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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
When God created all of creation, He makes this sort of crown jewel of creation – “Humanity will be in My image. They will create like I create and they will have spiritual capacity. They will be eternal beings and they will have a free will. They can choose My ways and My presence or if they choose, they can reject My ways and My presence.”
And this is the next step in the story of God and humanity. This is the bad news, that there was a catastrophic divorce. When our spiritual ancestors, with their free wills, chose, having known God and His presence to say, “We would like to know what evil is like.”
And so, what do we experience? Mortality, that we’ll die. And we spend our lives unresolved. Emotionally and spiritually, we are unresolved.
In Romans 3, verse 23, God says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And the idea is that we are born into a world that is already contaminated.
Here’s the good news. When God looked down and saw humanity in this position, He didn’t just leave us there. He decided that He Himself would intervene. And this is why the Christ, the Messiah Jesus, had to be human and God at the same time, because you see, He came to perform God’s rescue. He came to perform God’s rescue.
And what Christ literally does is create a bridge between us and God. And this bridge is very significant. Jesus says in John chapter 14, verse 6, He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” In other words, as Jesus will say many times throughout His life, the way to the kingdom of God is a narrow road. It’s not just, like, all roads lead to God and heaven. It’s a narrow road, but it’s a road that is available and open to everyone.
Whosoever will may come. In fact, God outright says in Scripture that He desires that no one would perish, but that everyone would come to salvation. God desires that all human beings would set foot on this bridge of rescue and be restored to God, but God respects the free will He has given you. And you get to choose for yourself. Do you want to accept this gift?
So, here’s a verse that summarizes all of this really well. Romans 6, verse 23. It says, “The wages of sin is death.” That’s the bad news we have talked about. That’s this side. We’ve got broken relationships, death, anxiety. What are wages? Well, if you have done your taxes yet this year, you’ve probably seen that word. It’s on your W2.
You have wages, tips and other income. Wages is your paycheck, right? Wages is your salary. Wages is usually an agreed upon, “I will work for this much per hour or for this much per year. That will be my wage. It’s a give and take.” And what God says is the payment of sin is death. And it’s interesting. It’s not an immediate death. It’s not like when our ancestors sinned, that they immediately – God didn’t strike them dead right away.
And when you sin, He doesn’t strike you dead right away. But what happens is you get separated from the source of eternal life. So, it’s not like God is mad at you and so He’s going to cause death in your life. It’s that you have been pulled away from the source of eternal life and until you get restored to it, you won’t experience eternal life.
So, the wages of sin is death, but, here’s the good news, the gift of God, a gift is something that is free, a gift is something that you don’t earn, but you do have to open it up, right? You have to receive it. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, our Lord.”
Now, here’s the thing about eternal life. First of all, you know, I mean, I know right now. If I have a stroke tomorrow, if I get in a car accident and die tonight, I know with all confidence that I will wake up in God’s presence in an eternal life. I’m not afraid of death anymore. But here’s the thing. Eternal life is so much more than that.
It's that, but it also begins now. Like I mentioned earlier, I know God is with me every day in this world. Eternal life begins now. Because I have been made right to my Creator. And my longing to be loved and to be accepted and to be secure, those needs have been met by my Creator. And so, it changes my life now and it also guarantees me eternal life after my body wears out.
Think about it this way. You know, picture in your mind your age as a number. See it? Now, add fifty to it. You know, if life expectancy is about eighty years, will you be alive fifty years from now? Will you be alive twenty years from now? Will you be alive sixty year from now? We don’t want to acknowledge it, but we have this short time on earth to decide whether or not we will receive the gift of eternal life.
One of the things I love about being a dad is that with my little kids, I get to kind of experience maybe a little bit of what God must feel like with us. Because sometimes they do silly things, sometimes they do stupid things. But I never stop loving them. Even if they say, “I don’t love you anymore,” or, “I don’t want to play with you ever again,” I don’t stop loving them.
And I get all these little pictures of what it must be like for God as He is saying, “Accept My free gift. Come back to Me; I love you.” Very simply, why is it that we don’t feel God’s love for us? It’s because we have things in our lives that we are embarrassed about. We have things in our lives that we are ashamed of. We have guilt and we have shame and whether or not we have the right words for it, we realize that there is something between us and God.
And when Jesus came, what He did on the cross is that He willingly laid down His life to do the clean-up, to get dirty. And what did He take upon Him? He took upon Him every murder that has ever been committed. Every lie that has ever been told, all the genocide, all the rape, all the evils of humanity that have split humanity away from God, He said, “I will willingly take upon Myself the clean-up duty. I will take the consequences for their mistakes so that all who desire to be made right to God can receive a free gift and be restored back to God.” That’s what it means that God loves you.
I want to give you a physical picture of this. My favorite picture from the physical world. It’s a true story. It started in August of 2010 with about thirty miners who were three miles underground. You might remember this. They were in Chile when a mine collapsed on top of them. And for about two weeks, the whole world thought these miners were dead.
And what followed was one of the greatest rescue missions in human history, because nations from all around the world gathered and NASA sent down its top engineers to help the Chilean government figure out: How are we going to rescue these thirty-three guys who are buried three miles underground?
What I love about this picture is this is how God describes humanity right now. He actually outright says, “We are born into a world that is fallen. We are born into a world that is collapsed.” And so, because we are made in the image of God, we still have a little bit of God in us. But at the end of the day, we are in a mineshaft and none of us is going to live more than about ninety years.
At the end of the day, even the best things that happen down here end up getting tainted by cancer and divorce and just evil. And so, what Jesus did when He came to this world is He cut through the fabric of the universe, the God who created everything, He cut through the fabric of the universe and He made an escape tunnel. He made a way out. And He said, “Whoever believes in Me, I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And this is why Jesus, when people would come to Him and they would say, “Hey, Caesar says this and this political group says this, Jesus, what do You say?” Jesus would say, “Don’t you realize? My kingdom is not of this world.”
In other words, “You guys are arguing about who is in charge of the food rations and the collapsed mineshaft. Go ahead, argue away. I came to drill a way out to entire higher realm to be completely free from the darkness and the death and the dustiness of a collapsed world.”
So, those miners, from August of 2010 until October, for sixty-nine days, they lived in the darkness, knowing that rescue was coming from above. And finally, rescue did arrive in the form of this capsule called the Phoenix.
You had to step inside of it. And I love this because this is exactly how it is with God. He has done the hard work. He has made the self-sacrifice to drill down into our lives, but this rescue capsule, it would thump down at the bottom of this mineshaft, three miles underground, and each miner had to decide for himself: Will I step into this thing? It’s got to be a little claustrophobic. Will I get strapped into this thing and be lifted up by a winch, held by a wire rope, three miles above the ground in a tunnel that goes straight down.
I mean, if that rope breaks, you’re dead. Am I going to trust in that? Am I going to put my faith in that? And by placing their faith in the rescue capsule, they were acknowledging that they couldn’t do it on their own. Right? Wouldn’t it have been sad if one of the thirty-three miners, after all the effort to get to them said, “Hey, you know, I’ve got a pickaxe and a flashlight. That way is fine for you guys, but that seems kind of narrow to me. I’m going to go find my own way to the surface.” That would be sad. But that’s what so many of us do when it comes to Jesus.
So many of our neighbors say, “Well, that makes sense, but that’s so narrow, I’m going to find my own way.” Jesus said, “The way out is narrow, but it is open to all.” So, let’s look at God’s rescue again. Let’s look at this bridge that Jesus created.
And here’s what I want to ask you very specifically. Where do you find yourself today?
Do you find yourself over here still separated from God? Have you had a moment where you have set foot, by faith, on believing in what Christ has done for you? Do you know with certainty that you have eternal life once your body wears out and that you can begin to experience the eternal life of God right now?
The gift of God is eternal life. I think one of the hardest things about receiving a gift is that you can’t take any credit for doing it. And I have met people who have completely understood this and they say it’s just too easy.
Well, here’s what not easy about it. Just like those miners had to admit, “I can’t get myself back to the top,” receiving this gift, the one thing that is hard about it is you have to humble yourself before God, very simply to say, “You know what, God? Spiritually, I’m humbling myself before You and I acknowledge I can’t fix myself. I can’t, I can’t achieve eternal life. I can’t fix my broken relationships. I can’t even fix what is broken inside me.”
And so, you know, Jesus actually said once, He said, “It’s easier for a camel,” a big tall camel, “to kneel down and go through a small door than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Why did Jesus say that? It’s not about money, it’s about pride. It’s about humbling ourselves.
So, how do you receive this gift? It’s very simple. God tells us in Romans chapter 10, verse 9: Here’s how you receive the gift. God says, “If you declare with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” You will receive God’s gift, very simply, by believing that Jesus is the Christ, that He died on the cross for your sins.
I want to give you a chance to do that today and as you think on this, I want to tell you a true story. Actually, the saddest moment of my journalism career. I was profiling a heroin addict in Phoenix. And the story had started just about a heroin epidemic, but within the interviews I was doing, I had started interviewing this twenty-one-year-old heroin addict named Mickey.
Ended up doing a profile just on Mickey. She had come from actually a really good, middle-upper class family, her dad was an attorney. Somewhere along the way, a friend gave her some heroin. She had injected some heroin in her arm and from the first day she injected it, she was an addict.
By the time I met Mickey, she was about twenty-one, she had been addicted to heroin for two years. And she was down to eighty-five or ninety pounds. Just this skinny little shaking creature with these electric blue eyes.
And I would meet Mickey at the drug house where she lived and we would walk together to the Jack in the Box near there. And we would sit there at the Jack in the Box and I would interview her. And Mickey would describe her life with just these traumatic sentences and she would blur words together like agonizing and anguishing. She came up with this word “agoshing.” Her brain was just so messed up.
And she was at a point where she knew she was dying and she had seen other heroin addicts at her drug house die. And she wanted to get free from this. So, as I’m profiling Mickey and meeting with her, I’m also talking with the best addiction recovery center in the state.
And so, as a reporter, I pitched this idea to the recovery center of, “Hey, I know treatment, six months of treatment costs, like, tens of thousands of dollars. But what if Mickey agreed to do the treatment, I could write about it all along, it would be a lot of publicity for you guys. Would you guys give her treatment for free if I agreed to cover it?” They said, “Yeah.” They agreed to it.
Mickey said she wanted it. So, we got it all set up. The day was scheduled. The day was scheduled where we would pull up in the treatment van in front of Mickey’s drug house and all Mickey had to do to receive this free gift, she didn’t have to pay anything, she didn’t have to do anything, but with her own free will, she would have to walk out the front door of the drug house, walk down the sidewalk, and get into the van.
And it was one of the saddest moments of my life. I was sitting in my own car behind the treatment center’s van and we waited there for about fifteen minutes. The door doesn’t open. Finally gets to twenty minutes. I get out of my car, I go up and I knock on the door, “Is Mickey here?” “Yeah, Mickey is here.” I talked to Mickey. Mickey does not have the willpower to move herself to the van. And the whole agreement with the place, they’re like, “People can’t come unless they want to come.” There’s this free gift, life or death, and in the moment, she just won’t choose.
So, here’s what I want to ask you today. What would keep you today from receiving God’s free gift of salvation? Is there really a reason good enough to say, “Not today”? Because I’ll tell you what Mickey said and I have worked with a lot of addicts. “Oh, I’m not going to do it today, but I will do it someday.” And the ones who say that never do it.
And I wonder, is there really any reason today why you wouldn’t receive God’s free gift?