It is possible to lack some aspects of Christian character and still be a Christian. But you cannot lack devotion to Jesus. Love for Jesus is so essential that lacking it is fatal. If you are alive to God you must love Jesus Christ.
Not loving Christ means losing one of the greatest of spiritual pleasures. What a joy to love him who is “altogether lovely” and admire the “Chief among ten thousand”! Not long ago I met a lady who had lost her taste and smell. The most fragrant rose in the world is lost to her. She is dead to that pleasure. But what a terrible thing not to know the fragrance of the name of Jesus. I would rather be blind, deaf and dumb, and lose my taste and smell, than not love Christ. To be unable to appreciate him is the worst of disabilities, the most serious of catastrophes. It is not the loss of a single spiritual faculty, it is the death of the soul.
If all that is true, then there’s a question to answer. Do you love him or not? Our Lord asked that question to Peter three times, and so I repeat the question — Do you love Jesus?
If you love him you trust him, and lean on him with all your weight. Is your hope found in Christ alone? Have you any hope besides that which springs from his shed blood? If you have any other hope, then you do not love him, but if your trust rests on him alone, there are the beginnings of love in you.
If you love him you will keep his commandments. He says “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching”. Are you devoted to the words of Christ? Is your Bible neglected? What about those parts of Scripture which you have never wanted to understand? That does not look like devotion to Christ’s word. Let me put the question pointedly. Do you want to know what Christ taught? Are you willing to believe all he reveals? Do you ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into the things of Christ? Of course, it is not merely hearing his word that matters. Do you obey Christ? If not, then you do not love him. If you treat the commands of Jesus as if they were of no importance, then your heart is not with him. If you love him you will obey him.
If you love Christ you will imitate him. The sincerest form of admiration is imitation. If you love Jesus, you will strive to be like him. You see in yourself a great deal that is not in Christ — do you long to get rid of it? And you see in Jesus Christ many virtues that you don’t yet possess. Are you pressing towards them? Then I know you love him — but if there is no imitation there is no love.
If you love Christ you will love his people. How is it with you? Perhaps you say, “I love some of his people.” Yes, and so do the tax-collectors and sinners! Some of God’s people have such pleasant natures that the most wicked person in the world must love them! But the test is to love for Jesus’ sake, even though you cannot help seeing their mistakes and faults.
If you love Christ you will love the things he loves. Christ longs to see this world brought to his feet. Do you wish to see him King over the nations? He wants to gather a chosen people to himself. Are you seeking to bring in his wanderers? Do your thoughts, wishes, and desires run in line with those of Jesus? If so, you love him.
If you love Christ, you will serve his cause. You love Jesus, yet you have never taught a little child his name? You love Jesus, yet you never stand up to proclaim his gospel? You love Jesus, yet you spend all you have on gadgets and comforts, and give none to his work? You love Jesus, yet it never costs you a night’s unrest, or an hour’s distress of mind, because his kingdom does not come? May God give you a better love than this, the love which works and shows itself in deeds.
If you love Jesus you will want to be with him. You will be glad of every opportunity to have special fellowship with him. If you love him you will not be happy to live a day without him; you will feel ill at ease if he is gone for an hour. If you love Jesus, you will long for the time when you will see him face to face. If you love Jesus, when you hear a sermon that carries you near to him, you will be ready to say like Simeon, “Lord, you may now dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.”
No joy on earth is equal to the bliss of being all taken up with love to Christ. If I had my choice of all the lives that I could live, I would not choose to be an emperor, nor to be a millionaire, nor to be a philosopher. Power, wealth, and knowledge bring with them sorrow and heartache. Instead, I would choose to have nothing to do but to love my Lord Jesus—nothing, I mean, but to do all things for his sake, and out of love to him. This is the first and last of true delight—to love him who is the first and the last.