An Assassin in American Christianity
(A message excerpt by John Piper)
What does it mean to love Jesus? Four times in John 14:15–24 he says, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments or my word.”
John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
John 14:21: “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.”
John 14:23: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.”
John 14:24: “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
“I don’t deserve anything but judgment from God, and he loves me in spite of my sin.”
Now, what can we infer from that? Something very clear and very important: loving Jesus is not obeying Jesus, but loving Jesus is the source of obeying Jesus. Obeying Jesus, and doing what he commands, and keeping his word, is not love for Jesus. Obedience comes from love for Jesus. It’s the result of loving Jesus, not the same as loving Jesus. Jesus is saying, “If you love me, the result will be you’ll keep my commandments” (see John 14:15). “If anyone loves me, the result will be he’ll keep my word” (see John 14:23).
This is massively important because of how many people read these texts and flip the switch immediately and turn love into a list of things to do. That’s sad and tragic. It’s a killer in the Christian life, if you think love is that. It’s deadly; it kills churches, kills people, kills families to say love is doing. What a tragic marriage that would be. Some marriages are like that, when all the heart is just gone.
And so what is love for Jesus? Jesus has no defects, right? We all agree with that. Jesus has no defects. Jesus has no flaws, or faults, or demerit, so we cannot and we dare not love him the way God loves us. I don’t deserve anything but judgment from God, and he loves me in spite of my sin. We don’t love Jesus in spite of anything, but because of everything that he is. Jesus is entirely deserving of our love in its most intense form. Jesus is entirely worthy of being loved. Jesus is perfectly lovely.
How do you love somebody like that? You don’t love him graciously, like “I have to stir up some grace here because Jesus isn’t beautiful or isn’t good.” No, don’t go there; that’s blasphemy. You don’t love Jesus the way he loves you, which means that love for Jesus is a response to his beauty, and his greatness, and his glory. It’s not a response to his need, or his weakness, or his flaws, like God’s love is for us. This means that loving Jesus is pleasurable. It’s desiring him because he’s infinitely desirable. It’s admiring him because he’s infinitely admirable. It’s treasuring him because he’s infinitely valuable. It’s enjoying him because he’s infinitely enjoyable. And it’s being satisfied in him because he’s infinitely satisfying.
“Doing excellent things flows from delighting in an excellent Savior.”
That’s what loving Jesus means. It’s a reflex of the new birth. Once you had a soul whose taste buds found him bland, or even bitter. Then you were born again, and you licked the gospel, and for the first time, it caused a high. What was that? You saw him. You tasted and saw that the Lord was good.
That’s the new birth. You must be born again to see, to taste this Jesus. You can’t love Jesus if you’re not born again because he’ll taste bad. He won’t be beautiful. He won’t be lovely. He won’t be satisfying. He won’t be attractive. He won’t. He’ll just be a duty. You’ll say, “I don’t want to go to hell, and they say that to not go to hell, you’re supposed to believe on him. And I don’t find anything beautiful, or attractive, or satisfying and enjoyable, but I’m going to say some right words.” That’s not love.
In short, loving Jesus is not a matter of doing excellent things. It’s a matter of delighting in an excellent Savior. Doing excellent things, Jesus says, flows from delighting in an excellent Savior.