Friday, March 5, 2010

The Love Dare - Day 19

Love is Impossible "Let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." – I John 4:7

The Love Dare starts with a secret. And though it’s been an unspoken element throughout each day, you’ve likely grown more and more suspicious of it all the time. Now that you’re this far, it’s a secret you’re discovering for yourself, even if you haven’t exactly known how to put it into words.

The secret is this: you cannot manufacture unconditional love (or agape love) out of your own heart. It’s impossible. It’s beyond your capabilities. It’s beyond all our capabilities.

You may have demonstrated kindness and unselfishness in some form, and you may have learned to be more thoughtful and considerate. But sincerely loving someone unselfishly and unconditionally is another matter altogether.

So how can you do it? Like it or not, agape love isn’t something you can do. It’s something only God can do. But because of His great love for you—and His love for your spouse—He chooses to express His love through you.

Still, you may not believe that. You may be convinced that with enough hard work and commitment, you can muster up unconditional, long-term, sacrificial love from your own heart. You want to believe it’s in you.

But how many times has your love failed to keep you from lying, from lusting, from overreacting, from thinking evil of this person you’ve vowed before God to love for the rest of your life.

How many times has your love proven incapable of controlling your anger? How many times has your love motivated you to forgive or brought about a peaceable end to an ongoing argument?

It’s this failure that exposes mankind’s sinful condition. We’ve all fallen short of God’s commands (Romans 3:23). We’ve all demonstrated selfishness, hatred, and pride. And unless something is done to cleanse us of these ungodly attributes, we will stand before God guilty as charged (Romans 6:23). That’s why if you’re not right with God, you can’t truly love your spouse because He is the Source of that love.

You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t call up inner reserves and resources that aren’t there to be summoned. In the same way that you can’t give away a million dollars if you don’t have it to start with, you cannot pay out love in greater measure than you own. You can try, but you will fail.

So the hard news is this: love that is able to withstand every pressure is out of your reach, as long as you’re only looking within yourself to find it. You need someone who can give you that kind of love.

“Love is from God” (I John 4:7). And only those who have allowed Him into their heart through faith in His Son, Jesus—only those who have received the Spirit of Christ through belief in His death and resurrection—are able to tap into love’s real power. “Apart from me,” Jesus said, “you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

But He also said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). God has promised through Christ to dwell in your heart through faith so that you can “know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19 NKJV).

When you surrender yourself to Christ, His power can work through you. Even at your very best, you are not able to live up to God’s standards. But He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20). That’s how you love your spouse.

So, this unsettling secret—as defeating as it may feel—has a happy ending for those who will stop resisting and will receive the love God has for them. This means that the love He has “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5) is always available, every time we choose to submit to it.

You simply won’t be able to do it without Him.

Perhaps you’ve never given our heart to Christ, but you sense Him drawing you today. You may be realizing for the first time that you, too, have broken God’s commands, and that your guilt will keep you from knowing Him. But Scripture says that if you repent by turning away from your sin and turning to God, He is willing to forgive you because of the sacrifice his Son made on the cross. He is pursuing you, not to enslave you but to free you, so you can receive His love and forgiveness. Then you can share it with the one you’ve been called most specifically to love.

Perhaps you’re already a believer, but you would admit that you have walked away from fellowship with God. You’re not in the Word, you’re not in prayer, maybe you’re not even in church anymore. The love you used to feel coursing through your veins has dwindled into apathy.

The truth is, you can’t live without Him and you can’t love without Him. But there is no telling what He could do in your marriage if you put your trust in Him.

Today's Dare: Look back over the dares from the previous days. Were there some that seemed impossible to you? Have you realized your need for God to change your heart and to give you the ability to love? Ask Him to show you where you stand with Him, and ask for the strength and grace to settle your eternal destination.

"This is impossible, but with God all things are possible." - Matthew 19:26

Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group.

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