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Make It Personal

by Wayne Hobbs

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

Years back a school principal had a troubled boy and his mother sitting in the office discussing several concerns. The boy was not doing well in his studies and his behavior was not what it needed to be. The mother knew the principal well from previous conversations and the boy had become a regular in seeing the principal in the office. His teachers had sent him. As they talked about his academic and behavioral concerns the young boy was told how fortunate it is that his mom loved him so much.  He was also told that he probably never showed his love for her as she did for him.

The boy agreed to both and so he was asked if he ever told his mother that he loves her.  His mom looked over at him with motherly eyes, expecting the boy to say something and the boy said, “No.”  Then the boy really should do the right thing he was told. He was told that he should tell his mom that he loves her.

The room became silent and they waited. And the boy finally with his head down quietly said, “I love you.” And with that the mother cried and hugged her child.

I really like the way the NIV words begin in Psalm chapter 18 verses one through six as David wrote to God and he said, “I love you, my Lord and strength.” Listen to this.  “I love you, oh Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my rock in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord who is worthy of praise and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death entangled me. The torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me and the snares of death confronted me.  In my distress I called to the Lord. I cried to my God for help.  From his temple he heard my voice. My cry came before him into his ears.”

We will look at what David said. He had been delivered of his enemies, including Saul, who had tried to kill him. The verses after this go on to say why David loved the Lord as he did. David called the Lord his rock, his fortress, his deliverer, his shield, his horn of salvation, his stronghold who was worthy of praise, the one who had saved him from his enemies.  He then discussed how and when he cried to the Lord for help and the blessings.  He loved the Lord. The words “I love you, Lord,” do not show up too many times in the Bible, but David used them here to show his love for the Lord God himself.

Many times we are told about God’s love and many times we are told that we should love God, but the words “I love you,” don’t show up too often.  We, likewise, need to be serving God by saying these same words.

In the NIV the word love shows up in 31 of the 39 Old Testament books.  And the word love shows up in 26 of the 27 New Testament books.  In fact, the only one the word love is not mentioned is the book of Acts and certainly love is shared in the book of Acts, just not the word itself.

The first time the word love appears in the Bible is in Genesis chapter 20 verse 13 where Abraham told Sarah that she could show her love for him by saying that he was her brother to keep Abimelech from hurting him. Actually Sarah was his half sister and not really his whole sister and that is what he asked her to do. It is so important that these words be expressed. And there are three aspects of the words I love you that need to be addressed.  First, these words need to be direct and personal. Secondly, these words must have unconditional meaning. And, thirdly, they must be true words that are backed up by what is done.

Near the end of the book of John, Jesus three times asked Peter if he loved him.  This was part of a response to Peter’s three time denial of Jesus before the crucifixion.

John 21:  When they had finished eating Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said. “You know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?” And he answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

And Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

And Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.”And Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

Now it is interesting to note that each of these questions is slightly different. In verse 15, the first one, Jesus uses the word the agape love and Peter responds with the emotional love in answer.  Two words for love, but they were different words.  The second time that Jesus asks this question he didn’t say: Do you love me more than these?  He simply used the same agape love and he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter again responded with that emotional love use of the word and not the word that Jesus had used. And finally the third time Jesus used the same word that Peter had used and Peter responded the same way.  And each time the Lord lowered the demands of his question somewhat. I believe this was an effort to help Peter understand his own love for Jesus. Sometimes in other places I understand that these words are used interchangeably. The life of Peter truly showed later on that he did have the highest unselfish love for God. But when Jesus asked that question that day I think he wanted Peter to understand his own love.

With each of these Jesus gave Peter an assignment of proof of his love. Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep.  Jesus did not want empty words, but he wanted words that were backed up with action.  Remember, it was Peter who had promised to lay down his life in John 13:37, that he would lay down his life for Jesus. But it is the same man who had denied Jesus three times.

The bottom line of this is that Jesus wanted Peter to say, “I love you,” with meaning, as a part of his commitment and dedication to Jesus. And he wanted Peter to truly understand these words and deliberately love Jesus.

In a similar way, Paul brought this out in Romans chapter 10 verse nine where he says:  We confess with our mouth that Jesus is the Lord. Our Lord wants to hear us say, “Jesus is Lord,” direct and personal as we confess Jesus as Savior.

Now remember our three points.  The word I love you must be direct and personal. It must have unconditional meaning and it must be backed up by what is done in order to be true.  Let’s look at direct and personal.  It doesn’t do much good to hear about the love from someone else.  So somebody loves you and you hear about it from somebody else.  It sounds like something that might happen in elementary school where Bobby says he loves you, but another delivers the message. The one who loves must share that message directly. People who are seriously dating and have been spending time with each other for some time grow to the point—as my wife and I did—to be able to say directly, “I love you,” with the meaning that goes with it.

The words to Jesus are to be direct and personal as well expressing our love for him.  In thinking about being a Christian, it is different to say that we are a group of Christian people than it is to say I am a Christian.  Make it direct and personal. May each of us say, “I love you, Lord.”

Remember how Jesus on one occasion said in Matthew chapter 16, “Who do you people say that I am?” And there were various answers about who people might say that Jesus is. And Peter answered the question when Jesus said, “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus wanted it direct and personal. The answer was, from peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Not just what other people said, but what he said.  The ‘I love you’ that we have for Jesus must be the same way, like no other, simply because it is he who we love. It is he who has done the blessing. It is he who has given us the blessings in so many powerful ways. This direct and personal love is not shared with any other because there is no other like Jesus. So the ‘I love you’ to Jesus must be direct and personal and special like no other.

Secondly, this ‘I love you’ must be unconditional. Picture, if you will, a young man sitting next to a young lady. He looks her in the eyes and says, “I love you.”  But there is a pause and then he says, “However…” Do you see the sudden change, an actual reversal of the meaning. Something has stopped in the love process at that point.  The lady wants her special guy to express that unconditional love, no strings attached. And that is what our Lord wants as well.

My dad told this story. A man was talking to his special lady on the phone and he used these words.  Now picture this. “I love you so much that I would swim the Atlantic Ocean with one arm and I would carry you an ice cream cone with the other.”  And then the man says, “Oh, by the way, I will be over to see you tonight if it doesn’t rain.”  Conditional, wasn’t it?  Our Lord wants us to express our love unconditionally.  The love for Jesus is not to be situationally dependent, but it is to be unconditional. Our Lord’s love for us was unconditional. In Romans chapter five verse eight it says:  While we were sinners Christ died for us.  He didn’t wait until we became good enough.  We never did and we never will.

And then John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son for us to believe, for us to follow unconditionally.

And, finally, these words ‘I love you’ must be backed up by what we do.  Put these words first in our lives. Put Jesus first in our lives. We have all heard of puppy love. It is used to describe some early immature feelings of love and these are generally healthy and not to be made little of or belittled, but they usually lack commitment.  Well, I like to use the word kitten love to describe another form of immature love. A child’s love for a new kitten can cause him to actually do that kitten harm, not letting it get down, not letting it eat, maybe squeezing it too hard.  And this love really doesn’t last too long, because when it comes to care for the litter box and all those things, the child begins to back down and not really be committed to that love. That is kitten love.  Real love is backed up by practicing what is best for the object of our love.

As Christians we are to give our time to the Lord, especially since he is the creator of time and the one who has given us time.  What abilities and efforts do you have that do not come from God?  I have the answer to that, none.  So we in turn, when we give our abilities back to the Lord, when we give our efforts back to the Lord, we are giving him what he has given us. Convictions are not convictions at all if we fail to live based upon them, to include what we believe about Jesus Christ.  The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is doing what it is doing today because of convictions that are backed up by practice. This means that if we are doing nothing for the Lord, we had better take a serious look at our love for the Lord.  If we are not backing up our love by what we do, maybe we don’t love as we should.

On a personal note, how much time and effort do each of us spend in Bible study and in prayer, personal, private time with the Lord isn’t just good, it is necessary. And I would add to that family prayer and family devotions as well. How important they are.

Let’s see if we can draw some conclusions from what we have said.  In John chapter one verse three it says this:  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  God lavished his love on us to allow us to become his children.  To lavish is to give in abundance, more than is needed. God gave Jesus, whose blood covers the sins of the world, for any who would get under that blood, who would receive that blood. Anybody in the world would receive that blessing of love from Jesus Christ. By this he is saying personally, directly and unconditionally, with the words that are backed up by his actions: I love you— put your name in the blank—to each of us.  It only makes sense that we express this love back to him.

An old country man was visiting London for the first time in his life and he went to one of the great picture galleries where all the paintings were. And presently he came to a wonderful painting of the Lord Jesus Christ hanging upon the cross. He stopped before it and he gazed at the picture of great love, the one who hung on that cross was there and he said, “Bless him. I love him.”

Others in the gallery heard the man’s words and seeing his tears trickling down his furrowed cheeks as he stood before that picture, hat in his hand, forgetting everybody else around him.  People were touched. Some stopped by the picture. And finally a stranger who stood beside the old man grasped the man’s hand and said, “I love him, too, brother.” And seeing what had taken place a third person did the same. “So do I.” And a fourth and a fifth until a group of people stood there close together, a little knot of people, perfect strangers to one another, drawn together by the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, each saying, “I love you. I love him.”

When a young man says to a young lady, “I love you,” and that lady responds with silence, something is wrong with that relationship.  The Lord has shown us by what he has done and who he is: I love you. And I feel sure that he wants our response as well with our hearts, our lives, and our words.

Let me give a challenge to each of you. Some time today or this evening or whenever you are alone, tell the Lord that you love him. Maybe in your devotions, in your prayer, while you are reading the Word, just tell the Lord God himself and the Lord Jesus Christ, “I love you.”

Remember the boy that I spoke about in the opening? How when he was asked to tell his mother that he loved her there was silence? We don’t need that silence. We need to tell God that we love him.   It needs to be personal. It needs to be unconditional and it needs to be backed up by what we do. We should be ready each day to tell the Lord, with meaning, that we love him.

Psalm 89 verse one says this. I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever. With my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.  That is what we need to do. We need to love the Lord that much. We need to be able to sing of his love. We need to be able to praise him and love him that much.

-Wayne Hobbs lives  in Sellersburg, IN and is a retired educator and a member of the Sellersburg Church of Christ

 




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Philippians 4:13