Being a disciple of Jesus is a lifelong adventure of knowing His great love for us and reciprocating it back to Him.
Love is what sets us apart and love is what forms us the most. He saved us from death and darkness to give us access to life with Him. The Bible tells us that He not only loves but He is love (1 John 4:7-9). And we know from John 3:16 it’s because of love that He sent Jesus to die for our sins.
I know you’ve heard the children’s song, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’ This interactive relationship of loving and being loved by the Lord is the heartbeat of Christianity.
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”1 John 4:11-12 NIV
God is always first in loving us (1 John 4:19) and this is foundational to our eternal identity in Christ but also our ongoing sanctification. When we believe we are truly loved by Him it inspires our obedience, it challenges our sinful habits, it deepens our relationships and it calls us out of selfishness.
Believing we are loved by God stirs us to boldly take steps of faith when we don’t see the entire path, because we trust Him to light the way. It enables us to be compassionate when we’d rather ignore, because we want others to taste His mercy and goodness. It informs how we spend our time, money and energy, because we long to share what He is like with a world who needs to know. It changes us, increasing our desire to know Him, meaning we stay in the Bible and let His Truth renew our minds. It bolsters our faith in His promises and presence.
Believing we are loved unconditionally by God keeps us in a posture of worship, delight, service and dependence. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
If we live from a place of being deeply loved, His life will flow in and through us to the world and He will be made known. We will follow in the footsteps of Jesus and look more like Him every day, meaning we will be a conduit of His love to everyone around us.
Robert Candlish says this about loving others: “My love must go forth toward those whom I see, as God saw me when he first loved me. And my love must be what his love is; no idle sentiment or barren sympathy, but a love that seeks them, and bears long with them, and knocks, and waits, and longs, and prays, for their salvation; a love that gives freely, and without upbraiding; a love self-sacrificing, self-denying; a love that will lay down itself to save them.”
Paul says that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). What power that gives us to live obedient to Him! What comfort that brings when we are disappointed, discouraged or persecuted!
“To feel God’s love is very precious, but to believe it when you do not feel it, is the noblest.”CHarles spurgeon
The Lord speaks through the psalmist in chapter 91, “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (NIV) What courage this gives us in the face of life’s uncertainties, to receive His love and fall more in love with Him daily.
We know from 1 Corinthians 13 that love is of utmost importance in God’s Kingdom. To paraphrase its author Paul, if I’m a superhero at serving the church or my work for the cause of Christ but do it from a place of earning or pride instead of love, I’m missing something huge. If my life is not one flowing with love, I gain nothing important from any of my endeavors. Love sustains our choosing the Holy Spirit’s way over the desires of our flesh. It comforts and counsels us. Love for our neighbor sparks curiosity in a way that prompts them to wonder why. And our love for the unlovable reflects Christ more than our righteousness or activity in the Church.
Without love, His for us influencing ours for Him and others, our lives will amount to nothing.
Ephesians 5:1 says it beautifully, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (NIV)
The greatest evidence that you are a disciple of Jesus is love. Your life will be a fragrant offering to God when you believe you’re a dearly loved child and consider others the same.