Jesus Loves Me When I’m Good.

Jesus loves me

If you ever when found yourself in a church before you were the age of ten, or if your mother (or any childhood caregiver) had any Christian exposure while she was raising you, you have heard the song, “Jesus Loves Me”.  This song has a unique history.  It was originally written by Susan Bartlett in the form of a poem in her novel entitled Say and Seal, as comfort to a dying child.  This is how the poem reads in that novel:

Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to him belong,—
They are weak, but he is strong.

Jesus loves me—loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill;
From his shining throne on high,
Comes to watch me where I lie.

Jesus loves me—he will stay,
Close beside me all the way.
Then his little child will take,
Up to heaven for his dear sake.

Two years after it was published (in 1862), William Bradbury put the poem to music and added the refrain that we all now know.  Verses have been added throughout the last 150 years, and many of us grew up singing the verse:

Jesus loves me when I’m good,
When I do the things I should.
Jesus loves me when I’m bad,
Though it makes Him very sad.

Does that strike you as strange?  I cannot help but wonder what the intention of the author is here.  Is it manipulation to influence children to obey?  Is it intended as assurance that we will not be unloved when we make a mistake?  Is it provision to live however we want, with the caveat of only making Jesus sad?

It is a glorious truth that Jesus loves you and me.  It is also a glorious truth that we cannot earn or defer Jesus’ love for us based on our actions.  And it is a sobering reality that when we sin, we “grieve the Holy Spirit”, we put Jesus back up on the cross, and we exemplify a love for something other than God and His provisions.

There is great comfort in the truth that Jesus loves us.  But in our narcissistic society, I would argue that few people need to be assured of that fact.  We need, however, to focus on loving Jesus.  Put the emphasis back on Jesus and off ourselves.  Unfortunately, however, there is a temptation and danger to lift Biblical principles out of the Scripture, add our own values and interpretations to these principles, and then lay them back in scripture and use them to discredit other teachings.  For example:  “God is love” (1 John 4.8).  Love, in USA 2015 means that we do not discipline our children, we do define sin, we do not make truth claims because everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and we tolerate everyone’s disposition and belief system – validating them as “true for them”.  We consider unconditional love the epitome of love:  to be loved, accepted and affirmed no matter what one does.

It is a warm-fuzzy, feel good emotion.  It is affirmation and positive thoughts irregardless of actions.  It’s a big load of you-know-what.

If we want to make sure our eternity, we must let the Bible tell us what the Bible means.  So, Bible, what is love?

“And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.  This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.”

 – 2 John 1.6

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

 – 1 John 5.3

No, we do not earn God’s love by being obedient.  But we exemplify our love for Him by obeying Him.  The Bible says,

“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

 – Heb 13.4

So if we love God, we do not have sex outside of marriage, we do not live with our significant other outside of marriage, and we do not entertain lust in our hearts.  We choose to honor marriage and the gift of sex and family as a gift from God that are to be upheld within the bond of marriage!  Period.  And we uphold this is true and right, and do not tolerate it as OK for another believer.

These deeds of the flesh are prohibited in Gal 5:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 – Gal 5.21-21

Ok, so maybe sorcery is not a huge temptation for you.  But how about outbursts of anger?  Envying?  Drunkenness?  If we love God, we choose to love the things that He loves and hate the things that He hates.  He does no welcome us into His presence if we choose to love the things that He hates.  John gives us much comfort,

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.  By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.

 – 1 John 2.1-3

We are all going to sin.  Perfection is not something that will be attained while we are here on the Earth.  But the goal of Scripture is to guide us, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, to strive not to sin.  To strive to obey.  To strive to love God to the best of our abilities.  But when we do mess up, Jesus will advocate for us, if we repent and seek to keep His commandments.

So yes, Jesus does love you and me when we are good and when we are bad.  But the greater issue here is:  how do we love Jesus?  Are we seeking to know Him, serve Him and honor Him?  Or are we just laying back and letting Him do all the work?  Is it all about you today, or is it all about Jesus?


The First Three.


Do you know the ten commandments?  We raised a fuss when the government required that they be removed from public, from schools, from courtrooms, but if you were put on the spot can you recite them?  They uphold our basic moral law: do not murder, do not steal, do not cheat on your wife, etc.  They also speak to contentment:  do not covet (or lust for) your neighbor’s house or wife.   But have you ever stopped to consider the nature of the very first commandment?

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me…”

– Ex 20.3-5

I quoted that in the King James for those of us who memorized it thus.  We are not to have any other gods beside Him.  The second commandment expands the principle:  we should make no idols or graven images to worship.  God does not want us to attempt to make a statue or likeness of Him or any other entity on which to focus our worship.  Even in worship of Him.  And the third commandment exemplifies our respect for Him:  do not take is name in vain.

God set aside three of ten commandments, the first 30% of his instruction for how we are to live our lives, focused directly on how we remember, worship and respect Him.  Theologians observe that if we love God, our hearts will focus on obeying Him while keeping the other commandments, so all of the commandments are technically focused on God.  But my point here is that he gave us three commandments that directly deal with how we relate to Him.  God is extremely concerned with our hearts towards Him and how we worship and respect Him.

Do you spend time with God?  Does He abide in you?  Do you abide in Him?  Do you find joy, peace and rest in His presence?  Or are you so busy trying to keep Him happy by your “ministry”, by your service, by your obedience?  Those things are extremely important, but He ultimately wants to empower you to do your ministry, service and obedience by His Holy Spirit who lives in and through us.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”

– John 15.4

Jesus, while He lived here on Earth, regularly went away to be alone to pray.  He wanted to interact with the Father.  He drew strength from spending time with Him.  He loved Him.  He knew what the Father’s will was, and He obeyed it perfectly by abiding in Him.  Take time today to be alone with Him.  Do not waste your energy trying to serve Him until you have been in His presence and found peace in His refuge.  Then, through that strength, serve Him.  He will bear fruit through you.

“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord…”

– Charles Spurgeon

It is no sacrifice.


David Livingstone was a national hero to England int he 19th century.  Born poor, he studied and worked himself to prosperity, he was a scientist – who loved research and exploration, he crusaded against slavery while leading expeditions to explore Africa, most notably seeking the source of the Nile River.  But his entrepreneurial spirit and passions were only trumped by his love for God and he gave himself up ultimately as a martyr in Zambia, while serving as a missionary to Africa.  People did not understand his choices, but they were challenged and intrigued by his work, which spearheaded the exploration and colonization of central and southern Africa.

In 1857 he came home and was speaking to the students at the University of Cambridge.  At this point people glorified his missionary efforts as an “ultimate sacrifice”, and this was his response:

Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter?

– David Livingstone

There are a variety of types of Christians and missionaries.  There are those who seek to use their reputation and service as a means to self-glorification and fame.  But there are also those who truly believe the promises of Scripture, that this life is fading, that true treasures are found in Heaven, that God has called us to take the Truth to the World, and that He will provide everything we need in order to do so.  David Livingstone was the latter type.  If we believe and obey the commandments of Scripture, it is indeed no sacrifice to obey Jesus, store up treasures in Heaven, and to live this life with the peace of the knowledge of our obedience and submission to Jesus.

Do you trust Jesus?  Do you believe His Word and promises to be true?  Have you spent your life building up your retirement, working a job simply for the income, and living for the weekend when you get to relax with your family and friends?  Or do you believe that God will provide your needs and give up your life to obey Him, making disciples?  Jim Elliot, David Livingstone, and many many others have taken Jesus at His word and lived lives of obedience.  Will you?

Beware of Sensationalism

the boy who came back

This fall, much of the Christian world was excited to see the movie released, “Heaven is for Real”, based on the book by the same title.  “Surely this will prove what we have been saying all along!”  “Finally, an eye witness of those things that we long to see when we die!”  These types of sentiments were said and thought by many.  We chose to turn our attention away from the Word of God and rest our confidence in the word of a child.  There are three books that tell stories like this.  “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven”, “90 Minutes in Heaven” and this, most recent, “Heaven is for Real”.  Alex Malarkey was six years old when the event happened that led to his comatose state and the ensuing story of meeting Jesus.  Don Piper, a grown man, recounts a similar story in “90 Minutes in Heaven”, and “Heaven is for Real” relies on the testimony of a four year old.

These books, which have been come to be called “heavenly tourism”, are dangerous.  Why?  Because they stand on testimony alone.  Now, please do not misunderstand me, testimonies are glorious things.  We should all have the story of our conversion – of meeting Jesus and how He has changed our lives – on the tips of our tongues and ready to share any time.  We should be aware of the ongoing work that God is doing in our lives and we should be ready and excited to share that with others.  Testimonies cannot be refuted.  You cannot tell your story and someone say, “that’s not true” in response.  They can disbelieve you, but apart from empirical proof that you are lying, your word will stand.

But in this is the danger:  everyone has a story.  As convincing as our stories are of transformation and salvation, people in other religions can have stories too.  Satan is at work, and his demons are working signs and wonders in order to deceive people.  We cannot refute their stories either.

So what is the solution?  Finding the absolute truth which must function as the standard against which all stories and testimonies are held.  That Truth is the Bible.  God has revealed Himself to us throughout history and it has been documented in the Scriptures.  The Gospel is outlined for us in detail – four times, actually – in the New Testament, and it is through that story that we learn of the offer of forgiveness.  The epistles offer us instruction for how to live out the commands that Jesus gave while He was on Earth and how to logically understand the theology of it.  The Bible is enough.  Our stories do not add to or enhance the Bible, because our stories come from us.  The Bible is the breathed Word of God.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

– 2 Time 3.16-17

My conclusion is simply this:  let us place our hope and trust in Scripture alone.  Scripture has everything that we need.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

– 2 Peter 1.2-3

And we have learned this week perhaps the greatest reason to not place our trust or allow these types of testimonies to “emphasize” Scripture.  Alex Malarkey has come back and confessed his story a lie.  He wrote this letter:

“An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.”

Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.

I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.

I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.

It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible…not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.

In Christ,

Alex Malarkey.”

The beauty here is that Alex has come to faith, has come to know God, and has come to understand that Scripture is indeed enough!  To add to it only does harm and robs God of His glory.  To trust in something alongside of God and Scripture can lead us down a path we do not wish to travel.

Is it possible that people have died, or have visited Heaven?  Yes.  I believe it is.  Because we know that both Paul and John had such experiences.  But these testimonies must be examined against Scripture, and unless they are in complete accord with what God has revealed about Himself and Heaven, we should consider them a false witness.  But even if they are true, they cannot be a benchmark for our assurance.  God has given us everything we need.  Beware of sensationalism, friends, because not only can it disappoint, it can lead us to Hell.

Over My Dead Body.

road to hell

For what are you living?  What are your life goals?  When was the last time you visited your five-year, ten-year and fifteen-year plans?  When was the last time you laid your personal ambitions down and asked God what He would like to do in and through you?

When you meet with your financial adviser, he will ask you what your goals are.  Our answers usually center around retirement, education, job security, providing for a family and the like.  We need money to do all of these things, and it is his job to help us make and keep as much money as possible to meet our goals.  But what if we considered God’s counsel and input more valuable than that of our financial adviser?  What if we sought to understand His heart and asked Him what goals and ambitions would honor Him, momentarily and eternally?

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.

– Ps 24.1

Everything in the world belongs to the Lord.  He made it, He is sovereign over it, it is His.

“For every beast of the forest is Mine,
The cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird of the mountains,
And everything that moves in the field is Mine.”

– Ps 50.10

He has the resources to provide and take care of His children forever.  Therefore Jesus commanded His disciples,

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

– Matt 6.25-26, 33-34

So if we are instructed to trust God with the future, with our physical welfare, and with our daily needs, on what does He want us to be focused?  Dying words, last words are always of utmost importance and Jesus’ final words were what we know as “The Great Commission”:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.19-20

Make disciples.  He wants us to be concerned about making disciples.  Not just converts, but finding people who believe and teaching them to observe everything that Jesus taught.  He commanded us to love our enemies, to serve the poor, to preach the Gospel to a lost and dying world.  It’s really quite simple.  Do you have a heart for the lost?  Charles Spurgeon said,

“Have you no wish for others to be saved?  Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

How can he make such a bold statement?  Because,

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

– 1 John 4.7-8

If you do not love others, if you are indifferent about the eternity of your family, friends, neighbors, and the world, then you do not know God.  God is love.  And if we know Him, then we love others.  And if we understand our sin, embrace salvation and look forward to an eternity with God, then the loving response is to desire that for others.  It should be our life’s greatest ambition to bring as many others as possible into the kingdom with us.  Spurgeon also said,

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies.  And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay.  If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

– Charles Spurgeon

Let’s reevaluate our life goals, and weigh them against Scripture.  Let’s invite God to take over our five-year plans.  Let’s obey what He said to do and trust Him because He owns everything anyway.  We cannot add a day to our lives, but He can clothe the fields with flowers and feed the birds; He can care for His children.  So let’s get busy about making disciples, and let’s lay down – to the point of death, if necessary – in sinners’ path on the way to Hell.

It will be lost.


Have you tried to live life in your own strength, on your own accomplishments?  Have you succeeded?  Have you failed?  We live in a unique society and time in history when people who are willing to work actually have a shot at worldly success simply by means of skill and effort.  Yes, nepotism still exists, and yes, many jobs and promotions are found by who you know, but the average Joe Shmoe does have some opportunity.

But even if you have achieved all of your earthly goals, are you satisfied?  Are you fulfilled?

For who regards you as superior?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

– 1 Cor 4.7

Everything that we have is from the Lord.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  The successes, the failures, the relationships and the loneliness.  Even so, we regularly evaluate one another by our jobs, appearance, etiquette, possessions and social class.  We forget so quickly that everything that exists on this Earth belongs to God, and He has asked us to be stewards of it and to love one another.

Scripture is clear that if we belong to God, He will do whatever it takes to achieve within us righteousness.  That is why God often warns His people “watch out”, and gives consequences for specific sins.  Everyone knows the old Proverb, “prides comes before the fall” (Prov 16.18).  Most Christians also know the terrifying warnings of Hebrews that if we continue sinning after coming to understand the Gospel, there is no hope for us (Heb 6.4-6).  Jesus also dynamically teaches that:

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

– Matt 16.25

What a dichotomy and difficult teaching:  if you want to save your life, you have to loses it for the sake of Christ.  If you try to save your life on your own strength, you will ultimately lose it.  But you have to come to peace with losing it in Christ and for Christ in order to find it!  We all want to save our lives, and that is the primary motivation in coming to Christ:  we do not want to go to Hell and suffer the punishment for our sins!  But we must mature beyond that point to loving Christ and giving up our lives for Him.  If we do not, we will lose our lives, no doubt about it.

Martin Luther said it best from his momentary experience on Earth, and found it to be eternally true in his death:

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

– Martin Luther

Place your life, your children, your finances, your job, your everything in Christ’s hands today.  Because the reality is that He is in control and already has hold over it, and whatever you try to cling on to you will lose.  It is all His.  And do not boast in what you have, but use it to serve Him and the Church and to make much of Him.



Do you ever fear your sins are not really forgiven?  How can I know for sure that they will not be held against me?  Over the holiday break my husband and I started watching “Lost” and I have watched a few of the characters attempt a confession to a priest.  One character knew that his drug usage and promiscuity were sinful and he was truly seeking to make himself right in the eyes of God – at least to appease his guilt.  Another character considered his actions justifiable because he had murdered a man to save his brother’s life and had done “only what he needed to do to survive” while in the captivity of an African drug lord.  Both priests rightly represented the Catholic Church with the sentiment:  Absolution is only possible if the penitent is truly contrite and if he is seeking to change.

Do you think when we get to judgment day that we will be able to stand before the throne and plead our case that we did the best with what God gave us?  Do you think we can pass the blame to Him?  Do you think that our prayers we prayed saying, “I’m sorry” will be enough to render us not-guilty?

This question is tricky, and it is one of the most, if not the most, important question you will ask in your lifetime.

Am I ready to stand before the eternal judge?

What is absolution?  It is a term that we do not use every day, and it is mostly used in the Catholic and high church branches.  Absolution is the forgiveness of guilt and removal of the eternal punishment (Hell) for a mortal sin.  The Bible teaches us that Jesus offers us absolution (or forgiveness) by His work on the cross.

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

– Heb 7.26-27

Before Jesus came to the Earth, the high priests had to make regular sacrifices for the sins of the people.  The Israelites were continually coming to the temple, bringing animals and gifts to confess their sins and have them covered.  But Jesus is the final and the perfect high priest and He made the perfect sacrifice that never has to be repeated.  When He died on the cross, He died once and for all sins that would ever been forgiven.  Two thousand years ago He covered all of my sins.  He covered all the sins of all who would believe.

But how do we get into that “covered” category?  The Bible unashamedly teaches,

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

Rom 3.23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Rom 6.23

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…”

Rom 10.9

But we have all known people – and been them ourselves – who make the blanket statement:  “I’m not perfect.  I have sinned.  Everyone has sinned.”  But when you try to nail them down on something particular they either cannot come up with an example, or the example is a perfectly crafted story of woe in which they are the victim, their “sin” is justifiable and they are not really sorry for it.  It’s the interview weakness question, where you dress up a strength to make it a weakness.  You know what I am talking about.  You have done it too.

So how do we know when we have been forgiven?  The issue is repentance.  By confessing Jesus as Lord, we give Him authority over our lives.  We surrender our desires, wants, sins, everything and choose to obey Him.  And we hate our sin because He hates it, because it dishonors Him, because it resulted in His death, and we stop doing it by the power of the Holy Spirit.  If we meet Jesus and desire to be forgiven, but continue sinning anyway, the Bible says that we “crucify Him again”, we put Him back up on the cross when we sin, because we love our sin more than we love Him and we shame Him and abuse salvation (Heb 6.6).  That person, Scripture says, is not forgiven.

Thus, the verbiage of the Catholic Church in the teaching of absolution is correct:  we must be contrite, fully committed to leaving that sin behind and following Christ.  However, it is not an ongoing issue in the sense that we must be regularly absolved.  Jesus died once for all.  He offers us forgiveness in the form of adoption as sons.  Our sonship is not on the line if we fail and sin.  Jesus said that there are some in this world who are His sheep, and His sheep hear His voice when He calls and they come to Him.  Jesus died to cover the sins of His sheep, once for all, and we confess our sins to Him and He forgives us.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

– 1 John 1.9

We no longer need a mediator – a priest – we have direct access to God through Jesus:

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

– 1 Tim 2.5

And He welcomes us into His family when we repent.

So how do we know if we have repented?  How do we know if we are forgiven?  The traditional teaching of absolution involves penance.  Penance is man’s efforts to pay off a debt of sin:  pray so many times, do something good, outweigh the bad with good.  But Scripture teaches there is nothing we can do to earn forgiveness and that Jesus paid the penalty in full.  All we need to do is confess and repent.  So check your heart today.  How do you feel about your sin?  Do you hate it?  Does it make you sick because it has dishonored God?  Or are you just fearful that it will land you in Hell?  Are you relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome it?  Or are you trying to do it on your own?  Or do you continue freely in it, assuming that God will forgive you because you said you are sorry?

Let’s not play with sin.  Let’s not take lightly the eternal punishment that sin is owed.  Let’s not trivialize God’s glory.  He will not be mocked (Gal 6.7).  Hate your sin today, because it is that which alienates us from God.  Hate your sin today because it is evil.  Hate your sin today and ask God to give you the strength and ability to overcome it, to His glory and to your salvation.