Jesus is greatly loved by God the Father. That fact is indisputable. But whether we here on earth truly love Jesus is another question entirely. Just because we confess Him as our Savior isn’t a guarantee that we love Him truly and biblically. Even to his close disciple, the apostle Peter, Jesus posed the question three times: “Do you love me? … Do you love me? … Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17). If Jesus asked an apostle this question, it is certainly appropriate for us to ask ourselves, “Do you truly, biblically, love Jesus?”
Some Jews who were opposing Jesus arrogantly said to Him, “The only Father we have is God himself” (John 8:41). Jesus’ reply to them is enlightening: “If God were your Father, you would love me.” One of the characteristics of born-again Christians in a saved relationship with God is that they genuinely love the Son of God, Jesus.
And to this insight Jesus added another: “The Father himself loves you because you have loved me.” One of the things that pleases God the Father greatly is that we love His Son Jesus. So I suggest that we take a few minutes now to examine ourselves and take the temperature of our love for Jesus Christ. As we look at some Scripture portions, ask yourself: “Am I loving Jesus the way God’s Word says I should?”
Being a Christian doesn’t just mean, as some define it, “having a relationship with Jesus.” It means having a faith-filled, repentant, obedient relationship with Jesus. He said, “If you love me, keep my commands” … and “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.”
Sadly, much that passes for Christianity today is based upon a loose, almost “anything-goes” misunderstanding of grace. Far from suggesting a looseness or permissiveness, the biblical “grace of God…teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (Titus 2:11-12).
Jesus made this very clear, and He labeled it as an indicator of our love for Him: “If you love me, keep my commands…obey my teaching.” I grieve over the loose conduct I see among some Christians, conduct and casual attitudes toward sin that often go unchallenged from the church pulpits of our land. Consider this: sin was such an affront to God that He did not spare His own Son’s life from death on the Cross, in order to deal with the guilt of the world’s sin. How then can we mere mortal men and women think that God will spare us if we take a light, casual approach to sin?
To Christian “brothers and sisters,” the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote, “If we deliberately keep on sinning … ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:19, 26, 30-31). If we say we love the Lord Jesus, then we will expend every effort to keep all His commandments and obey all His teachings. No easy-believism, no loose abuse of grace, but a strong determination to live a godly life as a heartfelt expression of our love for our Savior.
One of the great themes of the New Testament is the Church’s call to be the blameless Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27). Notice the terms the Scripture uses to describe God’s called, bridal people: holy, cleansed, radiant, without stain or wrinkle, without blemish, blameless. The symbolism between us and Jesus is bridal. We are promised to Him as our husband, and we are to come to Him “as a pure virgin to Christ.” Purity. In today’s sexually liberated culture, that is a forgotten word, but not to God!
Bride-bridegroom symbolism speaks of love! So we must ask ourselves: Do I love my espoused Bridegroom Jesus enough to make me dedicate my life to living a holy, godly, pure, blameless life in anticipation of my eventual presentation to Him? If I truly love Him, that will be my attitude and my determined goal.
This shouts one word at me: priorities. What do I love more than Jesus? my money? my job? my possessions? my spare time? my hobbies? my Sunday morning sleep-in? my reputation? even my family? As much as I love my family—my wife and I have seven children and (soon) 22 grandchildren that we love deeply—nevertheless Jesus expects that I will not let my love for them eclipse my devotion to Him.
Take stock of your life, your priorities, how you spend your time, where you dedicate your resources. Where does Jesus stand in that list of priorities? Remember, our opening title was “Do You Truly, Biblically, Love Jesus?” We’ve begun to see that loving Him is not just tingly feelings in our hearts. It involves much more. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments, obey His teachings, strive for a blameless and godly life, prioritize Him as first in our life, and much more that time won’t permit us to cover today. These things are biblical signs of our love for Him. Are they present and operating in your life? Let’s look at a few more indicators of our love for Jesus.
Do you love Jesus? Then you’ll be committed to His work on earth and your part in it. Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. In response to Peter’s threefold “yes,” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs … Take care of my sheep … Feed my sheep.” He was clearly telling Peter that a sign of his love for the Lord would be Peter’s faithfully, diligently fulfilling the specific calling of the Lord on his life.
That applies to us, too. The apostle Paul taught what has been called “body ministry” and emphasized it in this verse: “From him [Jesus] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16). Do you love Jesus? Excellent. Then you’ll give much effort to fulfilling the calling(s) and divine plans that He has specifically put upon your life. Christ’s call upon your life must never be an afterthought, but rather a driving influence on your plans, decisions, and efforts.
There is a rising tide of iniquity engulfing the United States of America. Jesus prophesied that in later times there will be an “increase of wickedness” that will require “standing firm to the end.” But, sad to say, He also prophesied that the increase of wickedness would cause “the love of most [to] grow cold.” That is fair warning.
Jesus loves us, and He alerted us to the harmful effects that increasing societal wickedness would have upon our love for Him. Make up your mind with firm determination: I will not let the decline of morals all around me cause my love for Jesus to decrease. Resolve, rather, in the face of all this to “love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”
The Ephesian church had been a great church. History tells us that at one point it may have been the largest local church of the first century. Some estimate its membership to have been in the tens of thousands—an early “megachurch”! The apostle Paul’s “son in the faith,” Timothy, had been one of its pastors.
However, the Ephesian church had one major problem. Its love for the Lord was declining. It was not what we would think of as a bad church. To the contrary, in Revelation 2:1-6 Jesus mentioned many of its good traits: hard work, perseverance, intolerance of wicked people, rejecting false apostles, enduring hardships for Jesus’ name, and not growing weary.
Nevertheless, Jesus had a stern warning for them: they had “forsaken the love [they] had at first.” It is possible to stay very busy in the Lord’s work, as the Ephesians were doing, and still fail the love test. Jesus warned them to “consider how far [they had] fallen [and to] repent.” Otherwise, Jesus said He would remove the church’s lampstand—that is, the church would decline and die out. And history shows that did happen.
So what is the Lord’s warning to us? “Consider! … Repent!” Each one of us should carefully examine our hearts and our lives. How is our love for Jesus? Is it bright and shining and vital each day? Or have other things entered in and demanded much of our attention, to the point that loving Jesus has become something thought of only during, say, a brief daily time of prayer or bible reading? Let’s finish with an exhortation from Jesus concerning the greatest commandment of all.
Go all in! Love the Father, love the Son, “with all your” heart, soul, mind, and strength. Christ Himself said that this is “the first and greatest commandment.” It was Jesus who said, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” Dedicate yourself to keeping this supreme commandment. And wake up each day committing yourself that day to walking closely with the Savior that you love with all your heart.
©2016, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.