Thoughts on a Saturday morning…
As I sit here this morning praying, contemplating prayer and petitioning God on behalf of my family, my church, friends, relatives and myself it occurs to me – quite simply – that all of the blessings I seek from God will be, indeed must be, if given, rooted and grounded in, and only in, a deep, abiding, passionate, single-minded, reckless, consuming, all-encompassing, “can’t get my mind off of it”, “never want to get my mind off of it”, spilling out of my heart, my mind, my mouth and my pockets LOVE for Jesus (Matt 22:37)! I am rebuked by the Spirit and am called to repent (Rev 3:19). As I pray in my “prayer closet”, with my family and in our church for revitalization it dawns on me that the reason we must now pray earnestly for renewal is that we scarcely love Jesus at all! We have, like the Church at Ephesus, busied ourselves with activities and obligations and giving (Rev 2:2-3), which is not a bad thing in itself, but we have “abandoned the love (we) had at first” (2:4). Were that not so we would not be petitioning God for revival, rather, we would be spending our time in prayer seeking what God would have us to do with the blessings he is already pouring out on us in such abundance we could not contain it (Mal 3:10-12 – I know this passage is in the context of giving but according to 2 Cor 9:6-8 what should be our motive for giving?). Is there anything in the child of God more pleasing to Him, more honoring to Him or more consistent with His will than this kind of love for Christ?
I can think of nothing more critical than my affection for Christ and yet, to my shame, I can think of little more lacking in me. I am a Pharisee…a white-washed tomb (Mat 23:25-28)…a hypocrite (Matt 23:2-4)…a stumbling block (Matt 23:13,15)…an attention-seeker (Matt 23:5-12)…self-centered (John 16:2-3, Rom 10:1-3)…legalistic (Mat 23:16-22)…double-minded (Mat 23:23-24, Jam 1:6-8)… Why are these apt descriptions of the Pharisees, and those of us guilty of these, if not, at their foundation, the result of a lack of this kind of love for Christ?
Is it any wonder that the Spirit’s felt presence among us – privately and corporately – is usually faint and intermittent, if not non-existent, when our love for Christ, rather than being as it ought, is more akin to the love we have for that rich uncle who, between family reunions, we only call on when we are in need? Can the man who leaves his wife and visits rarely, even though he sends money and speaks nicely of her to others, honestly be accused of loving her? He may object: “Well, I read her biography! I called her on the phone the other day! I admit she’s really done a lot of good things for me! That’s gotta count for something.” Does it?! It seems perhaps his “lukewarm” efforts are less an evidence of love and more of a slap in the face than if he just ignored her altogether (Rev 3:16).
While I love that my church has been focusing on prayer and, in fact, I admit this series has been incredibly helpful (indicting, rebuking, convicting) to me, I have discovered that my (and your) prayers are falling to the ground like stones if they are not being raised up to God out of this kind of love for Christ. If I have not (this) love (1 Cor 13) for Christ my prayers of confession are disingenuous, my prayers of adoration are flippant, my prayers of thanksgiving are anemic, my prayers of intercession are subdued, my supplication is muted and ineffectual – Jam 5:16, the operative word being “righteous”.
I want to love Christ. Then, I want to love Him more…and more…and more…and MORE!!! O God, Abba, Father – by your great mercy and grace I beg you to carve out of me, regardless the cost, anything in me that is a hinderance to loving Christ more. Based on the small amount of love I do have for your Son, please do that which is more consistent with your holy will than anything else in all of your revealed Word and create in me a clean heart that loves and esteems Jesus above all things. I want to love Christ for His honor but admittedly also for my own self-interest. I cannot and will not find my most satisfying joy, in this life or in eternity, if it is not found to be flowing out of the kind of love for Jesus that I am seeking. If I become known by men as a prayer-warrior but have not this love for Christ, “I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”. If I can pray corporately in such a way as to move the hearts of men but have not this love for Christ, “I am nothing”. Father, I can attend church, go to prayer meetings, have accountability partners, engage in discipleship, do family devotions, sit in my prayer closet, listen to God-honoring, Christ-exalting music, read books all in an attempt to know Christ better that I may love him better but you do not super-naturally work in the deepest parts of my soul the kind of love for Christ I seek then I am lost and hopeless. Convert from my brain the potential energy of a knowledge of Christ and my need for him – which I too often allow to satisfy me as sufficiently pious – into my bloodstream the kinetic energy of a living, breathing, active, effective, emboldening, radical love for Jesus. Father, I know Christ has me and cannot and will not let me go but I do not want to be satisfied with Him having hold of me, I want to lay hold of him. I don’t want to spend another day being hindered by my sin and lack of affection for Christ. O God, please give me Christ in this measure, in this life, or take me home now! It is in Christ’s glorious and worthy name I pray. Amen.
May this continue to be my (and your) earnest, fervent, importunate plea to God until he is “wearied” into fully granting it and making it the basis for a third, world-wide Great Awakening for the sake of His Son.