Love is the foremost ingredient for Christ-likeness in our lives. And love is the motivation behind all God has ever done, is doing or will do in his dealings with man. God did not create mankind because he had to or needed to; God created mankind because he wanted to. We were first and foremost created to live in loving relationship with our Creator, then toward each other. Love is the essence of who God is; thus to grow in love is to become like him. As I get older, and as I grow in my relationship with Christ I spend more time contemplating the limitless expanse and boundless power of his love. The love the Father has for humanity is relentless. It is without measure, infinite in its capacity and unequaled in its impact and power. Nothing in this universe compares to it. The longer I live, the more I realize the love the Father has for us cannot be explained in mere words.
It is our love response to him based on the love that he has already demonstrated that has the power and capability to change our lives. It is through his demonstration of love that we are empowered to live like he lived and love like he loves. In considering Philippians 2:5-11, Jesus never commanded us to do anything he was not willing to do first. He has never asked us to walk any path he himself was not first willing to walk. He has never commanded us to love in a way that he was not willing to love first. There is a passage found in I John. It reads, “We love him because he first loved us.” This is the very beginning of Christian character formation, of becoming like him. Christian character formation begins with our love for the Father, our relationship with Jesus and our response to the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Jesus walked this earth as a man committed to the will his Father and full of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Philippians chapter 2 we learn that Jesus is in essence God. In other words, he is equal with God because he is God. Even so, he did not cling to the fact that he himself is the God of all flesh, the Creator of our universe. Instead he put aside the attributes of being God and walked this earth in the likeness of man. It was in this likeness, as a man fully committed to his Heaven Father that we see the motivating factor of love at work in a human life. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered. To put it another way, the more Jesus persevered, the greater the demonstration of his love and commitment to the Father, and to you and me.
As strange as it might seem to say, character formation in the life of Christ came as a result of his obedience to the Father, and love was at the heart of his submission. The Bible also tells us, “Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” In the garden of Gethsemane we see the fullness, the perfection of the power of love and its capabilities in the human heart and life. And we hear it when Jesus said, “If possible, let this cup pass from me, yet it’s not my will but yours be done.” (My paraphrase) It was out of his undying love for the Father that he was able to lay his life down for you and me. In the end, it is our love for God that is the motivating factor for Godly character formation. And it is through this love via the indwelling Holy Spirit that love ultimately changes our lives from an inward condition to an outward expression. This is why Jesus said, if someone loves me he must take up his cross and follow me. Self cannot live on the cross. And the cross cannot be daily borne without love. To grow in God’s love we must be willing to die to self. Further, it is as we die to self and live unto him that our character is formed, and we begin to live as children of the Most High God. The whole process of life for the believer is a journey that begins, proceeds and is culminated by the enduring power and potential of God’s love to work in, and change our lives.
For me, this has been week of meditation and reflection. As I meditate on the word of God, I think about my life, about mistakes I have made, and about the gentle life-changing love of the Father. He is a God of mercy. He is a God of patience, and out of the unfathomable reaches of this love, he is always pushing us toward perfection in him.
May God fill you with his love and his peace in the coming week.