What Does A Life In Love With Jesus Look Like?
On May 24th, Liz and I will have been married forty-two years. In some ways, it seems like we just met in 1979 in San Diego, dated, got engaged, and married in May of 1980, about three weeks after I graduated from Azusa Pacific University. Wow. How quickly does time pass. One minute you are on your honeymoon, and the next thing you know, you receive brochures reminding you it’s time to apply to Medicare. My advice is simple: Enjoy the wife/husband of your youth and enjoy the journey.
If you asked me to give you tips regarding what a loving marriage looks like, I could easily click off the points we’ve learned by living life to the fullest.
- Make sure Jesus is at the center of the relationship. He is the glue and the guide.
- Keep the Word of God central. It’s the source of light for your lives like nothing else.
- Men: Recognize she needs your shoulder more than your mouth.
- Women: Recognize he needs to know that you respect him above all else.
- Resolve to forgive and forget. Never drag infractions and sins you have forgiven into a new argument to give yourself a winning edge.
- Never stop dating each other.
- Never stop doing romantic things.
- Never stop telling each other that you are still in love.
- Face hardships as a team, not as opponents.
- Be gracious and kind to each other.
- No name-calling or use of profanity. As Paul states, let your speech be seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6).
- Manage your money well, or it will mangle your marriage.
- Be unified regarding how to raise the children.
- Daily strive to be selfless servants of each other (Mark 10:45).
- Go to a Christian marriage conference now and then. Tune-ups are great.
- Read Christian books about marriage and commit to applying what you learn. Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is a great starter book.
- Confess your sin to each other. Yes, keep the sin slate clear.
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. You need to do foundational things to build a marriage that lasts until God calls you home. We are living proof these concepts work.
Turning from our physical relationships to our relationship with Jesus, the same premise holds true for His saints. Quality relationships don’t just happen. They take hard, honest work and commitment to sound principles. Looking at our relationship with Jesus, John wrote eloquently and insightfully in First John 1:1-2:2 concerning how to make sure we have intimate fellowship with Him no matter what life hurls at us. Intimacy with Jesus became compromised in the churches he shepherded in Asia Minor because of the infiltration of divisive false doctrine. It’s true. If you are fighting with another saint, it’s hard to keep the trauma from negatively impacting your closeness with Christ. This is why John gave us nine concepts to remember and apply. Whether developing a confessional life or just recognizing Jesus is your defense attorney in God’s heavenly court when (not if) you sin, observance of these truths breathes life into your relationship with the Lord.
John, of course, has more to say about all of this. With verses three through eleven of chapter two, the wise disciple, who had walked with Jesus for some seventy years, addresses a question all believers should want the answer to:
What Does A Life In Love With Jesus Look Like? (1 John 2:3-11)
Three things stand out in this section:
You, The Christian, Obey His Commands (1 John 2:3, 5)
First, let’s read the texts in question and then reevaluate and make some salient observations:
3 And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
The opening connective/conjunction “and,” kai (Καὶ) tells us what John teaches in the ensuing verses is related to what he already discussed. This means he continues to develop thoughts about how a Christian maintains a rich, abiding fellowship and intimacy with Jesus. In First John 1, verse 3, he speaks about how he desires believers to have fellowship with the Father and the Son. In verse 5 of chapter 1 through chapter 2, verse 3, he uses a plural pronoun, “we,” to demonstrate and underscore how he includes himself in what he taught about fellowship. He would have used " you " language if he desired to speak with non-Christians or people who merely professed faith but didn’t possess it; he would have used “you” language. But he didn’t because he addresses Christians directly.
Keeping this contextual information in mind, let’s turn our attention to what John says in the verses before us.
3 And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
Knowledge of Jesus does not refer to saving knowledge. The Greek here is ginosko (γινώσκω), and as Kittle states in his Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, in Classical Greek, this term denoted knowledge based on verification. Put differently; the word means knowledge related to experience. Knowing Jesus as your Savior is one thing, and this is related to your simple belief in His person and work with no other conditions (John 3:16-18; 6:29, 30, 36, 64; 8:30; 9:38 et al.). Knowing Him experientially is another thing altogether and is related to how well you obey His commandments. Remember, salvation is an event based on faith without conditions. Fellowship is a highly conditional process. The more you follow Christ’s teachings, the deeper and richer the fellowship. The less you obey, the shallower the intimacy. All of this is much like a marriage. My marriage to my wife was an event because I believed she was the one. Knowing her more profoundly with each passing day is an experience based on whether I observe conditions/(marital) commands which make for a great, intimate marriage.
If this verse is about proving who is saved and who isn’t, then we have a major theological problem for it then teaches our salvation is based on our continual observance of Christ’s commands. No one would ever know if they are saved because they would never know if they are obedient enough to be saved. Further, this conditionality would fly in the face of Paul’s statement to the Ephesians:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast (Eph. 2).
Salvation is only conditioned based on faith in Jesus, period. Any conditionality beyond this pollutes the true gospel. This is how we know John is speaking to believers about fellowship and not about a test for whether one has saving faith or not.
John, therefore, highlights the fact that a believer’s intimate knowledge of Jesus is directly related to how much or often he obeys His commandments and teachings. The more you obey Him, the more you know Him. You can readily see this growth in experiential knowledge in Christ’s conservation with Philip in John 14:
7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. 8 Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. 9 Jesus said to him, Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, 'Show us the Father '? (John 14).
The disciples had saving faith in Jesus at this point because they knew who He was and what He had come to do. However, Christ’s exchange with Philip, a believing/saved saint, illustrates his experiential knowledge of Jesus was limited and needed to grow and mature.
This is similar to what John is talking about in verse 3. He’s not talking about knowledge leading to salvation, but knowledge of Christ’s commands coupled with obedience, leading to a deeper understanding and fellowship with Christ. In verse 5, John expands on this:
5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
Once more, conditionality is considered here in a saint’s relationship with Jesus. If you keep His Word, which is just another way to say “His commandments,” God’s love is perfected in you or matures you. Stated differently, obedience to Christ’s teachings deepens and develops your fellowship and intimacy with Jesus. How could it not?
Obedience also shows we are “in Him.” Please, don’t take this in a Pauline way as describing salvation (Eph. 1:4, 7, 9, 10, 13; Phil. 1:29). Since John is the author, we need to consider how he uses his terms.
1 I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples (John 15).
Christ does not speak here about salvation. If he does, then, again, salvation is based on our continual performance, which is contrary to the gospel of grace. Further, we know salvation is not in view here because how could a non-Christian branch ever be part of the true vine, Jesus? He couldn’t.
Jesus speaks about discipleship, which is different from saving faith and is highly conditional. Therefore, the believer’s goal is to produce spiritual fruit to bring God glory and grow in fellowship with the Lord. We do this by remaining “in Him” through our obedience to Him. How are you faring? Do you know Christ’s commands? Are you studying them? Better yet, are you obeying them? If so, you are intimately related to Jesus and have a fellowship you enjoy and benefit from. If not, then your fellowship with Christ is not what it is supposed to be, and you, my friend, are not only missing out but based on John’s analogy in John 15, the Lord may be moved to discipline you to move you toward obedience.
Far wiser and better to learn God’s truths and to live them out for this leads to a fantastic relationship with the Lord like nothing you have or ever will see.
Second, a life in love with Jesus is consistent, not inconsistent. Or, to put it differently, and personally,
You, The Christian, Aren’t A Hypocrite (1 John 2:4)
Every church has them. Who? Christians who claim to have an intimate walk with God but do not. Translated, what they say and do are sometimes two different things. Watch how John develops this truth:
4 The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
No, he is not talking about false Christians here. He talks about Christians who claim to have a rich fellowship with Jesus but don’t follow His commands closely. Ever met any? I have. Ever seen this in your Christian life? Indeed. Who among us has not lived hypocritically at times? If this is another supposed test to tell the difference between believers and unbelievers, then, again, we have salvation based on a person’s perpetual ability to keep Christ’s commands. If, however, we keep in mind John is speaking about a Christian maintaining a great fellowship/relationship with Jesus, then it all makes total sense. Hence, “the truth” not being in this person is not salvation truth, but the truth about how fellowship is maintained through confession (1 John 1:9) and being obedient to what the Lord has taught us.
What is a hypocrite? The Greek term is defined well by Friberg, Gingrich, and Danker:
Friberg, Analytical Greek Lexicon
ὑποκριτής, οῦ, ὁ strictly actor, stage player; figuratively in the NT, as a moral or religious counterfeit hypocrite, pretender, dissembler
Gingrich, Greek NT Lexicon (GIN)
ὑποκριτής, οῦ, ὁ hypocrite, pretender, dissembler, lit. ‘playactor’ Mt 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 23:13-15; Mk 7:6; Lk 6:42; 12:56; 13:15. [pg 207]
Danker, Greek NT Lexicon (DAN)
ὑποκριτής,οῦ,ὁ [ὑπόκρισις] the core idea of assuming a role in a dramatic production underlies the metaph. usage of ὑποκριτής ‘one who claims to be what one is not’, play actor, pretender (= hypocrite ), in NT only in the gospels Mt 6:2 al.
A hypocrite is a liar. They put on a mask of spirituality when they are, in fact, not spiritual or obedient to Christ’s commands as they should be. Show me a person in love with Jesus, and I’ll show you a person whose life is consistent, meaning it matches what the Word of God teaches. Likewise, please show me a person who, though saved, claims to walk closely with Jesus but whose life is full of compromise as you get to know them. I can’t even begin to tell you how many Christians I’ve met who are like this latter person. They say they walk closely with God, but you start seeing a lot of leakage in their lives in due time.
One day while teeing off at the tenth hole of my favorite California golf course, I had to wait as another golfer approached the bridge over the river in front of me. I noticed right away something wasn’t right. He pushed his three-wheeled golf carrier in a highly aggressive manner, and I could hear him cursing as he went along. Then he stopped, said a few choice words, and pushed his cart down the steep bank into the river. Once the carrier and his clubs hit the water, he started walking across the bridge toward us. At that juncture, the gardener who had turned his mower off near us so we could tee off made this eye-opening statement, “That’s not the first time that man has done that. He does have a bad temper and I hear he is a local pastor.”
Yikes. I’m sure on Sunday; he sounded all pastoral and spiritual. He, however, lacked one thing: a great fellowship with Jesus. I know this was true at the time because John’s words transcend time. Hence, if you say you have fellowship with Jesus but don’t follow His commands about the danger of a volatile temper (Matt. 5:22), the truth of fellowship is not yours.
Take a look at your own life. See any hypocrisy? Here’s a great prayer: Lord, show me where I am, a hypocrite? Show me where I saw one thing and did another? Believe me; He will answer this prayer in short order to you can get back into that thriving relationship you once had before your love affair with hypocrisy.
Third, a life-changing fellowship with Jesus is all about you looking like Jesus.
You, The Christian, Live Like Jesus (1 John 2:6-11)
John puts the relational cookies on the lower shelf with this statement:
6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
If you say you abide in Jesus, you should walk as He walked or live as He lived. Pragmatically, this means you will commit to studying His life well and apply what you learn to your life.
How did the Lord walk? How did He live? What model did He give us? Granted, we could spend several months going through the gospels with a view of isolating answers to these questions, and I’m sure we’d come up with many points to learn from. John, however, doesn’t do this. He boils Christ’s walk and life down to the second greatest commandment (Matt. 11:39): to love others. John drives home what Jesus said in his Upper Room Discourse (John 12-17) before His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion to His disciples:
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15).
How did Jesus walk? He walked in sacrificial love toward us, love which guided Him to die for our sins on the cruel cross.
Do you love sacrificially like Christ? Do you sacrifice your time, talents, and treasures for others, especially those of the household of faith? Do you look for needs to meet? Do you put the needs of others first before yourself? If you are really in fellowship with Jesus, you will live in love as Jesus did when He walked among us.
John reminds us of the importance of loving as Christ loved in the following two verses:
7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
The commandment to love is old insofar as it first originated from God in Leviticus 19:18. It is new insofar as Jesus reinstated it in the Upper Room Discourse. Really, from the giving of the law around 1445 B.C., until the Lord’s final Passover supper with the disciples around 33 A.D., nothing had changed with God. He always places a premium value on evidence of love for others. It is the sign a person intimately knows Him, for He is a God of abiding, relentless love.
What do the final two cryptic clauses of verse eight mean? In chapter 2, verse 17, John says that “the world is passing away, and the lust of it . . .” The passing of darkness must be seen in light of this eschatological statement. Darkness speaks of moral and spiritual darkness. Contrary to what you might, darkness is passing slowly off the world scene as prophesied. It will ultimately be replaced by the light of Christ’s tremendous, eye-blinding glory (Isa. 2; Dan. 2, 7; Matt. 24; Rev. 19). In the meantime, when you show love toward others, you are giving them a taste of the coming kingdom of Christ because, if anything, He is all about love. Talk about a message our combative, belligerent, and vindictive country and the world need right now. They need to see saints who walk so closely with Jesus that others can see and sense His love through their words and actions. So what about it? Are you giving people around you a taste of the coming kingdom of Christ? Or are you giving them a piece of your mind? Saints who are in fellowship with Christ can’t help but show the love of Jesus to others.
Knowing how life in the body of Christ typically plays out, John stops and gets real by introducing us to two different types of believers:
9 The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
You are either brother number one or brother number two in your walk with Christ.
Brother number one is a hypocrite. He says his life reflects the light of Christ’s love, but it doesn’t because his hatred of another Christian compromises him. Why does he hate him? The text doesn’t say. We can only guess. Perhaps the person broke a confidence or betrayed him, didn’t follow through on a promise/contract, or made a decision that negatively impacted him, or, well, I’m sure you can fill in the proverbial blank. This saint chooses to live in the darkness of hate, and this state blinds him to how he should live. I’ve seen believers like this over the last thirty-two years of being a pastor, and it is an ugly and destructive thing. They typically self-righteously hold to the wrongs committed against them (whether true or not), resulting in them not liking the person in question. From this blind hatred comes despair, depression, discouragement, and many other nasty things. Is this you?
Brother number two is in love with Jesus, so there is love for others in his life. His life knows a genuine peace between him and Jesus and real peace with others because he loves them as Jesus would. And because of this mature, wonderful fellowship, he doesn’t stumble through life from sin to sin like brother number one.
Which brother are you, is the question. Are you the brother who loves as Jesus loves, or are you the brother who says he loves but who has a lot of issues with other people to the point you dislike and maybe even hate them?
If you are brother number one, it’s time to come clean before the Lord. When you do, it will be like a logjam that is broken up, permitting the water of love to flow freely in and through your life.