Loving Our Savior
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 1:8
We are continuing to do what we’ve been doing since the beginning of this quarantine, and that is inch our way through the first epistle of the Apostle Peter.
We have said this so many times already, so I’m hoping you know this by now. First Peter was written to suffering Christians. They’re going through a very difficult time of persecution. There may have been some formal persecution from the Roman authorities, but there was definitely a lot of private persecution from the world around them. This was not an easy time.
Difficult times are part of this life. They are a universal experience. In this life, everybody suffers, to one degree or another. And it doesn’t matter how religious or unreligious you are, you are going to suffer.
In that suffering, however, there is a distinction for Christians. And that’s part of Peter’s message in this whole letter. Christians should suffer differently than the rest of the world. And that’s because we are fundamentally different than the world. Jesus said we are not of this world.
Peter’s opening words highlight what makes Christians unique. This is what sets us apart from the world. We are being cared for by our heavenly Father. He predestined us for salvation and to be conformed to the image of His Son. He has caused us to be born again. He will raise us from the dead in glory one day. He has an inheritance waiting for us. He is protecting us through faith.
All of those truths are what Peter expresses in the form of a praise. He’s calling the church to praise God for the special position we have in creation. We don’t FEEL privileged at times, but we ARE.
And now, as we come to the end of this extended praise, we have two final distinctions of the Christian faith. These are distinctions that trials and difficulty help make more visible.
Let’s read verses 8 and 9 of 1 Peter chapter 1. Speaking of Jesus, who is going to bring our reward, it says this: Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
If you believe in Jesus Christ—if you have surrendered to Him and are trusting in His death and resurrection alone for salvation—your life will look different. How so?
Well, in the verses that we have for today, I see two characteristics of genuine faith. But we’re only going to cover one for today. And we’ll look at the second one next time.
The main lesson for today is this: a life of faith in Christ is a life of love for Christ. A life of faith in Christ is a life of love for Christ.
That’s what Peter is recognizing at the beginning of verse 8. He says: Though you have not seen him, you love him.
Peter wrote this letter to Christians, many of which were not in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. A lot of them probably weren’t even born at the time. Peter wrote this letter about 35 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.
So, the group he’s writing to had probably never seen Christ, and they may not have even interacted with someone who saw Jesus personally. But that didn’t hinder their love. And neither did their experience of suffering. A genuine Christian loves Jesus. Despite all that’s going on, they love Jesus. And that love is an affirmation of their faith.
You might remember that after Peter denied His Lord, Jesus came to him after the Resurrection and restored him. Jesus did that by asking Peter the question: “Do you love Me?” And Peter couldn’t defend himself by his life. He defended himself by Christ’s omniscience. He said, “Lord, you know everything! You know that I love You!”
And Jesus went on to affirm Peter’s faith and to restore him to ministry. Even though Peter had failed, his love for Jesus was evidence of his genuine faith.
Well, now we have Peter affirming for his brothers and sisters what Christ had affirmed for him. They don’t have a perfect love, but the love is there, nonetheless. And it serves as evidence of a genuine faith.
Now, with the time we have left today, I’d like to turn our attention to this question: What does it mean to love Jesus? That’s a question we need to answer biblically. This world has its own definition of love, and some of it might overlap with biblical love, but a lot of it doesn’t. What does it mean to love Jesus? Let me give you 4 components of that love.
One of the ways that love for Christ gets expressed is through heartfelt desire. This is the emotional side of love. When you love someone, you want to be with them. You want to talk with them. Our love for Christ isn’t supposed to be a romantic love, but it does have this aspect to it.
David wrote: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” He also spoke of God’s word as being sweet to him, like honey. He delighted in learning from God.
In the New Testament, you have Paul talking about the crown of righteousness being rewarded to everyone who has loved Christ’s appearing. And that’s what John expresses when he says, “Come, Lord Jesus.” That’s a heartfelt desire to be with Christ. It’s an expression of genuine love.
A second way biblical love for Christ is expressed is through sacrificial devotion. You might remember the woman who anointed Jesus with a very expensive perfume. That was an act of devotion. It was a personal sacrifice for her. Jesus said, “She loved much because she had been forgiven much.” That was her sacrificial devotion.
A third way that love for Christ is shown is through faithful obedience. John 14 is a key passage here. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you’ll keep My commandments… Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me… If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word.” Your love for Christ is shown in heartfelt desire, in sacrificial devotion, and in faithful obedience. It makes no sense to say you love Christ but refuse to do what He says.
A fourth way that love for Christ is shown is through brotherly love—brotherly love. If we love Jesus, then we will love those who belong to Him.
Jesus said that when we show love to the brothers, even to the lowliest of them, we are showing love to Him, because Jesus indwells them and identifies with them. They belong to Him. The flip side of that is what we read in 1 John 4: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Just like Peter said here in verse 8, we haven’t seen Jesus. He’s not here anymore. He didn’t reveal Himself physically after He ascended to the Father, other than to the Apostle Paul. But even if Jesus is no longer visible, our love SHOULD be visible.
By the way, since it’s Mother’s Day when most of you are listening to this, I will add that those components of love for Christ transfer over pretty well as you think about how to show love to your mom. There should be a desire. There should be a sacrificial devotion. There should be obedience, and there should be love for others in the family. That’s how you can show mom love. But again, that’s just a sidenote for today; you can meditate on that later.
This passage is emphasizing the love that Christians have for Jesus. That’s the defining characteristic of a genuine believer. It’s the product of being born again.
None of us loves Jesus perfectly, and we’re all going to have different expressions of devotion and obedience and love for the church, but those are the things you should be seeing in your life. Those are the things that others should notice in your life. That’s what sets us apart. A life of faith in Christ is a life of love for Christ.
If we see genuine love, that means there is genuine faith. And where there is genuine faith, there is a guaranteed inheritance.
You know, difficult times help make our love known, don’t they? They bring us closer to the ones we really love. There might still be arguments or difficult times, but even in that, it all serves to strengthen our love.
I spent some time this past week reading an update from one of my seminary professors who now pastors in Thousand Oaks. His wife was battling a very aggressive and painful form of cancer for over a year, and she passed away this year on March 30.
Here’s what he wrote in an update 9 days before she died when they realized the cancer was spreading rapidly. He said: “We're attempting to manage this situation in the hospital now, with a purpose toward seeing her well enough to go home so as to see her children and grandchildren with hoped for days of mental lucidity until she goes to be with Jesus our Lord face-to-face…
“Of course, because of these end-of-life challenges, I can't possibly respond to all of our dear friends, as I am attempting to soak up every moment I can with my sweetheart…
“Providentially, and because of the Coronavirus fears/precautions, no visitors have been allowed in the hospital. Therefore, I sought to appeal and receive an exemption to this. Because I'm both Beth's pastor and husband, the Chief Operating Officer of the hospital made an exception for me for which I’m grateful to him and to the hospital staff for an opportunity to be with Beth. We plead to the Lord for a little time with her as a family, so that the kids can say goodbye to their beloved mom (for now, until heaven that is!). …
“With all the health precautions we can possibly take, and with all the current and heightened sensibilities around us and our present world, we’d be ever so grateful to the Lord for a little or a lot of lucid time with Beth! Thirty-four years ago, Beth and I went out on our first ever date in La Mirada, California, and we’d rejoice exceedingly if she and I could have a final “date night” together then, if the Lord wills.”
Then, just 3 days before she passed, he wrote this: “I as her husband have continued to be with her night and day in this hospital room, and with my precious family sweetly coming and going, we are constantly thanking her for her indelible impact on our lives…
“In the stillness of the night, as I lay on the couch next to her—just the two of us being quietly alone in the solitude of these poignant moments—I seek earnestly to listen to her breathe. I try to selfishly count each breath in the night watches, praying that there are many more breaths in this little cancer-wracked body of hers, yet trying also to selflessly let her go on to her heavenly reward.
“In between these two critical polarities, it is nevertheless an unspeakable agony to also watch her slowly die. It’s like ripping away half of my own heart right out of my chest when thinking of future life without her. The sense of the one-flesh severing of a marriage, even as your wife lays dying, cannot be voiced except through a river of tears that flow ceaselessly to the Lord for your beloved.
“But remember, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this real but momentary death of hers—indeed for all of us as believers—will be resoundingly and instantly washed away by the sweet consolations of heaven’s own reuniting all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ! We must therefore cling tightly to this truth as it anchors faith to hope and hope to love.”
The pain of a situation like that makes our love all the more visible. And what is true in our earthly relationships holds true in our relationship with Christ. The trials of this life, as difficult as they may be, help us see our true love. The pains of this life increase our longing for heaven; we long to be free, and we long to be with Christ forever, the One who lovingly gave His life to free us from sin and to reconcile us to the Father.
That longing is going to be satisfied one day. Our Redeemer, our Savior, and our Friend is coming for us.
So, let’s be encouraged about the love God has placed in our hearts, and let’s do what we can to love Christ even more as an expression of our gratitude for all that He’s done and is going to do. We love because He first loved us. Let’s pray.
Father, there are a variety of responses to what we’re seeing in the world right now. But through all of that, would you help our love for Christ be especially evident right now. May our kids see it in us. May our neighbors see it in us. And may you give us the grace to grow in our love.
Christ said the greatest commandment is to love You with all our heart and soul and strength. We can’t do that on our own. And we can’t do it perfectly. But we are indebted to You for Your grace for sending Christ to pay the price of our sin.
He cleansed us. He redeemed us. And He gave us a new heart. All of that was an expression of Your love, Father.
Though this life is filled with difficulties, we ask that our love for Christ would fill us with joy and hope. And we ask that you continue to use us to open the hearts of more people to love Christ as well.
Our love for Christ is what unites us. And yet we feel something lacking since we can’t all meet together right now. We ask that that reunion be sooner rather than later. And we look forward to how sweet it will be. May Jesus Christ be at the center of why we gather. We ask in His name. Amen.