This May Be the Most Important Question I Will Ever Ask You

August 4, 2017

Philippians 1:7-8

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

CONSIDER THIS

Paul not only loved the Philippians. He liked them.

God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

It’s been close to twenty years ago—I remember the day. I was pastoring the leaders of the biggest event I had ever been a part of (before or since). We gathered the evening before the event began for a time of consecration. Each of the leaders came forward and two or three of us would lay hands on them and pray prayers of blessing and consecration as they knelt to offer themselves for the Lord’s service.

As the time came to a close one of the men who had been helping with this work caught my eye. He approached and asked if he could pray for me. As he prayed he broke pace with his words and moved into a kind of prophesying, as though he were speaking words straight from the heart of God into my deepest self. I will never forget those words. He said, “John David, you know I love you, but I need you to know that I don’t just love you. I like you. I want you to know that I like you.”

That moment changed me. It was an awakening to the affection of God—not for the world—but for me. I have carried those words with me ever since. It changed the way I understood the nature of the love of God. It also changed the way I understood the nature of loving other people.

God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

So many people understand the love of God as a kind of divine tolerance for them. As a result, the world often understands the love of the Church and its members as the selfsame kind of tolerance (or not) for them. Then, by the grace of God, a follower of Jesus comes along and gets close enough to you to see you. They don’t see you through the lenses of either their own brokenness or their idealism (which are often two sides of the same coin). They have a mysterious capacity to see you like God sees you. Their love takes the form of a deep like. They don’t love you in spite of your brokenness or because of it. They like you just because of you.

These are the ones who know the affection of Christ Jesus for themselves. These are the ones who are learning to trust this affection so much so that they have learned to like themselves. And these are the ones who cause us to dare to believe something different about God and about ourselves.

I’m going to tell you now what I believe may be the deepest, perhaps the hardest, and as a consequence, most neglected truth of the Gospel. We tend to believe our love for others originates from God’s love for us, and it does—just not how we think. Our love for others will never exceed our love for ourselves and our love for ourselves will never exceed our awareness and experience of God’s love for us. No-one knew this better than Jesus, who put , this way: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

It’s why in John’s Gospel Jesus brings the entire Gospel down to a single command: “Love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12

We must know, beyond knowledge, God’s love for us. In other words, you’ve got to know God likes you. This is the whole point of Jesus. It may be the most important question I will ever ask you. Do you know Jesus likes you?

As we go along we will see just how deeply Paul “got this.” His affection for others flowed like a river from his affection for himself which flowed like a river from his experience of Jesus’ affection for him. That’s the mystery and the miracle of the Gospel. We can settle for no less ourselves.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who likes us as much as he loves us. Fill me with this knowledge beyond mere acceptance of it. Make it my life. I must know this, Lord. Come Holy Spirit and awaken me to this love in a way that all that holds me back can be pushed aside. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. How do you relate to this idea of being “liked” by God and how that clarifies the nature of God’s love for you?
  2. Why don’t you like yourself?
  3. How is it that we can put all the focus on loving our neighbor and none of the focus on loving ourselves when Jesus so directly connects the two?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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