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Held Tightly by His Promises

From the series He Holds Me Forever

Theresa Ingram talks about learning how to experience God’s love by opening the window of your soul.

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Message Transcript

What we want to talk about today is that we can experience His love in our lives. We can experience it on a regular basis.

In fact, God expresses His love to us in many ways and every day. But many times, we keep missing the signs, don’t we? We don’t see His love.

Often we fail to recognize God’s love, or sometimes we find it hard to believe that He loves us. And why is this? Why do you think that it’s so hard to experience God’s love?

What the hindrances are to experiencing God’s love in our lives and then how can we remove those hindrances so that we can know His love and experience it in our lives?

When I grew up in West Virginia, I remember my bedroom so well that I spent hours and hours in. And in the winter sometimes it could be really cold and we could have a lot of snow. And the winters could be pretty harsh sometimes. But then I remember when the springtime came and it finally warmed up. And you could smell the flowers in the air, and you could hear the birds singing. And I just loved it when it could finally be warm enough that I could open up the window in my bedroom, and I could have that fresh breeze blowing through. And I could even see the curtains moving as that breeze would blow through my bedroom window.

And I thought today, we are going to pretend that there’s a window to our soul and when the window is closed, then we close ourselves off from experiencing God’s love, but when we open it, then we begin to experience the love that He has for us, a love that is already there, it’s there already all the time. You see, it’s a choice we make, just like I could open and close my window, it’s a choice that we can make whether to open or close the window of our souls, whether to experience His love or not, because it’s there all the time.

And we are going to look at four ways that we close the window. What keeps us from experiencing God’s love in our life? And then how do we open it? How do we remove those hindrances so that we can know how wide and how long and how high and how deep His love really is for us?

And so, the first closed window that we see here is that sin in my life and disobedience to God’s Word keeps me from experiencing His love. In John 15:9 and 10 it says, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. When you obey Me, you remain in My love, just as I obey My Father and remain in His love.”

Now, Jesus is talking here and He is saying, “I love you in the same way that My Father loves Me. That’s how I love you.” He says, “Stay close to Me and you’ll experience the joy of knowing My love, if you stay close to Me.” And He says, “I tell you how it is, that you can remain in My love. It’s by obedience to My Word.” He says, “I came to set an example for you, to show you how to do this. As I have obeyed My Father, then you obey My Word and remain in My love.”

You see, God is holy. And His holiness is incompatible with sin in our lives. It just doesn’t mix. And He can’t associate with sin or have any part of that. And so, when we have sin in our life, when we are disobeying God, then we separate ourselves from Him, we pull away from Him. And that intimacy that He desires for us to have with Him is broken.

In Deuteronomy 5:10 it says, “But I lavish my love on those who love me and obey My commands, even for a thousand generations.” You see, being able to experience God’s love is conditioned on our obedience to Him. He is holy. And even though He loves us more than we could ever imagine, as a loving Father, He disciplines His children as any loving Father would.

And He does it for our good. And it’s only in our obedience then as we obey His Word, that we open the window to God’s love and to have that intimate relationship with Him.

And so, we open the window by living righteously because God’s love is perfected in lives that are pure. 1 John 2:4 and 5, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.”

It says the love of God is perfected in the believer. The word perfected here does not mean that we reach a state of perfection. That’s not what it means at all, but it means that we are continually growing and continually maturing in our walk with the Lord.

And as we live in obedience to Him, and to His Word, that we are growing in Christlikeness. We are growing in our knowledge of His love for us. And He proved His love by dying on the cross to pay for our sins and then forgive us so that we could come to Him and be close to Him.

But every day, He shows us His love by forgiving our daily sins. I don’t know about you, but I sin just pretty much every day. I do something, you know, I may have a bad attitude. Or say something unkind. Or worry about something that I should have trusted God for. But every time that I ask Him to forgive me, He embraces me with His love and He forgives me.

Now, did you ever think that the forgiveness of your daily sins is a sign of God’s love? Did you ever think about it like that? That every day that He forgives us, He’s showing His love to us?

And it doesn’t matter what we have done, how big we have messed up. It doesn’t matter. When you recognize you’re wrong and you come to Him with a sincere heart, He is waiting to embrace you and forgive you.

And so, the steps to take is daily confession of our sins. Don’t let sin stay for long periods of time. Keep short accounts. When you are aware that you have done something that is in disobedience to God’s Word, confess it right away wherever you are. You don’t have to hold onto it. You don’t have to wait until you can get in a room all by yourself. Just confess it and be free of that. And stay close to God. As soon as you’re aware, confess it right away.

In Psalm 51:1 and 2, David prays, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love, according to Your great compassion, blot out my transgression. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from all my sin.”

And so, the steps to take, first of all, is make confession a part of your daily life. And the second thing is spend time in God’s Word on a regular basis. And I am going to be bold enough to say: five to seven days a week. We need to be in God’s Word.

Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” You see, God wants to speak to you. He wants to tell you how to live, how to live a good life, how to have a life filled with joy. He wants to be close to you. And He wrote you a love letter! It’s in His book, the Bible, because He cares for you so much, He wrote this book as a love letter to tell us how much He loves us.

And so, a question that I would ask for us to take to heart: is there any area of my life that needs cleaned up? Any sin in my life that I have not confessed to God that is separating me from Him?

And secondly, do I spend regular time reading and meditating on God’s Word so that I can know Him and have an intimate relationship with Him? We need to answer these questions individually in our own hearts.

Well, secondly, we close the window of our souls by a believer’s learned way of thinking about themselves – the self-talk – what we say in our minds to ourselves can keep us from experiencing God’s love.

In Proverbs 23:7 it says, “As a man, or as a woman thinks in her heart, so she is.”

As she thinks in her mind, that’s how she’s going to act. And we learn to believe certain things about ourselves that may or may not be true. They may not be true. We live in a world system and a culture that is telling us every day that we need to have certain things and we need to behave a certain way. We need to look a certain way. We need to believe certain things in order to be loved, accepted, and significant in our lives.

And what we believe about ourselves affects our actions and it affects our emotions, it affects the decisions that we make, it affects everything in our lives – what we believe about ourselves.

And particularly in our growing up years, we learn to define ourselves in a certain way. I grew up in a home where I was afraid to mess up. I was afraid to even make an accidental mistake, because even those things were punished. And during those years at home, I was afraid of my dad.

And then early in my Christian life, as an adult, every time I messed up I thought God didn’t like me. You see, that’s what I learned about myself. And so, it’s very important that we take a good look at what we think and what we believe and compare it with God’s Word to see what our self-talk is. To see if it’s really true or not.

And because of what we believe about ourselves, we may not believe that God really loves us. And so then we close the window of our soul from experiencing His love.

Well, we can open that window by filling our minds with God’s truth to overcome the negative belief systems we have learned and we will cling to His promises for our lives. That’s how we can open that window.

In Philippians 4:8 it says, “And now dear friends, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” In this passage, the apostle Paul is putting on his psychology hat. Did you know he was a psychologist too?

And he tells us: how do we deal with the lies we believe? How do we deal with all these negative things that we think in our minds? And he says to think about what is true, think about what is a fact, what is statements that are real, that are not lies, that are not rumors, but they are real, they are sincere and they are genuine. Think about things that are true.

He says: Think about things that are honorable, that are respectful. Think about things that are right. Things that are in keeping with God’s truth, with His Word.

If someone could hear your thoughts about yourself, what would they hear? Would you want them to hear it? For a long time, I believed down deep in my heart that I was unlovable, and that because I kept messing up, God wouldn’t give me good things. He did that for other people. He does that for smarter people, but He wouldn’t do that for me.

But I learned that through God’s Word, that I was wrong and that He tells me in His truth that His love for me is eternal and that I am His and that His desire is to be close to me, that I am His child and that He treasures me and that He will withhold no good thing. He says He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly.

And He gives us the desires of our hearts. And so, let me ask you, are you lovable?

Do you believe that God sees something infinitely precious in your life? That when He looks at you, you are precious to Him? Do you believe that God wants to do good in your life? Well, this is what He says, this is what His Word says is true, but we must begin the process of recognizing the lies we believe and choose to replace those lies with God’s truth.
Do you believe that God sees something infinitely precious in your life? That when He looks at you, you are precious to Him? Do you believe that God wants to do good in your life? Well, this is what He says, this is what His Word says is true, but we must begin the process of recognizing the lies we believe and choose to replace those lies with God’s truth, what He says is true about us.

In Psalm 119:76 and 77 it says, “May Your unfailing love be my comfort according to Your promise to Your servant. Let Your compassion come to me, that I may live, for Your law is my delight.”

And we can only learn what God tells us about ourselves by filling our minds with His Word. I can’t express that strong enough. It’s only through the light of His Word that we can see who we truly are and we can look at our circumstances and how He would want us to see them.

In fact, this, His whole Bible, the whole Word is a love story. And He wants us to be in His Scriptures so He can tell us how much He loves us.

And so, the steps to take is evaluate your own thinking patterns against Philippians 4:8. Think about this passage and think about, take the time, it takes a little work to stop and to think, Now, what am I thinking? Sometimes, things go through our minds and come out of our mouths and we don’t even think about it.

And so, I would encourage you to take some time, it’s not a bad thing to evaluate once in a while and see, What am I saying in my mind? And begin to catch those thoughts. And see, does it align? Am I saying things to myself that are true and honorable, admirable, lovely?

And secondly, is begin the process of replacing those lies with God’s truth. When you hear those negative thoughts and you are beginning to know His Word and what He says, then take that truth and replace those thoughts with God’s truth.

And the question to ask: Do I believe that God loves me unconditionally and always desires what is best for my life? Do I believe that? Do I believe that what I learned to think about myself during childhood from significant others in my life, circumstances, and my environment may or may not be what is true about me? You may be thinking things that aren’t true, but we can only find out as we look to God’s Word and see what is true.

Okay, so, the third closed window then is a believer who is building the foundation of their lives on worldly, temporal things instead of on God’s foundation and eternal things will have a hard time experiencing God’s love.

Hannah Whitall Smith calls this the “giant eye”. It’s me, focused on me. This person is consumed with themselves and what the world has to give to make them happy, significant, and secure. Consumed with themselves. They have a worldly mindset instead of a heavenly mindset.

In 1 John 2:15 and 16 it says, “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and the pride in our possession. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God you will live forever.”

When he says, “Love not the world,” he’s talking about a world system that is created by Satan that is telling us that we don’t need God, who is trying to fill us up with other things and drawing people away from God.

God gives us things of this world to enjoy, but He says to be careful and don’t allow those things to consume your life. Don’t depend on the things of the world to make your life work. But He says to place your entire dependence in your heavenly Father who loves you and will give you all things, who is all powerful, who knows your future, who gives us all things to enjoy. “Love not the world,” He says, “but love Me first. Put Me first.”

Well, how do we love the world? We love the world when anything in our lives takes the place of God – anything – we are loving the world. It could be a person in our lives that takes the place of God. It could be a boyfriend, a husband, a child, a parent.

And so, how do we open that window then? How do we open that window? That we don’t place all of our value and things of this world? Well, we open it by surrendering our lives, all that we have and all that we are, to a Father in heaven, the one who is willing and able to give us all good things to enjoy.

And a believer who constantly surrenders to God will experience God’s love in their lives in an amazing way.

And you will give the Holy Spirit freedom to work as you live a life that is fully surrendered to God. It says God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts with His Holy Spirit, through His Holy Spirit living inside us. We are His temple. He has chosen us to dwell in us.

And so, the key then to giving the Holy Spirit freedom, to giving Him access and control at every area of our lives is surrender.

Surrendering to God means to release. It means to take whatever we are holding onto, whatever we are finding our value in, whatever is holding us up and we release it to God, and we entrust it to Him. And when we give it to Him, it’s in a place that it’s safe. You see, if we hold onto it, we’ll mess it up. But if we entrust it to Him, to a place of safe keeping, then he will begin to work in whatever we surrender to Him.

And His will will come about. And we know what His will is. That it’s always good and acceptable and perfect.

And so, then the steps to take to open this window is to build the foundation of your lives on God’s Word. Here we are again, back at His Word. We can’t get away from it, because it’s the only stable foundation that we have.

The things we build our lives on sometimes, like houses or jobs or people or looks or success, possessions – they are not a stable foundation. But God’s Word is. In Isaiah 48 it says, “The grass withers and flower fades, but the Word of God stands forever.” Lives forever! It’s a stable foundation.

And so, the second thing we do then is to seek His will in everything that we do to come before Him and to ask Him for whatever it is you need. Ask for His will to be done. And we will just be amazed at what God will do.

And then number three is to choose by faith, and it is by faith, that we sign over every area of our life to the Lord. And as we surrender, as we yield our lives to Him, we hand it over to a place where it’s safe and He will take care of all of our needs.

And so, the question to ask then is: can I, today, quit trying to run my life my own way and surrender everything to God, the true lover of my soul, and allow His Spirit to have freedom to work in every area of my life?

Okay, closed window number four is a believer who listens to Satan’s lies and accusations about God’s Word and God’s character will miss the signs of His love. Now, in Revelation 12:10, it tells us that Satan is the accuser of believer. That he is always fighting against those who follow God. That’s what he does.

In 1 Peter 5:8 it calls him our adversary. It says he is our enemy. And ever since the beginning of mankind with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, all through the Bible when Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4 in the wilderness, and even up to today in our lives, Satan is trying to draw people away from God.

In Genesis 3:1 to 7 it says, “Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made.” And he’s talking about Satan here.

And Satan says, “‘Really?’ he asks the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?’ ‘Of course we may eat it,’ the woman told him, ‘it’s only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it or we will die.’”

See, she knew what God said. But then Satan says, “‘You won’t die,’ the serpent hissed, ‘God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.’ The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious and it would make her so wise. So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband who was with her. Then he ate it too. At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves.”

You see, from the very beginning of mankind, Satan questioned God. He questioned God’s Word. And he questions God’s character and His goodness. And so, he deceived Adam and Eve in the garden.

And the result of that was a tragedy. It was a tragedy because for the rest of their lives, they experienced pain and suffering and broken fellowship and a blemished earth and shame and blame and fear and death.

And Satan and his demons probably thought, Boy, they really got God this time. But God already had a plan to bring His people back to Himself. He already had a plan to redeem His people.

And since the fall of mankind until today, God has been pursuing His people to bring them back into a love relationship with Him – ever since that time – because He says His love for us is so severe. It’s so great that He would sacrifice His Son to die on the cross to bring us back into a relationship with Him that we would be His very own.

And so, how do we open that window? How do we not listen to those lies? Well, we come against Satan’s lies by prayer and by claiming the truth of God’s prayer. Pray specifically against the accusations of Satan and pray that God would increase your knowledge and awareness of His love for you.

Pray about that! And it says in 2 Corinthians 10:3 to 5, “For though we walk in the flesh we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare of not of the flesh but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” There are our thought patterns again. It’s amazing how much that plays into how we live and how we act and how Satan tempts us.

And so, the steps to take then is to stand firm against Satan’s lies. In Matthew 4, when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus took the offensive, for every lie or part truth that Satan spoke to Jesus, Jesus responded with the truth, with the real truth in God’s Word. And so, we need to know His truth.

And the Scripture says, “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” He has to flee. He has no power. He has no power against God’s Word. And then the second thing is for every doubt, pray a prayer. When you begin to doubt, start praying right away. Don’t let those doubts mull around in your mind and get you discouraged.

We need to ask God to help us believe how much He loves us, and to believe His truth.

In Ephesians 3, “When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan,” Paul says, “I fall to my knees in prayer. And he prays that from his glorious, unlimited resources that He will give us mighty power. And he says, “And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your heart, and I pray that you will understand as all God’s people should how great His love really is.” And so, we need to pray. It’s through prayer that we unleash the power of God in our lives.

And it’s through prayer that God’s power is directed at whatever situation we are praying about. It’s an amazing thing. And we inherit that as part of being God’s child.

And so, the questions to ask is: do I constantly listen to Satan’s lies that cause me to doubt God’s goodness in my life, His love for me, and the truth of His Word? Am I listening to that? You need to think about it.

Well, like the gentle breeze that was blowing in my bedroom window, God’s love is there all the time. His love is there, whether we open the window or not. But He wants us to open the window. He doesn’t want there to be anything in our lives that would keep us from experiencing His love.

And I don’t know near all of you, but today, in your heart, you can tell God that you’re sorry, that you’re a sinner, and that you’ve not been close to Him. And you can ask Him to come and to live in your life. And all you have to do is invite Him in and the Father who already loves you and has loved you ever since before you were even born will take up residence in your life, will make you His child and you will begin to experience His love as you read His Word, as you walk with Him, and as you share that love with God’s people.

And so, if there’s anyone here today, today could be the day that when you walk out of here you can walk out knowing and experiencing how much God loves you.