Living your life for Jesus Christ is no walk in the park. It is a life that is impossible without the power and strength of the Lord working in and through us.
John records Jesus telling the disciples, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
Peter, one of the disciples who heard those words, was a bold, brash, and self-confident man. Those attributes led him to deny the Lord three times and fail to complete the promises he had made. Jesus made it clear to Peter, and to us, that without Him we can do nothing.
Thankfully, after Peter’s denial and Jesus’ return from the grave, Jesus gave further instruction to a humbled Peter that we can learn from. In John 21:15-23, we see three mindsets required to live effectively for Jesus.
Have an Unrivaled Love for Jesus
While there is no doubt about Jesus love for us, there is plenty of doubt about our love for Jesus. Like Peter, we often boast about out love for the Lord. Earlier on, Peter said to Jesus, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away” (Matt. 26:33), and “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You” (Matt. 26:35). Only a short time later, history records he denied the Lord, demonstrating that he loved other things more than Jesus.
An unrivaled love means three things:
1) We should love Jesus more than our peers. When Jesus reappeared to the disciples at the sea of Galilee, He asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Our love for others can become the reason we don’t serve Jesus as we should. Our love for people can become an idol that causes us in effect to deny the Lord.
2) We should love Jesus more than our personal comfort. Jesus commissions Peter to the work of shepherding and tending His sheep. The sheep Jesus is referring to are His people. Shepherding people means caring and providing for God’s people. This process is a sacrificial and messy business as people act and react to the Word of God.
3) We should love Jesus humbly regardless of past failures. In verse 17 Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter is grieved because this is the third time Jesus asks him this question. At this point Peter changes his answer and casts himself on the omniscience of Jesus, “Yes Lord, You know that I love you.” Peter is opening his heart to the Lord. This is not a lip-service response but a deep and sincere heart response of an unrivaled love.
These three repetitive questions were for the purpose of driving home the foolishness of self-confidence, the need of humility, and the understanding that the measure of one’s love for Christ is not based on the confessions of our lips, but by the conduct of our lives.
This brings us to the second principle of living effectively for Jesus.
Submit to Jesus’ Plan for Your Life
Jesus explains to Peter that he will die by crucifixion because of his testimony and service for Christ (vv.18-19). While you and I may not be called upon to die physically for Jesus, we are all called to live a crucified life. The Apostle Paul explains, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20).
The crucified life is Jesus’ plan for you and me. He calls us to reject temporal values and adopt an eternal values system to live by. The crucified life does not seek to exalt self or store up treasures on the earth. The crucified life treasures Jesus Christ above all earthly things. The crucified life lives for heavenly glories and treasures. This will look different for each believer, but the principle will help you endure the most difficult and trying of times.
Every act of obedience to the Lord is a step of dying to self and living by faith in Christ. As a husband or wife this involves loving each other in truth, even when the feelings are not there anymore. As parents this means serving, teaching, and raising up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. As a worker, this means you work to please God and not men. As a boss, this means you treat your workers well, remembering that you also have a master to whom you will one day give an account. God has already mapped out the way your life will bring Him glory. We must learn to submit to that plan.
Have an Undivided Concern to Follow Jesus
Peter, in light of being told he would die by crucifixion, was curious about John’s life. He wanted to know what Jesus was requiring of him – the disciple Jesus loved. Jesus responded with “What is that to you?” In other words – you should live your life in light of what Jesus requires of you, not what He requires of others.
This is a call to undivided obedience. Peter was more concerned about “fairness” than he was about simple obedience. We are prone to wonder why bad things happen to us and not others. We question God about the trials we go through. “Why me?” we ask. However, Jesus calls us to have undivided concern for His calling and purpose in our life.
Peter eventually learned to live these principles of effective Christianity in his life. So much so, that he would write about it confidently to the saints in Asia Minor. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3–9)
May we, through faith in Christ, live by these principles and be able to answer Jesus’ questions behind them.
Do you love Jesus and no other?
Are you willing to die to self and live for Him?
Is His calling and praise enough for your obedience?
May we discover the power of Christ making the impossible possible in our lives, and so become effective in this fallen world as we live for Him.
Photo by Dave Herring