Why God Delights to Love You
Rumor has it that when one aging pastor and renowned theologian was asked what was the highest theological peak he had reached in his years of study and preaching, he answered simply: Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Initially, I smiled at the preacher’s cleverness. Later, however, I wondered over the preacher’s answer. Something about it stuck with me.
After a life of exploring mountain ranges men like me have never seen, savoring Christ in ways I have not, speaking of nuances in theology I do not yet understand — after all his decades of travel in the Christian life — this preacher imparted no higher souvenir than can be found on the lips of children. With all his twists and turns, ups and downs, peaks and valleys, he had not escaped the nursery of God’s gospel love. This love stood as crib walls for the childlike heart.
Would I have answered similarly?
When we hear that God loves us, we can imagine strange things. We call it an ocean; we sing songs about it; but too often we float at its surface preferring the more practical, more current, more insightful. A world remains unexplored. But God desires to give full lyric to our nursery song. He says to his people through Isaiah,
God likes you. He delights in you. He smiles at you — and not because he sees someone smarter, taller, better looking, or holier standing just behind you. He looks each redeemed child in the eye and tells him of his love for him in his Son. This is who our God is towards us. Not because of our worth, but because of Christ’s.
Your inheritance in Christ shatters all of earth’s piggy banks: God’s smile. He delights to see you, he rejoices to have you, as every smiling groom at the end of the aisle foretells. The God who spoke the cosmos into existence sings over you:
Have you been quieted by his love of late? Have you simply sat singing to yourself: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so? Have you submerged beneath the surface to discover the heart of God towards his bride? The pastor found God’s affection for him to be a bottomless sea to explore. His maturity did not graduate to other seas; it went scuba diving.
Some of us think about God’s love in so many clichés and platitudes that we come to think of it as the kiddie pool of the Christian faith. It gives us no pause, therefore, to leave the lyric behind us to higher, weightier things. We forget to marvel as C.S. Lewis does in his famous sermon “The Weight of Glory”:
How differently we would pray, how differently we would evangelize, how differently we would worship and explore his word, if we believed that the God whom we sought actually wanted us to draw near. If we worshiped the God of Scripture who summons us under his wings (Luke 13:34).
The pastor knew that our Father does not roll his eyes as he gives the kingdom to his children. Instead, he says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). From such a heart he anticipated the holy commendation at the end of his race: “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). If we too only realized that Jesus died to keep us from hell and from some remote corner of heaven — that he died to bring us to himself: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
He wants us near because he delights in his people. Do we fellowship with this happy God, a God in whom enough joy cascades to submerge his people for an eternity?
John Piper has given his life to proclaiming, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. And how shall we be satisfied in him? Go deeper in his satisfaction of you in Christ. Stare, without excuse or extensive qualification, at how he desires us; how truly happy he is in his redeemed people. No one forced him to adopt us.
Perhaps many of us are not happier in our Christian lives because we assume God is as disappointed in us as we can tend to be in ourselves. Children cannot long delight in a father that stares indifferently at them — and we have not outgrown this. Children love to be delighted in. They love to cry, “Daddy, watch me!” and see his smile when they complete the somersault. Although we can still displease him with our sin, grieving the Spirit he placed within us, the Father’s smile replaces his displeasure as the sun replaces the moon each morning. His laughter, as with his mercy, is new every morning.
To smile more before God, we must rediscover the weight of his smile, his unveiled happiness in his people that bids us be as merry as we humanly can be — in him. In this is joy: not that we have delighted in God, but that he first chose to delight in us. We will never outlaugh our heavenly Father. His smile, his happiness, not ours, founds the universe. We who desire for God to get the glory due his name will learn to dwell on this regularly. When we do, perhaps a few more of us might near the end of the world’s road and say behind us with a smile, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”