BY BENJAMIN R. LEE, Assistant Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church
There once was a group of pastors taking part in a panel discussion. The group was made up of mostly young, hip, edgy guys who’d made names for themselves in one way or another. One pastor, though, was a fame-less, white-haired ministry veteran. He said little during the discussion while the edgy pastors impressed the audience with their theological acumen and cultural relevance. But as the panel was winding down the discussion leader asked each of the pastors one final question. He asked them to share what they considered to be the most profound piece of theological knowledge they had accumulated. In all their study of theology what had most fiercely grabbed their imagination and stirred their heart?
The younger pastors took their time expounding the finer points of Christian theology. One talked about the Trinity, another the difference between and significance of supra- and infralapsarianism. On and on their brilliance went, and the audience was in awe. But finally, it came to be the old pastor’s turn. The leader repeated the question: “Pastor, in all your years of theological study what is the most profound truth you’ve encountered?” The old pastor paused and with a tear in his eye said, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
How easy it is to be just like those young pastors. By God’s grace, we have learned so many great, mind-blowing truths. Through the churches we’ve been part of, the pastors who’ve taught us, the books we’ve read, the podcasts we’ve consumed, and a thousand other ways God has revealed to us so much about Himself. We know the finer points of theology. Some of you can quote the Shorter Catechism forwards and backward. But what happens to so many of us is somewhere along the line, somehow or another, that older pastor’s most profound thought gets lost in the weeds. To put it another way, we miss the forest for the trees. Somehow the most profound reality that in spite of our many sins Jesus loves us and gave us life as a ransom for us becomes a lessor tree in a vast forest of theological truths.
Maybe you don’t know how it happened. There could be many reasons. Sin. Neglect. The pride you take in knowing more theology than others. But I think probably the main reason Christ’s love for us gets lost in our theological forest is we simply forget. That’s why the psalmist told us to “forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). In our quest for ever-deepening knowledge, the gospel can become white noise. It’s there in the background but after a while, we learn to tune it out.
Maybe you don’t know how it happened, but you know you’ve forgotten that Jesus loves you. You know it because your heart is cold. Your worship is anemic. Your love for others is shallow. You know it’s true because though you hear it every Sunday, and a dozen times in between, the gospel doesn’t strike you like it once did.
But I know you want it to strike you. If you’re anything like me you imagined yourself in the audience of the panel discussion. Maybe you imagined yourself trying to answer the question. You were trying to think what you would say is the most profound thing you’d ever learned about God. But as the old pastor recited that line love of Christ washed over your heart. At that moment it became abundantly clear that what those younger pastors had forgotten the old pastor had grasped: that all true theology makes up the forest that is the infinite profundity of that Sunday School song, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” This isn’t one tree of theological knowledge. The rest of the trees make up the picture that is the breadth and length and width and height and depth of the love of Christ.
So how do you become like that old pastor? Step back and see the forest of Christ’s love for you. Take time to remember all His benefits. He forgives all your sins. He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the pit. He crowns you with faithful love and compassion. He satisfies you with goodness. Jesus is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in steadfast love. He does not deal with you according to your sins. As far as the east is from the west so far has he removed your transgressions from you. From eternity to eternity the faithful love of Jesus is toward those who fear him. The Scottish minister Robert Murray M’Cheyne said this of the love of God in Christ: “He is altogether lovely. Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love — and repose in his almighty arms.”
That’s how you regain the profoundness of Christ’s love. You live in the love of God. You stare at Christ until you see His all-seeing eye settled on you in love. This day, and every day, make it your aim to drink deeply from the love of Christ. And may we learn to say that the most profound truth we have ever encountered is “Jesus love me this I know.”