Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. John 15:9-16
Jesus loves me is a popular song and has been loved among children and adults alike since it was written in 1860. Anna B. Warner wrote the original version and later David Rutherford McGuire added stanzas two and three. Anna’s sister Susan had asked her to write a song for a Sunday School teacher who wanted to cheer a dying boy. No wonder the lyrics have brought a smile to many children and assurance to adults! The song first appeared in a novel, Say and Seal. In 1862, William B. Bradbury composed the music and added the refrain.
The refrain states that the Bible tells us that God loves us – it is good theology and sometimes something we don’t visit enough. When Ben was born he had a perfectly round head, big lips, and he was bald until he was two. He came in at 10 pounds. It is an amazing thing to hold your newborn child. Heather was extremely long over 24”, and 9 pounds 11 ounces. She came so quick that they had to have her in an incubator for a while until she could get some of the excess fluid out of her lungs. As a dad, I would do whatever I could for my children. There are times when I fall short of that mark, but the desire is there. Consider how much more perfectly God loves us. He loves us not with just some romantic “fuzzy feeling” love, but a courageous self-sacrificing kind of love. There’s an old fishing joke about a guy asking a one-armed fishing man if he caught anything. The angler said, “Yes, and it was huge!” The first guy asked him how big it was, and the angler raised his one-arm and said, “It was this big.” Bonnie used to ask me how much I loved her and sometimes I would raise one arm and say, “Well, like the one-armed fisherman use to say…” At other times I would say, “Mine is an undying love.” There was always a bit of confusion about whether it was the love that would never die, or if it was me who would never die for love.
With God, we don’t have that kind of confusion, because He did die for us. Romans 5:8 says that “God showed His love for us in that while we were sinners, Jesus died for us.” This verse is not just important because it reveals the depth of God’s love, but because it also reveals another truth – He loves you in spite of yourself. He loves you as you are today, right now. This verse doesn’t say that Jesus died for us when we were worthy, or that He died for us while we were coming to church, or even when we were at least trying hard. No. Jesus died while we were sinners, far away from Him and going the other direction. His grace is there before us and He strives patiently, giving us opportunity to turn towards Him. Today God loves you this much – you have opportunity to respond to him today. Anytime the Gospel enters your ears, your mind, that God saves and His grace is offered freely, you have a choice, the opportunity to receive that grace.
Even when you should know better, when you have journeyed a way with Jesus, and you still run down that wrong road all too often, God stands on that porch looking for your return. He knows that thing you are chasing, trying to stuff into that God shaped hole in your heart won’t fit, that it will be empty in the long run. He longs to save you the trouble and pain of it, but even when you go down to that place, Jesus loves you. Isaiah 53:5 says that “He [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” God longs to bring you spiritual peace and healing. If your child gets sick, you do what you can to help your child get better. Even if your mom and dad wasn’t like that, you can be assured that God is much more than the best parent out there. He never sleeps and never tires. His patience is much greater than our frustrating attitudes and behavior. Have you ever had a kid your annoy you? Have you ever been annoying? God’s patience is long, much longer than your or my annoyance.
Here is another cool thing about God’s love for you. He chose you. There was a time in my life when I didn’t know if anyone had my back, if there was anyone who really cared whether I existed or not. In that experience, I understood that I wasn’t alone. God had chosen me long before and was always there, even when it didn’t feel like anyone was. Loneliness affects all of us at one time or another, and Jesus knows what it is like. He even felt abandoned by His Father, by God, as He hung on that cross. You have a spiritual Leader in Jesus who has been through everything you have been and more. And God has chosen you. He has your back when no one else does. He has a purpose and plan for you, a plan that ends with living in Heaven with Him forever. Of all the things God could be doing, He chooses to be in your life. He could be off creating universes, but He longs to be with you.
And that’s another cool thing. He knows you inside out, and has a plan for your life that fits you like a glove. I can’t say whether God made you for what needed to be done, or whether He made the circumstances to fit you, but I do know that there are things for you to do, there are people only you can reach with the Good News of Jesus. He also only allows those things that can help you grow up in Him. Sometimes we don’t take advantage of those things, but God is faithful to us and for us, transforming us into the best we can be by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. He said that there is no trial or temptation big enough that we can’t handle with Him. He always provides a way, and He used those stressful and negative times as a reefing fire. The difficult things of life can be used by Him to draw the dross, the dregs of our life away, leaving us refined, more like Him in character.
You see, God’s love is not a mat that allows us to walk all over Him. He doesn’t enable our destructive behaviors. Love means that there are times of discipline, of correcting, of guidance. We don’t shield our children from the realities of life their whole life. There are times when we let them experience consequences, because it makes them safer and stronger and wiser as they grow. We do that for our own children, and god does that for us.
I could have finished my sermon after three words: God loves you. But I want you to be on that journey of discovering and living within that great agape love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Listen to Romans 8: “But in all (these) things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What a wonderful promise to you and I today. Yes, Jesus loves you, the Bible tells us so.
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.
Jesus loves me! This I know,
As He loved so long ago,
Taking children on His knee,
Saying, ‘Let them come to Me.’
Jesus loves me still today,
Walking with me on my way,
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live.
Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.
Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.
(Note: this next stanza from the original is commonly omitted in hymnals)
Jesus loves me! Loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill,
That I might from sin be free
Bled and died upon the tree