Reflecting upon the pre-eminence of Jesus in every Christian’s life and devotion, G. Campbell Morgan, British Biblical scholar and pastor, wrote these memorable words:
There are some things you have to put in the first person singular.
He loved me;
He gave Himself up for me;
for me He rose,
for me He ascended,
for me He received the Spirit,
for me He poured that Spirit forth.
There is the great and wonderful procession.
Meditating on the great acts of salvation and rescue which his Savior had performed for him, and then letting the waves of the Savior’s love which prompted these acts to sweep over his mind and into his heart, Paul could do nothing less—nor nothing else—than to dedicate his entire life to his Lord. He urged himself and his fellow believers: “Whatever you do…do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (3.17). Just six verses later, he repeats his call, but with even greater urgency: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…” (3.23)
To delight the Lord by adoring and loving him wholeheartedly, and then to obey and serve the Lord daily in ways which honor him—these two actions must be the all-consuming passion of every Christ-follower’s life, her complete and single intent. Together they (must) make up her entire aim for living.
In today’s column we shall comment upon the first of these goals: to love our Savior and Lord with unrestrained, unrivalled passion, thus to delight him. In the next column, we shall comment upon the second: to work diligently for and faithfully to serve our Savior and Lord, thus to honor him.
To love our risen Lord ardently and sincerely: Nothing is more natural; nothing is more necessary. It is natural, says John Piper, because to do so belongs to our very nature as children of God. “'If God were your Father,’ Jesus advised his hearers, ‘ you would love me, for I came from God' (John 8:42). The children of God have the natural disposition to love his Son.“ It’s necessary, because “Paul says if you don’t love Jesus, you will be cursed: 'If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed' (1 Corinthians 16:22)’.”
Adds Piper: “Loving Jesus is an essential (not optional) mark of being a beneficiary of God’s grace.”
So, what might a person who seeks to love Jesus wholeheartedly look like? What goals might she or he set in order to tell Jesus, “I love you,” and then to show him that they do? Such persons—again Piper—will make it their white-hot aim in life to:
How difficult to keep Jesus central in our devotion, and how challenging every day to offer him not less than our heart’s everything and its very best. How easy to slip into casting an occasional inquiring glance, an alluring wink toward rival loves and alien lovers. Time and again, like Demas, Paul’s one-time devoted assistant, we cool our affection for Jesus. It may happen suddenly, or over a long period of time. It may take place inadvertently, almost imperceptibly and quite unintentionally. Or it may occur deliberately, loudly, and with reckless intent. But the result is always the same: like Demas, we stray away from loving Jesus, and start to “fall in love with this present world.” (cf. II Timothy 4.10ff) The result is always the same, and so very sad: Like Peter did, we end up betraying the very One who loved us and was willing to give not less than everything for us.
How important, depending upon God’s Spirit, to recommit ourselves, again and again, to do as we ought: to pledge to love to Jesus above all. We must take to heart and practice the advice of Thomas a Kempis in Imitation of Christ: “Every day we ought to refresh ourselves, and to renew our purpose as though it were the first day of our conversion.”
No Christian can accomplish this important task optimally by himself. Ever. It takes a community of fellow lovers of Jesus to spur one another on—to cheer one on when he loves his Lord well, and to help him up and begin again when he falls. This is one of the reasons Christians make it a practice to gather for fellowship and worship. Coming together, they remind themselves of their Lord’s singular, focused love for them, and of their calling to love him wholeheartedly in return. They come together to pray, as did Thomas Aquinas: “O Lord Jesus, who lovest us, set our own loves in order.”