“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:12-24 ESV)
Last week we ended by looking at how we often pray selfishly and then tack on “In Jesus’ name,” with the hope that God will honor our prayer and grant our request. But, in reality, to pray in Jesus’ name means that we are speaking on his behalf and making the very request(s) he would make. I hope that realization affected the way you prayed this week. I’d like to make one final observation from this passage regarding this subject before I move on…
Notice the ACTUAL reason that Jesus says he will do what we ask, “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The motivation for Jesus’ fulfillment of our prayerful request is God’s glory, not our desire. So, as you begin praying and, perhaps, wondering whether Christ will answer your prayer ask yourself, ‘whose glory am I really seeking? Is this request really about the kind of things God wants and will it glorify Him, or is it really about the kind of things I want and will it, ultimately, glorify me?’
Now, let’s turn to the heart of this passage: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In our individualistic culture which contributes to a selfish view of scripture, we tend to think of God’s love as something we’ve merited. In other words, God loves you and me because of who we are or what we’ve accomplished. Now, this might manifest itself in any number of personal characteristics that we think God values in us. It might be that we think we’re pretty good people morally and, thus, worthy of God’s love. If we are pushed for details we might mention all of the ways or places in which we serve; 1) perhaps we serve meals to the homeless, 2) maybe we’ve taught Sunday School for decades, 3) or we volunteer each Christmas at an orphanage.
All of those things are good, but they AREN’T the reason God loves us. You see, we try and make that verse above read; “I keep your commandments and that’s why you love me.” In our sinful pride we always make ourselves the focus of God’s attention and affection. In reality, we are supposed to focus our love on Him. Now, don’t get me wrong. God does love us, but not for the reasons you might cite or think. God doesn’t love us BECAUSE of our goodness, He loves us in SPITE of our sin and rebellion. He doesn’t love us because we deserve it, but because of His goodness and character. God LOVES us because of WHO He is, not because of who we are.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)
Until we see ourselves as ungodly and as sinners, we will continue to think God loves us because of our goodness. So, salvation always starts with God’s love for us and obedience and worship always, ALWAYS flow from our love for God.
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 ESV)
Don’t ever get the order of that backwards or you’ve missed the truth of the gospel. Salvation starts in God’s love for us and obedience and worship flow from our love for God. Salvation that flows from our love for God is works based or earned and, thus, false. Worship and obedience that tries to coerce salvation or demand God’s blessings from Him in response to our actions is not love based, but is also works based and, thus, false.
We can only love God truly and properly because He first loved us and revealed what true love is to us in and through Jesus. You see, that’s why Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father. He’s the only one who has truly revealed (or even COULD reveal) what it means to love each other and to love God and to worship Him “in Spirit and in truth.” Other religious leaders have tried to teach us that to honor God you must submit, or be devoted, or deny all desire, or sacrifice greatly. While worship may eventually involve any or all of those things, for worship to be true it must first focus on love of God above all else. Then, those other things can and will flow out of true love for God. Now, let’s consider the outcome…
If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.
Now, if we are honest, we generally want to know “which” commandments at this point. Give me the list. Let me check them off. I’m pretty sure I’m covered on most of them. If that’s the approach we try to take, we’ve really missed the point. Our obedience ought to be driven by love, not fear.
Example: The evidence of my love for my wife is not really gauged just by my faithfulness, but also by my affection. The evidence of my love for God is not really gauged by my faithfulness, but also by my affection. Confession time… Tina loves flowers. I think flowers are a waste of money. I can give you several valid and practical reasons why I shouldn’t buy flowers for her. But, my love for her is not evidenced by those reasons. You see, she LOVES flowers. If I want to love her the way she wants and needs to be loved, then I need to send her flowers. My love for God must follow suit. I must love God, not as I desire but as he desires. To love Him as I desire is NOT to love Him, but to love me. To love Him, I must love Him on his terms, in His way. I must love Him as He desires to be loved.
So, which commandments? All of them. Not just the ones we like or find easy to keep. A few scholars would point out that the Apostle John probably has in mind those he referenced in this gospel. I don’t think John is limiting this statement in that way. Why? John is the last of the four gospels to be written and he is fully aware of the other three. In fact, he appears to be filling in a few details not included in them. That’s why this gospel contains material not found in the others. But, I don’t think that means he excludes them from consideration by this statement. Which commandments? All of them I’ve given to you. Those you’ll find in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s account of MY teachings along with those you’ve already read in John’s account.
But, I can summarize them in much the same way Jesus did…
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV)
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21 ESV)
But how, how do we love God and others like that? Jesus says, “I’m leaving, but I’m not going to leave you as orphans without someone to guide and teach you. I’m going to send another Helper to you.” Another helper, one just like me. In fact, I’m going to send my Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who has been with you and who will now dwell within you. He will guide you into the truth.
Side Note: The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is one of the most misunderstood, abused and neglected teachings of scripture. I believe many Baptists have neglected this aspect of our salvation because we fear the abuses. We’ve seen what has been attributed by some as the work and power of the Holy Spirit and it either repulses us or causes deep fear. The abuses should repulse us, but we must never fear the true work and power of the Holy Spirit. While I can’t devote time here to address these abuses, let me simply say that the true presence and power of Christ’s Spirit will ALWAYS reflect the teachings and character of Christ and will seek to glorify God and never man.
What is the truth that Spirit will guide us into? Fortunately, Jesus tells us… “the world will no longer see me, but you will. Because I live, you will live too. In that day, you will see that I am in the Father, and you are in me and I am in you.” If you didn’t understand all of that, listen up. Because of the resurrection all of these things Jesus has been telling the disciples will suddenly become plain. It will all make sense very soon. They don’t understand now, but they will. The resurrection is the key that unlocks all of their understanding. Why? Because it will confirm their faith and dissolve their doubts.
Everything that has been a question or a possibility will suddenly become reality. What has been contingent will now become concrete. Instead of looking at one another and saying, if what he says is true, then… they will now be saying, because what he said is true, then…
For example: “But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” …While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? …the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” (Acts 3:6, 11-12, 16 ESV)
So, here’s the conclusion of the matter. Because Jesus IS who he claimed to be, as evidenced by the resurrection, then all of these things he said to the disciples and, by implication, to us are also true. When our love for Him becomes the focal point of our lives, when our faith becomes empowered by the resurrection and when our love for one another becomes infused with the truth of the Holy Spirit then our lives will become daily acts of worship. It is then that these words will come true in us: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”