Ambassador of Reconciliation
8/9/12 at 11:48 PM 43 Comments

Jesus Loves Me! This I Know

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For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Susan Warner, 1860

This week my friend and I are studying about “Faith: The Foundation” in our summer Bible study.1 We’re learning that faith is built on the facts that

God is sovereign.
God is wise.
God is love.

I looked at the sovereignty of God a few weeks ago, and maybe the wisdom of God will become the topic for a future blog. Today I want to explore the love of God. We can be convinced that God is all-powerful and all-wise, and still struggle with putting our complete faith and trust in Him. For many, the clincher is knowing for sure that God loves us personally. Some are able to rest in the simple declaration of His love: “Jesus loves me! This I know.” Others of us want to know what it really means. So what does it mean that God is love? How extensive is His love?

For starters we can go to one of the most familiar verses in the Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16).

I also looked up passages mentioned in the chapter we are studying:

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness (Jer. 31:3).

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:37-39).

As I read these passages, I found myself asking, “who are these promises for or about?” Think about what your answers would be.

“God so loved the world.” Who is the world?

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Who is you?

“God demonstrates his own love for us.” Who is us?

When it says He loved us while we were still sinners, does it mean He loves all sinners or only those who have been redeemed or will be redeemed? There are verses that suggest that His love is for those who love and obey Him—that He hates the wicked and that His “chosen people” are the ones who are “dearly loved” (Col. 3:12):

He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments, But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him (Dt. 7:9-10).

You keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way (2 Chr. 6:14).

Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments (Neh. 1:5).

The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion (Ps. 11:5).

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him (Ps. 103:11).

The Lord detests the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue righteousness (Pr. 15:9).

And yet these verses must be understood in light of the rest of Scripture. The Bible speaks over and over of God’s unconditional love—that He IS love regardless of who we are (1 Jn. 4:8). The Old Testament declares God’s “unfailing love” or “steadfast love” dozens of times. Many times God is said to be “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (e.g., Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Psalm 107 repeatedly says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind”—not just for the chosen people or the faithful ones, but for “mankind.” God so loved “the world” that He gave His Son so we would not perish. “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Eph. 2:4-5).

So it seems that God does love the whole world—all mankind, even sinners who are dead in transgressions—but does there come a time when His love for some people ends? What about when it becomes clear that their hearts are incorrigibly hardened and they will never repent from sin and love Him? When they die? Or does His love continue no matter what they do or fail to do? The Bible says that God’s love never ends. “His love endures forever” is affirmed five times in Psalm 118 and 26 times in Psalm 136. Many verses speak of His never-failing love:

Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption (Ps. 130:7).

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (Lam. 3:22).

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love (Lam. 3:31-32).

We teach our children “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Will He still love them if they turn against Him when they get older? Or does His love for them depend upon their loving and obeying Him? If so, what are the requirements for keeping His love? As soon as His love for us depends on something we do, even if the “something” is just “accepting” His love or “receiving” His love or “having faith” or “trusting Christ,” then His love is conditional and we can never be sure we have met the conditions. The words of “Jesus Loves Me” get it right:

Jesus loves me when I’m good,
When I do the things I should,
Jesus loves me when I’m bad,
Though it makes Him very sad.

But what about when a person dies without ever believing in Christ or acknowledging God’s love—is it all over at that point? Does God withdraw His love from the one who goes to his grave in rebellion against Him? Think about it. Do you, in your finite, fallen, fallible love, stop loving and caring about a person when he or she dies? If God is love, how could His nature change just because a person dies? Can He stop being love? Can He stop loving?

But, you might say, God’s love is expressed differently after people die; now comes the time of judgment for those who have rejected Christ. They had their chance in this life, and if they spurned the love of God, He will not force it on them. Yes, there comes a time when God’s love is expressed in severe judgment, but by what kind of strange thinking can we say that allowing a person to suffer forever with no hope of relief constitutes “love”? This problem partially goes away by saying the wicked cease to exist; at least the suffering is over. But does God remember them? If you are a parent, would you remember your children if they ceased to exist? Would you still love them? Grieve for them? Does God?

Many want to love and trust God but they stumble at the idea that their loved ones will be destroyed and never seen again or will suffer forever—that this God who claims to love them fails to prevent this never-ending suffering and offers no hope for relief from it. I wish I could reassure you that you don’t have to believe that God will torment people forever! I want to shout from the rooftops the truly good news that God loves you and all your loved ones with an immeasurable, unchanging love. Words fail when we try to express the extent of God’s love. Here is one hymn writer’s attempt to describe it:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

S. Trevor Francis, 1875

Even Paul had trouble expressing the extent of God’s multi-dimensional love. He wanted us to grasp how vast it is so that we can have unshakeable faith:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:16-19).

With all of God’s attributes, however great you think they are—they’re greater. (Ps. 145:3—“His greatness no one can fathom.”) However holy you think He is—He’s holier. However just you think He is—His justice is more complex and perfect. However powerful you think He is—His power exceeds what you can imagine. However vast you think the love of God is—it’s more so. His “love divine, all loves excelling” extends to all of space and time and beyond space and time, because God is beyond space and time and God is love. Can you trust such a God? Absolutely!

If God did not love everyone, I would have cause to doubt His love for me, just as it would not be reassuring to think that my parents love me but not my brothers and sisters. (See “Being the Chosen Child.”) My assurance of God’s love rests not just on the fact that He loves me, but on the certainty that He loves me and the other people who love Him and the people I love and the people I don’t love and the people nobody else loves—in fact, that He loves everybody now and forever. I can be confident that such a God will never waver in His love for anyone, including me. God IS love; as Charles Wesley put it, “Jesus, Thou art all compassion, pure unbounded love Thou art.” Knowing that God’s love is not limited and that His heart is for all humanity is the sure foundation for solid faith in Him.

Let the words of this hymn sink deep into your heart and grip you with the immensity of God’s love. Here is a God you can trust fully because He is sovereign, He is wise, and He is love!

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Frederick M. Lehman, 1917

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
For fear has to do with punishment,
and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
(1 John 4:18)

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1Dillow, Linda. Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment. NavPress, © 1998, 2007.

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