I majored in psychology in graduate school and in undergraduate, along with education. And I had to write a research paper for a thesis that I did. And one of the theses that I did is I looked up all the things in terms of the effective role and responsibility of a father in the family. And so I did all the sociological and psychological study about what a dad brings.
And in my study, you have to do all this empirical research and all these control studies and read all these papers. And it was really interesting the number of studies that have been done on juvenile delinquents.
And they do an interviewing process and they find out: What made you feel loved growing up? You know what number one or two was in a number of the studies? “I knew my parents loved me when they disciplined me.”
You see, when you have a mom or a dad who says, “Hey! What time do I need to be in?” “I don’t care. Just lock the door when you get in. I don’t care.” When you talk back to a parent and you do things that are disrespectful and they just yell back at you and now you have two kids acting like fools toward one another, they don’t care.
Hey, you know what? Here’s what was happening where I lived. I lived in a pretty nice place in Atlanta right on the bottom edge of a part of Atlanta that is really, pretty nice. And so my daughter goes to school in a very affluent area. And she said, “Dad, it’s just unbelievable, the families. Here is how they parent. All they do is they just, ‘Here’s twenty bucks, here’s a hundred bucks, here’s two hundred bucks. Tell you what. Go to the mall, do whatever you want to do, just get the heck out of my hair.’”
And when they do things that are wrong, you know what? There are no consequences. And you know what kids know? “If you don’t care enough to confront me, if you don’t care enough to give me what I need instead of what I want, you don’t love me.”
And how God shows His love for you is He will selectively correct you. And I don’t like it and you don’t like it. But it’s an evidence of His love.
The fifth way He reveals His love is by the Holy Spirit. He supernaturally pours His love into our hearts. Romans 5:5 says, “And hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”
This is that Spirit. The moment you come to Christ, you do understand what happens. You are an unbeliever like I was an unbeliever, you understand the gospel, you realize Christ died in your place for your sin. You repent. That means you have a change of mind and you recognize what is true about you and you say, with empty hands, “I want to receive the free gift, by faith, of grace.” The moment I receive Jesus Christ, put my trust in His work and His resurrection, the Spirit of God enters my life.
Ephesians 1: I am sealed with the Spirit, I am adopted into God’s family, I am baptized into this thing called “the Church,” spiritual gifts are deposited in me, I have an inheritance that will never change, and I am now a part of God’s family. and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in me. The [Third] Person of the Trinity’s job, now, is to manifest the power and the presence of Jesus to me. That’s why I am His temple.
And then what He will do, the Spirit of God, remember He says to the disciples? “You can’t take in everything, but the Spirit, when He comes, will lead you into all truth.” That’s the last night.
You remember the very last night? He said, “I am with you now, but it is better that I go because I won’t just be with you, I will be in you.” And the Father will come and I will come and just as I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, so We will come and We will be in you” – how? “by the Holy Spirit.”
And so the Spirit of God, dwelling in us, will take the Word and you have had it happen. He pours out the love of God. I remember late one night, I was dating a girl that I was sure I was going to marry. And her life was going this way and she was a believer and my life was going this way. And it was a lordship issue and it wasn’t some big breakup. I just knew that she was convinced that we were supposed to, after college, get married and she was an only child and lived in this little town outside of West Virginia on the Ohio River and then live right next to her parents.
And I felt the call of God on my life. But I’m telling you, I loved her. And I was heartbroken. And so I said, lordship, I mean, lordship is doing what is right whether you feel like it or not. It doesn’t have a whole lot to do with how you feel. Most of the best obedience in my life, I’m telling you, I didn’t want to do. But I don’t feel bad about it, Jesus didn’t want to do His either.
In the Garden, I don’t hear Jesus saying, “Father, thank You. This is the hour which We planned on from the foundations of the earth. I am really excited about this one. High-five the Holy Spirit for Me, hey! Let’s go!” What I hear is, “Father, if there is any other way, if there is a plan B, in the mind of the Godhead, let’s go with it now. Nevertheless…”
You demonstrate your love for God – how? Obedience. John 14:21. “He that has My commandments and keeps them, He it is that loves Me. And he that loves Me would love My Father.” And then what happens? “And We will come and We will reveal,” or manifest, “Ourselves to him.”
And so we go our separate ways, and one night, we have broken up, but I am used to, for a couple, three years. Home basketball game, hair is wet, come up the stairs, and she is always there right on the rail. She grabs my arm, I feel like a special guy, go over to the student union, get a Coke, da-da-da, just a great relationship.
Well, we break up for three or four or five months and I’m praying, I’m going, Oh, God, change her heart. Help her to see a vision for the world, and I’m crying and I don’t want to see anybody and I’m in my pity party and, Oh, God, it’s so hard to follow You. There will never be anybody like this as good, ever, ever. Ooooh! I’m not kidding.
I was whiny, wimpy! And I was depressed, a guy like me loses weight, you’ve got problems. You know? And so I’m praying and I’m believing God is going to do something. He’s going to bring her back to me. So I come out of the locker room, hair is wet, we lost another game, that wasn’t good. And I come up the stairs and there she is. And I’m thinking, Yes! God! Thank You so much!
So I come up the stairs and then she’s got that look like, there is something wrong about this. And I said hi and I said her name. “Hi, how are you doing?” And there was this, sort of this, a little standoffish. And then a guy came up the stairs, it was another guard on the team. Ladies, you don’t know, but guys, you know how you talk in the locker room and you kind of know the score, where guys were at, what they do, why they do it, all that jazz? And this dude is a snake. Okay? He’s a snake.
And he walks right by me and he goes out the door and they go out arm in arm. And I remember walking across campus, being as mad at God as ever. Boy, I was mad, I was so mad! I told God, Either You speak to me, You speak to me tonight or I’m out of here! I cannot believe You would do this to me! And I went over and I said, Okay, I’m going to, okay. I’m going to read right where I’m reading and You’d better speak to me. I’m serious!
Literally, the words came to me, I feel like a beast inside. I just, I mean, I was so angry and so disappointed. And so I read Psalm 71. He didn’t speak. Okay. Psalm 72. He didn’t speak. I figure you ought to keep reading where you are. You know? You start jumping around you’ll try and make God speak to you.
I opened Psalm 73. I’m telling you, I read Psalm 73 and I have never audibly heard the voice of God that could not have been the Holy Spirit pouring out His love more clearly, more powerfully, in all my life. It was scary. The very thoughts that I had, the very phrases out of my mind, the things that I said, the very core issues, I read Psalm 73 and I wept like a baby in my room. God understood. And He had a plan.
You see, one of the ways God will love you is the Holy Spirit will be poured out, and the way He will do it is that sometimes He’ll do it through His Word. Sometimes, I was in India shortly after the tsunami and it was such a dark time in the middle of the night and spiritual opposition and all this tsunami and I couldn’t sleep. And there is all this spiritual warfare going on.
And in the middle of the night, I just started, I put on my tape player and I just started to sing. God, I just feel so alone and so far away and this is so scary. And I just began to sing and the Spirit of God just came into the room and poured the love of God and I just felt like He put His arms around me.
I have been in an ICU before where I thought, Oh, one of my boys is going to die. And I begged God and I pleaded with God and the Spirit, you have been there, you have had these, haven’t you?
The final way is through His Son. Jesus reveals the nature of God’s love for us through His Son. Jesus modeled compassion, grace, and truth. Right? Just the life of Jesus. He shows us the Father’s love by how He responds to children, by how He feeds people, by how He has compassion on Jarius’ daughter, by how He stops with the widow and it’s her only son and He raises him from the dead, by how He forgives.
He reveals His love by His teaching and He explains, if you want to know how Jesus feels about people, Luke 15. “Why are you hanging out with those sinners and those bad people?” And so He tells them a parable and He tells them the three familiar stories: lost sheep, lost coin, lost son. You know the story.
And the picture is the Father waiting for the Son to return, to do – what? He goes out every day, Is he here yet? Is he here yet? Is he okay? It’s the picture of someone pursuing and seeking and searching and the sheep comes back on the shoulders and the coin is found and there is a party, and the son returns and there is life.
His teaching told us about the love of God. And His death demonstrated the extent of God’s love. I John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”
But God demonstrated His own love for us, Romans 5:8, that while we were yet sinners – there is no performance, we are His enemies then, right? While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Do you sense the need to just get some of these truths soaking? My mom used to, she was a schoolteacher and so she had trouble trying to get dinner on the table. And when those crockpots were invented, my mom went nuts. I mean, it was like, whoa.
And she could put a piece of meat and potatoes and carrots and anything in the refrigerator and put it in this crockpot and then she would turn it on and it would simmer and simmer and simmer all day, sometimes ten or twelve hours. And then it was great.
And you know what will take these truths from the eighteen inches from here to here? You need to take these truths and these notes and some of these word pictures and you need to put it in a spiritual crockpot. And rather than trying hard to force it in, God, help me believe that You love me. Please, please, please. Just put them in the spiritual crockpot. In fact, for me, I put them on 3x5 cards and I’ll read them and read a verse and then thank God that this is…
And so much of it, please don’t get hung up on your emotions. We are so emotionally bound. Well, I don’t feel like He loves me. Well, okay, get over it. I don’t either. But the people that love me, I don’t want one guy to say, “Oh I really feel good about you, Chip, but I can’t help you.” I would rather the other guy say, “I don’t feel so good about you, but here’s a hundred bucks to solve your problem or I’ll pull your car out of the ditch.”
You see, we need to begin to understand, it’s not an ooey-gooey emotional love. It’s an objective reality of how God actually thinks and feels that you actually possess. And when you get your mind renewed and you begin to respond in worship, I will tell you that then you will emotively begin to experience more and more the love of God as the Spirit of God pours it into your heart.
But it’s a journey. And it’s a process. An object’s value is always determined by the price paid for it. To God, your worth, the price of His Son’s death in your place.
Some of you are musicians and you can get a cheap violin and then you can get those kind that are made in Germany. You pay about six thousand dollars for a violin, it’s very valuable. You pay about four hundred, it’s okay.
Value is always determined by price. And if you ever wonder, Does God really love me? This is as objective as it gets: If you were a slave in a slave market and they put you up on those round little stools and they said, “How much for this one? Two hundred dollars. How much for this one? Five hundred dollars. How much for this one? Really big and strong. Eight hundred dollars. How much for this one? Old, weak, can’t do anything. Fifty dollars.” And then it came your turn. God would make the bid.
And He would say, “I want that one.” How much? “The death of My Son. That’s what I’ll pay for that one.” And you’re the one. See the word redemption is a picture of a slave being bought out of slavery and the price of purchase is the blood of Jesus for you. God loves you.
How do you receive it? You must respond to God’s love in three specific ways. One, you receive it by faith in your heart. John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever,” you need to be a whosoever. You need to be one of those people who receive it.
John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who receive Him, Jesus, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” If there is anybody that has never received and jumped into the liquid ocean of love, of the God I have described, just receive Him. Just say, “Lord Jesus, I want You. I get it. Come into my life.”
The second thing to experience God’s love is we must believe it by faith in our minds. You receive Him by faith in your heart, and then we must go through the journey that I have been talking about, of believing it, by faith in our minds.
I John 4:13 through 16 says, “We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love that God has for us.”
Did you hear that? We know, objectively, and we rely on God’s love. How do you know and rely? How does it work? Let me give you three really specific ways. The way you begin to get this process operating, where it moves from here in your head, to your heart, is you saturate your mind in the truth of God’s love for you.
I put a very, very important passage: Romans 8:28 through about 39. It’s the passage about, “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.” Nothing. So you saturate your mind with God’s truth about this. And that is why I talked about whether it’s 3x5 cards or being in the Scriptures or praying these back to the Lord.
Second, ask God to help you grasp His love for you. I don’t know what you pray or who you pray for, but the apostle Paul, in Ephesians 3, gives us a great example. When he is praying for a group of people, what does he pray? He says, “God, I pray for this group of people right here. What do I pray? I pray that You will strengthen them in their inner man so that they could, by faith, grasp the extent of Your love for them.”
What is he praying? “God, I want You to do something to take it from here down to here.” Ask God. Pray for yourself, Lord, help me grasp that You love me. Lord, I want to even feel it. Lord, help me to take all those messages and false kinds of loves and all the baggage that I have and wipe it away. Please help me experience and know Your love. Do you think He will answer that prayer? You know for sure it’s His will.
So you saturate your mind with truth, you ask Him, and then, third, refuse to seek love in cheap substitutes. This is the woman at the well. And it’s all of us in here, to some degree or another.
And I John 2:15 and 16 says, notice the word, “Do not love the world or the things that are in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life, it’s not from the Father, it’s from the world. But he who does the will of God abides forever.”
And those are the three things that trip everybody up all the time. There is a sensual lust, there is the desire for more stuff, and there is the desire for ego to be a somebody.
But what is behind those? What is behind those is this desire to be loved, to be significant, secure, to matter. And they are just cheap substitutes. It’s the world promising you, “You’ll get loved if you do this. You’ll get loved if you act like this. You’ll get loved if you have this much money. You’ll get loved if your body looks like this. You’ll get loved if you can just serve everybody all the time. Be super, super Christian who never says no to anybody and has an absolutely whacked out life,” and they will give you all these strokes and it will feel like love.
They are all cheap substitutes. God says, “Refuse them.” And what seals the deal is after you receive it and believe it, we must bestow it, by faith, through our wills. See, the way you really get is to give.
And there is a command. This isn’t one of the options. John 13, remember? The last night with the disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another,” – how? “just as I have loved you.” How is that? Sacrificial, unconditional, by giving.
And then there is a calling. Jesus laid down His life for us, we should – what? Lay down our lives for one another. And then there is a promise. I do not understand this, people. I do not understand it at all. But when I willfully choose, whether I feel like it or not, to give my time and give my money and give my gifts and give my attention and give my care, after I have taken a drink or taken my water bottle or backed up my truck into the ocean of God’s liquid love, and I begin to just spray it out radically to other people, all I can tell you is it creates a spiritual vacuum.
And the more I give it out, the more God gives to me. And the more I give it out, the more I get it back. And many of us are spending our lives seeking to experience God’s love and the catalyst or the action point will be when you stop asking, Who loves me? Who didn’t say hi to me? Am I okay? And you start asking, Who needs a friend? Who needs some help? Who needs some love? Who needs a listening ear? Who needs a phone call? Who needs a little money that will never know where it came from?
And I’m just telling you, give and it will be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running back into your lap. So if you love with a teaspoon, you get a teaspoon of love back. You love with a tablespoon, you get a tablespoon back. You love with a gallon jug, you get a gallon jug back. Stick that tanker into the ocean, and start going, whoooo! And your life might get downright scary.