“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them…We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:15-16,19 (NIV)
Do you know and believe that God loves you? I know that can be a tough question. It’s one that’s worth asking because it’s where our identity in Christ begins–with us believing in, and relying on His love for us.
For a long time, I didn’t really grasp just how much God loves me. I knew it in my head, but somehow I imagined there would have to be part of me that was worthy of it to really experience it. I felt blessed just to be in the room with Him, and rarely felt worthy of a place next to Him at the table. After all, who am I that He should take notice of me, let alone esteem me as a beloved friend?
As I grew in my relationship with God, He gave me a sense of belonging with Him. He showed me through his faithfulness that He loves me truly and fiercely. It’s then that I began to see evidence of His love in everyday things, great and small. Because of Christ, I started to see myself through His eyes and gained confidence as His beloved daughter, redeemed and made whole.
I continue to be inspired and encouraged by the story of apostle John in the Bible. He was someone who really embraced his identity as one whom God loved. In fact, John more than once describes himself throughout the gospels as “The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved”.
That bold of a statement might seem a little strange and maybe even a bit self-important. But in reality, when John talked about himself as the disciple whom God loved, he was carefully choosing words to describe what was most important about him.
John’s core identity, how he saw himself and interacted with the world, was completely founded on His relationship with Jesus. We will always surrender our lives to whatever the defining love or influence is in our life, and for John, Jesus was the defining influence in his life.
One example of this is in John 13:23, where Jesus is talking with the disciples. We read that John was sitting right next to Jesus, which at a glance could have seemed a bit bold perhaps. But John was confidently sitting at the feet of Jesus because he knows he belongs there. He believes and relies on the love Jesus has for him. John is secure in where his identity is. He picks the seat closest to Jesus because it’s where he belongs as one loved by Jesus.
I recently learned something really cool about the phrase “The disciple whom Jesus loved”. The Greek for loved here can literally be translated as the disciple whom Jesus keeps on loving. His love for us isn’t conditional. It’s not past tense, it is new every morning. It is evergreen and unwavering.
Whether we overcommit and underdeliver, whether we say yes or no, if we get it all right or if we get it all wrong, we are the ones that Jesus keeps on loving. We don’t have to wonder everyday, “does he still love me?” The answer will always be, “Yes! Now get on over there and sit next to Jesus because you are someone whom Jesus keeps on loving. There’s nothing we can do to change His love, nothing we can do to lose it. God is love, and we are His beloved.
As we begin to see ourselves this way, as one that Jesus keeps on loving, everything changes. When our relationship with Jesus is the defining influence in our lives, every other decision, big or little, all passes through that filter.
John 4:19 says “we love because He first loved us.” Our love for God begins with letting Him love us. When we allow God’s love to sink into our very being, it transforms us. When we believe in and rely on His love, we find a peace and joy that transcends our circumstances. It defines and shapes our identity and how we move in the world. It gives us security and confidence. It is a firm foundation upon which to build our lives. When we experience God’s radical love, it changes everything.
You are God’s beloved. It is who you are. He created you, He sees you and He loves you so much. Believe in that, spend time with God and learn to trust in His love and rely on it. He will never fail you or abandon you. He has planned ahead every detail of your life and will provide for you. Take your spot at the table next to Him, as one loved by God. He is happy to have you close to Him, right where you will always belong.