The Old Testament Zephaniah wrote,
The Lord your God is in your midst,
A mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17)
Now, in union with Jesus, we can say that our Father is exulting over us with loud singing. Nevertheless, we may not dare to think so. Maybe our gaze is fixed too much on ourselves as unlovely and unlovable. Or maybe we are in the habit of looking past rather than at the love of our Father. But with our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will see the Father’s love that is demonstrated in him. Only then shall we hear our Father’s loud singing over us.
As we hear our Father’s loud love song, we will find ourselves returning his love. And, just as Jesus is the One through whom the Father’s love comes to us, so through him our love is returned to the Father by his Spirit. The Father’s loud and joyful song over us is returned though our loud and joyful song to the Father. For through Jesus, we now rejoice over our Father with singing as we rest satisfied in his love.
It should not escape our notice that all takes place in the Spirit. The Spirit brings the Father’s love song down from heaven into our hearts as God’s love is poured into our hearts by the Spirit. And then, by the same Spirit, our love is returned to the Father through the Son.
God demonstrated his love for us through his Son who loved us and gave himself for us. We experience this love personally as God pours his love into our hearts by his Spirit. And we are now called to live in love for God. However, our love for God must always be understood as a response to his love in Jesus. We don’t love God so that he might love us. As John says, “We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).
If we put our love for God before his love for us we might mistakenly believe that his love for us depends on our love for him. So when our days become crowded and God ends up neglected, we may feel we are not worthy of his love. We then start to avoid God. We even imagine that God is waiting for us to get ourselves together before we can again enter his presence.
Such thinking betrays our failure to grasp that God’s love for us is constant. Any increase in our love for him cannot increase his love for us. Any decrease in our love for God cannot make him love us less. Nothing we do can make him love us more; nothing we do can make him love us less. While it is true that our Father sometimes disciplines his children (Heb. 12.6), he does so as an expression of his love for us. His love for us is always free, lavish and constant. The God who IS love does not drive us to the duty of love in guilt and shame. No! In love, he draws love out of us in response to his immeasurable love.