Yes, Jesus Loves Me

Have you said, “Jesus loves you” to anyone recently? If you are a good evangelist you probably have. It is the cornerstone of our great Gospel message. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” is painted across many of our church walls, while Sunday school children below sing “Jesus loves me this I know” with all melody. The good news is that our God loves us, warts ‘n’ all. Everyone knows that.

Or do they? You see I have a sneak feeling that, when all the singing is over, many Christians possess a deep, dark secret. One that is never voiced, never shared in housegroup, never written in a hidden diary. We believe that God so loved the world indeed, but we are not at all sure that He really loves us. How can a holy God love a dirty me?

Human beings are very good at concealing things, especially the most evil and selfish thoughts of the heart. With a little social skill we are able to make a few people like us; even love us. But we know that our mask doesn’t work with heaven. Paul writes that we are “fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We can’t hide. David says that God “perceives our thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:2). Man looks at the outward appearance but “God looks upon the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). That’s a shame. The truth is, even for the less glamorous of us, we are all so much better looking on the outside.

Evangelists will know that unsaved people are sometimes quite reluctant to admit that they are sinners. It’s hard work to squeeze an admission of guilt out of a hardened heart. But come back to those very same people a number of years down the track, after they have been ‘Christianised’ and taught about God’s holy nature, and they may now believe that they have no virtue in them at all. Human nature is fallen for sure, but this doctrine must be balanced with the great love of God. If not, believers can be left in crisis.

I speak from experience. Like so many Christians, for years I made God in my own image. Not the Father that Jesus spoke of who passionately loved the prodigal, but a God who was just like me: intolerant of failure and operating in a love that came with a string of conditions. And I was in the ministry too. Despite what I preached, in my heart I did not believe that God truly loved me. I was too bad. In the valley and the pulpit – a common postal address for leaders.

Then, in 1993, I had an accident. I tripped against a brick wall and banged my head, leaving my blood (and my eyebrow) on the concrete. Rushed to hospital, and put in a wheelchair, I was left to wait for a doctor in a NHS corridor.

What happened next cannot be adequately described. The Lord visited me. I saw nothing but the sense of His loving presence was unspeakable. As a theology student I had understood that God was a king, a warrior, a lamb and a dove. But here in this colourless corridor, He became for me “Jehovah the Anxious Parent”. He just loved me and loved me. I felt like a tiny boy. I came home with a bandaged head but a healed soul. I had received a heart transplant from the world’s top Physician!

Later that day, I turned to private prayer and found that I could come freely, without guilt, and God was actually interested in answering my prayers, not just in seeing me “clock in” with Him. That Saturday evening I stood to preach (complete with dark glasses and bandaged head) from Ephesians 3:18 where Paul prays that believers would be able to “grasp” that Christ loves them. Didn’t the mighty Ephesian church know that already? Apparently not.

Let me encourage you to pray, if you need to, for this same revelation. The truth sets free. God’s love has no conditions attached, not ever! It was while I was still a sinner that Christ died for me (Romans 5:8)! If I were to quit the ministry today and go and park up in a bar surrounded by prostitutes, God would still be madly in love with me. Without this knowledge, we quickly become like the prodigal’s brother. Not family, just an employee looking for better conditions.

One of the most prominent theologians of the twentieth century was Karl Barth. Before his death, he was asked: “Dr Barth, what is the greatest truth in the Bible?” The scholarly crowd waited, pens at the ready, for his anticipated high philosophical response. After some thought, the old man leaned forward and answered, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak but He is strong…”

JOY Magazine, February 2008

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