold them against you in regards to your relationship with him for all eternity.? Your guilty feelings of past sins are unfounded when considering the infinite love that God has for you.

So drop it because God is not looking at your sins in order to love you or not.? He is simply looking at you and how you are dead in sins and how he loves you so much and wants you to be free from the bondage of sins.? For those that are already saved then you should definitely stop counting past sins and realize that you have forgiveness of your sins already.? Jesus? death on the cross was the final payment for your sins since the wages of sin is death (See Romans 6:23).

?

Spiritual attacks

Paul proclaimed that nothing could separate us from the love of God.? However, that doesn?t mean that Satan will not try.? He is a deceiver and he will deceive you into thinking that God doesn?t love you, you don?t deserve it, you are too sinful or any number of other thoughts to keep you from experiencing God?s love.

Basically, there will be many spiritual attacks to hinder you from experiencing God?s love.? We need to be aware of those attacks and defend ourselves against them.? How do we do that?? Consider what Paul said.

Ephesians 6:10-12 (NKJV) — {10} Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. {11} Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. {12} For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Jesus resisted the devil by knowing what God said (See Matthe2 4:1-11).? We can resist the devil by knowing what God says and living it.? Of course, we would be much better off if we were living the personal relationship with God that we already have.? It would be to our advantage to experience the love of God and even God himself in all aspects of our lives.? This will help us to stand against the spiritual attacks that will come against us to overtake us and to keep us from experiencing God.

?

Past pains and hurts

Love is not always associated with something that is good.? For example, there are many who have experienced love from someone (or so they thought) only to have their feelings shattered.? They could have experienced betrayal or whatever.? The point is that love is associated with something that is painful.? Let me give you an example of this principle.

I remember many years ago a minister giving an example of associations that ministers must be aware of when we counsel people or in general when we minister to people.? He gave the example of a woman that was abused as a child by her father.? She was sexually molested by her father as a girl and she, therefore, developed a negative view of fatherhood.? To her, a father was the person that hurt her and molested her.

Now here comes some unaware evangelist ministering to her because she seems in such pain and despair.? The unaware evangelist says, ?Your heavenly Father loves you? or something to that effect.? The evangelist does not realize that he has just pushed that young woman further away from God even though in his mind he did a good thing by telling her that God loves her, which is true.? However, this young woman has a completely different perspective of a fathers? love based on her own experiences with her own father.? Those past pains are like an opaque curtain between God?s love and her experiencing God?s love.? This is one reason why I believe in evangelism through relationships because someone getting to know this woman would have discovered the association.

Sometimes past pains keep us from experiencing God?s love for us in one way or another.? We have to come to realize that God loves us regardless of our experiences with others.? God?s love is beyond the love of any human and God?s love is secure.? This means that God will not betray us or leave us as he will always be with us regardless of where we are and how much stuff we put between him and ourselves.

?

Thinking that there is not one reason why God would love you

Why in the world would God love me?? Does this sound familiar to you?? Many look at themselves and think that there is no reason whatsoever why God would love them.? However, as I said previously God is not looking at you and your faults to determine if he is going to love you or not.? God?s nature is love and his love for you is simply part of his nature.? You don?t deserve it nor can you earn it.? So the fact that there is no reason that God should love you is meaningless.

So whether you can think of a reason why God should love you is a moot point.? Consider what Paul said.

Romans 3:23 (NKJV) — {23} for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

God loves you even though there is no reason for him to. His love for you isn?t based on reason or merit.? He loves you because he loves you.? He loves you because that is just the way that he is.

?

Feeling unworthy of God?s love

This is similar to what we have already discussed in relation to finding no reason for God to love you.? Realize that we are all unworthy of God?s love.? The only reason that God loves us is that it is just the way he is and not because of our merit.? He has not favorites (Galatians 2:6).

So your feelings of unworthiness are meaningless because God?s love is based on your worthiness, but rather on just the way that he is.

1 John 4:8 (NKJV) — {8} He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Remember that because it is extremely important if you are going to keep yourself from hindering yourself from experiencing the love of God.

?

Doubts about God?s goodness

One could be inclined to think that perhaps God does not care about people given all of the pain and suffering that goes on in the world today.? Perhaps God really isn?t good.? One could argue that if God can?t be all good given that there is so much pain and suffering in the world and even those attributed to God himself.? At the very least God would be able to do something about it if he were all-powerful.? Perhaps God is not all-powerful.

Well, here we see that there is a gulf between our understanding of God and our capability to understand God (who is infinite) and the way that God truly is.? We equate goodness with pleasure and no pain however; we see from the Bible that goodness does not always mean any pain.? Sometimes true love puts us headlong into pain and suffering.? Consider what Jesus Christ had to go through as an expression of God?s love for us by dying on the cross.

So when we doubt God?s goodness we are only saying that we don?t understand God?s goodness.? As a matter of fact, we are proclaiming that we don?t understand goodness period.

  • Psalm 145:9 (NKJV) — {9} The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
  • Matthew 19:17 (NKJV) — {17} So He said to him, ?Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.?

God is good, but his goodness may not be what we define as goodness.? We need to conform to God?s way and not expect God to conform to our way.? So the bottom line here is that God is good and he loves you and cares about you.? This doesn?t mean that you will have a problem-free life or that you won?t have challenges.? However, even in the midst of challenges, problems, and troubles, we need to know that God still loves us and his goodness are directed towards us.

Situations are not the best indications of God?s love for us, but that is what we?d like.? We?d like to believe that if all is well with us then God?s love is revealed.? However, God?s love can also be revealed in trouble.? Consider the problems that the early Christians had as well as Paul the Apostle and the other Apostles.? God?s love was still directed toward them even in their troubles.

So we need to have a better understanding of God and his ways so that we don?t doubt his goodness and therefore his love towards us because of things that happen to us in our lives.? This hints at the fact that we need to develop a relationship with God so that we would get to know him better and therefore come to grips with the truth of his ways.

?

Feeling that God does not think highly of you

Many suffer from low self-esteem, but there are still many others that believe that God does not think highly of them.? Of course, we discussed this from a different angle previously when we said that God does love us personally.? God?s love for you is not general, but rather personal.? God is personally concerned about you and we really need to realize that in order to move forward with experiencing God?s love for us.

God does think highly of you as the sheep owner who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to look for the one that is lost.? God does think highly of you.? Of course, we must also realize that God?s disposition towards us is not based on us.? In other words, God doesn?t think more highly of some people than others because of something they have done.? God loves us because that?s the way he is.

Remember also that God does not show favoritism especially when we consider that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.? No one is deserving of God?s love or blessings, but he loves us and blesses us anyway.

?

Wanting to see a sign

If only God would show me that he loves me!? If God truly loves me then he would do this or that!? Do these sound familiar to you?? Well God did give us a sign.

John 3:16 (NKJV) — {16} For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

God demonstrated his love by sacrificing his only begotten son for our sins.? In other words, Jesus died as a demonstration of how much God loves us.? What else could you possibly want?!? I?ll tell you what we want.? We want God to give us a new car, a new job, that great new piece of electronic equipment, to get us out of trouble, or to otherwise bless us in some tangible way.? These are nice, but the Bible plainly reveals that these would soon be forgotten and we would also forget about God.

How soon did the Hebrews forget God after being delivered from the Egyptians?? It wasn?t long before they had forgotten the mighty act of God and were complaining about being better off in Egypt.? It wasn?t long before they were complaining about not having water or something to eat.? So asking God for a sign is meaningless because it would not last long and God surely knows that.

Also, imagine how you might feel if someone you love came to you and asked you to prove it.? Suppose you went to jail for a long time and risked your life to save someone and then that person came to you and asked you to prove your love for him or her.? Imagine how you might feel.? Well, we are doing the same thing to God when we ask him to prove his love for us.

We desperately want to feel God?s love, which leads us to a very important point about God?s love towards us.

?

The Deception of Feelings

Religion has replaced experience with feelings.? We have to ?feel? the Spirit in many churches.? Our experience of God is measured by what we feel.? You hear people say many times that they feel this or they feel that in regards to something they feel that God wants them to do.? People say that they feel God moving this way or that way.? We have reduced experiences with God to feelings and such should not be the case since experiencing God is well beyond feelings.

The problem here is that we soon come to learn that unless we feel God?s love then we don?t experience God?s love.? Unless we have goose pimples or the like then we aren?t experiencing God or his love.? This, however, is far from the truth about experiencing God.? Experiencing God is well beyond feelings as I said already and we need to get away from wanting to feel something in regards to experiencing God?s love.

The bottom line is that we have to stop wanting to feel something in regards to God?s love.? However, I must say that experiencing God?s love will affect our emotions so it?s not as if we should be emotionless.? The point here is that God?s love is not something that is associated with a particular type of feeling.? For example, sometimes we may feel nothing, badly, lonely, or whatever and yet God still loves us.? We need to transcend feelings with faith.

?

Faith

Experiencing God?s love for you involves a great deal of faith.? We must believe that what God said is true, namely that he does love us.? If we believe that then we don?t need for God to prove it.? Instead, we could just experience it in our daily lives.

However, that leads us with the question of how we can experience the love of God?? By faith, I believe that God loves me, but isn?t that different than the wife believing that her husband loves her because he said so?? No, not exactly.? We have already said that God demonstrated his love for us by sacrificing Jesus Christ for us.? God has expressed his love for us.? But what does that have to do with my life now?? How can I feel God?s love in my life now?? How can I know that God truly loves me?? Again you are asking for a sign or expecting a feeling to be associated with God?s love and we have already shown that such is not necessarily the case.

?

Experiencing God?s Love

Jesus did give us a big clue to experiencing God?s love if you were careful of what was presented to you much earlier in this study.? Consider the following.

John 14:21-23 (NKJV) — {21} He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.? {22} Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ?Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?? {23} Jesus answered and said to him, ?If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

Your love for God is demonstrated by doing what he says.? God?s love for you will be revealed and manifest because of your obedience.? How it is manifested is not particularly stated perhaps because it would be different for each person.? If we do what God says then his love is manifest to us.? God loves us even though we don?t do what he says, but his love is manifest to us when we obey him.

I believe that this obedience could be summarized as living according to God?s way or rather just obedience.? Obey God and be blessed.? Obey God and experience his presence in your life.? It?s not about feelings and the like, but about knowing and experiencing.

I struggle with feelings of being loved by God.? Sometimes I just don?t get it, but at the same time, I know that I don?t have to.? God?s love for me is not measured by how I feel.? It is what it is and I have to come to grips with that, namely the way that it is.? We have to realize that experiencing God?s love has little to nothing to do with how we feel or the events that occur in our lives.? God?s love transcends life experiences, but definitely will affect life experiences or at least our response to them.

We experience God?s love every day after being saved.? We are reconciled to God and have a personal and intimate relationship with him.? Realize that you have a personal and intimate relationship with the God of the universe who created all that exists.? This same God loves you personally.? Think about that sometimes instead of trying to figure out some sign that God could give you to prove his love.

God?s love for you isn?t necessarily seen in the blessings he sends you.? God provides for our needs because he cares for us and loves us.? Of course, when a disaster happens we should not think that God does not love us. ?Those situations only show how corrupt and sinful our world is and it does not negate from the love of God towards us.

In any case, we must realize that God?s love for us transcends any situation that we may face on this earth.? We all want good things and to have a trouble-free life.? However, trouble is not an indication of God?s wrath, lack of love, or even disapproval.? Instead, trouble is just an indication that you are indeed on planet earth or that actions truly have corresponding consequences.

Experience God?s love by experiencing God.? Experience God by loving him and doing what he says.? Follow his lead in your life and accomplish the things that he has for you to do.? Then you will experience the blessed relationship with God and therefore you will experience his love for you.? Amen.

?


Experiencing God?s Love
By Pastor William R. Cunningham
November 25, 2006

Categories

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our E-mail Community

Your email address will never be shared with anyone. It will only be used to send you newsletters, announcements, and special things that may be going on at Pursuing the Truth Ministries. Furthermore, we will only email you about once or at most twice in one month.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This