In our relationship with God as in our earthly relationships, we would all insist that we love the other, but to what degree do we love?  The transition to love for God begins when we recognize ourselves in the first stanza of this song and obey the gospel:

O, the bitter pain and sorrow That a time could ever be,

When I proudly said to Jesus, “All of self, and none of Thee” …

[In brackets, I will tell the story of four Valentine’s Days or my spiritual journey: In our last semester of college while student teaching, my wife and I both obeyed the gospel on Sunday, February 14, 1993, just four months before we would graduate and be married, and thus we began our married life together as new Christians.]

I.  1 John 4:7-12.  Growing in our relationship with God, however, progresses from our second birth–just as a baby grows from his first birth or a marriage grows from a wedding.  Sadly, many Christians stagnate for years with a head knowledge of God and the gospel.  They can often cite book, chapter, and verse and can tell all about the love of God (Romans 5:6-8) without truly loving Him in return.  They are caught in the second stanza:

Yet He found me; I beheld Him Bleeding on th’ accursed tree,

And my wistful heart said faintly, “Some of self, and some of Thee” …

[On February 14, 1994, my wife gave me a study Bible to celebrate our first birthday in Christ.  I dove into knowing everything I could learn about it, God, and salvation, even completing a Bible degree.  While my wife was always a solid rock of faith–even through a cancer diagnosis of 2012 and a first brain tumor diagnosis of 2017, I used the gifts God gave me to teach and preach for the next three decades with a strong head love for Christ that went up and down through the years.]

II.  1 Peter 1:6-9.  In the Old Testament, God speaks about refining His people in the furnace of affliction.  In the New Testament, He speaks of using various trials to test the genuineness of our faith that hopefully leads to the salvation of our souls.  In most places today, the freedom to worship and general lack of persecution has made Christians complacent in our spiritual growth and content living with a low level of faith.  Struggles can stir us to a heart love for God as seen here:

Day by day His tender mercy Healing, helping, full and free,

Bro’t me lower while I whispered, “Less of self, and more of Thee” …

[The previous summer had my wife reacting to air quality, chemicals, surfaces, electricity, and wifi.  In desperation, she attended a naturopathic clinic in Kansas in January that showed a mold toxicity in her system.  I began mold remediation and reconstruction in the house to prepare it to sell while also cleansing, storing, trashing, or burning our possessions.  Living with a friend with similar issues, my wife met me for dinner on February 14, 2020, less than a month before her second diagnosis of brain tumors, where we spoke about our uncertain future.  Through radiation, a host of physical struggles, and months of hospice care, God gave us a last season together while He and I worked to break through my wall and I could grow in my heart love for Him.]

III.  James 4:7-10.  A total submission to God in a Christian’s head, heart, soul, and strength is required for him to truly love God and live (Luke 10:27-28).  This soul love can only come with a yielding of oneself to Him entirely and is beyond a head and heart love.  It comes through much prayer and perseverance.  When seeking of His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33) is added to fear of God and the keeping of His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13), submission can be achieved.  It is beyond the first four stages of grief after a great struggle or loss: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.  It is found in acceptance and is spoken about in the last stanza of the title song:

Higher than the highest heavens, Deeper than the deepest sea,

Lord, Thy love at last has conquered, “None of self, and all of Thee” …

[I did not arrive here when my wife died in mid-December.  It was only in the past couple of weeks when I finally gave up in my fight against God, no longer struggling to make provision for the flesh (Romans 13:11-14), that I awoke to that soul love for God and Christ, my Savior.  Not that I no longer face temptations, but I am wearing the armor of God while fully submitting to Him and seeking for Him.  And so, this is the lesson I am preaching this Sunday, February 14, 2021, on the 28th anniversary of when my wife and I first professed our love for God, having first realized His great love for us.]

Which stanza of the song do you find your love for God?