Monthly Archives: June 2012

Death to Self – The Importance of Self-Denial in the Christian Walk – Part 2

Last week we discussed two things:

  1. Our hearts have been transformed to live a life of self-denial.
  2. God works in and through us via the Holy Spirit to live a life of self-denial.

 

We ended the lesson with the following question:

  • What role do we play in the sanctification process?
  • Today we will begin to answer this question.

 

 

1) OUR ROLE IN LIVING A LIFE OF SELF-DENIAL

 

“…we dare not see ourselves as passive in sanctification” – Michael Horton

 

Scripture makes clear that action and not passivity is required on our behalf.

  • Colossians 3:1–3 (ESV) — 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
  • Romans 6:11–13 (ESV) — 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
  • Romans 12:2 (ESV) — 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • Ephesians 4:23–24 (ESV) — 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
  • Colossians 3:10 (ESV) — 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
  • Philippians 4:8 (ESV) — 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
  • 2 Peter 3:17–18 (ESV) — 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

 

These verses reveal a number of actions required of us.

  • They speak of seeking; setting; considering; letting not; putting on; presenting; not conforming; etc.
  • But all of these require the use of the mind in our Christian walk.
  • What I call right thinking.

 

Look again.

  • be transformed by the renewal of your mind
  • be renewed in the spirit of your minds
  • put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge
  • set your minds
  • grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord

 

Our Action – Put on the New Self via Right Thinking:

  • Clearly, God is calling us in His word to renew our minds (right thinking).
  • So the action required of us to live a life of self-denial is to renew our minds.
  • Renew means to “acknowledge the importance of” and to be “be intent on” – BDAG.
  • God will not do that for us.

 

So, what is it we are to “acknowledge” and “be intent on”?

  • The knowledge of God.
    • His will; His desires; His character; His mind; His Son; His Spirit, etc.
  • We are to think on, know and be submersed in the knowledge of God.
  • Put another way, we are to displace our worldly thinking with right thinking.
  • And right thinking is grounded in our knowledge of God.
  • How can we ever hope to replace our desires with God’s, if we still think like a sinner?

 

J.P. Moreland warns, “The simple truth is that those who are not thoughtful about the real content of what they actually believe about God will not actually believe very much” – J.P. Moreland.

  • In other words, what you believe about God directly impacts your growth as a Christian.
  • If you don’t know much, you can’t believe much.
  • Therefore, the impact of the knowledge of God is blunted by ignorance.

 

Importance of Right Thinking:

  • The necessity of right thinking is not lost on the likes of Calvin, Dallas Willard, and R.C. Sproul.

 

Calvin observes that when our effort at self denial, “takes hold of the mind, it leaves no place” for the things that attend a worldly preoccupation of self (2.7.2).

Therefore, “Let this, then be the first step, to abandon ourselves, and devote the whole energy of our minds to the service of God” – Calvin.

  • A pursuit of God’s desires crowds out our desires.

 

Dallas Willard tells us that:

“The transformation of our thought life by taking on the mind of Christ – his ideas, images, information, and patterns of thinking – opens the way to deliverance of every dimension of the human self from the oppressive powers of darkness” – Dallas Willard.

 

Sproul says we are in a crisis in our Christian culture.

  • He says of our Christian walk that we no longer “get to the heart through the mind”, but we try and “go straight to the heart, which is mindless, and this is fatal to the Christian faith” – R.C. Sproul (White Horse Inn Blog).
  • In other words, we try put on the new self via “experience” and not knowledge.
  • This goes so far that we even have contempt for the knowledge of God.
    • We just want experience.

 

And even worse, we blame God when we don’t “feel” or have a “desire” to grow in right thinking, and in a life of self-denial.

  • We say, “I would do it if He gave me the desire to do it”.
  • Or, “God why don’t you give me the desire”.
    • We think that the right thing to do should “feel” like the right thing to do.
  • God’s Word never advocates this approach.
  • In the Kingdom of God on earth, “Right Thinking” not “Right Feeling” is the foundation of our action in sanctification!
    • The right feelings might follow, but they can never lead.

 

In fact, God’s Word is clear:

  • Hosea 4:6 (ESV) — 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
  • Hosea 4:14b (ESV) — 14b …and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.
  • Proverbs 19:2 (ESV) — 2 Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
  • Isaiah 5:13 (ESV) — 13 Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst.

 

Why, exactly, is right thinking on the knowledge of God so important to a life of self-denial?

Because, “The Gospel of Jesus directly repudiates all false information about God and, therewith, about the meaning of human life; and it works to undermine the power of those ideas and images that structure life away from God. But for it to have this effect we must use our ability to think” – Dallas Willard.

  • Willard even goes so far as to say, “The prospering of God’s cause on earth depends upon his people thinking well”.

 

We simply cannot live a life of self-denial without seeking the knowledge of God; without right thinking.

  • The old self is full of wrong and worldly thinking – and feeling.
  • It must be displaced and eradicated with right thinking on the knowledge of God.
  • The question is do you agree?
  • How does your walk show an effort at right thinking?

 

What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life:

  • The importance of a renewed mind to a life lived in self-denial is so important, I want to press the issue even further.
  • I want to briefly refer to an article in a recent post on the Harvard Business Review website by Kare Anderson.

 

The title of the article is “What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life”.

  • The author was hired by DisneyWorld to study what most captures the attention of kids in the theme park.
  • In the course of her study, she came to some very interesting conclusions.

 

“Giving undivided attention is the first and most basic ingredient in any relationship. It is impossible to communicate, much less bond, with someone who can’t or won’t focus on you”.

  • Jesus put it like this, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21).
  • Who do you give undivided attention to?
  • What do you most focus your mind on?
  • The answer to both of these questions is probably you.
  • How can we live as God desires, if we and our desires are the main focus of our attention and thoughts?
  • We must treasure right thinking on the knowledge of God.
    • And to “acknowledge the importance” of the knowledge of God is certainly to treasure it.
  • You simply can’t have a right relationship of self-denial with God without right thinking.

 

But it gets worse.

  • She says, “what we focus on comes to control our thoughts, our actions, and indeed, our very lives” – Kare Anderson.
  • In other words, whatever is the “treasure” or focus of your life will be what you organize your life, your will, and your desires around.
  • In such a scenario, there is no room for self-denial.
  • All of your actions will be designed to gratify yourself, not God.
  • Jesus put it like this, “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” (Matt 6:24a).
  • We have to decide – God or Ourselves.

 

I hope and pray that you have come to see how crucial a renewed mind is to a life lived in self-denial.

  • I hope you have come to realize that Jesus’ words to Peter may very well be applicable to us.
  • Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matt 16:23).
  • Peter found out that setting one’s mind on anything other than the knowledge of God and His will and desires is to oppose God.
  • Are you opposing God in your life by your lack of right thinking?

 

Paul puts it like this:

  • Romans 8:5–8 (ESV) — 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 

Section 1 Wrap-Up:

  • And so it is here where I want to go over 3 specific things we can do to renew our minds with right thinking and thereby replace our desires with God’s and find complete satisfaction in Him.
  1. Right Thinking Obtained – The importance of being text-centered.
  2. Right Thinking Applied – The importance of failing correctly.
  3. Right Thinking Applied – The importance of living actively and not passively.

 

 

2) RIGHT THINKING OBTAINED – WE MUST BE TEXT CENTERED

 

Where is the knowledge of God that we are to use to renew our minds to be found?

  • There is only one place – God’s Word.
  • It is only in the Bible where we are privileged to glimpse the thinking and mind of God.
  • Only the Bible contains a knowledge pure and refined enough to properly displace our own.

 

Scripture’s High Opinion of Itself:

  • Psalm 12:6 (ESV) — 6 The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.
  • Proverbs 30:5 (ESV) — 5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV) — 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
  • Romans 15:4 (ESV) — 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
  • John 17:17 (ESV) — 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

 

Scripture is clear of its necessity in:

  • Identifying for us what is true and pure
  • Completing us
  • Equipping us
  • Encouraging us
  • Sanctifying us
  • (These are but a few examples)

 

Why would we ever want to hold on to our own thinking when have the ability to think on the pure, true, God-breathed, encouraging, sanctifying Word of God?

  • It absolutely makes no sense.
  • And yet, every day we fail to read and study God’s Word or ready and study books about God’s word, we betray our foolishness.
  • Daily we have to choose between thinking on right knowledge (God’s Word) or wrong knowledge (the flesh).
  • Our work in living a life of self-denial involves replacing our thinking and ideas of reality with God’s thinking and ideas.
  • If we want to love God properly in self-denial, what choice do we have?
  • We must be consumed by the knowledge of God.

 

Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”.

  • This cannot be done without a right thinking in the knowledge of God.
  • Our carnal mind will seek after the things of the flesh, not the Kingdom of God.
  • And how do we even know what the Kingdom of God consists of?
    • We have to apprehend it with our minds from Scripture.

 

Dallas Willard expresses the importance of being text-centered to right thinking in this way:

“To BRING THE MIND to dwell intelligently upon God as he is presented in his Word will have the effect of causing us to love God passionately, and this love will in turn bring us to think of God steadily. Thus he will always be before our minds” – Dallas Willard.

 

Failure to know what God is really like and what his law requires destroys the soul, ruins society, and leaves people to eternal ruin: ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’ (Hosea 4:6, NRSV), and ‘A people without understanding comes to ruin’ (4:14, NRSV)” – Dallas Willard.

 

There are simply no shortcuts.

  • Pursuing the knowledge of God – His will; His desires; His character; His mind; His Son; His Spirit, etc. – is how we renew our minds.
  • And renewing our minds is what converges with our transformed heart, and God’s work, so that we can love God with a life lived in self-denial.

 

A caution is required at this point in the discussion.

  • Right thinking in the knowledge of God is not an ends to itself.
  • Remember, we are seeking to love God properly with a life of self-denial.
  • Simply having knowledge of God will not bring about such a life.
    • Remember, 2 Peter says “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord”.
  • Only when the knowledge of God is in service of loving God properly with a life of self-denial will we find complete satisfaction in God.
    • This is what right thinking/a renewed mind is.

We are not teaching that, “…knowledge of Christian doctrine guarantees a closer walk with the Lord. We must remember that knowledge of the truth, crucially important though it is, may never be a substitute for the humble surrender of one’s heart [self-denial] to the Lord Jesus Christ” – Derke Bergsma (Modern Reformation Magazine).

 

This caution provides us with an excellent segue into how we can apply our right thinking to living a life of self denial.

  • There are at least two ways we employ right thinking in the service of loving God in self-denial.
  • Learning to fail correctly
  • Living actively versus passively.
  • We will look at those next week.

 

 

Death to Self – The Importance of Self-Denial in the Christian Walk – Part 1

We learned last week of the importance of self-denial in properly loving God.
·  Self-denial necessitates that we cast off all of our desires, will and motives.
·  And in their place, fill ourselves with God’s desires, will and motives.
o   These are to be found in His commandments…the imperatives of Jesus’ words.
It was clear last week that a life lived in self-denial is fundamental to the Christian walk.
·  If we are saved and yet insist on living for “self”, we will not find the satisfaction in God that He desires for us.
·  We cannot usurp the headship of Christ and expect any different.
·  If what John Piper says is true – God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
·  Then we mustestablish our satisfaction in Him.
·  This cannot be done without death to self – a life lived in self-denial.
What others say of self-denial (death to self):
·  “In this and in this alone lies the key to the soul’s restoration. Christian spiritual formation rests on this indispensable foundation of death to self and cannot proceed except insofar as that foundation is being firmly laid and sustained” – Willard.
·  “For as the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads” – John Calvin.
What Scripture says of self-denial:
·  Luke 9:23–24 (ESV) — 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
·  Luke 14:26 (ESV) — 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
·  John 12:25 (ESV) — 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
·  Colossians 3:3 (ESV) — 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
·  Acts 21:13 (ESV) — 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
We must excel in self-denial.
·  I hope we are all in agreement and under conviction on this point.
·  But how do we do so?
To get at this question, we will look at three things.
1.       Are we equipped to live this way?
2.       What role does God play?
3.       What role do we play?
1) TRANSFORMED FOR A LIFE OF SELF-DENIAL
We first need to understand that we are capable of living a life of self-denial.
First act of self-denial:
·  The act of belief in response to the Gospel is itself an act of self-denial.
·  When we believe in Jesus we are trusting in what?
o   That Jesus has covered our sin; justified us; redeemed us; satisfied God’s wrath; etc.
·  And in this act we are rejecting any hope in what?
o   That we can save ourselves through our works.
·  And the fact that we could trust in Christ – have ears to hear and eyes to see –  and deny self is to be found in what?
o   Did we reason our way to belief?
·  Absolutely not!
o   We were the beneficiaries of a work of God.
o   Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stonefrom your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
o   Our hearts were transformed; born again.
What this means is that God has changed us.
·  He has supernaturally transformed our hearts.
·  This transformation has equipped us to live a life of self-denial.
·  Our salvation is evidence of this fact.
·  This is great news and should serve to encourage us.
Scriptural confirmation of this Good News:
·  Romans 6:1–4 (ESV) — 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
·  Galatians 2:20 (ESV) — 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Ok, so we have seen that self-denial is fundamental to the Christian walk.
·  We have even seen that our hearts have been equipped to live this way by a work of God.
·  Let’s move on to how God helps us live a life of self-denial
2) GOD’S HELP IN A LIFE LIVED IN SELF DENIAL
Why would we ever seek to live a life in self-denial?
·  Why would we ever seek God’s will and desire over ours?
Scripture tells us:
·  John 14:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 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.
·  Ezekiel 36:27 (ESV) — 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
·  Philippians 2:12–13 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
We seek God’s will, and desire to keep His commandments because the Holy Spirit is prodding us to do so.
·  Through the Spirit “God energizes both the believer’s desires and his actions” – John MacArthur.
·  The impact of this “energizing” is a daily reality in the life of the believer.
·  We are faced daily with a choice to live for God or live for self.
·  And His grace through the Holy Spirit has equipped us to actually choose today to live for God.
·  The unbelieving world simply cannot do this!
We also seek to live a live a self-denial because God’s word, His commandments, tell us to do so.
·  However, importantly, the law is no longer our condemnation because we are in Christ.
·  His works justify us and His righteousness is imputed to us.
·  But, the law “…does not stop teaching and exhorting and urging [us] to good, even though before God’s judgment seat it has no place in [our] consciences” – John Calvin (3.19.2).
·  It is our “guardian” or “schoolmaster” to guidance in the will and desires of God.
Yet we do struggle with our new identity in Christ.
·  And this tension between our new identity and it’s transformed and “energized” heart, and our old identity is itself evidence that God’s energizing grace is at work within us.
Again, all of this should be a huge encouragement.
·  God has removed the penalty of the law.
o   Our trust in Christ as moved the law from the court room, where it would condemn us, to the “family room” where it guides us – Michael Horton.
·  All of this has freed us to glorify God and fully apprehend the freedom we have in Christ.
·  2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV) — 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day
But, unlike salvation, sanctification – pursuing a life lived in self-denial – is not just a work of God.
·  It requires our active participation.
·  Action is required on our behalf in unison with God’s.
·  “We are justified by grace through a faith that simply rests in Christ [but] we are sanctified by grace through a faith that, resting in Christ, is workingthrough love” – Michael Horton.
So we have seen the following thus far:
·  We are supernaturally equipped via a transformed heart to live a life of self-denial.
·  God, in His grace, has “energized” us and prompts us through the Holy Spirit and His law to choose to live this life.
·  But what role do we play in the sanctification process?

John 14:15 & 21-24 – Loving God and Commandment Keeping – Part 2

John 14:15 (ESV) — 15If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:21–24 (ESV) — 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.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 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. 24 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.
In Part 1, we discussed two issues.
·  What the text appears to mean.
·  Why the text does not mean what it appears to mean.
·  It was necessary to deal with both of these because they laid the foundation for today’s lesson.
 Today we will try to figure out what our text actually means.
·  Crucial to understanding this is the progression we uncovered last week.
·  What we love– is – What we desire
·  What we desire– is – What we keep (“apply ourselves” to “persist in obedience” in)
·  This progression shows us how our love for God and commandment keeping are linked together through our desire or will.
To understand how they are linked, and the meaning of our text, we need to learn 3 things:
1)      What does it mean to love God?
2)      How does this love of God change our desire/will?
3)      What is the purpose of commandment keeping?
1) MEANING FOUND IN LOVING GOD
It needs to be repeated that the only reason we can love God to begin with is because, as we saw last week, He first loved us.
·  “The revelation of God’s love in Christ…makes it possible for us to love. Love is awakened in us by him. We feel its call…to love Jesus himself, and then God” – Dallas Willard.
·  His love for us is the context in which our love for Him exists.
·  “Thus the first great commandment, to love God with all our being, can be fulfilled because of the beauty of God given in Christ” – Dallas Willard.
·  It goes without saying, then, that this entire discussion applies only to believers, those who God loves salvifically.
Love (agapao) of God defined:
·  To ‘agapao’ God means to totally give ourselves over to Him – Nancy Missler.
o   We are to be totally consumed with Him.
o   We are to be totally committed to Him.
The TDNT elaborates on our “agapao” love of God as follows:
·  “To love God is to exist for Him [like] a slave for his lord”.
·  This means that we are “to listen faithfully and obediently to His orders, to place oneself under His lordship, to value above all else the realization of this lordship (cf. Mt 6:33)”.
·  It means to:
o   “base one’s whole being on God”
o   “to cling to Him with unreserved confidence”
o   “to leave with Him all care or final responsibility, to live by His hand”
·  “It is to hate and despise all that does not serve God nor come from Him, to break with all other ties, to cut away all that hinders (Mt 5:29 f.), to snap all bonds except that which binds to God alone”.
·  It is “total commitment and total trust” to His Lordship and purpose – TDNT.
It should be obvious that to love God in this way, something is needed.
·  If we are to have any shot at all, then His love for us has to be transformative in the area of our heart’s desire/will.
·  We cannot love God in this way without God’s action on our hearts.
·  This is what is meant by John’s words, that we loved because He first loved us.
·  His love is necessary before we can ever hope to love Him as He commands.
·  So what does His love do to our heart’s desire/will?
2) MEANING FOUND IN CHANGE IN DESIRE/WILL – SELF DENIAL
We have defined our love of God as something in which we “break with all other ties” and “cut away all that hinders” and “snap all bonds except that which binds to God alone”.
·  What are the ramifications of these actions for our own interests and desires?
·  It means we have to lay them aside.
·  It means we have to crucify them.
·  Scripture calls this self-denial.
·  God’s love for us and our love for God will result in, and flourish in, our self-denial.
Paul explains this beautifully:
·  Ephesians 2:1–5a & 10 (ESV) — 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
And the fact that our love for God demands the complete giving over of ourselves is made clear by Jesus.
·  Mark 12:30 (ESV) — 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
o   Heart – all of our will and desire.
o   Soul – all of our life.
o   Mind – all of our reasoning and thinking.
o   Strength – all of our energy, time and effort.
What all of this means is that self-denial is at the heart of loving God.
·  We cannot love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength without realigning all of those from ourselves to God.
·  To love God demands that we hold nothing back.
·  All that we have and are is to be used to love God.
·  This can only happen with a heart transformed by God to live in self-denial.
What is self-denial?
·  John 12:25–26 (ESV) — 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
·  Galatians 5:24 (ESV) — 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesushave crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
·  Galatians 2:20 (ESV) — 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Self-denial is to “lose” our life and “hate” our life in comparison to our love for God.
·  It is the killing off of our passions and desires.
·  It is Christ through the Holy Spirit crucifying our “self” in love.
Dallas Willard describes self-denial this way:
·  It is to “not make ourselves and our ‘survival’ the ultimate point of reference in our world”, or to “treat ourselves as God” – Dallas Willard.
·  It means that “the object [of] securing myself, promoting myself, indulging myself, is to be set aside” – Dallas Willard.
·  “Being dead to self is the condition where the mere fact that I do not get what I want does not surprise or offend me and has no control over me” – Dallas Willard.
Willard says in practice a life lived in self-denial will look like this:
·  “…as our personality becomes progressively more reorganized around God and his eternal life, self-denial moves beyond more or less frequent acts to settled disposition and character” – Dallas Willard.
·  And, importantly, this is a process and a life struggle (Romans 7).
·  How to improve in living a life of self-denial is another lesson.
Ok, so God has loved us and as transformed our hearts to love Him and live a life of self-denial.
·  What do Jesus’ words in our text mean then?
·  Why this call to commandment keeping?
3) MEANING FOUND IN PURPOSE OF COMMANDMENT KEEPING
Shouldn’t it be enough that we love God, and He, having crucified our flesh, has empowered us to live a life in self-denial?
·  In the world’s eyes, this is the epitome of self-actualization.
·  This is the ultimate meditative, “yogafied”, “Oprahfied”, New Age moment of Zen.
·  The great peace and love longed for by so many.
But it is not enough!
·  God desires more from us.
·  In fact, God desires the best for us.
·  This is the difference between the world’s and the Christian’s self-denial.
·  At the moment where the world would think we have found Nirvana, God has to get all “religious” on us.
·  God has to mess it all up and place “religious” demands on our “self-actualized moment of Zen”.
God’s “Religion” of Commandment Keeping – The Best for Us:
·  A love for God that brings self-denial has in effect, emptied the self of self.
·  Or is at least emptying the self of self.
·  What do we fill this emptied self with?
It is inevitable that we would replace it with something.
·  And given our fallen nature, we would simply replace it with a so-called brighter, cleaner version of self.
·  This might be in the form of the moralistic legalism we spoke of last week.
·  Or it might be with the latest “cause” – the environment; puppies; poverty; etc.
But, remember Horton’s quote from last week.
·  “Even when I have… [kept God’s commandments] …as far as other people are concerned, if my sincerity were weighed, it would actually count against my righteousness” – Michael Horton.
·  Only God’s motives are pure, ours are self-serving; no matter how righteous they look on the outside.
Why is God’s “religion” (His commandments) the best for us?
·  Because in his Grace, He has provided for us His motives, His will, and His desires.
·  And He wants us to fill the emptied self with these, not a “better” self.
·  Jesus’ words in our text today point us to where His motives, will, and desires are to be found.
·  His commandments!
This is why Jesus says to us:
·  If you love me, you will keep my commandments” – John 14:15
·  The best for us is to appropriate His will and desires at the expense of ours.
We aren’t just to love Him; He is clearly worthy of that.
·  We aren’t just to deny self for Him; our love for Him could be nothing less.
·  But we are to participate in the glory of His works “prepared beforehand” as God-loved lovers of God.
o   This is commandment keeping.
This is why Paul says this:
·  Galatians 5:16–17 (ESV) — 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
And why he says this:
·  Ephesians 4:20–24 (ESV) — 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
God’s commandments save us from ourselves.
·  They provide a way for us to freely flourish in the love of God and in our love for Him.
·  God carries all the pressure; we have all the freedom.
This is why it makes sense for Jesus to say moments later:
·  John 14:27 (ESV) — 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Conclusion and Rabbit Trails:
The purpose of keeping, then, is not to love God and then jettison our desires claiming that as a worthy accomplishment.
·  The purpose is to, in the grace and love of God through Christ, jettison our desires and allow God to replace them with His desires and His will as manifested in His commandments.
·  And because this is the best for us, the giving of His commandments is a deep expression of God’s love for us.
·  1 John 5:3 (ESV) — 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
·  2 John 6 (ESV) — 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
Rabbit Trail 1:
Last week we suggested that in keeping with our context, Jesus’ words were a comfort to the disciples.
·  Notice what John said – “his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
·  John clearly didn’t hear Jesus’ words they way we first did last week.
John saw them in two striking ways!
1.       It is “the love of God” that we keep Jesus’ commandments
a.       In other words, the primary expression of love is not in our keeping them but in God’s giving them.
2.       The commandments “are not burdensome”.
a.       In fact, they are the guide to navigate a fallen world.
b.      In them, we have total freedom to express the will and desires of God.
c.       When we abandon our self in love to God, and fill our self with His motives, will, and desires, we will be most satisfied in Him.
d.      And, as John Piper says, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
e.      Given all this, they most certainly are a comfort.
Rabbit Trail 2:
Are the works of the believer different than the works of the unbeliever?
·  If I love my neighbor by doing “X”, and an unbeliever also loves his neighbor by doing “X”, is the loving different?
The answer is that they are different.
·  As we said, our love of God, self-denial and commandment keeping are at the prompting of a transformed heart.
·  Our motives, will, and desires are set aside and replaced by God’s through commandment keeping.
·  Just as His love is the context for our love for Him to exist, so too are His works the context for any God glorifying works to exist!
·  In other words, in the context of this love and commandment keeping, God appropriates our works for His glory.
·  This is why our works are different from the world’s works.
·  They are done in context of God’s love and God’s commandments.
·  This really does make a difference.
As Paul so eloquently puts it:
·  1 Corinthians 13:1–2 (ESV) — 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
·  In God’s reality, the unseen spiritual world is fundamental.
·  Our relationship to God in it has a direct relationship to how He views are actions in the physical world.
Our works/obedience/commandment keeping in the context of God’s love for us and our love for Him are what Paul calls the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:1-7 and Romans 16:25-27).
·  This is an obedience that has as its ultimate end, and its chief aim, the glory of God.
·  The works of the unbeliever do not glorify God; they are not an “obedience of faith”.
Romans 1:1–7 (ESV) — 1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received graceand apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 16:25–27 (ESV) — 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith27to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

John 14:15 & 21-24 – Loving God and Commandment Keeping – Part 1

John 14:15 (ESV) — 15If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:21–24 (ESV) — 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.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 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. 24 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.
In our text today, it is absolutely essential that we account for the context or we will ask the wrong questions.
As the evening of the Last Supper progressed, Jesus has told them:
·  Where He is going they can’t come.
·  Judas will betray Him.
·  Peter will deny Him.
·  In other words, He is going to leave; He is going to die; they are going to fail.
In light of Jesus’ discouraging revelations, He then sought to comfort and equip the disciples.
·  He did this by sharing the following profound truths:
·  He is going to prepare a place for them.
·  He will come back for them.
·  He is the way to the Father.
·  He has told them of the works and greater works they will do because He is going to the Father.
·  He has told them He will do “whatever” they ask.
In light of the preceding contextual considerations, I think we have to assume that our text today is also meant to be a comfort.
·  The main question, then, is how is our text a comfort to the disciples?
·  It certainly doesn’t appear to be a comfort.
The first step in answering this question is to spell out exactly what the text appears to mean.
·  And then discuss why it in fact doesn’t mean what it looks like.
·  We will then figure out what it means and why it is a comfort, and follow a couple of rabbit trails.
1) WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
Jesus words center around “loving” and “keeping”:
·  If you love” then “you will keep” (vs. 15)
·  keeps them” then “you love me” (vs. 21)
·  loves me” then “loved by my Father” (vs. 21)
·  loves me” then “will keep my word” (vs. 23)
·  keep my word” then “Father will love him” (vs. 23)
·  does not love me” then “does not keep my word” (vs. 24)
It appearsthat our text is saying at least two troubling things:
·  1) Jesus will love us only after we love Him.
o   In other words, if we do what He says, He will love us and then the Father will love us.
·  2) We love Jesus by successfully keeping His list of do’s and don’ts.
o   In other words, the act of completing His to-do list is what loving Jesus means.
I have said that in context, our text must be seen as a comfort to the disciples.
·  How is it a comfort that their relationship with Christ is dependent on them?
·  If God’s moving forward in a relationship with us is dependent upon our first loving Him and keeping His commandments, we are in a heap of trouble.
Jesus just pointed out that at least two of them will fail miserably.
·  Judas will betray and Peter will deny – both choosing themselves over Jesus.
o   Does this mean Peter doesn’t love Jesus?
o   Is Peter therefore not loved by God and so not saved?
One would think Peter would take this as judgment upon himself and not as a comfort.
·  It would seem that Jesus’ words torpedo any hope we have in the authenticity of our belief.
·  This is simply because we sin.
·  We fail in “keeping” his commandments.
Our temptation to read the text this way is also fueled by the following verses:
·  John 3:36 (ESV) — 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
·  Romans 2:8 (ESV) — 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
·  1 John 2:3–6 (ESV) — 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
We have to be honest.
·  We don’t obey the Son.
·  We are self-seeking.
o   That is what sin is.
·  We don’t obey the truth.
·  We don’t keep His commandments.
Even if we were optimistic about our “keeping”, Michael Horton says the following:
·  “Even when I have… [kept God’s commandments] …as far as other people are concerned, if my sincerity were weighed, it would actually count against my righteousness” – Michael Horton.
Are we, therefore, liars with no truth in us?
·  We might feel that way on occasion.
And yet, we hope and have a sense that our text today clearly doesn’t mean what it appears to mean.
·  We have certainly been told as much.
·  Why is this so?
·  What is the Scriptural reason for this?
2) WHAT THE TEXT DOESN’T MEAN
It is crucial that we address why the text doesn’t mean what it appears to mean.
·  This is because we too often have a childish, superstitious view of keeping.
·  We approach setbacks in our life as if they are payback for not “keeping” Christ’s commandments.
o   Flat tire = payback
o   Leaking sink = payback
o   Car breaks down = payback
·  We then begin to think, “Ok, if I keep God’s list better, I won’t have as many problems to contend with”.
·  As a result we become legalistic-moralizers.
o   Moralizers – be nice, do the right thing, obey God
o   Legalistic – then think “keeping” these things is what renews and sanctifies us
·  Living like this is certainly not a comfort or privilege.
·  In fact, trying to love Jesus by commandment-keeping will make you miserable.
·  And besides, if “loving” and “keeping” were the same, the world would often appear to love God more than we do!
In order to dispel any notion that the text doesn’t mean what it appears we need to answer two questions.
·  1) Why is it not true that Jesus will love us only after we successfully love Him?
·  2) Why is it not true that we love Jesus by successfully keeping His list of do’s and don’ts?
First Question Answered – God First Loved Us:
The answer to our first question is simply that God loved us (believers) first.
·  John 13:34 (ESV) — 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
o   Jesus loved first, and then asked us to follow His example as we love one another.
·  Romans 5:8 (ESV) — 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
o   We were loved before we believed; while we were still slaves to sin.
o   Before we were even capable of loving Him.
·  1 John 4:19 (ESV) — 19 We love because he first loved us.
o   His love is the necessary context for our love for Him to even exist!
o   We cannot love until He has loved.
o   In fact, Galatians 5:22 tells us that love is a fruit of His Spirit.
So, why is it not true that Jesus will love us after we successfully love Him?
·  Because He first loved us!
·  Before we were even capable of living in the light, He first loved us.
·  Before we were even capable of obedience, He first loved us.
·  Before we even had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He first loved us.
·  Before we even had the moral ability to believe, He first loved us.
Now what of our second question, why is it not truethat we love Jesus by successfully keeping His list of do’s and don’ts?
Second Question Answered – 3 Reasons Love and Keeping are Different Things:
1) “Keep” simply doesn’t mean “Love”
·  Keep my commandments” defined:
·  “Keep” in our text is referring to the idea that we are “to persist in obedience” – BDAG.
·  There is also an element of the word that denotes that we are to “apply oneself to” something – TDNT
·  These two together can be stated this way – “to keep” is to have a desire (that which we apply ourselves to) to “persist in obedience” to Jesus’ commandments.
·  There is nothing at all about the Greek word for “keep”, “tereo”, that means love.
In fact, I think you can see a progression quite nicely from the above definition which will show “love” has to be something quite different.
·  To “keep” is “to persist in obedience”.
·  We “persist in obedience” to that which we “apply ourselves to”.
·  We “apply ourselves to” that which we desire.
o   BTW – we always do what the heart desires.
·  We desire what we love.
·  So “love” is primary and “keeping” follows from it down the line.
2) Scripture treats them as different things
·  That “to love me” and “keep my commandments” are different things is also fleshed out in Deuteronomy 11.
·  Deuteronomy 11:1 (ESV) — 1 “You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.
·  Deut. 11:1 clearly treats “love the Lord” as a separate commandment from “keep his charge”.
·  We are to obey God by loving Him AND by keepinghis charge”.
·  So this further solidifies that “loving” and “keeping” are two different things.
3) They have different causes
·  Another reason that “loving” and “keeping” are different is that they have different causes.
·  We just saw in our progression above that “keeping” comes from “loving”.
·  The “loving” is the cause and the “keeping” is the effect.
But what is the cause of our loving?
·  Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV) — 6 And the Lordyour God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
·  1 John 4:7 (ESV) — 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
·  The cause of our “loving” God is a regenerated heart – heart of stone changed to a heart of flesh.
·  If “loving” and “keeping” are the same thing, they would have the same cause.
o   But they do not.
So, why is it not true that we love Jesus by successfully keeping His list of do’s and don’ts?
·  “Keeping” does not mean “loving”.
·  Scripture and Jesus clearly treat “loving” God as something different from “keeping” His commandments.
·  “To love” is a separate commandment from “keeping” His commandments.
·  “Loving” God is the primary context in which meaningful “keeping” can occur.
·  And “loving” and “keeping” have different causes.
·  Therefore, I think we have seen definitively that “loving” and “keeping” are NOTthe same.
·  Our “keeping” His commandments flows from our “loving”; it is not the “loving”.
Scholars’ take:
·  Keeping is responding “with a life of submission and service” with our “hearts regenerated” and our “minds renewed” as “new creatures in Christ” – John MacArthur.
·  “The lover of Jesus will live in the light of… [the commandments] …guidance and their power” – Beasley-Murray.
Knowing definitively that “keeping” is not “loving” frees us from the legalistic-moralism we talked about.
·  This is our first hint to the meaning of Jesus’ words and why they would be a comfort to the disciples.
·  But it raises a couple of new questions.
·  What does it mean to love God?
·  What is the relationship between loving God and commandment keeping?