Obedience From The Heart
“If I'm not abiding in Jesus, then where is it that I abide? I once asked myself. I began to notice that when I was tired or anxious, there were certain sentences I would say in my head that led me to a familiar place. The journey to this place would often start with me walking around disturbed, feeling as if there was something deep inside that I needed to put into words but couldn't quite capture. I felt the ‘something’ as anxiety, loneliness, and a need for connection with someone. If no connection came, I would start to say things like, ‘Life really stinks. Why is it always so hard? It's never going to change.’ If no one noticed I was struggling or asked me what was wrong, I found my sentences shifting to a more cynical level: ‘Who cares? Life is a joke.’ Surprisingly, by the time I was saying those last sentences, I was feeling better. The anxiety was greatly diminished.
My comforter, my abiding place, was cynicism and rebellion. From this abiding place, I would feel free to use some soul cocaine – watching a violent video with maybe a little sexual titillation thrown in, having more alcohol with a meal than I might normally drink – things that would allow me to feel better for a little while. I had always thought of these things as just bad habits. I began to see they were much more; they were spiritual abiding places that were my comforters and friends in a very spiritual way.
The final light went on one evening when I read John 15:7 in The Message. Peterson translates Jesus' words on abiding this way: ‘If you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.’ Jesus was saying in answer to my question, ‘I have made my home in you, Brent. But you still have other comforters you go to. You must learn to make your home in me.’”
Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997).
I know that no one else has ever experienced this, with their own children, and that Judy and I are probably all alone in this
When our children were younger, they would obey out of obligation
They would clean up their toys and pick up their clothes, not because they loved to do, but because we asked them, or required, them to do it
They would grumble about it and sometimes it took a second or third time of telling them before they would obey
That’s not obeying out of love, but out of obligation
How many of us have experienced the “compliment setup” with our children?
They come and say some pretty nice things about us, but it’s not genuine or out of love, but rather as a way to “butter us up” to ask for something
Jesus continues to teach His disciples as His death draws near. In John 14:15-24 He combines love and obedience three times (vv. 15, 21, 23). We can and do obey out of obligation, but John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – True obedience comes from a heart of love.
GOD (John 14:15-24)
Coming Counselor (vv. 15-17)
Obedience to the Lord’s commands is evidence of our love for God
What commands are we to obey?
“What the one who loves Jesus will observe is not simply an array of discrete ethical injunctions, but the entire revelation from the Father, revelation holistically conceived.” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 498]
The disciples were to copy the example of Jesus – how He lived His life, who He hung out with, how He spoke to those He ministered to, etc. [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 122]
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people obey Him out of love.
If we’re really honest with ourselves, we would admit that we don’t always obey God out of love, but rather out of a sense of obligation
We’re just like children who have to be told to do something, perhaps multiple times
We have this feeling that if we don’t obey God, He’s going to punish us
The reverse of that is also true – if we obey Him, He will bless us
This was evident with the Israelites in the Old Testament, as they were preparing to enter the Promised Land
Time and time again we read throughout the Old Testament about God’s blessing and curse on the Israelites based on their obedience to His commands and decrees
Deuteronomy 11:26, See I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.
The blessings/curses – God would provide everything they needed for their livelihood (crops and critters), He would also drive out the nations before them, even though they would be larger and stronger than them (Deuteronomy 11:1-32)
The danger in reading these verses, and applying them to our lives today, is that we can still obey out of obligation and a desire to be blessed instead of being cursed
Our obedience can still be without love
We may read the Bible every morning, but not out of love for Jesus or God, but because we want God to be pleased with us and bless us
We may pray every day (morning, noon, and night), but again, out of a desire to be blessed, and not because we love God or Jesus
We may attend church, give sacrificially to the church and to the poor, serve at church and in our community, simply out of a desire to be blessed by God and not out of love
The transformation comes when we do all of those things out of love for God and Jesus
1 John 5:3-4a, This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.
When we truly love God and Jesus with our whole being, those spiritual disciplines don’t feel like a burden any more
We can’t wait to spend time reading the Bible, praying, giving, serving, etc.
We don’t look at the Lord’s commands in the Bible as a list of do’s and don’ts, but rather as loving instruction from a loving Father who wants what’s best for us
True obedience comes from a heart of love.
My Next Step Today Is To: Ask the Lord to help me obey Him out of love and not obligation or a desire to be blessed.
Most modern translations begin verse 16 with the word “and” or “then,” which can make it seem that what comes next is based on the condition of love or obedience to Jesus’ commands – somehow we can earn or be entitled to receiving the Holy Spirit – that is not the case
Not entitlement, but entailment
Entailment is defined as a deduction or implication, that is, something that follows logically from or is implied by something else (one thing will be true if all others are also true)
The first entailment of genuine love for Jesus is obedience to His commands
The second entailment is the giving of another Counselor (the Holy Spirit)
“The Spirit’s gift in these verses is controlled by verse 15a, ‘if you love me.’ The gift, then, is an outgrowth of the loving relationship between Jesus and his disciples, not an entitlement earned by the disciple.” [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 395]
“Jesus is describing a set of essential relations, not a set of titillating conditions. His true followers will love him; they will obey him; and he on his part will secure for them . . . another Counselor.” [Carson, 499]
What naturally happens when we genuinely love Jesus is that we obey Him and experience an incredible relationship with the Holy Spirit
Jesus tells His disciples that He will ask the Father to send them another Counselor
Keep in mind that Jesus is talking with His disciples prior to His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension
Jesus is speaking here of Pentecost, which will not happen until after His ascension into heaven
NOTE: Today is Pentecost Sunday (May 31, 2020)
Acts 2:1-47 explains the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (sound like the blowing wind, saw what seemed like tongues of fire that rested on each of the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other languages as the Spirit enabled them) and how it transformed Jerusalem (many repented and believed in Jesus) and then the whole world
The use of the word “another” means that the disciples already had a Counselor
Jesus was their Counselor while He was on earth
He encouraged them, strengthened them, and taught them for three years
“It comes from a verbal root that describes someone ‘called alongside’ and occurs in secular Greek literature for an advocate in a court of law, who comes ‘alongside’ a person to speak in his or her defense and provide counsel.” [Burge, 395]
The Holy Spirit will continue the work of Jesus by encouraging, strengthening, and teaching the disciples
The Holy Spirit, as another Counselor, will help believers in a variety of ways as John outlines in the rest of his Gospel: [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 437]
“He will bring to remembrance all that Jesus taught his disciples (John 14:26)”
“He will testify regarding Jesus together with his followers (John 15:26)”
“He will convict the world of sin, (un)righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11)”
“He will guide Jesus’ disciples in all truth and disclose what is to come (John 16:13)”
While Jesus was with His disciples only a short time, the Holy Spirit would be with them forever
Once the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, He would be with the disciple’s forever
While Jesus was giving this promise to His disciples, we know from Scripture that this truth is for all believers
PRINCIPLE #2 – God promises the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes in Jesus.
Ephesians 1:13-14, And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Ephesians 4:30, And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promise that, as a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in me.
Since the Holy Spirit lives in us we know that He will accomplish the same things in us that He did in the disciples
Spirit of truth
The Holy Spirit will bring to our remembrance all that Jesus taught his disciples
The Holy Spirit will testify regarding Jesus together with us
The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, unrighteousness, and judgment
These are the truths that make the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth
We see here that the world cannot accept the Holy Spirit
They can’t accept the Holy Spirit, because He is the Spirit of truth
We know that those who don’t believe in Jesus or God, don’t want to be held to an absolute moral standard
They want to be able to do whatever feels good or is right for them (moral relativism)
They can’t see Him, because they are blinded by sin
They can’t know Him, because their minds are block by the false truths and narratives they’ve been fed/taught
That’s not the case with Jesus’ disciples and us
We know Him, because He lives with us and will be in us
Gangel does an excellent job of explaining the Holy Spirit living with us and being in us as he quotes Gromacki:
“First, the spirit was dwelling ‘with’ the apostles in the Gospel era. In Greek the words, ‘with you’ literally mean ‘beside you.’ In that sense, the Holy Spirit had a companion ministry to the apostles. He was beside them, but not inside them.”
“Second, Christ predicted that the Spirit would be in them. After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, the same Spirit who was beside them would be inside them. Christ also changed verbal tenses to show the difference in the two relationships of the Spirit to the apostles. The verb menei (‘dwells’) is in the present tense, whereas the verb estai (‘will be’) is in the future tense (Gromacki, p. 136)” [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 268]
The disciples had experienced the Holy Spirit living with them, but they had not yet experienced the Holy Spirit being in them (Pentecost would bring that experience of the Holy Spirit being in them – forever)
So, Jesus explained and promised the coming of the Holy Spirit (another Counselor)
Now He talks about His coming (resurrection)
Coming Christ (vv. 18-24)
The disciples will not be left as orphans
We know that the disciples are already concerned about Jesus’ leaving them
Peter already asked Him where He was going and why He couldn’t come with Him now (John 13:36-37)
As the spokesperson for the disciples, Peter is probably voicing the concern that all of them are feeling
Jesus was going to the cross and then to the right hand of the Father, and while the disciples didn’t understand that fully, they knew enough to be concerned
In Old Testament times, orphans did not have any rights in the court system and had to have an advocate that would plead their case [Köstenberger, 439]
“. . . in secular Greek the word orphans is also used of children stripped of only one parent or of disciples stripped of their master (cf. NewDocs 4. 71).” [Carson, 501]
Jesus is comforting them as they wrestle with the emotions and fears of losing Him
He promises to come to them
Some scholars see this reference as Jesus promising to come to them in the person of the Holy Spirit
I would agree with the scholars that see this reference as Jesus’ Easter resurrection
Verses 19-20 seem to reference that and unpack it for us
After Jesus’ resurrection we know that He did not show Himself to the world in general
He did show Himself to His disciples
Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-16)
Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna (Matthew 28:9)
Peter (Luke 24:34)
Two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-16)
The disciples without Thomas (John 20:19, 20, 24)
All of the disciples (John 20:26-28)
Seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-2)
A mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-17)
Over 500 hundred people (1 Corinthians 15:6)
James, Jesus’ half-brother (1 Corinthians 15:7)
Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3-5)
He also promises them life
Jesus is predicting His resurrection, but the disciples probably don’t realize it, at this point
We know what He’s talking about, because we are on this side of His resurrection
What exactly is Jesus talking about here?
He is talking about eternal life
“Will live” is in the future tense, Jesus is talking about the eschaton (the end of times)
1 John 5:11, And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Why do we need eternal life in the Son?
Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
We have turned away from the God who created us
We have rejected Him and His plan to deal with our sin
Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
God’s plan to deal with our sin was to send His Son, Jesus, as the perfect sacrifice to take away our sins
1 Peter 3:18, For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.
PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus’ life gives us life.
Jesus paid our penalty for sin when He died on the cross
Because of His perfect sacrifice, we can all have eternal life
It is offered to us as a free gift from God, but we have to take it and accept it for ourselves
My Next Step Today Is To: Accept God’s gift of eternal life, through His Son, Jesus.
Eternal life brings with it an incredible connectedness to Jesus and the Father
We’re all in this together
That phrase was made popular by the Disney movie High School Musical – there was even a song about it in the movie
This phrase has become popular again as we have been going through the Coronavirus pandemic (there are a lot of other phrases that are being used during this time to help bring hope and encouragement)
Jesus wants us to understand that, as His disciples, we are not alone
Jesus and the Father are One – I am in my Father
We are united with Christ – you are in me
We have the Holy Spirit within us – I am in you
“On that day,” is again referencing the time after Jesus’ resurrection (the disciples would finally understand all that Jesus had taught them about who He was, where He came from, and why He came to earth)
Jesus promises His disciples, and us, that we will not be left as orphans to fend for ourselves
He returns to the main theme a second time
True obedience comes from a heart of love.
Jesus reverses the order when He says, whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.
The verb “has” doesn’t mean simply to possess, but it means “to grasp fully with the mind.” [Barrett cited by Borchert, 128]
This wasn’t a list of do’s and don’ts that the disciples were to follow, but rather a lifestyle of loving and obeying Jesus
“When I was in elementary school, by buddy’s dad drove the church bus. I loved spending Saturday night at his house and then riding the bus to church on Sunday. They would do all of these silly promotions on the bus routes, and on Sunday everyone who rode the bus was given a cheap, white kite with this written on it in big, red printing: ‘I ♥ Jesus.’ Looking back, I can just picture dozens of kids who had no idea who Jesus was flocking to the park and flying their ‘I ♥ Jesus’ kites. How many Christians are like those kids? Over their lives fly ‘I Love Jesus’ kites, but love for him isn’t evident in how they live. If we love Jesus, we will live differently (v. 21). We can fly dozens of kites, but it doesn’t mean we love Jesus. The only evidence that we do indeed love Jesus is the way we live.” [Carter & Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 298]
Love, genuine love for Jesus, is the key to obeying His commands
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people obey Him out of love.
We see three results of genuinely loving and obeying Jesus
We will be loved by the Father
We will be loved by Jesus
Jesus will show Himself to us
So many people want Jesus to show Himself to them before they will take a step of faith toward Him
But we see again that when we grasp fully with our mind the commands of Jesus and obey them, we are saying, “I love You, Jesus!”
It’s a step of faith that moves us toward Jesus, and then He promises to show, reveal, manifest Himself to us
If you really want Jesus to show Himself to you, then take the step of faith toward Him and experience His presence in you
I hope and pray that you’ll take that step of faith today
While we can certainly obey God out of obligation or a desire to be blessed, God is pleased when we do it out of genuine love from the heart
Judas asks a great question
John lets us know that this is not Judas Iscariot
He was already gone, carrying out his plan to betray Jesus
He didn’t sneak back in to the upper room after he had finished his business
For Judas, and perhaps the other disciples, it didn’t make sense that Jesus would show Himself to them and not the world
They already believed in Him, while the world didn’t
Wouldn’t it be better if Jesus showed Himself to the world?
We know that God and Jesus will never force themselves on anyone – they will pursue us, but never demand that we obey them, love them, follow them, or believe in them (it is a freewill choice that each person has to make for themselves)
We know from Scripture that Jesus used the disciples to spread the Gospel throughout the known world (this is perhaps another reason why He is showing Himself to them after His resurrection)
“Jesus reveals himself to people he knows will respond to him and obey his teaching.” [Gangel, 269]
Jesus’ response to the question
At first glance, it may seem like Jesus doesn’t even answer Judas’s question, but He does
His answer is love
He returns a third time to the main theme and our big idea, true obedience comes from a heart of love.
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people obey Him out of love.
We see a second time the relational result of obeying His commands out of a heart of love
We will experience the love of the Father
We will experience the presence of the Father and the Son with us
Jesus explains that the reverse is also true, he who does not love me will not obey my teaching
Jesus is not saying these things in a void, but is only teaching them, what He has heard from the Father, who sent Him
What does your obedience of Jesus’ commands look like?
Are you obeying out of obligation?
Are you obeying out of a desire to be blessed?
Are you obeying out of love?
Have you claimed God’s promise of the Holy Spirit living in you?
Have you accepted God’s gift of eternal life, through Jesus?
Imagine the transformation at Idaville Church and in our communities as we obey God’s commands out of a heart of love
“When I was dating my wife, Anna, one thing I admired about her was her love for sports. I love sports too, but there are two sports I don't like. Forgive me if you like these, but I don't.
The first is bowling. I can't understand it. You pick up this cannonball and throw it on this beautiful maple floor that's tilted. And it goes down and disappears, thank goodness. All of a sudden ‘swbump!’ it comes back again. You throw that thing down again, and it goes down and disappears. All of a sudden ‘swbump!’ it comes back. All night you're trying to get rid of it. Finally, when you're done and you try to leave, they make you pay for throwing that ball down on the ground. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.
The other is roller-skating: four wheels, none of them turn, and they expect you to go around in circles.
This is a true story. On our first date, I knocked on Anna's door. I was so excited. I said, ‘Where would you like to go tonight?’ She said, ‘Do you like bowling?’ And she picked up her own bowling ball. She had her own bag. Now, I was in love, so when she asked if I liked bowling, my answer was, ‘I love bowling.’ And we went bowling all night. We had a great time.
The next week I knocked on her door. I said, ‘Where would you like to go this week?’ She picked up her skates. She said, ‘Do you like skating?’ I said, ‘I've been waiting for months for someone to ask me go skating. I love skating.’ And we skated all night.
I look back on it now and think, what made it easy for me to change? Did I have to work up this thing to change my desire for bowling and skating? No. It was because of my relationship with that girl. Because of the love that I had in relationship with her, change was easy.
The power to change is predicated upon your relationship with God. How often I think, God, it's hard to do what you're asking me to do, hard to change. Do I just grit my teeth? ‘No,’ the Lord says, ‘why don't you just come closer to the cross? Why don't you let me restore and renew my relationship with you? Would you come close?’”
Wayne Cordeiro, "A Personal Relationship," Preaching Today audio no. 225.