Do you find that spending consistent time alone each day with the Lord in the Word and in prayer is a difficult duty, not a joyous delight? Is your spiritual life often dry and routine? Are you often defeated by temptation and sin?
At the risk of being overly simplistic, I believe that all of these problems stem from a common source: You do not know experientially the love of Jesus Christ as deeply as you should.
A young man who has just fallen in love doesn’t regard spending time with his new love as a difficult duty! He doesn’t think, “I really should spend time with her today but, nah, I think I’ll skip it.” Why not? Because he is motivated and captivated by love. He rearranges everything else in his schedule to make time to be with her. Such love is a powerful force that literally changes your life. It motivates you in ways that you do not understand.
But, as we all know, it’s one thing to fall in love, but it’s another thing to sustain it and cause it to grow deeper over the years.
It doesn’t run on autopilot! It requires focus and effort. The same is true with regard to knowing the love of Christ. You come to know it at salvation, but you’ve got to work at growing to know Him and His love in deeper and deeper ways.
Any love that is merely theoretical and has not been forged in the fires of real life relationships is not tested. Genuine love must be worked out with people. That requires that we grow in forbearance, patience, kindness, and forgiveness. John Stott (cited by Carson, p. 198) writes, “It needs the whole people of God to understand the whole love of God.”
D. A. Carson (ibid., p. 196) points out that just as a loving home is required for children to grow to personal maturity, so we must come into the knowledge of Christ’s great love for us, in His household, the church, if we are to grow to spiritual maturity.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote (ibid., p. 219), “Indeed, our chief defect as Christians is that we fail to realize Christ’s love to us.” He adds (p. 223), “How important it is that we should meditate upon this love and contemplate it! It is because we fail to do so that we tend to think at times that He has forgotten us, or that He has left us.”
If you were to ask the apostle Paul, “What motivated you to give up everything for Christ and the gospel? How could you endure all that you did for Christ and keep going?”
I believe you would see tears well up in his eyes and he would answer, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).
He might add (Rom. 8:38-39),
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Live there and you will grow to spiritual maturity!