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"The disciple whom Jesus loved!" What a statement! A few years ago while wandering in a spiritual desert of sorts, I decided I needed to start reading my Bible again.  When I came to this statement in John's gospel, something inside me said, 'Yes, that's what I want to be known for.'  I didn't have any idea what that might look like, but I knew that was something I wanted and so I began to ask God for it.

Fast forward to the present and I find myself beginning to comprehend this just a little bit. God in His steadfast love has been slowly wooing me into a deeper understanding of what that means and teasing my heart with the reality of these words.

It's estimated that John wrote these words towards the last 5 years of his life when he was in his late 80's to early 90's.  When you consider who John was, these words are an incredible statement to what He considered important about his life.  John the Apostle - one of the 'sons of thunder' - one of the original 12 and friend to all of them - the last of the 12 still alive - he knew Mary, the mother of Jesus because he took care of her for the remainder of her life - he was the apostolic leader over Ephesus that had an ongoing revival lasting approximately 40 years impacting the entire region - he knew the Apostle Paul - he knew Jesus personally, had seen him in his earthly ministry and in his resurrection and most recently in His glory in heaven – John was told he would even have his name written on the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem - what kind of resume is that?  Yet he chose to refer to himself as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved.'[1]

...there seemed to be a constant flowing and reflowing of heavenly and divine love, from Christ’s heart to mine;

I find it fascinating, that after all he had done and experienced, the most important thing he wanted to be remembered for was the fact that Jesus loved him and that he knew it. I am beginning to believe that is the key to our being victorious in our Christian walk.  To truly understand the great love that Jesus has for us.

In my own life, I know that many times I've heard the statement: 'Jesus loves you' and it’s felt so empty, so cliché, even trite.  But that phrase has begun to mean so much more.  To hear those words and walk in that reality is something that this world cannot comprehend.  I am guessing that many Christians don't comprehend it; I know I didn’t and even what I do comprehend today seems so little.  I heard the words and believed them with my mind - sort of.  I knew they were true because they are written in the Bible, and it was important that my faith be based on fact and not feelings, but I hadn't really encountered the reality of this love in my heart to any serious degree. 

Over my 40+ years of being a Christian I've experienced many things related to being a believer. I've evangelized, been on mission trips, been to Bible college, studied the Bible and biblical languages, prayed for many people, taught Bible concepts, told many people that Jesus loved them, experienced a variety of manifestations of the Holy Spirit, sat under a wide variety of teachers and ministries, had dreams from God, seen things with spiritual eyes and spoken into people lives; but the thing I hunger for most is to experience the love of God in my heart.  This love which is unfathomable[2], so deep the hidden mysteries will never be fully known; so high, the exhilaration of it is never ending; so wide, it’s like an ocean where you can never see the edges; so long, it stretches through eternity with never an end in sight.  I long to drink of this love, to have my heart filled with the eternal fountain of His love flowing through me, touching every fiber of my being.  I desire to experience being loved by God as God loves God!  John spoke of that truth when he wrote Jesus' words in John 15:9 and John 17:23. This is the truth that I know and have touched but a little.  I want to know it to the fullest that I can experience on this side of eternity.  I don't want to wait until I have a heavenly body to begin to walk in this love and I don't believe we're meant to be denied this encounter of love until then. 

Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love;I wept aloud with joy and love; Lord, I cannot bear any more;

The Apostle John knew it in this life. Charles Finney, DL Moody and the wife of Jonathan Edwards all have testimony to encounters with His love that overwhelmed them.   So I ask the Father, 'why not me, why not now?'If ever there was something that was in the heart of God to grant us, it is to experience his love to whatever measure we can handle in our mortal bodies. David wrote in Psalm 42 that ‘as the deer pants for the waters, so my soul longs for you, O God.’ I am longing for an encounter with God's love that will dim everything in this life in comparison. I can speak of it, I can teach on it, I can believe in it, but what I really want is to connect with God in this way, to drink from the River of His delights[3].  Is this ok to ask for?  All my life I've heard that we don't rely on our emotions, we rely on the facts of the Bible.  But I've discovered something in recent years:  the biblical fact is that God is full of emotion and He made me full of emotion.  Somehow I don't think it's wrong to ask for this; in fact I believe God is waiting for us to ask. His love for us is so infinite, yet we so often don't experience but a hint of it. James said, 'you have not because you ask not.' [4] John said we know that we will have what we ask for if we ask according to His will[5]. Jesus told us to ask the Father in His name, and we will receive what we ask for because the Father loves us just as much as He loves Jesus[6]. Paul described the love of God as being poured out in our hearts.[7]  This is what I'm asking for.  This is what is on the heart of God - to pour into our hearts, the very love that flows between the Father and the Son. 

Am I seeking an experience? Yes because I’m seeking an encounter with the God who loves me. There is a difference between seeking an emotional experience and seeking to encounter the God who triggers the emotion.  People climb mountains and jump out of airplanes to experience the rush of emotion and eventually they can't find a mountain high enough or fall far enough to achieve that rush. This is not what I’m seeking.  I want to encounter the eternal infinite living God who is Love.  This encounter with Him can only result in great emotion as His love flows into me and returns back to Him in my response.  

 I can only say that God was revealed to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.[8]

This is the will of the Father; this is what I'm seeking.  Today, by faith, I can say that I am the disciple whom Jesus loves.  But tomorrow perhaps I can give greater testimony to it.  

[1] John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20

[2] Eph 3:16-19

[3] Psalm 36:8

[4] James 4:2

[5] 1 John 5:14-15

[6] John 16:26-27; 17:23

[7] Romans 5:5

[8] Eph 3:20-21




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