Love’s Foremost

by Mike Ratliff

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:41-43 ESV)

Do you love God? Why or why not? If you consider yourself a Christian yet your love for God is not growing both in depth and breadth then there is a problem. Those who have this growing love for God are those who have learned the art of contentment. (Philippians 4:11) Their circumstances are not the basis for their love of their God. Instead, their love for God is the product of His working in their hearts as they have become God’s humble and obedient bondservants. They are spirit-filled because their lives are saturated in God’s Word. They are living sacrifices whose minds are being renewed under the control of the Holy Spirit.

The following is adapted from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon titled Love’s Foremost.

Those on this path are those who know from what God has saved them. They understand the debt they owed which could not be paid. They know very well that that debt has been forgiven by God’s grace through faith. They know they have been saved in the same manner as all who are in Christ. The road to eminence in love is just the plain way of salvation which all who are in Christ must travel. There is no other way.

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50 ESV)

All are in debt. All on this way of salvation must heartily own this to be their case. Our loving Lord forgives in each case personally because all have the exceeding great need of this remission. In order to love God with a grateful heart which is open to His grace through the best and worst of times, we must be aware of the miracle of our salvation. We must feel how deep and impossible the separation was between us and God which He bridged for us. I say also that to be saved in the first place, those coming to Christ must be aware of this as well.

In each case He forgives frankly, or without any consideration or compensation; It must be so with us. We must accept free grace and undeserved favor. None of us deserve salvation. God isn’t “lucky” to have us. He doesn’t need us to be fulfilled. He is fulfilled in Himself. However, He has chosen to save us and we must understand that our personal qualities had nothing to do with it. None of us deserve salvation, therefore, if we are in Christ then it is imperative to our spiritual growth and love for God that we understand this.

We must aim at a deep sense of sin. It was the consciousness of great indebtedness which created the great love in the penitent woman. Not her sin, but the consciousness of it was the basis of her loving character. This deep sense of sin must be cultivated. The more we bewail sin the better, and we must aim at great tenderness of heart in reverence to it. In order to cultivate it we must seek four things.

  1. A clearer view of the law’s requirements. (Luke 10:26, 27)
  2. A deeper consciousness of the love of God to us. (1 John 3:1,2)
  3. A keener valuation of the cost of redemption. (1 Peter 1:18, 19)
  4. A surer persuasion of the perfection of our pardon will also help to show the baseness of our sin. (Ezekiel 16:62, 63)

If we will cultivate this deep sense of our sin, it will lead to a highly loving conduct towards God.

  1. We shall desire to be near Him, even at His feet.
  2. We shall show deep humility, delighting even to wash His feet.
  3. We shall exhibit thorough contrition, beholding HIm with tears.
  4. We shall render earnest service; doing all that lies in our power for Jesus, even as this woman did.

A spiritual experience which is thoroughly flavored with a deep and bitter sense of sin is of great value to him that hath had it. It is terrible in the drinking, but it is wholesome in the bowels, and in the whole of the after-like. Possibly much of the flimsy piety of the day arises from the ease with which men reach to peace and joy in these evangelistic days.

We would not judge modern converts, but we certainly prefer that form of spiritual exercise which leads the soul by the way of the Weeping-cross, and makes it see its blackness before it assures it that it is “clean every whit.” Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore lightly of a Saviour.

He who has stood before His God, convicted, and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and to live to the honor of the Redeemer by Whose Blood he has been cleansed.

Bold blasphemers ought to be enthusiasts for the honor of their Lord when they are washed from their iniquities. As they say reclaimed poachers make the best game-keepers, so should the greatest sinners be the raw material out of which the Lord’s transforming grace shall create great saints.

Do you love God? If that question has caused to you question your love for Him then I suggest you do as Charles Spurgeon said. Do a review of from what God has delivered you. However, if that examination only leads to more doubt and confusion then perhaps you should consider that you may not be a truly saved. If that is the case then go to God in prayer to plead with Him for your Soul.

SDG

7 thoughts on “Love’s Foremost

  1. Howdy Jerry Mullins here
    I would like to ask a few questions; Is love really about loving God or
    is it more about loving one another? Is it true that the bible saith; how
    can we say we love God whom we have not seen and hate one another?
    Shouldn’t we be expressing love for one another rather than the other way around?

    Thanks
    Jerry Mullins

  2. Mike, you stated,

    “Do you love God? If that question has caused to you question your love for Him then I suggest you do as Charles Spurgeon said. Do a review of from what God has delivered you. However, if that examination only leads to more doubt and confusion then perhaps you should consider that you may not be a truly saved. If that is the case then go to God in prayer to plead with Him for your Soul.”

    I question my love for Him all the time – and honestly can never come up with, “Yes, I love the Lord as I should “, for my flesh often wins the battle – I am always falling short – I am always weeping at my condition. I am so undone right now after reading this post, that I ache and my heart feels as if it is going to burst – – I cannot cry out loud enough! My lips say I love the Lord, my desire is to love Him with the truest, and purest love – – But I do not! I want to desperately please Him – but continue to fail. I truly do abhor my flesh – and cannot wait for His coming so I can be rid of this flesh.

    I do not necessarily have doubt, or am I confused, but I am left with brokenness. I am left with a deeper appreciation of His grace, a more awe at His love, and a desire to always seek Him first for the renewing of His spirit within me. His holiness keeps me humble, His word keeps me grounded, for it daily gives me a healthy dose of fear.

    Though I examine myself often and feel undone – I do not question, nor doubt my salvation – – but my goal is not to obtain “heaven” and be satisfied in that alone, but to be pleasing in His sight in all I do – – to be like Him.

  3. In answer to Jerry’s question, “Is love really about loving God or is it more about loving one another?” The answer is the very heart of this message. The natural man does not love God or his brother. It is only through the new birth that we love God and then by abiding in Him can we love our brother.

    I John 3:14, 15, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him”. I John 3:23, 24, “And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us”. I John 4:7, 8, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love”.

  4. Sherry,

    You are expressing your love for God in your abhorrence of your sin. This brokenness is a good thing my sister. You see from what you were delivered and you hate the sin that your flesh demands of you. Sounds to me like we are in the same place.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. It seem to me that if God is love and I know he is, than by us being made in his image after his likeness, we should be love also ,and as God have loved us, we should be focus more upon loving one another rather than on God whom we have never seen.

    Thanks
    Jerry Mullins
    http://www.iammoney4u.wordpress.com/

  6. Jerry, Did you read Sherry’s and Kathi’s comments? It is the New Birth that changes us. He has forgiven Christians of their sins. It is these who love God foremost as His character grows within them more and more.

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