Many of us today claim the name of Jesus Christ and proclaim that we know Him personally. We become “Christians,” which means that we are followers of Christ. But are we really following Jesus? Do we truly know Him intimately, or do we just have a passive love for Him?
John writes, “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our love for Him must come from our knowledge of Jesus if we are to love Him. We declare our love for the Father and Jesus because of what They have done for us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God’s love is one of infinite love and sacrifice. However, the love we return is initially a passive love, one brought on by the action of another. If it remains passive, it runs the danger of growing stagnant or even fading.
If we are to keep this love alive and growing, we must change it into an active love. An active love is one that is based on interaction and intimacy with each other. We can think of it in terms of a marriage, where both parties are daily interacting with one another and getting to know each other’s habits and growing together to become one person with two identities. But what happens if we start to become distant from one another? Does the love grow or become passive? We may have genuinely been attracted to the other person. We may have loved their company and desired to be with them early on, but as life goes on, something changes, and we do not have the same relationship as before.
If this can happen with a man and woman, it can also happen between man and God. In every relationship there is usually one person constantly reaching out and trying to make the relationship better. This is the way it is with Jesus. He is always reaching out to us to bring us closer to Him. Yet, unless we reach out to Him, our “marriage” to Jesus will become one sided. One of my favorite scriptures is Ephesians 5:25, 26: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.”
This scripture shows the relationship that must exist between God and man, “just as Christ loved the church [or us].” What is that love? It is an intimate, interactive, daily interchange between us and God. If we love God, we will want to know him better than anyone else on this earth. So back to the question, do we truly know Jesus? We can’t just love Him so we can have eternal life, or out of fear of the retribution we face because of our sins. We must love Jesus because of who He is and the love that He has for us. Let’s study a little bit about the One we say we love. There is so much about Jesus in the Bible, we can just briefly look at an overview of it, but that is a good place to start.
Jesus wants to know us, too, so He starts off by reminding us to find our first love again. “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
Who is this Jesus with whom we say we want to be associated? “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). According to Isaiah, Jesus was called our “Mighty God, Everlasting Father.” He was not some second-rate person of the Godhead. No, He was the embodiment of the Godhead with full authority. When He came to this earth to lay down His life for us, the government of God came with Him. His gift was so great that heaven was imperiled because of His sacrifice. He became human to show how humanity can be joined with divinity. He was the Majesty of heaven, the Commander-in-Chief of the armies of heaven, the Prince of heaven who brings peace to everyone who will come to Him. He is the gospel embodied.
“The value of a gift is proportionate to its adaptability to the needs of perishing souls. When Christ gave Himself, He opened up a spiritual fountain of divine influence, that by faith in Him, man might partake of the divine nature. In Christ is gathered all the glory of the Father. In Him is all the fullness of the Godhead. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person. The glory of the attributes of God are expressed in His character. Every page of the New Testament Scriptures shines with His light. Every text is a diamond, touched and irradiated by the divine rays. The Gospel is Christ unfolded, and Christ is the Gospel embodied. We are not to worship the Gospel, but Christ, the Lord of the Gospel. The Gospel is glorious because it is made up of Christ’s righteousness. Our Saviour is a perfect representation of God on the one hand, and a perfect representation of humanity on the other. Thus He has combined divinity and humanity.” The Signs of the Times, November 24, 1898.
Jesus was not only our sacrifice, but our Counselor, Instructor and Comforter. As we spend time with Him, He is there to guide and teach us by His example, to comfort us in trials and to rejoice with us in triumph. He can do this because He is also the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. (See Revelation 22:13.) He knows all about us, so He, and only He, is qualified to teach us infinite love. He knows the end from the beginning, so He is ready to guide us along our journey.
“I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Revelation 21:6, last part). To receive this life-saving water, we must drink of it. Jesus told the woman at the well that the water He gives is a fountain of water. “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life’ ” (John 4:13, 14). This fountain of water springing up is the ever-increasing love for Him that grows within us. As we learn of Him, the knowledge will create a deeper desire for Him. Jesus is the living water of life. He does not just give us a drink from a river or a fountain to quench our thirst, but quenches it with every moment we spend learning of Him.
Jesus also calls Himself the “bread of life.” John 6:35 says, “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’ ” And in John 7:38 He says, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
Each day we must eat food to sustain our lives. So it is with our spiritual lives as well. The love that we feel toward Jesus grows as we make Him part of our daily walk. We must “eat” the word of God. Just as food digests to nourish our bodies, our daily study of God’s word is digested into our minds and hearts. By making the word of God part of our daily routine, we learn not only what we believe in, but also in Whom we believe.
“Oh, it makes every difference with those who study the Scriptures as to what and how they shall understand the word, whether they eat it or not. The word of God, if eaten, will give spiritual sinew and muscle. Those who eat and digest this word will practice it.” The Review and Herald, August 13, 1959.
“We should eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God; that is, carefully study the Word, eat it, digest it, make it a part of our being. We are to live the Word, not keep it apart from our lives. The character of Christ is to be our character. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our hearts. Here is our only safety. Nothing can separate a living Christian from God.” Ibid., November 27, 1900.
We can have confidence in Jesus. David and Moses proclaimed Him to be the Rock of salvation and righteousness. David said, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2). And Moses said, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
Jesus said that we must build our relations with Him to have a strong foundation. He is the Rock that cannot be moved. Our love for Jesus will become as immovable as a rock when He is at the center of our lives. “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock” (Luke 6:46–48). When we know Jesus and build on His word, following all that He says, we become grounded in His love.
Have you ever seen the love that a dog gives his master? It is unconditional. Even when the master does not give the dog everything it wants, that dog will still look at his master with love and affection. This is because to the dog his master is the center of its life. The master becomes the dog’s trainer, feeder, and protector. The dog loves his master because it knows that the master is looking out for it.
Jesus is called our Mediator and Advocate. He is there to protect us, stand up for us, feed us, and give us the things that are good for us. By loving and obeying the Master we can have confidence, knowing Jesus has only our good in mind. A human may mistreat his dog, but Jesus never does anything that will harm us. We may be called on to sacrifice for Him, yet that sacrifice is for our good. In return, Jesus promises to be our Advocate to the Father. Even though our sins may be many, Jesus will only present His righteousness before the Father in our behalf. “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Jesus is called the Good Shepherd who gently moves His sheep on the path they should follow. If they listen to His voice, they will never get lost. As they fix their eyes on Him, He guides them to the green pastures of life in Him. Jesus said, “ ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own’ ” (John 10:11, 14). Jesus laid down His life for us and paid an extremely high price, one that we cannot even fathom. It will be a subject we will contemplate for eternity.
Those who know Jesus will hear His voice as He daily leads them. His sheep will not follow another voice. They will hear the melody of His sweet speech and be drawn closer and closer to Him. There will be other voices that will try to wile them away from their true Beloved, but God’s people will always have their eyes and ears fixed on the Good Shepherd. By spending time to get to know Jesus, they will not be enticed to follow a different love. True Christians will reject the enticements of the world that separate them from Jesus.
In Jesus is the truth. He proclaimed it of Himself. “Jesus said to him [Thomas], ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ ” (John 14:6). Jesus not only gives us life, but shows us the way to live it. He imparts to us the truth that only He can give. He not only frees us from sin, but also deception. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ ” (John 8:31, 32). However, notice the condition. We must abide in His word, or another way of saying it is to obey His commandments. We cannot abide in Jesus if we break His law.
The law of God shows us His love for mankind. It is the very foundation of that love. Without it, we could have no confidence in Jesus. The law sets forth the way for us to love Jesus, and by obeying it, we show our love for Him. “For Christ is the end [or fullness] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). We obtain the perfect gift of grace that is given freely to all, but our obedience to God’s law shows the love we feel for Jesus. “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21). “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31).
Jesus also knows what we are going through. He is our High Priest in heaven. His angels are always busy sending their reports to Him. He sympathizes with us as we go through each trial, each struggle, and each temptation. He understands because He also went through these same struggles while on earth. Jesus was a boy like any other boy, except His mind was fixed on the workings of God. As He grew, He was harassed and teased like many other children. When He reached adulthood, He was taunted because of His birth, but Jesus never let the evil gossip distract Him from His mission to do His Father’s work. Through each struggle, He prayed to His Father in heaven and the Holy Spirit was sent to comfort Him. Because of this faithfulness, He fulfilled His mission on earth so that He could sit at the right hand of God the Father and be our High Priest to minister for us. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). There is not one temptation that we go through that He cannot understand. He knows our hereditary tendencies that Satan uses against us. Jesus is faithful, and as our High Priest and Elder Brother, He is ready to help us at a moment’s notice. He desires for us to pray to Him for help so He may send the Holy Spirit to comfort us.
“Jesus says, ‘Take My yoke upon you’ (Matthew 11:29, first part). If we were bearing His yoke, we would not be wearing yokes of our own manufacturing. We would not be impatient, full of fault-finding, and hatred toward one another. If we wear the yoke of Christ, we will be patient, loving, and unrevengeful under injury; for we shall be learning of Him who is meek and lowly of heart. If we are indeed the followers of Christ, we shall be called upon to bear reproach, but if we are not understood, if we are falsely accused, we must not be discouraged, but remember that our Lord suffered mockery and scorn, and even the chief priests and rulers hedged up His way, and falsely accused Him of evil. Whatever may befall us, we should look to Jesus, knowing that He is our best Friend, or Elder Brother.” The Signs of the Times, January 26, 1891.
Many times, we might feel discouraged because of others or because we see our own faults, but Jesus does not want us to feel that way. In Matthew 11:28, 29, He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” He enjoins us to take upon ourselves His part of the yoke. It is much lighter and gives comfort when in despair. When we follow His example and become meek and humble, He takes on our troubles and bears them for us. By being yoked up with Jesus, He promises to lighten our load. He will help us bear the burden as we work with Him.
When thinking about this yoke, we might contemplate Jesus’ willingness to get in the yoke with us. He is willing to take on the struggle that we are dealing with. If we are to be like Jesus, how much more should we help others in their time of need? When we realize that we are no better than the poorest, most destitute person on the earth, it is then that we can love others better than ourselves. Jesus loves all these people. If we are following in His footsteps, if we have the love of Jesus in our hearts, our care and understanding will go before us to gently help them to find the hope we have in Jesus.
Isaiah 53:3 states of Jesus: “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Jesus has been despised by the world because they did not know Him. They never took the time to get to know the God they say they follow. He has been rejected by the majority of mankind, yet He still loves them all. He is not a man of sorrows because He was tortured and crucified, but because His people, whom He created, do not reciprocate the love He has for them.
Many may have experienced loving someone who did not return that love. Jesus experiences this every day. He gave all He could to make a way for us to be with Him, yet many times, we “esteem Him not.” Many say, “I love Jesus and obey Him in all things.” Yet as we look deeper into the love of Jesus, His goodness, His lovingkindness, we will see that we are lacking. We can always do better, always do more, and always have more love for His people, those who profess Him and even those who do not.
Jesus told the chief priest of Israel that He is the great “I AM” (John 8:58). This was significant because He was proclaiming to be the God that brought them out of Egypt and the One who gave Moses the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai. But He is also called by other names. “And the Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth’ ” (Exodus 34:6). Jesus is also identified by John as the Creator. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1–3).
Jesus is the fullness of goodness and longsuffering. He is always gracious and merciful. We should thank Him daily for His mercy and longsuffering with us. We are erring humans that need His divine Holy Spirit to change us. If we are going to be like Jesus, and He says we must become like Him and have His mind and His character, then we must learn more about Him. We must make Him part of our diet. We must feast on every word that proceeds from His mouth, and we must pray without ceasing that He will change us into His perfect image.
The love of Jesus is something we can never repay. He sacrificed His life in heaven as well as His life on earth so that we could know Him better. He poured Himself out for mankind so that we might see His goodness. His love is a perfect love, and if we behold Him daily and fervently pray for His Holy Spirit, He has promised to show Himself to us and perfect our character to be like His. To know and to love Jesus is to have confidence in Whom we have believed. So do not be discouraged, for we have a great and powerful God that is reaching out to each of us today. All we have to do is to accept the offer and daily walk with Him.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Mike Wells is director of Anointing Oil Ministries.