If You're Going to Serve Christ, You Must Love Him
When Jesus summarized the law, what did He say?
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39).
So, why do we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind? What motivates us? What drives us? We love Him because Jesus, the eternal Son of God, rescued us by dying on the cross. We love Him because of the abundant unmerited grace He poured out on us.
We display our love for Him by serving Him. We serve Him by loving our neighbor as ourselves. Love must be our core motivator. First Corinthians 13:1-3 says, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."
We can be motivated by love because His love for us is personal. John 10:3 says, "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." And verse 14 of the same chapter says, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me."
His call is personal. The Good Shepherd calls each genuine believer by name. His love for us is personal. Our names were written in the Lamb's Book of Life "before the foundation of the world," as it says in Revelation 13:8.
Salvation has nothing to do with our merit, our good works, our inherent worth. It is an act of love and mercy beyond our comprehension. His love for us began before creation, and His love for us is personal—and intimate. He loves each of us individually. His desire for us is to love Him is the same way. That's why our love for Jesus must be the center of our relationship with Him.
In Revelation 2:2-3, Jesus says this about the church at Ephesus, "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary."
Although the Ephesian believers were commended for many things, Jesus goes on to say, in verse 4, "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first."
The Ephesian church was proclaiming the gospel, standing on sound doctrine, casting out false teachers, and enduring hardship for Christ's sake, but they weren't motivated by their love for Jesus.
It doesn't matter how much you serve Jesus, if it's not done out of love for Jesus, it's worthless.
Remember what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven."
What Jesus says in Revelation 2 about the Ephesian church is a warning to us all. When we serve Christ, it must stem from our love for Him. We must develop and maintain a genuine love for Him. So, how do we do that?
How do we develop our love for Jesus? How do we grow in our relationship with Him? We must look back and remember who we were before we came to saving faith. We must remember that we don't deserve forgiveness. We don't deserve God's grace. We must mourn over our sinfulness.
In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Anyone who doesn't take sin seriously and shrugs it off as if it's no big deal cannot properly serve the Lord. If we don't recognize our sinfulness, we can't have a growing, deep, intimate relationship with Him. We must confess our sin to the Lord, and we must grief over our sin.
When we do, He will restore us. He will draw us close. He will equip us to serve Him by "feeding His sheep."
If You Love the Lord, You Will Feed His Sheep
Jesus instructed Peter to feed His sheep. Because of the Master's call, Peter transitioned from being a fisherman to being a shepherd.
First Peter 5:1-3 says, "So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock."
Who do pastors shepherd? In John 21:17, Jesus said to Peter, "Feed my sheep" (emphasis mine). Church leaders must care for the flock because Jesus loves His sheep and gave His life for them.
According to Titus 1:9, a church leader "must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."
Pastors must not only feed the sheep but also stand on sound doctrine. It's the only way to shepherd in a way that honors God and truly blesses the flock.
While church leaders have specific responsibilities according to God's Word, all believers are to shepherd in a variety of ways. Older believers are called to shepherd younger, less mature believers, building them up in the Lord. Believing husbands are called to shepherd their families, building them up in the Lord. Mothers are called to shepherd their children, building them up in the Lord.
If you've been saved for 20 years, diligently study the Scriptures, and love the Lord deeply, and a new believer joins the church and you decide to come alongside them. To encourage them. To do a Bible study with them. To help them grow in their faith. If you take on this role, you are shepherding them.
It is the role of every believer to shepherd and serve one another. It isn't simply the pastor's role. Nor is it the pastor role. It is the call on the life of everyone who trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Do you feel ill-equipped? Inadequate? Ineffective? There is a 79-year-old woman who felt that way. That is, she did until she asked the Lord how she could serve. She began a class for young girls to help them learn the Scriptures and grow in their faith. The girls love the class. And this elderly lady beams when she talks about it. She is shepherding these girls, and only the Lord knows what a long-term difference it will make in their lives.
We should love the sheep because Jesus not only loves them but, motivated by that love, gave His life for them. That love can keep us going. Serving sometimes gets hard, frustrating, and discouraging. If love for the Lord—and for His sheep—isn't our core motivator, it is easy to burn out and walk away.
Not every believer is called to be a pastor. But every believer is called to shepherd members of the Lord's flock in some way.
Do you love Jesus?
Then feed His sheep.