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About this series
Jesus Loves Me
Christian Essentials for the Head and the Heart
Do you know the core beliefs of Christianity? Forget what churches, denominations, or notable pastors say for a second - what do God and His Word actually state are the essential truths to being a follower of Jesus? In this 10-part series, journalist, author, and pastor John Dickerson helps us uncover the foundational building blocks of the Christian faith. By using the simple children’s song - Jesus Loves Me - John reveals what these lyrics tell us about God, His love for us, and the reliability of the Bible. So whether you’re a new Christian looking for guidance or you’ve been a believer your whole life - and you need a refresher, John’s words will encourage you!More from this series
So, let’s look at this idea of being restored.
Here’s what God says happens the moment that you place your faith in Jesus. When you place your faith in Jesus, you actually get adopted into the family of God, and that’s why this verse says that you belong to Christ. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
And so, now you have a new heart and a new nature. And this verse says the old life is gone. So those old mistakes, the shame and guilt that used to follow you around, that’s in your past now. It doesn’t define you anymore. The things that other people have done to you or how they have labeled you – that’s all in the past now. That doesn’t define you anymore. Who God says is you are a new person and a new life has begun.
“Has begun” has this idea of a process that is started. And so, just like the restoration of one of those classic cars, it doesn’t happen in a day. Go into a high-end shop where they restore these classic cars and sometimes it takes them months or even years to restore it, because they are going to restore every single part.
They are going to start with the heart, which is the engine, and they are going to work their way out. And when you place your faith in Jesus, your identity has changed, your eternity has changed, your heart has changed. And one piece at a time in your life, God is in the process of restoring you.
And what is beautiful is now with the Word of God as our guide, when our heart says, “Here’s what to do,” we can measure it by the Word of God and say, “Is that impulse from my heart a good impulse or a bad impulse according to God? Is that one that leads to life or to death? Is this from my new nature or is that an impulse from my old nature?” And one day at a time, one choice at a time, we start to walk in this new way of life, all possible because of what Christ has done for us.
You see, number three in your outline is this, that Christ begins restoring me the moment I trust in Him. Notice who is doing the action here. Christ is the one changing you. If you feel like there’s an area of your life where you know there needs to be change or improvement and you just think, I can’t do it, then you’re in a really good place.
Because an old car cannot restore itself. And I can’t change myself, but Jesus can change me. My job is one day at a time to show up surrendered and to say, “God, where You have pulled a part of my life off, and it’s on the workbench and You are sanding it down and it hurts and there are sparks, I will stay surrendered to You, because You’re in the process of restoring me and I believe in Your capability as a Master Craftsman.”
You know, when one of those cars, actually, I grew up in Michigan, many of you know, it’s probably why I’m such a car freak. And in our neighborhood, there were a couple old guys who had, like, a separate garage back behind their house and they would have these old cars in there that they were restoring.
So, in the summer I’d be riding around on my BMX bike and I would stop in at these guys’ garages and they’d let me come in and hang out and take these old cars apart. Here’s a picture of the kind of car that some of these guys would have in their garage. This looks like junk, right? Most people would look at that and say that’s junk. This is a Jaguar E-Type. And under this tarp, behind it, are the engine and a number of other parts that are missing. In its current condition, this rotted, ruin of a car is worth eighty thousand dollars. It's a glorious ruin, because of who made it and because of its place in history. This car, worth eighty thousand just like that, but someone loved it enough to spend eighty thousand on it and then to spend a couple hundred more thousand doing this to it.
This is the exact same car, believe it or not. Exact same car. As you can see, the wheels, every single part has gone through a sand blaster where all the corrosion and all the rust gets blasted off of it, and that metal is like raw new metal. And then if it needs to be chromed again, it’s chromed again. It needs to be painted again, it’s painted again.
Whole engine obviously rebuilt and one component at a time, that car is completely rebuilt. And then it’s the same way as we surrender our life to Jesus. We experience joy and peace that we never had before, but there’s also some pain, at times, because God’s is like, I’m going to work on this pride in your life. And He keeps working on your pride and you’re finally like, “I don’t think I can take it anymore.” And then He takes a little break and He comes over here and He works on your lust and then He works on your greed and then He works on those deep wounds from your past that you didn’t choose but someone else did to you, but they still define you. And He’s got to rub those wrinkles out of your fenders. He’s got to straighten you out and it hurts, but it’s worth it, because you are being restored. And you have these moments, these glimpses where you see the progress that is happening. And this is called the Christian life.
This is why we stay faithful when it’s hard to keep going to church. Maybe there are times you don’t feel like going to your small group or you don’t feel like serving, but you keep doing those basic things because you know that’s what keeps you in the repair shop. It’s what keeps you in God’s hands so He can keep working on you.
Well, one of my buddies back in Arizona is a high-end Porsche restorer. His name is Victor. And Victor actually attended in Germany a university called Porsche University, run by the automaker Porsche. And so, Victor specializes in a few years of air-cooled Porsches. And that’s all he does.
And Victor has this really neat shop and he’s got these customers who will buy a barn-find car, like the kinds we looked at, and they will pay a bunch of money for it and they will ship it to him and then he will spend a year or two restoring just one or two cars at a time.
He’s very surgeon, precision-like in the way he does this. And so, this is a picture, actually, from Victor’s engine room where he works on the engines. It’s kind of a sealed off room. And I remember this time in particular, when I lived in Arizona, this is from a Porsche 911. And the Porsche 911, for about a year, was sitting there in his shop and he had pulled the engine out and for about a year, it didn’t look like any progress was happening, because the car was still rusty, the interior was still rotted out, there were dents all over it, different colors of paint on it. But in the engine room, Victor was doing this. He was taking apart the top end and he took apart every single component in that engine. Every screw, every valve, every camshaft. Every single part got completely reconditioned back to the original specifications.
And this is exactly what God does with us. God starts with us in the heart – the engine – and He works His way out. And He keeps changing us. And whether you have been a Christian for three days or thirty years, maybe you’re ninety-five years old and you got saved when you were four. There are still parts of us that can be refurbished and restored. And then that day is going to come when we breathe our last breath on earth and we wake up and we look down and we are like, “Yes, finally. Finally! We’re going to have glorified bodies. That’s the final finishing touch.
And depending on your age, you know, some of us who have health conditions or are further along, that glorified body gets us really excited. If you’re young and healthy, in thirty years it will make sense, okay?
But the point is this: God is going to keep working on us. And so, I want to ask you this: Where do you need God’s restoring power in your life right now? I mean, maybe it’s a broken relationship. And you’re just like, “I don’t even know how to be Jesus to this person. I’m just so frustrated in my marriage.” Or, “I’m so frustrated with that child.” Or, “Just so frustrated with that co-worker.” And you know what? It’s an opportunity to say, “God, I need You to restore me toward that person.” Or, “God, I need You to restore my faith, that You’re working on that person and I don’t have to fix them, because You are going to fix them. You’re the only one who could. And so, give me patience to accept that I can’t change them, but I can trust You for my journey.”
Where do you need God’s restoring work in your life? Maybe it’s in your thought life. Maybe it’s your sense of purpose, that you have something that gets you out of bed in the morning and you know that God made you for a purpose. Maybe it’s your perfectionism. You know, some of us have this perfectionistic tendency where we only see our flaws. Or, in your house, you only see the flaws of the people around you. That’s such a devastating trait. Maybe it can be a strength in some disciplines in the workplace, but at home, it’s really hard to live with a perfectionist. Ask my wife, okay?
And you know what? This has implications for our perfectionism, for those of us who struggle with that. Because we realize, you know what? The people around me don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be perfect. All we’ve got to do is be in the hands of the restorer.
It has implications for the areas of your life where you’re just hopeless. Where you feel like you are hopelessly broken, or someone you love is hopelessly broken. You know what? There is no ruin that is beyond repair in the hands of Christ. He’s a master restorer.
Next question: Do you know for sure that you’re in the repair shop? Do you know for sure that you have had a moment of surrender in your life and you have been wheeled by God into His restoration shop?
Part of you being made in the image of God is that you have that free will. And if you want to slam on the brakes and say, “No, God, You can’t work on me,” He will respect that. Have you had that moment where sometimes we call it salvation, where you have said, “God, I do need Your help, I want Your help, Jesus, I believe in You. Will You change me? I give You permission, every area of my life, anything You need to disassemble, anything You need to sand down, anything You need to work on, You can work on it because I trust You.” Have you had that defining moment in your life? And if you haven’t yet, you can have that moment today.
Ephesians chapter 2 puts it like this. It says, “God saved you by His grace when you believed.” In other words, you are saved by your faith. You are saved by God’s grace, which is expressed through Your faith.
So, we don’t have to earn our way to heaven. And some of us were raised with this idea of, you know, you’ve got to do more good deeds than bad deeds. Your good needs to outweigh your bad. But we have learned in God’s Word that God says, “No human can do enough good to outweigh the bad.” The only human who was perfect was Jesus.
And so, what happens is when you place your faith in Jesus, His goodness, His perfectness gets applied to you. So, salvation, getting into the repair shop doesn’t happen by your striving, it happens by your surrendering and saying, “Jesus, be my Savior.” God saved you by His grace when you believed. Belief, faith.
And you can’t take credit for this. I can’t take credit for the areas where God has restored my life. He is the One who has done it. It’s a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. In other words, no car in a museum that has been completely restored can say, “Look at me. I did this to myself!”
There’s a Restorer who did it. Now, check out the next part of this verse. It says that we are God’s workmanship.
Completely restored. Why? Because of the work of a workman. We are God’s masterpiece. And He has created us, this is written to believers, anew, restored, the way it was originally intended. Original specifications. And that happens in Christ Jesus.
And why did He do this? Well, He did this so we can now do the good things He planned for us long ago.
So, we looked at that Ferrari in the barn and we said, “This car can’t drive. It can’t go around a racetrack. It is valuable just because of what it is, not because of what it can do. But once it’s restored, now it’s valuable because of what it is and it can do things.
And here’s the thing. As God starts to restore you, He will put you on a racetrack. And you’ll start to zoom through life and do things that you never could have done before. But you’re not doing these things to try to buy God’s favor or out of shame or guilt. You’re doing them because that’s what you were created to do, and it’s the most fulfilling thing.
It might be in the area of mercy or hospitality or compassion. It might be helping people, it might be giving, it might be serving, it might be teaching, it might be administration. He has gifts for you and it’s as you allow Him to restore you that He wires you up so you can zip around the racetrack of life. You have a Restorer who has great compassion.
Well, I was reading this last week some stories about rescue dogs. And I want to show you a picture of a rescue dog. This rescue dog is named Gretchen. This is Gretchen when she was found. You can see nearly starving, definitely starving, nearly starving to death. And this is Gretchen after she was adopted into a home and she was rehabilitated.
Here’s what Gretchen’s owner writes about her.
She says, “When I saw Gretchen on the adoption listing, I knew I needed to meet her. The rescue owner, the person who ran the rescue place, didn’t know her story but I was determined to give her the home she deserved. Well, in the first few weeks we realized she didn’t know what a leash was, she wasn’t spayed, she wasn’t potty trained. She was a lot of trouble. She escaped constantly.
She ruined my expensive things, she barked and whined all night.” And then the owner says this, “Almost three years later, she’s a completely different dog. She is rehabilitated. She runs around now and plays with her toys and her friends. She is good on a leash, she’s a star in our neighborhood, she has brought so much joy to my life and I don’t know where I’d be without her.” The owner says this, “I can’t be one hundred percent sure how she feels since she’s a dog, but I hope she feels the same way that I do, that she has changed my life.”
I love reading those stories, because when I was twelve years old, I got a rescue dog named Casey. Casey was a white Samoyed. I couldn’t find a picture of Casey, but this is what they look like. They are sled dogs. And when we first got Casey, she was really skittish and afraid, especially of men. She had clearly been kicked or beaten or abused. But over time, Casey warmed up and some of her flaws went away. But one of her flaws never did. Casey was a runner.
Maybe you have had a dog that’s a runner. Like, if the door is open, boom, she’s out. She was just a runner. In fact, I remember the very first day we got Casey; I was twelve. And you can imagine how scrawny I was as a twelve-year-old. And I was twelve and I was so excited, I got her for my birthday, I was like, “Yes! I got a dog!” I was so happy. I put Casey on a leash, I go out the front door, and I kid you not, she took off, you know? And they are sled dogs. And I held onto the leash and she just dragged me across the entire driveway. I finally let go of the leash. I was laying there bleeding and crying. And one of my older brothers ran after her. That’s how me and Casey’s relationship started.
And you know what? Over the years, Casey and I, we really got close and she was an amazing dog and most of her quirks from her past worked out. But here’s the thing about Casey. She never stopped being a runner, so we had to be really careful anytime we let her out. But even though that never changed about her, I never stopped loving her.
Maybe you’re here today and you have spent your whole life running from God. He brought you here today to tell you that no matter how much you run, He’s never going to stop loving you.
No matter what parts of your life haven’t changed or you feel like can’t change, He doesn’t give up on you. He wants to bring you into His house. He wants to restore You. And no matter how much you run, He desires to rehabilitate you, to rescue you, to make you just a better, healthier, stronger version of yourself. He wants to have you in His house for all eternity and give you eternal life.
Well, how do you know for sure that you’re in His house? How do you know for sure that you have allowed Him to start rehabilitating you or restoring you? Romans 10, verse 9 tells us how. It says very simply if you openly declare that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
It’s as simple as that. No magical passphrase, there’s no money you have to give to any church, there’s no list of good deeds you have to do. It starts in the heart of just saying, “Jesus, I do believe You are God.” It’s okay if you still have questions about God. I mean, I started believing Jesus was God before I was sure there was a God. Sometimes these things are out of order.
But you just, from the heart, say, “Jesus, man, I do want to believe in You. I do need Your help. Help my unbelief.” My faith wavered and wobbled so much when I started on this journey, but He kept working on me. All He needed me to do was take my foot off the brake and He just pushed me right into His repair shop.