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December 11, 2020

Do You Feel Loved by God?

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Several years ago, I heard about a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School who posed this question to her class: Do you believe that God loves you?

Out of these 120 Christian students preparing for ministry, how many do you think said, “Yes?” Two! The rest gave answers like this:

“I know I’m supposed to say, ‘Yes.’”

“I know the Bible says He loves me, but I don’t feel it.”

“I’m not sure I can really say I believe it.”

How can this be? 

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. [1]

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.

Many Christians live at a great distance from this felt experience of the love of God. So much Christianity in the West is shallow and satisfied. It affirms a creed but it so often lacks spiritual life.

Across the country there are millions of people who have a faith, who’ve been brought up to believe Jesus died and rose, they’ve gone to church, but they have no living experience of God’s love.

We need this prayer:

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance (2 Thess. 3:5, NIV).

This is Paul’s prayer for the church. It’s a prayer that God will do something in us who believe but do not always feel that God loves us. He’s speaking to Christians going through great difficulties, and he says, “My prayer for you is that God will direct your hearts into the love of Christ.”

That means it’s possible to endure persecution and not to feel the love of Christ. It’s possible to go through seminary and not to feel the love of Christ. It’s possible to worship in the seats of an evangelical church for 20 years and to not feel the love of Christ.

I don’t want to be there! And neither do you. People who are not Christians endure great pain and carry great sorrows. They do it by gritting their teeth. They do it in Britain with a stiff upper lip.

Paul is saying to these believers, “I want something better for you. I want your soul to be filled with the love of God.”

Three Ways to Experience More of God’s Love and Christ’s Patience

1. Become dissatisfied with your present spiritual experience.

Cultivate a holy discontent. The person who prays the prayer of 2 Thessalonians 3:5 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 that my sins are forgiven. So, what’s next?” Then one day someone says, “Do you really believe that God loves you?” And your shallowness is exposed.

A.W. Tozer says:

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. [2]

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.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 is a prayer, so use it. Make it your own. The Scriptures tell us what we should pray for.

Yet, 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 that He is angry with you and that He is condemning you. You need this prayer.

Listen to this wise counsel from John Owen:

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… If your heart is taken up with the Father’s love… it cannot help but choose to be overpowered, conquered and embraced by him. [3]

Some of you think God is cold and aloof and harsh and demanding, and these thoughts are deeply rooted in your mind.  Ask God to direct your heart into His love, and go on asking until—like snow melting in the warmth of the sun—your heart begins to thaw in the warmth of the love of God.

3. Gaze into the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Have you ever noticed that people who don’t like each other will merely glance at one another? People who like each other will look at one another. People who are desperately in love will gaze at each other.

As the Psalmist says, “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” (Ps. 27:4). Survey, gaze, ponder, and meditate on the love of God and the patience of Christ.

What is Your Response?

How would you describe your current experience of God’s love and Christ’s patience?

Perhaps 2 Thessalonians 3:5 awakens something in you—deep calls to deep. Maybe you’re thinking, “I want more of what Paul’s talking about.” For you, this Scripture sounds like a church bell drawing you in, calling you to seek after God.

If this is you, settle it today, in your heart and 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.

Or, maybe you are thinking that Paul’s prayer is not so much like the sound of a church bell drawing you in as the sound of an alarm clock waking you up.

If you are not awake 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 these questions.

Perhaps God will use this to rouse you from the deadness of spirit in which you have been sleeping for far too long.

_____

1. Jonathan Edwards, “A Divine and Supernatural Light” (sermon delivered in 1734), https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/edwards_light.html.
2. A. W. Tozer, “The Pursuit of God” (Christian Publications, 1982), 16-17.
3. John Owen, “Communion with God”(Banner of Truth, 1991), 18, 32.

 

Photo: Unsplash
This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “The Love of God and the Patience of Christ”, from his series, Staying the Course (When You’re Tired of the Battle).

 


Colin Smith

Founder & Teaching Pastor

Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.
Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.