“Is suffering in my life due to my sin?”
Next weekend the women of DCC will be heading over the mountains to Suncadia for 24 hours of God-saturated learning, intentional relationship-building, and interactive fun. This will be our first women’s retreat, and though I won’t be there, I couldn’t be more excited about the theme: The Greatness of God. Who we understand God is, and what he is like, shapes everything about us, from how we view ourselves to how we relate to others, from how we handle suffering to how we tackle our sin, from where we find durable joy to where we find rest amidst the crazy. So, don’t get caught thinking that the greatness of God is merely an abstract theological truth. Our souls were made to revel in His greatness and live out of that profound reality. Ladies, that’s what next weekend is all about.
So, in light of that, I am making a last pastoral call to any women who have yet to register. As of today we have 90 women signed-up. That is really encouraging! Our prayerful aim is 120. Let’s say that DCC averages 650 people on Sunday and half are women. That makes roughly 325 women. That means there are still 200+ women who have time to participate in our inaugural retreat. My encouragement to you: register. You will not regret it. We understand that not all of you can make it, but this is for those of you that can. If you’ve waited this long, there are probably some barriers, so let me offer the following encouragements.
Our culture is marked by busyness. Work demands. School demands. Kid demands. Project demands. Schedule demands. 24-hour news. Endless social media feeds. It takes intentionality to slow down for five minutes, let alone an entire day. That makes this retreat a gift. It is a gift to carve out intentional space in your calendar to learn about the greatness of God alongside others seeking to do the same. This kind of intentionality is good for our souls. Don’t miss out on this gift.
Or, maybe you just don’t know anyone. It can be intimidating entering into something like this without knowing anyone else. We all get that. But, here’s the thing: that’s what retreats are for! More relational-traction can be gained with a retreat than with a dozen brief Sunday meet-and-greets. A retreat is the perfect place to get to know others. No one is “busy.” You’re all there for the same purpose. So, will this require you to take a step of faith? Yes. Will you be alone? No. Will you forge new relationships with others? For sure. Will it be worth it? No doubt. Embrace this as a gift of building new relationships.
We all know what a gift it is to pause our normal rhythms for a change of scenery. Our family tries to get out of the city at least once a month. The process to get into the woods can be challenging, but once we’re there I always ask, “Why did I hesitate? This is amazing.” It is a gift to temporarily get out of our context to think, laugh, rest, and reflect—especially when it involves clean mountain air, tall evergreens and a river in your backyard (i.e. Suncadia). Sometimes that’s what it takes to get the fresh perspective we’ve been looking for. Embrace this retreat as a gift to get out of your context for a weekend.
For years as a new believer I noticed that all kinds of things came at me when I was presented with an opportunity to go on a retreat: family emergencies, other plans, lack of funds, sudden desire to be alone, etc. Often, I needed someone to come alongside me and say, “You really need to go to this and I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.” So, in most cases, I went. I can recall cases where I even regretted it while I was on my way there. But, guess what? Not once did I regret it afterwards. Not once. I’ve come to see that this is a common tactic of the enemy to keep us from opportunities like this that are sure to increase our faith, deepen our joy, and anchor our love in God—and all that he is for us, in Jesus. The enemy doesn’t want that. He wants us at home by ourselves watching Netflix. So, embrace the gift of telling the enemy to take hike. Put aside doubts. Change plans. Get your shift covered. Take a step of faith. You won’t regret it.
Ladies, you’re going to have a great time. All that said, here are the details:
Q: Will you join me in praying for 30 more women to sign up by this weekend?
Christ is all,
Over the last two Sundays (1/15 & 1/22) we spent time considering Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:13-16, where he uses the images of salt and light to describe how his people are to influence the world together. Jesus’ point is that genuine faith in him is never purely private, but shapes and informs every part of our lives, from the inside out, in ways big and small. We all have a role in this. Together we are meant to serve as a living, dynamic, salty city, within our city, as a beacon of hope and help. This post is intended to follow-up on some of the themes that emerged over the last two weeks. This is particularly aimed at those of you who are new to DCC or have not yet connected to the life of our church.
There are five main means by which we aim to be salt and light in our city. If you have additional questions, be sure to check our Fifth Year Prospectus in which we lay out who we are, what we believe, what we want to be known for, and more. I also recommend taking a moment to watch our Five Year Birthday video. Lastly, if you want to learn on-the-go you can download our app in which you can access sermons, blog posts, event information, and more.
The biggest need for every person in our city is to be forgiven and brought into a vital relationship with the living God, in Jesus. That happens as the good news of Jesus is shared by us with not-yet-believers whom God has sovereignly placed around us. Practically, this means that we must continue to grow as a grace-saturated evangelistic people. However, the goal is not merely to know Jesus but to grow in him. (See Colossians 1:28-29) Taking these together, we define discipleship as the process of knowing and growing in Jesus. You might ask, “So, how do I grow with DCC?”
We gather as a church on Sunday and then scatter throughout the week into smaller communities, which we call Cornerstone Communities. The best way to meet people and build real friendships in Downtown Cornerstone is to join a Cornerstone Community. Regular, life-on-life, relationships with other followers of Jesus around the Bible and prayer is crucial to our ongoing growth. Forming smaller communities around the city helps us to learn how to be family together, how to love others who are different than us, and how to mentor others and be mentored by others. It is a tremendous gift to live life with others who are seeking to follow Jesus with you. We know that not everyone will be able to participate in every season, as each life-stage is filled with its own unique challenges, but we encourage you to give it a shot. We currently have 19 communities with a great need for more. To request more information about our communities, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no sacred-secular divide. This is God’s world – all of it. As Abraham Kuyper once famously noted, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” We agree. This means that Jesus’ people need to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider how to engage the culture in ways that highlight this reality. We need to ask, “How does the unchanging gospel speak to the ever-changing culture?” An important aspect to this is equipping Jesus’ people in the integration of faith at work, within the creative arts, and the civic realm. This is an area that we still have quite a bit of work to do. Let us know if you’re interested.
We want to build a great city, not just a great church, through justice, mercy, and relevant partnerships. We aim to be a people who faithfully declare the gospel and display its implications in our context. Jesus said that he “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) In other words, we serve because we have been served by him. His perfect life and sacrificial death on the cross, for us, should increasingly shape us as a sacrificial, servant-hearted people. As such, Jesus is both our model and motivation for service. This service can happen informally as we serve a neighbor changing a flat tire, or serving with the church, or serving through city-partnerships. You can learn more about opportunities to serve within DCC here. We’ll be rolling out more information about city-level involvement in the year ahead.
We believe one of primary ways that the gospel spreads, and God’s kingdom advances, is through the planting of gospel-centered, Jesus-loving, Bible-teaching churches. We want everyone in our city, and the cities of the world, to know the incomparable news of Jesus. So, from beginning our goal was not just to plant this church, but through this church, plant many churches. To that end, we invest 10% of all giving received into church planting efforts. Together we have given literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to the planting of churches around the world. Second, we just hired our first, of what we hope is many, church planting resident whom we aim to invest in over a period of time and then send out to plant. Lastly, we also view ourselves as a teaching hospital. I previously wrote more about this here. If we’re going to be intentional about raising up pastors and church planters, we must be intentional about giving qualified men opportunities to preach.
All that said we are on the verge of turning six years old in April. We are literally just getting started. There is so much left to be done. There are so many opportunities to serve. There are so many people that have never heard, let alone understood, the gospel. There are so many people in need of personal discipleship, counseling, and community. There are classes to be taught, ministries to be built, and leaders to be developed. The great news is that this is our work. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:7 that each one of Jesus’ people are gifted by the Spirit “for the common good”. That means God intends for us to do this together. None of us can (or should) do everything, but all of us can do something.
Is Jesus calling you to get involved? Whether you’re an empty-nester, or a stay-at-home mom, or a college student, or a CEO, or a temporary Seattlite I want to invite you to get meaningfully connected to the life of DCC. Friends, there is something at stake in our lives. Who knows what God may do in and through us, as we partner together in this city, in our generation. Let’s pray that he makes us a salty city on a hill, for his glory, and the good of as many people as possible.
Until the world knows,
“How can you know anything for certain?” Have you ever been asked that or perhaps even wondered it yourself, particularly in connection with spiritual truth?
On July 3rd, we will launch a twelve-week journey through the book of 1 John. Though it is a short letter (just five chapters), the Spirit of God has packed it full of Gospel-centered, truth-establishing, righteousness-inducing, love-living-out words!
The Apostle John wrote to churches in crisis when he penned this letter. False teachers were causing the young church to wrestle through some very important issues: Who exactly is Jesus Christ? Can I have confidence that I am a follower of Jesus, a child of God? Do I really need to pursue holiness in my day-to-day life? What impact does God’s love for me have on how I love other people in the church?
In the midst of this fog and confusion, John writes to correct false teaching, not by point-by-point arguments, but instead by clearly and passionately presenting the truth of the Gospel and its implications for living.
Our prayer is that Jesus would use this book to stir our affections for Him, invite us into deeper levels of trust in Him, and move us to align our lives around Him. Additionally, let’s be praying for the men who are already prayerfully preparing to serve you well. One of our hopes and prayers as a church is to become a teaching hospital in order to train, develop, and equip future pastors and church planters.
Christ is all,
If you’ve been running with us for some length of time, you’ve probably noticed that we often incorporate a form of confession into our Sunday gatherings. That confession can take the form of a prayer, a period of silence, or even a song. We do this regularly to highlight the fact that our faith is a living faith and our battle against sin is an active, daily battle.
In light of the season of Lent (read more HERE), we wanted to give a little more weight and emphasis to this element of our services, and specifically bring a corporate, collective nature to our confessions. Reading the words of a thoughtful, Christ-centered confession together in unison is a very unique and rich expression of our gospel identity as a people.
But for many of us, confessing our sins together can feel strange, uncomfortable, and clunky. The thought and practice of confessing our sins personally with God can be scary enough right? Why add another layer of complexity, awkwardness, and public acknowledgement of our sin when we already struggle to confess our sins privately? I’d like to answer that question, but first we should look at where we get the idea of corporate confession in the first place.
The first question we should be asking is whether corporate confession is merely a liturgical practice or if there a biblical premise for confessing our sins together? I would submit to us that corporate confession comes first from our biblical heritage before any other church tradition:
Leviticus 16 – An entire day – the Day of Atonement – was set aside yearly for corporate confession among the people of God.
Nehemiah 9:3 – Upon returning from the exile to Assyria, Nehemiah led the people of Israel as they corporately “made confession and worshipped the LORD their God.”
Ezra 9-10 – In a time of widespread revival and reawakening to the Word of God, Ezra led the people in weeping, trembling, and confessing their sin together “before the house of God.”
Psalms – the psalms include numerous prayers and songs of confession, intended for use in the corporate worship of Israel. (e.g. Ps. 51:1 “Have mercy on me of God, according to your loving kindness; according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.”)
Lamentations – the entire book of Lamentations is a corporate confession of Israel’s sin and national mourning over the consequences of that sin (e.g. Lam. 3:40 “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!”)
James 5:6 – we are invited as the church to “confess [our] sins to one another and prayer for one another”
Revelation 2:5 – the church of Ephesus is admonished by Jesus to corporately “remember” and confess where they have gone astray and to corporately return to their “first love”.
As we see from these passages, biblical confession is often more than a private encounter with God in our own hearts.There is something unique that comes from experiencing confession together, that God has designed to be formative and restorative for us as His people. So why is corporate confession a vital part of God’s means of grace to us? I think there are a number of reasons, but I’ll suggest just a few here:
The reality of sin is that we oftentimes don’t see it for how dark it is, until we bring it into the light. We don’t realize how deeply it has ingrained itself in us. We don’t see how pervasive it is in our actions, words, thoughts, and affections. The beauty of corporate confession is that it provides an opportunity to speak of our sin, exposing it to the light as Paul speaks of (Eph. 5:11-13). When done rightly corporate confession can help us identify species of sin that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. And God uses these prayers to awaken us, renew us, and give us eyes to see the ugliness of our sin and the beauty of His grace. Corporate confession is meant to lead us to Jesus.
You may feel the same way – sometimes it’s hard to know what to say when we’re confessing our sins. We see the selfishness, we see the pride, we see the greed, anger, lust, and self-righteousness, but we lack the words to articulate how much we want to detest and turn from that sin, as well as humbly ask for true repentance. Corporate confession gives us language – biblical, thoughtful, meaningful words – to express our sorrow and grief over our sin as well as our true and unshakeable hope in the gospel.
This is a beautiful reality and unique benefit of being a member of the body of Christ. We are all humbled at the cross, every one. As we confess our sin together, we see quickly that we are not alone in our struggle against sin (1 Cor. 10:13). We see that we are as much in need of grace as everyone else around us. And we see that the same Savior has died and risen for all of us. Corporate confession gives us the permission to own our sin with each other, lean into his grace together, and walk out our growth and sanctification in a community marked by mercy and hope.
To be “in Christ” is to be joint recipients of all the benefits that come from trusting the gospel of grace and the God of grace. By joining in one voice together to acknowledge our need and embrace his provision, we collectively magnify the One who has united us together through his blood, that is Jesus (Eph 2:11-14)! Corporate confession is a living, dynamic parable and apologetic for the gospel as we embrace our corporate identities together as those “in Christ” and invite everyone everywhere to the same hope in the gospel.
Hopefully you can see that there is much more going on when we confess our sin together, than may first meet the eye. It’s not just a private, isolated encounter with our need for grace. That is by God’s design. He wants us to experience redemption not just individually but as communities of faith together. It’s as we acknowledge our need for grace together that we experience our unity in Christ and we give testimony to the watching world that the gospel is enough, even for us. Jesus gets all the glory in that.
May Jesus give us the courage and grace to be a people who can regularly acknowledge the depths of our sin and the corresponding heights of his grace! The gospel is truly astonishing! His grace is sufficient for me. And His grace is sufficient for you. Let’s remind each other of that often as we gather. Love you all.
Soli Deo gloria,
Today marks the beginning of the Lent season with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. Many of us who grew up in unchurched backgrounds or American evangelical backgrounds have not observed this tradition in the past. So naturally, some questions can arise around this time of year as to what Lent is, how it is observed, whether it is something that Christians should observe or reject, or if there are some aspects of the season that are worthy of observance?
Traditionally observed, Lent is a forty-day period of fasting and reflection in preparation for Easter. As early as the 4th century A.D., Christian churches marked these weeks as a time of intentional discipleship, devotion, and anticipation. The resurrection of Christ served as the climax of the season. In that sense, it could be said that Lent is to Easter, what Advent is to Christmas — a season of expectation and thoughtful preparation focused around the person and work of Christ in redemption.
Over the centuries (particularly during the Middle Ages) the observance of Lent has sometimes drifted toward superstition and works-based righteousness. We would agree with the 16th century reformers who rightly rejected these excesses in so far as they were distortions of the gospel — arguing emphatically that there is nothing that can be added to our righteousness in Christ. The gospel tells us that we are made right with God in Christ through faith, plus NOTHING. And in that sense, we must be careful to not ascribe an elevated “spirituality” or seek to curate God’s favor through our performance or personal sacrifices. Rather Lent is an opportunity to tangibly reflect on the gospel in fresh ways, through means of grace like fasting and meditation. It’s as we set aside good things like food or media for a season, that we remind ourselves that Jesus is the truest and fullest satisfaction of our souls.
Although I don’t have the time to unpack a full theology of Lent and it’s various elements here, I do want to provide some helpful resources (listed at the bottom of the post) that have been of help to me in properly understanding how we might observe this season in a way that honors Christ, highlights the gospel, and deepens our worship.
As a church, we have celebrated Lent in a few ways over the years. Certainly as individuals, there are many in our church who leverage this season personally for their own discipleship. Collectively, we’ve walked through a special sermon series before (i.e. Lamentations) and incorporated special elements into our gatherings. Here are some of the ways we’re planning to observe Lent corporately this year:
I’d invite you all to join us in intentionally using this season to 1) focus your worship, 2) tangibly remind yourself that Jesus is the ultimate treasure and comfort, 3) create space for Spirit-filled reflection and repentance, and 4) look with anticipation to the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus that we will celebrate on Good Friday and Easter. We have been reconciled to God by grace through faith in Christ, now and forever. That’s good news worthy of reflection.
For Christ and the gospel,
This Sunday we are beginning a new sermon series, On Being Human: Relationships, Gender and Being Made in the Image of God. One of the most profound questions we face in life is: “What is a human being?” Philosophers wrestle with it. Sociologists study it. Psychologists delve into it. Social activists fight for it. Politicians try to legislate it. But, what is a human? Specifically, for our purposes, what does it mean to be a man or a woman? How should we view relationships, gender and human sexuality? Can they be whatever we want or is their meaning predetermined? It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this topic. Our view of what humans are impacts our lives on every level and, yet, we often think little of it. On this point, Augustine once said:
“Men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”
In light of that, we’re going to take the fall to work through these important questions from the scriptures. The Bible is not silent on these profoundly relevant issues. Throughout its pages we see that human beings are inescapably related to, and dependent on, God. Humans were created in the image of God with inherent dignity, value and purpose – for joy, in relationship to Him and others. In a culture awash in conflicting perspectives, opinions and conjecture, there is perhaps no greater need in our day than a deep, penetrating and fresh look at God’s revelation of his purposes in the creation of mankind. That is our goal in this series. The following describes the flow of our study:
10/18 On Being Made in the Image of God
10/25 Men and Masculinity
11/01 Women and Femininity
11/08 Marriage and the Mystery of Christ
11/15 Men as Husbands
11/22 Women as Wives
12/06 Singleness and the Mystery of Christ
12/13 The Imago Dei and Sexuality*
12/20 Raising Image Bearers: Foundations
01/10 Raising Image Bearers: Practices
01/17 On Being Human and the Sanctity of Life
Please be praying for our time together.
With affection in Christ,
*Parents: On Sunday, December 13th, we will be exploring topics specifically related to human sexuality. The content will not be explicit nor graphic. However, we will speak about pornography, same-sex attraction, gender confusion and other sexual distortions. If your child(ren) normally participates in the main gathering, and you would prefer they sit out this week, we have made preparations with Cornerstone Kids.
At a recent Sunday gathering, we walked through James 1:18-27 on the Bible as the word of God and what it means to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves].” We examined James’ encouragements on how to approach the Bible (put away all filthiness, receive with meekness, and recognize its central role) and how to respond to the Bible (study intently, examine personally, and apply liberally). Last week, by God’s gracious providence, Desiring God released an artistic video on the vital role of the Bible called, “God wrote a book.” It goes well with our study in James. I encourage you to watch it (below).
The Bible is God’s direct revelation to us, through the pens and personalities of human authors, about who He is, what He is like, who we are and what we need, along with His radical promises to us and glimpses of our forever-future with Him. There is no other book like this book.
But, we often only look at it, rather than look through it to the deeper realities it conveys. When we look at it we may only see ancient stories, at best, or printed letters on a page, at worse. But, when we look through it we see reality, with God as the triune blazing center of all that is. Through it he saves sinners, through it he humbles the proud, through it encourages the discouraged, through it he gives strength to the weary. In a word, through it He reveals all we need to know and grow in Him.
Often, in my experience at least, the reason our reading of the Bible gets dry and laborious is because we’re looking at it rather than through it. Or, John Piper says, “God wrote a book…The Bible is not a wall, but a window.” That’s helpful – and true.
Christ is all,
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. The term “lent” originally meant “spring” but was adopted by the early church for the name of the six weeks (or, 40 days plus Sundays) leading up to Good Friday and Easter. It has been celebrated by Christians, in some form, for over seventeen centuries. It is intended to be a season of preparation, filled with prayer, heartfelt repentance, humble sacrifice, healthy introspection and turning afresh to Jesus. While this season is perhaps most commonly associated with Roman Catholicism, it is also widely celebrated by many Protestants including Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches.
If you’re like me, growing up Roman Catholic, all I understood about Lent was that (1) I had to give up something that I liked for six weeks and (2) I was not able to eat meat on Fridays. In hindsight, this had more to do with my own heart than anything else. But, even after I began to follow Jesus I virtually ignored Lent, chalking it up as an irrelevant religious exercise. It wasn’t until later that I better grasped its meaning and ongoing function for Jesus’ people today. That is, in part, why I am writing here.
There is nothing ‘magical’ about Lent. It is not commanded in the scriptures. Christians are free to participate or not. Many traditions celebrate differently. You don’t have to give up meat on Fridays. There is no one right way to go about it. Lent serves the same purpose for Good Friday and Easter as Advent does for Christmas. My encouragement, for us all, is to consider utilizing these next six weeks to intentionally prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and sin on that first Easter morning.
First, make Lent primarily about Jesus, not just ‘giving up’ something. Too often this season becomes more about what we’re giving up, than who it is about. Lent is a ‘means of grace’ to draw us closer to Jesus. Make growing in relationship with him your goal. What would that look like for you? Maybe carve out extra time on Saturday mornings for reading a book on the cross, such as John Stott’s classic, The Cross of Christ or CJ Mahaney’s, Living the Cross Centered Life. Or, re-boot your Bible reading by taking in Jesus’ life through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Or, meet with a group every week to talk about the gospel and its implications in our lives. Or, you could follow along with this excellent devotional called, Journey to the Cross: Reading and Devotions for Lent. Each daily devotion includes a call to worship, confession, contemplation and closing prayer.
Second, a significant aspect of Lent is heartfelt repentance over sin. Take time to consider what is keeping you from him. Don’t rush this. Find a comfortable space where you won’t be interrupted. Keep a journal. Ask the Spirit to highlight areas of sinful unbelief and then bring them to Jesus for forgiveness and renewed faith. If you have little joy or interest in the things of God, consider why that is. Are there areas of your life that are off-limits to Him? What is it that you treasure more than Him? What aspects of the world are more attractive to you than He is? Are you struggling in the dark? Don’t be afraid to go there. He already knows, but loves you too much to let you stay there. His ocean of grace awaits. Involve others too. And remember, as the Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne said, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.”
Third, Lent is traditionally a time when fasting is common and helpful, provided that stoking your affections for Jesus is your primary goal. Letting go of things that are dear to us for a season often reveals much about ourselves that we never knew was there. Fasting highlights our mortality and our absolute dependency. Ultimately, it points us to God who alone can satisfy all of the deepest longings of our hearts. Fasting, or ‘giving things up’, for Lent may look like a lot of things. You could give up food for one, two, three days or more. I have a friend who does a juice fast (fasting from everything but hearty juices) for the entirety of Lent. Or, you could fast from social media, technology, or tv. Or, you could fast from certain spending habits and use that money to serve others. Talk to others and see what they’re doing. John Piper’s book on fasting called, A Hunger for God, is an excellent resource.
Lastly, keep in mind that Lent is not about earning the approval of God nor impressing others. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived, died and rose to forgive our sin, give us his righteousness and bring us home to God forever. In Christ, your righteousness is spotless and secure. You can’t add to it, which means nothing you do during Lent can make you more acceptable to God. In Christ, you are fully accepted, approved and loved by God. Rather, Lent is about pursuing Him afresh, renewing your affections and re-asserting him as your greatest treasure. Let’s do that, together. I’m already looking forward to hearing stories of how He moves among us.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:24-25
Because the tomb is empty,
It’s a common problem. How do I love God more? Every genuine follower of Jesus wants to grow in their love for God. But the question is, how? What do we do when we have a hard time loving God? We get an important clue to the answer in 1 John 4:10 where we read, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” You might want to read that again.
John is saying that God’s love, from beginning to end, is an initiating love – “not that we have loved God but that he loved us”. Whose love comes first? God’s love. Where do we see God’s initiating love? When God sent “his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Propitiation is a fancy word for saying that Jesus redirected, and received, the wrath of God that we justly deserve for our sin. That happened on the cross.) In other words, God’s love is an initiating love and we see that initiating love most clearly at the cross. The apostle Paul says the same thing in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Even when we were running from him (i.e. “still sinners”) God displayed his initiating love by dying for His people on the cross.
What does all of this tell us? This tells us that all genuine love for God finds its origin in God’s initiating love for us, in Jesus. Our love for Him is always – and only – a response to His love for us. God initiates with His love and we respond with our love. So, what do you do when you are having a hard time loving God? Answer: Reflect on God’s love for you, in Jesus. If you want to love God more, don’t begin with your love for Him, but with His love for you.
We have to be careful because our hearts have a tendency to reverse that order by prioritizing and emphasizing our love for God. We tend to (wrongly) think that God’s love for us is based on our love for him. That is not the gospel. More often than not this is the root of our struggle to love God more. Why would our love for God bloom if we’re not sure how he feels about us? It won’t. The good news of Jesus is that God sent his Son out of love for lost sinners, while we were still sinners (see Romans 5:8 above). God initiates with his love, in Jesus. We respond with our love. That order is crucial and we should be diligent to ensure it is never inverted in our hearts.
So, all that said, how do we love God more?
First, we need to get the order right. God loves us first, always. Our love for Him is always a response to His love for us, in Jesus. Be sure your heart has the order right.
Second, we must keep in mind that the measure of his love for us isn’t some warm-and-fuzzy feeling or sense that He loves us. The measure of His love for us is the cross. The cross is the objective historical sign and seal of God’s love for you, in Jesus. The cross assures you that His love for you will forever be at flood stage.
Third, once we get the order right and see the cross as God’s eternal pledge of love for us, we should take time to enjoy His initiating love. When did you last take time to reflect on God’s initiating love for you? I’m not talking about his love for people generally, or his church specifically, or your friends who also follow Jesus – but for you? In Jesus, you are perfectly and forever loved by God. His love for us is full, unceasing, and unchangeable, even on our worst days. Take time to consider and enjoy His initiating love. Reflect on how your day-to-day would change if you lived in light of it.
We can’t make our love for God grow by focusing on our love for God. Our love for God grows as we focus on His love for us, in Jesus. Ours is always, in effect, a returned love. Therefore, consider the initiating love of God for you at the cross until you see it – and feel it – and you’re love for Him will grow.
Christ is all,