God loves me. I know this is true because the Bible tells me so. Is this the only way we can discern the love of God? Sometimes He seems very far away. We can’t recognise Him with our senses, so we take His word for it. ‘God so loved the world that He gave ...’ (John 3:16). I can receive this with gratitude. I can rest in it with confidence. But God is so big, so complex, so distant.
Jesus I can recognise and relate to. I can understand Him and His motives to a certain extent. I see His compassion, and His acts of mercy, and I can look at the cross and emotion rises up within me, perhaps sadness with a degree of sympathy or incomprehensible gratitude. He died because He loved me. This I can understand - I think.
True love demands a response. It causes a reaction, a deep feeling within the heart. We can know it and feel it. There’s a stirring of emotions within us generated by the love of another. But how can we love someone we have never seen? How can we receive love through words and images? When I think of the compassion and the sacrifice of Jesus, there’s a certain quickening in my soul. But is this love?
The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). I’m confident in what I understand and what I believe about Jesus. His pathway to the cross gives me hope, gratitude and encouragement - but joy? How do I receive Him so that I can know His heart, and respond by giving Him mine? How can I know the deep inexpressible joy that comes from a closeness to Jesus?
First there needs to be the giving up of my old self to make way for the new. I need to repent in the presence of the love of God (which was demonstrated by Jesus). I need to allow Him to lift my sins from me and take them to the cross, where He died, along with my old, sinful self. ‘For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3).
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). I can now receive forgiveness, grace and mercy from the Lord and know the new resurrected life of Jesus, living in me, born again by the Holy Spirit. There’s a joy welling up inside, knowing that I’m now free to love Him. ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). I can live again in the joy of being united with Christ ‘and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God’ (Ephesians 3:19).
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