During my years as a traveling revivalist, I found that every church has members who seem to outshine the rest. They are in every service. They are often the first ones to come to the altar at the end of the message. They worship the Lord unashamedly with all their heart. Whenever they can they seem eager to meet the guest speaker. I have also noticed that they just love to talk about the Lord, usually sharing something exciting that the Lord has done in their life. These are the ones whom I believe the Lord refers to in the Gospels as “loving much!”
I am also well aware that there are those in church services who may, for one reason or another be in a more somber walk with God. Perhaps they are just of more of a quiet personality type, more shy in their demeanor. Perhaps they are grieving a great loss or have just gone through some sort of severe abuse. As a revivalist with a calling to encourage everyone to “Love the Lord with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength”, I am always mindful that these people love the Lord no less than the openly expressive people do!
In Luke chapter seven, Jesus is invited to a Pharisee’s home for dinner. While He was there, a woman came in off the street who was a known sinner. She began to weep and kiss and wash and anoint Jesus’ feet with an expensive bottle of fragrant oil, wiping them dry with her hair. As the Pharisee witnessed this, he began to grumble in his mind. Jesus knowing his thoughts, scolded him, pointing out that while the Pharisee had not even shown Him basic courtesy, “…this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time that I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she has loved much, but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Luke 7:45b-47(NKJV)
The evangelist Charles Finney, a former lawyer, was an American Presbyterian minister and leader in the American revival, which is called the “Second Great Awakening”. He has been given the title of the “Father of Modern Revivalism.” He is credited with leading over 800,000 people to Christ in his lifetime and had the highest “stick rate” of any evangelist that ever lived, wherein 85% of the converts who came to Christ under his teaching went on to attend church and become faithful members. In comparison some of our modern evangelists can only report about a 2% “stick rate”.
As a former lawyer Charles Finney gauged the Word of God to be a binding covenant between God and man. In his preaching, he used the law of God to argue against sinners, conclusively proving them guilty and worthy of punishment. He showed sinners that their only escape from eternal imprisonment was salvation through the cross and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. In Finney’s writings, he refers to the fact that as he traveled, he found that many of the people who attended church and believed that they were saved never fully understood that the Word of God exposed such traits as their own self-righteousness as being sinful. Many saw themselves as basically good people who really did not need to be forgiven of much, while still conceding that they did, however, still need Jesus to forgive them of the little bit of sin of which they were guilty. As a result as the scripture says, they both loved little, and served little. Finney saw absolutely no difference between the necessity to reach those people with the complete gospel message than to reach those who were obviously completely lost. He would always count those who finally recognized their hopeless condition due to the sin of their self-righteousness right along with the number of those who confessed hearing about salvation for the first time.
Growing up, I was surrounded by very godly relatives; my grandparents and several deeply committed Christian aunts and uncles and their children,. They were all very good people. It is so easy for me to understand how my kinfolk, exactly as those churchgoers in Finney’s audiences, did not see themselves as being much of a sinner. Since, they feel that they have not sinned much, they do not need to be forgiven much.
In spite of being raised in the church, I and so many who I know and love took a wild ride of rebellion into sin when we became teenagers. When people such as myself get saved, we have no doubts but what we were once a sinful mess and that Jesus has forgiven us “much”. Therefore, although we are still a work in progress, we love much!
Biweekly, I have the delight of speaking in a place called “The Renovation House”. Men who have had “life controlling” issues have the chance to find and grow in their salvation experience in the Renovation House’s residential program. What a delight it is to teach people who are so hungry for God’s truth. Truly, these men love much because they have been forgiven much!
What do a bloody cloth, excrement, rotting flesh, and vomit all have in common? They all stink, right? Do you realize that they are four things that God uses different places in the scripture to describe self-righteous attitudes? So, in conclusion, allow me to ask you; do you love the Lord a little because you struggle with self-righteousness? Do you realize your “little sins” took Jesus just as much suffering on the cross, as the “big” sins of others? You too can learn to “love much”, maybe just as much, as those who unlike you were never “pretty good people”? May we humbly realize today, just how pertinent our “small” sins were to Jesus!