Summary: The essence of Christianity can be summed up in the children’s hymn, "Jesus Loves Me, This I know." This sermon examines this song, phrase by phrase.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger (Psalm 8:2).

IT WAS A COLD JANUARY DAY, a good to visit the mall and engage in one of my favorite pastimes---people watching, while my wife engaged in one of her favorite activities---shopping! I was sitting on a bench with some other lonesome-looking men, who were also waiting for their wives, when I heard the most beautiful song my ears have ever had the privilege of entertaining. I turned to see the origin of this sweet melody when my eyes fell upon a little girl of four or five. There she was, walking with her tiny hand in her mother’s, oblivious to her surroundings, singing at the top of her lungs, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves; yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.” Over and over she repeated the lyrics to the amusement of the mall shoppers, totally uninhibited by their stares. It was quite a moment. Innocence on display. Or should I say, faith exposed. It is true, out of the mouth of babes, God has ordained praise.

This experience reminded me of something I once read about Karl Barth, the renowned German theologian who dominated the theology of the 20th century. In 1962, six years before his death, Barth made his only visit to the United States. One evening he lectured at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. After the lecture he met with students in the coffee shop for some informal dialogue. A student asked him if there was any way he could summarize his vast theological findings. He wanted to know what Barth thought was the essence of the Christian faith. The great theologian paused for a moment. No doubt the others waited for some profound, intellectual insight. Then Barth answered deliberately, “Yes, I can summarize in a few words my understanding of the Christian faith. Let me put it this way: ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’”

This was an absolutely overwhelming moment for his hearers. There sat the most renown theologian of the age expressing his final conclusion in words he learned at his mother’s knees. A little girl in a mall and a theological giant had something in common---they both understood the essence of Christianity. We are reminded in the Bible to become as children so that we can enter the kingdom. The core of our faith may be understood in the simplicity of a childhood song.

John Wesley in his young days took his sermons and read them to an old domestic servant. He told her to stop him every time he said something she didn’t understand. His manuscripts became masses of changes, alterations, erasures, and additions. But they were able to be understood, and that was his main concern. The childhood hymn, “Jesus Loves Me” is also easily understood, so much so that its message may be overlooked.

Jesus loves me this I know. Stated more simply, “I know Jesus loves me.” One of the foremost human needs is to know that we are loved. When someone says, “I love you,” something wonderful happens inside. Self-doubt, despair, and loneliness are chased away. Our failures are covered and a feeling of self-acceptance sweeps over us. To be loved, “warts and all,” is a blessing indeed. And how much more a blessing to be loved by God Himself! He looked beyond our faults and saw our need. He set His love upon us. He went to extreme lengths to demonstrate it, even the cross.

For the Bible tells me so. I have yet to hear a sinner sing this song from his heart. Even though it is true for him, he feels a certain reluctance to declare it for sin is in the way. In fact, the unbeliever asks, “How can one know beyond any doubt that God loves them?” He wants to debate and put down those who sing this simple, yet profound song. The reason the Christian knows he is loved is because the Bible declares it to be so. This word was not found somewhere under a rock. It was not dictated to David or Moses or Paul. Rather, it was “breathed upon” holy men of old who in turn preserved it and passed it on to succeeding generations.

The Bible is not a science text, although it does contain a great deal of scientific information. It is not an encyclopedia, although it does include a vast amount of knowledge on almost any subject. It is not an answer book or textbook on psychology, but in its pages are principles by which we can live happier and healthier lives. The Bible has as its primary goal the revelation of God’s nature and plan for humanity and its central message is “God loves His creatures, even His sinning creatures.” And those who believe it have embraced this central message with passion.

Little ones to Him belong. I once heard a definition of a Christian that has stayed with me: “One who believes, behaves, and belongs.” Have you ever felt as if you didn’t belong---that you didn’t have a place, a standing, a family? You can belong to Jesus. If you are a Christian, you DO belong to Him. If you are not, you CAN belong to Him. When believers feel small or insignificant, they can take this as their hope and comfort: “I BELONG TO HIM!” Our worth flows out of our relationship with Him. We are favored, set apart as His special possession---adopted into His glorious family. We were once orphans, all of us, but our wonderful Lord had it in mind eons ago to take us into His house. Listen as He invites us in: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and have fellowship with him.” He comes into our house (dwelling place of the spirit) and then takes us in His! And all that is His is now ours as well. Harriet Buell, in her poem, A Child of the King, captured this well in stanza three:

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,

A sinner by choice, and an alien by birth;

But I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down,

An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.

I’m a child of the King, A child of the King;

With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.

They are weak but He is strong. Yes, it is true. We often hate to admit it, but we are weak---weak in our devotion, in our testimony, in our battle with temptation and the enemy. But God does not leave us in our weakness to struggle alone with forces beyond our ability to cope with. Have you ever felt His hand on your shoulder---a supportive touch to let you know that in spite of shortcomings you are loved, you are strengthened. Usually it comes via a brother or sister in the Lord. Jesus specializes in using others to convey His power and love. Do you remember the time when you felt so all alone and helpless? Then the phone rang and on the other end was a friend who just called to talk. That friend said just the right thing at just the right time, enough to carry you through another day. Later, as you reflected on it, you knew in your soul that it was God speaking through that friend. His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. He carries us when we can’t carry on.

Lois Pifer in the web site, Sermon Illustrations, relates the following: A few weeks ago, I was tested on my faith that "All things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27 NIV) I had been studying Genesis, and specifically, reading about Abraham and Sarah, and Abraham’s test with the sacrifice of Isaac. At the time, thought to myself, "I hope I am prepared for the test when it comes." I just didn’t expect it so soon

One early morning two weeks later, I had put a cup of water into the microwave to heat. When I took the cup out, the boiling water shot into my face, burning my eyes and face. I was sure that I had lost my sight, because all I could see was light -- no image at all. My husband rushed me to the emergency room. On the way, I remembered, "This is a test."

I started praying, and I put the situation into God’s hands. An incredible peace came over me, and I knew that in some way I would be okay. Either God would heal my eyes, or He would make it possible for me to deal with my circumstances. As it turned out, my burns were just first degree, and I have healed completely. Our bodies are amazing, and especially our eyes. God is so good!

Let us thank God for His peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7), which comes from His promise that "all things work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong.” A simple children’s hymn with profound spiritual implications. Let it become your theme song, sung from the heart. Sing it loudly as you walk through the crowded streets of life.