1 John 2:15-16 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (KJV).
God defines True Love; therefore, we must not allow the world to define it for us. The love of the world consists of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The moment any one of these three aspects of the world become the basis of love, we have departed from True Love. These are the opposite; in fact, those who embrace the world actually are enemies of God, or at least become hostile toward Him (see Romans 8:5-8;James 4:4). If you love God, but begin to adhere to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, your love for God will wax cold. If your love for God cools, you will be less able to love yourself properly.
The world counterfeits love and expects its followers to work for it. It has a different definition, and therefore has requirements if a person is going to embrace it. It is born of the flesh or the fallen nature of man, and it can never be satisfied. No matter how hard a person tries, he or she will never be able to satisfy those requirements. You might be very talented, but you will still be compared to others. If you lose your ability to perform in your talent, or perhaps someone surpasses you, the world will cast you aside. You could be the most “beautiful” person on the planet, but once you grow old or somehow lose that beauty, the world will look to replace you with some other beautiful person. Truthfully, it already starts looking for another, no matter how new to the scene a person is. You can be rich, but your soul can be very poor. If you have great wealth and are of the world, will you be able to discern who your friends really are? Does the world love you for you, or does it just admire what you have? What awaits you at the end of your life? If you are rich in this world, but impoverished in the Kingdom of God, what joy do you have? Love eludes even the rich, apart from God. If riches is the basis for love, you will never love yourself enough because there will never be enough to satisfy your soul if you are destitute of God.
Keep in mind that society as a whole begins with the flesh. Therefore, its love has no roots because it has no real depth. The flesh begins with outer appearance and bases much of its bias on beauty and talent. It does not see past appearances, and therefore, is incapable of embracing the things that really matter. Unfortunately, those who struggle with acceptance look at the superficial as the important things in relation to themselves. If their outer appearance does not reflect what they consider beautiful or handsome, they have already started behind in their race for love. How many people are so focused on looking good or looking better that it is to the point where they only feel good about themselves when they “look good?” If they do not feel good about themselves, how can anyone else feel good about them?
When a person seeks and depends on the affirmation of others, he is essentially asking them permission to love himself. If he feels affirmed, he will grant himself permission to love his self. On the other hand, if he feels rejected, he will deny himself love. His love for himself will fluctuate, and in general, his love will become unstable. The purity of love is lost in the mix. In his search for affirmation, he will try to be someone he is not. He will try to fit into some box that someone else built, or try to pour himself into a mould that he is not designed for. What makes this particularly difficult is trying to fit into what he thinks the other person is thinking. Thus, he has difficulty conforming to the mould because he cannot discern its actual shape. It is very difficult to live up to someone else’s expectations, especially if you are not entirely sure of what they are. Failure is sure to happen under such circumstances, and those who live the life of a people pleaser will never have the joy of experiencing true love. When they feel they have failed to live up someone’s expectations, they will feel unworthy of love. Love you have to earn is not love.
The motivations behind what people pleasers do for others are also suspect. What they do for others is more often than not, intended to cause others to love and accept them. That is not to say they do not want to bless others; but in many instances, they are looking for affection in return. It comes to the point where they become the proverbial “doormats” for people to walk on. They cannot say “no” to anybody because they are so overwhelmed by the thought someone won’t like them if they do. Unfortunately, they find themselves abused by others who take advantage of their disposition. This leads greater feelings of unworthiness as the result of their inability to say “no.” This is dysfunctional to the core.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (KJV). When we receive the Love of God through Jesus Christ, we are free to do what He designed us to do. What we do will be the result of who we are in Christ Jesus. That means you no longer have to be someone you are not. His love gives you the power to say “no” when it is appropriate. No more doormats, boxes or moulds for you!
Loving yourself begins and ends with God. The way we view ourselves must be filtered through His point of view, because His is perfect. Anything apart from God is incomplete. Before the foundation of the world, He knew every detail concerning humanity. He knew what have had need of before we were even born, and He made the provision for everything we require. God is a Faithful Father Who loves us deeply. Because He loves us, He wants relationship with us. Before the fall, God had a plan to raise us up. In that plan, He made provision for love. Because of sin, mankind was incapable of perfect love, so He gave us love through the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit begins with love, and all things work by love (see Galatians 5:6, 22). In order for us to receive His Spirit, God gave the Perfect Sacrifice, which is the Perfect Expression of His love. Love begins with surrender, as we will see.
Because God is Love, He does not need a reason to love (see 1Johne 4:8), nor does He have reasons to stop loving. On the other hand, the old nature (or the flesh) often has reasons to love people and reasons to stop loving them. In other words, God’s love is unconditional, and much of humanity’s love is conditional. For example, people love their own family almost to the point of being unconditional. They may even have friends who they love deeply in the same way. However, let a family member or friend “cross the line” somewhere, and they will reject him or her. Furthermore, those outside the family do not have a chance at their love in some cases. Parents generally have unconditional love for their children. Nevertheless, there are those who are incapable of love or at best, do not express love well. How many fathers never became dads? How many have not even accepted their “flesh and blood” as their own? Such rejection greatly impedes the capacity to love and receive love. There are those who say, “If God is a Father, I want nothing to do with Him.” The reason is that they equate the Father with their earthly ones who never loved them. In a number of cases, they were abused by them.
When abuse comes, the ability to receive love disintegrates. If a person feels he or she is only worthy of abuse, he or she will never feel worthy of true love, especially from God the Father. God designed us to receive love as well as give love. When sin and the abuse that came with it entered into the picture, the desire for love and affection became distorted. Even to the point where the negative is easier to receive than the positive. Rejection is easier to receive than acceptance. Why? Because abuse and rejection is “the norm.” Some of the most angry and wrathful people are those who grew in such environments. In many cases (not all), those who are promiscuous are those looking for affection. Yes, there are lust issues to contend with in other cases; however, some promiscuity is rooted in rejection and abuse. Since rejection and abuse are some people’s idea of acceptance and love, they often find themselves in trouble. It has been well documented that those who join gangs are looking for a family to belong. The question is, how much love do they really experience in order to join and remain a member? Do you suppose these are some reasons Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (KJV)? Colossians 3:21 says it this way, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (KJV).
Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (KJV). The love of God is perfect because He is perfect. There is no “line” that stops Him from loving us. In fact, because He loves us, He reached “across the line” to us. Romans 5:8 But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (KJV). That does not mean hell and the lake of fire were eliminated. However, because He loves us so much, He made the Way for us to spend eternity with Him. He gives us the decision as to where we spend eternity. Nothing you can do can make Him love you more. Equally, nothing you can do can make Him love you less. If God loves you unconditionally, it is high time for you love yourself unconditionally.
2Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (KJV). One reason we begin our quest for love with God is that He is the Author of it. By yielding to the Holy Spirit, we are free to give and receive love both. God receives love and so should you. The flesh counterfeits love and keeps people from receiving True Love. However, Galatians 5:16 says, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (KJV). If you surrender to the Holy Spirit, you will walk in the freedom of Love, and not be enslaved to the flesh. Love destroys the flesh, which is why it fights so hard to keep us from Love.
Narcissism is an excessive interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance. It is extreme selfishness and a hunger for admiration. Arrogance is having an inflated sense of one’s own importance or abilities. Conceit carries strong suggestions of superiority and a failure to see oneself realistically.
Narcissism, arrogance, conceit and the like are counterfeit expressions of the way God desires us to love ourselves. Those who embrace these qualities are in an identity crisis. True love has none of these characteristics attached to it. In fact, these reveal a lack of love for oneself in those who practice such things. They have either have not encountered the Love of God, rejected His Love or have difficulty receiving it.
Those who have rejected or have difficulty receiving God’s love either do not love themselves, or at least have difficulty with self-acceptance. In some cases, people have actually learned to despise or even hate themselves. Others do not feel worthy of love because they had to earn it and nothing they did was “good enough.” A number of people never heard “I love you” from one or both of their parents, so the thought of God the Father loving them is foreign. A good many have learned what they do is who they are, and therefore, equate their failings with their worth.
Jesus said “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30, KJV). Obviously, God is our Priority and when we obey this commandment, the rest gets easier. He also did say, “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:30-31, KJV). This tells us that we are to love ourselves. One of the reasons for relational issues with others is that some people do not love themselves in the way God intended. This takes on a number of characteristics, so in some cases the difficulty with loving the self is less obvious. Narcissism, arrogance, conceit and the like can mask what is really going on inside. On the other hand, people’s attitude and behavior toward others make it blatantly obvious.
If a person is void of love, he is incapable of giving love. You cannot give what you do not have. Criticism comes easy to self-haters and self-despisers. Those who feel unworthy will sabotage their relationships with others in order to validate what they believe to be true. As a person thinks, so is he. Those who feel “worthy” of rejection will put themselves in places to be rejected. Simply, they will misbehave so others will despise them. When a person feels un-loveable, he will act un-loveable. Remember, bad attitudes and behavior are symptoms of deeper issues.
There is another extreme for those who crave love and feel unworthy of it. While some people are given to criticism, others worship idols. Meaning, there will be whom they put on pedestals “who can do no wrong.” They are whom they set up in their mind as the ideal person. So much so, that they try to emulate them. They are their gods whom they worship. Therefore, they hang on their every word and glorify them for their every deed. If their hero acknowledges them, they get overwhelmed. They feel small in their presence, because they have an improper point of view. There are these two extremes and everything in between. The majority who struggle with love, live in a dichotomy. That is they despise and criticize some, while adoring and worshipping others.
We are all designed for love and designed to love. Where there is a breakdown in this area, dysfunction will emerge. Without love, nothing is right. God is Love, therefore without Love we would not be here. There would be no opportunity for eternal life, nor would there be healing available for wounded hearts and souls. The first place to begin your journey of love where healing is found, is a relationship with God. He is our Starting Point and our Finish Line. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (see Hebrews 12:2).
Begin here: God is Love (see 1John 4:16). God so loved you that He gave His only begotten Son, so you may have eternal life through belief in Him (see John 3:16). While you were yet a sinner, Christ died for you (see Romans 5:8). Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13,KJV). That is exactly what Jesus did for you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, because God is Wonderful and He cares about you that much (see Psalm 134:14). Worthy is the Lamb Who made you worthy. Because He is worthy, you are worthy. Jesus is our Righteousness; therefore, you are righteous. As it is written, “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, KJV). We love God because He first loved us! Study the Bible and read what God really thinks about you. Listen carefully, and let Him whisper it in your ears. One final thought: you are reading this because God really loves you. He is a loving Father Who wants you and He wants you to receive His Love!
The scepter of God’s Kingdom is righteousness, which means He rules in righteousness (see Hebrews 1:8). It is in His righteousness that we have confidence with God. It has nothing to do with dead works based upon self-righteousness. Rather, our confidence stands firm in Christ Jesus Who is our Righteousness (see 2Corinthians 5:21). There are benefits to righteousness, but before any of us can truly benefit from it, we must understand that righteousness will ever be in Christ Jesus, period! Romans 5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ (KJV). The Father expressed His love to us by giving us the gift of righteousness through His Son that we might stand upright before Him (see Romans 5:8). That leads to the first benefit: reconciliation with God. As a result, we also gain sonship and that means relationship. That means God is our Father. He is our Abba (Daddy, see Romans 8:14-17).
All things that pertain to life come through righteousness. Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (see verses 25-34, KJV). While we may never own a mansion on the earth (though, some might), there is a mansion waiting for each of us in heaven (see John 14:2). While many who are rich in faith may not enjoy all the various foods available, they will have what they need. Nevertheless, some might taste what many consider to be the food of the rich. Whatever the Father provides, the righteous enjoy. That means we must allow Him to decide what we need. However, keep in mind that He loves to bless His children, so do not be ashamed if you have more than enough. Be grateful and understand He has purposes behind it. Purpose is another study in of itself; yet know that one of His purposes is simply to express His Love. Remember as well that having just enough does not make one less righteous than another, nor are we home yet.
God blesses the righteous and His favor surrounds them. Psalms 5:12 For Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield (KJV). God’s favor is not fair, especially since you cannot earn it; it is inherited. All we have to do as believers is receive it and walk in it.
God gives wisdom to the righteous. Proverbs 2:7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly (KJV). Sound wisdom comes from above and we access that wisdom through Jesus. God so wants us to have wisdom that He made it available through Him just for the asking. When you call on the Name of Jesus, you actually call for Wisdom from heaven as you do. 1 Corinthians 1:30 But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (KJV). Worldly wisdom will not do. 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness (KJV). At some point, worldly wisdom will fail a person. It will no longer work in his life; therefore, the wisest thing to do is call on Jesus. James 3:14-17 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy (KJV).
Psalms 34:17, 19 The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all (KJV). God hears the prayers of the righteous and is an ever present Help in their time of need.
Righteousness produces peace. James 3:18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace (see Hebrews 12:11, KJV). One of the fastest ways to lose peace is to forsake righteousness. If you are experiencing stress, fear, anxiety, frustration and the like, ask yourself if you have been walking in the ways of the world or in the ways of the Lord.
Righteousness is received by faith. There are many more benefits than we have space to name here. It is good to love what God loves, and He loves righteousness. If you ignore righteousness, you may also forgo many blessings. So often the answers we have need of in life begins with righteousness. Instead of chasing after your “needs,” chase Jesus! After all, He is all we need.