GETTING PEOPLE TO LOVE GOD

It’s hard to be a church leader.

We try so hard for people to love Jesus. And when they don’t, we ask why —again and again. Like: Why don’t you people serve more? Why don’t you tithe more? Why don’t you love the people in your neighborhood more? Why don’t you share your faith? Why do you keep looking at pornography? Why don’t you get along with each other better? Why are there so many problems in your marriages? Why are you pursuing all these material possessions?

Usually our commitment in response is to work harder. Maybe we can craft the perfect sermon, or perhaps through this counseling session we can say the perfect thing, or perhaps by building this program we will really get across what we want to communicate. (And sometimes we do need to work harder, for sure.)

But usually we need to realize a simple and yet complex truth. The ultimate work of a pastor is God’s doing. We can’t make people do anything. Paul’s commitment in Ephesians 3: 14–19 is to pray harder, and to pray for a specific thing: that people would know all the fullness of God, so that people can understand Christ’s love for them. That’s a difficult concept to fully grasp. No matter how hard we work as church leaders, we will never be able to get people to love God. That work comes from God by the power of his Spirit. It’s a supernatural exchange. God grants the love.

If a person does not truly understand the depths of God’s love, you will not be able to talk the person into it. This granting is something only God can do.

Imagine it this way. When my wife, Lisa, and I lived in Simi Valley, we often had people sharing our house with us. For some time, a young woman named Rochelle lived with us. She was single, and, like people in the Christian community are apt to do, Lisa and I tried as hard as we could to get Rochelle married off. Seriously —we introduced her to every single guy we could find. Rochelle didn’t mind, and it proved fun for the whole family. Even our kids prayed that Rochelle would get married. But no matter the extent of our efforts, there was no way that we could “make”any two young people fall in love with each other.

Time and time again, Rochelle said no to the guys we introduced her to. Eventually, Rochelle fell in love all by herself. She’s now married, and the couple is expecting a baby. The same idea is at work here —you can’t make anyone fall in love with Jesus, much as Lisa and I couldn’t make Rochelle fall in love with a potential suitor.

When it comes to Jesus and people, you can only make the introduction. I can only tell you that God, the Creator of the world, the only God that matters, loves you deeply. He loves you more than your wife loves you, more than your kids, more than your mother or father, more than any boyfriend or girlfriend. God passionately loves you, so much so that he gave his son to die on the cross for you.

It doesn’t matter how messed up you are, how much you’ve rebelled against him, or even how indifferent you might be to matters of the cross; God still loves you deeply. While you were still a sinner, God loved you deeply.

Who does this? Who gives his son to die in place of someone else? What an amazing God this is! Yes, I can make this introduction, but nothing will happen until somehow, like Paul says, the Holy Spirit supernaturally gives a person the strength to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

That phrase sounds almost contradictory —so read it again: God gives a person the strength to know a love that surpasses knowledge. He enables people to know something they can’t know. You understand God’s love in your inner being. Oh, how God loves us! And for people to understand this love, it comes only through prayer. Prayer is the first and greatest work that we do.

The above post is written by Francis Chan, his and Pastor Wayne’s book, Sifted.
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