What do we mean when we say, “I love you.” You would get a variety of answers to that question if you were to take a survey of 100 different people some evening at the mall. I would venture to say that most people you would survey would describe some kind of emotion they experience when the person they love comes to mind. The problem with our modern-day understanding of love is that it has evolved into being primarily an emotion. Love’s primary expression is not to feel, but to do. I know “doing” rather than “feeling” appears to rob the romance from love for many of you, but let’s stop and think about it for a moment. The kind of love put on full display in the media and desired by our culture today thrives on emotion, feelings of euphoria, and experiences that send that tingly feeling up our spine. We’re shown pictures of Hollywood stars and starlets sitting on some exotic beach enraptured as they gaze into one another’s eyes. Inevitably, the same couple is put on full display just a few months later with daggers shooting from their eyes as we’re told about their split. Love that is driven by a desire for emotional euphoria just will not last, cannot last, but love that is a conscience choice to love can and will endure the test of time.
The most convincing case study for the point I’m trying to make is found in the life of Jesus. The most powerful picture of His intentional love for you and me is found as we gaze upon the cross. The very ones He came to save had turned against Him, arrested Him, beaten and mocked Him, nailed Him to a cross, and hoisted Him into the air for all the world to see His supposed defeat. As He hung, writhing in pain, listening to the crowd mock and taunt Him, humiliated and naked for all the world to see–He spoke…
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34 NIVO)
It doesn’t take a Bible scholar or psychologist to know that His words, His plea to the Father to forgive, was not driven by some warm fuzzy emotional love for those who desired nothing more than to humiliate and eliminate Him. No, His plea for the Father to forgive was driven by His choice to love the Father and those He came to save. Jesus was sent on a mission from the Father, a mission to save those who were lost. Nothing could deter His willingness to fulfill His Father’s will. Jesus’ love for the Father was expressed in perfect obedience, even to the moment of death. It’s important for us to be reminded of this again and again because Jesus calls His followers to exhibit the same kind of love in our daily life that He lived out throughout His own. Let’s go back to the Upper Room and take a look at our next section of Scripture. Turn with me to John 14:15-25 and let’s read together.
15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. (John 14:15-25 NIVO)
I want us to spend our time focusing on two very important lessons in this section of God’s Word. The first is a continuation of what we’ve already been talking about…the lesson of love. We won’t get to the second lesson until next week. In three different verses Jesus speaks about those who love Him. In John 14:15 we read, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15 NIVO) The next two places where Jesus speaks about those who love Him are found in John 14:21; 23. Take a look with me.
21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21 NIVO)
23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23 NIVO)
Did you notice a distinguishing characteristic of those who love Jesus? It’s in all three verses. Jesus says those who love Him are those who keep His commands. Jesus also identifies those who do not love Him as well. He says, “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching…” (John 14:24a NIVO) These statements of Jesus should stop us in our tracks and cause us to examine our lives. Are we obeying Jesus in our daily life? Are we living life according to our plan or His? Are we doing what we want to do or are we seeking to live our life according to His calling on our life? I’ve been asking myself these questions this past week and I have to admit to you that I’ve been convicted of my lack of love for Jesus. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Jesus. I really do. I’m not ashamed of telling people I love Jesus. I’m not ashamed of speaking about Jesus even in situations where I’m not sure if those listening will be receptive or not. I love Jesus in these ways, but talk is cheap. If I evaluate my love for Jesus by my willingness to obey Jesus as I live each day of my life, and not just talk about Jesus, then I get a little more than antsy.
Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commands.” Jesus calls us to love Him with more than words–He calls us to love Him by obeying His commands. What does that mean and how can I know what He commands? Those are great questions to start with aren’t they? Let’s talk about it. First of all, how can I know what Jesus commands? Well, there is no other way to know Jesus’ commands than to spend time with Jesus in God’s Word. It is in God’s Word that you and I will discover what Jesus commands. Walk with Him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and listen in as He teaches you from the Sermon on the Mount. Sit still on the steps of the Temple and listen in as He teaches you about the two most important commandments of all. Lean in while you kneel in the Garden of Gethsemane and listen to our Lord pray before His arrest. Some of Jesus’ most powerful teaching can be found in His prayer. There’s simply no other way to know what Jesus commands than to spend time, quiet time, lots of time, with Him in His Word.
The second question for us is, “What does it mean to obey His commands?” This is an important question for us because we live in a day in which being attentive to obeying the Lord’s commands are hardly given a thought. We’ve emphasized the grace of God and downplayed being obedient to God. This emphasis has led to our believing that God will forgive us so it really doesn’t matter what we do. In this lax, do-what-you-will climate, we need to understand that this is a total misrepresentation of God and His ways. Let me show you what I mean.
In the days of Jesus the priests at the temple presented sin offerings or purification offerings for God’s people to cleanse them of their sin. God had given His people directions on how to deal with their sin in Leviticus 4. At the end of Leviticus 4 we read,
“…In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the sin he has committed, and he will be forgiven.” (Leviticus 4:35 NIVO)
There is a really important word that is found four times in Leviticus 4 which qualifies the sin offering, or purification offering, and it the word, “unintentional.” The Hebrew word is, “????????” (shegagah) and it means, “ignorance, without intent, or inadvertence.” In Number 15, God spoke to Moses about life for His people once they entered the Promised Land. When God addressed the role of the priests and temple in the lives of His people, God gave instructions on how to deal with the sins of His people. Five times we read the same Hebrew word that we read in Leviticus 4. The sin offering was for the unintentional sins of His people. Let me give you an example. Read Numbers 15:28 with me.
28 The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven. (Numbers 15:28 NIVO)
The priest would make atonement for the unintentional sins of God’s people. That raises a question doesn’t it? What about intentional sin? I’m so glad you raised the issue because it is addressed in Numbers 15 as well. Turn with me to Numbers 15:30-31 and let’s read together.
30 “‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. 31 Because he has despised the LORD’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.'” (Numbers 15:30-31 NIVO)
Did you notice the word, “defiantly?” In Hebrew, it’s a phrase, “??????? ??????“ (beyad rummah). Literally, it means, “with high hand.” We would say, “shaking a fist.” “Anyone who sins while shaking a fist in the face of God…shall be cut off.” There is no offering at the temple to deal with that kind of sin. The priest can’t help you. God takes sin so seriously that He has made no provision at the temple for those of us who know what we should do, but shake a fist in the face of God and do what we want instead. Yet, we find an example of someone who did sin defiantly and was forgiven. I’m sure some of you know the story of King David. David sinned defiantly. He committed adultery, tried to cover up his sin by killing Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, and then he paraded the poor widow in front of everyone and told them that he would take her in and provide for her. What a sham! I’d call that defiance. Yet, we are told that David was forgiven for his sin. Now, you need to know that he didn’t find forgiveness at the temple. There was no offering for him there. David took his sin to God in repentance and brokenness. Let me read to you a Psalm that David wrote after he had been exposed by Nathan the prophet. David writes,
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge…16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps. 51:1-4; 16-17 NIVO)
“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” Our sin is costly my friends. We may wink at one another’s sin and say, “It’s no big deal. Don’t worry about it.” God doesn’t wink at sin because sin destroys us. God sent His Son to break the choke hold that sin has on our lives. Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NIVO) We’re not free to do whatever we want and try and convince ourselves that God will forgive us anyway. We are free to walk in the newness of life that only Jesus can provide for us. We are free to serve Jesus with all of our heart. We can’t do either of those things as long as we are shackled by our sin. As long as sin has its hold on us we will serve the flesh, do what we want, at every turn. It is only when we hand over the reigns of our life to Jesus that the shackles of sin are broken and we are freed to live our lives for Him.
Now, some of you are wondering, “Are you saying that if I give my life to Jesus that I will never sin again? Are you saying that Jesus expects me to never sin again?” Those are great questions and for the answers we need to turn to God’s Word. The same John who wrote the Gospel we’ve been studying for some time now also wrote 1 John. In 1 John, we learn that what Jesus had to say in the Upper Room left an indelible impression on the heart and mind of John. Listen to these verses and see if you agree. I want to read what John wrote in 1 John 2:3-6.
3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6 NIVO)
Sound like Jesus? You bet it does! John even uses the same phrase, “obey his commands.” If we love Jesus, if we have come to know Jesus, then we will obey His commands. Now, turn with me to 1 John 5:2-4 and let’s read one more passage.
2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:2-4 NIVO)
So John is on point in agreement with what Jesus said right?! I needed to show you these Scriptures before I show you what we will read next. Turn with me to 1 John 1:8-10 and let’s read together.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:8-10 NIVO)
How do we hold these two truths together? If we love Jesus we will obey His commands and yet if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and make Him out to be a liar. The answer is this: There are at least two characteristics of every genuine follower of Jesus. First, every follower of Jesus, because of their love for Jesus, will desire to know Jesus more and more which will lead to becoming more and more like Him in every way. Second, every follower of Jesus will willingly continue the struggle against sin as he or she is empowered by the Holy Spirit. That’s the difference. For those who do not know Jesus there is no desire for holiness and a deeper intimacy with Jesus. Before I came to know Jesus I could care less about sin. I wasn’t sinning, I was just doing what I wanted to do.
When I came to know Jesus, or rather when I came to understand Jesus’ love for me, it changed me. I had never known anyone who had loved me like Jesus. I was told by a friend that Jesus loved me. Later, as I begin to spend time in God’s Word, I learned firsthand of how much Jesus loves me. When you come to understand Jesus’ love for you it will transform you my friend. His commands are not burdensome, they are a blessing to our lives. When we come to understand Jesus’ love for us, God’s Word is transformed from merely being a book that sits on a shelf, to being a living love letter written to convey God’s love and will for our lives.
I was talking to my friend Dr. Darnell this past week about this very thing. We were talking about how so many today are so casual about their views of sin and so uninformed about the transforming power of Jesus’ love. David told me that when he was a teenager living in New Mexico he loved to box. Boxing was his sport and he loved it. David worked at his dad’s business, a gas station in town. In his free time David would go hunting and fishing. One day God spoke to his heart: “That’s not the way, don’t walk in it.” The experience was so profound, so clearly from God, that David went to his boxing coach and told him he had to quit the team. He sold his hunting and fishing gear and told his dad, “Dad, I don’t want you to give me your business one day because I’m going to study to go into the ministry.” David’s dad was startled. He thought David had lost his mind. He took David to see a psychiatrist, but it didn’t do any good. On the same block where the Darnell’s lived there was a Jewish family, the Smittermans. Mr. Smitterman threw a big dinner party for David, but while they were eating dinner Mr. Smitterman stopped eating and told David he was taking things too far. David said, “Mr. Smittherman, you and your family go to synagogue every week, you should understand.” Mr. Smittherman said, “David there are a lot of reasons people go to church or synagogue other than what you are talking about. I go there for business reasons.” Everyone who knew David, those closest to him, thought David had lost his mind, but the truth was, David had never been more in his right mind in his life.
As David and I talked he told me about a verse from Isaiah. David is writing a commentary on the prophet Isaiah right now and the verse he shared with me has had a hold on him for some time now. Turn with me to Isaiah 66:1-2 and let’s read together.
1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? 2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2 NIVO)
God made it clear to His people that He was not impressed by the big, elaborate buildings His people wanted to build in His name. God was much more impressed with those who trembled at His Word. When David shared this verse with me it pierced my heart. Charles Haddon Spurgeon describes those who tremble at God’s Word.
They are a people who are acquainted with God’s Word. You cannot tremble, in the sense here meant, at a voice you have never heard or at a book you have never opened. There is nothing sacred in so much paper, ink and binding— nothing in the fashion of a volume to make you tremble—you must hear the Lord speak and know what He says to you. When, like the ancient king, you have found the Word of God and read its holy laws, then you will tremble. When you are astonished to find how much you have broken the Law and how short you have fallen even of the full enjoyment of the Gospel—then you tremble. An intelligent appreciation of the Word of God can alone make a man tremble at it. And the more he understands it, the more cause for trembling will he see in it. (Spurgeon, C. H. Trembling At The Word of The Lord. May 1, 1884.)
Spurgeon is so right. The more we understand that the Bible isn’t a book, it is the Word of God, the Living Word of God, the Word that convicts and transforms, the more we will tremble at His Word. When King Josiah’s men found the Book of the Law and read it to him, he tore his robes and wept in the presence of God. He could no longer be who he was before he heard the Word of God. And God desires the same for you and me my friend.
Do we love Jesus? I’m not talking about simply saying, “I do love Jesus.” I’m talking about trembling before His Word and allowing it to transform our lives so that we willingly battle the sin that remains within us. I’m talking about trembling before His Word and allowing it to transform our lives so that we yearn to walk with Jesus, to glorify Jesus, and to allow Jesus to use us to do with us whatever He wills. Oh, I want to know Jesus more and more. I want to love Jesus more and more until I draw my last breath. The reason I have this desire is not because I’m religious, a do-gooder, or somehow trying to earn my way to heaven. The reason I yearn to know and love Him more and more is because I know how much He loves me. He has loved me with a love that I’ve never known before. He has loved me at my worst. He loves me when I fail Him. He loves me. And He loves you too. I want to invite you to explore His love for you if you wonder if what I’m saying is true. Read His Word and learn of His love for you.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
June 5, 2016