What comes to your mind when you hear the word, “Extravagant Love?” Do visions of expensive gifts, candlelight dinners or luxury vacations come to mind? Some would argue extravagance of any type is wasteful. Let me put this in context for you. What comes to mind when you think of “Extravagant Love” as it relates to how you love Christ? Only spiritual transformation produces extravagant love for Christ.
The word extravagant evokes thoughts of luxury, excess, lavish care or expensive accoutrements. Extravagance also carries some negative thoughts of waste and extremes resulting in polarizing conversations. But in relation to God, I wonder if the adjective “extravagant” is even adequate to describe His love for us? Similarly, could we describe our love for Him as extravagant? In both cases, extravagant love results from transformation through sacrifice offered as worship.
physical vs spiritual transformation
Thoughts of transformation strikes fear into most people, because transformation implies “change” and no one likes change. At the same time , popular TV shows depicting amazing transformations mesmerize us. “Extreme” Makeover type shows portraying shocking weight loss journeys, astonishing home renovations or stunning cosmetic makeovers. The thought of something broken, aged, unattractive or worn completely transformed into something beautiful and desirable bewitches us. The realization that someone or something must submit to the work of the transformation is less desirable.
A spiritual transformation resembles these physical transformations only with eternal results. The process that begins at salvation and continues the length of our physical lives transforms our spiritual countenance. Just like the physical transformations that astonish us, the spiritual transformation requires work and submission to another’s hands. The outcome offers intimacy with the heavenly designer. Extravagant love for God flows out of this intimacy.
Consider the parallels between the cosmetic makeovers we love to watch and the spiritual makeover we experience in Christ.
- Physical: we change the outer man.
- Spiritual: God changes the inner man.
- Physical: we may submit to a cosmetic makeover reluctantly, fearful of the outcome because we hesitate to make changes to how we’ve always looked.
- Spiritual: we submit to change reluctantly in the inner man, but fearful of the outcome; not sure we really “need” the change, not sure we’ll like the change (or the process!) we’re “comfortable” with our (spiritual) appearance.
- Physical: we allow “someone else” to make the changes. The whole basis of a “makeover” is to allow someone else to “change” or make improvements (hopefully).
- Spiritual: we must allow someone else” (GOD) to make changes to the inner man; only He can do that.
We all love a good makeover, as long as it turns out right! We see in Luke 10:38-42 Jesus’ offer of a “Holy” makeover to Martha. He saw the need for deep change. He saw that Martha thought she had value because of her productivity. Instead, He offered her the realization of her value because she belonged to Him. This offer began the invitation to intimacy with Christ which resulted in the transformed Martha we meet in John 11:17-27. Spiritual transformation produces extravagant love through intimacy with Christ.
you must accept the invitation to intimacy
When we submit willingly to spiritual transformation, we begin a journey of intimacy with Christ that many times is not easy. Cosmetic makeovers don’t usually involve physical pain, but extreme weight loss seldom comes easy. We don’t think of physical pain when we view a complete house renovation, but often the expense and work involves hardship. Honestly, the process of spiritual transformation involves discomfort, suffering and pain. That is why many of us would rather stay the way we are, instead of change.
But it is the very discomfort, suffering and pain that opens the door to intimacy with Christ. In my recent post, “Learning to See Suffering As Worship”, I wrote about offering our suffering back to God as an act of worship. Sadly we forego intimacy with Christ fearing suffering, but also because we don’t see the need for transformation. Looking back at Luke 10:38-42, many might say that Mary needed no transformation. Even Jesus said she had chosen the “better part”, but as we’ll see momentarily, Mary needed transformation as much as Martha did. Coming to a place of intimacy with Christ must involve admission of our need for transformation.
intimacy results in spiritual transformation
When Jesus invites us into intimacy with Him, we know He likewise invites us into transformation. I can tell you from personal experience, God often uses suffering to accomplish that transformation. Walking my youngest daughter through an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent adoption required a walk through suffering like I never experienced previously. That suffering revealed things about myself I did not want to see, it stripped away pride, self reliance, arrogance and self-absorption. My hands held only the ashes of expected dreams and grief. But in place of all I lost, I was not only transformed, but received the most valuable treasure of all; union with Christ.
Prior to that particular time, I thought of myself as in little need of transformation. Like Mary, I chose the better part, I led in ministry, I had missionary experience on the foreign field and was a respected teacher. God in His sovereignty used the suffering, revealing a much different view to me. While at the same time in His graciousness did what only He could do; transform the brokenness into beauty and give me Himself in the bargain. You cannot spend intimate time with Christ and not experience change. This is what many people miss about Mary; choosing the better part was only the beginning for her.
From Spiritual Transformation to Extravagant Love
We see evidence of Mary’s transformation in John 12:1-13. This story is also given in Mark 14:1-11 and Matthew 26:1-16, though Mary’s name is only mentioned in John. I find it Interesting that all three men were at this “dinner” in Bethany. Yet all three men saw something a bit different in the same situation. I’ll save delving into that for another time. Let’s focus on the account in John. When we first meet Mary in Luke 10, she is seated at Jesus’ feet. In John she is once again at Jesus’ feet but for entirely different reasons.
Evidence of transformation
Mary performs the scandalous act of breaking an alabaster jar of very expensive spikenard, and anointing Jesus with it. This caused everyone present to question, “is extravagant love of Christ waste or worship?” It also reveals some specifics about Mary’s transformation.
- Mary’s desire to “participate” with Christ-not just “imitate” Him. She sought oneness with her Savior. Surely she heard the same grumbling and plotting against Him. She demonstrates the urgency of her desire for more than sitting in His presence as the others were.
- She was dispossessed of her own life. The spikenard was expensive, and the quantity that she possessed cost a year’s wages. This spoke of her identity and ability to afford possessing it. The pouring out of it was extravagant; she, like David would not offer to the Lord that which cost her nothing. To be dispossessed of your life is to have no reputation, (it’s not about me), no agenda (it’s not for me or what I can get), no self, no glory-truly dying to self.
- She dismantled or stripped herself of her glory. Doing something that women in that culture did not do in public; she untied her hair (I Cor. 11:13-15). She took the place of a servant, a slave at the feet of Jesus. Humbling herself in an act of worship that was public, spontaneous, sacrificial, lavish, personal and unembarrassed. She delighted in it. Jesus called it a good work in Mark and Matthew’s accounts.
Spiritual transformation produces extravagant love
Of course this level of worship and relationship with Christ will bring criticism, even from others close to Him. The disciples were “indignant” and rebuked the act; Judas condemned it. They saw it as a waste. But Jesus blessed her, He saw it as worship. Not only will this level of worship bring criticism from others, our own flesh will condemn it. We see this pictured in Judas, he represents the self-life; fretful, greedy, self-centered, fussy, lustful, hateful, envious; full of superficial devotion. The flesh will see this oneness with Christ as a “waste”.
This story of Mary’s transformation, is one of the most beautiful pictures of serving, worship, intimacy and oneness with Christ that you will see in the Bible. The transformation is stunning in that we see Mary move from sitting at Jesus’ feet learning meekness and humility, in Luke 10, to falling at His feet in despair and doubt in John 11, to anointing His feet in service and worship in John 12. Changed from contemplative and introspective, moved by her utter devotion and gratitude to pursuing complete intimacy and oneness with Christ. This is extravagant, scandalous love poured out in worship on the only One worthy to receive it, Christ. Mary’s story displays a glorious picture of how spiritual transformation produces extravagant love for Christ.
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