Foundational to the process of transformation and whole life worship is KNOWING God’s love. Now there is a difference between knowing God’s love and KNOWING God’s love. Another way to put it is that many people know about God’s love, but not as many know God’s love in an experiential way.
Most of us, who have been involved with the church for any length of time, know something about God’s love. We read in the Scriptures that God is love (1 John 4:8). We hear about the Passion of Jesus and are told that God so loves us that He gave his Son to die for us on the Cross. We understand that God demonstrates His love for us through providing for our needs, answering our prayers, and protecting us from harm.
But if this is the extent of our knowledge of God’s love, our worship of Him will be “distant” because our knowing His love is from a distance. It becomes extremely difficult to live out Whole Life Worship because there is no experiential love to “fuel” it. And without Whole Life Worship – the trusting surrender of God in loving response – there is no possibility for transformation (Rom 12:1-2).
Author David Benner, in his book “Surrender to Love,” calls this knowing about God’s love, “objective knowing” in contrast to “experiential knowing” (p. 27). Objective knowing is a belief in God’s love based on Scripture. And while we can trust that the Scripture to be true about God’s love, this aspect of having objective knowledge of God’s love is insufficient for transformation.
Objective knowing God’s love is “safe.” We don’t have to go out on a limb, we don’t have to be vulnerable, and we certainly don’t have to surrender anything – at least those possessions, desires and fears that are nearest and dearest to our hearts. We can bask in the belief that “God is loving” without ever having to test it or rely upon it. But when trials or devastating circumstances come, will such belief save us? Or will we discover that our house was built on theological sand disguised as the Rock of His unfailing love?
A.W. Tozer wrote, “We have substituted theological ideas for an arresting encounter (with Christ); we are full of religious notions but our greatest weakness is that for our hearts there is no one there” (The Divine Conquest, p. 26).
Thankfully, it is precisely in those moments of despair and hardship that God invites us to experience His love. I have had several of those moments: a time of emptiness when I lost a prestigious scholarship competition in High School, despair over a leadership failure in college, hopelessness over an addictive pattern in my life, and the loss of two children to miscarriage within a five month period. Those were the worst times of my life, but they ended up being the best times of my life because I surrendered to God and experienced His love. And it’s because of this “experiential love” that I surrender daily to Christ – not because I am in a desperate situation, but simply because I understand my constant desperate condition without Him. As well, I understand – even more so – my constant condition of shalom and wellness when I am with Him.
Sometimes I lose sight of this amazing love of God. And so one of my favorite Breath prayers is, “Lord, reveal Your love for me to me.” It seems kind of selfish or insecure. But, let’s face it, without God’s love, I am selfish and insecure! All of us are. And just as I never tire of telling my wife that I love her, I understand that, even more, God does not tire in demonstrating His love for us. Not just in an academic or intellectual way, but also in a very experiential manner.
If I am to become love, I need to experience the truest Love of them all. I am thankful that the Lover of my soul does not hesitate to show me His love, in its many forms.
It makes me want to worship Him with my whole life.