Like many people I have known God all of my life. Growing up this was, in large part, because of my parents’ choices – how they lived, the loving home environment they created and the spiritual life that they passed on to me. However, since I was about 13 years old it has been because of my choices to give my life to God. But with Him and His ways being so familiar to me, it is easy for me to forget that the only reason I actually know God is that He, my God, the God of the universe, first wanted to have a personal love relationship with me. Yet that which can seem so normal to me is actually the most amazing miracle: that God does not just love mankind in a general sense, He loves me and desires to have a personal, intimate love relationship with me. I love being reminded of that and I know I am guilty of taking it for granted at times because God has been such a constant in my life.
Without God at the centre of my life I exist, but with Him I live.
The longer I have loved God, the more I see Him for who He is – His beauty, His majesty and His love. I love the way God keeps sharing and revealing Himself to us. Each time He does I can sense the desire of His heart to draw us, His people, closer to Himself. The longing of God’s heart is that we know Him for who He is and that we give ourselves to Him in love. Of course, that is also the desire of my heart, but you cannot do that from a distance and it doesn’t happen by simply learning about God or studying the Bible. For intimacy is the only way to get to know God. That is why God keeps drawing us to Himself. Indeed, everything God does is with that goal in mind, to make a way for each of us to live in love with Him all of the time.
One aspect of God that has struck me of late is that God is not just a part of life, nor is He simply the creator of life: He is the source of life. As God is love, so God is life. It is the essence of who He is.
Though I have known that fact in principle – God created the Universe, the Earth and everything on it including, of course, the human race – I know it in a deeper and much more personal way because of what God has shown us as a body of Believers. God is not only life, He is my source of life. There is no life for me apart from living in a love relationship with Him. Without God at the centre of my life I exist, but with Him I live.
Our responsibility is not to grow or to try by our efforts to produce fruit, but to live in a full love relationship with God and Jesus.
We are surrounded by examples of God’s life everywhere we look. Through its many varied expressions there are three common characteristics that stand out to me: growth, change and fruit. So it is with us when we live in love with God, the God of life. As Jesus told His Disciples in the parable of the vine and the branches (John 15:1 – 10), anyone who lives in a personal love relationship with Jesus and God will bear fruit. The branch does not have to try and produce fruit, because the fruit is not a result of its efforts but of the fact that it is connected to the vine. The vine, Jesus, is life. Life produces growth and fruit. Any branch that is fully connected to the vine – that is, any person who lives in the full reality of their love relationship with God and Jesus – will grow and there will be fruit in their lives. Our responsibility is not to grow or to try by our efforts to produce fruit, but to live in the fulness of our love relationship with God and Jesus. When we do that then we are in Him and He is in us. When that is where we live by our choices then we will grow towards God, change and bear fruit without even trying. For they are the hallmarks of life.
That is why my personal love relationship with God is so important, because it is my connection to the vine. I can know all about God, about Jesus and His teachings and know people who live for God, but unless I live in love with God then there will be no spiritual life for me to live in and pass on. It is not enough to have fallen in love with God and Jesus, you have to “remain in God’s love” by your choices and continual obedience to His will.
The greatest miracle of all is that God has made mankind His focus and the only way His purposes will be fulfilled. Because He is the God of the ‘continuous present’, what matters to Him is not what has taken place in the past, but what is happening between you and Him now, at this very moment. It is for you to tune into what God is saying to you. To respond fully and immediately to Him and His words. To seek God and His kingdom simply for the privilege of being with Him. To stand with God and look at what He is focused on.
He is the God of the ‘continuous present’, what matters to Him is not what has taken place in the past, but what is happening between you and Him now
Because of that, I don’t actually spend much time looking back at where I or we, as a body of God’s people in Outreach International, have come from. But sometimes, when I find myself talking or writing about our heritage and how God has led us over the past 47 years, I realise just how much we have grown and changed because of God and the transforming power of His Spirit in our lives. In fact, one of the constants in our life with God is that while He remains the same almost everything else keeps changing as we grow and deepen our love relationship with Him.
As a body of people called by God we started off as a coffee shop outreach in Melbourne in 1971, which grew into a church fellowship, and then spread around the world in the following decade. For a number of years early on we owned church properties, constructed a large conference facility with our own labour, ran a residential training program and even had our own school. Then, later, we sold it all and in the 1990’s scattered around the world in response to God’s direction only, years later, to gather together again in church communities.
It has not been about change for the sake of it, or because we have some other goal in mind. We have not been trying to improve things, attract more people or to expand, but to simply live in love with God each day. Our security is not in what we are doing, but that we are doing it with God, for God and in response to His leading. Apart from Him we often do not know why we are doing what we are currently doing, but nor do we need to, for simply being with God is everything. All we need to know is that what we are doing is in response to God. As we sing in one of our songs “Through the unknown, all I know is You. You’re all I need”.
God is life and you can live in the fulness of that life simply by abiding in Him.
We have not sought growth or life for their own sakes, rather that is what has occurred as a natural outworking of living in love with God who is life. All we have done is to keep seeking the One we love to the exclusion of everything else. As Jesus said, all you need to do is “seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness” and everything else will be added to you. Life, growth and fruit are an inevitable expression of living with God. But it is not necessarily growth or fruit that we can see or measure – growing numbers or adding geographical locations – for it is growth towards God for His sake. That is all that God desires with each of us from the first time that we respond to Him. He is always drawing us to Himself, into an infinite and intimate love relationship with Him.
God is life and you can live in the fulness of that life simply by abiding in Him. That does not just magically happen, it is yours to choose in each situation. There will always be real choices for you to make as that is how you express and deepen your love for God. But when you live in love with God then you do not have to generate anything, for God’s life will flow in you and through you as your life is totally and exclusively about Him.
This is what each of us were created for – to live in love with God each and every day. God continues to do all He can to have that relationship with each of us, so all it actually depends on is whether you will live in what your heart desires. To joyfully submit your will to God’s and abide in Him, the God of Life.