PHOTO by Ian Britton
By Ryan Shaw
Ryan is the international lead facilitator for SVM2.
There is a cry arising in the hearts of multitudes of young believers around the world today. It is cry for a relevant walk with Jesus Christ. The human heart was created by God to experience the highest levels of love relationship with Him.
Often, what we hear from Sunday to Sunday does not enable us to lay hold of the kind of love lifestyle available to us through faith in Jesus. Without rightly internalizing how to walk in increasing depths with Jesus Christ, the human heart fills that cry with other, ultimately unsatisfying, alternatives. This leaves many believers frustrated and ends up breeding skepticism in a person’s heart, saying such a life in God is not really possible.
Abandoned Unto Him
The Lord has an answer for this. Yet it requires our all and a turning completely to Him. This is what we call pursuing “Abandoned Devotion” for Jesus. It is a posturing of our whole hearts and lives before the Lord in order to allow Him to work into us an ever increasing blaze of love for God over a lifetime.
Paul had this passion burning in his heart when he wrote in Philippians 3:12,
“But I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ has also laid hold of me.”
This “laying hold” for Paul was multifaceted. First, it referred to his bent on attaining to the highest levels of love possible for God, His church and the lost. Second, Paul referred to attaining the full implications of the personal destiny God had ordained to accomplish through himself as he surrendered all to Christ. Both pieces of Paul’s passion to “lay hold” are critically important for every believer to continually emphasize before the Lord throughout their lifetimes. In this article we will focus on the first.
God First Loved Us
As we seek to become believers who are bent on living a lifestyle of abandoned devotion for Jesus, there are important theological truths that must come alive to us in our hearts and spirits. The first is 1 John 4:19,
“We love Him because He first loved us!”
Every believer who has ever believed in Christ’s work through the cross and resurrection has done so only because of God’s tireless love manifested in incredible mercy toward them. The only way a person can hope to respond with abandoned devotion for God is if the revelation of God’s intense pleasure and enjoyment of us has penetrated our hearts.
This is different than merely buying into the fact of God’s love for us at an intellectual level. Believers throughout history have believed in the doctrine of God’s love for them at an intellectual level and been saved. Yet millions of these did not do so at a heart level. Usually this results in a believer only attaining a casual walk with Christ.
Instead we want our hearts deeply aware that even when we stumble the pleasure of God is upon us. God is not mostly mad at us but mostly filled with enjoyment by us and over us (Psalms 16:11). Yes, when we willfully rebel against Him, His heart is hurt, but even then He is seeking to motivate us to come back to Him and recommit ourselves unto Him.
He is not like a human being who keeps records of wrongs. He is not sitting up in heaven saying, “You’ve blown it one too many times, son or daughter.” He knows our weakness and accepts us in that place, moving us onward step by step and from glory to glory.
Abandoned Devotion begins with receiving God’s intense love for us and telling Him how wonderful that love is to us even though we don’t deserve any of it. Experiencing His kindness and mercy in our hearts motivates a response that says, “No matter what it takes I will love this God who loves me so greatly!” This is the bedrock of abandoned devotion.
Abiding in Christ
The second foundational verse is 1 John 2:6 where the apostle writes,
“He who says He abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
This is a massive statement with many significant implications. First, if we are true believers we will embrace the abiding lifestyle.
We will purposefully spend increasing amounts of time simply being with Jesus and sitting at His feet as Mary did in Luke 10:42. Knowing Him and gazing at His beauty will become our top priorities (Phil. 3:10; Psalms 27:4). This happens, however, in small steps and not all in one moment. We make a choice of the will that we want to know Him more.
We don’t necessarily feel like we want to know Him more, yet we pursue it anyway. The next day we affirm that choice and give ourselves to activity which promotes such a lifestyle. The next week, month and year we do the same thing. Over time our hearts are saturated and transformed and we feel something missing when we don’t get to spend adequate time in His presence in prayer, worship or Bible study.
Walking like Christ
A second main point in this verse is the call to walk just as Jesus walked. This is a jam-packed reality that I don’t have space to adequately go into now. In some measure we are tempted to ask John if he really meant what he wrote or if it was a mistake. Yet, the call is plain that one of the ways we walk as Jesus walked is to love the Father in the same way Jesus showed us by example.
Jesus taught us what this means in Matthew 22:37-38; “Jesus said to Him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Mark adds in Mark 12:30 “with your strength” to the list.
We know that Jesus loved the Father in all four of these distinct categories. And equally as important, the Father loves Jesus, and every human being, in this same way.
We respond to the fact that God loves us with all His heart, soul, mind and strength with a wholehearted desire to return the favor of a life poured out with the same manner of focused love. As we posture our lives to grow in intentionally loving Him in each of these four distinct categories we are moving toward walking just as Jesus walked. This is pursuing abandoned devotion for God.