We welcome you to North Shore Church located in beautiful Menominee, MI. Pastor Duncan Ross shares a heartfelt introductory message to all who are looking for a place to worship, grow, and connect.
Celebrate Recovery will be hosting a special evening with pastor and speaker, Brian Cole. He will be speaking about how he went from dope to hope during a free presentation from 6:15 to 8:15 p.m. on Thursday, December 5th in the NSC sanctuary.
Cole said he was involved with Satanism and the occult for more than 30 years, was a drug addict for over 25 years, and was incarcerated for four years as a juvenile and 23 as an adult. He said he was “caught up in many other addictions such as cutting, pornography, sex, dungeons and dragons” and had almost succeeded in committing suicide three times.1
Now he is a pastor at The Oaks Community Church in Drummond, WI, is the director of Addiction Transformation out of Crossroads Outreach in Ashland, WI, and is involved in motorcycle and jail ministries. You won’t want to miss this incredible testimony. Bring a friend and come join us.
*Note: Nursery volunteers are needed for that evening. If interested in serving, please contact Cindy Verschay or Martha Henson.
This morning, we continue in Jesus’ farewell discourse in the gospel of John. As chapter 15 opens, we come to one of the better-known texts on the essence of what it is to be a disciple of Christ. When Paul talks about the heart of our relationship with God, he uses the phrase “in Christ” to describe the reality that when a person becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit spiritually and eternally unites the believer with Christ. Jesus’ metaphor about the vine and the branches we heard read a few moments ago is a graphic way of depicting what that union between Christ and the believer looks like.
This a foundational teaching on Christian discipleship and if believers are to live fruitful Christian lives, we must seek to understand and increasingly live out our identity as fruitful branches united to Christ, our vine. There is a real challenge for believers in living out our union with Christ and producing spiritual fruit. That is, we must allow our thinking to be dictated by a paradox taught in the Scripture as it relates to how to increasingly become fruitful or mature in our walk with Jesus. That’s a challenge because a paradox is when two seemingly contradictory truths are woven together. Keeping two seemingly contradictory things together in our minds is not easy. In fact, the Holy Spirit must empower us to do that.
This paradox comes into view every time we see the Christian life described in terms of our union with Christ. For instance, Paul in Galatians 2:20 says, “20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…” You hear the union-with-Christ language there—crucified WITH CHRIST and Christ LIVING IN ME. I died with him and he lives in me. I have been crucified—from a spiritual perspective, it’s NOT me who lives but Christ lives in me. That’s clear enough—no paradox there. That is, until you get to the second half of the verse where Paul says, “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.” How does Paul fit that together with the first half of the verse? I thought you no longer live, Paul? Yet, you say, “the life I now live, I live by faith…”
The verse captures this paradox that shows itself whenever our union with Christ is discussed in Scripture. Living the Christian life involves (paradoxically) BOTH living as a Christian by faith and not living but instead having Christ live in us because we have been crucified with Christ. We see similar paradox as Paul relates his own life in Christ as an apostle in First Corinthians 15:10. He says, “10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain…”
There it is—it was God’s grace that was working in and through Paul. GOD is doing the work! But in the second half of the verse he says, “On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Ok, that’s confusing. What was it, Paul? Was it YOU working harder than all of them? Or, was it THE GRACE OF GOD working IN you? And Paul would answer that question, “Yes.” Its not either/or. Its both/and. But that’s confusing because we want it to be EITHER one or the other. How can it be both? It’s a paradox and its found all over the New Testament.
Jesus’ teaching of the vine and the branches does not unlock this paradox by removing the tension between God’s role and ours in living the Christian life. But Jesus here DOES throw some light on it through this metaphor. This vine/branch relationship helps us think more clearly about ourselves and how we relate to God in living as a follower of Jesus. Before we get into the text, there are a couple of important background truths that will help us better understand and appreciate this teaching.
First, we must remember that Jesus is using a metaphor here to describe our relationship to him and the Father. Jesus isn’t a literal vine and we are not literal branches—this is a metaphor. Metaphors are graphic images and Jesus uses this metaphor of the vine and branches to give us a picture of this relationship between him and the individual believer. With metaphors in the bible, we have to be careful not to press the image too far. If we try to interpret this teaching in a hyper-literal way, it will end up confusing us. Metaphors give us an image; an analogy and all analogies break down if you press them too far.
A second background truth is—this metaphor is drawn from the many references to the vine in the Old Testament. This vine/branches image is not one that Jesus just randomly chooses. This metaphor was a very familiar one to the Jews. These disciples knew that in the Old Testament, any vine or vineyard imagery almost always represents Israel as God’s vineyard. God had called Israel to be his vine and bear his fruit. That is—display has character to the surrounding nations. However, in nearly every case in the Old Testament, this image of Israel as God’s vine is used negatively to illustrate what a sick and fruitless vineyard God’s people were.
Isaiah 5:7 is one of many examples of this. He writes, “7For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” God appointed Israel as his vineyard but when he looked for the fruit of his justice and righteousness, his vine was bare. In his parables, Jesus also speaks of Israel as God’s vineyard and, like the prophets before him, he too uses this image to condemn Israel for the rotten and barren vineyard it was. Israel was a vineyard whose fruit was either non-existent or rotten.
However, the Jews would have also known that the Old Testament teaches that sometime in the future, God would have a new and fruitful vineyard that bore much fruit. Isaiah 27:6 tells us, “6 In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.” That Old Testament, forward-looking understanding of the vineyard is the backdrop of Jesus’ teaching here. This is why Jesus in verse one says, “I am the true vine…”
Jesus is drawing an implicit contrast between himself as the true and fruitful vine, and Israel—the barren and worthless vine. Israel was a fruitless vine that God ultimately condemns for its fruitless idolatries. Jesus however is the vastly superior vine to which the nation of Israel pointed. This TRUE vine, Jesus, through his branches, his New Covenant people will, without fail—no possibility of failure–“fill the whole world with fruit.” When we see this teaching through that Old Testament lens, it helps us understand better what Jesus means by it.
With that as background, let’s look at this teaching and find three keys that open the door to faithful discipleship—or three keys to walking faithfully with Christ. The first key and the main teaching of Jesus here is: For the believer, all our spiritual life and fruit come from/belong to Jesus. This gets at what we were saying earlier about what is Christ’s role and what is our role in living the Christian life. It’s important that we become as clear as we can on this truth for several reasons. First, because this keeps us from believing the lie that the ultimate secret to being a faithful Christian is trying harder—exerting more personal willpower or effort to live the way we are supposed to. This metaphor openly exposes that lie. Branches don’t produce fruit by straining, but only through their connection to the life-giving, fruit generating vine.
Verses four and five are clear as Jesus describes himself as the vine and his followers as the branches on which is fruit is found. Jesus says, “4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” THE ONLY WAY the branch can bear fruit is if it abides in the vine. Without Jesus the Vine, the branch is a withered up, fruitless appendage. We know this from our own experience. If you sever a branch from a plant, it will eventually die because the life is not in the branch, it’s in the vine or the plant which imparts its life to its branches. The branch only transmits or carries within it the life and fruit it receives from the vine—it has no independence from the vine.
Likewise, we have no spiritual life or fruit in ourselves—it is only the life of Christ through the Spirit that gives us life and produces his fruit in us. Jesus concludes this section of this teaching by giving an example of what he means here in verse 11. “11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” This is very similar to what he said last time in 14:27 but there he’s not speaking of his joy being in us but his peace being in us. He says, “27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…” This is not some vague, alien sense of peace he leaves us—it’s the very peace of Christ—it’s HIS peace. This peace we inherit from him is the exact same peace he experienced when he was on earth. Likewise, here in 15:11, he does not intend for us to have joy in some general sense. He says that he wants us to abide in him so that HIS joy would be OUR joy. That we would enjoy with his joy. John Piper paraphrases it this way. “I have instructed you about abiding in me so that you would enjoy all that I enjoy with the very joy with which I enjoy it.”
It would be unreasonable for us to cut off a branch and expect it to bear fruit. That’s a picture of futility. But it’s just as ridiculous and futile for us to expect to bear fruit simply by exerting more of our own effort, or by trying a new discipleship plan or performing other religious works. The only way to grow spiritually—to bear fruit—the very fruit of Jesus–is to abide in the vine, Jesus. The reason abiding in Jesus is necessary in order to bear fruit FOR Jesus, is because the fruit he intends that we bear is the very fruit OF Jesus.
Our spiritual fruit includes the ways in which Jesus shows his character through us, but it also includes the “fruit” of those people we have led to Jesus or positively influenced for Jesus. Our fruit is what Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, produces in us and through us as we abide in Christ. It’s no coincidence that love, joy and peace—all of which Jesus mentions here in this section of John, are the first three of the fruit of the Holy Spirit according to Paul in Galatians chapter five. And Jesus teaches us that, as we abide in him—remain in him, trust in him, draw our strength and satisfaction from him– HIS peace and HIS joy and HIS love are produced in us by the Holy Spirit as he reproduces them in and through us. In the second half of verse nine, Jesus tells us to “abide in my love.” Just as with his peace and his joy, he’s telling believers to love with HIS love.
This is why Leon Morris says, “…fruitfulness is impossible apart from Christ, but…is inevitable if we preserve vital contact with him.” There can be no wider gap than the one between something that’s impossible and something that’s inevitable and the reason that fruit is inevitable if we abide in Christ is because it’s HIS fruit manifest in us by the Holy Spirit.
This is why Jesus says in verse eight, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” The acid test of the genuineness of a disciple is the presence of spiritual fruit because– the only way a person can bear much fruit is if Jesus, by the Spirit is living and producing HIS fruit through them. The Father is glorified when we bear much fruit because much fruit in a disciple is a sure-fire indicator that his Son is showing HIS love, peace and joy through that disciple and that glorifies him.
This is not to say that all believers abide in Christ with the same consistency or passion, but all genuine believers abide in Christ at some level and produce fruit at some level. Another reason disciples must abide in Christ and therefore bear fruit goes back to what we said about the Old Testament prophecies about the vineyard. If Jesus had disciples who never bore any fruit, that would call into question his credentials as the true, fruit-bearing vine.
All this begs the question—how are we to think of a person who claims to a follower of Christ—a branch, but who genuinely produces no discernible fruit—their lives, their passions, their priorities look just like any unsaved but outwardly nice and moral person? John tells us in his second epistle in verse nine. “9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” As we’ll see later—abiding in Jesus’ words or teaching is the same as abiding in him. Believers who claim to be in Christ, but don’t bear any of his fruit are not believers.
That may sound confusing to us but one of the repeated themes of John’s gospel is that there are people he calls “believers” who are not believers. John 2:23 says, “23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.” John goes on to say however that, Jesus did not entrust himself to these because he knew the heart of all men—that these were phony “believers.” The same thing is true of how John uses the word, disciples. In John 6:66, John says, “66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” These were self-professed disciples that stopped following Jesus which means they weren’t genuine disciples. Judas is the great example of this kind of disciple. It’s impossible for Christ to produce his fruit in these phony disciples because he is not IN them and he can’t produce his fruit in someone in who he does not reside by the Holy Spirit. Its these false disciples that are taken away for judgment in verse two. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit.”
His purpose is to teach: “there are no true Christians without some measure of fruit.” He’s certainly NOT saying that God will remove genuine believers who are not fruitful because this text teaches that all genuine believers are fruitful to some degree.
We must allow the warnings like this one in verse two to jolt us into repenting of any lukewarmness toward Christ. This is the purpose for these kinds of warnings in the New Testament—to cause us to examine ourselves. For a complete absence of fruit, God will eventually cut you off as a person who, in reality, is a deceived unbeliever and throw you into the fire of his judgment. On the other extreme are the people whose fruit bearing is hindered because they are not lukewarm but are spiritual perfectionists. These believers can have much fruit in their lives, but their perfectionism keeps them from seeing it. They live with a continual and paralyzing sense of guilt and inadequacy for their many failures.
I was reminded of this several years ago one Thanksgiving morning. I was listening to a radio program—a cooking show. A younger woman who had never made a Thanksgiving dinner called in. It was very clear she was high strung and putting considerable pressure on herself to turn out an absolutely perfect meal. The host could hear this expectation and wisely told her, “Don’t let perfection spoil excellence.” That is—it won’t be perfect—it never is, but if perfection is what you expect, you may sadly be disappointed over what in truth may be an excellent meal.
There are some in the church who need to hear that word. When they read this text with its warnings and strong language, they haul out their spiritual electron microscopes and immediately do an intense fruit inspection of themselves And because they’re perfectionists, they fail to see the fruit in their lives. They see themselves as fruitless when mature believers who know them well would say they have a very fruitful life in Christ.
Notice that God the Father works diligently in believers to increase our fruitfulness. Verse two again says, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit.” In verse one, Jesus calls his Father “the vinedresser.” So, again– we see the entire Trinity involved in Christian maturity. The believer must abide in Jesus to have his fruit—the Father increases fruitfulness by pruning and the fruit that is produced by abiding in Christ is empowered by the Spirit. Verse five says the end of this pruning and abiding is that we bear “much fruit.”
What is meant by pruning? How does the Father do this? This is what Hebrews chapter 12 is talking about, but there the author uses the word “discipline” to describe this process of increasing our fruitfulness. He says in verse seven. “7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” Verse 10 continues, “10 For they [our fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit [same word] of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Pruning is our loving Father’s way of bringing correction into our lives to cause us to leave our sin and come more fully to him.
It may come in 1000 forms. It may be a word of correction or rebuke from someone—in or out of the church. It may be an enslaving addiction we need help getting out from under. It may be a time of financial hardship for our poor stewardship of his money. It may be loss of a job if we are being a less than strong witness for Christ. Not every bad thing that happens to us is disciplinary—some come to test our faith and help us glorify God in other ways. But some of the hardships we experience ARE disciplinary—they’re God pruning us to put off the old man and put on the new—to repent of our sin and produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness as we are trained by his discipline.
A second key to discipleship is: For the believer, central to abiding in Christ is the ministry of the word, prayer and obedience. Jesus mentions the “word” a couple of times. In verse three he tells the disciples, “3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” The word “clean” is from the same Greek word as the word “prune” but the Father prunes and Jesus says that he has cleansed these disciples through his word. This probably means that, by virtue of the correcting influence of the continuous inspired teaching of Jesus, these disciples—except Judas—were clean—ready to bear fruit when the Spirit came.
Notice however the strong connection between the word of God and prayer in verse seven. “7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” We get the meaning of this later in verse 16 where Jesus goes into greater depth. “16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
When you put those two verses together, Jesus is saying, “I chose you to bear fruit and that implies abiding in me and my words—as my words abide in you, whatever you ask, will be my words. If my words are abiding in you, then out of that Christ-directed, Christ-saturated heart will flow Christ-directed, Christ-saturated prayers consistent with my name and my Father will answers all of those prayers.”
If we have his mind, his heart, his agenda, and his kingdom priorities, then we will increasingly pray according to those priorities. As we pray that way, God answers and the answers to those prayers are part of the fruit of our lives. Another point we mustn’t miss here is that the purpose of prayer is that we bear fruit. We pray so that we can see God’s will done and thereby produce kingdom fruit and thereby glorify God.
Verses 9-10 bring in the importance of obedience. “9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” We are to abide in this remarkable love Christ has for us–the same kind of love the Father has for the Son. Then Jesus says something curious. He tells us that keeping his commandments is a condition for abiding in his love—just as Jesus met that condition of obedience and abides in his Father’s love.
The question is–how can God’s love—which is from his grace and mercy alone and is totally undeserved– be conditioned upon our obedience or anything else we could do? It’s similar to what we saw two weeks ago. One scholar puts it this way, “continued enjoyment of that love turns, at least in part, on our response to it.” You may remember in John 14:21 that Jesus says, “21 Whoever 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.”
We said that in this way our relationship with God is like our relationship with any other person. If, as a child you have loving parents but you persist in disobeying them, though they love you, you will not much experience their affection for you—you will not abide in their love because you cannot continue to enjoy their love when you keep grieving them by your disobedience. This is just the way all relationships work.
Closely related to this is the third key to discipleship. That is: For the believer, abiding in Christ brings great joy. These verses can come off as being very heavy—the warnings and conditions can feel a bit intimidating to us. But if we get that from this text, we’ve missed it badly because Jesus concludes this section of the teaching in verse 11with this glorious promise, “11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Notice the relationship between obedience and joy. Jesus has just commanded us to obey so that we can experience his love. Here he tells us that as we obey and experience God’s love, we will know joy and not just any joy—we will share in his joy that he receives from obeying the Father.
The main take-home message here is simply–we cannot live a fruitful Christian life on our own. We are called to abide—remain in Jesus and as that happens—he produces his fruit in us through the Spirit. So, are we abiding? Are we living in his word, praying kingdom prayers—enjoying with his joy, loving with his love and living with his peace? We are the branches, totally dependent on the vine we are connected to by the Spirit.
When we aren’t abiding, but either ignoring God for some reason or trying to serve God in our own strength, from our own initiative and with only our energy, we produce NOTHING—no matter how busy we may be—NOTHING! If we were able to produce fruit without abiding then we, not God would get the glory and that can never happen.
Finally, perhaps God has spoken to you, clearly revealing to you that you do not have a genuine love for Jesus. You have never enjoyed with his joy or loved with his love. If that is you, then place your trust in Christ. Confess that you’re not united to the vine and you deserve to be cut away and burned. As you look in faith to Christ for your salvation, he will save you—the Spirit will connect you to the vine and you can spend the rest of your life knowing his peace, enjoying with his joy and loving with his love.
May God give us the grace to abide in Jesus so that this might increasingly describe our life in Christ for his glory and our joy.
 Morris, Leon. 1988. Expository Reflections on the Gospel of John. Baker book House…p. 519
 Carson, D.A. Pillar Series, The Gospel of John, electronic version—him commentary on verse 2.
 Carson, D.A. Pillar Series…
 Carson, D.A. John…
We continue working through Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” in John 14-17 where Jesus is meeting with his disciples just hours before his crucifixion. In our text for this morning, Jesus is again reassuring his frightened disciples after he had announced to them that he will soon leave them. The message of assurance he repeatedly gives to them in this upper room is that he will be going away, but in his absence the Father would send the Helper, the Comforter, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit to actually live in them and minister both to them and through them.
These reassurances that Jesus gives to his original disciples are also encouraging for us because any sincere believer knows that we simply cannot live the kind of life, or do the kind of ministry Jesus calls us to do without massive infusions of supernatural help from the Holy Spirit. In the text Bill read a few moments ago, I find four words of assurance for us. All of these assurances are rooted in the Holy Spirit and his ministry to the church.
The first word of assurance is in verses 25-26. Jesus says, “25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The first assurance from Jesus is that: The Holy Spirit will teach us how to live and minister for Jesus. First, notice the Holy Spirit—the Helper who encourages us, strengthens us and advocates for us before God the Father will, according to Jesus, come in his name. The fact that the Spirit will be sent by the Father in Jesus’ name is another way Jesus is tightly connecting the ministry of the Spirit both to him and the Father.
This also tells us that the main lesson the Spirit teaches us about living and ministering for Jesus is that –all of our lives and ministries are to be done in his strength for the glory of Jesus. Let’s briefly do some thinking about how the Spirit’s ministry to Jesus is like the Spirit’s ministry to us. We saw last week that– just as Jesus came in the Father’s name to do his works through Jesus, so will the Spirit come in Jesus’ name to do Jesus’ works through his people, the church. When Jesus was incarnated—when he came in the flesh, it was the Father sending, Jesus was ministering, and the Spirit was empowering.
As God continues to incarnate himself through the church, it is Jesus who is sending, we, the church is ministering, and once again, the Spirit is empowering. Jesus did not independently do his works. He did the Father’s works through the Holy Spirit. Likewise, God’s people, the church is not doing our own works, but the works of Jesus through the same Holy Spirit.
We must hear and internalize this amazing parallelism between Jesus’ ministry in the power of the Spirit and our ministry in the power of the Spirit. Jesus ministered in his Father’s name because he came representing the Father. We minister in Jesus’ name because we are representing or incarnating Jesus and BOTH Jesus and the church minister in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s take it one more step. Everything Jesus did was ultimately about the Father—to 1. glorify the Father by showing the world what the Father was like and 2. To reveal Jesus’ love for him. All that was empowered by the Spirit. Everything the church does is ultimately about Jesus—to glorify him by showing the world, in the power of the Spirit, what Jesus is like and to reveal our love for Jesus through our obedience to him. As we do that, the glory will go to Jesus, but it will also redound back (or, greatly contribute) to the glory of the Father.
This set of truths about who we are and why we’re here is absolutely essential for us to have in our hearts if we’re to live dynamic, supernaturally empowered lives. This is because it forces us to remain vertically oriented toward God and not to ourselves or others. It’s so easy for us to live the Christian life as it were simply a life-long religious assignment we’ve been given. That way of looking at the Christian life is guaranteed to bring either pride and self-sufficiency, or great frustration and self-hatred because its ultimately all about US.
What Jesus is teaching here in the Upper Room is so vitally important because this parallel reality between Jesus and his mission and us and ours reminds us that our lives are intended to be all about HIM. The works that we do are HIS works, not our own. The power that we utilize is THE SPIRIT’S power and the Spirit’s role in us is to make much of Jesus. Our motivation for doing what we do is not our own glory, or to feel good about ourselves, it is for HIS glory.
This teaching on the coming of the Holy Spirit reminds us how utterly God-centered the Christian life is. We are not autonomous in any way. We are sent by God, empowered by God– to bring glory to God by revealing God. The Christian life completely and very tightly orbits around God, God, God!
Jesus gets to the heart of this later on in the discourse when he says in 16:14 about the Holy Spirit, “14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Again, the Spirit’s role is to lead us to live lives and do works that reveal and glorify Christ in our context and to empower us to do them. Now, for the original disciples, this meant the Spirit would bring to remembrance what he had personally taught them.
For us, because we have never literally walked with Jesus, it works a bit differently. For us, the Holy Spirit teaches us how we’re to live and minister for Jesus mainly as he illumines the Spirit-inspired Word of God. This is how we-2000 years after Christ, can experience Jesus speaking directly to us. He also brings to our remembrance specific truths from the Word of God when we need them. The Spirit will prompt us to minister to those both in the church and outside the church through the Spirit-inspired Word of God—the Bible. This is why, if we are to glorify Jesus, we must, all our lives, work to master his word. Understanding all that helps us know how to pray God’s will for us.
To help us keep the main thing, the “main thing,” it’s important for us to pray some more general prayers at times–about God, how he works in our lives and his mission for us. Prayers like this: “Father, thank you that you’ve sent the Spirit to me so that I can glorify your Son Jesus as you, through the Spirit, reveal what Jesus is like by living his life and doing his works through me. Thank you that this is just what you did when Jesus revealed what you were like as you did your works through Jesus by the Spirit. Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, reveal Jesus to others through me. First, reveal him through me as, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I continue his supernatural ministry. Second, reveal Jesus through me by the fruit of the Spirit, as I manifest his supernatural character. Do all of this, Father, so that by the Spirit, Jesus would be glorified, and you would be glorified.” That’s BIG-picture Christianity and we must carry that understanding with us as a baseline of our doctrine of living for Jesus.
This is what the Christian life is about! If that kind of prayer is not consistent with the desires of your heart, something is WAY out of whack. It reminds us that God sent the Holy Spirit so that our lives would be ALL about Jesus–HIS revelation, HIS glory, HIS power, HIS ministry, HIS character. As we regularly think that way and pray that way, it reminds us that we are not here for us. Our lives are NOT about us.
It also helps us remain dependent upon the Spirit to accomplish our God-centered purpose. Finally, it reminds us that all THREE Persons of the Godhead are impassioned about, and involved in fulfilling, the purpose for our lives. In light of all that, we know we are spiritually healthy when our biggest desire is, “Oh Father, give me a passion for Jesus—an all-consuming, life-transforming, mission-shaping passion for his glory—his name and his fame, here and to the nations. Cause your Spirit to impart to me HIS own passion for Jesus—that I might reflect the Spirit’s passion for the glory of Jesus.”
A second word of assurance is in verse 27. Jesus says, “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.” This is a very comforting verse, but it’s even more comforting when we understand it in its original context. When Jesus promises “peace” to his disciples, these Jewish men knew exactly what he was talking about. But unless we understand a bit about Jewish culture, we won’t appreciate what it is to have this peace of Christ. When we conceive of having “peace,” many think about that feeling of contentment people get when they’ve spent a relaxing day on the lake.
That’s not at all what Jesus is talking about. You don’t need the Spirit for that. Anyone can potentially experience that feeling because it’s rooted in our circumstances. A peaceful setting can produce peaceful feelings for most of us. The peace that Jesus is talking about is not dependent on the circumstances. This kind of peace—his peace—can rule our hearts in our darkest hour. This is the same peace Jesus showed throughout his arrest and passion.
Have you ever noticed that when the soldiers come out to arrest him (and Jesus alone knew the torture that meant for him) have you ever noticed that, as everyone else is drawing swords and running for their lives, Jesus is in complete control? He’s telling Peter to calm down, he calmly re-attaches the ear of Malchus. He calmly queries the soldiers about why the Jews were arresting him at night in this garden. He is the picture of peace and tranquility—he’s the calm eye of the hurricane in the midst of a demonically-inspired storm of evil.
This peace he promises us through the Spirit is rooted in the Old Testament concept of “shalom.” The Greek word here is not “shalom,” but when New Testament writers employ this word translated “peace,” they’re very much embedding it with this Old Testament meaning of shalom. A second word of assurance rooted in the Father sending of the Spirit is: The Holy Spirit will give us a comprehensive sense of well-being grounded in God’s presence with us. This is a basic understanding of the peace that Jesus says he is giving (or, literally) “bequeathing” to his church. In other words, Jesus is saying that this peace he will leave with his church is part of the spiritual inheritance he gives to all believers. In addition to this peace not being dependent upon our circumstances, here are three more quick truths about this peace Jesus gives us.
First, the kind of peace Jesus gives is comprehensive. This is not simply an absence of anxiety—shalom also includes a sense of personal security, wholeness, completeness—a comprehensive sense of well-being. This is the sense that all is right with you and all is right with your world even when the circumstances are all screaming at you that NOTHING is right with you or your world.
Second, this peace Jesus gives is dependent upon God’s presence with us. The reason Jesus promises his peace in this context is because he is promising his presence with the disciples through the Holy Spirit. We have Jesus’ peace with us through the Spirit because we have JESUS with us through the Spirit.
If we really believed this—that Jesus himself, the Lord of glory, were with us—standing next to us every moment (as it were), there would be no reason for us to fear anything. If we need protection, Jesus is there to give us his invincible protection. If we need courage, Jesus is there to assure us that all will be well with us. Whatever we need in that moment of crisis or trauma, Jesus who, by the Spirit, is here with us is MORE than able to bring us through it with joy.
Third, this peace Jesus gives has been purchased through God’s work through the gospel. This is what Paul is saying in Romans 5:1 “1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace [shalom] with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The reason we can have this shalom is because, through the gospel of Christ’s blood and the forgiveness and reconciliation with God it brings, we can enjoy complete harmony with God—he’s not mad at us anymore! Because Jesus purchased our peace with God through his suffering on the cross, it can never be taken away. It’s possible for us not to experience it if we walk in unbelief instead of faith, but the purchased peace of Jesus is always with us.
That means that– even when we’re in times of great trial, the peace of Christ, not anxiety or worry, can rule in our hearts. Paul tells the Colossians, “15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” This peace is something we have to let—allow, permit to rule our hearts. What triggers this supernatural peace is faith in the goodness and power and promises of God. Again, this peace is not simply the absence of anxiety. In the midst of trial, we can actually have this calming sense of fellowship and security reign in our hearts. If we’re not walking with this sense of peace that Jesus gave us, then we’re not walking under the control of the Holy Spirit because the fruit of the Spirit is “…love, joy PEACE…” the very peace of Christ himself.
A third word of assurance we see in John 14 that’s rooted in the coming of the Spirit is: The Holy Spirit will give us a selfless love for Christ that places his glory ahead of our own comfort/survival. This is implied in verse 28 through the negative example these disciples give us who do not yet have the Spirit. Jesus says to his disciples, “28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” Jesus is saying something very powerful here.
Last week, was saw the airtight connection Jesus makes between our obedience and loving him. If you walked out of here discouraged and wondering if you really loved Jesus, take some comfort from the fact that in verse 28, he implies that his disciples didn’t love him either. And these men had left everything they had to follow him! We know he is communicating that they don’t love him because he tells them that if they DID love him, they would have rejoiced and been happy for him because he is going into presence of the One he loves—the One who is greater than he—the Father.
That tells us that not loving Jesus is a matter of degrees. These disciples loved Jesus in the abstract. In John 21, after his denial of Jesus, Jesus asks Peter if he loved him and Peter at one point tells him, “Yes, Lord; you know I love you.” One implication for us is—if we’re not consistently obedient to Christ, we may still genuinely love him, but our love for him is far from complete and our lives don’t much communicate that we love him.
Jesus says here that the Father is “greater” than him. This is only in the sense of his authority over Jesus within the Trinity, not that he is any more divine than Jesus. Jesus tells these men that if they loved him, they would have placed his joy above their own selfish desires to keep him with them indefinitely. Genuine love is selfless and sacrificial—sacrificing our self-centered desires for the good of those we love. Instead, these disciples were thinking only of themselves and Jesus rebukes them for their lack of love for him. It’s also true that one reason they were so anxious and not experiencing the peace of Christ is because they were selfishly thinking only of themselves and that kind of self-focus will always drive away the peace of Christ.
Another reason we know that this rebuke teaches us the Spirit is intent on making us selfless lovers of Jesus is because in Acts, when the Spirit HAD come, this is precisely the way the disciples live. They continually place the glory of Christ ahead of their own safety. In Acts chapter five, the apostles are brought before the Jewish religious leaders and are strictly charged not to preach Christ. Verse 29 says, “29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” The Spirit is empowering their boldness and their top priority is transparently NOT about them. It’s about bringing glory to Christ by boldly preaching his gospel regardless of the opposition. The Holy Spirit, when we allow his influence to be dominant in our lives, will give us this selfless love for Christ and his glory that will dwarf any concerns we might have for our personal safety or comfort or reputation.
A final word of assurance rooted in the sending of the Spirit is implied here and that is: The Holy Spirit will give us a confidence that the Adversary will not be able to keep us from obeying Christ. Jesus says in verse 30, “30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.” Jesus is telling them that he won’t be talking to them very much in the next few hours. We know the reason is because he will be caught up in all the events connected with his passion.
Jesus says the reason these events will occur is because “the ruler of this world is coming.” That is—his passion was the final, last ditch effort of Satan to attempt to get Jesus to sin. Satan will literally be coming to him in the form of Judas because at this point, Satan is controlling Judas. But Jesus says something very reassuring. “He [Satan] has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”
Jesus is reassuring his disciples that what he will suffer in the hours ahead in no way indicates that Satan is in control. He says Satan has no claim on me—literally, “he has nothing in me.” That is—he has no legal right to control or manipulate Jesus because Jesus has no sin for him to latch onto. Jesus wants his disciples to know that, although Satan is involved in his imminent suffering as a secondary cause, HE is NOT running the show. He’s not the primary cause, the Father is. Jesus reassures his disciples that he will endure this suffering at his Father’s command so that the world may know that he loves him. We see this truth in Acts 2:22 as Peter is preaching his great sermon at Pentecost.
He says, “22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” As Jesus was being abused and tortured, it would have been easy for these disciples to see this and believe that Satan was in ultimate control and killing their Master against his will. Jesus prevents them from reaching that conclusion here. He’s saying, “This will be Satan’s hour—The Father has given him authority over this very short window of time as part of his plan so that I can, in the ultimate way, show my love for my Father.”
This is also a word of assurance for us because for those in Christ, Satan has no claim us. His victory over Satan at the cross purchased for us final victory over Satan as well and the reason is because the Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus so that HIS victory over Satan becomes OUR victory over Satan. Another aspect of this victory over Satan is one Paul cites in Colossians. That is, that on the cross Jesus did the work to forgive our sins and that work “disarmed the rulers and authorities, putting them to open shame by triumphing over them.” In forgiving our sins Jesus, “…canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.”
Before our sins were forgiven, Satan had a legal claim on us—he had a merciless, legal power over us through our unforgiven sins and the law that condemned us for them. But when our sins were forgiven, his controlling power over us was broken. Just as Satan has no claim on Jesus, he likewise has no claim on those who are IN JESUS. Just as Satan’s power could do nothing to keep Jesus from obeying the Father and demonstrating his love for him, so too are we, by the Spirit free from Satan’s power to prevent us from obeying Jesus and demonstrating our love for him.
There’s a great picture of this in the Old Testament. In Zechariah chapter three, the author presents a vision of heaven. Its set in the heavenly throne room and there are three main actors. Sitting as Judge is the Angel of the LORD—this divine being we see in the Old Testament at times. On trial as the defendant is the high priest of Israel, Joshua, who represents Israel. The prosecuting attorney preparing to make his case against Joshua is Satan, the Accuser.
Speaking of God, Zechariah says in verse one, “1 Then he [God] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.”
Satan surely thought he had an “open and shut,” “slam dunk” case against Joshua because Zechariah tells us that Joshua was clothed with “filthy garments.” More literally, his garments were covered with excrement. According to the Law, that would have completely defiled him before God, making him unacceptable to him. However, before Satan can begin his prosecution, the LORD declares Joshua “not guilty.” He says to Joshua that he had “taken your iniquity away from you.” The reason he does this is, as verse one says, “…the LORD has chosen Jerusalem.”
As the high priest, Joshua was representing Jerusalem and God had chosen his people for something and his forgiveness of their sin and his sovereign purposes for them overruled any charge Satan might bring against him and Israel. He had already revealed his will to preserve the Jews by bringing them out of the exile. Through the vision, the LORD is telling us that the exile had “charred” his people, but in his mercy, he had plucked them from the fire of exile. And he didn’t rescue his people out of exile to allow them to be condemned by Satan. In fact, he removes his filthy garments from him and clothed him with his own pure vestments.
What a great picture of what God has done for believers as it relates to Satan and his accusations against us! That is—as unforgiven sinners, we were covered with the excrement of our sin, making us unacceptable before God, standing condemned before him. But through his work on the cross for us, Jesus has taken away our iniquity. We’ve been rescued—plucked out of the fires of hell. Like Joshua, we too have had our sin-caked, filthy garments removed and replaced by a pristine robe of righteousness—the very righteousness of Christ.
And the reason is, like Joshua, we are part of God’s chosen people. God has a sovereign purpose for us that, by the Spirit, we might glorify him and that cancels any charge that Satan can bring against us. “1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Those in Christ have nothing to fear from Satan. Like Jesus, he has nothing on us because the Holy Spirit has united us with Jesus, giving us the same legal status before Satan Jesus has.
If you this morning have not by faith received Jesus and his saving work on the cross, know that you are still covered with your iniquity and stand condemned before a holy God. Satan has a legal right to bring condemning charges against you before the Judge. Come to Christ this morning and receive his forgiveness as one of God’s chosen people—as one plucked out of the fire–rescued from his wrath to bring him glory.
When we hear about the incredible empowering, peace-giving, Satan-overcoming ministry of the Spirit, it’s tempting to be discouraged if we aren’t seeing much of that in our lives. Its far better to use that emotional energy praying for a spiritual revival brought by the Holy Spirit. Pray that God’s Spirit would move in a new way in your life, your marriage, your family, North Shore Church and this region. Pray that God, by his Spirit would cause us to repent of our sin, know his power, experience his peace and overcome Satanic assaults. May God give us the grace to continually cry out for a new and dynamic move of the Spirit of God for the glory of Jesus and the joy of his people.
On November 17th immediately after the church service, Sporos & Kairos youth groups will be selling donuts and cider as a fundraiser for the Districts Youth Conference on Jan. 3rd-5th. All fundraised money will go towards our youth attending Districts. Come grab your fall goodies and support our youth!
Credit: Bethany Salzman
We continue to work our way through chapter 14 of John’s gospel. The text that Brian read for us this morning grows out of two promises Jesus made in the text we read last time. First, his promise that when he left his disciples to go to the Father, they would “do even greater works” than he had done. We said these “greater works” were accomplished through the apostles winning many sinners to Christ who were supernaturally transformed to a radical, new way of life.
In the book of Acts, we see that promise fulfilled as the church exploded with new converts. When Jesus makes this kind of promise to them, the disciples surely would have wondered how on earth they could ever do greater works than him. That’s why now, he introduces his teaching on the coming of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Spirit of God, who the Father will send after Jesus leaves them, who will provide the miraculous spiritual power necessary to bring spiritual life to spiritually dead human hearts.
A second promise Jesus made is in verse 14, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” In these verses for today, he clarifies that promise by defining who he meant by the “you” who will ask him anything in his name. He tells them here that this promise is intended only for those who genuinely love him. That is–those who, because of their love for him, obey his commandments. He wants to prevent his disciples from thinking that anyone can manipulate God into giving them what they want simply by asking for it in Jesus’ name.
We said last time that when you ask God for something in Jesus’ name, that’s for Jesus’ sake–that Jesus will be magnified as he gives you what you ask for. That means that those who rightly ask in Jesus’ name will be those who love him, not those who seek to use him. Asking for something in Jesus’ name is not like rubbing the genie’s lamp. That’s how these verses relate to what we saw last time.
The touchstone truth of this text that Jesus repeatedly returns to is first in verse 15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That truth is communicated in some form in verses 15, 21, 23 and 24—four times in ten verses. It forms the spine to which all the other truths are connected. This truth is easily and frequently misunderstood and wrongly applied. So, to keep us from some of these common misunderstandings, let’s first think about some clarifying truths that I hope will keep us from applying this teaching in inappropriate and hurtful ways.
First, in saying “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” we must understand that Jesus’ main purpose for this teaching is NOT to provide a test to determine whether we really and truly love him. That doesn’t fit the context at all. We shouldn’t apply this promise as if Jesus were saying, “The reason you must obey me is to prove your love for me and if you disobey me, you don’t love me.”
Too many believers understand this verse something like that. When rightly understood–what he’s really saying is, “if you love me—the result of your love for me will be that you will obey me.” Jesus places the main stress on our love for him, not our obedience to him. The point is that one of the implications of loving Jesus is –increasingly obeying his commands. Jesus intends our obedience to him to be part of the overflow of our love for him.
Jesus is also implying the importance of having the kind of obedience that is rooted in love for him. That’s a VERY important qualifier because outward obedience to God does NOT always indicate the presence of love for him. You can outwardly “obey” his commands without loving him. In First Corinthians 13, Paul implies that we can do even intensely sacrificial things like, “give away all I have” and “deliver my body to be burned” for Jesus and do it without any love.
We can come to church, offer our tithes, tell others about Jesus …without loving him. We can do anything for God from only a raw a sense of duty. “Why do you live the way you do? Because I’m supposed to.” That’s very different than saying, “I live the way I do because it’s a way I express my love for Jesus.”
Another clarifying truth about this teaching is that it also reveals how wrong it is to believe that loving God means having a purely emotional response to him. It’s possible to be a person who cries every time you hear “How Great Thou Art” and be living in complete rebellion to the commandments of Jesus. Emotions alone are NOT indicators of love for God. Loving God—as Jesus describes it here, results in something far more powerful. It produces a willing and often sacrificial obedience to his commands.
Another helpful truth in knowing how best to apply this teaching of Jesus is to understand what Jesus means here by “love.” What does he mean when he says, “If you LOVE me, you will keep my commandments?” It’s really important for us to know that what Jesus means by loving him means to intensely desire him. If we’re to understand HOW love for God results in our obedience, we must know what this love looks like that leads to obedience. Though part of our love for God is expressed in obeying him, there’s more to loving God than just obeying him. Underlying and supporting that obedience that Jesus is talking about is a particular set of affections/emotions for God—this intense desire for him. We said earlier that loving God was far more than just having emotional feelings toward God, but loving God is never less than having affections for him. You cannot intensely desire Jesus if you don’t love him.
Maybe we can understand more of what this kind of love looks like when we see it in another context. Jesus says in John 3:19, “19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved [same word] the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” Lost people love the darkness—that’s the spiritually dark world that opposes God and where the power of sin reigns. Does this “loving the darkness” mean that the people are somewhat disposed toward the darkness? Have they grown mildly fond of the darkness?
No—they’re lusting after it, craving it, longing for it, they’re intensely desiring the darkness. Their desire for it is so strong that it utterly blinds them to the radiance of the glorious light of God in Jesus. John uses this same word for love in 12:43. He’s speaking of the Pharisees and says, “43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” He’s saying that they want this glory—they covet after it—they labor to get it. That’s the kind of love for Christ that results in obedience.
John Piper writes, “…loving Jesus is not a matter of doing excellent things. It’s a matter of delighting in an excellent Savior. Jesus says doing excellent things—keeping my word—is the result of delighting in an excellent Savior…This is the only way to love the Son: to be pleased with him. To feel pleasure in him. To esteem and admire and enjoy and treasure and stand in trembling, happy awe of him.” THIS is the kind of love for Christ that results in obedience.
An abiding respect for Jesus—warm feelings toward him—a sentimental attachment to him will never cause you to lay down your life for him in obedience or do the many other things he calls his church to do. No—this is an intense, vibrant, overflowing love. Does this describe your love for Christ—esteeming, enjoying, treasuring, standing in trembling and joyful awe of him?
No one feels this all the time—we live in a sinful world and we’re sinners whose love can run hot and cold at times. But if this is not frequently our experience in our love for Christ—we won’t be obeying him very consistently. And what obedience we DO exhibit will be coming solely from a dry, lifeless a sense of duty and obligation. What that means is—if we’re not living in consistent obedience to Jesus—the root problem is NOT our disobedience. The root problem is our failure to love—failure to treasure Jesus rightly.
Does this mean that I don’t have to employ strategies to battle sin and kill my indwelling sin but instead, just love Jesus? No. The point is—in order to want to battle against our sin and conquer it as Jesus’ death enables us to, we must first love Jesus. There must be love for Jesus in our hearts if we are to wage the intense battle against our sin that God calls us to wage because love for Jesus is a necessary motivation for that hard work.
A final clarifying truth of this teaching of Jesus is: Our love for Jesus is only one facet of a larger jewel revealing the way we relate to God. Jesus begins this teaching with, “If you love me”—but this love for Jesus is not something we could ever generate independently. Though we need to labor every day to stoke the fire of our love for God— (this is one reason why we pray and study the word and fellowship with other believers) none of that stoking alone will cause us to love and treasure Jesus.
This is because, as we’ve said before, the gospel always, always, always begins with what God in his love has done for us. Paul says in Romans 5:8, “8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God loved us when we were still spitting in his face. The first facet of this jewel of how we relate to God is GOD’S LOVE FOR US. First John 4:19 says, “19 We love because he first loved us.” As we’ve said many times before, our love is always in response to God’s prior love for us. The ONLY genuine, biblical love we can give to God is in response to his love of us.
We must know that any genuine, biblical love we express to God is in response to his love for us shown most powerfully at the cross. That means the second facet of this jewel revealing how we relate to God is that WE RESPOND TO GOD’S LOVE WITH LOVE FOR HIM. First John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” The reason his commandments are not burdensome is NOT because they are not demanding. It’s because they are to be done NOT mainly out of a sense of duty, but as an overflow of our Holy Spirit-infused, radical love for Jesus.
A great example of the motivating power of love is Jacob’s relationship to Rachel in the Old Testament. You’ll recall that Laban had Jacob work for him for seven years before he would give him Rachel to marry. Though Laban turned out to be a liar, Jacob’s response to his seven years or hard work is illustrative for us. He said that it was as if it were only a “few days because of his love for Rachel.” His love was a powerful motivator to work hard for Laban and to do it with joy!
Second John 1:6 says— “6And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments…” Biblical love for Jesus expresses itself as we walk according to his commandments. In all of those verses—it’s assumed that we’re responding in love to his prior and greater love shown through Christ. If we don’t get that—REALLY get that in our hearts–all these truths about the relationship between loving God and obeying God will be a great burden to us. If our main focus is on obeying Christ and not loving Christ, we will live with an ongoing sense of guilt and condemnation. Obedience is crucial, but ONLY the obedience that is a result of our love for God.
The third facet of this jewel is revealed in John 15:9-10. Jesus says, “9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Here, Jesus tells us something about how we remain in the love he has for us—how we experience it on an ongoing basis. The first facet is—God demonstrates his love for us in the cross. The second is—we respond to that love with a love for him marked by obedience. The third facet of this jewel is WE MORE CONSISTENTLY EXPERIENCE GOD’S LOVE FOR US AS WE ABIDE IN HIS LOVE THROUGH OBEDIENCE. This may sound a lot more complicated than it really is. In fact, we experience this all the time in our other personal relationships.
If you repeatedly do things or present attitudes that are opposed to what your spouse or some other loved one expects of you, he/she will still love you in the abstract, but you will not experience that love. Disobedience or rebellion interrupts the warmth of our fellowship with God just like it does with other persons we relate to. This truth also tells us that our experience of God’s love for us can be so powerful that it can keep us consistently obedient. It motivates ongoing obedience to him.
The final facet of this jewel in how we relate to Jesus is the main theme of the text that and is—GOD PROMISES TO DEEPLY, RICHLY BLESS US AS WE WALK IN LOVING OBEDIENCE TO JESUS. I find two blessings in this text that Jesus promises to those who respond to his love in obedience. The first is found in verse 16. After Jesus tells his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments, he says, “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.” This first blessing of obedience is—He will send the Helper, the Holy Spirit of truth.
Again, Jesus is not laying down a condition—”Only If you obey me, will I send the Spirit.” It can’t mean that because we cannot possibly obey Christ without the Spirit. Here, Jesus is telling us that the obedience that he requires of us, he does not expect from us without God’s help. He knows that any obedience of ours requires God’s supernatural enabling. So, he is committing to send the necessary resource—the Holy Spirit, so that we can indeed obey him.
Notice he says the Father will send ANOTHER helper. Who is the first? 1 John 2:1 says it’s Jesus. “1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The word translated “advocate” here is the same one translated “Helper” in our passage. “Helper” does not mean that we are in charge and the Spirit gives whatever assistance we need to do what we want to do. He’s NOT that kind of Helper. He helps us in the same way Jesus helped his disciples when he was with them.
The Helper—the Holy Spirit advocates, strengthens, encourages and brings the resources we need every moment in order to obey Jesus. Jesus also calls him “the Spirit of Truth.” He uses that terms for the Spirit because he wants to assure the disciples that they will not be losing anything when he leaves them and sends the Spirit in his place. Earlier, Jesus has told them that he is the truth. Now he tells them that –the Spirit is the Spirit of truth.
So, the first blessing God gives in coordination with our obedience is—he sends to us One who encourages, strengthens and is our Advocate before the Father—One who is like Jesus—the Spirit of Truth who will tell us the truth of Jesus when he is not physically present with us. This Spirit of truth is not given to the world—those outside the church. Jesus says of him in verse 17, “…the world cannot receive [him], because it neither sees him nor knows him.” Paul says the same thing in First Corinthians 2:14. “14 The natural person— [the unbeliever] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Today, we might say—the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit because their minds and hearts are tuned to a different spiritual frequency. Believers, in having received the Spirit, have been given new spiritual “receivers” that can pick up God’s frequency. So, if, as you listen to a message like this and you’re wondering— “why on earth would anyone voluntarily submit themselves to this every week for 40 minutes” you may be tuned into the world’s frequency and not God’s. You may need a new receiver—a new, Holy Spirit-filled heart that will actually WANT to know God better.
Unlike the world, Jesus says of the church in verse 17, “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” The Spirit had been dwelling with them because it was the Spirit who empowered the ministry of Jesus. Through his ministry to Jesus, he had dwelt WITH them in that sense. But what is coming after Jesus goes to the Father is new. It was promised by the Old Testament prophets, but had not yet been fulfilled. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit actually takes up residence in all who believe. Verse 18 says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Here, Jesus momentarily turns the spotlight back on himself. The reason is because the apostles are scared at the prospect of Jesus leaving them. When he tells them that he’s leaving and sending the Spirit to them in his place, he anticipates the question, “Yes, but what about you, Jesus?”
Here he tells them that he will not leave them as orphans. This initial time away from them is only temporary. He will again come to them in his resurrection. That’s what is meant here because that’s verse 19 points to it. “19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me…” The world never witnessed Jesus after his burial. His post-resurrection appearances were only to his followers. To the world, he was gone but his followers saw him several times in those weeks before he ascended.
A second blessing that comes from God in response to our loving obedience to Jesus is: We will experience God’s love for us and will come to know Jesus more intimately. Again, we see this main touchstone in verse 21. “21Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” Then, he announces the blessing, “And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” This tells us that God’s love for us not only precedes and motivates the love we give back to him, but he infuses us with another blast of his love after we respond to his love through our loving obedience to him. Here’s the sequence. God demonstrates or shows his love to us through Jesus’s death on the cross. We respond to that love by giving him loving obedience. God then responds to THAT by giving us, in some expression, another dose of his love for us. That’s the pattern!
In a sense, God’s love to us bookends our obedience—his love comes prior to our obedience through the Holy Spirit to empower us to obey and follows after our obedience. This provides a dual motivation for our obedience. First, we’re motivated to respond in obedience to his love through Christ and what he did for us at the cross. But there’s also a future motivation because we’re promised more expressions of God’s love as we obey.
Jesus, as one of his expressions of love to those who obey, tells us that he will “manifest [him]self to him” who obeys him. This means that he will reveal himself to us in ways that are precious to us. In response to our obedience, we will come to know him more intimately as he progressively reveals himself to us. The promise that our obedience brings a deeper manifestation of Jesus to us—is another tremendous motivator for us to obey. Do we want to know Jesus more intimately? Then, by God’s grace, give him your loving obedience.
At this point, the disciples have heard that the world will not see Jesus, but they will see him and that left them with a question. They all assumed that when they saw him again, he would return to earth in the glory of his magnificent, heavenly final return. Because that was their expectation, they wondered how on earth that could happen and the world not see it. That’s what Judas is getting at in verse 22, “22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answers by repeating the touchstone in verse 23, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word…” This is Jesus’ way of saying, “I will manifest myself only to those who love me and keep my word—it’s not for the world at this point.”
In verse 23, Jesus explains in more detail the nature of this more intimate relationship to him in response to our loving obedience to him. This is what he says in verse 23. “…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.” This is the only time in the New Testament we’re told that in some way both the Father and the Son will make their home in us. We get a clue what he means by this because he used this same word translated “home” back in verse two. “2 In my Father’s house [home] are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
That usage refers to God’s home in heaven–the one here in verse 23 refers to God’s home on earth as he takes up residence in his church. The blessing is (paraphrasing John Piper) –“If you love me and as a result keep my word, I will make this world—even with all its sin and suffering—I will make it for you like a slice of heaven on earth.” I will make my home in you on earth—as a foretaste of you making your home with me in heaven. That’s wonderful! That’s enough to motivate us to obey Jesus!
In verse 24, he states this touchstone truth again, but this time he puts it negatively. “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.” Again, the emphasis is on love—in this case, the absence of it. If there is an absence of love, there can be no obedience. And, as if to emphasize how serious not keeping his word is, Jesus adds, “And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”
The implication is, if you do not love Jesus and therefore offer no obedience to him—that will bring horrific consequences from both the Father and the Son. So, the complete picture is–when you live in loving obedience to God—BOTH the Father and the Son will bless you. But if you do NOT love God and live in corresponding DISobedience, you will know the curse of both the Father and Son.
Let’s try to tie all this together by giving three points of application. The first is—Loving Jesus through obedience to his commands is far more rewarding than disobeying him. This may seem self-evident, but we frequently need to be reminded of this because the persistent lie of the world, the flesh and the devil is that if we disobey God, life will somehow be better for us. For some believers, they’ve lived so much of their Christian life purely out of a sense of raw duty, that even the words “obedience” or “obey” have taken on a connotation of suffering and joyless drudgery. If that is true for you, this text should be a powerful renew-er of your mind.
The truth of Jesus here is –it’s ALWAYS, every single time, better—long term, if we show our love for God by obeying him. This is a big part of what it is to walk or live by faith–to believe that, even when it doesn’t feel right to us, we will do what God says and not our feelings. The life of faith is trusting in God—his promises like these here that loving obedience to Jesus—no matter how hard it may be at the time—will ultimately result in much greater good for us in this life and the next. And that trust is rooted in our love for God. The more and longer you have loved someone, the more you trust in them—that they are FOR you.
A second point of application is—Believers have dual motivation to show our love for God through obedience. The gospel—Jesus’ love for us as seen through his sacrificial death is our primary motivation. If his love for us—displayed on Calvary doesn’t cause us to love him, to desire him, to crave him, savor him, to make him our treasure, then we don’t know—or at least—we haven’t deeply internalized the gospel. But in addition to his love displayed 2000 years ago on Golgotha, we have the promise that we will increasingly experience more of his love as we express our love for him by obeying obey him.
When we’re battling against the daily, hourly temptations to disobey, we must always remember to look back 2000 years and meditate and delight in the cross and the amazing love Jesus demonstrated for us there. But we must also look forward and trust in his promise of future blessings both here in this life and for eternity in response to our loving obedience. If by God’s grace we do that, it will increasingly weaken the temptations that beset us.
A third and final application is—You must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. For believers, this text is chocked full of blessing and encouragement and hope to fuel our hearts in love and obedience to God. But if you have not yet placed your trust in Jesus Christ, you must do that today. First, because for anyone who doesn’t have this love for God, you have only God’s promise that you will pay the ultimate penalty for not loving him and keeping is commandments.
Paul says in First Corinthians 16:22, “22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!” Those who don’t trust in Christ and therefore cannot truly love Jesus will be accursed in hell. You must place your trust in the Savior to cleanse you of your sins—which God hates–and to make you acceptable to a loving Father.
Second, if you are not in a love relationship with Jesus, you are missing out on the best thing in the universe. Experiencing the ongoing love of Jesus and the Father is inexplicably satisfying. You get to know and experience the intense, life-transforming love of God and, with increasing intimacy, come to know the Lord of the Universe. Don’t miss that!
Do we love Jesus—do we want him, desire him, crave him? May God give us the grace to do that and to express the obedience that springs from it for his glory and our joy.
 D.A. Carson’s commentary on John was very helpful in helping me see this.
 From a message John Piper preached on this text.
 Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Pillar series
Out of the Saltshaker and into the World—Rebecca Manley Pippert
Dozens of books on personal evangelism has been written in the 40 years Rebecca Manley Pippert’s book, “Out of the Saltshaker…” was published. This book has held up very well, however. Pippert takes Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter five, “We are the salt of the earth” and applies them to personal evangelism. Pippert writes with a sense of realism—she knows that Christians and unbelievers “are both uptight about evangelism.” Pippert’s book is saturated with appropriate scriptural support and is still inspiring believers to relate more redemptively to a lost world. If you want to get a dose of inspiration for your own efforts (or lack thereof) in personal evangelism, this book can do that.
The Cost of Discipleship—Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Written in 1937, this book continues to be one of the most profound contemporary works on this element of discipleship. Bonhoeffer’s oft-quoted words, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die” is central to the theme of this book on what the cross of Christ means for the Christian in daily living. What has given this book its steadfast readership over 80 years is Bonhoeffer’s personal living out of this book as he himself faced death in a concentration camp for his Christian convictions. If your spiritual life needs a “jump start,” this book has served that purpose for millions of believers. It is both a call to discipleship and a wonderful example of an author who lived what he preached for the glory of God.
Sacred Marriage—Gary Thomas
There are dozens of books, many of them good, on Christian marriage. Perhaps none fills the very important niche this book does, however. That is—Thomas offers an understanding of marriage as a way that God makes us holy and therefore, happy. Marriage is a spiritual discipline as well as a means of providing companionship and healthy families. This book is a gift to any married or single person who wants to see how God uses the marriage relationship in a uniquely powerful way to make us more like Jesus. This perspective is thoroughly biblical and can breathe new life into both your marriage and your walk with Jesus.