black and white cemetery christ church
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

            THE GREATEST THOUGHT WHICHEVER COULD GRACE OUR MIND IS THIS: “JESUS LOVES ME, THIS I KNOW.”

Before the world was, God loved you infinitely and immutably. As he said through Jeremiah, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). “The love of God towards his people is self-moved. Deut. 7:7–8, “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you.”[1] “This is the foundation of God’s former kindness to them. This was the reason why God had drawn them to him to be his people because he loved them before they were drawn. Their cleaving to God, and choosing him to be their God, and worshipping him, was not the cause that God loved them; but God loved them before, and that was the cause of their cleaving to him and choosing him. He loved them, and so drew them to him to be his people, and to acknowledge and serve him as their God.”[2]

The love between friends and family may disappear. Prov. 14:20, “The poor is hated of his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends.” And Proverbs 19:7 says, “All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursues them with words, yet they are wanting to him.”

But the love of God for is people is infinite, eternal, and immutable. Paul exclaimed in  Rom. 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”; and the 38 & 39th “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The incredible love of God is put into words here in John 3:14-21. Here is the message: God loves the world. “itself. “And what a great message it is,—the message of the greatness of the love of God! Let us see to it that, as the words sound in our ears, it is this great revelation that fills our hearts, fills them so full as to flood all their being and wash into all their recesses. The greatness of the love of God, the immeasurable greatness of the love of God!”[3] Calvin said, “Here Christ presents us with the cause and as it were the fountain of our salvation, so as to remove all doubt; for our minds cannot come to rest in tranquility unless they arrive at the free love of God.[4]

 

DEATH PROVIDED THE DARK BACKGROUND TO HIGHLIGHT GOD’S LOVE—JOHN 3:14-15.

 

John wrote, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”The love of God is displayed in Christ. This love is our only hope for salvation from the death which we deserve. God’s love is the beauty which we should long to see.  Paul described God’s great love for sinful man. He wrote in Romans 5:7-11:

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

The Israelites, dying from the consequences of their sin, could not have imagined how beautiful that serpent was to their eyes. In seeing it, they saw their salvation. So it is with us. We are dying in sin. When we see the love of God in Christ, there is nothing more beautiful that we could ever see. His love is all we need. His love is the greatest beauty. His love is the only hope.

GOD’S LOVING GIFT OF LIFE NOW SHINES—JOHN 3:16-17

John declared God’s love in the most beloved text in all the Bible. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”[5] “Christ spoke as he did so as to turn men’s attention from themselves to the mercy of God alone. God does not declare that he was led to deliver us because he found us worthy of such a blessing. On the contrary, he attributes the glory of our deliverance solely to his love. [6]

John continued his doctrine of God’s love in 1 John 4:9, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” Paul wrote, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

But how could God love the world. We are told “love not the world, neither the things of the world.” Warfield noted the love of God for all his creation is not a “love of complacency.” He cannot take pleasure in evil. Rather his love is benevolent and saves. Those who do not receive his love are rejected with due wrath.[7]

Chrysostom marveled at God’s love for his rebellious creation. He said, “He, the immortal, who is without beginning, the Infinite Majesty, they but dust and ashes, full of ten thousand sins, who, ungrateful, have at all times offended Him; and these He “loved.” Again, the words which He added after these are alike significant, when He saith, that “He gave His Only-begotten Son,” not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel. And yet no one would show such anxiety for his own child, as God did for His ungrateful servants”[8]

“This though it was done many ages since, yet it was done from love to the saints that are now living. It was from Christ’s great love to the saints that are now living, and to the saints that are yet to be born, as well as to those that then were or had been before. It was from love to them in God the Father, that he sent his Son into the world to die. And it was from the great love of Christ to them, that he came down from heaven, and was made flesh, and dwelt here in a mean and low condition, and gave himself a sacrifice to divine justice. Every saint may say, as the apostle Paul does in Gal. 2:20, “He loved me, and gave himself for me.”[9]

God’s love for us is entirely undeserved. There is nothing in us that demands his affection. “We were loved while we were enemies because of sin (Rom. 5:10). For surely, where sin reigns, there is only the wrath of God which carries death with it. It follows that mercy alone reconciles us to God and, in so doing, restores us to life.”[10] He loves us because he has set his affection upon us, not because we are deserving.

 

WE CAN’T UNDERSTAND GOD’S LOVE, BUT WE MUST BELIEVE—JOHN 3:18

“Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.”[11] The Bible shows us the great contrast between “belief” and “condemnation.” To believe is to escape condemnation. To not believe is to be condemned. There is no middle ground. There is no third way. It is believed or die.

Jesus illustrated this in Matthew 12:41. He said “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” Nineveh escaped judgment because they believed. Later, they were condemned because they fell again into disbelief and sin.

Belief in Christ is necessary because Christ is life and the source of life for us. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4). To not believe in Christ is to reject life. In John’s opening chapter, he contrasted those who believed with those who rejected Christ. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).

 

HE MUST BE OUR ONLY AND TRUE LOVE—JOHN 3:19-21

John 3:19-21 tells us not only that we must love Jesus, but that we must love Jesus more than anything. “This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”[12] If ever we love anything more than Christ, we have become idolaters and condemn ourselves by our affections. Still yet we love the things of this frail world. “man is so deeply in love with sin, as to count it the most estimable good.”[13] How we have seen this incredible folly manifested in the evil pursuits of godless people today. Howe foolish to follow them to destruction. Love God. Set your heart upon him. Let nothing come between you and your Savior.

Our love for God must be the center of our heart. Jesus said, ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). Jonathan Edwards solemnly said, “But I shall insist upon but one thing here as an evidence of your being a saint, and so of your being the object of the everlasting love of God, viz. love to god?”[14]

 

THE GREATEST THOUGHT WHICHEVER COULD GRACE OUR MIND IS THIS:“ JESUS LOVES ME, THIS I KNOW.”

The infinite and immutable love of God is the reason humanity has had mercy in ages past. The same infinite and immutable love of God is the reason we have mercy today. The same love of God is the reason we have mercy forever. “Jesus love me” continues to be the most amazing thought. I cannot fathom it will soon lose its ranking. How could anything be better than the love of Christ? How could I be so delusional as to value anything above his love for me?

 

BUT DO YOU LOVE HIM?

Jesus’ love for us is infinite. God’s love for us is displayed in his infinite sacrifice of his Son. The Spirit’s love for us is demonstrated in his presence with us who are so far beneath him. There is still another question we must answer. Do we love him? Do we place him on a grand pedestal in our hearts so that everything must be arranged to glorify him? Surely there is nothing as wonderful as God that we might love in his stead. Jonathan Edwards described the beautiful perfection of God better than uninspired man. He wrote, “For as God is infinitely the greatest Being, so he is allowed to be infinitely the most beautiful and excellent: and all the beauty to be found throughout the whole creation, is but the reflection of the diffused beams of that Being who hath an infinite fullness of brightness and glory.”[15]

Augustine helps us to see the importance of loving Christ.

Run, my brethren, lest the darkness lay hold of you. Awake to your salvation, awake while there is time; let none be kept back from the temple of God, none kept back from the work of the Lord, none called away from continual prayer, none be defrauded of wonted devotion. Awake, then, while it is day: the day shines, Christ is the day. He is ready to forgive sins, but to them that acknowledge them; ready to punish the self-defenders, who boast that they are righteous, and think themselves to be something when they are nothing[16]

Let us cast aside everything which does not show our love for Jesus. Let us seek all those things by which we may show love for him who first loved us.

God said to Israel, “Put away your gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt” (Joshua 24:14). God’s words are recorded in Ezekiel 20:5-8:

Thus saith the Lord God; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the Lord your God; in the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands: Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.

If there is anything in your heart more precious than Christ, demand it to be gone at once. Stet him has your first and great love. Love for anything and anyone else must only be allowed because those affections themselves display your love for Christ. As Jonathan Edwards said, “But I shall insist upon but one thing here as an evidence of your being a saint, and so of your being the object of the everlasting love of God, viz. love to god?”[17] “Certain it is, that every man that doth not love God, denies God.”[18]

Does his love draw you even now? Does his love rule your heart? Does love for him move your heart, mind, body, and soul to complete submission to him? If so, have you been baptized for him? Have you been washed so that you might be presented to him as his bride? This is the image of Ephesians 5. Come to him now. Let him cleanse you. Devote yourself to him as he, the majestic God, has devoted himself to you.

 

 

            [1] Jonathan Edwards, “The Everlasting Love of God.” In Sermons and Discourses, 1734–1738, ed. M. X. Lesser and Harry S. Stout, vol. 19, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2001), 478–479.

            [2] Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1734–1738, 476.

      [3] Warfield, Benjamin B.. The Saviour of the World: Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary (p. 33). CrossReach Publications. Kindle Edition.

            [4] Joseph Haroutunian and Louise Pettibone Smith, Calvin: Commentaries (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 192.

            [5] Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Jn 3:16.

            [6] Joseph Haroutunian and Louise Pettibone Smith, Calvin: Commentaries (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 192.

            [7] Warfield wrote: “When we are told that God loves the world, it is much as if we were told that He loves the flesh and the devil. And we may, indeed, take courage from our text and say it boldly: God does love the world and the flesh and the devil. Therein indeed is the ground of all our comfort and all our hope: for we—you and I—are of the world and of the flesh and of the devil. Only,—we must punctually note it,—the love wherewith God loves the world, the flesh and the devil—therefore, us—is not a love of complacency, as if He the Holy One and the Good could take pleasure in what is worldly, fleshly, devilish: but that love of benevolence which would fain save us from our worldliness, fleshliness and devilishnessWarfield, Benjamin B.. The Saviour of the World,  37.

            [8] John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Gospel of St. John,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and Epistle to the Hebrews, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. G. T. Stupart, vol. 14, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 95.

            [9] Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1734–1738, 479.

[10] Joseph Haroutunian and Louise Pettibone Smith, Calvin: Commentaries (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 193.

            [11] Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Jn 3:18.

            [12] Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Jn 3:19–21.

            [13] Charnock, Stephen. The Existence and Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 1959-1960). Kindle Edition.

            [14] Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1734–1738, 473.

              [15] Edwards, Jonathan. The Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards: Christ Exalted, Sinners in the Hands of the Angry God, A Divine and Supernatural Light, Christian Knowledge, On … (59 Books With Active Table of Contents) (Kindle Locations 909-911). Kindle Edition

            [16] Augustine of Hippo, “Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John,” in St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. John Gibb and James Innes, vol. 7, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), 86.

            [17] Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1734–1738, 473.

            [18] Charnock, Stephen. The Existence and Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 428-429). Kindle Edition.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.