What Do You Love?

January 21, 2024

What do You Love?  

John 21.15-19 

 

Function Statement: The listener should be challenged to live in response to the love they have for Jesus.  

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” 

 

Introduction 

I had planned to preach a different message this morning. I spent the week meditating on the passage in John 4 that you see in the worship folder and in the sermon notes. But yesterday morning one of those unexpected things happened in my devotional time. Let me share a bit with you my devotional journey this week.  

In my devotional time yesterday, I read the passage from John 21 that has been read for you this morning. As I prayed, the Holy Spirit began to reveal some new things from the passage that I have preached on here before. I read and prayed over this passage and the Spirit began to witness with me the message that I want to share with you. 

The passage that John recounts for us happens on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus appears to the disciples fishing. Jesus performs a post-resurrection miracle, revealing that He was, in fact, the risen Messiah. Peter swam to shore (naked as you might recall) and encountered Jesus. In that moment, Jesus invited the disciples to breakfast that he had prepared for them.  

Following breakfast, Jesus restores Peter. Make no mistake, I am so thankful for God’s restoring grace. I, and we all, stand desperately need God’s grace to restore us and forgive our sin. Thankfully, no sin that we commit is beyond the reach of God’s grace, as long as in penitence, we repent and plead the blood of Jesus Christ. However, this was not what stood out to me, and what the Holy Spirit laid on my heart.  

I stood in the passage listening to Jesus’ three-times-repeated question, “Peter, do you love me more that these?” For the last 24 hours, I have been pondering the reach of Jesus question. This question is one that we must, in the light of the Holy Spirit, ask of ourselves with integrity and a spiritual eye.  

Many have debated what Jesus meant by “more than these” I think Jesus wasn’t comparing Peter’s love to the disciple’s love…as some say. I believe Jesus was comparing Peter’s love of the shore, the nets, the boats…Peter’s life apart from Jesus calling.  

You see, I hear so many people talk about how they “love Jesus” but the reality is the fruit of their life tells another story. The church in America is in decline and has been declining in decades. And nearly as I can tell, few people are deeply and profoundly affected by that decline…at least our actions would indicate that to me. You see, if someone I loved was dying, and I knew it, I would be really upset…and would do anything in my power to see them, and to change the trajectory. Yet, we live our lives.  

You’ll forgive me if I get a bit emotional and passionate, you see, I have given my life for God’s church. Every day of my life is spent in service to the church and worrying about how she will live… 

I digress, since yesterday, the Holy Spirit has brought the following truths to my mind, and to my heart.  

What we love determines what we pursue 

How we spend our time. 

How we use our talents. 

How we use the resources God entrusts to us.  

How much time we spend with God.  

What we love is the object of our affection. 

What we are truly in love with occupies our thoughts. 

What we are truly in love with occupies our life. 

What we love determines what we do.  

What we genuinely love determines how we spend our days.  

What we love determines our works.  

 

Whether or not you love Jesus is illustrated by and defined in John 21 by two responses to your love for Jesus and Jesus love for you: 

Follow me… 

Feed my sheep… 

 

Can I share with you a cautionary word from scripture? 

 

I was reminded of further, post-ascension words of Jesus found in Revelation chapter 2.  

Revelation 2 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “‘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. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ 

I wonder if Jesus would say this of us today. I wonder what Jesus would say of your love, were He to appear before you this morning and ask the question, “Do you love me more than these?” 

The Ephesians were doing the right “things.” They were saying the right things. They fought against false teachers. But they had lost the first love they had for Jesus. They were going through the motions. Their lives had no substance, they had no life. They had allowed their love for Jesus to grow cold.  

I would like every head to be bowed and every eye to be closed. This moment is between you and Jesus…If Jesus were to ask you right now, “Do you love me more than these?” what would your answer be? What does the evidence of your life, your passions, your relationship say about how much you really love Jesus? 

The good news is that you can be restored. As Jesus restored Peter, He can restore you. The door to restoration is repentance, Godly sorrow that commits to a different life, a life pursuing Jesus. Will you open your heart to the change that Jesus wants to work in your life? 

If you are willing to confess and surrender to Jesus’ plan for your life, I’d like you to take a big step this morning…stand up where you are. 

If you have allowed your love to grow cold, deeds of love and devotion have become lax or burdensome, and you want to be renewed and to allow the Spirit to renew your passion…surrender by standing where you are… 

Today is the day to receive forgiveness, to be restored, to pursue a new fresh love for Jesus.  

 

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