Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 7:41 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Lately, the Lord has not been having me read book by book, and chapter by chapter, as usual, so I asked him where he wanted me to read this morning. Then, I sensed he would have me look at what it means to truly love him. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read various scriptures (in the ESV) on the subject of love for God (for Jesus).
More Than These (Jn. 21:15)
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Jesus didn’t say what the “these” were, but Peter had gone fishing, and some of the other disciples had gone with him, so Jesus could have been referring to literal fish, or to fishing, or to his friends (the other disciples). The point of what he said, though, is that Jesus was to be loved more. So, the question for us is, “Do we love him more than anything else?” Do we love him more than our possessions, food, friends, hobbies, our time, retirement, social media, TV, sports, etc.? Love for Jesus means to love him above all else, not just to say that we do, but to truly put him first and foremost in our daily lives. Is he truly Lord (owner-master) of our lives?
Peter affirmed that he loved Jesus, so Jesus told him to “Feed my lambs.” Now, he was not speaking of literal sheep, but of Jesus’ followers. And, he was not asking him to give them literal food, though that certainly could have been part of it, but to feed them spiritually with God’s Words, i.e. with what Jesus had taught him. And, our Lord is saying the same thing to us today. If we love him truly, we are to care for, minister to, and share the Word of God with other believers in Jesus Christ for their encouragement, strengthening, and maturity in Christ (See: Rom. 12; 1 Co. 12-13; Eph. 4).
No Love for World (1 Jn. 2:15)
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
If we truly love Jesus, we will not love the world. Now, this word for “love” in the Greek is “agape,” which means: “wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, to prefer, esteem” (biblehub.com). And, to esteem means: reverence, honor, approve, respect, value and admire, etc.
As well, the phrase “the world” is not speaking of human beings, who we are to love, but rather of the things (stuff, possessions), attitudes, values, principles, culture, behaviors and philosophies of the world of sin. These we are NOT to love – prefer, esteem, wish well to, take pleasure in and long for, like we are supposed to do for our Lord. We are to prefer him above all else, “choosing his choices and obeying them through his power; actively doing what the Lord prefers, by his power and direction” (biblehub.com).
Practice Righteousness (1 Jn. 3:10)
“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
If we truly love our Lord, we will practice righteousness, i.e. what is approved in the eyes of the Lord. Some people will say that we are made righteous, i.e. that Christ’s righteousness is credited to our accounts when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is true! But, these same people often think that is all that is required, but God’s Word teaches us we must put righteousness – morality, decency, uprightness, honesty – into practice in our daily lives, or we are not of God. We not only have to be made righteous in God’s eyes through faith in Jesus Christ, but he also requires that we live righteously. Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).
We are also not of God if we do not love our fellow humans. And, this is also agape love, which prefers what God prefers, and which esteems, takes pleasure in and longs for God/Jesus Christ. It means to love others as God loves us, and according to his divine will and purpose. Since this love prefers what God prefers, it is not going to include anything that is against God and against his Word. In other words, we don’t love people by telling them lies to make them feel good, or so that they will like us. We speak the truth in love. We don’t take advantage of them or do harm to them. We don’t lead them into sin, either, by trying to persuade them to do something that is wrong. Loving others in this way will always be centered in God and in his will.
In Deed and Truth (1 Jn. 3:18)
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Words can be cheap if they are not followed up with action. If we say that we love Jesus, but we do not honor, value, respect, esteem and reverence him in what we do, and if we do not prefer what he prefers, and live our lives accordingly, then we don’t really love him. It is just words.
Obey His Commands (1 Jn. 5:2-3; 2 Jn. 1:6; cf. Jn. 14:15, 21, 23-24)
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
“And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.”
Jesus said that if we love him, we will obey (guard, preserve) his commands (Jn. 14:15). John reiterated Jesus’ words when he said here that to love God is to keep (obey, observe) his commands. So, what are his commands? They are everything Jesus taught his disciples, which are recorded in scripture, which were NOT specific to one particular situation, or to one specific period of time, or to one particular person or persons. But, they are commands that were intended for his disciples at all times, and in all situations, as general rules of practice. They are also the teachings of the NT apostles with regard to the church, as a whole, present and future, which, again, are to be regarded as general rules of practice for all, and for our daily living.
Yet, this is not absolutely black and white. What I mean by this is that there is not a hammer hanging over our heads which says we must obey 100% or we are not saved. Even though we have been delivered from slavery to sin and from the power Satan had over our lives, at one time, it does not mean we will never sin again (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2). If we could have obeyed with 100%, Jesus would not have had to die for our sins. But, what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son to die on a cross for our sin, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit (See: Ro. 8:1-14).
So, God’s grace does not demand sinless perfection, yet it does demand that we walk (in lifestyle) no longer according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. This means that we don’t make excuses for willful sin against God, or excuse away sin on the basis of God’s grace to us. His grace is not a free license to continue in sin. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).
My Jesus, I Love Thee
William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon
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.
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.