Monday, June 22, 2009

...with a superlative love, with an overtopping love

All of the law and prophets are contained in the two great commandments: "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." And the second is like unto it, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31). To love the Lord with every fiber of our being is the great privilege and joy of every true believer in Christ. It is the primary motivation for our worship, service, obedience, and daily life with each other. As our brother John Piper says, "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him." That is genuine biblical love in action.

Love, though, is such a watered down and misunderstood word today--even in the church. We use the word love in such a casual way, even when referring to inanimate objects, that it seems to lose its very meaning if we fail to understand it biblically. Simply put, biblical love is not an emotion or feeling; it is not conditioned upon anothers response. True love, agape love--the love of God as demonstrated through Christ Jesus our Lord on the cross is four things: it is unmerited, undeserved, unfailing, self-sacrificial, and unreciprocated. In other words, He does not love us because we are lovable, lovely, or doing philanthropic acts of kindness lovingly. He loves us not because He finds good things in us to love, but because it is His divine self-pleasure and elective choice to do so (Ephesians 1:4-14). "God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

  • His love is unmerited, because we cannot earn it... it is His grace gift to us in Christ Jesus on the cross.
  • His love is undeserving, because in and of ourselves we are worthy only of His justice, emnity and wrath; worthy only to be sentenced to an eternal hell, a perditious suffering that knows no end, because of the sinfulness of our sin that has rendered all mankind by nature as "children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:1-2).
  • His love for us is unfailing, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35-39).
  • His love is self-sacrificial, for Christ gave His life as a ransom for many by paying once for all the ultimate price for our redemption from our sin. Think of it beloved, if Jesus had not fully satisfied God on the cross as a "propitiation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17) it would be impossible for God to love me or you.
  • Lastly, His love is unreciprocated, for even an eternity of praise and worship to Him can never repay Him for His unfailing love.
I so appreciate the Puritans... they are my favorite body of authors for theology and practical Bible study. Even though much of the language they used seems by today's standards to be formal, flowery, and archaic, one thing is certain, the Puritans had a high view of God and His Word and loved Him truthfully, wholly and unashamedly. In reading and listening to their words we also will be brought to that same place of worship, love and awe of our holy God.

Thomas Brooks is one of my favorite Puritan writers and he has blessed us with a powerful remembrance of what it means to "love the Lord Jesus Christ." I have reprinted his words for you below with the hope that it will refresh and renew your hearts today to love the Lord Jesus Christ!
"Look that ye love the Lord Jesus Christ with a superlative love, with an overtopping love. There are none have suffered so much for you as Christ; there are none that can suffer so much for you as Christ. The least measure of that wrath that Christ hath sustained for you, would have broke the hearts, necks, and backs of all created beings.

O my friends! There is no love but a superlative love that is any ways suitable to the transcendent sufferings of dear Jesus. Oh, love him above your lusts, love him above your relations, love him above the world, love him above all your outward contentments and enjoyments, yea, love him above your very lives; for thus the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, saints, primitive Christians, and the martyrs of old, have loved our Lord Jesus Christ with an overtopping love: Rev. xii. 11, 'They loved not their lives unto the death;' that is, they slighted, contemned, yea, despised their lives, exposing them to hazard and loss, out of love to the Lamb, 'who had washed them in his blood.' I have read of one Kilian, a Dutch schoolmaster, who being asked whether he did not love his wife and children, answered, Were all the world a lump of gold, and in my hands to dispose of, I would leave it at my enemies' feet to live with them in a prison; but my soul and my Saviour are dearer to me than all. If my father, saith Jerome, should stand before me, and my mother hang upon, and my brethren should press about me, I would break through my brethren, throw down my father, and tread underfoot my mother, to cleave to Jesus Christ.

Had I ten heads, said Henry Voes, they should all off for Christ. If every hair of my head, said John Ardley, martyr, were a man, they should all suffer for the faith of Christ. Let fire, racks, pulleys, said Ignatius, and all the torments of hell come upon me, so I may win Christ. Love made Jerome to say, O my Saviour, didst thou die for love of me?-a love sadder than death; but to me a death more lovely than love itself. I cannot live, love thee, and be longer from thee. George Carpenter, being asked whether he did not love his wife and children, which stood weeping before him, answered, My wife and children!- my wife and children! are dearer to me than all Bavaria; yet, for the love of Christ, I know them not. That blessed virgin in Basil being condemned for Christianity to the fire, and having her estate and life offered her if she would worship idols, cried out, 'Let money perish, and life vanish, Christ is better than all.' Sufferings for Christ are the saints' greatest glory; they are those things wherein they have most gloried: Crudelitas vestra, gloria nostra, your cruelty is our glory, saith Tertullian. It is reported of Babylas, that when he was to die for Christ, he desired this favour, that his chains might be buried with him, as the ensigns of his honour. Thus you see with what a superlative love, with what an overtopping love, former saints have loved our Lord Jesus; and can you, Christians, who are cold and low in your love to Christ, read over these instances, and not blush?

Certainly the more Christ hath suffered for us, the more dear Christ should be unto us; the more bitter his sufferings have been for us, the more sweet his love should be to us, and the more eminent should be our love to him. Oh, let a suffering Christ lie nearest your hearts; let him be your manna, your tree of life, your morning star. It is better to part with all than with this pearl of price. Christ is that golden pipe through which the golden oil of salvation runs; and oh. how should this inflame our love to Christ! Oh that our hearts were more affected with the sufferings of Christ! Who can tread upon these hot coals, and his heart not burn in love to Christ, and cry out with Ignatius, Christ my love is crucified? Cant. viii. 7,8. If a friend should die for us, how would our hearts be affected with his kindness! and shall the God of glory lay down his life for us, and shall we not be affected with his goodness i John x. 17, 18. Shall Saul be affected with David's kindness in sparing his life, 1 Sam. xxiv. 16, and shall not we be affected with Christ's kindness, who, to save our life, lost his own? Oh, the infinite love of Christ, that he should leave his Father's bosom, John i. 18, and come down from heaven, that he might carry you up to heaven, John xiv. 1-4; that he that was a Son should take upon him the form of a servant, Phil. ii. 5-8; that you of slaves should be made sons, of enemies should be made friends, of heirs of wrath should be made heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, Rom. viii. 17; that to save us from everlasting ruin, Christ should stick at nothing, but be willing to be made flesh, to lie in a manger, to be tempted, deserted, persecuted, and to die upon a cross!

Oh what flames of love should these things kindle in all our hearts to Christ! Love is compared to fire; in heaping love upon our enemy, we heap coals of fire upon his head, Rom. 12:19, 20; Prov. 26:21. Now the property of fire is to turn all it meets with into its own nature: fire maketh all things fire; the coal maketh burning coals; and is it not a wonder then that Christ, having heaped abundance of the fiery coals of his love upon our heads, we should yet be as cold as corpses in our love to him. Ah! what sad metal are we made of, that Christ's fiery love cannot inflame our love to Christ! Moses wondered why the bush consumed not, when he sees it all on fire, Exod. 3:3; but if you please but to look into your own hearts, you shall see a greater wonder; for you shall see that, though you walk like those three children in the fiery furnace, Dan. iii., even in the midst of Christ's fiery love flaming round about you; yet there is but little, very little, true smell of that sweet fire of love to be felt or found upon you or in you. Oh, when shall the sufferings of a dear and tender-hearted Saviour kindle such a flame of love in all our hearts, as shall still be a-breaking forth in our lips and lives, in our words and ways, to the praise and glory of free grace? Oh that the sufferings of a loving Jesus might at last make us all sick of love! Cant. ii. v. Oh let him for ever lie betwixt our breasts, Cant. i. 13, who hath left his Father's bosom for a time, that he might be embosomed by us for ever."


Tom Chantry said...

I appreciated this reminder very much.

I don't know whether you plan or intend this or not, but it seems to me that many of your Monday morning posts are encouragements to consider the precious doctrines of the faith - grace, the love of Christ, etc. You tend to save controversial material for later in the week.

Writing as a gospel minister, I must say I appreciate this very much. The controversial material is important, but preaching is an emotionally draining activity, and I have come to look forward to your Monday morning meditations as refreshing food for my soul.

Darrin said...

Steve, I appreciate this exhortation, and especially Brooks' examples of saints of old.

"can you, Christians, who are cold and low in your love to Christ, read over these instances, and not blush?" I do blush, or, if I had a soft enough heart, I certainly would.

We can follow acts of outward obedience, but how can we manufacture love for Christ in our hearts when we find it woefully lacking? This must be a work of God. But the best I can think of is to seek to grow in love by reading more of Him, asking Him for that love, obeying Him, and such.

Does this sound reasonable?

Terry Rayburn said...


You wrote, "But the best I can think of is to seek to grow in love by reading more of Him,"

That's on the right track.

I would add that the way to grow in love for Christ is to grow in understanding the love He has for us.

It's far more radical than most Christians are led to believe, because of the prevalence of Law-based or Performance-based thinking.

The common but wrong idea is that God loves us more when we perform better, and loves us less when we fail and sin.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. He loves us unconditionally.

There is nothing we could do to make Him love us more and nothing we could do to make Him love us less. He loves us. Period. With all the love He has for Jesus Himself.

When we really grasp that (the "breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge," -- Eph. 3:18,19) then we will love Him more.

When we understand how much He loves us as His children, even when we perform miserably, we will love Him more, and the "love of Christ" will constrain us to walk in His ways.

To paraphrase Paul, "Should we perform badly, that is, should we sin, so that His grace and love would abound?"

Of course not. It's better to walk in His ways, but when we don't (as born-again children) we have an Advocate, and His love NEVER falters one bit.

When we "get" that, we will love Him more.