‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love ... I am nothing.’ What is this love the Bible tells us so much about, yet is so difficult to grasp? It is ‘to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ’ (Ephesians 3:18). How then do we grasp it? It seems to be as elusive as grabbing a shadow. Yet to know this love is the key to being filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).
Jesus said to Peter, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter knew the answer. He’d walked with Jesus and had listened to His teaching. He had seen wonders performed. He knew and understood who Jesus was. ‘Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”’ (Matthew 16:16). No doubt most of us would have said the same. ‘Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven”’ (Matthew 16:17, NIV).
Peter knew, not from what he had seen or heard, not even by having been with Jesus for the past three years, but by an inner conviction, a spiritual certainty, a God-given revelation, that this man was in fact the Son of God.
The same revelation was given to the disciples as they walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. ‘They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”’ (Luke 24:32). They knew who He was.
Without a spiritual revelation from God, we are no better than a parrot repeating what its owner has taught it to say (and perhaps not understanding a word of it). How then do we know?
This inner conviction of God must come from the Holy Spirit, otherwise it’s only a belief; something we think we know. We may be certain, according to our understanding, but knowing God with an inner assurance and experience must come from God Himself. To know Him is to love Him. It’s impossible to know God in all His grace and glory and not love Him, because love is of God (1 John 4:8).
If knowing God only comes through a personal conviction of the Holy Spirit, how then do we receive it? There needs to be a hunger in our heart and a thirst in our soul. There needs to be a deep inner longing, together with a conviction of sin in our lives and an urgency for repentance.
The unbreakable promise of God still stands: ‘Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled’ (Matthew 5:6). It’s the Spirit of God within us that fans into flame the love of God. Then we’ll know ‘this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God’ (Ephesians 3:19).
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