Loving God (14)
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. John 21.17
We can see in Jesus’ interrogation of Peter an outline of what it means to love God. Loving God is the first and great commandment, and it requires the investment of our entire soul and life, in everything we do and at all times. God has made us to love Him, and it is in loving Him that we realize our highest purpose in life and know fullness of joy. We are fools if we settle for anything less than loving God with all our soul and strength, as He has taught us to love Him.
Peter had conspicuously failed in his love for Jesus, denying three times, when push came to shove, that he even knew Him. Now Jesus graciously worked to restore Peter and shore up his love for Him. Three times Jesus asked the lapsed disciple if he loved Him. Three times Peter affirmed that he did: “You know that I love You.” “You know that I love You.” You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Notice what Jesus did not do at any time. He didn’t say to Peter, “OK, that’s great, I’m glad we’ve reestablished that fact. All will be well now.” Jesus wasn’t preparing Peter merely to say something; He was setting him back on track for work. Each time Peter answered, Jesus instructed him to carry out the implications of his professed love: “Feed My lambs.” Tend My sheep.” “Feed My sheep.”
In other words, Peter’s love for Jesus would be proved in works, works by which he showed his love for Jesus and shared that love with those whom Jesus loves.
And what if Jesus were to ask us today, “Do you love Me?” What would we expect Him to say to us as we humbly and sincerely answered, “Yes, Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
He would tell us, like He told Peter, to get to work.
Believers are called to good works, saved for good works (Eph. 2.10), and are to be zealous and ready to maintain good works as the expression of their love for God. And the good works we must above all pursue are those which express and increase that love first of all.
By loving God’s Presence we hunger and thirst to be with Him, at prayer and daily worship, by singing and meditation, and in nurturing those affections of longing, waiting, desiring, abiding, and celebrating the Lord that rise from a heart truly devoted to loving Him Who has made, redeemed, and keeps us. When our soul pants for the Lord’s Presence like a deer for the waters of a stream, we’ll know we’re increasing in love for Him.
The measure of our love for God’s Word is in the amount of time we spend in it; the thoroughness with which we read, study, and meditate in it; and the enthusiasm and consistency with which we obey and share the Word with others. Studying God’s Word is work. It takes time and effort, and it must be entered into every day. But it’s work which, as we do it, both shows that we love God and helps us to increase in love for Him.
God has bestowed on us a glorious salvation, and He surrounds us with a wondrous world in which to unpack that salvation for His glory. We love God as we grow in His salvation and enjoy and steward His creation in ways that glorify Him and show His beauty, goodness, and truth to the world. Our salvation will always be exceedingly abundantly greater than we’ve ever known it; and His world is filled with more beauty and goodness than we can ever fully discover. But love for God impels us to exercise good stewardship over each of these great gifts, that we might increase in them and realize more of His love.
The more we learn of God, the more we realize how vast and comprehensive are all His works, which we will delight to study, learn, celebrate, and explain to others. Creation, providence, redemption, salvation, glorification, building His Church and Kingdom – these wondrous works testify of the greatness of God’s love for us. As we apply ourselves to loving these works, our love for Him grows and bears fruit.
All who love God look forward eagerly to His appearing, and they make all necessary preparations to be found in good standing with Him when He returns. They will be careful to keep their light shining, to invest the talents He gives them wisely, and to do those works of loving service that show their desire to enter His pleasure when He returns (Matt. 25.1-46). And they will work hard to ensure that the generations to come will have every opportunity to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus.
“If you love Me,” Jesus said, “keep My commandments” (Jn. 14.15). Beginning in His Law and roaming throughout all His Word, we discover, embrace, and learn to carry out all the works that Jesus commands as evidence of our love for Him.
Loving God’s calling
Peter’s calling was as a shepherd in the Lord’s flock. He was told to feed and tend the Lord’s sheep – to carry out his assigned calling in the Personal Mission Field Jesus appointed for him.
We who love Jesus have that same charge, to make disciples as we are going and to shine our lights, use our talents, and do those works of love which prove our love for God with and for the people to whom the Lord sends us every day.
By having a clear set of goals before us – to increase boasting in the Lord throughout our Personal Mission Field, build others up in Him, bring Jesus to everyone as often as possible, and increase the reach of our ministry – we will never want for opportunities to do those good works that feed and tend the Lord’s sheep and shine the light of His grace and truth into the world.
If we will prepare well, make good use of our conversations, show the love of Christ to others, and work continuously for transformation into the image of Jesus, we will fulfill our calling to love God, and we will increase in love for Him as well.
The more we grow in love for God, by consistently attending to the instructions He has given us, the more His love in us will overflow by the Holy Spirit to touch, heal, and restore others (Jn. 7.37-39).
And just as we look to Jesus to teach us how to love Him, so we must look to Him to teach us how to love our neighbors. And it is to this second great commandment, and the good works it entails, that we turn next.
For reflection or discussion
1. Why must love for God issue in good works?
2. Where do you need to improve in your love for God?
3. How can believers encourage and assist one another to grow in love for God?
Next steps – Transformation: Make it part of your daily prayers to ask the Lord to help you grow in love for Him. Focus on all the ways He has shown us that we may increase in love for Him. Thank Him for His Word to guide and His Spirit to empower you to love Him more.
T. M. Moore
At the website
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.