John 14:15 (ESV) — 15“If 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 faith— 27to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.