Believe it or not m a n y years ago, while on a church white-water rafting trip, I was thrown from the raft when it struck a rock. For a few terrifying moments I was overwhelmed by the power of the current, helpless to do anything other than be swept downstream. I was pushed under water by the force of the rapids, leaving me gasping for air.
Was I going to drown? Honestly, the thought crossed my mind…
It may surprise you, then, that the hymn O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus, a hymn that likens the love of Christ to “a mighty ocean…” that is “underneath me, all around me…” and speaks of “the current” of His love, is so comforting to me and fills me with assurance!
That’s right; rather than frighten, it reminds of the soft, yellow, completely worn out blankie I had when I was a toddler.
I have faint memories of how comforting that blanket was, how re-assuring it was when I was frightened, or in pain… or in trouble with my parents! I would wrap myself up in it and just allow myself to all but melt inside of it. I remember when I was very young getting out of bed at night, putting the blanket over my head, and walking into the living room to watch television, thinking I was invisible. My parents played along and never said a word!
When I think of O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus, a hymn written in 1875 by Samuel Trevor Francis (1834-1925) , it makes me feel like…
“…being inside joy, as if joy was something tangible, and you could wrap yourself up in it like a blanket.” Guinan, Star Trek Generations.
When you consider the love of Christ, how does it make you feel?
I wonder if, for many, we feel much of anything…
In his book The Practice of Godliness Jerry Bridges says that the key to godliness is devotion to God (p. 13). He goes on to say that devotion to God is “composed of three essential elements:
The fear of God
The love of God
The desire for God.” (page 11)
When I read this book, I found myself readily agreeing to points 1 and 3. It makes sense that one won’t be devoted to God who does not fear God or have a strong desire for Him.
When I got to his discussion on the love of God, though, I assumed he would discuss the importance of my loving God.
I was wrong.
Bridges argues that one of the three essential elements of devotion to God is our firm conviction of God’s love for us!
At first blush this might seem odd. I mean, we are Christians because we are persuaded that Jesus loved us so much He willingly set aside the prerogatives of Deity in order to live a sinless life and then joyfully journeyed to the cross on our behalf that we might be forgiven and spend eternity with our God. If that isn’t love, what is?
O the deep, deep love of Jesus.
Spread His praise from shore to shore;
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore.
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His Own.
As Christians, we know we are loved by God. Don’t we?
If we do at some level in our hearts acknowledge that YES, we are loved by God, does that reality continuously grip our hearts tightly, as it should?
The truth is, the more frequently we experience something the less likely we are to see that same thing as special. We tend to take things (and people) for granted. As A.W. Pink asked, when was the last time you thanked God for taste buds or for the beautiful colors and varied vegetation that is so prevalent throughout the earth? A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God, p. 58. These things (and hundreds more) are so commonplace that we almost feel entitled to them, and only really say anything about these good things when we lose them or temporarily don’t experience them.
Ever wonder why God was constantly reminding the Jews that He was their Creator (Genesis 1:1-31, Genesis 2:2-19, Genesis 5:1-2, Genesis 6:7, Genesis 9:6; Exodus 4:11, Exodus 20:11, Exodus 31:15-17; Deuteronomy 4:32, Deuteronomy 32:6-18; 1 Chronicles 16:26; Nehemiah 9:6; Job 10:8-12, Job 26:7-13, Job 33:4-6, Job 38:4; Psalm 8:3-8, Psalm 33:6-7, Psalm 74:12-17, Psalm 89:11-12, Psalm 90:2, Psalm 94:9, Psalm 95:5, Psalm 96:5, Psalm 100:3, Psalm 102:25, Psalm 104:24-30, Psalm 115:15, Psalm 119:73, Psalm 121:2, Psalm 124:8, Psalm 134:3, Psalm 135:5-9, Psalm 139:14-18, Psalm 146:5-6, Psalm 148:5; Proverbs 3:19, Proverbs 16:4, Proverbs 20:12, Proverbs 26:10; Ecclesiastes 3:11, Ecclesiastes 7:13, Ecclesiastes 12:1; Isaiah 27:11, Isaiah 29:16, Isaiah 37:16, Isaiah 40:25-31, Isaiah 42:5, Isaiah 43:7, Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:7-18, Isaiah 51:13, Isaiah 57:15-16, Isaiah 66:1-2; Jeremiah 10:10-13, Jeremiah 14:22, Jeremiah 27:5, Jeremiah 32:17, Jeremiah 51:15; Amos 4;13; Zechariah 12:1; Malachi 2:10)?
Ever wonder why God, after the Exodus as recorded in Exodus 12:31-39, was constantly reminding the Jews that He was their liberator (Exodus 13:16, Exodus 16:32, Exodus 18:1, Exodus 20:2, Exodus 29:46, Exodus 32:7, Exodus 32:11; Leviticus 11:45, Leviticus 19:36, Leviticus 22:33, Leviticus 23:43, Leviticus 25:38-55, Leviticus 26:13, Leviticus 26:45; Numbers 14:13, Numbers 15:41, Numbers 20:16, Numbers 23:22, Numbers 24:8; Deuteronomy 4:20, Deuteronomy 4:37, Deuteronomy 5:6, Deuteronomy 5:15, Deuteronomy 6:12-21, Deuteronomy 7:8-19, Deuteronomy 8:14, Deuteronomy 9:26, Deuteronomy 13:5-10, Deuteronomy 16:1, Deuteronomy 20:1, Deuteronomy 26:8, Deuteronomy 29:25; Joshua 24:5-17; Judges 2:1, Judges 2:12, Judges 6:8; 1 Samuel 8:8, 1 Samuel 10:18, 1 Samuel 12:6-8; 2 Samuel 7:6; 1 Kings 8:16-21, 1 Kings 8:51-53, 1 Kings 9:9; 2 Kings 17:7-36; Psalm 81:10, Psalm 105:37, Psalm 136:11; Jeremiah 2:6, Jeremiah 7:22, Jeremiah 11:4-7, Jeremiah 31:32, Jeremiah 32:21, Jeremiah 34:13; Daniel 9:15; Amos 2:10, Amos 3:1, Amos 9:7; Micah 6:4)? Because the Jews then, just as we are today, were a forgetful people and took God for granted.
Do you take the love of God for granted? Does the knowledge of what Jesus has done for you continue to grip your soul so completely that you feel enveloped in that love – like the warmth and security of your favorite blanket?
If not, why not? Could it be you think of Christ’s love in the past tense – what He did for you – and don’t spend much time contemplating what He continues to do for you?
If you only think about the love of Christ for you in the past tense – what He DID for you 2,000 years ago – don’t be surprised if at some point you find yourself taking that love for granted, or it losing its impact in your day to day life.
Think about it from a human perspective. If you are in a relationship with someone and the only good you can think of are things that happened decades earlier, how strong or satisfying will that relationship be?
Yet O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus doesn’t let us stop at what Jesus DID for us; no, the hymn speaks of what Jesus is continuing to do for us!
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne.
The Bible tells us that the Jesus now intercedes for us before the Father (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1). Have you ever stopped to consider what this means? Jesus is actively praying for you; a day does not pass that you – yes YOU – are not deeply on His heart and mind, and He is, right now, actively interceding for you before the Father (Hebrews 9:24). Our assurance of salvation is directly tied to His intercession (Romans 8:31-39) for us; Jesus lives to intercede on our behalf, guaranteeing that those who have committed their lives to Him will be with Him forever (Hebrews 7:23-25).
“The saving work of Jesus Christ did not end with the cross and the tomb. Christ rose from the dead as the triumphant Priest and is active even now in heaven. Though His sacrifice is the foundation of our salvation, His intercession is central to its application, for Christ ever lives as the Mediator of the new covenant, and all grace comes to us through Him.
“The doctrine of Christ’s intercession is one of the most comforting and encouraging doctrines of the Christian faith. John Owen wrote, ‘The actual intercession of Christ in heaven… is a fundamental article of our faith, and a principal foundation of the church’s consolation.’ Robert Murry M’Cheyne resolved ‘I ought to study Christ as an Intercessor… If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million… enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; He is praying for me.
“…The intercession of our Lord Jesus is a boundless field full of flowers from which we may draw sweet nectar for our souls.” Beake and Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Vol. 2, Man and Christ, p. 1088, 1101.
As Christ’s work on our behalf ended on earth, it began in earnest in Heaven and will continue throughout eternity (Hebrews 7:16-25). There will never be a time in your life when your Jesus is not actively loving you.
“At times the atoning death of Christ can feel distant and impersonal, and the believers’ forgiven status can feel formal and static. Christ’s intercession channels the compassion of Christ displayed at the cross to believers in their present state in dynamic, personal, and relational terms. It is virtually impossible to conceive of the risen Christ, exalted in heaven above all angels, and yet in earnest prayer for believers amid all their sins and failures, and fail to be moved at His compassion and tenderness. Thus can John Murray refer to this doctrine as ‘omnipotent compassion’ and argue that when we truly grasp it “we shall be humbled to the point of being speechless, in a true sense exasperated.” The Gospel Coalition, The Voice of His Blood; Christ’s Intercession in the Thought of Stephen Charnock.
“…a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago. It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 191.
If the deep love of Christ for you has lost its hold of your heart, I pray this hymn will re-kindle that flame that you might be overwhelmed as if by a flood by the great, deep, abiding, active love of Christ for you.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Love of ev’ry love the best.
Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
Tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Tis a heavn’n of heav’ns to me; and it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee.
And that this hymn leaves you feeling like. “…being inside joy, as if joy was something tangible, and you could wrap yourself up in it like a blanket.”