“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always struggled with this teaching of Jesus. Especially in light of His statement that “This is My commandment” (John 15:12), which is singular (and speaks explicitly of love), as opposed to the implication of the quoted verse (John 14:15), which is the title of this piece.
And also, knowing that we are no longer under the Law, but are called to liberty (Jam 2:10-12), following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not a set of written commandments, this particular expression of Jesus had me puzzled for a while. A long while, actually. I often pondered, “are there a new set of eternal commandments Jesus came to give that we should follow religiously?“
But, sometime early this year, something clicked and it made perfect sense what Jesus meant and is saying.
Jesus isn’t saying that if we love Him, we will obey the Ten Commandments God wrote for Moses to give the Israelites.
Jesus isn’t saying that if we love Him, we will obey the many other commandments He gave the Israelites, as recorded in the Torah.
And He is definitely not saying that if we love Him, we will sift through the entire Bible for anything that looks like a commandment to follow, presuming that since it is in the Bible, God said it for all eternity.
No, no, no. Jesus is not going back on what He has already done to redeem us from the Law and the curse of the Law, which makes us ALL wrong and brings judgement and death (Gal 3:10-14, Rom 3:19-20, Rom 6:23).
Jesus is talking about a relationship. With Him. Through the Holy Spirit. If we are in a relationship with Him, He will lead us into all truth, teach us many things, and instruct us on what to do at different points in our fellowship with Him…(John 16:13). We do not need a book or list of commands (2 Cor 3:6)!
Can you see? Like your parents, for example. They don’t have a list of commandments in a book or printed out and hung on the wall that they expect you to keep to be in a good relationship with them.
However, they do expect that if they tell you “don’t go to the kitchen!” you will obey. Or if they say, “fetch my keys from my dresser”, you will do it. Or “that man/woman is not good for you. Wait for someone better…”, you will honour their wisdom!
Can you see? The emphasis of having a relationship? And one that is characterized by love, obedience and submission? Such a child doesn’t need rules nor the fear of punishment to do what is right and honour and obey their parents. They only need to trust their parents know best, and love them enough not to disrespect them by ignoring them or rebelling against their counsel.
Let me give an example. There’s a father, who is celebrating his 50th birthday. He has three daughters, and they all plan to leave his party to go clubbing. He overhears them and tells them not to go, not even after his celebration is over. However, two daughters think he would be understanding and forgiving if they go, since they could always apologise later. But the third is conflicted. She too wants to go, but then she remembers how hurt her dad looked when he learnt that they wanted to leave his party, and she decides to stay back. So, because she can’t bare the thought of hurting her dad’s feelings, not because she thinks he would punish her or never forgive her, she obeys him.
I believe this is what Jesus means by “if you love Me, you will obey My commandments” (John 14:15). See the emphasis on love? It is about a relationship. We will do what He asks of us, which is not limited to what is written in Scripture, if we have a relationship with Him and truly love Him.
Jesus told a parable of two sons who a father gave instruction (Matt 21:28-32). One said he wouldn’t do it, but later did, when he had a change of heart. However, the other, who said he would, neglected to obey, or maybe intended to deceive. Jesus tells us that it was the one who obeyed his father’s commandment that was justified – “who did his father’s will” – and that is what He expects of us. We may not start willing, but if we have a loving relationship with Him, our hearts will respond to His pull and instruction.
“My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it” (Luke 8:21).
I also like the example of the Centurion, of whom Jesus said he had great faith (Matt 8:5-13). The Centurion believed that Jesus could heal his servant with just a word because in his line of work, where he often gives commandments, they are obeyed without question! Because they respect him. He had authority as a Captain over them. And Jesus doesn’t expect less from us, His disciples and servants.
So, do you love Jesus? Is your relationship characterised by love, obedience and submission? Or do you pretty much do what you want, and only obey when you are forced to or think you stand to gain? Are you able to discern His voice, so that you will be able to HEAR and OBEY His commands?
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
If your relationship is not characterized by love, obedience and submission, you may be among the many who Jesus will say He never knew (Matt 7:21-23). If you think this may be you, you need a new heart…that is tender and responsive to the Lord. Ask Him for one today and surrender your life to His rule.
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Eze 36:26-27).
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