John 14:21, 23 and 15:10
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
November 11, 2018
Jesus says, “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.” In other words, our obedience to His word shows our love of Him. To love Him is to care enough about Him to carry out His wishes.
Yet, obeying Him is an even bigger blessing for us than it is for Him.
In these three verses, Jesus promises payoffs for the obedient: The Father, as well as Jesus, will love them; Jesus will especially reveal Himself to them; and both the Father and Jesus will make a home with them. This will result in not only God’s love abiding with them, but their abiding in God’s love.
Let us be clear about one thing, however: Obedience is not how we get God’s love; it is how we experience and enjoy the love that is already there for us. We don’t get God’s love by doing anything; it is always there for us by God’s unprompted initiative, as a freely offered gift of sheer grace, sheer unearned kindness. We don’t then get God’s love by obeying Jesus, but we get to enjoy it by obeying Jesus. Obedience is how we come to own the wonderful gift that already belongs to us, how we take into our lives – into our hearts, minds and day-to-day existence – what is already ours for the taking.
Obedience doesn’t open up God to us; it opens our lives to Him in all His generosity and compassion.
How does this work? Think of a boy who has fallen head over heels in love with a girl who feels the same about him. How can he fully experience and enjoy the love they share?
He talks with her. He listens to her. He studies her heart and her mind. He makes her interest, concerns and passions his own. He knows they become close by sharing their inner thoughts, drives and visions for the future.
But nothing will do like spending time with her, and that means joining together in joint projects and efforts that they both find meaningful and inspiring. So, out of love, they work out together, volunteer in a soup kitchen together, decide how to vote together, worship together, do collaboratively whatever will draw them close together in shared pursuit of common goals.
In the same way, obeying Jesus and working with Him side by side in a common purpose puts us into a deeper connection with Him and puts us in a better place to know Him, to experience His love, and to be invigorated by His presence.
Another way to think about how obeying Jesus creates a more vital relationship with Him is to think about its having a catalytic effect. A catalyst is something that causes something to happen. For example, if you light a match in a room with hydrogen gas and oxygen gas, you will have an explosion and create water. The lit match is the catalyst that set off the boom and the formation of H2O.
Obedience is the catalyst by which we can set off an explosion of grace in their lives and bring about the flow of the Spirit’s rivers of the living waters. When we make our small contribution and do what little things Jesus asks of us, we create the spiritual conditions by which God makes His huge contributions. That little boy, by whose brown bag lunch Jesus fed 5,000 people in the middle of nowhere, may have put next to nothing in Jesus’ hands; but without that little boy’s scraps of fish and bread, there would have been no miracle.
So, for example, today we obey Jesus’ commandment to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing people and teaching them His word. As later in this service we take in new members, baptizing half of them, the catalytic effect will strike a spark that will set off an explosion of joy and causes the rivers of grace to flow.
Likewise, next Sunday we will obey Jesus’ commandments to love one another as He first loved us, and to give as freely as we have received. As in the services a week from today we submit to the truth that, while it is possible to give without loving, it is impossible to love without giving, and we make pledges of financial support for this family of believers in its life together and its mission to the world beyond it, the catalytic effect of obedience will launch us into God’s loving presence.
Our good and generous Lord is loving us even when He is asking us to obey Him. For our obeying Him blesses us even more than it blesses Him. Let us pray.