When is the last time the love of God moved you? I don’t mean the last time you mentally assented to a new fact about God or saw moral progress in your life. I mean the weight that hits you in your gut when you realize the God of the universe looks at you with white hot affection, not because of anything in you, but because of what He did on the cross for you…the kind of movement in your soul that sets your heart on fire, and causes you to see life differently.
If you’ve been walking with the Lord for any amount of time, you know too well that our broken souls default toward apathy. We may feel this white-hot grace of God at the beginning of our Christian lives, or at particularly significant moments throughout, but in the everyday in-between, we seem to grow largely unaware of, or indifferent to, the amazing love of God. We grow sleepy.
If the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, how can we be so unmoved by it? One answer that’s getting a lot of attention recently is we forget about His love. We forget that on the cross Jesus secured God’s forever love for us. We forget that God has set His love on us and will never change His minds about us, no matter how we struggle. This is certainly true and a danger, but it is not the only thing we forget, and it’s not the only reason we are unmoved by the love of God. Sometimes we can recite what we have in Christ perfectly and still be apathetic toward God.
The church of Laodicea was like this. In a series of seven letters to seven churches in the book Revelation, where Jesus assesses the theological and heart health of each church, He remarkably doesn’t have anything bad to say about the Laodiceans’ theology. But He does give a crushing inditement of their heart: “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16) They knew the love of God in the gospel, they just didn’t care. What was the disconnect? According to Jesus, they grew apathetic because they lost their sense of need. They thought they had grown to functionally not need much from the love of God anymore—as if they had progressed past it—when in reality, they were just as needy as ever (Revelation 3:17-18).
We’re really not so different, are we? While we may have seen our incredible need for God back when we first got saved, as we grow and mature in our faith we seem to lose this sense. Think about it. Do you think you are as big of a sinner today as you were the day Jesus saved you? Most of us, if we’re honest, would answer that question “no.” We believe this myth of progress that fools us into thinking because we are growing in one area, we are less of a sinner than before.
And so the love of God becomes expected, like being told our mothers love us. We think, “Of course He does. Look at how I’ve grown here.” This kind of expected love may be nice to reflect on once a week at church, but it doesn’t really strike us as surprising or life altering. The second we grow to expect the love of God, we grow apathetic.
The reality is Christian growth is really about uncovering more and more of our sin with each passing day. Why do you think the Apostle Paul said at the end of his life he was the worst sinner he knew (1 Timothy 1:15)? Do you think you have a leg up on him? I don’t care when the last time you looked at pornography was or the last time you cussed, the reality is, our hearts are bent toward sin. It infuses all we do, even our good works (Isaiah 64:6). It takes only an honest look into our thought life in traffic or the motivations behind the good things we do to realize how much evil is in our hearts and what an incredible and ongoing need we have for God.
Feel crushed? This is a good blessing from God, because the reality is, before grace is amazing, it’s devastating. It must devastate our pride. It must make us feel the reality that all we bring to the table—even 10, 20, 80 years into our Christian life—is need, because only when we feel the weight of this can we rebuild. When we no longer foolishly expect the love of God in our daily lives, but see our true condition, the love of God takes on its rightful, surprising nature again. And no one can be apathetic toward this kind of surprising, undeserved love.
And that’s the whole point. Seeing our need isn’t meant to make us wallow in self pity, it’s meant to make us look up to see Him who is strong for us. It’s meant to make us cry out: “Jesus I need You; would you take care of me?” Because the beauty of the gospel is that He will (Revelation 3:20). Every. Single. Time.
Seeing our need isn’t anti-gospel, it’s being serious about the gospel. The more we see the depth of the abyss of our ongoing need, the more we begin to see amazing the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of God that reaches down to the very bottom, carries us back out, and up into the heavenlies with Christ. That’s the kind of love that will take over our lives again.
May we be a people who seek to increasingly see our need, that we might enjoy the beauty of the gospel everyday, and shake the apathy that threatens to steal and kill our new life with Him.