Religious activity can make you feel “Christian”, at least for a little while. But if your Christianity is founded on you doing something for God, it has no root and will die in due time. A true, deeply rooted faith is founded in love for a person: Jesus. Anything less and you will either abandon the faith when trials or persecution comes or other desires will end up choking your faith. Don’t become distracted from the main thing: before you go “do something big for Jesus” or “go to Church” or “live for Jesus” start your day by simply asking “Do I love Jesus? Has my love grown cold for Jesus? Have I spent time with Jesus?”
“If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:22. Jesus after He rose from the dead asked Peter three times in John 21 “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” These are heart-searching and serious verses. Loving Christ is not an optional part of Christianity. Therefore, there is no better question to examine the state of your heart than simply asking “do I love Jesus or not?” Yet I have often found in my own life that this question can quickly become very abstract. How do you know if you love Jesus? Are there any objective tests to help you assess the state of your soul?
As is so often the case, J.C. Ryle in his book “Holiness” gives a clear and helpful answer on how you can know if you love Jesus or not. His words are worth your time and represent an excellent set of ways to examine yourself to determine if your love for Christ has gone cold. I quote his 8 marks of love below and for the rest of this post, I want to think through how these marks can help you know if you love Jesus. In fact, what Ryle gives below summarizes the Christian life itself powerfully and concisely.
If we love a person, we like to think about him.
If we love a person, we like to hear about him.
If we love a person, we like to read about him.
If we love a person, we like to please him.
If we love a person, we like his friends.
If we love a person, we are jealous about his name and honor.
If we love a person, we like to be always with him.
From “Lovest Thou me?” in Holiness by J.C. Ryle
You know what love looks like on a human level.
Ryle’s goal in this section of “Holiness” is simple: if you know what love looks like at a human level, then you already know what it looks like to love Jesus. Each of the 8 marks Ryle gives are based on the simple fact that if you love a person, you behave a certain way towards them. Likewise, if you don’t behave a certain way towards a person, chances are you don’t truly love them. If you love a person, you think about them, talk with them, want to be with them. You are concerned to please that person, you care about that person’s reputation. In short, your love for that person is demonstrated in visible outward behaviors.
Therefore, Ryle in these 8 marks wants you to simply ask “are these things true of me with regards to Jesus?” Do you think about Jesus? Do you long to hear from Him through daily Bible reading and the preached word? Are you concerned with pleasing Him and His opinion of you? Do you love the people He loves and died to redeem? When others speak poorly of Jesus, are you bold enough in your love for Him to defend His reputation? If the answer to these questions is “no” then perhaps your love for Christ has grown cold. You might say “of course I love Jesus!” but if that love is not seen in any of the ways Ryle lists, perhaps you love Jesus in word only.
How do you know if you love Jesus? Examine your life.
Asking whether you love Jesus isn’t a trick question or an impossibly abstract inquiry. Love for a person shows itself in inward delight and external expressions.