Time for part two of the question of the week! Yesterday we dealt with the weird concept that our relationship with God is romantic. Today we’ll deal with the second part of Amber’s question:
How can we understand and receive God’s love?
Enjoying God is the purpose of our lives. It’s the design of the Cross. It’s the destination of our souls.
When we hear that we are called to ‘enjoy’ God, we squeeze our eyes shut and concentrate with an effort that puts Dorothy’s red clicking heels to shame. We repeat to ourselves ‘there’s no love like His, there’s no love like His’ believing that when we open our eyes we will find ourselves in a magical land where we enjoy Him more than anything around us.
We believe that meditating on His love is the key to enjoying Him. I get that. It sounds biblical: we love because He first loved us.
It’s sneaky though, because there’s a way to stand on this truth and bring worship to God and there’s a way to stand on this truth and actually be nurturing idolatry.
It’s 100% true that we love because God first loved us. God set His favor upon us and because of that His Spirit opened our hearts to love Him. We were given the capability to not just know all that is true about His great Gospel, but actually value and delight in that truth.
God’s love displayed in the Cross is great news. Meditating on it will bring us great joy. However, we have to check our hearts. Does the Gospel bring us joy because of what it says about God? Or does it bring us joy because we like stories that seem to make much of us?
God’s love for us makes much of Him, not us. We are self-obsessed creatures. Every part of us longs to worship, but in our fallen nature, we long to worship ourselves. We stand Sunday after Sunday with arms raised and hearts stirred by words on a screen that recount for us the great Gospel story, and we do it believing we’re making much of God, when it is possible that we might just be making much of ourselves.
In Religious affections, Jonathan Edwards shares this quote:
“There are such things in [our faith] which, when a carnal, unhallowed mind takes the chair and gets the expounding of them, may seem very delicious to the fleshy appetites of men.”
We have a tendency to worship anyone who loves us. Wouldn’t we love any story where someone is willing to rend Heaven and Hell to get to us? If we aren’t careful, when we hear of God’s love for us, we can walk away thinking: gosh, I must be pretty special. I must be pretty valuable for God to have done all that for me. We can find ourselves meditating on the greatness of ourselves, instead of the greatness of God.
It’s hard to enjoy God when we are staring at ourselves. The Cross displays His glory, not ours. The Gospel shows us His mercy, not our worthiness.
It’s not hard to test your heart on this. Are the only parts of the Bible that stir your heart the parts about His love for you? Are the only worship songs you love the ones that feature you as a primary character? Or is your heart stirred by passages that show you the truth about who God is apart from you? Is your heart stirred by songs that speak of His glory over and over again without mention of you?
Make no mistake. God loves you. He loves you with an everlasting love. He loves you with an unfailing faithfulness. But that love speaks of His character, not yours. That love reveals true things about His worthiness, not yours. God doesn’t love you because of something in you. He loves you because of something in Him.
There is no one like our God.