It's LOVE!

John Piper, writing about the great preacher Jonathan Edwards, said this: “…our people need to hear God-entranced preaching. God himself needs to be the subject matter of our preaching, in his majesty and holiness and righteousness and faithfulness and sovereignty and grace. And by that I don’t mean we shouldn’t preach about the nitty-gritty practical things like parenthood, and divorce, and AIDS and gluttony and television and sex. We should indeed! What I mean is that every one of those things should be swept right up into the holy presence of God and laid bare to the roots of its Godwardness or godlessness. What our people need is not nice little moral or psychological pep talks about how to get along in the world. They need to see that everything, absolutely everything—from garage sales and garbage recycling to death and demons—have to do with God in all his infinite greatness. Most of our people have no one, no one in the world to placard the majesty of God for them. Therefore must of them are starved for the infinite God-entranced vision of Jonathan Edwards and they don’t even know it. They are like people who have grown up in a room with an 8-foot flat white plaster ceiling and no windows. They have never seen the broad blue sky, or the sun blazing in midday glory, or the mission stars of a clear country night or some trillion-ton mountain. And so they can’t explain the sense of littleness and triviality and pettiness and insignificance of their souls. What our people need is the God-entranced vision of reality that Jonathan Edwards saw.” (Jonathan Edwards: The Pastor as Theologian: Life and Ministry).

The quote struck me because I had just finished reading Psalm 105 and had been attracted to the first five verses which deliver to the reader a series of actions to take to engage more fully with God. Here they are underlined for you:

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered…

This sounds like a full-time occupation to me. But isn’t that, or shouldn’t that, be our goal—that we be so in love with Him that everything revolves, not around us, but around Him. Lovers know what this looks like and feels like. But I wonder if our love is not often like what passes for love in much of our society today—simple lust that will pass when something better, or more interesting, comes along, or dies when hardship happens.

The psalmist was writing about a love for God born out of an overwhelming encounter with Him. This was an encounter similar to that of the prophet in Isaiah 6 who said, after seeing the Lord in all His glory and holiness: “‘Woe to me!’ I cried, ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty’” (Isaiah 6:5). Peter had a similar encounter on the sea one day when he realized who Jesus was. Luke writes: “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!’” (Luke 5:8).

As Piper wrote, to have an encounter with God drives us to undertaking a reality check on ourselves. Then, and only then, we can appreciate the mercy and forgiveness of God that provides the groundwork upon which to build that love relationship with Him that permeates our lives so deeply that everything, “…from garage sales and garbage recycling to death and demons…” has to do with Him.

As I sit here in my office and write these words, I recognize how rare these encounters are for me, how far away I am from this kind of connection with God. Do I want it? With all my heart. In a perfect world with a perfect me in that world I would have it. But I am neither perfect, nor do I live in a perfect world. I will have to wait for both of those to become a constant in my life. But that doesn’t mean I have to, or should, wait passively for that constant. The psalmist was no more perfect than I am and his world was no more perfect than mine. Yet he continually opened the door to his love relationship with the Lord, and to encouraging it, by doing all the actions he wrote about: giving thanks, calling on the Lord, talking about the impact of his relationship with the Lord on him, glorying in the Lord, rejoicing in the Lord, counting on the Lord for all that he was and did, seeking the face of the Lord in prayer, and remembering all that the Lord had done for him.

I’ve noticed that a good number of my friends have celebrated wedding anniversaries this summer. A frequent comment popped up: They love each other more now than they did when they first got married! That’s significant when it comes to my relationship with the Lord. It shouldn't wane and wither as time goes on. It should get better as time goes on. And like marriage between a man and a woman, that only happens when both parties work at it.

God has “worked at it” and continues to do so. But I have to work at it too, and the psalmist’s instructions are an important part of that process.

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