What Place Does Jesus Hold in Your Heart?
UNDOUBTEDLY you have affection for a great many persons, but who holds an especially warm place in your heart? Who stands out as particularly beloved? Can you, without any hesitation or difficulty, identify the one you love and prefer above all others?
It is natural that close relatives might be among the ones you cherish. But is there anyone who means more to you than your marriage mate, or your father or mother or son or daughter? If you profess to be a Christian, there should be others who hold an even more treasured place in your heart. Who could they be?
One is the person who laid down his life for the purpose of rescuing you from the deadly effects of sin, Jesus Christ. (Matt. 1:21; Acts 4:12) What unselfish love prompted his sacrifice! (John 15:13) Appreciation for what Christ did for you should cause to grow in your heart a love for him that surpasses the affection you hold for any human, living or dead.
LOVE FOR JESUS
When sending out his twelve apostles, Jesus explained their need of greater love for him, saying: “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:37) Later Jesus emphasized this again, telling the great crowds who were following him: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own soul, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Jesus, of course, did not mean that Christians must literally hate their relatives, but, rather, that they must love them less than they love him; and sometimes relatives interpret this to mean that the Christian actually hates them.
It is understandable why those who walked and talked and lived with Jesus came to love him and hold him in such high esteem. Everything that he did was with the best interest of others at heart. And although he possessed superhuman powers, he was, nevertheless, mild of spirit, humble, kind and friendly. Indeed, everything about him was lovable, causing associates to place him in their hearts above every other human acquaintance.
Even persons who had never met him came to have this excelling love for Jesus. To ones living in widely scattered areas of the Roman Empire, the apostle Peter wrote: “Though you never saw him, you love him. Though you are not looking upon him at present, yet you exercise faith in him and are greatly rejoicing with an unspeakable and glorified joy.”—1 Pet. 1:8.
These widely scattered peoples had become acquainted with Jesus through the preaching of his disciples and by reading the available Gospel accounts concerning his life. They were moved by the love that Jesus showed in willingly coming down from heaven and eventually suffering a painful, ignominious death in order that others might have everlasting life. (1 Pet. 2:24) It is this very information about Jesus Christ that also causes many persons today to reserve such a precious place in their hearts for him.
Do you, too, treasure the now resurrected Jesus above every human associate? Does he hold first place in your heart? Is it proper that he should? Let us see.
THE ONE JESUS LOVES ABOVE OTHERS
Jesus’ disciples held a very cherished place in his heart. So great was his love for them that the apostle Paul encouraged: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25) Yet, as Christian husbands should have greater affection for Jesus Christ than even for their own wives, so also Jesus loves someone more than he does his congregation of footstep followers.
This one is the Father, Jehovah God. Jesus repeatedly directed persons to his Father as the primary One to be loved and worshiped. When he was asked what was the greatest commandment of the entire Mosaic law, Jesus said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.” (Mark 12:30) Jesus obeyed this commandment and loved his Father above everyone and everything else. Jehovah held first place in his heart.
Jesus happily submitted to his Father, the ‘One who sent him’ to the earth, saying: “A slave is not greater than his master, nor is one that is sent forth greater than the one that sent him.” (John 13:16; 8:42; 14:28) He willingly did his Father’s will, always manifesting the attitude: “Not my will, but yours take place.”—Luke 22:42.
Jesus was moved to love and serve his Father because God had demonstrated such great love and affection for him. Repeatedly Jesus acknowledged this, saying: “The Father has affection for the Son.” “You loved me before the founding of the world.” “As the Father has loved me and I have loved you, remain in my love.” (John 5:20; 17:24; 15:9) It was only proper that Jesus respond to the love and affection from his Father, and this he did.
Do you, too, have reason to love Jehovah God? Should you imitate Jesus Christ in giving God exclusive devotion? Has the Father done anything that should endear Him to you above everyone else?
WHY HE SHOULD BE FIRST IN YOUR HEART
Jehovah God not only gave life to his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, but he also gave it to all humankind, including you. And just as the Son is grateful for the loving provision of life and has affection for the Father, so should you too.—Ps. 36:9; 100:3.
Furthermore, when the first human pair sinned and brought the sentence of death upon themselves and their yet unborn offspring, Jehovah God made an arrangement for their rescue from sin and death. Love was what prompted Him, as the Bible explains: “God loved the world [of mankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” “The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.”—John 3:16; 1 John 4:10.
Although the Son willingly obeyed his Father and came to earth as a ransom sacrifice, note that it was Jehovah God who conceived and initiated this life-giving provision. How this should move us to love Him! He should hold first place in your heart! Jesus Christ emphasized this fact by continually directing attention to his Father, stressing that “it is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matt. 4:10) Really, it grieves Jesus, the obedient, humble servant of his Father, when persons endeavor to put him above Jehovah.
PROOF OF YOUR LOVE FOR JESUS
Therefore, the first way to prove that you truly love Jesus Christ is to honor and serve the One whom he worships, Jehovah God. Accepting Jesus as your savior and living a clean, moral life is also important, but Jesus explained that more was necessary, telling his disciples: “He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. . . . If anyone loves me, he will observe my word.” “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.”—John 14:21, 23; 15:14.
Thus, what place Jesus holds in your heart is not demonstrated simply by words, but by actions—by the effort you make to obey his commands. Jesus was a preacher of the kingdom of God, and his command for all who would be his followers is: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 1:38; Luke 4:43) Are you sharing in this activity?
Notice how Jesus related one’s love for him with doing the ministerial work. The occasion was a morning following his resurrection, and seven of his disciples were gathered on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There Jesus appeared to them and, turning to, the apostle Peter, he asked: “‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him: ‘Yes, Lord, you know I have affection for you.’ He said to him: ‘Feed my lambs.’”—John 21:15.
Although Jesus asked whether Peter had love for him [Greek, agápe, which refers to an unselfish, principled love], Peter answered by saying that he had affection for Jesus [Greek, philía, which refers to the strong affection between close friends]. Peter professed more than principled love or agápe for Jesus. He claimed to hold Jesus dear to his heart, having greater affection for him than for even his own mother or father or wife.
So as to emphasize the importance of ministering to others, Jesus again asked Peter: “‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him: ‘Yes, Lord, you know I have affection for you.’ He said to him: ‘Shepherd my little sheep.”’ (John 21:16) Note that Jesus again used agápe when asking Peter if he loved him, while Peter stressed that he had philía or deep affection for Jesus. If it was really true that Peter reserved such a cherished place in his heart for him, Jesus said he should prove it by ministering to others.
Note how, for the third time, Jesus addresses Peter. This time he, too, uses the intimate term philía, asking: “Do you have affection for me?” And again Peter responds, being quite grieved now that Jesus should so persistently question his love: “Lord, you know all things; you are aware that I have affection for you.” If you truly hold such a warm place in your heart for me, Jesus answered, “feed my little sheep.”—John 21:17.
How clear it is that Jesus wants his followers to feed his sheep—to minister to others! Have you been doing this? Does your course of life reveal that you truly love Jesus, that you treasure him in your heart, and that, with him, you love Jehovah God above all others? If you are not presently equipped to obey Jesus’ command to preach to others, Jehovah’s witnesses will be happy to assist you to become qualified. Accept their invitation for a free Bible study in your own home, where you will receive practical instruction on how to explain precious Bible truths to others.