Our Christian life will never outgrow our knowledge of God’s love. It is the root from which everything else grows (Eph 3:17). Paul calls it the constraining influence of His Christian life (2Cor 5:14). Ask the Apostle, “Why do you not sin more than you do?” He would say, “How can I sin against such love?” When the Holy God of heaven loves me with all of His being, how can I love sin with any of my being?” “Will Christ die for my sins, and I live in them?” “Will God the Son give Himself for me and I give myself to sin? God forbid!” I don’t know about you, but very often I struggle to feel such sentiments. In fact I can read sentences like these and feel almost nothing at all, God forgive me! How can this be remedied? How can you and I grow in our experience of the love of God?
First, we must wait for God to give us a sense of His love, we cannot manufacture it for ourselves, or imagine it into existence on our own (Psalm 40:1).
Second, we must walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16), follow His promptings (Rom 8:14), and take care, lest we grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit is integral to our experience of Christ. It is, Paul says, through the Spirit that our hearts are made strong in faith. And it is through faith that Christ dwells in our hearts (Eph 3:16-17). So ask the Spirit for help.
Third, we must follow the Spirit Christward in the Word. The Spirit will never lead us merely to ourselves, but always up to the Savior. He will show us Christ in the Scripture (beware of any revelation of His mind which bypasses the sacred Book). Learn to see Christ’s perfections in the Law, His heart in the Psalms (they were his songbook before they were yours), His wisdom in the Proverbs, His rebuke in the Prophets, His sacrifice in the Temple, His approach in the Gospels, His pastoral care in the Epistles, and His return in the end. Meditate upon Christ. See Him as the great evidence of the Father’s heart for you— As God said to Abraham, so the cross speaks to you: “He has not withheld His Son, His only Son whom He loves.” (Genesis 22:12). Let Christ crucified by the end of all doubts regarding the Father’s heart towards you. Whether we feel it or not, on our best days and on our worst days, Golgotha proclaims, “He loves you at the cost of His Son!” Linger long here. Feel the appalling cost of your redemption, what saving you cost Him (Isaiah 53). Hear his cry of dereliction (Psalm 22 & 69). Remind yourself: He did it all for me, and He would have done it all for you, had you been the only one needing salvation.
Fourth, expose your soul to some of the great Christian classics: The writings of Octavius Winslow, Donald Macleod’s “From Glory to Golgotha,” Hugh Martin’s, “The Shadow of Calvary,” Fred Leahy, “The Cross he Bore,” R.A. Finlayson, “The Cross in the Experience of our Lord.” Listen to some of the great Christian preachers. Two of my favorites are Geoff Thomas ([Father into Thy hands) and Edward Donnelly (Especially his evangelistic sermons preached at Trinity Baptist Church in Montville NewJersey. For example: [The Sinner’s Savior). These sermons have helped me, and I hope they will help you.
Fifth, sing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Old Wesley was surely on to something when he said, “Sometimes a light surprises the Christians when he sings.” Read the best of Christian poetry, they’ll take you to a place that is better felt than “telt.”
Finally, pray for me, when I preach in your midst that I would not preach an unfelt Christ. I cannot give what I am not experiencing. So, my dear brothers and sisters, pray for your pastor that my by-nature-shrunken, desiccated soul would know times of refreshing from the presence of God and of His great love for sinners like us.