Rumor has it that when one aging pastor and renowned theologian was asked what was the highest theological peak he had reached in his years of study and preaching, he answered simply: Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Initially, I smiled at the preacher’s cleverness. Later, however, I wondered over the preacher’s answer. Something about it stuck with me.
After a life of exploring mountain ranges men like me have never seen, savoring Christ in ways I have not, speaking of nuances in theology I do not yet understand — after all his decades of travel in the Christian life — this preacher imparted no higher souvenir than can be found on the lips of children. With all his twists and turns, ups and downs, peaks and valleys, he had not escaped the nursery of God’s gospel love. This love stood as crib walls for the childlike heart.
Would I have answered similarly?
God Delights in Me?
When we hear that God loves us, we can imagine strange things. We call it an ocean; we sing songs about it; but too often we float at its surface preferring the more practical, more current, more insightful. A world remains unexplored. But God desires to give full lyric to our nursery song. He says to his people through Isaiah,
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. . . . You shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:3–5)
“To smile more before God, we must rediscover the weight of his smile, his unveiled happiness in his people.”
God likes you. He delights in you. He smiles at you — and not because he sees someone smarter, taller, better looking, or holier standing just behind you. He looks each redeemed child in the eye and tells him of his love for him in his Son. This is who our God is towards us. Not because of our worth, but because of Christ’s.
Your inheritance in Christ shatters all of earth’s piggy banks: God’s smile. He delights to see you, he rejoices to have you, as every smiling groom at the end of the aisle foretells. The God who spoke the cosmos into existence sings over you:
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Have you been quieted by his love of late? Have you simply sat singing to yourself: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so? Have you submerged beneath the surface to discover the heart of God towards his bride? The pastor found God’s affection for him to be a bottomless sea to explore. His maturity did not graduate to other seas; it went scuba diving.
He Wants You Where He Is
Some of us think about God’s love in so many clichés and platitudes that we come to think of it as the kiddie pool of the Christian faith. It gives us no pause, therefore, to leave the lyric behind us to higher, weightier things. We forget to marvel as C.S. Lewis does in his famous sermon “The Weight of Glory”:
To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son — it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.
How different we would pray, how different we would evangelize, how different we would worship and explore his word, if we believed that the God whom we sought actually wanted us to draw near. If we worshiped the God of Scripture who summons us under his wings (Luke 13:34).
The pastor knew that our Father does not roll his eyes as he gives the kingdom to his children. Instead, he says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). From such a heart he anticipated the holy commendation at the end of his race: “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). If we too only realized that Jesus died to keep us from hell and from some remote corner of heaven — that he died to bring us to himself: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
He wants us near because he delights in his people. Do we fellowship with this happy God, a God in whom enough joy cascades to submerge his people for an eternity?
A New Smile Every Morning
John Piper has given his life to proclaiming, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. And how shall we be satisfied in him? Go deeper in his satisfaction of you in Christ. Stare, without excuse or extensive qualification, at how he desires us; how truly happy he is in his redeemed people. No one forced him to adopt us.
“How different we would pray, if we believed that the God whom we sought actually wanted us to draw near.”
Perhaps many of us are not happier in our Christian lives because we assume God is as disappointed in us as we can tend to be in ourselves. Children cannot long delight in a father that stares indifferently at them — and we have not outgrown this. Children love to be delighted in. They love to cry, “Daddy, watch me!” and see his smile when they complete the somersault. Although we can still displease him with our sin, grieving the Spirit he placed within us, the Father’s smile replaces his displeasure as the sun replaces the moon each morning. His laughter, as with his mercy, is new every morning.
To smile more before God, we must rediscover the weight of his smile, his unveiled happiness in his people that bids us be as merry as we humanly can be — in him. In this is joy: not that we have delighted in God, but that he first chose to delight in us. We will never outlaugh our heavenly Father. His smile, his happiness, not ours, founds the universe. We who desire for God to get the glory due his name will learn to dwell on this regularly. When we do, perhaps a few more of us might near the end of the world’s road and say behind us with a smile, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
It is not for you to know times or epochs…you will receive power…you shall be My witnesses. – Acts 1:7-8 NASB
In their last meeting with Jesus before His resurrection, the disciples wanted to know if the time had come to restore “the Kingdom to Israel” (v. 6). In essence, they wanted information.
But Jesus told them that, instead of information, they would be given a new dimension of power “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (v. 8). With this power, He called them to be His “witnesses.”
The Greek word here (source of the English word martyr) describes telling what they had seen or heard. In short, their mission wherever they went was to tell what had happened to them.
This also becomes our calling. This does not mean that it is wrong to seek understanding, or that God cannot increase our knowledge.
The fact is that anyone can be an effective witness. Anyone can share what they have seen and heard, what Jesus has done for them and the changes He has made in their lives.
Others may disagree with our conclusions and argue with our information, but they cannot change the reality of what we have witnessed. They can reject our testimony or question our perception, but they have a more difficult time questioning our sincerity, the conviction of our heart, and the confidence of our experiences.
What has Jesus done for you? What have you seen and heard? As He opens the door, prepare to tell your story to others.
Prayer and the Grace of God
Many Christians struggle to pray. Whether it’s with feelings of guilt or shame, the struggle often becomes the question: “why pray at all?”
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” – Hebrews 4:16
Hebrews 4:16 provides the answer to why Christians are to persevere is the High Priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. The ministry of Christ reconciles God’s people to God and opens Heaven’s chest of grace, which makes possible the vast resource of prayer. To approach the throne of God in prayer on the basis of Christ’s High-Priestly ministry is to come to His propitiating sacrifice and present intercession. By telling God’s people to come before His throne, the author of Hebrews reminds God’s people that it is the place where blood has been offered, the mercy seat where God calls sinners to meet with Him.
Spurgeon and Coming Before the Grace of God
In a great sermon on this text, Charles Haddon Spurgeon worked out some of the implications for how Christians are to approach God in prayer. Firstly, Christians must come in humble reverence. If Christians show great respect in the courts of earthly majesty—in the White House, or Buckingham Palace—then surely God’s people will come with even greater reverence before the throne of heaven. There is no place for pride or vanity here. If God’s people could see what truly is before them in Christ, they would tremble at His awesome majesty. Spurgeon writes, “His throne is a great white throne, unspotted, and clear as crystal. Familiarity there may be, but let it not be unhallowed. Boldness there should be, but let it not be impertinent.”
Secondly, Christians should come to God in prayer with great joy. Christians come with great joy before the throne of God’s grace because of the favor that has been extended to them is a high privilege. Instead of judgment, Christians find themselves as favored children—invited to bring their requests to the King of Heaven.
Finally, Christians should come to God with confidence. Christians come to the throne of God’s grace favorably received as adopted sons and daughters of the King. They can speak freely with the King because of the grace they have received from their great High Priest who has gone ahead.
Summoned Before the Throne
The key to prayer—to praying often, openly, boldly, and freely with gladness of heart—is to know that one is clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Christians are invited to His saving ministry, purchased by His precious blood, and anticipated by His sympathetic intercession.
This means that when God’s people come, their sins are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, along with any faults are looked upon with compassion. Stumbling prayers are not criticized, but are received with kindness.
God requires His people to persevere in faith through the trials of the Christian life. To this end, He gives His people a great reason to press on: the saving work of the great High Priest Jesus Christ, able to save His people to the uttermost. Prayer is a great resource God gives His people, one that must not be neglected if they are to grow strong in the faith and persevere through the difficulties of life. Therefore, let God’s people draw near to God with reverence, joy, great expectation, and especially with confidence that belongs to sons and daughters of the King of heaven and earth.
Spurgeon provides us a fitting conclusion about the difference God’s grace makes for God’s people:
“I could not say to you, “Pray,” not even to you saints, unless it were a throne of grace, much less I could talk of prayer to you sinners; but now I will say this to every sinner here, though he should think himself to be the worst sinner that every lived, cry unto the lord and seek him while he may be found. A throne of grace is a place fitted for you: go to your knees, by simple faith go to your Savior, for he, he it is who is the throne of grace.”