Love Jesus above All (Part 2)
Step-by-Step Discipleship Lessons are a series of studies based on the bible that explain the basics of the Christian life. They are meant to be used for individual study, one-on-one discipleship, or group bible study.1
In our previous study, we saw that when we claim that Jesus is our Lord, it means that we give him our full affection. He doesn’t just want the works of obedience but also the full affection of our hearts. This alone demonstrates in our lives that He is truly worthy (Matthew 10:37). Half-hearted obedience is dishonouring to Christ. Here’s what we saw:
1. Jesus expects us to love him above all
a. No other love can compete for our affection for Jesus
b. Love for Jesus must bewith our actions as well as emotions.
We recognized that this is an impossible task, because our affections are so hard to control. In this study, we will see how this demand for affection is hard, but possible because Jesus helps us to love him:
2. Jesus helps us to love him above all
a. He has given us new birth so we can love from the heart (Ezekiel 36:24-28)
In our first study in this series, we saw that Jesus emphasized the necessity of being “born from above”. This is a total, inward transformation. New birth is a work of the Spirit of God. It involves not just a cleansing and removal of sin through belief in what Jesus has done, but a transformation of nature as well. Read the passage in Ezekiel 36:24-28. The prophets pointed forward to what Christ would achieve – a removal of a stony, emotionless, unfeeling heart, and the creation of a new, God-centered heart. It is because he has made it possible for his children to both love and act that he demands and expects unadulterated love from us. Someone for whom the Christian life is a boring, tedious, uninteresting list of rules must ask whether they are truly born again.
What does this mean? It means that before we met Jesus through his saving grace, we were lost even in our affections. But when he changed our hearts when we believed, he freed our affections! Do you not remember when you first got saved, how your affections were so tender towards Jesus? How you wanted to be in his presence, to soak in His word? This is the mark of true salvation, a transformed nature – Jesus made possible the love which he demands by changing our hearts.
b. He motivates us by his own love so we can love from the heart (1 John 4:7-10)
“But wait a minute!” you might say, “I remember when I was first saved how strong my affections were towards Jesus. But don’t we all grow a little cold?” This is exactly true, and the reason is simple. Being born again doesn’t mean that God has created a new machine that he turns on and expects to work right on its own without any fuel or energy. The Bible shows us that He knows we grow cold without constant nourishment, and so God provides fuel and maintenance for our new hearts, the motivation that is his own love. In 1 John 4, this is what God says about why we love:
- Verse 7 – love is the evidence of new birth (“whoever loves has been born of God”).
- Verse 8 – love is the evidence of being in relationship with God (you cannot be loveless and know God “because God is love”)
- Verse 9-10 – love is known because God displayed it first by example to us undeserving sinners. Because God killed his son for us, we have life (v9), and because God poured out his wrath on Jesus which we deserve, we are forgiven (v10).
In other words, 1 John 4:7-10 is telling us precisely that God has put us in a place where we can love (relationship with Him, v8), and has given us the ability to love through new birth (v7). But our “love engine” will begin to sputter and die if we don’t fill it with the fuel of love – and he has given us the fuel: meditating on God’s example of love in sending Jesus to die for us. Some of us are experiencing a coldness of heart, a hardening that has come because we have been looking not on Christ, but our own sin, or on the sins of others. This coldness can go on, or it can stop – if we only humble ourselves, resolve not to blame our circumstances, and drink deep of God’s love in Christ.
This is extremely important. Many of us think that the work of Christ on the cross is basics for young Christians. It is the ABC’s for babies. But in fact, God is saying to us in His word that the longer you are in the faith, the larger the shadow of the cross must loom over your life, and you will begin to grow more and more aware of how great the love of God truly is. If you depart from the cross, you will forget what love looks like. Have you not experienced this? Older believers and younger, when you begin to lose affection for God, can it be said that you were meditating on the riches of his love on the cross? The Gospel is the ABC’s of the Christian life – except not just the beginning, because just like our English ABC’s, without the ABC’s of the Gospel, the Christian life would not have any words, any language, any expression.
Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade: To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky!
3. Questions to Ponder
- What relationship have you placed above Jesus? Do you value your family or loved ones’ opinions more than Jesus? Jesus must be seen as Lord in the way you love him!
- Have you ceased to meditate on the Gospel? Remember that you are depriving yourself of the fuel of love. For love to remain fervent, we must constantly look to Jesus, our sacrificial saviour. Who cannot be moved when they see his infinite love?
- Ask Christ to grow your love for him so that you truly see that nothing compares to him.
1 For further study, here are some recommended resources: What Jesus Demands from the World, John Piper; Desiring God, John Piper.