Last night as I was watching Dancing with the Stars - because that's what I do when I'm exhausted and too tired to read or sew or do any more work - I noticed that some of the "stars" had changed their looks since I had seen them last. I won't mention any names, but a few of them looked a little blonder and a little curvier. Their appearance had changed, but appearances can be deceiving. Things can change on the outside and stay completely the same on the inside. On the other hand, when things change on the inside it definitely shows up on the outside too.
God didn't change John's name, an outward indication of who someone is. But He changed him so much on the inside that John changed his own name and others surely saw the difference too. Once known as one of the "sons of thunder" along with his brother James, the apostle John only refers to himself in his gospel account as "the one whom Jesus loved." He never once mentions himself by the name John in that book. But at least five times he identifies himself as the disciple Jesus loved.
I chose to take a look at the apostle John today because I was once again struck by the difference the love of Jesus can make in a life. He turned this quick-tempered, self-centered son of thunder into a loving, compassionate, committed man whom He would later trust with perhaps one of the most significant revelations ever - the revelation of Jesus' return.
The fact that John repeatedly refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) tells me that he was himself overwhelmed with this love. He was amazed that Jesus loved him, honored by His love, mobilized to love others because of Jesus' love for him, and passionate about telling others how they too could know such love. The love of Christ had become the core of who John was.
Everything John wrote is laced with the message of love, is compelled by love, and instructs others to love. And even long after Jesus had ascended into heaven and left His disciples behind to carry on His work and to share the good news of salvation through Him, John continued to feel loved by Him as much as he did when he walked beside Him daily on the dusty roads outside of Jerusalem. He didn't write any of his portions of scripture until approximately 85 - 95 a.d. and yet the love of Christ still compelled every word he penned.
How much has the love of Christ changed me? Does His love for me amaze me? Do I wake up each morning thrilled to be "the one Jesus loves?" Do I even see myself that way, as one whom Jesus loves? Does His love resonate through everything I do, every word I say, each word I type? Does His love motivate me - to share that love with others, to be obedient to Him, to share the gospel, to warn others against false doctrine (as John did in 1,2, and 3 John), to tell people about the imminent return of Jesus? Does Jesus' love for me cause me to stay true to Him for the long haul as it did for John, believed to be the last surviving apostle? Has being loved by Jesus changed my character as it did John's?
I won't give you the answers to all those questions for myself, but suffice it to say I'm certainly not batting a thousand. I'm convicted by the overwhelming change that Jesus' love wrought in John's life. John obviously spent time reflecting on the love of Jesus. He must have so appropriated that love that he didn't just believe "Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world," but he knew without a doubt that "Jesus loves ME, this I know!"
Dear friend, do you know today that Jesus loves YOU? Are you overwhelmed with that love? Does it mean anything at all to you? Has it changed you from the inside out and are you telling others about it?
I'd love to hear your quick response to a couple of quick questions.
- What song about Jesus' love for you overwhelms you every time you hear/sing it? "Oh, How I Love Jesus," "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," "Jesus, Lover of My Soul"? Maybe something more current? Or if you can't think of a song, what scripture best sums up His love for you and knocks your socks off?
- What is one way being loved by Jesus makes you different? How has His love changed you?