“We are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope—at the very same time” (Tim Keller, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: Living in Line with the Truth of the Gospel, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003.)
If only you knew how much you were loved.
If only you felt the love God feels for you.
It would undergird your entire life–inscrutable past, present, and future–with an eternal bedrock of meaning. For to realize in your heart that Jesus loves you is to realize that there has never been an instant when He did not. He has always been loving you, and forever will keep His love for you with a loyalty you can not understand. You were oblivious, but while your soul was sleeping the Lord of the cosmos made an everlasting covenant with you. He will uphold His oath and fulfill the plans He swore to you, completely regardless of your worthiness, or anything you could do to win or lose His favor. Your behavior and even your character does not sway His constancy. His patience is inexhaustible.
If only you knew the love of God for you. The sum of all of your doubts and sorrows and railings and heartbreaks would be swallowed whole and vanish from memory at this epiphany. None of them could withstand the unassailable, all-victorious love of the Father. The sting would be removed from all your injustices, forlornness, betrayals, and bereavements in the moment you are rendered transfixed by such love. Love filled to capacity with such tender, powerful, and unwavering compassion. He loves you with a love entirely without flaw and meeting supreme standards of excellence. He surpasses all of your loftiest expectations. You could never have guessed that such goodness exists.
If only you believed that you are beloved. Knowing Jesus as the Lover of your soul would be the consummate consolation for all of life. Though the years go by and your hurts linger unresolved and your questions lie unanswered, yet just the memory of His exquisite love would fortify you to endure and overwhelmingly overcome them all. Because the grandeur and greatness of His love dwarfs pain, making it as insipid, insignificant, and infinitesimal as an atom in a mountain’s shadow. The might of his affections exposes the impotence of your fear. He is the promise that all your suffering will be worth it; that none of your pain is wasted. Jesus is not sad that He was crucified. He’s not still walking the Via Dolorosa. He’s striding on streets of gold, enthroned in splendor, riding on the clouds. He’s glad for His obedience, for loving His Father, and the world loved by His Father, to the death. You will be too.
If only you knew the Love of Christ. Yes, even death itself could not divide you from Love that walks unharmed and immortal from the grave. The power of resurrection would arm you with the power to face the prospect of your own death with neither dread nor despair. Because the day God does not deliver you from death, death will deliver you to Him. Shutting your eyes for the last time on earth will mean opening them to see the kingdom where Love reigns uncontested. His perfect love casts out all fear, even the fear of dying.
If only you knew that only the Triune God can love you the way you need to be loved. The Trinity is Love. There is no other God. Therefore, there is no other Love. No other god is Love. No one could love you more or better than Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
“Different views of God have different implications. If there’s no God–if we are here by blind chance, strictly as a result of natural selection–then what you and I call love is just a chemical condition of the brain….That’s all love is–chemistry. On the other hand, if God exists but is unipersonal [such as Allah] , there was a time when God was not love. Before God created the world, when there was only one divine person, there was no lover, because love can exist only in a relationship. If a unipersonal God had created the world and its inhabitants, such a God would not in his essence be love. Power and greatness possibly , but not love. But if from all eternity, without end and without beginning, ultimate reality is a community of persons knowing and loving one another [the Trinity], then ultimate reality is about love relationships.” Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, p. 9.
Look for love where it may actually and eternally be found.
If only you knew how loved you are. I do not say this out of naivety to misery. I remember black times of sorrow when I writhed on the floor, both hands clasped over my mouth and strangled shrieks of grief tearing through the silence of the empty room around me. I recall my chest heaving uncontrollably with pain. Yet even more so, I remember encountering the love of the Trinity. Back then, I knew, by a strange and sweet intimation of the Holy Spirit, that all is not lost. Now I know why. Because God is Love. Inestimable, irrevocable, and inexhaustible Love. I know the end of the story. Love trumps all.
If you are reading this, and you have never trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, I have shed tears over you that you might know His love, this extraordinary love of His that is revealed to us in the Gospel. There is nothing I want more for you than to know the Gospel and receive Christ for yourself. The Gospel is this: Every single good thing you have is from God. God gave you your very life, but you have not thanked Him or loved Him with that life. You’ve lived for yourself, as if there were no God. As if your own pleasure was ultimate, even at the expense of the rest of His creation, namely people, and in spite of your criminal negligence toward God. You don’t deserve to go to Heaven after you die and your soul leaves your buried corpse. You deserve the same eternal destiny the demons will receive–Hell, because your sin was of the same nature as theirs, rebellious pride against the God who alone deserves all worship. There was nothing you could do to make restitution for your sin to evade Hell and then to achieve the moral perfection that is required to earn Heaven. But God loves you. He loves you so intensely that He let His only child, His Son Jesus Christ die, so that you would never have to endure Hell, which is the second death–the death of the body and the soul. It staggers the imagination: the eternal, dazzling Son of God adored and obeyed by all of Heaven above becoming a human baby, weak and dependent. That baby growing up into a boy, a teenager, and a man who, though experiencing every painful and tempting moment of life, loved and obeyed God with every split-second choice He faced, with every fiber of His being. Every. Single. Time. Jesus refused every form of sin and said yes to the will of God. Even when it meant His own torture and bloody execution. At thirty three years old, the sinless, sacred, Son of God and man died naked and suffering, stretched over a Roman Cross. Scripture says that the sins of the entire world were placed on Christ while He was dying. One person took the appalling punishment for the sin of every person who ever lived, and it killed Him. For three days His body laid buried.
BUT THEN HE RESURRECTED!
Don’t miss the miracle behind those words. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ rose back to life from the dead. He walked out of the tomb perfectly alive. Hundreds of people saw Him and even talked with Him, and had the whole course of their lives changed, on earth and afterwards. He resurrected, and so will we. No one may have ever told you this in your lifetime, but one day every single person will resurrect though their bodies have long since decayed or been disposed of. All of humanity from all time will stand before God to be judged and found either deserving of eternal life or deserving of Hell. But after Jesus rose back to life as appeared to many, He ascended into Heaven. His immortal body was lifted off of the ground, through the clouds, through the atmosphere of Earth and straight into the presence of the Holy God. He ascended to the Father so that on that Day of Judgement every person who’s been saved under His name will too. So that you could join Him in exalting and worshiping the God of infinite, unconditional love for all eternity–years without number and without end. So that you could know and be known by the omniscient God, as well as Christ knows Him. So that you could meet the Love that started and sustained the universe, and be forever captivated by Him. So that you could be one with God the Father, just as Jesus and He are One. Mere mortal minds cannot comprehend how priceless is the life that Christ has made possible. The uniting unction of the Holy Spirit with which He anoints is unutterably precious. The foreshadowings and foretastes I’ve experienced of His glory that is to be beheld have left me trembling with ardent joy. Shaken to my very core. Dumbstruck that I am the object of His favor, the force of which nearly crushes me.
The same favor of God may be yours. Just as Jesus ascended into Heaven, He will descend to Earth again. We are in a time when all have the chance to receive salvation, a gift whose lavishness is matched by the freeness with which it is given away. But one day Jesus will come back, and He will exact vengeance on all who contribute to the brokenness and destruction in the world by their sin and refuse His redemption. Will you believe Him, or will you reject Him? Will you receive Him to your everlasting joy, or will you ignore Him to your everlasting punishment? Hear God beckoning to you, pleading with you to be reconciled to Him through Christ. Take the escape from this world that is destined for destruction. Let Love save you from yourself.
If you are already in Christ, there is nothing I want more for you than to have a tremendous understanding of the love of God and of Christ for you. This is my fervent prayer for you: That you will preach the Gospel to yourself daily because you wholeheartedly believe that the Gospel is not only relegated to salvation but that it holds redemptive power for every single day of your life. That you can recognize and receive His tender mercies and inimitable love for you every morning, so that you live out of an superabundance of grace that touches people everywhere you go. That because of the Gospel the God who ordained it would be ever-increasingly and never-ceasingly precious to you. That you would be so well-versed in and so impassioned by the gloriously Good News of God that you take and make every opportunity you can to tell it. That you would know your God well. That you would know God so intimately and so mightily that as a result the witness of your life and words is so excellent and trenchant, that hundreds of people would be saved and be given a forever of knowing the same God.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filledto the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” –Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV
Now you know, that they may know.