I sat on a church board as an inexperienced 20-something. It was a big board, with over twenty men. All were older, most were grandfathers.
In one meeting we were discussing the need for more volunteers. One gentleman, a pillar in the church, asserted, “Our people should be serving Christ because it’s their duty!”
This is true. But how far will “duty” get you? Would I rather have my kids clean their rooms out of duty (which is fine if that’s all I’ve got) or out of a higher motive? Can duty really mobilize a church?
Yes. Temporarily. But the motivation fizzles as soon as you face hardship, or as soon as another, competing duty, interferes. That requires leadership to flog the church with more duty…
Doing your duty is a lousy motivation for the people of God.
When that elderly gentlemen spoke up at the board meeting, I was too timid to respond. I know, hard to believe, right? But I was younger… and they were, uh, venerable.
I don’t think I qualify for the venerable label, but I wish I had said, “Yes, but more importantly, we serve God out of love.”
The love of Christ compels us. His love for us. His love in us. His love through us. Do I buy flowers for my wife out of duty or love? Which would SHE prefer?
There is nothing more urgent than that God’s people rest deeply assured in the love of God. But there’s a HUGE problem, and it’s so subtle we don’t recognize it.
Most people today would say, “God loves me.” Even the rookie-est of Christ followers will say, “Jesus loves me.” A child can add, “This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” The love of God has been proclaimed so widely, that it’s pretty much the only thing people believe about God these days. And therein lies the fatal flaw.
Divine love, divorced from divine justice, is shaky, wimpy, and meaningless. In fact, it isn’t even love. It’s leniency, and leniency is a weakness that never motivated anybody to behave well longer than a week.
By failing to instruct the church in the dimensions of God’s love… by failing to teach the doctrines of propitiation, justification, expiation, and divine wrath, we have invented a love more worthy of Strawberry Shortcake than of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
If God is merely love, his love is not amazing. He’s just one more of many loving persons in my life. The biggest one perhaps, but his love isn’t special enough to motivate a lifetime of reciprocal service and sacrificial love. When God points to the lever that pries our heart from selfishness to service, that lever is the mercies of God (Rom. 12:1).
God’s love for me had to justify itself in the face of God’s wrath against me. The process by which that happened required the shed blood of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. We pastors must firmly establish the indispensable link between Christ’s Cross and God’s love. Without that link, love is wimpy. But with that link, God’s love is fierce, mighty, permanent and amazing.
You cannot plumb the depths of God’s love without doctrine, without theology. You cannot explore its dimensions, or appreciate its manifold angles. You cannot be secure in His love without fathoming the mind-boggling lengths God went to to satisfy his holiness. And you won’t serve God faithfully, for a lifetime, without knowing the love of God which passes knowledge.
When the Enemy calls God’s love into question (his favorite tactic), then a thousand arguments from Scripture must rise up from within to shout him down. We desperately need the meat of the Word.
If God’s love doesn’t compel you, you don’t know God’s love.