Friday, January 8, 2010


God loves us (John 3:16). God loves us with a "great love" (Ephesians 2:4) His love for us "passeth knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19).

The progression of our Lord's devotion to us is amazing, wondrous, staggering, and completely beyond our ability to fathom or describe. In preaching, and in writing both prose and music, I often feel greatly frustrated because I know that there is no way to say it, to write it, or to sing it. The love of God is an ocean without shore, and a mountain whose summit reaches beyond the clouds, beyond the atmosphere, and beyond space, time and infinity.

There is a word in Scripture, however, that more than any other seems to help me grasp the most significant measure of God's affection.

"Men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church" (Ephesians 5:28-29).

The Lord Jesus Christ cherishes His church (and calls husbands to cherish their wives as the expression and example thereof, certainly a good topic for another consideration, at another time). The word is "thalpo" in the original Greek, literally meaning to keep warm. In the broader sense, however, thalpo was a word that indicated tender love and devotion. Our Lord cherishes us. Think of this in your mind. Then say the words. Our Lord cherishes us. Perhaps even make it personal. My Lord cherishes me. Or, my Lord cherishes my brothers and sisters in Christ. He cherishes us.

The word may not have the same impact in your heart and mind as it does in mine, and that is fine. For me, however, it seems to define what the love of God means in a way that even the word love does not seem to reveal. Our Heavenly Father is emotional in His devotion to us. Such feeling is always in perfect accord with His character, of course, and never does He allow sentiment to deter Him from doing that which most aligns with His glory and eternal purpose in Christ. Nevertheless, the Bible does not allow us to view God as a dispassionate, detached, or disinterested father. On the contrary, we are an eternal delight to Him because born again believers in the Lord Jesus are literally inhabited by our Savior to the degree that when our Father sees us, He sees His beloved Son. Indeed, we are in a sense doubly loved, that is, we are loved for Christ's sake and for our own sake. Or, we are cherished for His sake and our own.

I feel the familiar frustration even as I write the words. "Cherish" does not describe what the Spirit and the Word reveal to us of the love of God. Nor will eternity be long enough to exhaust the outpouring of His affectionate good will to us. The reality cannot be fully known, or told. We can only know that the love of Christ passes knowledge and description, and that whatever Biblical words most illuminate us, they are, by definition, open-ended. The Apostle Paul bore witness to this "joy unspeakable and full of glory, and we close with his exulation...

"God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 2:4-7)

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