Do I REALLY love Jesus ?

Yesterday in church I heard a fine sermon from a saved minister who showed us things in scripture as well as sharing himself with our small gathering. What struck me the most was when he raised the question, about himself,
Do I REALLY love Jesus ?

He was speaking and working from this passage of the Bible:

John 21:15-17 [NKJV]

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
"Simon, son of Jonah, do you love [agapas] Me more than these?"

He [Peter] said to Him,
"Yes, Lord; You know that I love [philO = I am being fond] You."

He [Jesus] said to him, "Feed My lambs."

He [Jesus] said to him again a second time,
"Simon, son of Jonah, do you love [agapas] Me?"

He [Peter] said to Him,
"Yes, Lord; You know that I love [philO] You."

He [Jesus] said to him, "Tend My sheep."

He [Jesus] said to him the third time,
"Simon, son of Jonah, do you love [phileis] Me?"

Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?"

And he [Peter] said to Him,
"Lord, You know all things; You know that I love [philO] You."

Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep."

I am now paraphrasing what the preacher said. His focus was on discipleship and its meaning. In general, disciple means someone who learns from a master teacher. Some clergy are trending toward calling believers "Christ Followers" rather than disciples. Learning, being filled with head knowledge, is not the same as following.

He talked about the difference between agapas and phileis.

agapas, or agape love, from
In the New Testament, it refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term necessarily extends to the love of one's fellow man. Many have thought that this word represents divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love.

phileo transliterated at
to love, to have affection and regard of a very high order, not unlike and overlapping in meaning in some contexts pr. to manifest some act or token of kindness or affection; to kiss.

Plainly, Peter was not listening for the difference in nuance between what Jesus was asking him and what he said in reply. Peter was affirming his deep admiration and brotherly love for Jesus. Jesus was asking Peter if loved Him as God does. The third time, Jesus used the Greek for brotherly love.

Peter must have been in some degree of confusion. He knew Jesus did not keep flocks. He had heard Him use the sheep analogy numerous times in parables. He would not fully comprehend what Jesus wanted until after the Holy Spirit descended with power on the assembled disciples at Pentecost. Until Pentecost brought the infilling of the Holy Spirit, none of the men who spent years learning from Him yet knew with certainty that He was the incarnate Son of God and that He had a mission, and that they were to be keys in fulfilling His mission on earth.

May I digress? I have personal great admiration for Simon Peter. I perceive his as a simple man; not a simpleton, but a man who catches fish for a living. A man who is concerned with nets and boats, and his partners in business ... Andrew his brother, and John and James sons of Zebedee. Peter does not strike me as a man who reflects deeply on theology or philosophy.

The first thing about Peter that struck me is when all night with no catch. Jesus got into Peter's boat and told him to put down his nets. Peter told Jesus it was fruitless but would so as Jesus asked. The catch nearly sunk the two boats hauling the nets. They were amazed by the catch. Peter did not say 'thank you Jesus'. Rather, Peter fell at the feet of Jesus and said to him, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man."

This event and declaration provide me with insight into Peter's character and perceptions. He did not truly know who Jesus was but he sensed God-Power and holiness in Him. His own response was to recognize his unworthiness to be in the company of one so holy.

The occasion for the "Do you love me" exchange was 'Breakfast on the Beach'.
John 21:9-14 [NKJV]

So when they [Peter, Andrew, James and John] got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have now caught." Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples ventured to question Him, "Who are You?" knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.

When the had finished eating, Jesus told Peter the manner of his death and how it would glorify God. Peter took this in then asked Jesus:

John 21:22 [NASB]
Jesus speaking to Peter about John:
Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His [Jesus'] bosom at the supper and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "?Lord, and what about this man?" [meaning John] Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."

The preacher's point is that each of us should choose to follow Jesus and not be concerned about others; not compare ourselves to others. He continued speaking to us about discipleship and following Jesus. Following Jesus means learning what He taught then executing His commands as the Holy Spirit enlightens us, leads in to all truth, and witnesses within about Jesus, calling to remembrance all He said. [Unless you have read or heard the gospels you won't have the faculty for recall. The first century church did not have written records of what Jesus said until the gospels were written years later. Everything was passed by oral, personal testimony.]

About here the preacher then uttered the statement:

Do I REALLY love Jesus ?

I could not discern if he meant he was questioning himself, or if he meant to pose a rhetorical question of us. I called him by name and interrupted his sermon. He allowed this.

I said, "I can offer you a test for that."
He said, "What is it?"
I said, "Are you feeding His sheep?"
He said, "You mean me?"
I said, "You and every believer."

There was a lot of assent from those assembled. He agreed this is a test of our love for Jesus. We are given to know what He meant by tending, looking after, His lambs and His sheep; He being the shepherd and believers being the sheep. If we say we love Him and choose to follow Him, we will pay attention to feeding His flock. This raises the question of how to accomplish that.

I am now departing from the sermon and speaking for myself to you .

The first, most obvious thing is we need the Holy Spirit to show us when and how we can feed them. This directive applies to HIS sheep; not the unbelieving goats. This is not about evangelism. It is about strengthening the faith of those in the kingdom so they can follow Him to the end.

Paul provides an outstanding example of flock tender. His letters to the churches are filled with blessings and encouragement as well as correction and admonition. He fed them with truth, with reasoned and deeply thought out explanations of the true faith. He affirmed them in their belief in Christ and His gospel.

Those who will be saved at death are those who endure to the end of earthly life. What you believe in your heart is what will carry you through the doorway to eternal life. Christians were promised trials and tribulation in life; even hatred because we love Jesus and promote the kingdom. Those who are engaged in the day in and day out battle with Satan need their spiritual strength. Though they have the Holy Spirit helping them, there is probably no more effective tending and feeding than what is given by fellow believers. Personal testimony built the church. Today, in spite of printed bibles, tracts, radio and TV reaching around the world, one on one builds up the vigor in our lives. Communion with other believers reduces or eliminates the human tendency to feel alone, abandoned, unworthy of redemption and all the other snares and doubts Satan sets.

When you pray with a fellow believer, you encourage his faith. When you gather for worship and sing praises to God, you encourage their faith. When you bring a meal to someone house bound, they know it is from God and thank Him. No doubt the list of possibilities is near endless. Jesus mentioned a few: water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, clothing for the naked, visits to the sick and imprisoned. Letters of encouragement to believers in prison are as valuable to them as visits. Some receive no visits or mail. Trust me ... writing to saved prisoners is serious food.

Some of us have abilities God can use to feed His flocks. It is our responsibility to let the Spirit illuminate ours for us then teach us how to use them. "Without me you can do nothing", said the Lord.

Finally I will say that if you allow the Holy Spirit to manifest his Fruits in your life, results will follow. I refer to Paul's list: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and self control. Cultivate these fruits in your innermost being and they will manifest to others. Believers will be built up; non believers will see, for they judge by appearances. I was drawn to Christ just prior to my conversion because I knew just such a person and I wanted what she had. It turned out to be a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ.

She harvested where she had not sown. Many before her witnessed to me and tried to 'convince' me of the truth I now hold. She did not do that. She lived the Love, Peace, Joy, and seeing her joy and serenity made me want what she had.

The preacher also read to us the parable of the talents [coins of the time]; the men left with 5, 2 and 1 by the master. When the master returned, the one trusted with 5 talents had doubled it. So did the one with 2 talents. The one with 1 talent, fearing the master's wrath, buried it for safekeeping. The first two were called good and faithful servants. The third was called worthless.

God has given you some kind of talent. The Spirit knows what they are. God once used a talking jackass to redirect a man's course. So He surely can use some aspect of your character, personality, physical attributes, or something in you.

If you really love Jesus, let Him use you.
If you feed only one lamb a new believer, a child, etc, you fulfill His desire and you are a 'good and faithful servant' of the Lord.

Keep your mind fixed on the Spirit. Do not let your ego get in the way of His work. Be wary of praise from people who tell you what a great Christian you are. None of us is great. God is great and He alone is great.

May He bless you richly in your efforts.

Written by Wayne Hepburn, August 2012. I herewith place this document in the Public Domain
I do not have permission to identify the preacher so have not mentioned his name.

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