God’s ‘Love Language’
Agape. Divine love that is completely unselfish and all-giving. In a previous article, I shared that it really is possible to “grasp” this love, to truly experience it and to “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). After all, agape is who He IS and we are to be conformed to His image.
A couple of years ago, I felt the Holy Spirit brooding over this in a new way. I’ve had an ongoing deep and interesting dialogue with the Lord about this; lots of questions, lots of thinking through things with Him. I have felt the urgency of His heart regarding this topic. I hope I can do this justice as I simply share how our conversations have unfolded. Hang with me, because we are going into some deep reasoning with the Lord on this. Engage your thinker.
Over the past seven years, the Lord has taken me to some amazing places in learning how to love through my fears and self-protection mechanisms; to truly love others unconditionally. One evening, I had a series of questions pop into a thought bubble above my head, “Do we ‘agape’ God? Do we love Him unconditionally? Have we made agape about us? What about Him?”
To The Starting Line
Mark 12:29-31 (NIV – emphasis added):
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E! Why? Well, obedience is an expression of our worship (Genesis 22:1-4), our faith (Hebrews 11:8-9), our agape (1 John 5:2-4). We have to grasp this! To agapeo God means we love Him on His terms. In fact, the only way to grasp this agape love and be able to truly have it for others is obedience. The Spirit guides us into all Truth. The Spirit is the author of the Scriptures, which menas that the Spirit will never guide us into anything that is not in alignment with the Scriptures. Spirit and Truth — they are married — inseparable. To agapeo God means we have an uncompromisingly surrendered will (heart) to obey the Spirit as He guides us into each Truth that our emotions (soul), thoughts (mind), and behaviors (strength) need to align with.
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Behaviors are really manifestations of our emotions and thoughts. We do what we believe, so our “believer” has to be retrained. The Lord orders the process. We don’t, and we can’t, do this all at once. The sanctification process is orchestrated by the Lord, and the Spirit is the guide. We offer our will — our agreement with His assessment of where our standards are out of alignment with His, and our permission to be changed by Him. He does the work by His grace, through our faith (obedience expresses faith). Our surrender shows Him we believe He’s good, He has our best interest at heart, His way is better than our way, He’s a genius at giving us the best life, and that He’s a God of “more than” not “less than”. He is not going to give us something “less than” what we currently have if He’s requiring us to give it up. Resurrection comes after death!
Now, understand that we cannot do this legalistically out of our own striving. He does the transformational work. It looks like this: “Lord, You have highlighted the next area of my operating system that needs to be reprogrammed. I don’t have the code to reprogram it myself, but I agree with your assessment — this area of my life is not in order according to Truth, so I give you permission to do whatever is necessary to get the programming right.” OR, I’m a bit more raw — this is what I say, “Yep, You’re right again. That stinks, but I don’t know how to be any different than that, so I give you permission to take the trash out.”
THEN YOU OBEY whatever He tells you to do — every moment of every day! It may not even seem connected, but being surrendered means you just walk each step in obedience, remembering that the Spirit is always guiding you into Truth. I don’t know about you, but I only want Truth. That’s why His Word is so precious. It is the primary source of His standards for testing what I’m hearing. If what I’m hearing doesn’t line up with what He says in His Word, it’s not His Spirit.
There are times the Lord has healed one of my mindsets instantaneously (this is rarely the case). There have been times He’s called me to extended seasons of fasting and I had no idea why until I was a few weeks in — then He’d speak a word that would reveal a mindset / belief / emotional issue that He was healing through the fast. Sometimes He’s given me incredible revelation in a classroom season and then He orchestrated the “perfect storm” of a lab experience to give me the opportunity to apply it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given the Lord permission to take out my “trash” and then later found myself in a situation I’ve been in many times before, but suddenly found myself not “being” myself; I was doing it completely differently. I have no idea how or where along the daily process of surrender He transformed me, but He is so good at what He does!
- Check your level of surrender. Surrender means every answer to what the Lord asks you to do is, “Yes” — no matter what! If you say, “No” then you’re not surrendered. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s asking the Lord if you get to feel a certain way, think a certain way, respond a certain way about your circumstances / situations, if you get to remember certain things from your past. It’s about getting His perspective on everything and holding that as your own perspective; making His Truth your Truth. I even ask Him if I get to want to… Get this — I don’t even get to love others the way I want to love them, or the way they want to be loved. I have to surrender to the way God wants to express His love in any and every situation. Sometimes that’s just not stinkin’ pleasant!
- Check your level of freedom. It’s the Truth you know that sets you free. You don’t know something until you’ve done it, so you have to do the Truth in order to be free. There is no freedom when you deny Truth because the Spirit of Truth is always working to be your guide into Truth. That is a wrestling match that the Spirit will not stop because it’s His assignment from God. The Spirit also agapeos the Father, thus is radically obedient to His will.
- Check your hands and pockets. If there is a behavior, mindset, emotional issue that you intentionally hold onto after Truth has been highlighted, chances are that it requires another sin in order for you to keep it. This sin-layering will bog down your conscience, and covering up sin with sin will steal your peace and rest, and ultimately lead to self-deception.
Primary & Secondary
This is not behavior modification; it is heart (will) conformance that brings transformation in your emotions and thoughts so that behaviors change. In fact, if we as the Body only focus on the visible sin issues, it provides a smokescreen that prevents us from looking at the invisible heart issues — rebellion, jealousy, greed, envy, lying, competition, control, manipulation, lust, judging, anger, fear, unbelief, etc. These drive behaviors. Our goal is a total heart transplant — ours for His!
At times on this journey, it seemed the lines would blur for me between loving people and accepting behaviors that just don’t align with Truth. Was this judging? What about grace and unconditional love? I can tell you, on the other side of obedience is agape for others after agape for God first. That means His standards are always the standards. And His love is multi-faceted and takes on many forms; it’s always kind but not always nice. We need to expand our definitions to match His dictionary.
It’s unbelievable to me that Jesus had to learn obedience (Hebrews 5:7-9). Why is that important for us to understand? Because it isn’t even necessary to be obedient until your will doesn’t align with God’s will — until you have to wrestle with your will, your soul, your mind, your body to bring it into submission. Jesus’ will disagreed with the will of His Father in Gethsemane. He had to surrender His will. As I pondered this, Jesus asked me the following question, (and I will leave you with this to ponder with me): “What IF I didn’t PRIMARILY die because I love you? What IF I PRIMARILY died because I agapeo My Father, and to agapeo My Father I had to obey unto death?” You see, He didn’t come to serve us. He came to serve the Father (John 8:28-29; John 12:49-50), and in doing that we were the recipients of the overflow. May it be so with us (John 14:23)!
We’ve missed it if we haven’t fallen so in love with Jesus that we will pay any price for the Father to make us into His image — willing to lose nothing less than everything, including relationships (Matthew 10:37-38)! Jesus showed us how to agapeo God unto death, and in so doing demonstrated God’s agape for us — the first and most important commandment, and the second one that is like it. It’s time for us to get first things first, and second things second!
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