Knowing the bible is important. Thinking critically about theology, social issues, and practical applications is important. But at the end of the day, Christians must love the Christ.
This should be self-evident, but following Jesus and loving Jesus, in our post-Christian, post-modern, pluralist society, are no longer inextricably linked. Today, anyone can be a follower of Jesus. Any peace-spouting, love-thy-neighbor-toting, self-sacrificing athiest can consider himself a follower of Jesus, if following Jesus means liking (most of) what he said. One doesn't have to be a Christian to appreciate Jesus' teachings or to attempt to imitate his life. You can follow Jesus with your head - intellectually assent to his wisdom - without ever changing your heart.
To love Jesus, however, involves an entirely different level of devotion, of obedience, of self-denial, and of worship. To love Jesus is to delight in him, have a passion for him, derive pleasure from him; to savor him, to adore him, to serve him. Loving Jesus is hard because it requires us to stop focusing on ourselves and start focusing on him. Put another way, following Jesus involves the choices that we make, emphasizes the responsibility that we have; but loving Jesus is solely centered on worshiping who he is.
A Christian must love Jesus more than she loves herself.
This means loving Jesus more than we love being right. More than we love our own preferences, our own opinions, our own judgment on how we think the world (and God) should work. We need to love Jesus - his words and his ways - more than we love what we want.
Too many Christians think that they are loving Jesus when they criticize his church, his beloved bride and his very body. We think we are loving Jesus when we observe the letter of the law and forget about his spirit. We convince ourselves we love Jesus even while we ignore his commands in order to live according to the world's wisdom. We think we love Jesus when we do good works and yet, avoid our own sin.
Christians, do you truly love Jesus? Is he your first love? Do you prize him more than yourself and your ways? Is it more important to know him than to know any other thing? Is it your determined purpose to know Jesus, that you may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of his person more strongly and more clearly, that you may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from his resurrection, so that you may so share his sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into his likeness, even to His death (Philippians 3:10)?
How I pray that this is your prayer! For Christians who love Jesus are more powerful than a thousand armies, or governments, or peace-loving followers, because those Christians are fully submitted to Christ, and it is HE who is at work in them, rather than their own flesh. Reading the bible is nothing without the love of Christ; knowing how to argue well is nothing without the love of Christ. As the apostle Paul said, "knowledge makes us arrogant, but love edifies"; and again, "If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love." (both quotes from Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church).
Let us remember, not only to love as we want to be loved, but to bury ourselves in love with Jesus.