This is an incredible truth that we often just take for granted, or it’s become so familiar that we don’t grasp the depth of it. But try to focus on this—the marvelous fact that you are loved—individually and personally—by Jesus, by our Heavenly Father.

Five times in his Gospel, the Apostle John referred to himself as the one whom Jesus loves. These all occurred on the day before his crucifixion and immediately after his resurrection. For example, John writes about this scene at the cross:

John 19:26:  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”

And then he writes about the time when he and Peter were fishing in the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus appeared them in his resurrected body:

John 21:7: Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.

No other disciple referred to himself in that way, as the one Jesus loved. Why did John choose that description? Well, it wasn’t because he thought Jesus loved him better than anyone else. It was simply because that was his identity—an identity that was grounded in knowing that Jesus loved him. If you asked him, “Who are you?,” he would say, “I am the one Jesus loves.”

This is something I’ve talked about a good deal to the women in my church, where I served as director of women’s ministries. After studying John, we began the tradition of starting every class asking: Sisters in Christ, who are you? And they readily and heartily reply: I am the one Jesus loves. It’s a great way to encourage each other to remember who you are in Christ. If you know Jesus in a personal relationship and you’ve placed your trust in him, then you can join with us in this joyous declaration that you are the one Jesus loves. It should be your number one identity, the most important thing about you.

When Lazarus was ill, the sisters sent for Jesus and they said, “Lord, he whom you love is sick” (John 11:3). That was their approach to Jesus—they appealed on the basis that they knew Jesus loved Lazarus. They didn’t even mention his name because they knew Jesus would know who they were talking about. They were totally confident that Jesus loved Lazarus, and they appealed to him on that basis.

Maybe this should inform us in our own prayer lives. How do you approach Jesus when you pray? Do you ever pray: Lord, the one you love needs you. Or Lord, I come to you because I’m the one you love and I know you care about me. I’ve begun to do this, and it has a beautiful effect on my prayer time. You begin with your one credential, that one thing that qualifies you to present your requests to God: Lord, I’m the one you love. It establishes that family relationship you have and reminds you that your heavenly Father invites you to come into his presence with confidence and boldness and approach his throne where you’ll receive mercy and find grace to help you in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

What difference will it make in your everyday life if you truly bask in the daily knowledge that you are the one Jesus loves? Judah Smith writes: “People who know that Jesus loves them, who know that Jesus is with them and for them—those people can not only endure pain and loss and difficulty, they can come out the other side stronger and better people” (Jesus Is_______ pg. 159).

It will indeed get you through some tough times and cause you to be victorious. It will make you sit up straighter and hold your head up higher, not from pride or self-righteousness, but from gratitude and joy in knowing that you are the one Jesus loves. So, regardless of what’s going on around you or what other people think, you are less and less vulnerable to their opinions and more and more confident of who you are in Christ.

And here’s a really important point: When we are sure of God’s love for us, we are set free to love others. And this is how the world knows that we are disciples of Jesus Christ—by the love we have for others. But when we are not totally confident that we are loved by God, life is just all about us, about our need to be loved, about trying to find something or someone to fill up that empty place inside of us—the place that only Jesus can fill.

One of the great side benefits of seeing your identity as the one Jesus loves, and living in the freedom of that knowledge, is that it just sets you free from yourself. Did you realize that you are the biggest problem you have? It’s true for all of us. And when you can get over yourself, when you are so confident that you’re valued and special and significant because you are loved by Jesus, then you simply are going to move into the joy of self-forgetfulness. And when you don’t have to think about yourself so much, you are set free to think about others.

We can’t really love others the way we should until we are totally confident that we are the one Jesus loves. Our human love runs out quickly; there’s not enough in us to give love to others freely and joyfully—at least not for very long. It is when the love of Christ is spread inside us, filling us, completing us, giving us joy and purpose, that we are able to pass it on to others.

There’s an old song that says, “I am loved, I am loved, I can risk loving you, for the one who knows me best, loves me most.” And the truth is, when we are confident in God’s love for us, when we know that we are the one Jesus loves, we can risk loving others. We want to love others.

Romans 5:5: Then. . .we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Living Bible)

Can you see how important it is to really know that you are the one Jesus loves? Just as I was writing this message, I received a text from a dear friend asking me to pray for her right at that moment, as she was facing a very tight deadline at work and was under a lot of stress. By the way, it’s great to have the kind of friendship where you can ask for immediate prayer from a good friend. So, I stopped and prayed for her and then texted her back, “Remember, you are the one Jesus loves.” And she replied, “Thanks so much for that reminder. I will keep saying that today.”

That’s what I mean by living in the knowledge that you are the one Jesus loves. You see, the enemy of your soul certainly doesn’t want you to remember this. He knows that this will give you courage and strength and make you far less vulnerable to his flaming arrows. So, you defeat him by simply making it a daily habit to repeat—and repeat often—that you are the one Jesus loves.

If you don’t have that sure knowledge, if it hasn’t made a difference in your life to know that Jesus loves you, then it could be because you don’t yet really have an established relationship with God through Jesus. You haven’t yet become a member of God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ. That, of course, is step one.

Or it could be that you are a Christian, a sincere Christ-follower, but you haven’t gotten to know God very well. You haven’t made getting to know God a high priority in your life, and so you don’t spend much time in Bible study or fellowship with other believers or giving of yourself to others for Christ’s sake.

You see, the more you know God through Jesus, the more you love him and the more you understand his love for you. The more you value the knowledge that you are the one Jesus loves.

You can never short-change the input of God’s Word into your life and expect to be firmly grounded in who you are in Christ. But if you will make that a priority, to get to know Jesus better and better through his Word and fellowship and Bible teaching, and if you will begin to tell yourself daily that you are the one Jesus loves, I promise you’re going to move in a new direction with God.

I know—we can talk about your baggage, we can talk about your circumstances and your past, we can talk about all the mistakes you’ve made and the things that are missing in your life; we can bring up all the wrong that’s been done to you. But what good does it do to focus on that?

True, some things in our pasts have to be confronted and understood so that we can put them behind us, but the baggage of your past will never bring you to the abundant life that Jesus wants you to have. Instead, to begin to truly see yourself as the one Jesus loves is the best thing you can do to find healing and put all that behind you.

The Apostle John—the one Jesus loved—also wrote three letters which are part of the Holy Scriptures, and again he focuses those letters on how God loves us. Here are two passages from those letters:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

I invite you—I urge you—to find your identity in the marvelous truth that you are the one Jesus loves. And when you do, you will be able to love because you will be so secure in knowing that you are the one Jesus loves.