God is love. Maybe more than any other statement this has been used to identify God's basic essence. But if we consider God's love apart from the totality of God's nature, our understanding of God will be dangerously skewed. So what does God mean when He says that He is love? Pastor John Piper offers a helpful definition:
Biblical love is the overflow of joy that God has in Himself, spilling out on unworthy people to draw them into the greatest experience in the world, namely knowing, tasting, enjoying, praising, being swept up into the glory of God.
(“The Pleasure of God in Election,” ©Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org)
This definition may sound unusual to many because it places God, not people (or a child), at the center of God's affections. It almost seems prideful or selfish of God. And it would be…if God were not truly worthy of all honor and praise. But He is glorious beyond measure, and our happiness can only be realized through Him! Hence, the "God-centeredness" of God becomes an everlasting fountain by which He can freely and continually give of Himself to His people. For example,
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, (Ephesians 1:7-8a)
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you… (Psalm 31:19)
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)
Illustrating for Children a God-Centered Definition of Love
You will need a jar of blowing bubbles and a wand. Begin to enthusiastically blow bubbles toward the children. Encourage them to enjoy the bubbles. After a minute or two, stop blowing the bubbles. Hold up the bubble jar and wand and comment:
This jar and wand belong to me. I enjoyed blowing the bubbles. But did I keep the joy of the bubbles just to myself? Did I try to hide them from you, or keep them out of your reach? No. I aimed them toward you on purpose so that you could enjoy them, too. I shared my enjoyment with you.
This can help us to understand God loving Himself most of all. God's love for Himself, "spills out" and overflows to others so that we can enjoy Him, too—just like my bubbles spilled out and overflowed to you so you could enjoy them.
God is not selfish with His joy, keeping it all to Himself. He gladly shares His joy so that we can enjoy Him, too. That is love.
Next point to the various ways God gives of Himself for the joy of others. For example, God created a beautiful world filled with all sorts of wonderful things for us to enjoy; God created people in a special way so that we could receive and enjoy God’s love; God provides us with good things like family, friends, and more. The Bible tells us about the most loving thing God has done. Read John 3:16 together.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
- The most loving thing that God has done for us is give us His Son.
- Jesus came to earth in order to give up His life and die for sinners.
- Whoever believes in Jesus will receive eternal life.
- Eternal life is living forever with God, enjoying the happiness that He gives.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)