(by Dave Hunt)
Recently, I have been ever more convicted of how pitifully inadequate my understanding and appreciation really is of God and His love. But isn’t it to be expected that our understanding of the infinite God and of His love that “passeth knowledge” (Eph:3:19)would be lacking a great deal? Indeed not. The Lord declared that we are to glory in our understanding of Him who exercises “lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth…” (Jer:9:24). Understanding of the infinite God? That seems impossible! Yet this is His desire for us. The same glorious One who said to Abraham, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gn 15:1), desires to reveal Himself fully to us by His indwelling Holy Spirit!
Why, then, is our understanding of and love for God so feeble? The answer is not hard to come by if we pause to take an honest look at our lives. What and whom do we really seek? What is our ambition, our passion? Is it notfor the things of earth rather than for Him whose throne is in heaven? Though we would deny this indictment with our lips, do we not often demonstrate its shameful truth with our lives?
Depending upon the type of work we do, we may have to concentrate on our tasks and not be able even to think of our Lord during our business or labor. Others of us could be rejoicing in the Lord while we work. But what about going to and from work? And what about when we are at home? How much of our time there that we could have used to enrich our fellowship with our Lord is wasted on TV, novels, games, and other trivial pursuits of which we will be ashamed when we see Him face to face?
If we truly want to know God, He must be our number one priority. Did He not promise, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer:29:13)? With all your heart! Could that be the problem? The New Testament likewise testifies that in coming to God we must believe that He rewards “them that diligently seek him” (Heb:11:6). Diligently!
Where is our passion for God and Christ? Do those of us who claim to know and love our Lord seek diligently to know Him better? Do our lives echo the psalmist’s heart, “My soul thirsteth for…the living God” (Ps:42:2)? Do we share the passion that was Paul’s: “That I may know him….I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil:3:10, 14)?
In all honesty, how many of us have any real concern or exert any great effort to keep the very first commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Mt 22:37)? Jesus called this not only the first, but the “great commandment” (v. 38). Have we forgotten that fact? In seeking to live for our Lord and to avoid sin, have we overlooked the worst sin of all, failing to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind? When did you last express your love to Him as the passion of your heart?
We may not miss a church service, (though rare are such individuals today). We may sing lustily and sincerely of our love for our Lord in company with others of the “faithful few.” And that is commendable. But let the last “Amen” sound at a “worship” service and conversations immediately and automatically turn to everything but Christ and God. How much “fellowship” after a church service consists of breathless and excited sharing of the wonders of God’s love? Why not? How much is taken up with everything else? Is this not how we reveal our hearts, our true love?
God tenderly reminded Israel, His chosen, “I remember…the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness….Israel was holiness unto the Lord…” (Jer:2:2,3).But then He sadly lamented, “My people have forgotten me days without number” (Jer:2:32). Worse than that, they had turned from the true God, who had delivered them from Egypt, brought them through the Red Sea on dry ground, fed them with manna, subdued their enemies, and brought them triumphantly into the Promised Land. Turned from Him to what? Incredibly, to worship idols of wood and stone! They had forsaken the “fountain of living waters” to scavenge a sip from broken and contaminated cisterns that could hold no water (2:13)!
Reluctantly, Christ rebuked the early church at Ephesus: “Thou hast left thy first love” (Rv 2:4)! What heartbreaking sadness that must have caused our Lord! What about you and me? Have we told Him, from overflowing hearts, that we love Him—today, this week, this month? And beyond what we know intellectually and profess with our lips—what is the reality that our lives demonstrate day after day? Do our actions contradict our words? Do our shallow lives reflect the poverty of so much that passes for “worship” in many churches today but is little more than the repetition of pitifully empty expressions from new song writers? Although sincere, many are not spiritually mature enough to be writing replacements for the old hymns of the faith written by people who knew the Lord for many years and expressed their love and appreciation for God and Christ so well. It’s not the style —it’s the words and the lack of real depth so often expressed in contemporary “worship.”
I grieve over the shallowness of today’s popular “worship” songs that have replaced discarded hymns of doctrine and depth. For example: “I love you, Lord [that’s good to profess], and I lift my voice to worship Thee; O my soul, rejoice. Take joy, my King, in what You hear. Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.” But what “sweet, sweet sound” has He heard? Nothing except a profession of love so empty that it has no expression of His great goodness to show genuine understanding and appreciation that would gladden His heart. Consider, in contrast, the depth of gratitude expressed in one of the hundreds of hymns that has been cast aside:
O teach us, Lord, Thy searchless love to know, Thou who hast died! Before our feeble faith, Lord Jesus, show Thy hands and side, that our glad hearts, responsive unto Thine, may wake with all the power of love divine.
Thy death has brought to light the Father’s heart and ours has won. And now we contemplate Thee as Thou art—God’s glorious Son. And know that we are loved with that great love that rests on Thee in those bright courts above.
Thy flesh is meat, Thy blood, blest Savior, shed is drink indeed. On Thee, the true, the heavenly living bread, our souls would feed. And live with Thee in life’s eternal home, where sin, nor want, nor woe, nor death can come.
Jesus said that to have eternal life we must know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ…” (Jn:17:3). How could we know Him without knowing His wonderful love? And how could we truly know the infinite love He proved on the Cross without our hearts overflowing in love and gratitude and praise? Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian saints (and surely for us today) was that “ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph:3:17-19). Another past hymn writer put it like this: “It passeth knowledge, that dear love of thine, Lord Jesus, Savior, yet this heart of mine would of thy love in all its length and breadth, its height and depth, its everlasting strength, know more and more!”
What praise and thanksgiving we owe Him for His “great love wherewith he loved us” (Eph:2:4)! We believe in God’s love; we talk and sing about it and at times are tearfully overwhelmed by its magnificence. And yet I am overcome with shame because my highest thoughts and most eloquent words fall so far short of expressing from my heart the response that such wonderful love deserves. My constant cry is, “Lord, fill my thirsting heart with a deeper revelation of Yourself and Your wonderful love so that I may give You the praise and love of which You are worthy!”
When I pause to seek deeper understanding and appreciation, it seems beyond comprehension that the infinite God would love me —and not with a generic love but with an intimate, personal passion just for me ! The hymn writer asks,
Love sent my Savior to die in my stead.
Why should He love me so?
Meekly to Calvary’s Cross He was led.
Why should He love me so?
Why should my Savior to Calvary go?
Why should He love me so?
In awesome wonder, we realize how unworthy we are of the least of His mercies. We recognize that this burning question of why He loves us finds no answer within ourselves. Nothing in us could in the least merit His infinite and pure love, which is far beyond our highest thoughts.
The answer to that question, of course, is found in 1 John:4:8, 16: “God is love”! He cannot but love all—because love is the very essence of His nature. But that fact does not in the least diminish the wonder of or depersonalize His love that is so high and yet its intimate passion reaches so low to embrace sinners, even those in rebellion against Him! From hymns buried in the past, long cast aside by today’s “worship teams,” comes the glorious refrain:
What condescension, bringing us redemp tion; That in the dead of night, not one faint hope in sight;
God, glorious, tender, laid aside His splendor, Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul!
Without reluctance, flesh and blood His substance, He took the form of man, revealed the hidden plan.
O glorious mystery! Sacrifice of Calvary! And now I know He is the great I AM!
The chorus of that song expresses the response of redeemed hearts to such wonderful love: “O, how I love Him, how I adore Him—my breath, my sunshine, my all in all! The great Creator became my Savior, and all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him!”
The fact that God’s love “passeth knowledge” and yet can be known is not surprising. Indeed, it is testified to by our experience in this sinful world. Even human love is mysterious beyond our comprehension. That is because it comes from the heart—and “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer:17:9). The divorce rate among professing evangelical Christians is about the same as among the unsaved: about 50 percent. These are husbands and wives who once solemnly, sincerely, and with high hopes pledged their love until parted by death, yet at some point found life so unbearable with the one they had passionately loved that they broke their word.
Those who remain faithful, in spite of all, learn that love is not merely an emotion but a sworn commitment that builds character when it is kept. And that faithfulness, in the face of trials that test it, strengthens love itself. So it is with our love for God. There will be trials that will cause us to doubt His love, and other attractions that will compete for the affections belonging to Him alone. When doubts arise, when fears press in, or when lust invades to unseat Christ from the throne in our hearts, we need only contemplate Calvary to find that nothing can compete with His love for us. Echoing from 150 years ago come words that break our hearts:
Lord, Thy love has sought and found us wand’ring in this desert wide.
Thou hast thrown Thine arms around us, for us suffered, bled and died.
Hark! What sounds of bitter weeping from yon lonesome garden sweep?
’Tis the Lord His vigil keeping, whilst His followers sink in sleep.
O blessed Lord, what hast thou done? How vast a ransom giv’n?
Thyself of God th’ eternal Son, the Lord of earth and heav’n.
Thy Father, in His gracious love, didst spare Thee from His side;
And Thou didst stoop to bear above, at such a cost, thy bride.
Unseen, we love Thee; dear Thy name; but when our eyes behold,
With joyful wonder we’ll exclaim, “The half hath not been told.”
For Thou exceedest all the fame our ears have ever heard.
How happy we who know thy name, and trust Thy faithful Word!
How could a holy God justly forgive sinners? That was the problem facing God, which His love overcame. Again the echo of a hymn comes out of the distant past to thrill our hearts:
Wonderful love that rescued me, sunk deep in sin.
Guilty and vile as I could be, no hope within.
When every ray of light had fled, O glorious day!
Raising my soul from out the dead, love found a way!
Love found a way to redeem my soul. Love found a way that could make me whole.
Love sent my Lord to the Cross of shame. Love found a way—O praise His Holy Name!
And let us not forget what it cost not only the Son but His Father: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” The Father gave the Son of His love to be mocked, falsely accused, abused, scourged, and crucified by His creatures. Out of His infinite love for us, He laid on His Son the sins of the world, punished Him as though He were sin itself, and caused Him to endure the eternal Lake-of-Fire suffering for the individual sins of all mankind that would ever exist. He loved us that much? Yes! Think of that—-—meditate upon it!
We cannot even imagine the anguish of both Father and Son, expressed in that incomprehensible cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Ps:22:1; Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34). And it was all so that we who deserved nothing but eternal punishment could be forgiven! That the Father and Son would love sinners that much is beyond our comprehension—but it ought to awaken a response of love and gratitude within our hearts that will change our lives forever! May it be so to His glory and the salvation of souls!