The experience of being loved

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 I have to say that the experience of being loved is the most powerful influence in my life. 

It makes me wake up with a smile. It allows me to settle down to sleep contentedly. It allows me to try out my silliest jokes and daftest ideas with a confidence that even if I’m heard with rolled eyes and a “Here we go again” expression, at least I’m heard at all!

And I expand under such treatment. I become more self-confident and less self-conscious. I’m ready to give more. I’m empowered to be more adventurous because, despite all the odds, despite all my obvious failings and inadequacies, I am loved.

And this was the source of Paul’s enthusiasm for life. He experienced the love of God and it energised  him to give all he had.

Here’s his testimony to it in Romans 5: “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  That is to say, his hope for the future (which he called “the hope of glory“) was driven by his experience of being loved in the past.

But how do you know that this “hope of glory” has any substance to it? Is it wishful thinking? How do you KNOW for sure?

Paul says “Hope does not put us to shame.” It doesn’t let us down or disappoint us. It’s not a mockery of fantasy.It’s real, genuine and it works.

OK: but how do you KNOW?

I know our hope will not let us down, says Paul, “BECAUSE God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

So the foundation –the basis- for my hope is the love of God. It’s beyond any question or doubt and it’s going to bring us to glory. It’s going to bring us home. We have reasons for our confidence, that we are going to make it, not because of our strength or ability but because of his love. He is forming a character in us through all this stuff that happens to us ( “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”). That’s a part of it. He is sanctifying us now and he will glorify us then. Why? How?

Because we are deeply,truly and utterly loved. The experience changes everything.

In the film Bucket List, two options are presented for facing the end of life. Two imperfect men face impending death. One does so with faith and the other without. In the process both learn about themselves, about the glory of the seen world, and both begin to reach for a deeper reality that encompasses both the seen and the unseen. Love really makes a difference.

We have a hope that we will see and share the glory of God. This hope is not a mockery of a thing, it’s the real deal. To be loved means He will never let me down. It means He will never leave me nor forsake me. He won’t let my heart be troubled because He’s preparing a place for me (John 14) and even if I walk in the worst of circumstances, I will fear no evil because the one who loves me is with me (Psalm 23)

But how do you know God loves you like that?

We know because we experience the love of God, right now in our waking, walking,working lives, through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is given to every believer  (Romans 8:16) and here in Romans 5, the verb used is translated as “poured in.“It’s a wonderful word-picture of what that experience of being loved is like. It’s a sudden amazed flood of knowledge that this is all true! The hope doesn’t disappoint. You are loved.

I once organised a shower for a newly-arrived little foster-child. He hadn’t seen a shower before so I explained how it worked. He nodded nervously. As I closed the door behind me, I heard the switch of the tap and suddenly peals of joyous laughter followed me down the corridor. It was “poured out” on him, and he just hadn’t imagined how wonderful it would be.

In the Greek text of Romans 5:5, there’s a shift in the tense of the verb.The Spirit was given to us (the Aorist Participle indicates a single completed action); but God’s love has been poured out (the Perfect tense indicates a past event with ongoing results).

In a nutshell, that means that when we believed, the Spirit came. He flooded our hearts with the love of God but the process of flooding remains!

You can stay in the shower, if you like! When I heard the little boy laugh, it filled me full of pleasure. Do you think that God’s feelings for you are any less than that?

He’s a good good father.

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