John 14:15-21 (90 Days With Jesus, Day 67)
15″If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
I have done a lot of talking on this blog, and in this series of meditations on John’s Gospel, about the nature of discipleship, what it costs, what its demands are. Being a disciple of Jesus is not cheap, nor is the grace that creates disciples in the first place. Cheap grace, according to Bonhoeffer, is the downfall of the Christian Church. And David Wells has written powerfully about how the church has become less powerful because we have adopted the methodologies of the prevailing culture rather than teaching the hard truth about God, the Cross, and the cost of discipleship. In a sense, we have lessened the demands of a Holy God by forcing God into our shapes and sizes and ideas instead of allowing His thoughts to shape us. So Wells,
“Holiness is what defines God’s character most fundamentally, and a vision of this holiness should inspire his people and evoke their worship, sustain their character, fuel their passion for truth, and encourage persistence in efforts to do his will and call on his name in petitionary prayer” (God in the Wasteland, 136)
Wells wrote many such things and we ignore his prophetic voice to our own peril. The author of Hebrews wrote it this way, “It is a dangerous thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Wells wrote, “In His holiness God is not to be trifled with; familiarity with God inherently borders on contempt and is subject to judgment” (Wasteland, 141). But the sad truth is that the American Church, in its ongoing charge to be taken seriously and be considered relevant and to have a voice that is heard, has trivialized God’s holiness and the demands of discipleship, the wonders of loving obedience, and blessings of Trinitarian fellowship. What is the solution?
Elton Trueblood wrote in his little book A Place to Stand that what is needed, desperately, ‘is the emergence of Christian intellectuals. If Basic Christianity is to survive, it must be served by a highly dedicated and highly trained group of persons who are unabashed and unapologetic in the face of opposition and ridicule’ (A Place to Stand, 20 1969). I wonder if this is true or not. Don’t get me wrong: We need highly trained specialists whose focus is in areas of apologetics and logic and theology. My question is where do they come from? I think those people come not from the high towers of academia, but from the rank and file of the church. Their training, thus, begins from the pulpit.
Now this all serves as a brief introduction to my thoughts about what Jesus said here in John 14. Jesus said: If you love me, you will obey me. He did not equivocate. He did not mince words. He did not pull punches. While we are certainly not saved because we obey commands, there is no doubt whatsoever that Jesus fully expected we would obey his commands—not to be saved—but because we are saved. As we thus grow in our love of Christ our obedience demonstrates the character of Christ and the Spirit whom Jesus gives shapes, molds, perfects and sanctifies the Christian. Eventually, there will be no doubt in the minds of those who see us that God lives in us by His Spirit.
The point, I think, is rather clear and far reaching. If we truly love Jesus then we are not merely going to be hear his word. Nor are we merely going to mouth words like ‘I love Jesus.’ If we truly love Jesus then we are committed to obey Jesus. He is the authority to whom we answer. He is the one to whose Lordship we submit. “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do these things.” Now what he says is this, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” There is virtually no difference between these two statements. It is impossible to say that you love Jesus and not submit to his authority to dictate commands and his authority to demand of us holiness and perfection.
Am I advocating perfectionism? No. Am I saying we will never falter, fall, sin, do the wrong thing? No. Am I saying we should just be happy to rest in his grace and that we don’t really have to make any effort? No. What I am saying is that true love is true delight. In other words, if we really love Jesus it is a delight and an honor and pure joy to serve him by obeying him. We don’t think of this as an unreachable or unrealistic goal to achieve. We think of this as an everyday adventure to say, “Lord, how may I obey and serve you today?” It is, in the words of AW Tozer, the ‘Pursuit of God.’ It is the ongoing hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is the ongoing first seeking of His Kingdom and His righteousness. It is pure delight! Pure joy! It is pure blessedness! It is what we were created for and what we were not created for. That is, we were not created for slavish disobedience and slavery to the flesh. We were created for fellowship in Christ through obedience to His perfect will.
Is this not what he says? “If you obey…I will send the Counselor to be with you forever…he lives in you and will be in you…I will not leave you…I will come to you…Because I live you will live…I am in the Father…you are in me…I am in you…he who loves me will be loved by my Father…and I will love him too…and show myself to him…” Do you get it? We were created not to be pawns or playthings or disobedient devil worshipers. We were created to live in fellowship with God. Jesus is talking here about perfect fellowship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! (See 1 John 1-2.) If there is anything that is a hindrance to fellowship it is most certainly disobedience because in disobedience we have ceased pursuing God and righteousness first.
I don’t know if I am adequately explaining this or not. I hope I am because what I see taking place in a lot of churches is exactly the opposite. I see striving and chasing and pursuit of many things that have nothing to do, necessarily, with the pursuit of holiness. There’s too much fluff; too much seeking of the ‘experience’ instead of the real Thing. Psalm 63:8 says, “My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me” (KJV). What I wonder is if all the fluff that exists in churches is fluff because we love Jesus or because we want stuff? What is the pursuit really of?
Christianity is not merely a discipline to be mastered. Christianity is a joy. We don’t obey to get saved or to get happiness or to get necessarily anything. We obey because we love. We love because we are loved. There is fellowship and peace in loving obedience to Jesus Christ. We pursue, followeth hard after God, because we love Him. Is this not what God truly desires of his people most? Does God require anything of us be the impassioned pursuit of his holiness? Can we think about the fact that He gave us life and be full of love and joy and so seek the One who has shown us such favor? “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land, where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1, NIV).
Just ask yourself what you are pursuing. Ask yourself why you are pursuing God. Why are you striving to be obedient? Is it because you truly love Jesus and desire perfect fellowship with Him? Or is it something else, something less, something here? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; they will be filled.”
Soli Deo Gloria!