God is not going to waste this coming year with you. God is going to do something significant in your life. I’m not a prophet, but I can with great confidence say that this year God is going to try to teach you about love: loving Him, loving others and loving you. These lessons on love will come from God’s Word, be illuminated by the Holy Spirit, exemplified by Jesus, and experienced in real life.

These lessons on love will cover five aspects of love.

  • How to receive God’s love
  • How to express love to God
  • How to love others
  • How to receive love from others
  • How to love yourself

God is going to work on those five aspects of love in your life. God is love and He wants you to be like Him. Let’s begin by defining what love is and then unpack each one. What is love? The Bible describes four different types of love.

Romantic love

One type of love is romantic love and is found in the Greek word eros (pronounced AIR-ohs) and refers to sensual or romantic love. Eros form of love seeks its own interest and satisfaction. It wants to possess the object of love. In the Bible this eros love is reserved for marriage. Eros love when applied biblically is seen in the physical and sexual pleasure between husband and wife.

When the world and your sinful nature gets a hold of this, it becomes perverted. Eros love becomes contaminated when it is applied outside the marriage in sex before marriage, adultery, and with pornography. Some of you will need to be trained or retrained on what eros love really is and how to experience it under God’s authority and blessing.

Family love

Another type of love is can be called family love and is found in the Greek word storge (pronounced STOR-jay) and is the kind of love God wants developed between parents and children, and brothers and sisters. It’s the kind of love a grandparent should have toward their grandchildren, an uncle toward his nephews and an aunt toward her nieces. This is also seen in the family of God between brothers and sisters in Christ.  Romans 12:10 says, Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (ESV).

This year God is going to be working on you in regard to how you love your family and your church family.

Friendship love

Another type of love can be called friendship love. Friendship love is found in the Greek word philia (pronounced FILL-ee-uh) and this is the type of love most believers have toward one another. It describes a powerful emotional bond you find in deep friendships. This is the most general type of love in the Bible. It includes love for people in general involving care, respect, and compassion for people in need. In Matthew 11:19 Jesus is described as “a friend of… sinners” (NASB). Jesus showed care, respect, and compassion for sinners. That’s what made Him a friend of sinners.

This year, God is going to be teaching you how to love those who sin differently than you. He is going to teach you how to be a friend of people who are sexually immoral, greedy, and divisive. He is going to teach you how to love those who lie, gossip, and steal. He will teach you how to be a friend of sinners.

Divine love

Another type of love can be called divine love. This love is found in the Greek word agape (pronounced uh-GAH-pay) and is the highest form of love in the Bible. This love defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for people. It is the divine love that comes from God. Agape love is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure. It is the type of love found in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life” (NASB). Ultimately, this is the type of love God wants us to have toward Him and others.

This year God is going to teach you about agape love. Agape love requires that you die to yourself, your plans, and your will. It is the type of love that says to God, “Not my will, but your will be done.” God is going to teach you about this and how that looks in your marriage, as a parent, your relationship with God, and your relationship with others.

With that said let’s take a brief and quick look at the five areas that God is going to work on in your life when it comes to love.

How to receive God’s love

The first lesson you can expect from God is how to receive and recognize His love for you. God loves you. He is committed to you because you are made in His image. He is faithful to you. He is gracious to you. He is forgiving, patient, and kind to you. He provides for you, He encourages you, and He equips you with what you need to accomplish His will. Let me give you three things you need to know about God’s love.

God demonstrates His love to you

First, God has told you and demonstrated to you that He loves you. God’s Word says in Romans 5:8, “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (NLT). God’s love is visible, not invisible. God’s love has never been hidden, nor kept a secret. He fully displayed the width, the depth, and height of His love when Jesus died on the cross for your sin. God just didn’t say He loved you, be demonstrated it through Christ on the cross. We cannot honestly say, “God has not demonstrated His love to me.” God has demonstrated His love to you through His Son Jesus Christ.

God loves you even at your worse

Another thing about God’s love is that He loves you even at your worse. God loves you enough to accept you as you are. God’s love is unconditional. You don’t have to meet a certain standard for God’s love. Listen carefully to Romans 5:8 again, “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (NLT). God loved you while you were still a sinner. This means that while you didn’t believe in Him, while you didn’t love Him, while you were rebelling against Him, while you were ignoring Him, while you were doing anything you wanted to do without acknowledging Him God loved you. He loved you in your worse condition. He loved you just as you were and just as you are. He is committed to you when you are not committed to Him.

God loves you enough to not leave you as you are

One more thing about God’s loves. God loves you enough to not leave you as you. God’s love is big enough to accept you as you are and big enough to take you where you need to be. Listen to Hebrews 12:6, “The Lord disciplines those He loves” (NLT). The word discipline means correction, training, improvement, or adjustment. God’s love wants you to reach your potential in life and the way God helps you do that is through discipline and correction. When your child disobeys you and you ground them, spank them, or withhold certain privileges from them… do you hate them or love them when you do that? You correct them because you love them. The same is true for God, when you are being disciplined by God, He is doing that because He loves you.

This year, God is going to teach you how to receive and recognize His love for you. Some of you have a warped view of what God’s love is and is not. The devil has convinced you by lying to you about God’s love for you, so you don’t receive God’s love and don’t recognize God’s love. God is going to work on that this year in your life.

How to express love to God

A second area that God is going to work on in your life is you expressing your love to Him. Because you are a broken person you struggle to express your love to people and to God. God knows that you not only need to recognize and receive His love, but learn how to express your love to Him. When you are in a healthy love relationship with the Heavenly Father, Him loving you and you loving Him, you are at your best no matter what happens in your life.

Jesus summarized it this way in Matthew 22, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind” (v.38, NLT). In the big picture, this simply means with everything you have and with everything you are. However, I think it would be helpful to dissect this phrase into three parts and examine each one a little closer.

Loving God with your heart

Your heart deals with your will. Your heart is where you find out why you make the choices you make. This is where your decisions and motivations are made and that produces actions, words, and behaviors. God says I’m going to teach you how to love me with all your heart.

Loving God with your soul

Your soul is closely related to your emotions, feelings, attitudes, and convictions. I’m going to teach you how to love Me with your emotions, feelings, attitudes, and convictions regardless of what is happening in your life. He is going to teach you how to manage your emotions so you will be driven by your faith rather than driven by your feelings

Loving God with your mind

Your mind deals with your intellect, understanding, and your thinking. God is going to work on how you think (Rom. 12:2). He knows your thoughts influence your emotions and your emotions impact your decisions. God is going to help you to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) and help you fix your thoughts on what is true and excellent (Philip. 4:8). God is going to teach you how to love Him with your mind.

This year God is going to teach you how to love Him with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. He knows the more you love Him like that the more you will be in His will and that is the best place for you to be.

How to express love to others

A third thing that God is going to teach you this year is how to express love to others.

Jesus summarized it this way in Matthew 22, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (v.39, NLT). Your neighbor can range from the person across the room or across the world. But let’s focus on the people who are actually in your life.

Loving people by praying for them

Let’s start with the difficult people in your life. Jesus said in Matthew 5, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of Your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:43-45, NLT). You may have a hard time talking to your enemy. You may have a difficult time being in the same room with that person because of what they said about you, how they mistreated you, manipulated you, used you, neglected you or abused you. Jesus said that one of the ways you love your enemy is to pray for them. God is going to use those difficult people in your life to teach you how to love even your enemy.  

Loving people by honoring them

God’s Word also says in Romans 12:9, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (vs.9-10, NLT). We have all done this. We say the right thing and do the right thing, but we don’t really love this person, we just pretend to love them. God is going to teach you how to really love them and have a genuine affection for them. This is where you actually care about this person. One of the ways this real love expresses itself is by taking delight in honoring the person. When you love someone you want to help them feel valued, important, significant, and needed. You delight in honoring them. God is going to teach you how to do that with the people in your life this year. He is going to teach you how to honor your spouse, honor your parents, honor your children, honor your boss, honor those you work with or go to school with.

How to receive love from others

A fourth thing that God is going to teach you this year is how to receive love from others. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 3:12, “May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows” (NLT). There is a give and take when it comes to love. I love you and you love me. It’s one thing to love people, but it’s another thing to receive love from people. Some of us don’t know how to receive love from others very well.

Sometimes love comes in the form of a blessing, a gift, a service, assistance, advice or counseling. Sometimes that love comes in the form of a rebuke, correction, or admonishment. Whatever form that love comes in we need to be able to recognize it and receive it. There are people in your life expressing love to you the only way they know how. Receive it.

How to love yourself

Finally, God is going to teach you how to love yourself. There is a healthy love for yourself and there is an unhealthy love for yourself. God is going to teach you how to love yourself correctly.

Unhealthy love for yourself

Unhealthy love for yourself is found in 2 Timothy 3, “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (vs. 1-5, NLT).

Back in verse 2 God’s Word says, For people will love only themselves. They don’t love God and they don’t love others. Their decisions, actions, thoughts, and values are all about what brings them pleasure and happiness. That is an unhealthy love. For some of you God will need to deconstruct that and rebuild it with a healthy love for self.

Healthy love for yourself

Jesus said in Matthew 22, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 39, NLT). That statement is in the context of loving God and loving others. Loving yourself doesn’t mean being selfish, but it does mean you respect yourself and you see yourself as valuable and significant. You are a creation of God. God has a plan and purpose for your life. You care about your own physical health, emotional and mental development, along with your spiritual growth. You understand there are boundaries. There are things you say yes to and things you say no to. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of others.

Over the next twelve months God is going to help you grow in how to love you the way He wants you to love you.

Conclusion

God is always working on these five aspects of love in your life, but there is usually one that seems God is working on the most in your life. My question for you is, “Which one do you think God is working on the most right now in your life?” What is it that He is trying to teach you?

God does not speak to you about all five of these at one time. That would be overwhelming. For example, there is one aspect of these five that jumped out at you. It’s the one that grabbed your attention. That’s the one God is saying to you, I want to help you grow and learn in this aspect of love right now. At this time in your life, God is saying something to you about one of these five.

God is not going to waste this year with you. He is going to use every good thing and every painful thing to develop you. He is going to use every blessing and every problem to make you more like Christ. He is going to use every nice person and every rude person in your life to deepen you and mature you. God is not going to waste this year with you. He has given you this year, use it for His glory.