By Fred Carpenter
In our recent Mars Hill staff devotionals, we’ve been diving into the topic of “experiencing God’s love.” Recently, I was reading in the Gospel Coalition website and I came across this quote from pastor Colin Smith.
“Many Christians live at a great distance from a 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 in the church to believe Jesus died and rose, but they have no living experience of God’s love.”
As I’ve talked with people about our current devotional series, I am increasingly convinced that Colin Smith’s observation is accurate. But why do so many Christians go through life with little or no real experience of God’s love? Before we delve into that question, let’s be clear about what we are asking, and to whom we are addressing the question.
First, we are not questioning the reality of God’s love. We are asking why we don’t experience that reality more fully and frequently.
Second, our question is directed primarily to Christians. One who has not yet been born again is not really equipped to experience the love of God. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3. This is how the Bible describes the person who has yet to be regenerated “born again” by the Spirit of God. That person has a) a dead spirit (Eph.2:1-5, Col.2:13), b) a hardened heart (Eze. 36:26) and c) a darkened mind (Eph. 4:18).
But what keeps God’s own children, those of us who have been adopted by our Heavenly Father, from receiving His love? Most likely, there is not just one thing. The following are things I’ve observed in others and have sometimes experienced myself.
- Addicted to substitutes for God’s love . . . things that satisfy you temporarily, but then leave you empty
- Consumed by the cares or worries of your life in this world – Luke 10:41, Mark 4:19, Matthew 13:22, Luke 21:34
- Focusing more on religious activity than on relationship with the Lover of our soul
- Anger or unforgiveness of someone else
- Feeling that you are unlovable, feelings of unworthiness, that God could never love you the way you are, and to make yourself worthy of His love and lovable is just an impossibility
- Trauma – emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual – something has left you numb or in great pain
- A bad, or non-existent, earthly father figure, making it hard to trust the Heavenly Father
- Bad theology – You may believe it is not really possible to “experience” God’s love.
- Emotional paralysis – existing so long in an emotionally deprived state that it actually – feels uncomfortable and awkward to receive love
- Spiritual Deception – Believing the lie that any of the above are too great to be overcome by God’s love
There is a common condition to each of the above. Each of these can fill our hearts and minds such that there is little or no room left for the love of God. We must be willing to make room for God’s love.
There is also an element of Divine initiative to experiencing Divine love. And because God is the initiator and we are the responders, this is something we cannot control. Perhaps the Holy Spirit used Paul’s understanding of this truth when he penned the prayer of 2 Thessalonians 3:5, “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.”
So, how are you really doing at experiencing God’s great love for you? Have you been experiencing it fully and frequently? Or have you been merely existing with the promise of His love, the head-knowledge of His love, but lacking in the true experience of His love? Why not commit Paul’s prayer to memory, and pray it frequently? And join us over the next few weeks as we consider how to receive His Divine love.
If you have never received God’s gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:23), that is the starting place for you to experience God’s love. The work of Jesus on the cross is the greatest expression of love that there has ever been. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16. If you’d like to know how to begin a personal relationship with God, who loves you with a perfect love, then please visit our page, “Knowing God” page – https://www.mars-hill.org/ministry-through-media/knowing-god.
“Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences; open the gate
It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late.”
–Don Henley and Glenn Frey