15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] 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[b] in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 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.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:15-24)
Loving Jesus isn’t doing something mystical or radical – we don’t have to make up some super spiritual practice, or do something amazing to prove our love for Christ. It is hard enough just to obey simple commands like “do not covet” or “love your neighbor as yourself” or commands against lust – have we mastered obedience that we need to make something more spiritual up to show our love for Jesus? Far from it. It is not that we should not attempt great things for God – such as various types of missions work or institution building, or a discipline of getting up at 4:30 every morning to spend an hour in prayer – I am all for people doing those things. But we must recognize that those things are not necessarily the measure of our love for Christ, for Jesus has already given us an indicator of our love for Jesus.
Good old fashioned normal obedience is what we do, if we love Jesus. If that is not enough for someone, or on the boring side, then maybe it is not Jesus that they love, at least in that moment, but maybe what they really love is the rush of the radical act, or the fleeting emotions of revivalism.
It is interesting to note, that we indeed are entering into a day, when simple obedience will actually be a radical revolutionary act to the world. This year in many places around the world, and in our own country, simply taking your family to church was civil disobedience, and even here we have certainly felt a heightened sense of the seriousness, risk, and importance of such a simple act of obedience. Indeed, with the incoming regime, we are very likely facing imminently more dangerous times for simply being obedient to Christ. We will have to disobey tyrants more, in order to obey God, and thus put ourselves at great risk. And if you don’t love Jesus, you will drop out when it gets too risky for you.
We also must note that loving Jesus also isn’t doing something that is against His Word. Oftentimes people will do things in the name of love for Jesus or others, that are clearly violations of God’s Word – therefore those things are not love or obedience. As we will see in a moment the Helper that Jesus sends to us is the “Spirit of Truth.” You may hear people say things like “love your neighbor, stay at home,” or people will say that it is loving to affirm others in their sexual preferences. No, it most certainly is not, nor is any such thing. Loving Jesus involves obeying His commands, not making up new false ones by an unbiblical standard.
So in the face of a radical feminism that has infected the evangelical church where we have so called female pastors, I am greatly encouraged when I see women, such as many here at this church who faithfully honor and respect their husbands and give their lives to raise their children and keep their homes, because in so doing they are showing that they love Jesus, as they are being faithful to certain commands and principles laid out for godly women such as in Titus 2. And in the face of an emasculating and immature culture of men today, that also has infected the evangelical church, I am greatly encouraged when I see men, such as many here in this church who reject extended adolescence and are not afraid of maturity and responsibility and difficult tasks involved with manhood. They are showing that they love Jesus. I say that not to pat ourselves on the back, but so that we never forget that those are some vital ways that we show that we love Jesus. And of course, a woman could be very feminine and yet not really love Jesus, and a man could be very masculine and yet not love Jesus, and someone could really love Jesus and not be as masculine or as feminine as they ought to be, but we are speaking in generalities, and this is just an example, we could list many other commands, such as someone who wants to be a Christian and do bible studies or various things outside of the church, but never wants to commit to the means of grace and gathering of the Saints in a local church as we are called to do.
Obedience, the Mark of Love, v. 15, 23, 24
Love and obedience are not the same thing – they are distinct. Yet, Jesus does not separate them from one another. So in trying to be precise we should maintain the distinction between love and obedience, while being sure not to isolate them one from another, as if that was something that could be done.
Saying, “I love Jesus, and he knows that my heart is in the right place” while you are living in any certain sin is a falsehood. You have isolated love and obedience from one another and you have deceived yourself.
Similarly to how we don’t want to disconnect obedience from love, we also do not want to disconnect law and gospel. While it is critical to maintain distinctions between the two, and we can never waiver on that, we also cannot disconnect them one from another. The law drives us to the gospel because by the law we are condemned, but when we are justified in the gospel, we are driven to obey the law.
So if your understanding of the gospel leads you to disregard or dislike the commands of Scripture, or devalue obedience, or separate obedience and love, then your view of the gospel is dangerously faulty.
“Oh Lord how I love your law!” is the cry of the Psalmist, and ought to be the cry of every heart that loves Christ.
Now, does this mean that every one who loves Jesus will perfectly obey Him in all ways in every area? Certainly this cannot be what Jesus intends, as that would mean that there is no one who loves Jesus. So Jesus is not talking about perfection, although I think it would be fair to say that when we sin, we are failing to love Jesus in that moment, or at least that we are failing to love Him rightly. So it’s not perfection, but it is also not maturity that is in view here. Meaning, when someone first becomes a Christian, if they have had a distinct conversion experience, or any young Christian who has great moments of being very zealous for the Lord, they have great enthusiasm, and real genuine love for Jesus if they are a true believer, but they are immature in many ways, not that their zeal is immature, but how they may use it, and they may not understand everything that it means to be a Christian, or aren’t even aware of all that they are to do or obey. But, they are taking what they know about Christ and loving Him and obeying Him. So we must be sure to account for that, and not look at such a person, or someone else at a different stage of sanctification and think, “well, they don’t love Jesus, because they aren’t obeying this exactly right.” Now, we certainly ought to seek to disciple that person to maturity if we are in such a place to do so, but we don’t assume that they must not love Jesus.
We also need to be sure to distinguish between disobedience and different applications. Just because someone doesn’t apply something the same way you do, doesn’t mean that they are in disobedience. For example, a year or two ago when I was out doing street evangelism with Conner and some others, there was a guy who came up to me and started talking to me, and He was professing to be a Christian but was being very adversarial to me. And it so happened that I was wearing a jacket that had a professional sports team logo on it. And he looked at it and concluded that because I was wearing that sports logo that I was now compromised and worldly and a disgrace to the cause of Christ, because according to him I was not separate from the world. You see this man was taking his application of what it means to be separate from the world and applying it in such a way that does not have a foundation in the text. He was failing to distinguish between disobedience and a different application. Certainly one can be given over to the religion and idolatry of professional sports and become worldly in that, but we cannot say that one who enjoys sports from a Christian worldview in proper moderation is in disobedience and does not love Jesus. And I just give that as an example that we need to distinguish between actual disobedience and different applications. There are certain things that do not have different application: like “do not commit adultery.” There is no obedient way to commit adultery. There are clear things like that, and other things that are left up to conscience. So maybe a better way to say it is that we need to be able to distinguish between disobedience and conscience issues.
So what are the commandments of Jesus that we will obey, if we love Him. We understand all of the Bible to be Jesus’ Word. Therefore, all of the commands of the Bible are His commands – not just what comes out of his mouth as recorded in the gospels. Of course, not all the commands of the Bible apply to us, so we must make those determinations by careful exegesis and study. But we don’t truncate the Bible, by cutting out the old Testament, or pitting Jesus and against Paul. We take all of Scripture. And it should also be said that it is the Scripture that we find the commands of Jesus we are to be certain to obey, not some mystical hearing of his voice, as often you will hear people talking about needing to hear Jesus’ voice to know what His will is for what they should do in a certain situation. And this is not to count out the fact that there are times when we are trying to decide what job to take or where to move, or something like that, that we should spend much time in prayer and prayer for direction from God. But it is to say that if all other things are equal and you are trying to decide between taking a job of selling pipe, or a job of buying pipe, then neither would be disobedience, but there is a liberty to choose there. And there are other things where it is clear in scripture what we should do and while we can pray for God’s blessing and help, we don’t need to ask him whether we should do it or not, such as trying to choose between taking a job as a bank teller, or taking an offer to join a bank robbery gang. We know what the right choice is, without need to ask God in prayer what the right choice is. It is in his word, not to steal.
So all that to say, how do we know what commands we are to obey if we love Jesus? It is the commands written and preserved in all of Scripture, that remain applicable to us. God is straight up with us. He is not trying to deceive us. He has made known to us clearly and straightly what it is we are to do.
Mediation and Intercession of Jesus to Give us the Spirit, v. 16
So in verse 15 Jesus tells us that if we love him we will keep his commands. Then look again what He tells His disciples that He will do, in verse 16.
So there, Jesus intercedes for us to ask the Father on our behalf for the help of the Spirit. Indeed we see the great love which Jesus had for His disciples, and all of His disciples throughout history, that even though He must bodily depart from the earth, He loves His disciples such that He does not want to leave them on their own, or without help and power – or as Jesus says in verse 18, He will not leave them as orphans. He loves them so much He asks the Father to send another helper. Jesus knows His mission is nearing its completion and then He must ascend and sit at the right hand of the Father, but He desires that another helper be sent to His disciples.
So Jesus indicates here again, that while He will soon be going where the disciples cannot follow, yet, He will not leave them as orphans – without help, provision – He will not leave them fatherless. Now I believe that in verse 18, when Jesus says that He will come to His disciples, I believe He is referring to His resurrection when He will again appear to them for a short time before His ascension. So they will see them again after His resurrection, but He will also send the Holy Spirit after He ascends to Heaven, which as Jesus says, will remain a helper forever, which extends to us as Christ’s disciples in the year of our Lord Two Thousand Twenty-One. The love of Jesus does not abandon His beloved. He ever sends provision, help, comfort, and provision. His love endures, it is faithful. It always continues to act on the behalf of the beloved.
The Power to Obey: The Holy Spirit, v. 16, 17
So while we have said that those who love Jesus show that they love Jesus simply by practicing good old fashioned obedience, and it is simple, it is also not so simple. Or not so easy. Easy to say, but harder to do. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. It is often quite hard to obey Jesus, indeed one of the hardest things to do. Obedience is mostly simple, and not always easy. How many of us have struggled with sin for years. We hate our sin, we hate that we do, we strive against it, and yet we still fall. Maybe God gives us success and certain sins are conquered in our lives, and then new ones that we’ve never struggled with crop as great temptations to us. The battle and power against sin and disobedience is very hard.
Friends, this is why Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to be our Helper. He knows. He was tempted in every way and yet without sin. He is not unable to sympathize with our weakness. Jesus says in verse 15 that if you love me you will keep my commands, and then immediately says in verse 16, that He will ask the Father, and He will send another Helper.
This “helper” in verse 16 that Jesus sends is the Greek paraclete, and there a lot of different ways to translate it: “helper,” “counsellor,” “comforter,” or “advocate,” – but the main thing we should understand is that Jesus says He will send “another” helper…” Meaning in some sense, Jesus Himself was the first “paraclete.” This is not to confuse persons of the trinity, if we understand paraclete does not the word “Holy Spirit,” but “helper,” “counsellor,” “comforter,” “advocate…” – and in 1 John 2:1, when it says that if we sin, we have an “advocate” with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, that word for “advocate” there is a form of paraclete. So the point here is that we view the ministry of the Holy Spirit as the continuing work of Jesus in the world in His people. And thus we of course must not view the “helper” as being subordinate to the one being helped. The Holy Spirit is not our slave that we order around to help us and summon whenever we have use of Him. He is very God of very God, sent to continue the work of Jesus in His Church, as Jesus sits at the right hand of God. This is how we must reverently speak of the Holy Spirit.
Here we see that the work of the Spirit is not something wild and crazy that makes us flop on the ground and roll around. It is the work of our salvation and sanctification, the very earthy working out of what God works in us.
Spirit wrought obedience: commands written on the heart, v. 21
When verse 21 says, “He that has my commandments,” John Gill comments that it is “not merely the external revelation of them in the Bible; but has them written on his heart…”
Jeremiah 31:31-34: 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
I believe that verse 21 here is talking about New Covenant Membership, which includes the law written on our hearts, and communion, union, and fellowship with God Himself, as He dwells with us and in us and us with and in Him.
So we recognize that when Jesus says “if you love me you will obey my commands,” He is not giving us a command in that moment, He is giving us an indicative. He is saying “this is the reality. This is what people who love me do.” This is new covenant membership, Spirit wrought obedience.
Obedience out of love, v. 15, 21, 23
We also note here that Jesus says that those in this New Covenant, obey Him out of love. Our obedience flows out of our love for Jesus. We do not obey out of mere sense of dread and duty, and we don’t obey in order to love Jesus, but because we do.
John Calvin speaking on verse 23 says, “By these words, Christ shows in what manner the gospel is properly obeyed. It is, when our services and outward actions proceed from the love of Christ, or in vain do the arms, and the feet, and the whole body toil, if the love of God does not reign in the heart, to govern the outward members.”
The Spirit Secures our Union with Christ v. 21, 23
So one of the things we get here is a really good picture and discussion of the trinitarian relationship of our triune God. Throughout John’s gospel we have noted distinctions and unity between the Father and the Son, and now we see the Holy Spirit brought into the discussion. Jesus makes clear distinctions between He and the Holy Spirit, saying that He will ask the Father to send “another” helper, and yet we see the unity between them – the Spirit continuing the work of Christ.
So one of the tasks of the Holy Spirit is that He secures our union with Christ and the Triune God. He is the seal and the bond of our union with Christ. Christ is not physically with us now, but we are spiritually and truly united to Him and in Him, and He and the Father dwelling in us even now – by the Holy Spirit.
Death, Resurrection, Life v. 18, 19
Jesus had to die and resurrect again, as the firstborn from the dead. And His work is a continued work of death and resurrection. He resurrects us from our dead and sinful estate.
Because He died and rose again, we die and rise again. Because Jesus lives, we live. We have life because Jesus imparts life to us. Our life is a derived life in Him, it is not of ourselves or independent of Christ.
This is necessary to our discussion because the Holy Spirit does not dwell in a house made by human hands. We have to be resurrected and made a New Creation, which is a temple, fit for which the Holy Spirit may dwell in us.
These are not things that we can do for ourselves. We need God to do it for us, totally and completely.
Let us reject any notion of human power to save ourselves, and reject any notion that our obedience or works earn us the love or life of Christ.
Come to Jesus for life. He loved us when we did not love Him. Confess your disobedience. Confess your hatred and lack of love. Ask Him to give you life, and love, and obedience. Let us come to Him and make use of what the great mercy and power that He has provided for us.