Care and Feeding of the Born-Again Heart: In Remembrance of Our Spiritual Forebears
Today’s feast of the born-again and running-the-good-race heart at The Training Table consists of What is Love to Christ?, by Thomas Doolitle.
Even though it’s the particular season of Christmastime, we get together at The Training Table every week to share a feast of and for the born-again heart that celebrates, “God so LOVED the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever should [repent] and believe in HIM shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16—parenthesis, emphasis added).
We share a feast of this kind so that we will be eating well for running the good race set out before us (Acts 20:23-24; 1 Corinthians 9:23-25; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1-3)!
Starting at 30,000’…
As we have feasted on a great deal around the Training Table over the past many meals, the slow-but-sure creep towards being the well-established secularized culture that we are today should be obvious… in spades.
If there’s one issue that would be vitally important for us to admit and look deeper into it is this: More and more every day we can see the consequences of people “looking for love in all the wrong places and ways”. Am I right?
This isn’t just AN issue; it’s THE issue of the day: Disordered love is the most destructive force any fallen or redeemed Image Bearer of God will experience.
Ever since The Fall (Genesis 3) [with the exception of Jesus Christ] every life lived—to varying degrees of goodness, confusion, and calamity—could be used as an anecdote of this truth: Our pursuit of a good and healthy “earthly love” will be good and healthy in direct proportion to whether or not the True Truth and Love of the Triune God of the bible is present and at work in our heart… First and foremost.
Oh, and make no mistake, even if you’re reading this as an atheist or agnostic and saying, “This is stupid! I don’t believe or have a faith in god and I’ve had my share of fulfilling love.” Two things: 1) It would be good to get into some more details about the nature and outcomes of those love relationships; and 2) “love” of a less-than-ideal kind can be experienced under the auspices of God’s Common Grace*—anything good whatsoever can only come from God. [*Special Grace—the Ideal—is God the Father’s salvation, in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit.]
Take Love and True Truth out of any human heart and, like a vacuum of shocking power and indiscriminate taste, all sorts of falsehoods and counterfeit loves rush in! It is the nature of the human heart (Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 4:23).
A “secularized person or culture” is what the author of The Book of Ecclesiastes wrote of and warned about: If all that exists is only what is “Under the Sun”—only the here and now with no connection with God—we are not simply devoid of a relationship with our Maker and Sustainer, but we cannot help but be addicted to lesser gods by means of, a) hedonism, b) stoism, or c) existentialism. And, if this truism doesn’t explain a great deal about the chaos in the culture today, I don’t know what would!
We will either love God or love gods; love Truth or love untruth; love Love or love indifference. The key to a contented and purposeful life on earth, as well as what the nature of what our time in eternity consists of, entirely depends on the nature of our FIRST LOVE.
Q. Are we self-aware enough to know what we theologically, practically, really, truly, actually, in word and deed… FOR SURE… love?
A. In a word, I would respectfully submit that the answer is, RARELY—and, even in the very best of cases, far from perfectly.
When the heart of any human being or culture slides away from loving God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, three main problems will automatically, axiomatically, and without exception arise: 1) we will suppress the Truth and Love of God (Romans 1:18… dire consequences follow); 2) we will then replace the One and True God with a love for lesser gods, idols, good things made ultimate things (Jeremiah 2); and finally, 3) we will become very… way… confused about what our heart’s core beliefs really consist of, and exactly what we have devoted our hearts to… TO LOVE (1 John 4:1; 1 Corinthians 14:33). We will desperately seek after love in all the wrong places and ways.
The bible’s use of the word HEART [and its synonyms] over 1,500 times should give us a clue: The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.
What is Love to Christ? How about everything?
“Love shows the true character of a man—according to the object which he loves more than anything else: For as is the love, so is the man. According to his love, so might you confidently designate the man.
If he is a lover of power, he is an ambitious man; a lover of pleasure, a sensual man; and if he chiefly loves the world, he is a covetous man. If a man loves righteousness, he is a religious man; if the things above, a heavenly-minded man; and if he loves Christ with a pre-eminent love, he is a sincere and compassionate man: “Rightly do they love you” (Song of Songs 1:4).
If Christ has our love, He has our all; and Christ never has what He deserves from us, ’till He has our love. True love withholds nothing from Christ, when it is sincerely set upon him. If we actually love him, He will have our time, and He will have our service, and He will have the use of all our resources, and gifts, and graces; indeed, then He shall have our possessions, freedom, and our very lives, whenever He calls for them.
In the same way, when God loves any of us, He will withhold nothing from us that is good for us. He does not hold back His own only begotten Son, (Romans 8:32).
When Christ loves us, He gives us everything we need: a) His merits to justify us; b) His Spirit to sanctify us; c) His grace to adorn us; and d) His glory to crown us.
Therefore, when any of us love Christ sincerely, we lay everything down at His feet, and give up all to be at His command and service: “And they loved not their lives unto the death,” (Revelation 12:11). (Puritan Thomas Doolitle)
Leading and Lagging Indicators!
It’s so easy to get things out of priority, upside-down, outside-in…
How deeply, thoroughly, holistically do you understand and attempt to live out the truth of what Thomas Doolitle is talking about? I know for absolute sure that I have a great deal to grow in this realm…
a) By means of God’s promises, when God is FIRST everything in the rest of life comes SECOND—and, as a result, is always better for it;
b) [get this!] Seeking to live out “when God is FIRST everything in the rest of life comes SECOND”… Will be a reflection of what we ARE and DO for the rest of ETERNITY with God, the Saints, and the angels in heaven! Taking this seriously now will be reflected and have serious repercussions then.
c) When God slips out of being in FIRST PLACE in our life, all things SECOND, ad infinitum, will be tarnished.
d) Any human being’s CHARACTER can be seen, measured, judged, and developed by whether God is FIRST in his or her life.
What is Love to Christ? Just everything!
What are We to Christ? Just everything!
What should Christ be to Us? Just everything!
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (John 4:2).
“Love shows the true character of a man—according to the object which he loves more than anything else: For as is the love, so is the man. According to his love, so might you confidently designate the man.”
There is great risk in a properly defined and prioritized love for
God, self, and others! And it’s well-worth taking every risk.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)
Until we sup’ again, consider the fare of our last two menu items for 2013:
December 25th, Christ Humbled Himself, by Samuel Willard.
January 1st, 2014, Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions [and our short-lived habits of making New Year’s resolutions…].
God richly bless you and yours, my fellow marathoners for Christ!