4th Sunday of Advent 2017: Jesus: Love-12/24/17

‘The Characters of Christmas’

Message: ‘Jesus loves me this I know’

Introduction: The story is told that many years ago, a large Atlanta church was televising the service where they had asked a retired 92 year minister preach from its pulpit. There was a warm welcome as he was introduced and, as the applause quieted down, the old man rose from his high back chair and walked slowly, with great effort to the podium.

Without a note or written paper of any kind, he placed both hands on the pulpit to steady himself and then quietly and slowly he began to speak.

  • When I was asked to come here today and talk to you, your preacher asked me to tell you what was the greatest lesson I ever learned in my 50 odd years of preaching.
  • I thought about it for a few days and boiled it down to just one thing that made the most difference in my life and sustained me through all my trials.
  • The one thing that I could always rely on when tears and heart break and pain and fear and sorrow paralyzed me.
  • The only thing that would comfort was this:
  • 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… The Bible tells me so.

When he finished, the church was so quiet you actually could hear his foot steps as he shuffled back to his chair. (Jeff Strite)

As I was preparing for the message today, the 4th Sunday in Advent, when our GYM’ers would be lighting the candle of love, I knew there was just one thing I needed to talk about this morning.

And as I thought about what Lynette, Lillian and Eileen was planning with our children for this Worship Celebration, my thoughts were confirmed.

Get guitar and sing ‘Jesus Loves Me.’

ILL: In the early 1800’s Anna Warner wrote a poem to comfort a little child who was dying. The original poem includes the following verse which is not generally published or sung:

  • Jesus loves me! Loves me still, though I’m very weak and ill. That I might from sin be free, He bled and died upon the tree. Yes Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so! (Jeff Strite)

Later in 1862 a Christian musician William Bradbury found the poem and added music making it a song.

  • It’s no stretch to say that the song ‘Jesus Loves Me’ is perhaps as familiar today as ‘Silent Night’ or ‘Amazing Grace.’

But not only popular, the words to ‘Jesus Loves Me’, for some, are intensely personal and meaningful.

ILL: After the Communist Government of China kicked out all foreign Missionaries, most contact with China was cut off. A lot of people wondered if Christianity would die out completely. In 1972, a group of American Christians were thrilled to receive an unusual message from contacts in China. The message simply said, Be assured that the “this I know” people are doing well!”

The message was not censored by the Chinese authorities because it made no sense to them. But the American Christians understood that “This I know” came from the song missionaries had taught children in China at least twenty years before. (K. Edward Skidmore)

When we can sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ from sincere lips and a heart overflowing with gratitude, we’ll know that nothing is more important in life, nothing.

You see, that’s what Christmas is about.

  • That God loves you.
  • That God began to show just how much He loves you when He sent Jesus, the baby born in a manger in Bethlehem.

But, there are those who don’t see Christmas that way. There are many who can’t sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ with sincerity or gratitude because they just don’t know if it’s true, if the Bible really does promise that Jesus loves me.

How do I know Jesus loves me? The Bible tells me so!

Is their proof in the Bible that Jesus loves me? Absolutely! Allow me to give you just a few places in the Bible where we are assured that Jesus love me, just as the song says.

  • the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20b)
  • and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood (Revelation 1:5)
  • As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. (John 15:9)
  • A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you (John 13:34a)
  • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35ff)

In all these texts we find that Jesus loves us:

  • Even when we have nothing to offer Him.
  • Even when we are the reason He gave His life on the cross.
  • Even when things, both beyond and within our control, influence us to turn away from Him.

Yet, I have the blessed assurance that the words to that song are true… And I can sing ‘Jesus loves me this I know.’ I hope you can too!

Conclusion: Yes, Jesus loves me!

Have you ever had someone start a conversation with you by saying… Don’t take it personally, but…

You can fill in the blank after the but.

  • How did that make you feel?
  • I never quite got that.
  • If you have to tell me not to take something personally, it’s probably because… it is personal.

I’m not going to say that this morning. In fact I want you to take what I have been saying personal… very personal.

One of the most basic needs we were created to strive to achieve, is to be loved. And folks, that’s you, deep inside… and it’s very personal.

For John, one of Jesus’ disciples, Jesus’ love was immensely personal for him. And we see that when he referred to himself in his gospel as ‘The disciple whom Jesus loved.’

Some liberal scholars criticize John for saying that, for calling himself ‘The disciple whom Jesus loved’… not just once but 5 times in his gospel. Some say it was John’s ego that led him to say that. I disagree. I think it was his heart.

Look, Jesus didn’t play favorites and still doesn’t when it comes to His love. No, it was not ego or conceit that led John to call himself ‘The disciple whom Jesus loved.’ It came from somewhere deep inside him. Let me explain.

Remember in our study of Luke’s gospel:

  • In chapter 9 we found John getting into a heated argument about who was the greatest of Jesus’ disciples?
  • And again in chapter 9 we found John asking Jesus for permission, and the power, to call fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village that said no to Jesus’ request for overnight hospitality.

Folks, John knew the depths of sin in his heart. He knew it was His sin that put Jesus on the cross.

But He also knew it was Jesus’ love for him that brought John forgiveness, and the promise of a home in heaven with Jesus for all eternity.

The apostle John, when he referred to himself as ‘The disciple whom Jesus loved’ was with sincerity of lips and gratitude overflowing in his heart, singing joyfully that ‘Jesus loves me this I know.’

Later, it was personal for the Apostle Paul, that’s  why God inspired him to write, not only to the Christians in Ephesus during his time, but to us as well, about the personal nature of Jesus’ love.

 Read: Ephesians 3:14-19  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

(Ephesians 3:14–19)

  • Being rooted and grounded in love, that’s at the heart of who we are as people, it’s our foundation, our base, that makes it fundamentally personal.
  • To comprehend…the breadth, length, height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that’s our end game, it’s what we strive for in life as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus Christ. And that makes it immensely personal.
  • That you may be filled with all the fullness of God I cannot imagine… Since God is incomprehensible and omnipresent, I don’t think Paul means we can have the fullness of who God is, inside us, but I do think it means we, individually, can experience the fullness of God’s love in their lives. And that too is immensely personal.

Christian, not only can you think of yourself as ‘The disciple whom Jesus love’ you should. You should take it very personal.

  • It’s the reason Jesus was born in the manger in Bethlehem.
  • It’s the reason Jesus went to the cross to die for your sin.

Are there things we will always struggle with as we read the Bible and walk on our journey of faith? Absolutely.

But there is one thing we can know for certain when much in life is uncertain.

This Christmas Eve and throughout the year:

  • Jesus loves me this I know.