Experience Jesus Often
LHC: Message Fifty (980927PM)
Week 50: Experience Jesus Often
As the end of days approaches, you can find hope as you experience Jesus often!
SUNDAY: The Greatest Event of All Time “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants.” —Revelation 1:1a, emphasis added God has invited us to the greatest event of all time! The ultimate communication from God has arrived, and it is a beautiful work of art, a picture of vivid color and radiance. It is a full-color portrait of His Son, Jesus. God presents this photograph as His precious gift to us. We can do with it as we please, but He promises an unusual blessing to all those who take the time to look hard and close at this picture. What is the picture? It is the unveiled Jesus of Revelation—the uncovered glory of the image of God in Christ Jesus. It is God’s great gift of Hope for us to share in and with a sin weary world looking for hope! Have you been captivated by the irresistible attraction and the incomparable satisfaction of experiencing God? To all who have such a desire, our Lord proposes that experiencing His Son Jesus is the highest pleasure and greatest treasure to be found. Worshiping God is the highest calling we can have as His creation! We were created to worship God. Yet, I find more resistance in my life to worship than anything else. Distractions pour in, doubts arise, and the constant downward tug of the world, the flesh, and the devil all make it hard to focus on Jesus as He deserves. On the positive side, however, we can all agree that the most precious moments in our life are those few that we know were spent standing consciously in the very presence of God. May I ask you to now rise to such a moment in your heart? This week’s devotionals represent an invitation to worship Christ, who died in our place, as well as to rejoice in God the Father’s perfect plan for the ages. So I ask you to discipline yourself to lay aside all the plans, imaginations, and distracting thoughts of other things so that you can give the gift of your total attention to God each day. I exhort you to meditate on the Scriptures and, in a spirit of continual prayerfulness, ask the Lord to open your heart more and more to Him! This is the hardest and yet most rewarding exercise I can think of! For today’s text, I am sharing a verse from every chapter of the Revelation so that you can experience the entire book in three minutes. I encourage you to read these twenty-two references aloud right now, and hear the wonder of this powerful book.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants— things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John” (1:1). “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands’ ” (2:1). “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (3:6). “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this’ ” (4:1). “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals” (5:1). “Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, ‘Come and see’ ” (6:1). “After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree” (7:1). “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (8:1). “Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit” (9:1). “I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire” (10:1). “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there’ ” (11:1). “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars” (12:1). “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name” (13:1). “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (14:1). “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete” (15:1). “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth’ ” (16:1).
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.” (17:1). “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory” (18:1). “After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!’ ” (19:1). “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand” (20:1). “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea” (21:1). “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (22:1, 21). My Prayer for You This Week: Father, we thank You for letting us traverse these wonderful verses in Revelation that You have given as a gift to Your people. We can think of no higher honor, no greater privilege, no more solemn responsibility than to come before Your presence throughout today and every day. We come humbly, asking You to clothe us with humility. We come reverently, asking You to cleanse and purge us from any of the leaven of sin that always seeks to attach itself to us. We thank You for Christ’s cleansing blood shed on our behalf. We come worshipfully and overflowing with joy, asking that You would accept the upraised hearts we are offering to You. We pray that every part of our upcoming last glimpse through Revelation will have Your favor upon it. Meet with us in an unusual way—in a very special and transforming and glorifying way in our lives—so we will know that surely we have been with Jesus, in whose name we ask all this, Amen.
MONDAY: Your Beloved Bridegroom “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” —2 Corinthians 11:2, emphasis added As you worship Jesus you will discover what it means to experience Him, for He is wonderful, glorious, and He is your Beloved Bridegroom! As you start in the process of worshiping Him, I encourage you to sit still before Him in front of His awesome majesty, for He says to you: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10, NIV). Start your worship silently before the majesty of our Lord on high: “The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (Habakkuk 2:20, NIV). As you comprehend even a fraction of who He is, and how utterly magnificent He is, stop again in awe, with wondrous reverence and sheer delight. Think of the magnitude of His power, might, and infinitude. Agree with the psalmist who said, “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him” (Psalm 33:8,
NIV). Honor the Lord for who He is, for how greatly He is to be praised, and how He is infinitely above all that is mundane—and yet He condescends to us of low degree to meet with us. Hallelujah! As you linger in the glow of His presence, your lack of holiness should become painfully revealed: “For this is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite’ ” (Isaiah 57:15, NIV). Are you experiencing a pang of hunger for Christ yet? Do you desire to know Him, love Him, and adore Him more and more? Your heart should be filling up with wonder and gratitude for even the chance to have this moment. And your heart, like the psalmist’s, should echo: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1, NIV). Awash with wonder by now, you should be feeling the sheer delight of a new hope as He begins to flood your soul with His response of bearing away the deadening load of your sin. If you feel the burden lifted, the stains removed, the coldness warmed, and the emptiness filled, you are experiencing your God. So go ahead and boldly ask Him: “One thing I ask of the LORD . . . : that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4, NIV). The whole Book of Revelation expounds upon that temple in which you can worship the Lord. In His Revelation you will discover that you can: worship Jesus for His majesty (Revelation 1); worship Jesus for His message (Revelation 2–3); worship Jesus for His mission (Revelation 4–19); and worship Jesus for His mansions (Revelation 20–22). So worship Jesus throughout Revelation by experiencing your wonderful, glorious, and Beloved Bridegroom!
TUESDAY: Worship Jesus for His Majesty “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.’ ” —Revelation 1:17, emphasis added Let us now look at how you can worship every facet of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1. Worship the ministry of Jesus. In Revelation 1:1–3, Jesus desires to reveal Himself to His bondservants who will pay attention. For “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). He is always looking for those whose hearts will be focused on Him so that He can reveal Himself to them. The Spirit of Christ speaking through Moses said, “[If] you will seek the LORD your God, . . . you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). Worship Jesus for His ministry of revealing Himself to His children!
Worship the peace of Jesus. Revelation 1:4 reveals that He offers “Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come.” This reveals the rest that is yours in Christ; so worship Jesus for the peace that He so freely gives! Worship the blood of Jesus. In Revelation 1:5 we see that Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead.” The blood He shed on the cross is your Source of Eternal Life. Because He sacrificed His life for you, worship Jesus for the blood He shed—give your life back to Him! Worship the plan of Jesus. Revelation 1:7–8 and 9–20 reveal His heart when He said, “I am coming” and “I am the Alpha and Omega.” He is the One who began, and is going to finish, all things. Worship Jesus for His plan to reveal His heart because He wants you to know and trust Him! Worship the eyes of Jesus. Revelation 1:14 reveals Jesus’ omniscience: “His eyes were as a flame of fire.” He reveals His all-seeing omniscience as He looks into your life and sees what no one else can see. He sees the fears and deepest needs of your heart. As He sees what you don’t want anyone else to see, He will remove those things if you ask Him. So worship Jesus for His eyes that search your soul to see if there is any wicked way in you! Worship the voice of Jesus. Revelation 1:15 reveals His omnipotence. His voice can be so sweet and yet it can also be like “the sound of many waters.” Jesus has the power to accomplish all things in your life as you yield to Him. So worship Jesus for His voice that reveals His almighty omnipotence! Worship the touch of Jesus. Revelation 1:16–18 reveals His humanity: “When I saw Him I fell at His feet as dead, but He laid His right hand on me.” He identifies with you and is able to meet you where you are. Worship Jesus for His gentle and loving touch! Worship the glory of Jesus. Revelation 1:9–20 reveals His character. When John was on Patmos, he heard the sound of the Spirit raising him up and opening his mind to God and the trumpet sound. As he turned to hear the voice, he saw a man standing there. It was then that Jesus unveiled that He is the glorious Son of Man. Worship this Jesus for His glory! Imagine what it must have been like for John to hear a voice like a trumpet and then to see these seven perfections of Jesus’ divinity. 1. The Perfect Man: Jesus can identify with us, “for we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). As the Perfect Man in His divinity, He now comes to us as “Son of Man” (eighty-four times He calls Himself this; but no one else does). He came to seek and to save the lost of Adam’s fallen race—as the Son of Man, He is the Conqueror of Adam’s fallen race. 2. The Perfect Priest: He is robed to the feet as the Perfect Priest. All other priests carried around sacrifices, but this Priest was Himself the Perfect Sacrifice who died for us. As Hebrews pictures Him, He is ever living to intercede for us. 3. The Perfect Judge: As the Judge, He was girded around His breast with a gold band, which was an ancient symbol of restrained emotions. He judges rightly
because He is sinless, and full of love and wisdom. No one but He can make decisions perfectly! 4. The Perfect Image of God: He is white-haired as the Ancient of Days. His white hair is a sign of maturity, and absolute holiness. (In Daniel 7:9 we see this same description.) Hebrews 1:3 tells us: “Being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” 5. The Perfect Truth: With His eyes of fire, Jesus is the Seer of All Secrets. He is a penetrating Scrutinizer that can discover and, with consuming light, reveal secrets. As Psalm 19:6 reminds us, “nothing is hidden” from the eyes of the One who is Truth, sees clearly, and will leave no sin unpunished but those hidden beneath His blood. 6. The Perfect Defender: He is a trampler of foes! Those feet of military bronze will crush His enemies—even those who cry out: “Lord, Lord!” But Scripture says “He never knew them.” With His brazen feet, the Ultimate Judge will crush all foes! 7. The Perfect Communicator: With the voice of God as thunderous as the twelve million cubic feet of water crashing at Niagara’s base every hour, commanding all to pay attention, the deaf and the dead can hear it—and so should we! Jesus is the Christ. Christ is the One who fulfills all the promises of God perfectly. In everything He is perfect, complete, and our all in all. As Dennis Jernigan wrote—we who come to Him find Him to be all we need! All in All You are my strength when I am weak, You are the treasure that I seek, You are my all in all. Seeking You as a precious jewel, Lord to give up I’d be a fool, You are my all in all. Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your name. Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your name. Taking my sin, my cross, my shame, Rising again I bless Your name, You are my all in all. When I fall down You pick me up, When I am dry You fill my cup, You are my all in all. —Dennis Jernigan (b. 1959)
WEDNESDAY: Worship Jesus for His Message “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.” —Revelation 1:10, emphasis added Yesterday, we saw that we should worship Jesus for His majesty. Today we will see that we should worship Jesus for His message. Here is the start of a study of all the promises Jesus gave to His seven churches, who represented all of us in His church. True believers have an abundant life: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). He is revealed as the Infinite One, and He begins giving His message that true believers will have an abundant life! As Jesus has promised, “He who believes in Me, . . . out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). This means that believers will have infinite life in Paradise Regained (John 3:16). Jesus offers an overflowing life: “Whoever believes in me, . . . streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38, NIV). He also offers an extraordinary life: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). True believers have an indestructible life: “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11). Jesus’ message also says that true believers will be overcomers. We will not be hurt by anything Satan can throw at us because we are indestructible. We live, as the writer of Hebrews says, after the power of an endless life. Believers are secure from any physical adversary: “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28–29). They are also secure from any spiritual adversary: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). True believers have an inexhaustible supply: “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). Jesus said, “I came to give you an inexhaustible supply. I will nourish you, and intimately reveal myself to you; I will give you all things good!” If we just come to Him, His supply will never run out. Believers have all their spiritual needs met: “ ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’ ” (John 6:35). They also have all their spiritual desires fulfilled: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13, NIV).
True believers have an inexpressible future: “He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (Revelation 2:26). Believers will be rewarded with immeasurable treasures: “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time— . . . and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30). Believers will also be overwhelmed by God with unbelievable pleasures: “He was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4). The more you experience Jesus here on earth, the more you can talk about the unbelievable glory of God seen in the face of Jesus Christ. Oh, how I pray that you long to see that place He is preparing for you!
THURSDAY: Overcomers Will Be Blessed! “He who overcomes. . . ” —Revelation 3:5a, emphasis added Today’s devotional is a continuation of worshiping Jesus for His message! True believers have incredible coverage: “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5). The white garments speak of holiness, joy, and honor bestowed upon us by Jesus. Believers have Christ as their Garment: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14). Believers have Christ as their Advocate: “But He . . . has an unchangeable priesthood. . . . He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24–25). Believers also have Christ as their Relative: “And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:17). True believers have an inescapable destination: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:12). Believers will be a pillar because we are secure: “Let not your heart be troubled. . . . In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And . . . I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3). We will never have to fear for our future! Believers will also have a special name—because we are a love gift from the Father to the Son: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
True believers have intimacy with God: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21). Intimacy is a promise: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21). Intimacy is a Person: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). And intimacy is permanent: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7). Jesus came to give, and to give more abundantly! Have you received what He offers? Are you worshiping Him as He deserves? Worship the message of Jesus because it challenges you to listen to Him. Look again at what He has to say to the seven churches in Revelation 2–3: 1. Ephesus: Worship the jealousy of Jesus because He challenges you to exalt Him to be all that you really love. 2. Smyrna: Worship the hope of Jesus because He challenges you to exalt Him to be all that you truly possess. 3. Pergamos: Worship the security of Jesus because He challenges you to exalt Him to be all that you cling to. 4. Thyatira: Worship the chastisement of Jesus because He challenges you to exalt Him to be all that you fear. 5. Sardis: Worship the riches of Jesus because He challenges you to exalt Him to be all that you value. 6. Philadelphia: Worship the approval of Jesus because He challenges you to exalt Him to be all that you enjoy. 7. Laodicea: Worship the request of Jesus as He tells us to repent of anything that keeps us from Him; He challenges you to exalt Him to be all that you need.
FRIDAY: Worship Jesus for His Mission “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.” —Revelation 19:11, emphasis added Worship Jesus not only for His majesty and His message, but also for His mission, which is clearly seen in Revelation 4–19. Worship the loveliness of Jesus as He is at the center and focus of your worship, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord!” (Revelation 4) Worship the sacrifice of Jesus at the throne of the universe as the Lamb of God. For worthy is the Lamb who was slain! (Revelation 5)
Worship the wrath of Jesus as He unleashes the seals that display His holy wrath against sin. (Revelation 6) Worship the love of Jesus as He, in the midst of the destruction of the planet, sends His witnesses to rescue more lost and helpless sinners by giving them the gospel message. (Revelation 7) Worship the patience of Jesus as He controls His wrath to listen and respond to prayer while He awaits His perfect timing and continues to freely offer salvation. (Revelation 8) Worship the judgment of Jesus as He judges hardened and unrepentant sinners. (Revelation 9) Worship the mystery of Jesus as Judge, for “the little book” given to John to eat, and that the mystery of His plan will be finished—just as He declared through His servants, the prophets. (Revelation 10) Worship the witness of Jesus by trusting His Word through the two witnesses that all things that God has promised will be fulfilled. (Revelation 11) Worship the victory of Jesus as He shows His people His ultimate triumph. God’s saints are seen overcoming the devil by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony—and by not loving their lives unto death. (Revelation 12) Worship the genuineness of Jesus as He exposes the lies of Antichrist—the counterfeit Christ who so poorly represents the infinite eternal Jesus. (Revelation 13) Worship the compassion of Jesus in sending the everlasting gospel even when the earth is falling apart and the nations are under the wrath of God. (Revelation 14) Worship the beauty of Jesus in the splendor of His redeeming love while the redeemed sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb as they worship His works, His power, His ways, and His plan. (Revelation 15) Worship the power of Jesus as He judges the horror of locked hearts to show people the atrocities of their sin. (Revelation 16) Worship Jesus as the bride of Jesus when this chapter unmasks the apostasy of the last days and reveals the true bride (born-again believers) who will sit at the feet of her Beloved Bridegroom. (Revelation 17) Worship the authority of Jesus judging materialism and acclaiming true values as He keys in to humanity’s great lack of real values. (Revelation 18) Worship at the banquet for the marriage of Jesus as He celebrates union with His bride—the saints of all the ages. Join in the hallelujahs they offer for His salvation and the judgment of the lost and the wicked. (Revelation 19:1–10) Worship the re-entry of Jesus as He conquers the rebellion, He who is called Faithful and True in righteousness, He whose name is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! (Revelation 19:11–21)
SATURDAY: Worship Jesus for His Mansions “Let not your heart be troubled. . . . In My Father’s house are many mansions. . . . I go to prepare a place for you.” —John 14:1–2, emphasis added Worship Jesus not only for His majesty, His message, and His mission, but also for His beautiful mansions that are so clearly seen in Revelation 20–22. Now we see what He promised to go and prepare for us. Worship the triumph of Jesus as He vanquishes the devil into the bottomless pit, and renews the earth. (Revelation 20:1–10) Worship the last word of Jesus damning the rebels to the Lake of Fire— those whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Revelation 20:11–15) Worship the honeymoon of Jesus as He unveils Paradise to His bride, and leads us prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:1–8) Worship the wonders of Jesus as from a high mountain He shows His bride all the beauty of the Holy Jerusalem radiating His glory as it descends out of heaven from God. (Revelation 21:9–27) Worship the extravagance of Jesus who, like Boaz of old, has freely offered overflowing handfuls of His blessings of salvation to all who will come to Him. (Revelation 22:1–21) Worship the entire experience of Jesus as He opens and closes the Revelation of Himself! (Revelation 1–22) Make a Choice to Live in Hope: As you worship the Jesus of Revelation, you are choosing to live in hope by discovering what it means to experience the Son of God for who He is—your Beloved Bridegroom. Whether in this life or the next, what He wants from you most, as His bride, is your worship and your love! Why not pause and reverently worship Jesus by singing the first few stanzas of this song to Him. My Jesus, I Love Thee My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine; For Thee all the follies of sin I resign; My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now. I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me, And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now. I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; And say, when the death dew lies cold on my brow; If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now. —William R. Featherston (1846–1873)
The last stanza will lift your heart up to glory and you will have an opportunity to worship the Lord through it in a moment. But as an introduction, I want to first share Joni Eareckson Tada’s recollection of the beauty of her wedding day because she well relates that event to the greatest day in Paradise when we will all celebrate the Marriage of the Lamb!1 The morning of my wedding day was utterly unique and memorable. And not for reasons you might think. It started in the church bridal salon with my girlfriends laying me down on a couch. They had to shift my paralyzed body this way and that in order to pull my voluminous gown over me. After I was corseted, buttoned, and lifted back into my wheelchair, they gingerly draped my gown over a thick wire mesh covering my wheels so the fabric wouldn’t get caught in the spokes. When the organ music began, I wheeled toward the door, stopping for a second in front of a full-length mirror. I looked a little like a float at the Rose Parade. The glass doors of the sanctuary opened, and I positioned myself at the top of the aisle, breathing deeply to steady my nerves. Just before the wedding march I glanced down at my gown. I groaned. Somehow I had wheeled over the hem and left a greasy tire mark. My dress hung clumped and uneven—no amount of buckling and binding had helped. My chair was spiffed up, but it was still the big clunky thing it always was. My bouquet of daisies was off-center on my lap since my paralyzed hands couldn’t hold them. I was not the picture-perfect bride you see in magazines. My last bridesmaid finished her walk down the aisle, and the organ music crescendoed. I inched my chair closer to the last pew, wanting to catch a glimpse of Ken. Suddenly I spotted him way down front, standing at attention and looking tall and elegant in his formal attire. My face grew hot. My heart began to pound. He was craning his neck to look up the aisle. Our eyes met and, amazingly, from that point everything changed. How I looked no longer mattered. I forgot all about my wheelchair. Grease stains? Flowers out of place? Who cares? No longer did I feel ugly or unworthy; the love in Ken’s eyes washed it all away. I was the pure and perfect bride. That’s what he saw, and that’s what changed me. It took great restraint not to jam my ‘power stick’ into high gear and race down the aisle to reach the front and be with Ken. It was the happiest day of my life. I think heaven will be a little like that. . . . [We] fix our eyes on Jesus, believe and obey, all the while trusting He has clothed us in His righteousness. On that glorious Day, all He’ll see is our “fine linen, bright and clean.” All He’ll see is His beautiful bride. And one look from Him will change us forever. All the stains of earthly life will be purified away just by one searching of those eyes. Our faces will flush, our hearts will pound, for it will be more than we ever dreamed of, more than we ever longed for. And at the sight of our Bridegroom we just might sing . . . In mansions of glory and endless delight, I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright; I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow: If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now
1 Joni Eareckson Tada et al., When Morning Gilds the Skies (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2002), pp. 22–25.