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Growing in Love for Jesus

October 6, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 14:25-26 (NRSV)

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

Focus

We will grow in our love for Jesus, not by trying to “hate” others, and not by feeling shame over the inadequacy of our love for Jesus, but rather by growing in our knowledge and experience of his love for us. The more we know the love of Jesus for us, the more we will be able to love him more with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion we began to examine a verse in which Jesus says that if we are going to be his disciples we have to hate our closest relatives. I suggested that this is an example of Jesus using hyperbole to make a strong point. It’s not as if his command to love our neighbors and even our enemies is irrelevant to our closest relatives. Rather, Jesus is using figurative language to talk about the priority of our loves. If we are truly to be his disciple, we need to love him with such commitment that it is as if we hate the others in our lives who usually receive our greatest love.

I’ve heard at least a dozen sermons and teachings on this passage from Luke. The bottom line, or so I’ve been told many times, is that I need to love Jesus more than anyone or anything else in my life. I need to love him even more than my closest family members. Though I take the point, I often feel frustrated by what preachers and teachers don’t say. They usually don’t explain how I’m to love Jesus more. It’s not exactly as if I can simply will myself to do this. I can’t just force myself to love Jesus so much that I “hate” my family. So, I wonder, how can I grow in my love for Jesus?

As I’ve considered what helps us to love Jesus more, I’m impressed by a couple of things. First of all, our love for Jesus is a responding love. As it says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” We don’t stir up love for Jesus in our hearts by an exercise of will or by fanning some flame of passion. Rather, our love for Jesus is a clear and direct response to his love for us. Thus, if we want to love Jesus more, it makes sense that we need a deeper and truer experience of his love for us.

And where does that come from? Certainly our love for Jesus can be kindled as we read about him in the Gospels. We see Jesus’s compassion for the sick, his inclusion of those who were culturally excluded, his proclamation of God‘s kingdom, his kindness to children, and so much more. The more we get to know Jesus through the Gospels, the more we find ourselves loving him.

Of course, the love of Jesus is revealed most dramatically through his death on the cross. When we hear the Gospel accounts of what Jesus suffered, and when we realize that he took on this suffering for our sake, love for Jesus inflames our hearts. Therefore, if you want to love Jesus more, perhaps the main thing you can do is pay attention to his love for you on the cross. This happens in personal devotions, as we listen to preaching and teaching, and most of all when we celebrate communion. In the Lord’s Supper we join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to remember what Jesus did for us on the cross. Moreover, we allow the Holy Spirit to stir up in us a fresh experience of his transforming love.

As I think about my own relationship with Jesus, in addition to what I’ve already said, I find that my love for him is kindled by my ongoing experience of his grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience, and faithful presence in my life. I think of so many times when I reached out to the Lord in desperation and he was there for me. I think of how he has forgiven me my sins over and over again. I think of ways that Jesus has blessed me far beyond anything I deserve. So, my real-life experiences of Jesus and his love help me to grow in my responsive love for him.

Such love includes but is not simply a matter of feeling. My love for Jesus, like my love for my wife and my children, must be expressed in tangible actions. Of course I can and should tell Jesus that I love him in prayer. I can sing of my love in worship services. But I demonstrate my love in tangible ways when I choose to obey my Lord, to honor him in all I do, and to live my life for his kingdom purposes. I find that when I act out my love for Jesus, often my feelings of love for him grow. But my love isn’t just these feelings. It’s a whole-person response to the whole-person love of Jesus for me.

We will grow in our love for Jesus, not by trying to “hate” others, and not by feeling shame over the inadequacy of our love for Jesus, but rather by growing in our knowledge and experience of his love for us. The more we know the love of Jesus for us, the more we will be able to love him more with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Reflect

When have you experienced Jesus’s love for you most strongly?

What helps you to feel love for Jesus?

What helps you to express love for Jesus?

What helps you to act in love for Jesus?

Act

As you begin this day (or tomorrow, if you’re reading this later in the day), tell Jesus you’d like to live this day as an act of love for him. Ask for the Spirit’s help to do this.

Pray

Lord Jesus, I would like to love you more. Yes, I’d like to feel more love for you. But I’d like to love you more in a complete way, in heart, soul, mind, and strength. I’d like to live my life as an expression of love for you. I’d like to grow in love for you such that, by comparison, my other loves are clearly secondary.

My love for you is a response to your love for me. I love because you have loved me first. Thank you for your initiating love. Thank you most of all, Lord, for giving yourself for me on the cross. There I see the ultimate expression of love. At the cross my heart catches fire for you. At the cross I gladly devote all that I am to you.

As I pray for myself today, I also pray for others, for my family and friends, for the folks in my church, for those who will read this Life for Leaders devotion today. O Lord, may we grow in our love for you, in the love we feel, in the love we express in action. May it be so today! Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: 1 John: Walking in the Light


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