Published July 16, 2013

Paul's Epistle...
"Loving Jesus"

"O How I love Jesus,
O How I love Jesus,
O How I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!"

Remember that old hymn? Ah, the gusto and spirited emotion that we can pack into that song as we sing it on Sunday morning!

But have you considered what we really mean when we say we "love" Jesus? How much do we actually "love" Him?

We know how much He loves us. The best-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16, tells us that God loved us so much that He sent His only Son so that "the world through Him might be saved." (v 17.) Christ loved us so much He gave His very life for us on the cross. Clearly, as that hymn says, God did first love us.

But how much do we love Him?

Fortunately, the Bible give us a wonderful litmus test to determine whether or not (or how much) we love the Lord. Speaking to His disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus made it as plain as it could be: "If you love Me, keep My commandments." And then, to make it even clearer, He said, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words." (John 14.)

So there it is. If you love God, you will keep His commandments. You will obey Him.

Now, think about that. That can be a pretty tall order. Think about all the things Christ told us to do. Think about how He told us to live. Think about how he wants us to deal with others. Think about how He told us to deal with our money and possessions. Think about how He wants us to spend our lives telling others about the Gospel. The New Testament is full of things the Lord wants us to do, not to mention the original Ten Commandments.

How well do you obey the Lord? How well do you keep such commandments? Considered in the light of such criteria, how much do you love the Lord?

Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples beside the Sea of Tiberias and asked Peter, "do you love Me more than these?" Three times Christ posed the question and three times Peter, becoming "grieved" with the repetition, answered, "Yes, Lord." Then Christ gave Peter what would become a test of his love: "Feed My sheep." (John 21:15-17.) If Peter really loved the Lord, he would obey by feeding the Good Shepherd's sheep. Peter went on to prove his love by doing exactly that.

But Christ was, by extension, telling us to do the same thing. That's why it's in the Bible. He's saying that one way we can show our love for God is by "feeding His sheep," by telling others about God and by having a servant's heart toward others. "But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17.) The rhetorical question's answer is clear – it doesn't.

And this "love test" from 1 John 4:20-21 is related to that last one: "If someone says, ‘I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" And later, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments." (1 John 5:2.)

How much do you love God?

Unfortunately, 2 Timothy 3 reminds us that "in the last days" (and we are surely there) people will be "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Danger! Hard question ahead! Do we value our pleasures more than our relationship with God?

How much do you love God?

There are plenty of benefits for truly loving God. For example, the promise of heaven (no small benefit, there!). 1 Corinthians 2:9 reminds us, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

And look at these promises: "If anyone loves God, this one is known by Him." (1 Cor. 8:3.) "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in my Love." (John 15:10.) If you love God and keep His commandments, you will feel, and benefit from, His love!

In fact, one of my favorite verses tells it all: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28.)

I find it interesting that the Lord says we can know if we love Him by whether or not we keep His commandments. And then, when asked by a lawyer, "what is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus told him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." (Matthew 22:37.) So, in other words, if we keep the commandment to love God, we are showing that we love Him by keeping his commandments. Love God. Keep His commandments. Love God. Keep His commandments. Etc., etc., etc. (This is what computer programmers would call a "loop" that continues on indefinitely.)

Among Biblical principles, this surely must be one of the least ambiguous.

So... How much do you love the Lord today? And how are you showing it?

- Paul

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