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  • « Quotes from Studies on Saving Faith by A.W. Pink | Main | The Greatness of the Love of Christ »

    Chapter Twelve: We Love Him Because He First Loved Us

    The Greatness of the Love of Christ
    Chapter Twelve: We Love Him Because He First Loved Us

    When our great Savior ate with Simon the Pharisee, and a sinful woman washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, the Lord approved of her actions, assuring her of free and full pardon, and taught the proud Pharisee that all who have been forgiven much will love much in return, even as this woman had shown such love to him (Luke 7:36-50). For many pages now, we have been exploring the boundless dimensions of the surpassing love of Christ, and have glimpsed the staggering greatness of even the hinder parts of his free forgiveness and matchless grace. Everywhere we have turned, we have been dazzled by the further unfolding of new vistas of glory and grace in the love of the Savior, and if we have learned anything at all, it is only this, that an eternity will not suffice for us to discover all the riches we have treasured up for us. But having been so loved, dear Christian, and having received so free and immeasurable a pardon, how ought we to love in return? Will we not wet the beautiful, nail-scarred feet of the Lord with our own tears of wondering gratitude? If we have no tears for those feet of condescending love, which staggered to Golgotha bearing all our sin and shame, then we do not know the love of Christ. But all of us who have glimpsed such a love, let us cast ourselves down with our sister, this despised and sinful woman, and open up our own fountains of gratitude to bathe the feet of the Savior of the world!

    If we have been loved by the Lord, we will love in return; but if we love, how will our love be shown? What will it compel us to do? What must they who love the Savior do that is different from what they do who do not love him, but rather serve out of grudging fear or slavish duty? There are many ways by which true religion may be counterfeited by hypocrites, but the litmus test that cannot fail is sincere and overflowing love. It would therefore be to our advantage, before we leave this study, to consider in brief just what this responsive love to the Savior looks like, and how it is that we may know if we are showing ourselves to be sons of his love, and not just slaves of fear.

    1. They who love the Savior long to be with him

    It is the easiest and surest sign of genuine love, that it stirs up a longing to be in the presence of the beloved. How would that woman scorn him who, while professing his love, hated to be with her, and preferred to spend all his time away from her, doing other things and pursuing other occupations! But there are many professing Christians today who show no desire to be in the presence of the Lord, but would rather busy themselves with many other things, even good and noble things, but things that they prefer to the presence of Christ. Martha was cumbered with much service, but Mary preferred to sit at the feet of the Lord, and it was the latter whom he commended (Luke 10:38-42). If we, therefore, would receive the commendation of the Savior, then let us follow in the same example. Where then, may we find the Lord, how may we rest in his presence during the time of our sojourn, when his lovely face is veiled for awhile from his bride? We may be sure that, wherever his presence may be found, there we will find the saints also, sitting at his feet with Mary!

    In prayer

    In the first place, we may find the presence of the Lord in the practice of prayer. How strongly did our Savior urge us to pray, how perfectly did he model a praying life in his own public ministry, with what vast and precious motivations did he induce us to come before the Father with all our petitions! The promises that our Savior left us in his teaching on prayer are so great that, did we not have full assurance of his infinite love for us, we would think them far too lavish and extravagant to be true. We are encouraged to pray as often as we want, to come before the throne of grace with boldness in whatever times of need we may find ourselves (Heb. 4:16), we are invited – no, but rather commanded! – never to cease in our prayers (1 Thes. 5:17), but always to be communing with God in our spirits, and to be singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to him (Col. 3:16), and importuning his mercy and grace at all times (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8). How refreshing is it to know that we may never weary the ear of our Savior, no matter how many times we come to him for more strength. We never have cause to think, “I have besought the Lord's help a thousand times today, surely he is grown tired of hearing and assisting me” – no, for no matter how often we come before him, he urges us still to come yet more often, he never grows weary of giving us aid, he would never turn us away or wish us to leave him alone for a time.

    But there is more yet, for not only does he urge us always to spend our days before him in prayerful communion, but furthermore, he solemnly swears to us that he will answer all our requests, and give us everything that we ask of him (John 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; 16:23-24; Mat. 6:33; 7:7-11; 21:21-22; 1 John 5:14-15). Jesus promises to answer us, and furthermore, he assures us by his own authority as the beloved Son that the Father himself will likewise hear us, and give us everything that we ask in his name, for he loves us too (John 16:26-27). Our Savior knows that we are weak in faith, and so he gives us very many promises and assurances that there is no good thing he will ever withhold from us (Psalm 84:11), that his Father will freely bestow upon us every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), that the Father will certainly give us every good thing that divine wisdom can possibly devise for us, for he has not even withheld his only begotten Son, but has freely offered him up for us all (Rom. 8:32). How sweet are the manifold promises of scripture, in which the Savior assures us that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5), but that we may always come before him in prayer, and access all the divine storehouses of heaven for our own use!

    If we love the Savior, then we will certainly not neglect these precious offers, nor overlook so many wonderful inducements to secret prayer! Hypocrites like to pray in the presence of other men (Mat. 6:5), but they habitually neglect secret prayer, or else engage in prayer only as a cold duty. Some professing Christians count their plastic beads a greater treasure than the presence of the Almighty, and so they babble their endless prayers to Mary, or else just repeat by rote the prayer that the Lord taught us, as if the words themselves could secure his favor, like some kind of magical incantation (see Mat. 6:7). Such prayer is a weariness to God; but the prayers of the saints, which constantly arise before him whenever they are in need, or whenever their hearts are full of joy and gratitude, or in any time whatsoever, ascend before his throne as a sweet-smelling savor, and he rejoices in them. Let this be the first test, then: if your heart is constantly drawn to the presence of the Savior, so that you can scarcely go an hour without pleading for his help and sustaining presence in all that you do, if he is as the Sun to the planets, which keeps you ever in orbit around himself, or as a flame to the moth, from which you can not long stay away but would rather be scorched in its heat than ever to fly away to the darkness, then you may know that you love the Savior. But if secret prayer is a burden and a distasteful duty to you, then have you really known his love?

    In the reading of the scriptures

    We may also find the presence of the Savior in the scriptures, for there he has chosen to reveal himself to us, and it is when we read the scriptures that he has promised to send us his Holy Spirit, to open up our hearts and minds to see more of his glory. How the pages of the scriptures shine with the glory of the Son! There is not a word nor a phrase, not a jot nor a tittle, in which we may not see our Savior unveiled before us in dazzling glory. If we love the Savior, then, we will love to see him and be with him in the Word that he he left us to reveal himself to us. But if we neglect the scriptures, or else read them without using them to come to Christ, of whom they all testify (John 5:39-40), then how can we say that we love him and delight to be in his presence?

    In the preaching of the Word

    Most especially, we who love the Savior will delight to hear the Word of God proclaimed week after week, by those shepherds who stand as the representatives and officials of Christ, and speak in his name. How sweet are the gospel promises that Christ communicates to us every Lord's Day, as his people gather to hear his word! Heaven is opened for a time, and we remember that we are not of this world, and we stand in his very presence and are given the instruction that we need to press on for a few more weary hours. If we grow tired of this blessed opportunity, and habitually demonstrate that we would rather use this precious day for our own employments and amusements, then can we really say that we love the Savior?

    In the sacraments

    And even more blessings yet has Jesus freely bestowed upon his Church, through which to communicate himself to her, and assure her of his ongoing presence; by which I mean those beautiful sacraments, signs and seals of the grace of God in Christ Jesus that are worth more than all the world beside! Oh, the beauty of baptism, by which God sets his own irrevocable seal of ownership and possession on unworthy sinners, by which he promises as with an oath to provide cleansing and regeneration, by which he really joins the trembling sinner to the Lord Jesus in faith, not by the mere doing of the deed, ex opere operato, but through the power of the Spirit who does in us what the water symbolizes to our senses. If someone despises or refuses holy baptism, therefore, through which God has offered to our weak senses the assurance of union with Christ, then can he truly say that he loves him?

    So also is a hearty and regular use of that other sacrament, the communion of the Lord's table, an indication of a heart that loves the Lord. How blessed and comforting a promise he conveys to us, week after week, as we come to his table and feast upon his very body and blood, broken and poured out for us, so that we might live in him! Hypocrites may despise and neglect the breaking of bread, but they who love the Savior will often be found at this table, for their hearts draw them ever to where their Savior's presence may be found, and his presence is most solemnly and assuredly there, at the breaking of the bread.

    In the gathering of the saints

    True saints will also remember the promise of the Savior, that wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, he will be there in their midst (Mat. 18:20). If they love the Savior, they will rejoice to go to the house of the Lord, the temple which he indwells by his Spirit, which temple is his Church, built upon the foundation of the holy apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:19-22). They who neglect the assembly of the saints, or who remain only for a time but then go out, show that they do not really love the Lord, and that they were never really of us, for if they had been of us they would have remained with us, and they would not have grown weary of the presence of the Lord among his people (see 1 John 2:19).

    In death to sin

    Another very telling way in which they who truly love the Savior may be distinguished from them who are Christians in name only is this, that true believers will follow Christ in his sufferings and death to sin. When Christ walked on earth, his life was a constant kind of death and suffering, and finally, he carried his cross to Golgotha and died once and for all, the just for the unjust, before arising never to see death again. If we would be with the Savior, then, we must likewise take up our crosses and go where he went, even through sufferings and unto death (see Mark 8:34). When we have been put to death in the flesh, by our union with Christ, only then will we come alive to righteousness (1 Peter 3:18); and therefore, the true saint will rejoice even in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, knowing that beyond it awaits the power of his resurrection (Phil. 3:10-11). This way is very hard, and so hypocrites are not willing to walk it; but when someone loves the Savior enough, he would rather walk through the valley of the shadow of death with Christ at his side, than to continue alone down the broad and momentarily pleasant path of sin.

    In the coming world

    Finally, we may recognize the saints by their desire for the coming world, when the Savior whom they love fervently will dwell with them face-to-face. They who love the appearing of Christ (2 Tim. 4:8), and long for the world to come, and do not shudder to cross the river of death, but set their hearts rather on the promised land beyond its borders, knowing that there, at last, the Lord will be visible to them and their faith will be sight, are never truly at home in this world, but are pilgrims and strangers in it (I Pet. 2:11). Their hearts are in heaven, they are not as others whose longings are all for this place, but they are never at rest until they finally reach their heavenly home, which is home only because of this, that their Savior there awaits them.

    2. They who love the Savior long to please him

    Not only will they who love the Savior long to be always in his presence, and see more and more of his lovely face, but they will also have a deep desire to please and obey him. They will not just keep his commandments because they are terrified of punishment, or so that they might appear to others to be righteous, but because they heartily love him, and cannot bear the thought of bringing him displeasure. When they love the Lord, then his commandments are not grievous at all (1 John 5:2-3), but they delight in them, and do them with zeal and pleasure, and rejoice to be counted worthy to obey him in every matter. This is why Jesus has told us that, if we love him, we will keep his commandments (John 14:23-24) – for his commandments are not just arbitrary rules to us then, but they are very much like his own blessed Person, they retain the savour of his own grace and sweetness, they are all shot through with his majestic holiness and admirable justice and mercy. A man who loves a woman will often keep some article or trinket that reminds him of her either by its smell or some memory it stirs up within him, or some other such thing; and for the Christian, the commandments of the Lord are like that prized possession, they smell just like the Lord, and so they delight in those sweet-smelling precepts, and are well-pleased to do his will. This kind of obedience is much different from the slavish obedience of fear, and it comes only from the true saint, who loves Jesus and has been loved by him.

    3. They who love the Savior strive to imitate him

    It is also true that they who sincerely love the Lord will want to be like him, and will strive with all their hearts to imitate him. When they see that he was meek and unresisting to his enemies, they will also long to be meek and unresisting when others oppose them, for they have seen that such meekness is surpassingly sweet – after all, was it not when they themselves were the enemies of Christ that he meekly forgave them and reconciled them to the Father? So also, when they see how Jesus loved the saints, they too will love the saints, and prefer others to themselves, because Jesus preferred them, and gave himself up to the shame of the cross for their sakes (see Phil. 2:1-11). When they see how Jesus was zealous to oppose false doctrine and hypocrisy, they will also hate and oppose it, for they cannot stand the thought of tolerating something so hateful to their beloved Lord. The more they love him, the more they will want to be like him, and love what he loved and hate what he hated. They will not be imitating him because they want him to love them, but because he already has loved them, and has shown himself to them as altogether desirable, and so they can think of nothing better than to be like the One whom they love above all other things.

    “Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the children of God! And we are” (1 John 3:1). Therefore, children beloved by God, let us love as he loved, and remember his love always, and never grow weary of searching out the length and breadth and height and depth of the all-surpassing love of Christ, our only Lord and Savior, our King and our God, who is the eternal Son, adored and worshipped together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God in three persons, holy and glorious now and forever, amen.

    Posted by Nathan on April 12, 2010 12:50 PM

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