August 31, 2014

Keeping Jesus' Commands as Spirit-Indwelt Sons & Daughters

Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: The Gospel According to John Passage: John 14:15–24

Sermon from John 14:15-24 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on Sunday, August 31, 2014

Here’s the plan for the next month. September begins tomorrow, and that also means we enter our Global Missions emphasis month. So, the preaching the next four weeks will emphasize taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. And Pastor Wes plans to lead out next Sunday from Isaiah 54. So pray for him. Then one thing we’re adding this year is a thirty-day prayer focus on global missions. And you’ll be receiving updates on how you can pray each day of September for missions. We’ve been talking the last two weeks on asking the exalted Christ; so let this thirty-day prayer guide help you do just that for the sake of all peoples.

That’s where we’re heading, but today we’re in John 14. There was a line in one of the songs earlier that was so fitting to the passage we’re about to read. It went like this: “Let me all your love accepting / Love you Lord through all my days / Let me seek your kingdom only / And my life be to your praise” (William Rees, “Here Is Love”). That’s basically a summary of where we’re going this morning; and the Lord has already been preparing you for it through song. So, let’s begin by reading together in verse 15 and go through verse 24.

15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even 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. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21Whoever 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.” 22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23Jesus 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. 24Whoever 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.”

This is an incredibly rich passage: it takes us right to the heart of Christian discipleship; it’s full of references to the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—working on behalf of the Christian; it’s one of the key entry points to Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit’s role our lives; it exposes the differences between Christ’s disciples and the rest of the world; it’s full of comfort and courage for the Christian as he lives for Jesus and with Jesus. We’re only going to scratch the surface today of these interrelated topics.

But I’m okay with that, because John writes in a fairly circular fashion. He has a tendency to introduce a subject, move on to something else, and then circle back to that subject again but in further detail. And so we’re going to see many of these themes again and again as we move through chapters 14-17. So, if I overlook something today; we’ll likely pick it up later. Today, I only want to point out three essentials to Christian discipleship that Jesus uses to equip the Eleven.

Three Essentials for Christian Discipleship

If you remember, Jesus is fixing to die on the cross for sinners. He’s going back to the Father, but his pathway to the Father is through death, resurrection, and ascension. And before he goes away like that, Jesus spends time equipping his disciples with everything they would need once these events took place. They’re scared, they’re confused, they’re about to lose their Master, they’re afraid of abandonment. The world will laugh at them; it won’t like them. What are they supposed to do with the last three years they’ve given to Jesus? They want answers. And Jesus is taking the time to prepare them for what’s coming. Before he goes away, he equips them. And three essentials to Christian discipleship stood out to me as I was reading this passage.

1. Disciples of Jesus Love Jesus

The first one is this: disciples of Jesus love Jesus. Notice the repetition throughout our passage. Verse 15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Verse 21, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father.” Verse 23, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” And then verse 24, “Whoever doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words.”

Again and again, Jesus stresses that one of the essentials of Christian discipleship is that disciples love Jesus. In fact—by the way he says it—a love for Jesus is what gives rise to Christian discipleship in the first place. Nobody truly follows Jesus if they don’t love him. True obedience to Jesus flows from a heart infatuated with Jesus: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” There’s no question about it in Jesus’ mind—a heart full of love for Jesus will result in following him.

But what does this love for Jesus include? I mean, we’ve talked about love before; and we’ve said the Bible speaks about it like this: love is a genuine affection for another’s ultimate good in God, such that we spend ourselves sacrificially to see them obtain it (Mark 10:45; Rom 12:10; 1 Cor 9:19-23; 10:31-11:1; 13:4-7; 1 John 3:16; 2 Cor 8:9; 12:15). But when we say that about love, what we’re saying, is that’s what our love should look like toward other people, not towards Christ. The way Jesus has loved us despite our sins and unloveliness teaches us to love other people the same way.

But we can’t just flip that kind of love around and say that’s how we love Christ, because Christ doesn’t have any sins; he has no unloveliness in him. There’s no good in God that he’s lacking, nothing further about God he needs us to help him obtain through our sacrificial service. He is the goodness of God; he is altogether lovely; he is what all people desperately need. There may be some overlap with the way we love Jesus and others—it’s personal; it’s affectionate; it’s other-oriented; it moves us to serve—but we must not lose sight of what makes it different. We love him, not despite who he is but because of who he is—he’s infinitely lovely; he’s the ultimate end of all our derivative loves for others. He’s worthy of all our affection, devotion, and obedience. We might call those three aspects of our love: affection, devotion, obedience.

Jesus is worthy of all our affection

He’s worthy of all our affection. One of Jesus’ prayers in John 17:26 is that the love “with which [the Father] has loved [his Son] may be in [us].” And elsewhere we see that it’s the Father who delights in his Son (Matt 3:17). If you trust in Jesus this morning, part of his work on the cross was to ensure that the Father’s affection for his Son would be in you. When God saved us, all the pleasure the Father takes in Jesus—because of who Jesus is and what he does as obedient Son—all of it excites our own admiration of Jesus. He doesn’t leave his disciples relating to him in some kind of dispassionate duty. The relationship is one that’s marked by affection—the same sort of intimacy a bride has for her husband, to use the Old Testament relationship of God’s people relating to God (Jer 2:2; Hos 3:1; cf. Eph 5:21-33).

Jesus is worthy of all our devotion

Jesus is also worthy of all our devotion. I get this from Matt 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (cf. 1 Tim 6:10-11). Love includes devotion. The same sort of devotion is in mind when God gave Israel the command to love him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut 6:5; cf. Matt 22:37). Israel owed Yahweh all their devotion for loving them and rescuing them from slavery in Egypt when they didn’t deserve it (Deut 7:7-9). In the same way, we owe Jesus all our devotion for loving us and rescuing us from slavery to sin when we didn’t deserve it (John 8:21-24, 34-36).

Jesus is worthy of all our obedience

Affection, devotion, and now obedience. Jesus is worthy of all our obedience. His loveliness should move our wills to act on who he is, the merciful Savior and the exalted Lord of heaven and earth.

2. Disciples of Jesus Obey Jesus

Which leads us to consider the second essential in Christian discipleship, namely, disciples of Jesus obey Jesus. Let’s hear him again: Verse 15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Loving will mean keeping. Verse 21, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” Again, keeping the commandments of Jesus evidences our love for Jesus.

Now, we should be careful here. Jesus isn’t saying that we initiate a love relationship with him through obedience—as if to say we win his love by something we do. As Christians, we might deepen a love relationship with Jesus through obedience—that’s clear from verse 21 and 15:10 (cf. Jude 21). But we know from elsewhere that the Father initiates a love relationship with us—he chose us in eternity past, even despite our rebellion (John 15:16; Eph 1:3-4). There was nothing in us that was worthy of his love; he simply loved us. Romans 5:8 also says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Again, his initiative. And 1 John 4:19 very plainly teaches, “We love because [God] first loved us.”

So, we don’t initiate a love relationship with Jesus through obedience. Rather, we obey Jesus, because of the love relationship God already established. We obey his commands as lovers, who know he’s trustworthy and has our best interest in mind. We only need to look to the cross as a reminder of that. When we look on that display of love—Jesus dying in our place—we come to love the Person giving the commands. Loving Jesus becomes the root of all our obedience. Our hearts sing out, “Why wouldn’t I obey this One who gave himself for me?”

Obeying All God's Revelation in the Son

But what exactly are we obeying? Verse 15 says it’s Jesus’ “commandments.” So does verse 21. But Jesus then seems to broaden it a bit in verse 23. We’re told to keep his “word,” in the singular. And then in verse 24, we’re told to keep his “words,” in the plural. Then he’s back to the singular at the end of verse 24, and also reveals its source, “the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

These are complementary ways of saying the same thing: Jesus’ word—in the singular—is a collective reference to all his individual utterances—his words. And those words reveal his person and his mission as well as the authoritative demands that revelation puts on our lives—commandments (2:22; 4:41; 5:24; 6:60; 7:36, 40; 8:37, 51, 53; 10:19; 12:48; 14:23-24; 17:6). So you’ve got the main message—his “word.” It’s filled with all kinds of “words” about who he is, what he’s doing. And those words must move us to obedience when we hear them.

Basically, we obey everything about the Father’s authoritative revelation in the Son. Our obedience cannot be reduced to following a bunch of disconnected moral directives. Our obedience must be connected with how those directives—those commands—stem from God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.

So when he commands, “Come to me and drink” (7:37), our obedience is linked to the revelation that Jesus is eternal life and gives living water to sinners. When he commands, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me” (12:23), our obedience is linked to the revelation that Jesus is worthy of all my life. When he commands, “Believe in the Light” (12:35), our obedience is linked to the revelation that Jesus has come as the Light to rescue a world that already sits in darkness.

When he commands, “Take up [your] cross” (Matt 16:24), it’s linked to the revelation of the salvation he obtains for us in his own death first. When he says, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another” (John 12:34), it’s linked to the revelation of his own selfless love for us. When he says, “If you don’t renounce all you have, you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28), it’s linked to the revelation that Jesus is a far greater treasure than anything this world can offer. When he says, “You must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you don’t expect” (Luke 12:40), it’s linked with the revelation that he is Judge and will stand victorious over the nations. When says, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18), it’s linked with the revelation that he has all authority and will be with us to the end of the age.

So this is what Jesus’ disciples obey—we obey everything about the Father’s authoritative revelation in the Son. God’s revelation in the Son must affect the choices we make, the priorities we set, the money we spend, the way we parent, the work we do, the people we meet, the Saturdays we plan, everything. If we love Jesus, we will live for him; we will strive to obey him in all things. Our Sunday songs must square with our Monday-through-Saturday living.

The Test of Our Love Is Obedience

Now this teaching flies in the face of what some leaders teach about Christian discipleship. Some leaders and churches teach that you can be saved without necessarily following Jesus. They say it’s possible to make Jesus your Savior without making him your Lord. They’ve even created new categories for so-called Christians who don’t obey Jesus’ commands—they’re called “carnal” Christians versus “spiritual” ones; saved, just not following. Jesus’ words are radically different. Claiming to love Jesus without obeying him is a contradiction. It shows that someone or something else has hold of your affections, that your devotion lies elsewhere, that you’re submitting to a different master.

If you’re not obeying, then we have every reason to question whether there’s any real connection to Jesus at all. How did Keller put it the other day, Jonathan? “You cannot have Jesus’ rescue without accepting his rule.” The test of our love is obedience to the King. That’s not to suggest we slip into perfectionism, or that we don’t allow time for the Spirit to work and bring repentance to those confronted with sin. But it does mean we must hold each other accountable to obeying Jesus, church. If we’re not following his words, we’re not truly loving him. First John 5:3, “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments and his commandments are not burdensome.” In that sense, Jesus’ words challenge us all to prove our love through obedience.

The Reward of Our Obedience Is Love

But they should also be a source of encouragement, because tied to this obedience are promises like the gift of the Holy Spirit in verse 16, the Father loving us alongside his Son in verse 21, the Son of God revealing more of himself to us—also in verse 21—and even the promise of the Father and Son being pleased to make their home with us. In other words, never are we obeying merely for the sake of obedience, but for the sake of experiencing more of Father, Son, and Spirit—all the blessings flowing from a relationship with the Triune God.

So let’s also keep this in mind as we help each other obey Jesus: obedience to Jesus will flow from souls in love with Jesus. Mere duty cannot generate obedience that’s pleasing to God. Obedience flows from a heart enthralled with Jesus’ loveliness and the communion with God he wins for us. And we would do well to point each other to his loveliness often—in our one-on-one chats, in our care group meetings, in our lunches together, in our marriages. The more we set before each other the loveliness of Jesus, the more we will be compelled to follow him.

I’m not saying that the decisions to obey from day-to-day will always be chipper and easy. There will be days when obeying Jesus is hard. We will be tempted to disobey him, because we don’t like his commands, or understand why we should do it. The temptation will come when we think we know better than him—or the more popular idea today—when we think Jesus’ commands are simply old fashion (Stott, Life in Christ, 102). But in these moments of temptation, we must remember who he is and how he has loved us. We must preach to ourselves what makes Jesus so lovely, so worthy, and then pursue what pleases our Beloved. It was his love that first awakened our love for him, and it will be his worth and preciousness that moves our mouths to speak and our hands and feet to serve.

3. Disciples of Jesus Enjoy the Spirit’s Help

And if you still think you lack what it takes, then you’re right—which is why Jesus gives us another Helper. That’s the third essential of Christian discipleship in our passage: disciples of Jesus enjoy the Spirit’s help. None of this love and obedience comes naturally to our fallen flesh. It comes supernaturally by the gift of the Holy Spirit, who—we’re told—does many wonderful things for the disciple.

The Spirit Is Another Helper

To begin with, he comes to us as another helper. Verse 16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” The disciples don’t need to worry about how they’re going to follow Jesus when he returns to the Father, because Jesus is giving them another Helper. Meaning, the disciples already had a Helper—namely, Jesus—and now the Spirit’s ministry to them while Jesus goes to heaven will be much like Jesus’ ministry was to them while he was on earth. This why Paul later calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of Christ,” and says that to have the Spirit in you is like having Christ in you (Rom 8:9-10). The Spirit mediates the person of Christ to us so fully and so perfectly that it’s to have Jesus with us—just in another Helper.

The Spirit Is with Us Forever

And here’s something more about the Spirit: he will be with the disciples forever, verse 16 says. There will never be a moment when the disciples don’t benefit from the Spirit’s presence after Jesus goes to the Father. The Spirit will be with Jesus’ disciples continually. The Spirit won’t ever need to leave them as Jesus must leave them now, because all the Son’s work will be finished and complete. All he’ll be doing is staying to apply the work of the Son to the disciples until Jesus returns.

The Spirit Leads Us into Truth

The Spirit will also lead Jesus’ disciples into truth. Verse 17 calls him the Spirit of truth. In the same way Jesus is full of truth (1:14) and is the truth (14:6) and speaks the truth (8:45), so also the Spirit reveals the truth—the truth that’s very much bound up with Jesus. In verse 26, it says the Spirit will teach the disciples all things; he’ll bring to their remembrance the things Jesus taught. And then in 16:13, it’s the Spirit who guides the disciples into all the truth, because he speaks whatever the Father and Son give him to speak. The result is our inspired New Testament, of course, but even now the Spirit’s ministry of truth still goes on as he illumines our mind to the word and awakens us to everything we need for life with him. The lies of the world and its evil ruler will not carry the disciple away, because the Spirit will lead them in the truth.

The Spirit Administers New Life

The Spirit will also administer the new, resurrection life of Christ to us. Meaning, when Jesus rises from the dead as the firstfruits of the coming kingdom, his life—which represents the sort of life all his disciples will eventually have in their resurrection bodies—his life will begin the new age of resurrection hope and victory. There’s life bound up with the coming kingdom over which Jesus rules in his resurrection body. And the Spirit begins ministering that life to us even before it comes in full.

It gets a bit tricky in verses 18-20, but that’s essentially what I think is going on. He says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Now some take that to mean he will come to them in his resurrection appearances. I take it to mean, that Jesus will come to them in the ministry of the Spirit. His coming to them has to have some permanence to it if he’s not leaving them as orphans in the world. So, “I will come to you [in the ministry of the Spirit],” and now track with me in verse 19, because this is where he starts fleshing out his resurrection life in connection with the Spirit.

“Yet a little while and the world will see me no more.” That refers to the cross based on the way he explains it in 16:16, 20, 22. So, “yet a little while and the world will see me no more [because I’m going to die for sinners], but you will see me.” Now that’s talking about his resurrection appearances (16:22; 20:20). Jesus won’t appear to the world when he rises from the dead, he’ll only appear to his disciples and about 500 other disciples at one time, Paul tells us (1 Cor 15:6). But that’s it.

Now watch this: “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more [because I’m going to die], but you will see me [because I’m going to rise]. Because I live, you also will live.” This is where the ministry of the Spirit comes in. Because Jesus lives in his resurrection victory, all his disciples will experience his life. Why? Because once he rises from the dead and ascends to glory, he sends the Spirit to give them his life. And that life includes this: Verse 20, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Because of Jesus’ resurrection life and the ministry of the Spirit, we share a communion with Jesus that’s likened to the communion he shares with his own Father. And there’s nothing but life in that relationship (1:4; 5:26).

The Spirit Keeps Us Close to God

So the Spirit helps us like Jesus, stands with us forever, leads us into truth, administers Jesus’ resurrection life. One more thing the Spirit does: he keeps us close to God. In the Old Testament, God dwelt among his people in the tabernacle (Exod 25:8) and then later in the temple (1 Kgs 8:10-11; Acts 7:46-47). But here we see that God chooses to indwell his people through the Spirit. Jesus’ disciples become God’s dwelling place by the Spirit. Verse 23, “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.”

Remember the Spirit's Ministry to You

So if you love Jesus today, you enjoy the particular ministry of the Holy Spirit helping you, standing beside you, leading you into truth, giving you new life, and keeping you close to God. I think an awareness of the Spirit’s presence with the disciple of Jesus sometimes escapes us. We forget that he’s a real person, alive and working in us. We forget Jesus sent him to our advantage while he’s away. And he truly came and is here to help us in the midst of our turmoil; to counsel us in the midst of our confusion; to support us when wrecked with devilish accusations; to convict us when we dishonor Christ and do what’s unhealthy to our souls; to guide us back to our greatest Lover and Truth-teller when lost in a world of haters and liars; to shine the spotlight on Jesus’ glory when life is too dark; to be our companion in the day of fear and forsakenness.

We forget the Spirit is with us when we crack open the word. He stands ready to mediate the glory of God’s presence should we simply bow to Jesus with love. We forget that the reason he’s in us now is that a day will finally come when the dwelling place of God is with man. God will dwell with us, and we will be his people, and God himself will be with us as our God (Rev 21:3).

So let’s draw great courage from knowing that Jesus didn’t leave us without help. He supplied us with perfect help alongside his Father, because they love us. As he says in verse 21, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” The manifestation of Jesus through the Spirit, is a further expression of Trinitarian love. Not only does the Father love us by sending the Son to die for all our sins; he also loves us by sending the Spirit to call attention to his love for us in sending the Son. As Paul says, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

So, let’s not forget the incredible gift we’ve been given in the Spirit, but daily express gratitude to God that he’s with us forever. He’s not going anywhere. He’s with us to the day we’re ushered into glory! He’s the guarantee of our eternal inheritance until we acquire possession of it, Eph 1:14 says. Think of him every morning you go to the office. You aren’t going alone. The Spirit of Jesus is with you. Think of him when you’re sharing the gospel with friends and you get blasted. You’re not alone. The Spirit is with you to Help. Think of him when you’re suffering and you fill your pillow with tears. Jesus’ hasn’t forsaken you. You have another Helper who pours God’s love into your heart as he leads you to Jesus’ cross. Think of him when you’re tempted by sin. You’re not alone in the fight. God is with you, to guide you in the truth. Then act as the Spirit leads you away from sin to live more and more like Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, this is our God. He’s not one who’s far off doing his own thing, while we try to get our act together. No, the people God loved in Christ and saved through Christ, he will ensure they enjoy the fullness of Christ. That’s why the Spirit is with us now and will be with us always. All the more reason for us to love Jesus and obey his word—the Spirit, along with Father and Son, is for us to the end.

other sermons in this series