By Fred Carpenter
I came to faith in Jesus Christ in 1974, near the end of my senior year at the University of Texas. Just prior to that, I was practicing Transcendental Meditation and studying Mahayana Buddhism. I believe there were 2 things God used to prime my departure from TM and MB.
The first catalyst was a book written by Francis Schaeffer, entitled, “He is There, He is Not Silent.” This book deals with the epistemological, metaphysical and moral necessity of the God of the Bible. Those are some high-sounding words, but basically, it came down to this. My study of Buddhism was producing more questions than answers, and that book by Francis Schaeffer answered every question I was asking!
The second eye-opener had to do with a matter of love. During that period of my life, I was befriended by a group of Christian guys. When my colleagues in TM talked about the need for love in the world, it was more like describing the need for people to achieve a certain state of being in which everybody is on the same wavelength. It was abstract. With my new Christian friends, I actually saw love in action. For them, love was not an idea, it was something very concrete. As I consider the subject of today’s devotional, I am reminded of that difference.
Let’s dive into today’s subject by revisiting Romans 5:5 ESV, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
I like the Weymouth translation of the New Testament (1903) which uses the word “floods” instead of “poured out.”. . . God’s love for us floods our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Whichever translation you prefer, the idea here is that God does not sprinkle His love on us. He is not stingy in rationing His love to us. No! He fills us with His love to overflowing. If you are truly experiencing God’s love, you will not be able to contain it. Your cup will “runneth over” (Psa. 23:5). And because you cannot contain it, the overflow will spill onto others.
If we are not loving others, then we might not be experiencing love.
1 John 4:19 reads, “We love, because He first loved us.” If we take this only as a statement of first cause, a proof text for election, then we are missing its full power. There is a statement of cause and effect in this verse. We love because we have known His love. It has been “poured out” in us. It has “flooded our hearts”. And from the overflow of His love, we love others.
As with any cause-effect statement, if the effect does not exist, then it begs the question, “Has the cause actually occurred?” In other words, we should ask ourselves, if we are not loving others from the overflow of His flooding love in us, if they are not getting “wet” with His love, then have we actually experienced the flood of His love in our own heart?
In Luke 7 we read of the religious leader, Simon, who invited Jesus to a dinner party. Unexpectedly, a prostitute crashed the party. Moved with emotion, the woman began to wet the feet of Jesus with her tears, and wipe them with her hair. Then, kissing His feet, she anointed them with costly perfume. Simon and his guests were aghast. Simon was critical of Jesus for not rebuking this woman. Jesus responded to Simon with a parable and a question, “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
Jesus then pointed out to Simon how all evening, he had treated Jesus with indifference, while this woman treated him with extreme love and gratitude. Then Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little loves little.” Jesus’s meaning could not have been clearer. It rings of 1 John 4:19. Simon did not love Jesus, because he had not yet known, or even recognized his need for, the love of Jesus. The source of that woman’s love for Jesus was indeed the powerful flood of pure and perfect love with which He had first loved her.
So where is the disconnect?
If we apply the Luke 7 story to Christians today, we may discover what appears to be a disconnect. If a person claims to be a Christian, one who has been redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God, then that person has been rescued from a condition every bit as desperate as the woman in Luke 7. Think about it. In truth, that woman’s greatest need was not to be rescued from prostitution but to be rescued from an eternity of separation from God. Like that woman, every Christian has been loved greatly and “forgiven much.”
But if this is true, then why is it that so many Christians are known for being more like Simon than the woman? They are known for being more concerned about correctness than compassion.
The world tends to view some people as having a more desperate and shameful past than others. But in reality, apart from the love of God expressed through Christ on the cross, every person is helplessly lost in a shameful and depraved condition.
As a religious leader, Simon may have had a well-developed theology of God’s love. He may have even loved people in order to fulfill the law. He may have known a lot about love, but apparently, he had never really experienced the love of God. Like Simon, a person may know about God’s love and forgiveness. That person may even believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for their sin. But, it is one thing to have a theological head-knowledge of your need for the cross. It is something entirely different to be as moved by the love of God as the woman at Simon’s dinner party.
If you want a deeper experience of God’s love, look to the cross. At the cross, God’s love for you is on display more than any other place or any other time. And, there is nothing you ever have done or ever will do that would cause God to love you any more or any less than He already does.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
“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
February 15, 2022 at 3:54 pm
This description of the overflowing love of God has really touched me through Mars Hill ministry
Because I have always believed in Christ more from a Paul at Mars Hill intellectual perspective than from an overflowing, flooding of love to others that comes from a crucified, glove in the hand, living through and in the crucified Christ Life. Thank you for giving me a different perspective on living out the love of Christ through and in Him, not in our own strength. We can and all get in a rut from trying to do something rather than to be and live in the love of God. I hope this makes sense to someone out there who has been struggling and has given up on trying to please or believe in God! Galatians 2:20
February 15, 2022 at 5:26 pm
Larry, thank you for sharing that this spoke to you. There is no greater pursuit than understanding what it means to let Christ live through us.