Sunday, April 06, 2008

Do you really know how much God loves you?

What question do you think Jesus will ask you on judgment day?

What did you do for me? How did you live? Were you faithful? Did you go to church? Did you serve Me? Did you love Me? Did you do everything I asked of you?

Brennan Manning has a different thought. The question he's convinced Jesus will ask has absolutely nothing to do with what we've done or haven't done. It has to do with whether or not we know just how deeply God loves us.

This video brought to my mind that God's message of the depths of His love is a message that He has been showering me with all my life, whether I've noticed it or paid attention to it or not.

In 1992, when I was 23 years old, I was spending time in prayer with a friend of mine, James. We were essentially kneeling down, facing each other as we prayed together. I don't remember what we were praying about, but James became emotional and suddenly reached over and hugged me tightly, crying over me. As he was doing this, out of his mouth came the phrase, "Know ye not that I love you?" I think the phrase was repeated at least once, perhaps more times. This was an unusual act from my friend, and I quickly realized that this was not James simply being James. Rather, it was my Father speaking to me through him and crying desperate tears of love over me, hugging me tightly.

God's words to me, "Know ye not that I love you," were both refreshing and haunting at the same time. I thought I knew that He loved me, but yet the truth was that I really had no clue about the depths of His unconditional, affectionate love for me.

Two or three years later, I came to somewhat of a grace-awakening in my life and I began to be consciously aware that I was growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I began to learn more of God's love and grace, and in the following years I was teaching about it and sharing it with many people. I was teaching people that they are not only saved by grace, but are kept by grace. I was teaching them that God loves them deeply and unconditionally, and that unconditional means what it says - no conditions!

Then in the fall of 2002 Steve McVey came to our church and taught during our weekend services. During the Saturday evening service, something special happened that I could never have forecast nor planned. Near the end of the service, Steve had everyone close their eyes and imagine Jesus Himself physically walking into the building, and then into the sanctuary, and then into the very row we were sitting in, and then coming right up to our seat. (Words can't really explain what was going on here. It was simply a way to visualize that Jesus really is right here with us and that He speaks to us). As we were sitting there quietly, with Jesus 'right there with us,' Steve asked Jesus to speak to us individually. The place was very quiet, and unlike many noisy worship services, the focus really was on Jesus.

I had no agenda and I had no clue what Jesus would say to me.

Suddenly the words came...

"Know ye not that I love you?"

I hadn't thought of those words in years! Those words were the farthest thing from my mind. I thought that if He spoke to me, He might perhaps give me some direction in my marriage or in 'my ministry' or something like that. Maybe He would give me a word for someone else. Again, I thought I knew of His love for me. After all, I was teaching it and sharing it with others all the time!

Instead, His word to me, in expounded, paraphrased form, was "Come on, Joel, don't you get how much I love you? Why haven't you let my love penetrate your life?" And again, the words were both refreshing and haunting. I realized that God was encouraging me in His deep love for me, and at the same time I realized that I really had no clue about the depths of His love.

Since that time, I've continued to teach about God's unconditional love. But much more than that, I've sought to really know His love. I've had to continue to unlearn a lot of the conditions that people, including myself, place on God's love. I've had to continue to unlearn a lot of the religious junk that I'd been taught over the years. But most of all, I've been wanting to simply know God and His love for me. I think I've grown quite a bit in understanding and knowing His deep love, but yet I wouldn't find it hard to believe at all if God were to repeat the same words to me in 2012! (Ten years after the last time, and twenty years after the first time). In fact, it's a question that now continually gets me more and more grounded in His love for me and not in what I can ever do for Him. What a blessing to just know God, and His love!


  1. Joel! Great post bro!

    I am finding what you said about Father's unconditional love to be true in my life as well. I am not only learning about his love and hearfully understanding it, but experiencing the depth of living in His love daily. I can't say that my mind is always on his love because the way I act in some cases would show differently, but, I desire to turn my focus and strength in just that, living day to day in His love. The good thing about Father's love; there aren't any if's, and's, or but's about it, his love comes freely without no explanation or excuse... It is truly a freeing experience.

    In Freedom, Nicole!

  2. That's so true, Nicole. If we really understand the depths of God's love, we will find that it is only freeing, and never based upon any conditions whatsoever. God's love is even ridiculous, according to human standards!

    Paul Anderson-Walsh's acronym for G.R.A.C.E. - God's Ridiculous Agape Captivating Everyone. "Let me be clear," says Paul. "God's love is absurd, it is irrational, it is irresponsible, it is downright stupid if you ask me."

    I'll add that His love is foolish, dangerous, rich and freeing! When compared with contrived human love, God's love is irrational and nonsensical!

  3. Joel, what a beautiful story! It's so encouraging to realize that Father doesn't give up on us but he continuously comes to reveal once again the depths of his love and affection for us.

    Thanks for sharing this.