Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“When you get this concept into your mind and heart it will totally revolutionize your life.” That’s just the way the Lord said it to me. And just what is this revolutionary concept? His all-consuming, unconditional love for me. (And each of you can say the same.)
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.
(Words by Anna B. Warner 1860; Music by William B. Bradbury 1861)
Is this simple song familiar to you? Did you ever sing it as a child?
Kenneth Osbeck writes in 101 Hymn Stories, “Without doubt the hymn that has influenced children for Christ more than any other is this simply stated one, written in 1860 by Anna Bartlett Warner. Miss Warner wrote this text in collaboration with her sister Susan as a part of one of the best-selling novels of that day, a novel written by Susan entitled Say and Seal. Today few remember the plot of that novel…but the simple poem spoken by one of the characters, Mr. Linden, as he comforts Johnny Fox, a dying child, still remains the favorite hymn of children around the world to this day.” Osbeck writes that William Bradbury “composed the music for ‘Jesus Loves Me’ in 1861 especially for Anna Warner’s text and personally added the chorus to the four stanzas.”
Ah, the simple faith of childhood. Jesus loves me. How do I know?
Because the Bible tells me so. End of discussion.
But now that you’re all grown up, can you still say that? More importantly, do you still feel it? Now, don’t pass these questions off with quick answers. Don’t answer with head knowledge–what you’ve learned from years of playing “Christian.” Instead, take a moment and examine your heart. Ask yourself, “Do I feel God’s love for ME? Unconditionally. Consistently. Do I walk in it? I’ve heard that Jesus would have died for me alone, but do I conduct my life–both inside and outside of church–as if His love for me were real?”
Or, do I sometimes feel that He would love me more if only I would:
Be a “better” father, mother, husband, wife…
Read the Bible more, go to church more…
Or one of a thousand other things.
Do you ever feel that, while He may love you (in a general sort of way because, after all. He IS God and maybe He HAS to love us), there’s always a certain amount of disapproval you sense from Him. Sure, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world…” and I’m a part of the world, so maybe His love is sort of a group thing–like saying “I love people, but there are some persons I’m not too sure about. Am I one of them to Him? Is God’s love like the love I show: sometimes yes and sometimes no? Do I feel God saying to me, “Okay, I love you but I really don’t like you.”
Maybe there’s something specific in my life that I feel keeps God from accepting me fully, or maybe there isn’t. Sometimes it’s just a general feeling that maybe He would love me completely, if only I’d start… or if only I’d stop…
Remember, I’m not talking about all the things we know and say to each other: “works” won’t get us there; we are saved by grace and grace alone, and so on and so on. We sing “Nothing you could do could make Him love you more. And nothing that you’ve done could make Him close the door.” We know that Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
But do you know it experientially? Be honest, with yourself, and with God.
You may be one who walks in God’s love most of the time, or you may have a real problem in feeling for even a moment that God could possibly love you at all.
If you’re in the latter category, please take some time to ask God to show you the Truth. Approach Him with a sincere heart and persistent determination and be willing to be led by the Holy Spirit into an ever-growing love relationship with the Father.
But the same suggestion could apply to all of us.
What I’m talking about is the surety expressed in “Jesus Loves Me.” This I know because the Bible tells me so. It’s what Paul prayed for the Christians in Ephesus, and for us, when he wrote:
“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit–not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength–that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Ephesians 3:14-19 The Message)
“Jesus loves me! This I know for the Bible tells me so.”
Can you say to God right now,
“Heavenly Father, I know in my heart that You love me unconditionally and totally. I know that through my acceptance of Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord of my life You love me as much as You love him.
“I ask, Holy Spirit of God within me, that you work through me. Lord, cause me to experience the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Let me know its breadth and height. Strengthen me by Your Spirit, living in me for a glorious inner strength.”
No, God doesn’t love everything I do and, no matter how I try, I can never earn His love with my thoughts, intents and my actions. My hope does not lie in “self-improvement”, but in His increase and my decrease. Growth in the Christian life does not occur as we get better but as He takes over. And I can best trust in Him to take over my life when I am able to rest in the breadth and height of His love.
And if you’re tempted to say, “Yeah, but…”, remember: “Jesus loves me! This I know for the Bible tells me so.”
How do I delve into the “extravagant dimensions” of that love? Well, if “the Bible tells me so” I have to become familiar with what it says. I could give you many verses that speak of God’s love, but those words mean so much more when you seek out and find them for yourself.
And when you find them, personalize them. Speak them back to God. Claim them for yourself. Meditate on them in your prayer time. During the day practice the presence of God in your life, knowing He is always with you.
If you want to read about who you are in Christ, study and pray over Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. And read these letters of Paul as if they were written to you alone. God did not send Jesus to die for “mankind” but for each individual who would accept that sacrifice as full payment for his sin.
Full realization of God’s love for me is not still another thing that I try to work up or do through my own effort. As I read, pray, and spend quality time with our Heavenly Father His Spirit works in me according to my request.
Seek out through prayer and study what God has to say about how He feels about you. Pray the prayers of Paul for yourself and expect God to open your mind and heart.
And why the emphasis on God’s love for me? Because true surrender to God and true service for Him come not from the “knowledge” that He loves me but from the experiential surety of that love. And just as I cannot “work up” my own salvation or my Christian walk with Jesus, I must depend upon the action of the Holy Spirit to saturate me in God’s love.
Just as in prayer, my part is to “show up” and ask. I must spend time in God’s presence and wait in expectancy.
That’s what the Lord said to me. “I love you, my child. More than you can imagine! When you get this concept into your mind and heart it will totally revolutionize your life.”
“Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so!”