January 29, 2009
For the Love of God
by Mike Pohlman, Editor, Christianity.com
I recently heard a sermon where the preacher was laboring to convince the large crowd that God loved them. Now, I'm all for reminding people of the love of God, but given our cultural context this particular sermon struck me as misguided.
As I survey the contemporary American landscape, I have a hard time believing anyone today questions whether or not God loves them. So the pleading with the congregation to "accept the fact that God loves you" at best seemed unnecessary. We all too easily accept that God loves us--in fact, we assume it.
This may explain why certain Scripture texts ring hollow in our twenty-first century ears. Consider Mark 2:17: "And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'" Jesus considers it a matter of first importance that we understand who it is that he came to call. And it's not healthy people.
One of the most hideous things about sin is its deceptive power to convince us that we're not sinners. Sin rationalizes away our wickedness so we actually think we’re morally and spiritually healthy. The rationale may take the form of blaming someone or something else--the old “the devil made me do it” defense. Sin also loves to help us compare ourselves to others and thereby anesthetize our conscience. “At least I’m not as bad as him.” But the rationale--whatever form it takes--is simply deceit by another name.
Speaking for myself, I need sermons that remind me that I am a sinner--that apart from Christ I am unrighteous and deserve not God's love, but His wrath. With pride swelling and self sufficiency growing, I need to be reminded of who Jesus came to call. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul rehearsed for the proud Corinthians:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
In other words, I need to remember from whence I've come. And not for mere doctrinal correctness, but so the love of God lands on me with all the wonder that it should.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Take a moment today to consider who you were when God called you to Himself. Perhaps you don’t have a testimony as “dramatic” as some, so let the Bible inform how you understand yourself apart from Christ. As we do this the love of God not only becomes unspeakably precious, but will cause love for God and neighbor to well up naturally in us and pour out from us.