“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
A few years ago I had one of those wonderful experiences that many believers have from time to time. I was completing my morning devotional reading on the back deck of my Daughter and Son-in-law’s new home. They have a wonderful yard with a lot of space and almost an English garden type of look and feel to it. It was quiet as I was completing my reading, and I could almost feel the love of God. I do not have experiences like that often. They are always precious to me when they come. Perhaps you have had similar experiences.
There was something else that was part of that experience however. It was the thought that I was not to rely upon an experience that brought me wonderful feelings, because my feelings are never reliable. There is something much more precious that I am to be looking for. This is the objective truth of the Word of God hidden away in my heart. If I depend upon wonderful experiences, as good as they are, for my growth in God’s grace then my growth will always be haphazard and slow. Feelings and experiences come infrequently and are often open to interpretation. What I need is the slow and steady application of the truth of God’s Word hidden in my heart through a daily commitment to Bible reading and study. What I need is the growing application of God’s word to my life so that I can begin to live more consistently in His grace.
Jonathan Edwards helps me with these reflections in this discussion of real love for God. “If we love God or Jesus Christ simply because of what He can do for us, if that is the source of our affection, then we do not experience a truly grace-filled and spiritual love. As we have already demonstrated, self-love is a natural emotion that appears as often in the hearts of devils as it does in the hearts of angels. How can anything that has selfish roots turn into something supernatural and divine? Christ speaks plainly about this kind of love; “If ye love them which love you, what think have ye? For sinners also love those that love them” (Luke 6:32). In the story of Job, the devil accuses Job of having a mercenary love for God; Job loves God, the devil claims, because God has blessed him, and so God allows Satan to remove job’s blessing one by one to test whether Job’s love is truly spiritual or not. And Job’s love for God turns out to be truly spiritual, unfazed by the loss of God’s blessings.” (Edwards; Religious Affections, p. 127-128)
The lesson for me was this. I am to seek the Lord and Him alone. I am not seeking the blessings that He promises. My selfish heart always looks for those things. God has promised them to us. He will faithfully give them because He is a gracious God. He calls us however to seek Him first. His voice is heart through the Word that He has revealed to us which is contained in His book. So often it comes to us quietly, piece by piece, but as we faithfully listen to it applying it to our lives we find ourselves changed by grace.