The text for this message is found in Revelation 1:4-6. I will be quoting from the NKJV with one slight correction of great importance.
4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved [loves] us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The Authorized Version of the Bible speaks of Him who loved us, in the past tense, but the love spoken of in this verse is in the present tense. That is very significant.
It is a blessed truth to know that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall never perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) It thrills the heart to comprehend that in eternity past God loved us and predestined us to be more than conquerors through Him that loved us. (Rom. 8:37) Still, the heart of every Christian wants to know if the Lord loves in the present tense. This passage satisfies that longing of the heart.
It is natural for a person to want to know if they are loved. We find this longing discussed in secular society. In the charming film, Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye reflects on the fact that his eldest daughter, Tzeitel, about twenty years old, wants to marry the town tailor, Motel, not because of an arranged marriage, but because she loves him. Tevye ponders that novel concept in a society where marriages are arranged by the fathers. Upon reflection, Tevye wants to know if his wife Golde loves him, in the present tense. Tevye goes into the house where his wife is busy with many chores. He wants her to pause and answer a question which he asks with hesitation,
“Golde, do you love me?”
Golde is immediately annoyed by the question.
“Do I what?”
she responds sharply, to which Tevye asks again gently,
“Do you love me?”
Looking up from her work Golde replies,
“Do I love you?”
“With our daughter getting married, and this trouble in the town, You’re upset, you’re worn out, go inside. Go lie down. Maybe it’s indigestion.”
“No, Golde. I’m asking you a question. Do you love me?”
“You’re a fool.”
“I know. But, do you love me?”
“Do I love you?”
“For 25 years, I’ve washed your clothes,
cooked your meals,
cleaned your house,
given you children,
milked your cow.
After 25 years why talk about love right now?”
“Golde, the first time I met you was on our wedding day
I was scared.”
“I was shy.”
“I was nervous.”
“So was I.”
“But my father and my mother said we’d lean to love each other. And now I’m asking Golde, Do you love me?”
“I’m your wife.”
“I know. But do you love me?”
Golde becomes reflective.
“Do I love him?”
“For 25 years I lived with him,
fought with him,
starved with him.
25 years my bed is his.
If that’s not love, what is?”
“Then you love me?”
“I suppose I do.”
“And I suppose, I love you too.”
“It doesn’t change a thing
But even so
after 25 years
It’s nice to know.”
Love in the present tense.
What the world wants to know about love in respect to human relationships, can be applied to the Divine, if anyone is curious. Every single person on earth could ask, “Lord, do you love me?” And the Divine answer is, “Yes, I do love you, even when you reject Me.”
One day during the earthly ministry of Jesus, a rich young ruler came to Him. Despite moral conformity to the laws of God, despite social status, despite great personal wealth, despite a good relationship with his parents, something was still haunting the young man. He believed that if he died, he would not go to heaven. He knew that he was not saved. He did not believe he had eternal life, and he was correct.
Calling out to Jesus, the young man said unto Him, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16)
“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (Matt. 19:21-22)
By going away, the young ruler was walking away from the love of the Lord, for the Bible tells us that Jesus beholding him loved him (Mark 10:21).
By going away, the young ruler was walking away from eternal life, which is the most important possession of all. Jesus asked, “What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?” It is far better to have eternal life, than to have all the possessions of this world.
The tragedy is that the rich young ruler got up from his knees before the Lord, and he walked away. He left in sorrow, but he went away because he was not willing to do what Jesus said had to be done to be a Christian.
To be a Christian means four things.
First, to be a Christian, means that Jesus is recognized as Lord. The Lordship of Christ is not an afterthought of salvation. It is essential to salvation.
On the night of His birth the angels announced, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Augustine said that Jesus Christ is not valued at all until He is valued above all.
Second, to be a Christian, means that Jesus is embraced as personal Saviour. No one is able to come to the Father except through the Son. And no one is able to come to the Son except by way of the Cross. The way of the cross leads home. “The life of a Christian consists of possessive pronouns” says Martin Luther. It is one thing to say, “Christ is a Saviour”; it is quite another thing to say, “He is my Saviour and my Lord.” The devil can say the first; the true Christian alone can say the second.
Third, to be a Christian, means that sin must be repented of as the essence of sin is seen. The essence of sin is not the legal outward form, but the inner spiritual disposition.
When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they broke not only the legal letter of the prohibition, but they violated the spiritual aspect of God’s command.
God wanted Adam and Eve to obey because they loved Him, and because He was worthy of obedience. But they rebelled in their heart. That rebellion is what needs to be repented of.
Then fourth, to be a Christian, means that Jesus must be followed. The little chorus says,
“I have decided
To follow Jesus.
I have decided
To follow Jesus.
I have decided
To follow Jesus.
No turning back,
No turning back”.
Not everyone is like the rich young ruler. There are countless millions who bow before the Lordship of Christ, embrace Jesus as personal savior, repent over sin, and try to follow Him.
However, like the rich young ruler, there are people who are still uncertain about the state of their soul, and want to know if they are loved. They long to be kissed by Lord.
Princess Alice was the second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She became a mother. In November 1878, her household fell ill with diphtheria, characterized by a swollen neck, a severe sore throat, and fever.
The mother was forbidden by the doctor to kiss any of her children because of the certain danger of contracting the dreaded disease. On November 15, diphtheria killed her four year old daughter, Marie. In pain beyond words, Alice did not tell the other children for many days that Marie had choked to death. Then, in early December, she finally told Ernest of Maria’s death. His reaction was even worse than she had anticipated. At first he refused to believe it. As he sat up crying, Princess Alice was overcome with compassion. With a broken heart she kissed her child. It was the kiss of death.
It was not long before Alice contracted the dreaded disease and at 2:30 AM on December 14, she died. The sacrifice of life was prompted by an impulse of love. Even so Christ loved us. Realizing the cost, mercy and truth met together at Calvary. Christ died for our sins so that in righteousness and peace He can kiss us. Behold the kisses of Calvary! (Psalms 85:10)
Why is the love of the Lord in the present tense so important?
First, love in the present tense is important, because it brings a sense of security. “I have read that during the initial construction on the Golden Gate Bridge, no safety devices were used, and 23 men fell to their deaths. For the final part of the project, however, a large net was used as a safety precaution. At least 10 men fell into it, and were saved from certain death. Even more interesting, is the fact that 25% more work was accomplished after the net was installed. Why? Because the men had the assurance of their safety, and they were free to wholeheartedly serve the project. (Source Unknown) D. L. Moody said he did not know of even one effective Christian worker who did not have assurance of their salvation. Many Christians do not have any assurance of their salvation, nor will they, until they have a sense of being loved by the Lord in the present tense. “My beloved is mine, and I am His.” (Song of Solomon 2:16) Let those words be embraced by faith, and the heart will feel safe and secure in Christ.
Second, love in the present tense is important because it brings comfort in time of sorrow. Unfortunately, in the difficult days of life, faith takes wings and flies away. Dark thoughts enter the heart. Questions arise. Even John the Baptist succumbed to the dark thoughts of the soul, and sent his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Art thou He that should come? Or look we for another?” (Luke 7:19) John wanted to know if he was loved in the present tense. “Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. 23 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Luke 7:22-23) Oh John, do not doubt my love for you. Your faith in Me is not misplaced.”
“Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press,
And the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
Remembering Scripture, the voice of faith cries out,
“O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long night dreary,
I know my Savior cares.”
Third, love in the present tense is important, when facing death. Many good people, many Christians, are afraid to even consider this inevitable event because they do not sense the love of God in the present tense.
Therefore, let me encourage your heart with the last words of some of those who did find dying grace as they experienced the love of their Lord.
“Into Thine hands I commend my spirit. Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth.” Martin Luther
“Trust in God, and you shall have nothing to fear.” Jonathan Edwards
“I see earth receding, heaven is opening. God is calling me.” D. L. Moody
“The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell! Farewell!” John Wesley
“I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness—satisfied, satisfied!” Charles Wesley
The love of the Lord in the present tense satisfies the heart and allows a child-like faith to be manifested, which is always pleasing to the Lord.
On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Peter Marshall preached to the regiment of midshipmen in the Naval Academy at Annapolis. A strange feeling which he could not shake off led him to change his announced topic to an entirely different homiletical theme based on James 4:14: “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.” In the chapel before him was the December graduating class, young men who in a few days would receive their commissions and go on active duty. In that sermon titled, Go Down Death, Peter Marshall used this illustration.
“In a home of which I know, a little boy—the only son—was ill with an incurable disease. Month after month the mother had tenderly nursed him, read to him, and played with him, hoping to keep him from realizing the dreadful finality of the doctor’s diagnosis.
But as the weeks went on and he grew no better, the little fellow gradually began to understand that he would never be like the other boys he saw playing outside his window and, small as he was, he began to understand the meaning of the term death, and he, too, knew that he was to die.
One day his mother had been reading to him the stirring tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table: of Lancelot and Guinevere and Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat, and of that last glorious battle in which so many fair knights met their death.
As she closed the book, the boy sat silent for an instant as though deeply stirred with the trumpet call of the old English tale, and then asked the question that had been weighing on his childish heart:
“Mother, what is it like to die?”
“Mother, does it hurt?”
Quick tears sprang to her eyes and she fled to the kitchen supposedly to tend to something on the stove. She knew it was a question with deep significance.
She knew it must be answered satisfactorily. So she leaned for an instant against the kitchen cabinet, her knuckles pressed white against the smooth surface, and breathed a hurried prayer that the Lord would keep her from breaking down before the boy and would tell her how to answer him. And the Lord did tell her. Immediately she knew how to explain it to him.
“Kenneth,” she said as she returned to the next room, “you remember when you were a tiny boy how you used to play so hard all day that when night came you would be too tired even to undress, and you would tumble into mother’s bed and fall asleep? That was not your bed…it was not where you belonged.
And you stayed there only a little while. In the morning, much to your surprise, you would wake up and find yourself in your own bed in your own room. You were there because someone had loved you and taken care of you. Your father had come—with big strong arms—and carried you away. Kenneth, death is just like that. We just wake up some morning to find ourselves in the other room—our own room where we belong—because the Lord Jesus loved us.”
The lad’s shining, trusting face looking up into hers told her that the point had gone home and that there would be no more fear … only love and trust in his little heart as he went to meet the Father in Heaven.
So Christian, behold, and believe how much the Lord loves you! Day by day, live, with child-like faith. Child-like faith is the wonder and awe at what Christ did for us. It is a deliberate manifestation of trust, hope, and unpretentiousness that knows the Lord loves us and will lead us.
In 1917, Frederick M. Lehman, living in Pasadena California thought about the present tense of the love of God. It filled his heart with awe and wonder.
“The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell.
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
The love of the Lord in the present tense, causes the soul to sing. The royal command comes. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:19)
Charles Gabriel sang a song in his heart and shared it with the world.
“I stand amazed in the presence
of Jesus, the Nazarene,
and wonder how he could love me,
a sinner, condemned, unclean.
How marvelous, how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous, how wonderful
is my Savior’s love for me!”
With a song in our heart, the love of God in the present tense will enable the believer to show grace and mercy to others without condemnation. The Gaither Vocal Band sings:
“I am loved, I am loved,
I can risk loving you.
For the One who knows me best,
loves me most.
I am loved, you are loved.
Won’t you please take my hand.
We are free to love each other.
We are loved.”
Finally, the love of the Lord in the present tense attracts others to the gospel, to Christ, and to the local Church that will also love in the present tense. Love is something that astonishes the world.
The great North African theologian was Tertullian (c. 160 – 220). Raised in a pagan family, he wished to become a lawyer in the Roman government and so studied Latin grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy. The years passed. Tertullian was a success.
In the providence of God, in middle age, Tertullian became a Christian and turned his considerable legal mind to theology. He became an apologist. Tertullian attacked pagan beliefs and practices. He called them superstitious and immoral. Then he imagined pagans looking at Christians and saying,
“Look . . . how they love one another (for they themselves [pagans] hate one another); and how they are ready to die for each other (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).”
To a divided country, in a nation that witnesses so much hatred and violence, the local Church can offer the love of God in the present tense. It is an attractive message.
I commend to you the One who loves us, in the present tense, and has released us from our sins by His blood, He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.