Not Just Loving Jesus. IN LOVE with Jesus.

I don’t know if it’s helpful for everyone to make a distinction between “loving Jesus” and being “in love with Jesus.”  That might sound a little funny to some people.  And that might sound a little too mushy or sappy for some people, especially dudes, but I’m way beyond the point of that bothering me at this stage in my life.  It’s the truth for me.  I’ve had Christian faith since I was baptized.  I loved Jesus throughout my life.  But it wasn’t until I got into much more intense Bible study and involvement in church work later in life that I really fell in love with Jesus (by the way, I hate that expression, “fall in love,” but it’s true when it comes to Jesus.  Who he is simply compels you to love him.)   And this is something that I pray for every Christian to know.

Now, I want to make something clear here.  I’m not at all trying to establish myself as some higher class of Christian citizen or someone who through a clearly devised plan has made himself closer to God, like “I’m ‘in love’ with Jesus and you only ‘love’ Jesus.  So there!”  Not at all.  I’m simply saying that I enjoy being a Christian so much more now than I used to.  And I want every Christian to enjoy Jesus. 

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit makes a distinction in verbs that talk about “knowing.”  You can know something to 1) be true on the basis of facts, or you can know something to 2) be true on the basis of experience.  Perhaps as I’ve grown, and sinned more, I’ve come to more and more appreciate who Jesus is and what he’s done specifically for me (i.e. to know him in the latter sense).  The truth is that today, I just admire the man so much that I can’t seem to take my eyes off of him.  I want to be like him and I want to be with him.  I’m in love with him. 

And again, if you think you’re too much of a guy to be in love with another guy, double-check your sports memorabilia case and look for the autographs of your childhood heroes.  We’ve all got role models, heroes, or significant others that we make the objects of our affection – people that we appreciate and venerate so much that whether we call it this or not, we’re in love with them. 

So…..I want to share with you today some of the truths that led to me falling more in love with Jesus: 

1) Christ’s Justice

When I was younger, I was terrified of God’s wrath and punishment.  I knew Jesus had taken away hell for me.  But I thought this current lifetime was to be filled with punishment for any inappropriate acts.  I was consistently riddled with guilt and afraid of disappointing authority.  As a child, if you looked at me funny, I cried.  I was that fragile.  And while I probably appeared pretty squeaky clean on the surface, I was still a sinner, and I knew it.  I tried to keep that as secret as possible, but it still haunted me.  That guilt, the reality of my imperfection was overwhelming at times.  I couldn’t stand those shortcomings in myself and I assumed God couldn’t stand me as a result of those shortcomings either.  Every sickness I got, every poor performance in sports, and every check mark on every classroom exam I interpreted as God’s hand squashing me for my unfaithfulness. 

Somewhere along the line I came to a more thorough understanding of God’s justice at Jesus’ cross.  Somewhere along the way the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to passages like 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”  You see, what’s amazing is that God didn’t just dismiss our sins.  He paid for them through Jesus.  And once a debt has been paid, legally, no more payment can be collected.  If we’re in God’s courtroom and we’re on trial for our sins, God CAN’T sentence us to any more punishment for our sins because Jesus already paid our debt in full.  Consequently, if God punished (in the true sense of punishment) us for our sins today, it’d make him an unjust God, which would make him unholy.  God, the author of holiness and justice, is incapable of such a thing.  God’s justice is pure beauty for Christians, something that relieves them of any fear of punishment for who and what they are.

Now, this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t provide correction in our lives, nor does it mean that there aren’t natural consequences of my sins.  But God can’t hit me with a lightning bolt if Jesus has already been hit with it.  In Christ, and on the basis of God’s justice, I don’t have to worry about lightning striking twice in the same spot.   

2) Christ’s Boldness

If the Gospels are accurate (and obviously I believe they are), Jesus is the most loving and least politically correct man I’ve ever known.

It sometimes drives me nuts that virtually every statement you make today has to be accompanied by a qualifying statement so that no one gets offended.  We’re that sensitive.  We’re that proud.  We’re that drunk on our own beliefs and ideals and self-righteousness that we’ll get in a fist fight with the first person who seeks to provide any correction, because “how dare they find fault in the great and mighty me.”  Much of the time we get so offended because we’re so full of ourselves.   At other times, we almost apologize to people for who we are because we know that they might get offended by who we are, since they’re probably full of themselves too.  We take our shoes off before walking on carpets, we sanitize our hands after every sneeze, and we handle everyone with kid gloves.  Quite frankly, we all just need to not take ourselves quite so seriously.

I just don’t see this problem in Jesus at all.  He’s radical, revolutionary, and incredibly refreshing in this way.  If I were to sit at Panera with a known prostitute, gang leader, pedophile, and ruthless businessman over a cup of coffee, people would talk.  And I probably would care about what they had to say.  Jesus didn’t.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  (Luke 15:2)  The people he talked to were desperate and hurt and sick and broken.  It raised more than a few eyebrows that he, supposedly a “teacher” could associate with such people in any way.  He just didn’t care what people who measured him with their own self-righteous measuring stick thought.  Can you imagine that?  People making derogatory comments and absurd judgments about God’s perfect Son because they were so blinded by their own stupid selves! 

I’ve made a million unwarranted judgments about people.  I’ve inappropriately worried a million times about other people’s opinions.  And I’ve never cared about people a sliver of what Jesus did.  And I’m not a sliver of the man who Jesus was/is. 

When appropriate, Jesus called people names (both pagans and the super religious, cf. Matthew 7:6 & Matthew 23:33).  Jesus was very, very exclusive and intolerant in his belief system (John 14:6).  Jesus called people to standards and hated sin (Luke 13:3).  To many, Jesus was super offensive and if he was the pastor at a church today I’m not sure how many people would actually attend his church because Jesus was brutally honest, and brutal honesty, while it attracts people to immoral talk radio and tabloid magazines and television, doesn’t seem to attract as many people to church.  But Jesus seems to be okay with that, because he doesn’t seem nearly as concerned about getting people to like him as much as he is about expressing love to them.  And that brings me to my final point. 

3) Christ’s Selflessness

My whole life I’ve wanted to be loved.  All humans want this.  We can get very needy and unhealthy about it.  And many people spend large chunks of their life searching for love.  It probably comes from the fact that we don’t, by nature, know the truth.  The reality is that we humans, who are created in the image of God, inherently are loved by God.  God created us not to seek love, but to understand that we already are the recipients of love, and then to express that love to others. 

Jesus, by whom and through whom we were created (John 1, Hebrews 1, Colossians 1), knew this and demonstrated that he knew this in his time on earth.  He said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)  Jesus washed the feet of those lower than him (John 13:1-17), and made time for those who would not benefit him (Matthew 19:14), and even cured those who would not thank him (Luke 17:11-19).  He just walked around expressing love constantly.  And while it seemed like these casual expressions of love to the lowly maybe weren’t doing anything for him in life, truth be told, he is the most famous figure in the history of this planet.  There’s no close second.  More importantly, he did more for the people of this planet, including me, than anyone in the history of this planet.  There’s no close second. 

 This is fascinating.  I (and most humans) have generally always operated with the mindset that if I truly want to accomplish something in life, I’m going to have to carve out time for me, put energy into me, educate me, promote me, and love me.  It’s clearly very “me” focused.  God forgive me for that.  Counterintuitively, Jesus was the most “successful” and “important” man in the world’s history, and yet he didn’t make a single decision that was primarily for his own benefit.  Every move was an expression of love to God above all and love to others more than self.  I just can’t get over that.   

Obviously, we’re not Jesus and cannot be.  But I find these truths about him and about who God also created us to be in Him as so beautiful and so enthralling, that it’s led me to be more in love with him – a hero, a role model, an object of affection, but most importantly, my Savior.

Since falling in love with Jesus, Bible study has become not just an academic exercise, but a bonding experience with my best friend.  Public Worship has become not just about marking off the checklist of my Christian duties, but encountering my Lord within the body of Christ.  Prayer has become less about just asking for what I want, and more about unloading the baggage that I’ve already got.  I love Jesus.  But I thank God that I also now am more in love with Jesus.  Being a Christian is more enjoyable now.  And I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be willing to go back even for all the love of the world.

13 thoughts on “Not Just Loving Jesus. IN LOVE with Jesus.

  1. Sara says:

    I can see a “Real Men Love Jesus” bumper sticker in your future. J/K

    From a female perspective, it’s easy for me to be in love with Jesus. What girl doesn’t like her knight in shining armor to come to her rescue—her Rider on a white horse to save her from her sins? I have often wondered though how guys relate to Jesus’ love. Are they more inclined to think of Him as a Father whom they desire approval? Not that it matters, men and women alike can relate to Him as a Father. I suppose men, too, may be able to appreciate having Someone come to their rescue—Someone on Whom they can fall.

    As I was reading this, I thought about that Calvinistic term irresistible grace. Do you really think it’s true that “who he is simply compels you to love him?” As much Bible study as I’ve done and as much as I’ve grown in the faith, you would think I’d be more compelled to love. Instead, I tend to see more clearly just how often my sinful nature battles with this Christ in me.

    One thing I know is true, those who are in love with Jesus can only say, “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 I hope many Christians put down their fiction and pick up their Bible where they can learn they were written into the greatest Love story ever!

    • Hey, Sara. I don’t see bumper stickers in my future :), but if I did, it’d either be that or one of the “My kid skateboards better than your honor student” ones.

      How do guys relate to Jesus’ love?……good question. Often they don’t. Satan has made it highly unfashionable & unmanly to talk about loving Jesus. Truth is, many guys are so incredibly homophobic that if they accidentally touch knees with another man under the table, they have trouble looking him in eye for the rest of the conversation. Saying “I love” about another man (unfortunately even the God-man) is deemed as culturally awkward and we typically won’t voluntarily do things that make us uncomfortable.

      Men will tell you how much we “love” pizza. We “love” cars. We “love” hunting. We “love” football & UFC. But when it comes to talking about loving Jesus, we’re afraid that sounds weird. And we sort of just need to get comfortable enough with ourselves so that we can get over ourselves. Raising strong male leaders in the church remains an issue for the church.

      Jesus’ character does compel us to love him in the sense that it “draws us to him”, not in the sense that it forces us to love him (irresistibly). Rather, it’s because of how perfect Jesus is (and because Jesus flat out pursues us), that people are drawn to him. Conversely, because of how imperfect we are, we resist and rebel against him.

      I’m often amazed at how many quotes I’ve read from non-Christians who admire Jesus tremendously. He is so incredibly respectable, humble, brave, tough, generous, selfless, etc. He was such an incredible leader and revolutionary figure. He compels you to admire him. People refuse to believe in him as their Savior because of their own weakness and sinfulness.

      And the same is true for you and me. I think the fact that you can acknowledge that through Bible study you’ve been led to despair of self and become more dependent on Christ is evidence of Christ compelling you to love him and not love yourself so much. Growth in Christ is not just increased morality, but is a clearer understanding of who you are without Christ and who you are in Christ. The Apostle Paul himself acknowledged his regular struggle with living as Christ (Romans 7), but he was well aware of his status with God through Jesus’ forgiveness as well as his own inability to produce the righteousness necessary for salvation. He was a spiritually mature man compelled to love Christ for Christ’s merit and because of his own lack of merit. Make sense?

  2. Jesus is more than anything I can think of saying. In love is good. It’s a deep desire that is fed by only one thing, His presence. The more I find out, the more I want. It’s truly like an addiction. Male or female, once we know Him and have met Him, it’s never enough.

    I hear fireworks going off in the background, loud explosions and bright lights are covering the city in celebration. Inside my heart is a multitude of fireworks of joy, of peace, of love. The resounding booms from the reports remind me of HIs coming in glory at the last day. Lighting the sky from East to West with His terrible swift sword to judge mankind.

    Our Lord is all that and more. He is everything and all.

  3. Lex says:

    I have recently learned the answer to this question, “How can a man love me, if he has not first learned to love from the Master of Love, which is Jesus?” The answer is He never can and never will.

  4. Henry says:

    I loved Him so much and I can’t resist falling in love with Jesus. In fact I have fell in love with Him already. That’s what caused me to start seaching for “falling in love with Jesus” and I came accross this site. Thanks Pastor. I just wish to grow more and more in love with Jesus.

  5. Pete says:

    I have no trouble expressing my love for God, but have always really struggled with the concept of ‘loving Jesus/falling in love with Jesus’. I love Jesus in the sense of John 14:15 by making a willful choice to obey his commands, but that choice is not based on emotional feelings.

    Is this whole loving God vs. loving Jesus thing just semantics, or is there more to it than this?

  6. Mark says:

    I am one who was sexually molested by an older guy when I was ten and experiential that gave me an eternal feeling of separation from understanding how to love. I can love Jesus like I love my dad and mom but I can’t perceive of loving him in a romantic way which I suspect happens with soldiers on the battle field they intensly love their fellow soldiers like a wife but without the sex
    I know intellectually that is how Jesus feels about me but I am incapable of loving Jesus like that…Loneliness and feelings of unworthiness assault me every day ….even though I am married I can’t even enjoy the luxury of being in love with my wife even though I love her dearly. And frankly I know God forgives me for my past I am damaged goods so I sometimes search for that in love feeling in many other places to medicate the pain of loneliness and inadequacy ….How can I ever ever get past this??? UNLESS Jesus himself heals my heart to help me fall in love with Him I will remain loving Him as best I can but continue to be distant on the emotional side of this because of what was stolen from me as a child . I am a Christian and believe every word of the Bible and the gospel of Salvation . I have received Him into my heart but I don’t think I’ll ever experience the capability of being “in Love” with Jesus. Who knows maybe some day that will happen I believe and Trust that Jesus in his mercy will grant me that capability some day . For now I still have a huge hole in my heart and am desperate for God to fill it with Jesus so I can be in love back to him but it seems that I search for it among us mere.mortals and its a futile effort and think I am insane doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result that I will find that capability to have intimacy fall in love but it just does not happen for me

  7. May I please offer my respectful applause and admiration to Pastor Hein for his insightful and incisive apologetics with respect to falling in love with Jesus. His articulate and emotionally-charged description of what falling in love with Jesus means to his life, sexuality and spirituality, is poignant and reaffirming to my own yearning, Falling in love with Jesus, as Pastor Hein envisions the pilgrimage, is a profound and life-changing liberation from the walls which have typically trapped “traditional” masculinity within the confining paradigm of a machismo which is hostile to being free to love another man without threatening the psychic wellbeing or personal piety of the existential male body/spirit.

    There is true humility and human compassion in Pastor Hein’s unveiling of how he defines his own experience with falling in love with Jesus. Without pretense or dissembling, he confesses his yearning to grow in prayer and lectio divina to better learn how to listen, follow and obey the calling of God within his heart, and by sharing those linchpins in the formula for falling more in love with Jesus, he opens his heart to a vulnerability which only the bravest among us will dare to do.

    I had earlier written a lengthy commentary which somehow completely disappeared into cyberspace and I am too tired to try to attempt to repeat it, but I am hoping to have retained the most salient points here. My thanks and blessings to Pastor Hein for teaching us what loving Jesus entails and illustrating the spiritual well from which the desire to fall in love with Jesus springs.

    Pastor Hein is a blessing and a gift, and while my original (now lost) commentary was more coherent and thorough, I hope this will convey the brotherly love and respect I have for Pastor Hein. God bless you on your journey, and as you continue to fall in love with Jesus, please leave some room on his chest for my weary head to rest. Peace!

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