Posted by: rcottrill | May 4, 2011

Jesus Loves Even Me

Words: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876
Music: Philip Paul Bliss

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Philip Bliss’s original song had six stanzas. (You can see all of them on the Cyber Hymnal.) The last three of the six (as ordered in the CH) are fine too, but since CH-3 takes us to “eternity,” it makes a fitting place to conclude this beautiful hymn. As to the tune, if you use the one Bliss wrote, be careful not to sing it too fast. The old Irish tune Slane (used with the hymn Be Thou My Vision) works wonderfully as well, and it seems to encourage a slower and more reflective pace.

This is one of my favourite gospel songs. I admire it for its simplicity, its doctrinal clarity, and its devotional ardour. Hymn books often seem to relegate it to the “Children’s Hymns” section. But that limits its usefulness far too much. The wording is simple enough for a child to understand, yes. But this is a song for everyone. Please sing it often.

Sometimes, in a classroom or a seminar, I have called attention to the words of contemporary “Christian” songs with messages that are vague, or riddled with New Age teaching–songs which sometimes do not even mention the Lord Jesus Christ by name! Then, I have recited the words of Philip Bliss’s song, to show the difference. (And there can be no complaint about old-fashioned lyrics that a modern congregation can’t understand!)

CH-1 starts where we need to start, with our faith fully grounded on the Word of God. “The world through [human] wisdom did not know God” (I Cor. 1:21). We only know about the love of God, and meaning of Calvary because God has revealed them “in the Book He has given.” There are many wonderful things in the Scriptures. But the most profoundly amazing, and life transforming is the love of Christ for us, and what happened because of it.

“The Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Eph. 5:2).

As noted in the Wordwise Hymns link, this song was inspired by what Bliss saw as an over-emphasis on our love for the Lord, in a meeting he attended. He felt it was more important to focus on His love for us. This seems to be borne out in the writings of John. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the full satisfaction of God’s justice] for our sins….We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:10, 19).

CH-2 begins by reminding us of our own weakness. There is always the danger that we will forget Him, neglect His Word, and tend to rely on our own strength and ingenuity. All believers have the potential to backslide, and “wander away.”

A “backslider” is not an unsaved person. The unconverted have never been in a spiritual condition to slide back from. A backslider is a child of God who is out of fellowship with God, because of unconfessed sin, or because he has adopted carnal, worldly ways and values. It is not God who has moved, it is the backslider. He has acted contrary to his commitment, and forgotten God. “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways” (Prov. 14:14).

The Lord lovingly calls for the backslider to return (cf. Jer. 3:12-13, 22). And the remembrance of His love plays an important part in drawing the backslider back to Him. In a spiritual sense, like Naomi in Moab, he or she hears “that the Lord has visited His people by giving them bread” (Ruth 1:6), and longs for the soul nourishment that only the Lord can give. “Back to His dear loving arms would I flee, / When I remember that Jesus loves me.”

Finally, in CH-3, Philip Bliss notes that our worship of the Lamb of God will continue on through all eternity. In John’s vision, the saints “sang a new song, saying…You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). No wonder we will “sing…the song of the Lamb”! (Rev. 15:3). And “This shall my song in eternity be, / ‘Oh, what a wonder that Jesus loves me!’”

Questions:
1) It is possible to see a failure to appreciate the love of God as the first step in backsliding. (Explain.)

2) What attitude toward himself is reflected in Bliss’s phrase in the refrain, “Jesus loves even me.” What problem does the absence of such an attitude indicate?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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