90 Days with Jesus, Day 70: John 15:9-17: Obeying Jesus’ Command

John 15:9-17 (Day 70, 90 Days with Jesus)

9″As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.

So it comes back full circle. To remain in the love of Jesus is to remain in the love of the Father. Once again we see that Jesus identifies his own work with the work of the Father, his own will with the will of the Father, and his own commands as the commands of the Father. There is no distinction between Jesus and the Father. Their wills are in perfect communion.

But notice that obedience to the commands of Jesus is not a burden but brings joy. It requires effort to remain in the commands of Jesus just as it requires a great deal of effort to remain in his love by loving one another. He told us these things so that our joy would be complete. So even our completed joy is tied tightly to our obedience to Christ and to our love for Christ and to our love for one another. How can we be in Christ apart from our willingness to obey?

I haven’t enjoyed very much of what I read in The Great Omission. That’s not to say it’s a bad book. It has it’s moments. But something he has said twice so far has intrigued me, “To drive the point home I often put this challenge: I do not know of a denomination or local church in existence that has as it’s goal to teach its people to do everything Jesus said. I’m not talking about a whim or a wish, but a plan. I ask you sincerely, is this on your agenda? To teach disciples surrounded in the triune reality to do everything Jesus said?” ( Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, 61, cf. page 73). I think that most preachers are afraid of teaching obedience because they are absolutely terrified that they might actually be teaching some sort of ‘works righteousness.’ But I think on this point I am in agreement with Willard, and he has said this several times already in the book that ‘grace is no opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning’ (61, and elsewhere).

I think preachers are terrified to stand up and tell their congregations: The Lord said, “There shall be no sexual immorality among you,” or, “The Lord said there shall be no slander or gossip among you.” Or, positively, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. You shall love your enemies and those who persecute you. And you shall love one another.” I think many preachers are terrified that if they dared to say something like this to their congregations they would be run out of a job and then run out of town. How can we teach people not just what Jesus said but also what he expects us to do? I don’t think that Jesus ever intended that folks to ‘get saved’ and then sit back on their or His laurels and wait around. I think He means for us to be about getting busy loving, and obeying, and ‘joying,’ and bearing fruit. But we think the hardest thing about being a Christian is having to be in the presence of one another. Instead of this being a delight and a joy and transcending mere obedience to a command, it should be our delight and substance of our joy.

Jesus said very clearly: “Greater love has no one than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends.” Then he went out and did that very thing. So what does the Gospel say, “But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” How about maturity? Can we say we are perfect in Christ if we are unwilling to lay down our lives for any brother or sister in the Body of Christ or even for a friend?

I don’t think Jesus ever mitigated his commands: If you love me, you will obey me he said. You will ‘remain in my commands.’ That is, there is something to be said about the nature of the love we demonstrate, there is something about the substance of the love we profess, and there is something about orthodoxy that we cannot easily dismiss. Jesus said that our love for one another, for friends, is directly tied to ‘my commands.’ What is love, then, apart from Jesus? Is any old love valid? Is ‘love’ all that matters? Or is love in direct connection to the Person of Jesus and the cross the only valid and vital love? I think K C Moser makes a good point in this respect:

Why did not Paul and Peter simply demand obedience to Christ as one in authority? Because they knew that Christ saves by means of his death on man’s behalf, not simply by his authority. The authority of Christ can be recognized in obedience with no thought of his death as propitiation…Merely to believe in him as God’s Son with no thought of the cross is not enough. Likewise, to repent with no thought of Christ crucified, and to be baptized, except as a response to his death for our sins, are not enough….In all of his obedience the sinner should know that he is responding to the blood of Christ, not merely recognizing the right of Christ to demand obedience” (The Gist of Romans, 9)

The same is true of love. Jesus makes this explicit in verses 12-14 where he ties love to death to friendship to his disciples. Thus, even though Moser is making quite another point, the principle is nonetheless the same: To love one another merely because we are commanded is rather meaningless. Our love for one another must be tied directly to the cross of Christ. We are not automatons: There is logic behind the manner of love that we demonstrate for one another, to our enemies, and to our neighbors. It is the Cross. In other words, there is such a thing as an ‘orthodox’ love that we are to demonstrate.

Having said that, I will move on to the second point which is: He commanded us to Love One Another. The love has been carefully defined for us: It is sacrificial, it secured in the cross, it was demonstrated by Jesus, it was commanded by Jesus, it is a demonstration of our obedience to Jesus, and it is the proper, lasting fruit that He has commissioned and enabled us to produce. Love matters. Might we say it this way: The measure of our maturity in Christ, the measure of our obedience to Christ, the measure of our love of Christ is demonstrated in our love for one another. Is that unreasonable? Do you think that we can just have any old feelings or any old sort of love for another that we choose? Or do you think that Jesus has defined this love for us?

He has appointed us to bear fruit. What fruit? Fruit that lasts! The only real fruit that will last, when all else has given way, is our love for one another. But still I think preachers are terrified to preach this sort of sacrificial obedient love to congregations. You know what I mean: God wants ME to be happy and successful and fulfilled. That message sells, and big time in this current configuration of the world. But what about the demanding, sacrificial love that lays down its life for others? What about the sort of love that fails to consider whatever benefits we might otherwise enjoy? What about the sort of love that gives of the self and keeps on giving?

I asked a friend of mine yesterday: Do you have a word from the Lord for me? I think he thought I was joking and he said ‘I haven’t heard that voice.’ But at the end of his email he told me about a preacher he had listened to recently who had challenged him with these words, “Do you really love your congregation? Do you really love the people God has entrusted to your care?” After I read that I said, “Thanks for the word.” That was God’s word to me. I know exactly what he was saying. The challenge is to sacrificially love. I know what this means: It means give up yourself for someone else. It means live redemptively. It means lay down your lives for one another. It means to live entirely for someone else. It means: No greater love has any man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends. It means to set aside personal, short term ambition so that the greater, lasting fruit of perfect love will be demonstrated, so that God will be glorified in our lives.

And if you cannot love, ask the Father. He can. What greater joy could there be in loving one another perfectly? What greater joy could we have in Christ Jesus but to obey him by loving one another deeply as He has loved us? What could be less burdensome than loving one another?

Soli Deo Gloria!

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