I Love Jesus
This is a cut-and-paste of the lecture I gave in Filzmoos, Austria last week at a ladies retreat. I translated it and gave it in German, but since most of my blog readers are English speakers, I posted it here to my blog in English. Let me know if you want to read it in German. The theme of the retreat was called “Das, was ich liebe…,” or “My Favorite Things…” The topic I was given was “I Love Jesus.” Since this blog also holds my musings and thoughts, I decided to post what I’ve been thinking about for the last several weeks!
I Love Jesus
I love to sing. If you didn’t know this fact about me before, I’m sure you’ll figure it out before the retreat is over!
I love music so much that I sometimes tend to think “in song.” Often, when someone is speaking–when I hear a lecture, participate in a discussion, or even am just sitting around at a party chatting–it triggers a memory of a song I have heard before, and I find myself remembering melody with lyrics that further illustrate what that person was saying. I believe that even if you are NOT a musician, music is a real blessing when it comes to committing information to memory. What I love about hymns from the Bible is that we can learn parts of scripture by heart that we otherwise might not be able to remember. In fact, if I thought anyone would agree with me, I would suggest that we come together just to sing for five days at this retreat. After all, our hymns come from God’s word and Christians’ life experiences, both of which we talk about when we come together here in Filzmoos. I experience no greater joy with my Christian sisters as when we are singing together.
As a child I loved to sing about Jesus. Though I didn’t know much if anything about the bible, there was just something about the idea of all that Jesus stood for that I loved. As one of my favorite songs quotes, he has “the sweetest name on earth.” In fact, most of my favorite songs are about Jesus, so in my lecture today, I hope you don’t mind that I’ll be quoting some of my favorite hymns, alongside the scriptures to illustrate three important reasons that I love Jesus so much and why just the sound of his name is so precious to me.
I. I love Jesus because he first loved me.
In your hand-out, there’s a song titled “Oh How I Love Jesus.” I told you I often think in song. When Becki asked me to speak on the topic of “I love Jesus,” this song was the very first thing that popped into my head. Well, actually, to be honest, panic at speaking in front of people was the first thing that I thought of, but it was closely followed by this song.
Let’s look at the last of the refrain of “Oh How I Love Jesus:”
“Oh, how I love Jesus, because he first loved me.”
The song comes directly from this text in the bible: 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”
Every parent has the advantage of being able to love their child before their child even understands what love is. A child experiences feeling loved before they even know how to express their love in return. God loved us before we even existed. How do we know this? The bible. Eva gave a wonderful lecture yesterday on God’s Word. One of her reasons for “I Love The Bible” was, “I love the Bible because it’s the truth.” Probably the first song I remember singing is “Jesus loves me this I know; for the bible tells me so…” I sing this song in its entirety with my children so that its message is always in their hearts to draw on when they need it. How important it is to know that you are loved! Even those who claim to have no belief in God admit that love works wonders in this world. Without it, life could not go on. Let’s go to God’s word to discover His love for us.
Let’s read for a moment, part of Psalm 139. This entire psalm is one of my favorites, but we’ll read just a few verses here.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
I loved my children before they were even born. Even when my children were still inside my body I dreamed about them, prayed for them, loved them—and I didn’t even know who they would turn out to be! Not so with God. God knew exactly who we would be before we were born, before our parents even came together, before even the creation of mankind, he knew us—each and every aspect of our personalities. I was only involved in one small aspect of my childrens creation, but God was involved in every single part of it since before the moment of ALL creation. How insurmountable is His love! God’s love for us was there before we ever could conceive of loving him in return.
Let’s turn to the gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 1-3:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The bible tells us that Jesus loved us while he was still with God, before he ever came to earth. In fact, Jesus himself was our creator as we read in John 1 that “through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
My children and I like to read a popular childrens book called Guess how much I love you? by Sam McBratney. In this story, the little rabbit tries to show how much he loves big rabbit by trying to measure his love with how wide he can stretch his arms or how high he can jump. But no matter how big he thinks he can measure his love, big rabbit’s love is always bigger–because big rabbit, of course, has longer arms and a higher jump!
How big is Jesus’ love for us? Can we measure it like the little rabbit tried to measure his by stretching out his arms as far as they would go? Certainly, not with our arms, but I think we can indeed measure it with God’s word.
Let’s turn to 1 John 4:9-10 to see just how much he loves us.
“9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Revelation 13:8 references Jesus as “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” He loved us so much that even though he knew that with that first breath of life into Adam, he would eventually be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for his own creation. Jesus stretched out his arms with nails in his hands and feet, cuts on his back and a crown of thorns on his head and said, “I love you this much.”
II. I love Jesus because he gives me eternal life.
My original heading for this second reason was a little more specific: “I love Jesus because he reconciled my relationship with God, so that I would not die an eternal death, but instead live eternally with him in heaven.” This heading, however, is not quite as easy to remember!
My last reference in Revelation revealed that Jesus knew from our creation that our relationship with God would not remain perfect—that it would go astray.
At the end of the sixth day of creation, “God saw all that he had made and it was very good” Genesis 1:31. After God created heavens, waters, land, sun, moon, stars and animals he proclaims that it was good. After he created man he proclaimed that it was very good.
In Genesis 3:16-17 we read:
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
We all know that later Eve and Adam both ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge and it was at this point that their relationship with God was broken. God says in Genesis 3:22:
“The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
We see that at once their relationship with God took a downhill turn since the first thing they did was try to hide their sin from God and makes excuses for their behavior.
Now there is an important thing here that can be observed and applied to our lives about Adam and Eve’s relationship with God: Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God before they disobeyed him. God actually walked among them in the Garden! They knew no shame. They knew no pain or death or even hard work. They had eternal life. We can read about all of these things in Genesis 2 and 3. Yet they somehow managed to break their relationship with God by choosing a path of sadness and pain, which ultimately led to eternal death.
How many times have we made excuses that we would have a good relationship with God if we just had the time to spend with Him? If we just hadn’t been born into a horrible family that hurt us and depressed our spirits? If we didn’t have so many worries about our jobs or our children or our spouses or our futures? If we weren’t slaves to an addiction? Sometimes we kid ourselves that we would have a great relationship with God if He would just make our lives easier. Well, Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God in the paradise that He created for them and they still sinned. They still sinned.
All of us have also sinned—I have sinned—many times. And as Paul tells us in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.” There can be no eternal life with sin on our souls. God has no sin in Him because he is holy. He cannot coexist with it and so when we sinned, from that point on, we could not be with him.
Isaiah fully grasped this significance when he had a vision of the throne room of God in Isaiah 6. Let’s read in Isaiah 6:1-7:
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Isaiah brings this vision “down to earth” by saying in Isaiah 59:2 saying,” But your iniquities have separated you from your God”
Because we sinned, we were separated from being in the presence of our God, because were no longer holy. And just as God is holy and cannot be with sin, He is also righteous and requires justice for our sin, which is something that we cannot by word or deed undo on our own.
“8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.”
We cannot reconcile our relationship to God by ourselves. We cannot bring reconciliation by good deeds. That leaves us with an eternal death—separation from God–instead of eternal life with God after this life on earth ends.
I am doing a bible study right now that was written by a woman named Beth Moore called “A Woman’s Heart-God’s Dwelling Place.” It is a very interesting study that compares the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness in Exodus 25 to the coming of the “true tabernacle” Jesus Christ as a means to better understanding our relationship with God. In this study she asks: “Have you truly accepted that Christ died not only for you, but also instead of you?”
Let’s take a moment to look at what purpose our lives would have if Christ had not loved us enough to intervene for us.
- Life would no longer be times of love between times of sadness and pain. It would just be sadness and pain, knowing that our love for our husbands, children, family and friends must one day permanently end.
- Any kindness shown to us would have no further meaning beyond happenstance or coincidence.
- Our purpose in raising our children or educating others children would have no further meaning than trying to ensure survival skills in order to live successfully as long as possible before we die forever.
- Love for ourselves would take greater precedence than love for others, which would lead to a life of loneliness.
I’m sure you can also imagine some additional things in your life that would lose meaning altogether if you thought about it for a few minutes. But hopefully, all of us in this room know the good news! This life is NOT all there is and despite times of fear, sadness, pain and hatred it can also hold much beauty, joy and love. Just as God planned a beautiful life for Adam and Eve before the fall, he planned a glorious salvation for his sinful children so that they could be reconciled with Him again.
6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
This is why we sing songs like, “This Is the Day That the Lord Has Made”, “Prasie the Name of Jesus!” or “Jesus, Name Above All Names.”
And that is why it is written in Romans 8:37-39:
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither 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.”
III. I love Jesus because he gives my life purpose.
I used Beth Moore’s question to ask “Have you truly accepted that Christ died not only for you, but instead of you.” Now I ask, “what does that mean to you?”
When I was 18, I was contemplating being baptized and becoming a follower of Christ. I had been reading the bible with some friends and on my own and I knew that God had spoken to my soul. I had come to a critical point—a point that every person comes to, who is faced with becoming a Christian. I believed that Jesus had died for my sins—and I felt a new-found love for this person, that he would suffer so much for me. But I knew that I had to do more than just love him; I had to live for him. God had not only spoken to me through his word of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, but also of a transformation that had to happen on my part.
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
And in Ephesians 5:1-2:
1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
And further in verse 8:
8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
I had been putting off my decision to be baptized into Christ because I knew that it was more than just actions and words. It was a commitment to change my life, to change my whole purpose in life. Eventually, I realized that my life had no real purpose until I accepted Jesus’ love and started living for him.
Psalm 127: 1-2
1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Let’s look at the words of Jesus himself in John 15:5-8:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
When I discovered that my life in all its smallness and insignificance could indeed have such wonderful purpose and meaning, I couldn’t wait to proclaim Jesus as my savior and jump into the water!
My life has not been the same since. I’m not saying that I’ve always lived an exemplary life since then—of course not. I make my mistakes—big and small—just like everyone in this room, but throughout my life as a Christian, my purpose has not changed. In the words of Paul, “14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” as he says in Philippians 3.
And what is our purpose? What is the fruit that we are to bear? Let’s go to Jesus for the answer.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
For each of us our love for Jesus and for one another manifests itself in different ways. For some of you, like me, it has led you to devote your lives to ministry in the church, even the church outside your homeland. For others of you, it has led you to work Christ’s love within your family, bringing those that are dear to you to Christ—or simply planting the seed in their hearts. And for still others of you, it has led you to shine your light among your co-workers or even perfect strangers, bringing love and kindness into difficult situations.
Paul shows us how we can fulfill this purpose in our own lives in Ephesians 4:11-13:
11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
We each of us have our talents and abilities that God has given us with which we can spread Jesus love and good news. Jesus had many dealings with people of different professions. Some of them, he called away from their positions to do his work in a more direct manner. Others, such as centurions, tax collectors and businessmen he left to do his work among their circles. We see an example of this in Mark 5: 18-20:
18As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
This man wanted to be with Jesus, but Jesus knew that the man’s family and others around him needed to hear the good news from him. And what do we see from those who were healed by Jesus? They were so excited by the love they had found, they had to express it! We see stories through the gospels of people proclaiming the miracle of Jesus and his healing. What drove the apostles to fulfill their purpose of spreading the gospel even though it ended in grisly deaths? Their love for Jesus. Because of their love for Jesus, his message of love was spread and soul’s have been saved, God’s glory has been shown, for generations to come.
If you look at your life today, what motivates you to step outside your comfort zone to invite a neighbor to a bible study? What checks your anger and helps you act in wisdom when someone insults you or your family or cuts you off on the road or in line at the store? What keeps you from putting yourself first in your church family, but instead helps you to humbly serve your brothers and sisters in Christ? I know why I strive to do these things…because I love Jesus.