Ask just about anybody on the street to define a Christian, and most will say something like “a Christian is someone who loves God.” And that is a true descriptor, no doubt. A Christian SHOULD love God, if they are truly a believer. But as I was reading 1 John 4, it became clear to me that a greater defining evidence can be found.
While it is important to know that a Christian loves God, the more critical defining factor is the fact that a Christian is loved BY God!
John said it so well…
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10 ESV)
That subtle difference in expression is mammoth in application. It takes the center of gravity away from my love – and places it in the heart of true love, that one place from where the purest expression of love is generated and defined. And that is…in God. He IS love. And that is why it is so hard for those in the world who are apart from God to understand true love in an individual, or in a family, or in a culture. And believe me, our culture is trying its best to redefine love apart from God.
But that will always be a futile effort. All one will ever have from that effort is a shadow of true love. To know love is to know God, and to know God is to be loved – by God.
It is no accident that John understood this amazing truth, for he himself is identified in the Bible as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and elsewhere as “the beloved.” That phrase beloved carries this very point. It wasn’t so much that John loved Jesus, but that Jesus LOVED John.
I looked up the word “beloved” in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (the first and best dictionary by Mr. Webster, who himself loved God and felt a calling and mission to help us understand words – so that we could serve God more fully and understand Scripture more accurately). The word carries the thought of being “dear to the heart.” Friends, if you are a believer, God loves you…and you are dear to His heart.
Now, that is a refreshing truth, one that lightens my day as I ponder that amazing fact. He loves me with an everlasting love. And He sent His Son for me. to become my Savior.
Think I’ll stop there…and ponder just a bit more…
Mike Gilland is Operations Manager for The Shepherd Radio Network, a group of radio stations in Florida that features the “Christian Teach/Talk” format. Mike hosts a daily talk radio show in the 2 PM hour called “Afternoons with Mike”, talking to local pastors and newsmakers. In Gainesville, Mike is heard on WTMN – 96.3 FM / 1430 AM. In Ocala, on WRZN – 103.5 FM / 720 AM. In addition to his broadcast experience, Mike spent 36 years in full-time ministry as a pastor and worship leader. As a guitarist, Mike performs at concerts, restaurants, private parties, etc. He is married to Cindy, the father of four grown children and grandfather to seven grandchildren.