Question | How should we respond to Jesus? (Friday, October 15, 2021)
Answer | We ought to turn from our sin and trust Jesus completely. We should submit to Him and follow Him as He commands, with all reverence, service, love, and joy.
Scripture | 1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
Explanation| If Jesus is who He says He is—who the Bible says He is—then it matters how we respond to Him. And, there is a right response to Him, which means every other response—including a non-response—is a wrong response to Him. So, how should we respond to Jesus?
We ought to turn from our sin and trust Jesus completely. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He regularly instructed people to respond to Him by faith.1 What is faith? The basic idea of faith is belief—that is, believing that something is true or real. Faith, in this way, includes knowing about something and agreeing that that something is what it is. In the Bible, the sort of belief that we should demonstrate towards Jesus also includes reliance. That is, believing on Jesus isn’t simply knowing about Him or even agreeing that He is who He says He is. Believing on Jesus is relying completely on Him. Think of it like this. It’s one thing to know about airplanes and even to agree that they can fly safely. It’s another thing to personally get on an airplane, relying on it completely for your very life. And this is what it’s like to believe on Jesus.2 In addition to trusting in Jesus completely, the Bible also describes faith with a different but very much related phrase—turning from our sin.3 Repentance (or turning) means a change of mind or heart, which results in a change of direction and even action.4 It’s helpful to think of turning and trusting as two sides of the same coin. To use our illustration above, in order to personally trust (get on) an airplane, you need to actually leave (turnfrom) your place on the ground. Similarly, in order to trust in Jesus, we need to turn from our sin. So, faith, which includes repentance and belief, is the only right response to Jesus. All other ways of responding to Him are really responses of unbelief.5 But, let me take this a step further. Look at our verse above (1 John 3:23). Do you notice that faith (or believing) in Jesus isn’t optional? It’s commanded. Faith in Jesus is not only the right response to Him, but is itself obedience to Jesus. Now, if this is the case, then all other ways of responding to Jesus are not just responses of unbelief, but also of disobedience, too.6 There’s certainly more to discuss regarding faith in Jesus, but we’ll look at this further when we get to the doctrine of salvation.
We should submit to Him and follow Him as He commands. When Jesus was on earth, He called others to follow Him as His disciples.7 To be a disciple in Jesus’ day meant to be a learner of a particular teacher, with the result of eventually becoming like that same teacher.8 Disciples usually followed their teacher everywhere he went, learning from him and doing what he said. Jesus’ relationship with His disciples was similar. They followed Him and submitted to what He commanded them to do (John 15:14). But, that was them, then. What about us, now? Is doing what Jesus wants us to do optional for us, today? Does He even command us to do certain things, today? In short, the answer to these last two questions are no and yes. But, let me explain this a bit further. Though Jesus is not currently on earth, He left His disciples with a mission—to make other disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). And His disciples obeyed Him (see for example, the book of Acts). They made other disciples of Jesus, who then made other disciples of Jesus, and on, and on…until today. And our verse above is a good example of this, too (1 John 3:23). The book of 1 John was written by the apostle John, who was one of Jesus’ first disciples (Matthew 4:21-22). John wrote 1 Johnmany years after Jesus returned to heaven. He wrote it to believers in Jesus who, unlike John, didn’t personally hear Jesus, or see Him, or touch Him. And yet, John wrote to them to assure themthat they, too, not only had fellowship with him but even more, had fellowship “with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-4). Now, look at our verse above. Notice that John expects that these believers were just as responsible to obey the commands of Jesus as John was. Take Jesus’ command to love, for example. John was personally commanded by Jesus to love other believers.9 And now, through his letter, later believers are also commanded by Jesus to love other believers. So, Jesus is no less over us than He was over His first disciples when He was on earth.
We should respond to Him with all reverence, service, love, and joy. With these four words—reverence, service, love, and joy—I’m summarizing the primary ways that we should respond to Jesus out of our faith in Him. Think of them as representing the sort of attitude we should have in submitting to and following Jesus. It’s a bit like being asked to do something. You may end up doing it, but you may not end up doing it with the best attitude. These four words help us understand both the motivation and, to some degree, the goal in doing what Jesus has told us to do. So, how should we submit to Him and follow Him? With all reverence.10 By reverence, I mean respect or honor. We respect someone else when we treat them as they or their position deserves. Jesus certainly deserves our respect both because of who He is and His position as our Lord. But do we live in such a way that demonstrates that to others? With all service.11 By service, I mean just that—serving. And, this means that serving is not just for others. It’s for you and me. It’s for every follower of Jesus. We should serve Jesus. But how do we serve Jesus when He isn’t here on earth? We serve Jesus by serving others (see for example, Romans 12). With all love.12 Is it possible to submit to someone else but not love them? It is. But, when it comes to Jesus, that shouldn’t be the case. Do you love Jesus? You should. By love, I mean that we love Jesus with all that we are and more than anything else in our lives (Matthew 22:37-38). With all joy.13 Is Jesus your heart’s greatest delight? If you had nothing else but you had Jesus would you still be satisfied? By joy, I mean a sort of happiness that the difficulties of this life can’t overcome. And, this is the sort of happiness that we should find in Jesus.
This is what the Bible teaches about Jesus.
1 John 3: 14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (See also, John 5:24; 6:29; 12:46; 20:30-31)
2 Hebrews 11: 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
3 Acts 20: 20 “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (See also, Luke 5:32; 24:46-47; Acts 3:19-21; 17:30-31)
4 1 Thessalonians 1: 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. (See also, Acts 26:19-20)
5 John 3: 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
6 John 3: 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (See also, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)
7 Matthew 4: 18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (See also, Matthew 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21)
8 Luke 6: 40 “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
9 John 13: 34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
10 1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
11 Romans 12:11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
12 1 Peter 1:8 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.
13 Philippians 3: 1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.