From the pen of Stephanie Reynolds
Lovest Thou Me?
Have you ever heard the voice of the Shepherd ask this question to you, “Lovest thou Me” or simply put: Do you love Me? The question is not whether we love the brethren, nor our husband, nor our children, nor our self, nor any other close relations in our lives, but do we love Christ? This is a serious question. Why the seriousness? In I Corinthians 16:22, the Holy Ghost moved the apostle Paul to write, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha”. According to the Amplified version this means “he shall be accursed” (Anathema) “our Lord will come” (Maranatha). If you are like me, you are wondering how can I, one that is full of sin, love Christ? God and the Father of Jesus Christ before He ever created the foundation of the world chose a people to love and save by His Son (Ephesians 1:3-7 and Romans 9:11,13). The answer to how to love Christ sincerely is if Christ be in us, then Christ is the power of God to do so. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life (I John 5:12). I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me (Philipppians 4:13). For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Therefore, one(s) who are truly loving Christ means that the Triune God first loved he or she and he or she has the power of God through Christ actively working within the individual to love Christ sincerely. These also were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4). We only can love Him because and if He first loved us (I John 4:19). How perfectly did, does and will the Triune God always love all of His children! He did and does everything for His children. God made salvation secure before He ever created even the foundation of the world. The loving Heavenly Father gave truly the perfect gift to His children, His only begotten Son the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour who was the perfect sacrifice. Jesus Christ lived a sinless holy life for all of His children who could never do so. Jesus willingly laid down His perfect life and bore the wrath of God out of His love to save all of His people, shedding His blood to cover all the sins of all of His children throughout all ages. The Good Protective and Loving Shepherd did not leave His children to ourselves but prayed to His Father to give us His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to live inside us (John 14:16). The love of the Holy Spirit toward the children of God is that of bringing about the new birth, revealing Christ in us, making the salvation of God meaningful and understandable to us through Christ in us (John 3:3-8, John 14:16-20,26 and John 15:7-15). Loving Christ is indeed a glorious work of God! However, not all people are loved by the Triune God, as it is written, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Roman 9:13). Therefore, God does not give all people His Son (I John 5:12) nor His Holy Spirit (John 4:17), and these are the ones who will continue in the sin of not loving Jesus Christ and will die in their hatred and in their rejecting Christ (John 8:24), whereby the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him (Colossians 2:9), who is the Living Resurrected Lord and the Only Saviour (Revelation 1:18 and Acts 4:12).
Many today in our age profess to be a Christian and to love the Lord. Sadly, this gross sin of not loving Jesus is found in everyone whether professing to be a Christian or not. However, there was in the days of the apostle Paul as well as today a particular people who are loved and forgiven by the Triune God and have had this awful sin washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ! The Lord also calls these in the Bible His elect, the children of God, His sheep, His lambs, and sinners.
When the set time that pleases God comes, God reveals to each of His children, the Saviour Jesus Christ within us (Galatians 1:15-16). These are the sinners that were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. How wonderful it is to loved by the Triune God who has done all that is needed for the salvation of each one of His children. He unfolds and reveals the mystery and the depth of what He has done and finished in Christ in His perfect set time and puts forth His power to make the salvation of the Lord meaningful by experience. It was indeed expedient also that Jesus go away so He would send the Comforter who is also His Holy Spirit to live inside each child of God (John 16:7). We are perfectly safely kept in Christ by the Triune God.
Real Christians have a real warfare going on inside them. To be a real Christian, we must have a new birth or be born again as Christ said (John 3:5-7). Rest assured none of His children will fail in having the new birth. Out of God’s love, He brings about the new birth and begins to kill the old sinful nature inside His children. Thus, as long as His born again children are here on earth, there will always be a constant warfare within between the old sin nature and the new godly nature in His Son. The old sin nature includes indwelling sin. The new godly nature in His Son is the life of Jesus Christ who is the hope of the glory of God (II Corinthians 5:17 and Colossians 1:27). Indwelling sin does not have dominion over true Christians (Romans 6:9). When the Holy Spirit searches deep within a Christian and when this sin of not loving Jesus is found, then does He apply the blood of Jesus, causing him or her to see the sin, and He mercifully gives the gift of repentance and working in them to be sorry for their sin, and to love and cling to Jesus and rest in His finished salvation.
An example of one of the Lord’s children who struggled with indwelling sin was Peter. “Lovest thou Me?” Jesus asked Peter this question 3 times (John 21:15-17). Do you remember what Peter’s past was before Christ asked him this question? Peter was one of the disciples of Christ whom the Lord would make an apostle. Yet, Peter had need of the Lord to humble him, and to show him his wicked sinful nature. One time, Jesus was sharing with His disciples that He was going to be killed and rise again the 3rd day. Peter rose up against His Lord and Saviour and said, “Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee.” Was Peter loving Christ? No, he was not. Jesus turned and said unto Peter, “Get thee behind me, satan: thou art an offense unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16: 21-23 KJV). Do you see how Peter, at this time, was guilty of not loving Jesus? My loving Shepherd will not suffer any of His children to perish in any sin. His blood was not poured out in vain. In Luke 22:31-34 (Amplified version), Jesus spoke again to Peter saying, “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has asked excessively that all of you be given to him (out of the power and keeping of God), that he might sift all of you like grain. But I have prayed especially for you Peter, that your faith may not fail and when you …have turned again, strengthen and establish your brethren.” What was Peter’s reply to Jesus’s loving revelation? Sadly, Peter tried to love Christ falsely with lip-service saying, “I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.” How did Christ deal with such a wayward sheep? The loving Shepherd used His rod and pronounced, “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knewest Me” (Luke 22:33-34 KJV). Yes, Peter that very day denied His Lord just as Jesus told him he would. Do you see how Peter could not and would not love Jesus by his own power? You and I are the same as Peter. If left in our own power to love Christ, we too fail miserably. Joyfully, the Faithful Shepherd, JESUS, would not leave Peter to continue in this sin. Right after Peter denied Jesus 3 times and the cock crew, JESUS turned and looked upon Peter. What was the result of this look? This look came with the power of godly repentance to Peter’s soul. It was as if JESUS was looking at Peter and saying to him this is why I am going to the cross now, Peter, to die for your sins (John 15:13). Such majestic power did Christ have to instantly brake Peter’s rebellion and hatred for Him by His look of love and forgiveness. Peter wept bitterly over his sin. Oh, how good it is to hear that JESUS is the same powerful Shepherd today causing all of His children to repent over the hateful sins we have done against Him and His holiness! Who but the Lord has such glorious majestic saving power? Truly, glorious is JESUS’s unceasing love toward all of His people!
All along Peter’s life, JESUS did not give Peter up to satan but continued to humble him and lift him up in Himself by His own glorious power. His Holy Spirit worked powerfully in Peter to love Christ, and feed His lambs (younger ones in the Christian faith), to feed His sheep (older ones in the Christian faith), to be an apostle of God, and much more. This very apostle who earlier in his life vehemently denied the Lord when he was faced with danger for knowing the Lord, was strengthened by the power of the Lord to go through a martyrdom death not denying JESUS, but glorifying God in his death. It was just what Jesus told Peter of how his life here on earth would end, glorifying God! What grace and power of God! What a transformation! What made the difference? The first time, Peter did not actively have the Lord working in him to love and follow Christ. He could only just mouth the words, “I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death;” yet, he had no power of his own to do so. The second time, Peter did have actively the Lord working in him to sincerely love Christ. Jesus, showing Peter the power of His blood that cleansed him and forgave him, strengthened Peter to love Him and suffer for His sake and die the death that would glorify God. Truly, all of the Lord’s people actively love and obey Christ in the day and time of His blessed manifestations of His grace that comes with His power (Psalm 110:3, II Cor. 12:9 and Philippians 4:13)!
Romans 5:3-8 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.