Is there any value in professing love for Jesus when we choose not to live for Jesus? One might be forgiven for thinking so, especially in our present age where a rare goal among Christians seems to be the reconciliation of the lips and the lives of Christians. Perhaps, it’s a trend you recognize: professed Christians openly declaring their love for Jesus, but nonetheless living a life that is disconnected from the character of Jesus. While claiming to belong to Jesus, they engage in a laundry list of iniquitous behaviors: lying, cheating, stealing, drugging, fornicating, and more.
So, how valid is a claim of love for Jesus, in a consistently un-Christ-like life?
To take on the character of Jesus is to walk as He walked.
The ease with which we utter the words to Jesus, “I love you, Lord” may contribute to our feeling good about our religious experience. But, the true value of any such pronouncement is found in living a life that expresses love for Jesus through righteous living, a life of sanctified action. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Notice that expression of love is accompanied by an action of love—keeping His commandments.
More than an emotional response to His love, grace and sacrifice, our love for Jesus should be reflected in our lives of obedience. According to the Word of God, there is a direct correlation between our love for Christ and our obedience to His will as revealed in His Word. So, the Bible explains that our love for Jesus is not measured merely in audible expressions of our feelings. No, there is much more to our love for Him than the sound of words. The measurability of our love for Jesus is found in our actions.
John 14:23 is where Jesus declares, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word …” The action is that of keeping the word of Christ. Simply put, this means that believers will be more than talkers of the talk. We will also be walkers of the walk. Our goal is to walk as Jesus walked.
To take on the character of Jesus is to walk as He walked. And, there is no secret as to the nature of His walk. His was the walk of obedience. Paul shares in Philippians 2:8, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Obedience was an important character trait of Christ. Anyone who claims to love Him will live as He lived. The net result for a child of God is that we strive to live the life modeled by Jesus. The very nature of our life in Christ is exemplified by change. Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks of this change, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
In giving our lives over to Jesus, not only are we declaring that we love Him, but that our love comes as a result of knowing Him. Therefore, when we say that we love Jesus, implicit in that declaration is our knowledge of who He is and an understanding of His character that we are to emulate. To make life choices to the contrary of His character is to repudiate knowledge of who He is. Indeed, the counsel of 1 John 2:3 is very plain, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.”
Hebrews 5:8, 9 shares with us both how He lived, and how He expects His people to live, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…”
There are those who teach that as New Covenant believers, you and I have no reason to give thought to any Divine requirement of obedience. However, the Bible repeatedly highlights the Divine expectation of obedience by the sons and daughters of God to His will and way. So, there is no validity in our claim of loving Jesus, if we are committed to a life empty of His character. At the end of it all, to love Jesus is to live Jesus.
DONALD L. MCPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.