Some years ago with this thought heavy in my mind I turned to St. John chapter fourteen and found two verses that made an impact on my mind. They were verses 21 and 23. In verse 23 Jesus said, "If a man loves me, he will keep my words, and my father will love him and we will come unto him and make our abode with him." Notice, that Jesus does not say, "if a man loves me, I am asking Him to keep my words." He is not giving a commandment. Here He is stating a fact. That same statement of fact is made in one of the songs we sing.
"I love thee, I love thee
and that thou dost know,
but how much I love thee,
my actions will show."
In other words, the degree of our love for Jesus is manifested by the degree of our obedience. Think of a man who cannot stop smoking, and drinking. He is addicted to these bad habits. All his life he tries to stop smoking but he cannot stop. Then he meets the girl of his dreams and finds that she can't stand the smell of cigarette smoke. Why does he now find the strength that he could never find all his life, to stop smoking immediately? He found the power of love.
Jesus is saying, "the degree of your obedience is the measure of the kind of love that you have for me. If you love me you will keep my words." God is saying to me, "if you can't obey me, it is because you don't love me."
A Special Privilege
In verse 21 the Lord gives us a great promise. He says,
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father ..." (John 14:21).
Now we know that God loves everybody, so what did Jesus mean when He said, "if you love me and keep my commandments, my Father will love you." What does He mean, "will love?" Didn't God love me before? Certainly Jesus is trying to tell us something here. He continued by saying, "and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." The question that came to me as I read that verse is, "what did Jesus mean by saying, will love him?
The meaning of His words is explained in that last line where He says, " ...will manifest myself to him." To manifest yourself means to show or reveal yourself. In our homes we have needs and we pray about them but what happens? No answer! God cannot manifest himself in our homes. We have needs and we pray, and it seems as if the heavens are brass. Like God has closed glory against us. There is no answer to our prayers. We are in our homes and the gun man is passing around the district, and we are in fear, like everybody else. We don't have the manifestation of God's presence in our homes. We don't sense or feel or experience the love of God. Why? Because we have not kept His commandments, and have not loved Him or kept His words. Therefore He cannot reveal himself the way He wants to. He says, "look here! there is a promise that I give to you. A wonderful, great and true promise." He says, "There are some people who are going to have the experience that I live in their homes. This is the promise for those who obey me because they love me."
The next verse has a similar promise. It says, "if a man loves me, he will keep my words and my father will love him." Again He says, "and we will come unto him and make our abode with him." To make your abode means to live there, isn't that right? is our home the dwelling place of God? does He live there? When I move through my house night or day, do I sense an invisible presence? Is He so near to me that I dare not speak a wrong word? God says, "I will give you this privilege that I will come and live in your home. That's what I will do for you if you love me and keep my words." What a privilege! What He is talking about is the revelation of His presence. The sense of a personality with you. The sense of protection, of comfort, surety and safety. The sense of one who hears and answers your prayers.
The people who have this kind of experience, are not the people who kneel down at night to pray and fall asleep or have their minds racing all over, from here to Timbuktu who can't concentrate on God. Those are not the kind of people we are talking about. We are talking about people who know God so real and close, that when they pray, they know they are in the presence of the living One.
The reason for our sleepiness and lethargy is only because the sense of the Lord's presence is not that strong upon us.
The Greatest Commandment
Anyway these two verses set me on a little exploration. The whole Bible is about this great question: how much do we love God? The greatest commandment says,
"...thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,and with all thy strength...(Mark 12:30)"
This is the greatest and first commandment. God knows that this is the secret. When you truly love, then everything in your whole life falls into place. So we have to ask ourselves the question, "why don't I love the Lord the way I should?" There is a reason. Is it because God is not worthy of love? Your reason says "He is worthy," but your heart does not respond. If your reason knows that God is worthy of love, why is it that your heart does not respond with the kind of love that He deserves? There is a difference between what your reason says and what your heart knows. Your reason says "He is lovable." But your heart does not know it. Why? Because your heart does not know the things God has done for you.
A Reason For Love
1 John 4 :19 says, "we love him because He first loved us." Love begets love. It is true that we ought to love Him because He first loved us, but did He really love us first? We say, "He loved us, and He sent His only begotten son to die for our sins," but that has become such a cliché, so much a part of our tradition, our culture, that I don't think there are many of us including myself, who have really understood what it means that God gave His only begotten Son, to die in our place.
I want to challenge you with a statement from Ellen White. It says,
All the paternal love which has come down from generation to generation through the channel of human hearts, all the springs of tenderness which have opened in the souls of men, are but as a tiny rill to the boundless ocean when compared with the infinite, exhaustless love of God. Tongue cannot utter it; pen cannot portray it. You may meditate upon it every day of your life; you may search the Scriptures diligently in order to understand it; you may summon every power and capability that God has given you, in the endeavor to comprehend the love and compassion of the heavenly Father; and yet there is an infinity beyond. You may study that love for ages; yet you can never fully comprehend the length and the breadth, the depth and the height, of the love of God in giving His Son to die for the world. Eternity itself can never fully reveal it. Yet as we study the Bible and meditate upon the life of Christ and the plan of redemption, these great themes will open to our understanding more and more. (Testimonies For The Church, Vol. 5, p. 740)
When you compare the ocean with those billions of gallons of water to a little brook, maybe as thick as my hand just trickling down the hillside, that's what all the human love from Adam to the end of time is like. All the human love put together is like that little stream compared to the ocean when matched against the love of God. I can see the theory of that in my mind, but I have not fully appreciated it.
There is a particular subject that I am going to study for billions of years, and yet I can never learn all about it. That subject is God's love for me. I really cannot grasp that. I really can't understand it. The fact that Christ died on a cross for me, I mean that commonplace thing that we talk about all the time, is there really so much depth in it? What a wonderful project this gives us! If that is going to be our study for eternity, then we should start digging on that subject right now. We should start on a project that is worth while, because every endeavor of man in this life will come to an end somewhere. Sometimes you come to a place where man knows no more, but the depth of God's love can never be exhausted. Not only is that depth there, but we have a Father who is willing to open it up to our understanding. It is the whole purpose for which we were created. To know what that love is. I learned the words of a song some time ago, and I just want to share them with you.
Oh the bitter pain and sorrow,
that the time could ever be
when I proudly said to Jesus,
"all of self and none of thee.
Yet he found me, I beheld him
bleeding on the accursed tree;
and my wistful heart said faintly,
"some of self and some of thee."
Day by day his tender mercy
healing helpful full and free,
brought me lower while I whispered,
"less of self and more of thee."
Higher than the highest heavens
deeper than the deepest sea
Lord thy love at last has conquered,
none of self and all of thee.
That's what the knowledge of the love of God will do for us. That's the transformation it will bring, taking us from all of self to none of self; taking us from none of God to all of God. That's what God wants to do and there is only one thing that can accomplish it. It is the knowledge of the love of God.
John 3:16 is a well known verse. It gives the essence of the message of the entire Bible in a few lines. It is a text that is so precious that it has been translated into eleven hundred languages. The Bible society, Gideons International, has included it at the beginning of every New Testament which they publish, in twenty six different languages.
"God so loved the world." The first thing I see in that verse, is an explanation of the degree of God's love. Now you know when you talk about degree, you are talking about the extent. This is high, this is higher, this is still higher. In using the word SO in that verse, God is trying to show us the degree of His love. To what extent He loves the world. He so loved the world, that He gave. The second thing I notice, is that true love is not content to sit quietly by. True love cannot be idle. God's love was of such a nature, that He had to do something. He gave. But what did He give? He gave His only-begotten Son. Let's meditate on that for a little while.
I realize that the people who believe in the Trinity are doing a great disservice to God's love. They are doing a dishonor to God. God did not give a speech, He did not give a mountain of treasure He did not give worlds or galaxies. What would it take for God to give these things? It would take the breath of His mouth. All it takes for God to create a world, is the breath of His mouth. What does it take for Him to create a mountain of gold? His word. God didn't give these things. What God gave was His only begotten Son. Now think on that. There is nothing in all eternity, there is nothing in all infinity that God could have given, that was more valuable to Him than that son. Meditate on that and know that it is true.
"The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, gave his only begotten Son, tore from his bosom Him who was made in the express image of his person, and sent him down to earth to reveal how greatly he loved mankind. (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald - July 9, 1895)
If God wanted to show me His love, what could He have done? Some of us might have appreciated a mountain of gold more, some of us would rather we were millionaires, than that Christ died for us. Isn't that a dreadful thing, but what does it take for God to make me a millionaire? A snap of His fingers; a word spoken and I could be materially richer than any other being in the universe. If God speaks a word, what does that cost Him? Nothing. But there was one Being in the universe who was one with the Father. From the days of eternity, He was the only person whom God could talk to as a Counterpart.
If God talks to me like a friend, I wouldn't even understand what is going on in his great mind. Mind cannot meet mind on that level. Where God and I are concerned, it is a genius speaking with a worm. True, He speaks in the worm's language. Glory and praise and thanks. But how much intellectual harmony can He achieve with a worm?
God had one Being in the universe who was one with the Father; He could understand the mind of God. God could discuss things with Him, think with Him and feel with Him. He knew exactly what the Father could feel, and that was the One that God had to give up. When I say give up, I mean He had to lose Him for thirty-three terrible years. In those thirty-three years, He had to watch Him in the slime pit, as if He had thrown Him into a hog pen and had to stand there watching Him covered with the filth of it; had to watch Him suffer, battered, bruised, scorned and despised by the beings He had gone to save, and yet God could not deliverHim. Couldn't do for Him what His heart yearned to do. He had to let Him suffer, and watch helplessly as His Son died. God weighed that against me and I came out on top.
Such a Gift For Whom?
When God weighed the suffering of His Son against David Clayton, the love for David Clayton came out on top. He put both things in the balance and He weighed them, and David Clayton came out on top. I was more precious than the sufferings of His Son, and the Bible holds that up to us as the measure of God's love. The Bible says, "He loves you so much, that He gave this for you." It asks us to contemplate that love.
Romans 5:8 says,
"God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Let us look at this word commendeth. "Commend" as used here, means "to demonstrate, to show." It is the greatest, the most complete statement of His love for us, that in our worst, most unacceptable, degraded, repulsive state, He gave the greatest gift, hurt himself the most, deprived himself of the thing most precious to Him, because of the degree of His love for us.
Now I want you to think of what that is saying. It was the greatest for the worst. Search through the universe from corner to corner, from the milky way galaxy to the other three hundred million galaxies somewhere out there. Billions and billions of worlds without end that go on forever. Search through it, and you will never find anything as vile and corrupt as a sinner. There is nothing in all of God's creation that is worse, more degraded, more fit to be destroyed, more worthy of eternal damnation than a sinner. You may not believe that that is your true state, or that is what you deserve, but I want to tell you this, sin raised up a wall between us and God that was impenetrable and dark. We might have searched through eternity and never found a way through that wall. There was no way, and on the other side of this wall was us. That was what we were when the Bible says, "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." It is showing us that at the moment, when we were the worst thing possible, God gave the greatest gift that could ever have been given.
When I say the greatest gift, I don't mean the greatest gift of this period of time, nor the greatest gift that God could have given. I mean the greatest gift that any being any where in any time, in any place, could ever have thought of giving. That was what God gave. When I think of it I ask myself, "what am I that I could be the object of such a love?" This reminds me of a song that was sung by Skeeter Davis. It says, "Who am I that a king should bleed and die for?" I don't have an answer to that question, I just know it happened. I know it is true, because God did it for me, and when He did it, It is not because I was worth a single cent, It was just because He loved me.
1 John 3:1, says:
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God."
Again, we are being invited to examine the love of God, and we are asked to look at the kind and the degree of that love. What kind of love is it? A kind of love that gives us the privilege of being identified as the sons of God.
I have seen people on this earth who have received the privilege of being called by another name. There are some Jamaicans who consider it the highest privilege to be called by the name "American." They will do anything to get a green card, or get American citizenship. They consider it the highest privilege to get another name. Some people who have been grown as orphans, consider it a high privilege when they have been adopted into a family, and receive the family name.
John says, we are to consider the kind of privilege God has given us in that He has given us the right to be called the sons of God.
Now you have often seen the case where somebody has the right to call himself by a name, but in actual fact, even though he calls himself by that name, nothing can really make him forget that he is not a part of that family. He does not have the blood, and sometimes there are little signs that make him know that he is not quite accepted as a member of the family. Take the Bible when you have the time, and look through it. Write down all the things a son has the right to. Then I want you to see if God has not given us every one of those things.
God has given us an inheritance. What does the Bible say about inheritance? It says that we are joint heirs with Christ. Christ is the son of God. If we are joint heirs with Christ, what is the Bible saying? It is saying that what is His, is also yours. "You are my son," God says. "I do not just give you the name, but I also give you the privilege, the right of a son." That's the love God has for me.
God gives us the right to a name. In Isaiah 56, He gives us a place and a name better than sons and daughters. In Revelation, He says He will write upon us His own new name. He gives us an inheritance, He gives us the right to a father's care. doesn't a son deserve that? Psalm 103 says: "As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." He says in Isaiah 49:15, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." He gives us the right to have the same nature. A son has the blood of his father in his veins. We have the spirit, the very life of our Father. Where are we short of being true sons?
Let me tell you something, my sonship to God is true in the fullest possible way. I am not merely called a son of God, I am truly a son of God. Even more so than in an earthly father-son relationship. I have an earthly father. He gave me of his life, but today I am separated from him physically. I am a different being, but when my Father in heaven makes me His son, what am I? He does not just give me something and leave me. He links Himself to me, so that His mind is my mind, His life is my life in a continuing relationship that is not broken or cut. It is closer than a physical father-son relationship.
God has truly, without pretense, without deception or exaggeration, exalted us to the state of sons. Sometimes when a man says "you are my son," he is only pretending. Sometimes he is just using a phrase, and only exaggerating a bit. He only means you can live in my home. He is talking out of two sides of his mouth and he is not quite straight. But God does not use pretense, or deception, or exaggeration. When He says "you are my son," He means I am His son.
When I realized this, I had to hold my head up. I am the son of the Almighty. I am somebody. I am worth something. I had to hold my head high and behave like royalty, to glorify Him in all my ways, because of that wonderful name by which I am called, because I am His son. I have no other identity. He did not just call me His son, but He made me His son. That is the greatness of the love He has for me.
From The Gutter To Glory
In our natural state we were the Pariahs. In India, a Pariah is the lowest class of being. One who is scorned, despised and avoided by the rest of society. We were the Pariahs of the universe, the most despicable objects in all creation. That is what we were. There was nothing in humanity that was good. We were fit for destruction. The least deserving of all creatures. Ungrateful and unlovely, but oh so pitiable to the heart of infinite love and in such unspeakably great need. These conditions called forth from our Father's heart the greatest expression of love. Upon us, He bestowed the greatest gift of heaven, the greatest gift of all the universe. He exalted us to a privilege greater than that of any other created being. There is no other creature in all the universe that has called forth such an expression of love. Have you thought about that? No angel or being in the universe ever called forth such a demonstration of love as we have called forth from God. He has shown to us, a love that He never had the opportunity to show to anybody else, and He did it when we were at our lowest, and worst. Never ever should we question God's love for us.
The other creatures in the universe have heard of the love of God, and they have seen the love of God in His workings. They have seen the love of God in the trees, in the stars, in rivers and in the hills, but I have felt the love of God in my experience. I have seen rags, and now I know riches. I have known the gutter, and now I know glory. I have experienced something that they will never experience, unless they have been in my place. I will know the love of God as nobody will ever know it, or ever could. God's purpose for us, is that in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of his glory in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7). Yet we do not know that love. That is why we keep despising Him and disobeying Him so much. We need to study that love, and we need to make it the object of research and careful study every day of our lives, until we are so filled with it, that we can truly echo the words of that song, "none of self and all of Thee."