We all need God, more than we can possibly imagine. Apart from the check of His hand, humans are capable of monstrous things.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the repercussions of decisions I’ve made in the past; things I can’t change. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m really not as important as I thought I was. But, miraculously, neither are the mistakes I’ve made.
The opinions of people don’t matter either, whether good or bad, accurate or inaccurate. The only thing that matters is whoever is standing right in front of me — the person who needs to see God and may never find Him if he or she cannot find Jesus in me. That’s what matters: God reaching out to me, me reaching out to others. You might say that opening yourself up to serve the Lord, regardless of how inadequate you feel, is the way to bring life back to your heart when it has been shriveled and dried by the winds of this world. A world which is out to ruin the children of God. A world which has devised a million and one brilliant ways to present us with lies.
The apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God, “which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If that love and Jesus Christ are a package deal, then it follows that, if you are a believer, nothing can separate you from Jesus either. That means that if anything appears to be separating the two of you, you are believing an illusion. The brethren of Christ cannot be separated from Him by anything in creation.
Last night, feeling a bit lost, I sat at my piano and began to play the chords of Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father.” A very simple song, one that I’m not always in the mood for, but a phrase stood out to me from the lyrics this time, the way it used to a long time ago.
“I’m loved by you/it’s who I am …”
Who I am. A statement of identity. I remembered suddenly that I, as a human being, will always be lost until I understand who I am.
Saint John referred to himself several times in the gospel of John, but never by that name. Instead, he called himself “the one that Jesus loved.” He lost himself in one phrase. As far as he was concerned, that was his name.
John didn’t mean that Jesus did not love each of his disciples with equal intensity. He simply had a revelation of the all-consuming nature of the love of God, and he was willing to give up his own name and his old identity in order to embrace it. Just read the book of First John and you’ll see what love meant to this man — and what it means for all of us who believe in Jesus Christ.
If you want to draw close to God and move forward in the kind of service you were born for, you should know who you are. And who you are not:
You are not your job. You aren’t the college you went to, the friends you have, or the color you dye your hair. You aren’t your parents or your grandparents. You will never find yourself in your talents and abilities, in your possessions or even in the callings you receive from God. The core of you is simply this:
You’re the one who Jesus loved.
Do you think that, as He endured the slowest imaginable torture on the cross, He looked into the future and thought, “Wow, I didn’t realize [insert your name here] would turn out so badly. Look at all the mistakes he/she will make! I’m kind of regretting doing this for these people.”
Of course he didn’t. Love was on His mind. Love is who He is. And until you realize that God’s beloved is who you are, you will find that every good facet of your character you thought you could depend on will fail you eventually. Nothing that you are and nothing you do matters without the love of God (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). His love is what keeps our spirits, the God-like part of us, alive. If, as 1 John 4:16 says, God is love, then love is what created the universe. Love is the bond that holds our beings together. Love is the foundation upon which the very building blocks of our faith are laid. “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). God gave us the very best that He had under no other compulsion than love (John 3:16).
If you, like me, have not felt much like a champion for some time, be aware that this knowledge has the power to make you one. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). This is the marvelous, astounding, lie-shattering, beauteous equation that our friend Saint John knew so well: who I am = loved by God.
This is the name you can take upon yourself until you no longer equate yourself with the image you see in the mirror or the list of your mistakes. Until it’s all you can do not to blurt it out when being introduced to strangers. (“Hi, I’m the one that Jesus loves. Nice to meet you.”)
All of this is the central process to the grace of God, for embracing His love is what empowers us to shower that love back on Him (1 John 4:19) and show that love to others. And if you can truly say that you have accepted the love of God, then you can approach His throne boldly on Judgement Day, because love is what matters to God. His love is the stick with which He measures us, the voice by which he compels us to do good, and the ultimate purifier. I have been cleansed by His blood, which is the essence of Him. And the essence of Him is love.
1 John 4:16: “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
Photo credit to Cristina Gottardi for http://www.unsplash.com