May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
Recently, a seminary professor asked 120 of her students this question: “Do you believe God loves you?” Out of 120 Christian students preparing for ministry, how many do you think said yes?
The rest gave answers like this:
- “I know I’m supposed to say, ‘Yes,’ but…”
- “I know the Bible says he loves me, but I don’t feel it.”
- “I’m not sure I believe it.”
How can this be?
Three Steps to Experience God’s Love
Surely every Christian knows the love of God. Did we not learn this in Sunday school? “Jesus loves me this I know / for the Bible tells me so.” Jonathan Edwards used a simple analogy to get to the heart of this:
There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness.
You can know honey is sweet, because someone tells you, but you don’t really know its sweetness until you’ve tasted it. You can know God loves you because your Sunday school teacher told you, but you don’t really know God’s love until you’ve tasted his love.
Here are three practical steps to experience more of God’s love:
1. Be dissatisfied with your present spiritual experience.
Cultivate a holy discontent. The person who prays this prayer is looking for something more than he or she already has: “Lord, direct my heart into your love.”
We live in a “been there, done that” culture, and the great danger is in developing a “been there, done that” form of Christianity: “I know God loves me, that Jesus died for me and my sins are forgiven. So, what’s next?” Then one day someone says, “Do you really believe God loves you?” And your shallowness is exposed.
A. W. Tozer says in The Pursuit of God,
We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him…In the midst of this great chill there are some who will not be content with shallow logic. They want to taste, to touch with their hearts the wonder that is God. I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God.
Don’t settle for a faith in which you cannot feel the love of God and the patience of Christ.
2. Ask God to direct your heart into his love.
This is a prayer, so use it. Make it your own.
Some of you carry a lot of baggage on this. Whenever you think about God, your first instinct, though you believe, is to picture him with a frown on his face. You feel he is angry with you, that he is condemning you. You need this prayer. Listen to this wise counsel from Richard Sibbes:
Present God to yourself as He is presented in the Gospel. The devil, he puts other colours upon God: he presents Him as a tyrant, as a judge, as a revenger… (The Works of Richard Sibbes)
Remember, the devil does this because he hates God. John Owen says in Communion with God:
So long as the Father is seen as harsh, judging and condemning, the soul is filled with fear and dread every time it comes to Him…But when God…is seen as a Father, filled with love, the soul is filled with love to God in return…
All that we learn of God will only frighten us away from Him if we do not see him as loving and merciful to us. But if your heart is taken up with the Father’s love…it cannot help but choose to be overpowered, conquered and embraced by Him.
Some of you think God is cold and aloof and harsh and demanding, and these thoughts are rooted in your mind. You need this prayer: “Father, direct my heart into your love!” Ask God, and go on asking, until your heart begins to thaw in the warmth of the love of God.
3. Gaze into the love of God in Jesus Christ.
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)
Have you ever noticed how people who don’t like each other will glance at one another, while people who like each other will look at one another? People who are desperately in love will gaze at each other.
Isaac Watts used another word to say the same thing in his famous hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Survey, ponder, and meditate on the love of God. Gaze into his love in Jesus Christ.
You may have something awakened in you—maybe you’re thinking, I want more of what he’s talking about. For you, this Scripture sounds like a church bell drawing you in, calling you to seek after God.
Settle it today, in your heart and in your mind, that you will pursue a sweeter taste, a deeper experience, a clearer glimpse of the love of God and the patience of Christ. Go after it. And don’t ever stop.
For others, this is not so much like the sound of a church bell drawing you in as it is the sound of an alarm clock waking you up.
If you have no response to the love of God, shouldn’t you be concerned about the condition of your soul? I hope you’ll ask, “What is wrong with me? I have no interest in the love of God. Why am I so satisfied, when others are hungry and thirsty for God?” I pray you’d ask this question.
Perhaps God will use this post to awaken you from the deadness of spirit in which you have been sleeping for far too long.