Being Loved

Being Loved2Have you noticed how the Apostle John often addressed those to whom he wrote. He called them 'beloved'; as in 'Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God' (I John 4:7). Nine times in 1, 2, and 3 John he used that word. How important it is to know that you are loved. One of our primary 'job descriptions' is to 'be loved'. We are 'beloved' of God. The ability to receive love and give love is the most essential aspect of being a successful Christian. Apart from that we will never ultimately be successful in our calling or fulfill our destiny. There is no other substitute.

Henri Nouwen wrote in his book In the Name of Jesus: "Much Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead. Many Christian empire-builders have been people unable to give love and receive love... It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life... Jesus asks, 'Do you love me? We ask, 'Can we sit at your right hand and your left hand in the Kingdom."

A popular teaching identifies 7 Mountains of influence in the world and the importance of Christians becoming major influencers on those mountains. I agree. The message is true and essential but even if you conquer them all you will not be able to sustain or maintain those places of influence unless you have encountered in a deep and personal way the love of God. In actual fact many who have obtained great influence have done so in such ways that they have left many wounded and broken in their wake on the way to the top. They will not keep what they gained if they reproduce leaders and associates who are more motivated with power or ambition than love.

In my forty five years of Christian experience I've lived through between 10 and 12 eras of revival, renewal, or outpouring (depending upon your definition). Almost without exception those deposits of 'new wine' have been lost because of faulty wineskins. Jesus Himself declared the importance of new wineskins: "Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved" (Matthew 9:17). Many have argued that the wineskin is a governmental or an administrative issue. I feel like it is something else, although it would very definitely affect both governmental and administrative functions.

New wine speaks of the deposits of divine substance heaven pours out at different times in our experiential histories. The wineskin speaks of human relationships who experience and steward that which the Lord poured out. Losing the wine speaks of not being able to sustain, maintain, or fully enjoy that which God poured out. The fact that 'the wineskin breaks' refers to the destruction of the lives and relationships of those who participated in the outpouring.

Jesus was the original 'new wineskin'. He sustained, maintained, and successfully stewarded the 'wine' He was given when He was filled with the Holy Spirit and heard His Father say, 'This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased'. He did so based on a loving relationship between Father and Son. He knew His Father's love, He knew how to live in it, live from it, and give it.  We must as well to be the kind of wineskins that will not break and spill what He gives us.

Hurt people hurt people. Loved people love people. As we learn to live in light of the Father's love as his sons and daughters and as we develop communities that have continued corporate encounters with that same love of God we shall be equipped to maintain and sustain the new wine.

Of all the disciples John seemed to be the one who knew best the love of God, calling himself 'the disciple whom Jesus loved' five times in his gospel. No one else did. You don't find that phrase in any other book of the New Testament. As a result of John knowing that love Jesus gave him the unique privilege and huge responsibility of caring for His mother after His death. Jesus revealed Himself  profoundly to John as is recorded in the book of Revelation, and he lived the longest of all the original disciples. It seems like that love qualified John for such honor. We too must recognize that we are 'the disciple that Jesus loved' as well. Then we shall successfully steward all that He pours out and both the wine and wineskin will be preserved, just as Jesus desired.

Let me close with this insight from the pen of the Apostle Paul: "...that the Christ might finally settle down and feel completely at home in your hearts through your faith; in love having been firmly rooted and grounded in order that you may be able to grasp with all the saints what is the breadth and width and height and depth, and to know experientially the love of the Christ which surpasses experiential knowledge in order that you may be filled up with all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:13 -Wuest Translation). Knowing His love is the key to all God's fulness! May we all truly 'be loved'.