True Love Obeys – John 14:15

True Love Obeys

Nick Esch, 2/18/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Introduction

Augustine taught that we are most fundamentally shaped not as much by what we believe, or think, or do, but by what we love… And I think he’s on point in his assessment… We spend most of our time and effort on our family or our closest friends, because they are the ones near and dear to our hearts… I certainly have a duty as a husband and a father, but I don’t function on a day-to-day basis out of mere duty, but delight… I love spending time with my family, and I even delight in serving my family, because I love my family… The love I have for them compels me to act… And Augustine taught that this is true of everyone in one way or another; and what we’ll see today, Lord willing, is that this is exactly what Jesus teaches as well… So look with me at John 14:15…

John 14:15

Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)… I wonder what goes through your mind as you hear those words… Do they cause you to delight or to despair? When you come across this verse do you feel challenged, do you feel threatened, or do you feel free, or do you simply feel nothing?… When I look at this verse I see it as a make you or break you type of verse… Depending on how we understand it we could either be propelled down the path of faithfulness or down the path of heresy and destruction… So let’s break this down and try to understand exactly what Jesus means…

Jesus starts off with, “If you…” Now, as it has been throughout most of the Upper Room Discourse, this is plural language. So Jesus is addressing all of His disciples that are with Him; but we know He’s addressing more than that because in verse 12 He began addressing whoever would believe in Him, as in all true Christians throughout all time… Therefore, Jesus is not only speaking to His disciples that are in the room with Him, but to us today as well, to all who are Christians…

So, in speaking to all who claim to be Christians, or all who would be Christians, He says, “If you love me…” There are basically four different words for love in Biblical Greek… But the word that Jesus uses here is the same one He used right before this in John 13:34, where He said, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” And in light of that we could say, just as He has loved us so we are to love Him because His love is really what defines this word for us. This love—as we have looked at before—is agape love: which is divine love characterized by sacrifice in the pursuit of another person’s good… This is a selfless love, a sacrificial love, it’s a love that is modeled for us in the person and work of Christ…

As Jesus tells us in John 3:16, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. And as Paul tells us, God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ loved us and gave Himself for us (John 3:15, Rom. 5:8, Eph. 5:2). And why was Christ given; why did Christ die? To save us: to save us from sin and death and wrath, and to reconcile us to God… This is actually the context to our passage. Jesus has been telling His disciples that He is leaving them, that He’s going to prepare a place for them with God forever; but He’s going to do this by going to the cross: He is going to take on sin, take on wrath, take on death, and satisfy God’s wrath, and defeat sin and death for all who will turn from their sin and trust in Him, so that they can be with Him where He is forever. Jesus is going to literally pour Himself out to the death in love… That’s why God gave us His Son… And indeed Jesus goes through with all of this…

God sacrificed what was most precious to Him to save us. Christ gave His life to give us eternal life. The love of God in Christ towards His people is shown through the greatest sacrifice that has ever happened… The Father sacrificed His infinitely glorious, infinitely precious, infinitely worthy Son… The Son sacrificed everything… It was a great price… And the love of God is seen in that great price that was paid… God’s love for us in the gospel plays out in the ultimate sacrifice for the good of His people… And that sacrificial love is at the heart of the love that Jesus says we are to have for Him… We are not to love Jesus in some trite way, we are to love Jesus in much the same way He loves us… And He loved us and gave Himself for us…

So what does it look like for us to love Jesus this way? Well, we begin to see what this love looks like when we look at what Jesus says next. He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” So in one sense, love for Jesus looks like submission to Jesus. If you love and trust Jesus as your Savior you must submit to Him as your Lord. But what exactly does that look like? I mean, what does He mean by His commandments? Does He mean the 10 Commandments? Does He mean every commandment in the Bible? What does He mean?…

I fear many people automatically assume that He does mean the 10 Commandments… There are so many people today who are trying to get to heaven by keeping the 10 Commandments, or just trying to be a good person… But that’s not how salvation works… And the thing is, there are a lot more commandments in the Bible than 10… There are over 600 commandments in the Old Testament alone… And many of those commandments are things that only applied to ancient Israel… Surely, as Christians we are to live in line with most of the moral and ethical commandments in the Old Testament, but the whole of the Old Testament Law doesn’t directly apply to us, because Jesus fulfilled it…

Remember what He said in the Sermon on the Mount? “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). And He did… Jesus live perfectly according to the Law, keeping all of the Commandments… He lived perfectly for the glory of God in every way… And He did this because He knew we couldn’t… As God’s Word says, “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8). No mere human, in our fallen nature, is able to keep the commandments perfectly… But Jesus is no mere human; He is the God-man who lived the perfect life and died the sacrificial death in the place of His people… And in all of this He perfectly fulfilled the Law and established a New Covenant in His blood that did away with the Old Covenant. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Old Covenant has passed away.

Christians are not under the Old Testament Law, because Christians are the New Covenant people of God. We are under the Law of Christ. This is how Paul refers to it in Galatians 6:2, when he says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Right before this Paul says this is a law of love. He says, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14). In Romans we’re told to, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).

Christ came in love and fulfilled the Old Testament Law perfectly for His people, and now His people are to fulfill the Law through love as well… But we are not under the Old Testament Law, but the Law of Christ, though there are many parallels and similarities… The ethical and moral commandments, for the most part, look the same… But essentially, this law is summed up in one word: love… Later on John writes in 1 John 3:23, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” And this commandment of love is the New Commandment Jesus just gave His disciples in John 13:34. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

So, all of that to say, you earn nothing by keeping the 10 Commandments, and because you are a sinner you will fail to keep the 10 Commandments, not to mention the other 600 or so; indeed you have failed… We all have… But Christ didn’t… He fulfilled the Law for us… So the commandments He’s calling us to keep cannot be the Old Testament Law… If we look at this in its context we know that He has just given this New Commandment of love… And in looking at the rest of the New Testament, we can see that the whole of the Law of Christ is summed up in love… So, in one major sense it seems that’s exactly what Jesus has in mind; that we would keep the New Commandment… And though He doesn’t mention them here, we could add along with this the two Great Commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39)… I mean this is what Paul meant when he said that the law is summed up in the word love… Love God, love people… And by our text today, we can see that to truly love God we must love Jesus… In the Great Commandments love for neighbor flows from and is what displays our love for God, and likewise here in John 14, love for Jesus is what leads us to obey His commands, especially the command to love one another…

But there’s an issue here that we haven’t acknowledged yet… In our sin we’re not only incapable of keeping the commandments, but we’re incapable of loving like this… In our sin we love ourselves first and foremost, and that’s really it… Just as we can’t keep the 10 Commandments perfectly, we can’t love perfectly, and in our sin we can’t love like this at all… Though we might show some sort of love to some people, we don’t love anyone with an agape love… In our sin we are incapable of loving with a Christlike love… So this verse isn’t saying as long as you are a pretty good person, a loving person, then you’ll make it to heaven… No! We cannot make it on our own, in any way… We cannot earn anything… And you see John picks up on this… I mean think about that verse in 1 John 3:23 that I just quoted: “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” Belief has to come before love because we are united to Christ through faith… So without Christ we’ll never be right with God and without Christ we’ll never love like this… We must believe to be united with Christ… But something has to happen even before we believe… Christ has to work in us and enable us to believe and to love… We are so caught up in our love affair with sin that we are by nature blind to the beauty of Christ… So the love of Christ has to do something in us and then we believe and love… As John says later, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And if He didn’t first love us we would never love Him, and we’d never have saving faith…

Remember what Jesus said in John 3, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . . That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3, 6)… But, the Spirit does cause people to be born again… When the gospel is proclaimed and the Spirit works, God shines into hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And when we see that light, when we see the glory of Christ in the gospel we believe because our hearts have been changed… The Spirit has done a work… Light has shined in… In that moment, when the Spirit works within us, He causes us to be born again; and a born again heart believes in Christ and it obeys Christ… A born again heart will love like Jesus because really what happens when we are born again is that Jesus gives us a heart transplant: He removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh, and shines His glory into it and in doing so implants His love into it… And this heart is so compelled by love that it will lead us to do all of the things that Jesus has commanded… And think about what all Jesus has commanded… Just here in John alone Jesus has commanded us to receive Him (1:12), to follow Him (1:43), to believe in Him (6:29), to come to Him (6:35-37), to look on Him (6:40), to eat of the bread of life and be satisfied (6:51), to drink of His living water and be satisfied (7:37-39), and of course to love: to love one another and to love Him… But this all begins with God loving us first and implanting His love within us through the work of the Spirit…

And you see, within all of these commands is really what it means to love Jesus… When He tells us to believe in Him and to be satisfied in Him, He’s really telling us the same thing: to love Him… To truly believe in Jesus is to believe that He is the all-glorious Son of God, the all-sufficient Savior, the King of glory and the Lord of creation… It means we believe that all things were created through Him and for Him. We believe that we exist to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever. And as the all-sufficient God we believe He is completely enjoyable… We come to Him in faith believing that it is He and He alone who can and will fill the God shaped hole in our hearts. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in [Christ].” This is what faith looks like… Faith is turning from sin and trusting in Jesus as Savior and surrendering to Him as Lord and embracing Him as our greatest treasure… As Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44)… Repentance and faith is forsaking all with great joy to get the treasure of Christ because He is so much better than all we let go of for His sake… It’s being eternally satisfied in Jesus… It’s loving Jesus…

So when Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…” He’s not merely referring to the 10 Commandments; He’s referring to the Law of Christ, the Law that is summed up in the word love… Now that doesn’t mean we get to pick and choose the commandments we follow; we follow the commandments that are a part of the Law of Christ, the commandments that are under the New Covenant in Christ… We live a life of Christlike love… And that’s actually much harder than following the 10 Commandments… It doesn’t mean we’re perfect, but it does mean that out of love for Him we seek to obey Him in all things and to display His love to the world through our lives… His love so impacts us that it completely changes the direction of our lives and causes us to pour out our lives for His sake… Keeping Jesus’ commandments out of love means that the great undeviating direction of our life will be glad-hearted submission to His every Word contained in Holy Scripture. This is simply how the born again Christian lives; this is what the Christian life looks like…

Now understand, we cannot just love Jesus… We must love Jesus and keep His commandments… And we cannot just keep His commandments… We must show our love for Him through our obedience… We must not act out of mere duty, but delight in Jesus must fuel our duty, it must fuel our obedience… To only love and not to obey is antinomianism, it’s lawlessness… And to merely obey and not to love is legalism; and both lead straight to hell… Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:23 to the people who claimed to be about Him: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness…” They did not obey Him… And remember what Jesus said in regards to the tax collector who was a great sinner and the Pharisee who seemed to do everything right… In Luke 18:10-14 Jesus said, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Were the actions of the Pharisee wrong? No! His heart was… When we stand before God on judgment day may we never point to our works, but to the person and work of Jesus, and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” That’s where we need to be, and that’s the posture of our hearts when God’s love takes root in our life…

You see, grace changes everything, because the grace of God in the gospel is shown through the love God in Jesus—the greatest sacrificial costly love known to man… And when we grasp that we are saved by sheer sovereign grace, we see that this grace, this love demands our life, our all… Nothing is off limits… “Oh to grace, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be…” Right? There is nothing that God cannot ask of us, because He has given up everything for us… And when the God of the universe showers His love on us and takes up residence in our life, it completely transforms us… It causes us to be new creations in Christ… He causes us to joyfully count all things as loss for His sake…

His agape love creates within us our own agape love; a love that loves God and loves people; a love characterized by sacrifice in the pursuit of another person’s good… First and foremost we seek the good of Christ, seeking to glorify Him in all things, and then we seek the good of others seeking to help them come to know, love, and live for Christ until they are with Christ forever… We begin to love Jesus at great cost to ourselves; going out of our way, giving our lives to His glory and the good of people, to knowing Him and making Him known… This is a selfless love, a sacrificial love, it’s a love that is modeled for us in the person and work of Christ… And it is a love that we cannot help but have if we have experienced His love for us… His love enables us to love… When we truly come to know His love for us, we cannot help but love Him, and all of that love compels us to keep the Law of Christ, which is summed up in the word love… So the love of Christ compels us to love Christ and to love people, to obey Christ and display the nature and character of Christ through our lives…

I’m reminded of Hugh Latimer, who was an English Catholic Bishop during the Protestant Reformation, until a protestant Christian, named Mr. Bilney asked him if he would hear his confession. Upon entering the confessional, Mr. Bilney shared the gospel with Hugh Latimer and he was born again… Now understand, this was in the 1500s in England… So it was a dangerous time to be a protestant… But nevertheless, God had opened his eyes and there was no turning back… He was born again, and he went from being a man who persecuted people who preached the gospel, to being a champion for the gospel and the Protestant Reformation. God had shined the light of Christ into His heart and it burned so bright that He could not help but love Him, and in loving Him could not help but live for Him…

He became a great preacher of the gospel even under the threat of death… It’s said that at one time the king of England came to a place where Latimer was preaching, and knowing that the king would likely disapprove of what he was saying, and knowing that the king probably thought too much of himself, he said in the middle of his sermon, “Latimer, Latimer, the king is here… Latimer, Latimer, the King of kings is here…” In other words, he followed Christ and Christ alone… Eventually he did get arrested for preaching the gospel and burned at the stake. While he and another man, Nicholas Ridley, were about to be burned, he said, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out…” And indeed, so far it has not; for here I am 500 years later still talking about Him, and more importantly still talking about that great light… The same light that began to burn in his heart the day that he was converted, and that fueled him until the day he fueled the fire… His heart never grew cold and therefore he remained faithful to Jesus until the end… Was he a perfect man? By no means… But the direction of his life was forever changed the day he was saved, and it caused him to pour out his life for Jesus’ sake… Does that seem appalling to you, or do you admire his faithfulness? Does this make you want ask the Lord to enable you to be that faithful, or do you think that’s fanatical? Beloved, what I’m presenting to you today is that this is simply what love for Jesus looks like; it doesn’t always play out like this, but it always plays out in a life lived for the glory of Christ… A life dedicated to loving Jesus and loving people…

Conclusion

So what does Jesus mean when He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”? Does He mean we have to earn His love, or that we have to be perfect? No… He means that, if we truly love Him, following Him will be the great goal of our life, the great delight of our life, and when we fail the deepest sorrow of our life… I can’t help but think of Peter, who was just told that he would deny Jesus 3 times… Remember what the resurrected Lord asks Peter later… “Do you love me?” And with great sorrow Peter says he does… He wasn’t perfect, but he did love Jesus… And Jesus loves us at great cost to Himself, because of His great mercy and grace; not because of anything in us, not even because of our love for Him. But when we experience His love, we are compelled by that love to love Him, and that love works out in joyful obedience and submission to Him… We submit ourselves joyfully to the Law of Christ; which is summed up by love… But more specifically, the Law of Christ is the whole of Scripture that applies under the New Covenant: everything that we are to believe, to feel, to do, and to suffer for the sake of Christ… But we must not forget, that loving Jesus is not about doing as much as it is about delighting… We don’t keep the commandments perfectly, we delight in a perfect Savior who loves us, and that compels us to live for Him… To love Jesus is to believe in Him, to enjoy Him, to be satisfied in Him, to treasure Him above all else… To love Jesus is to keep His commands… And that all begins by seeing how much He loves us in the gospel… You see, there is no question that Jesus loves us… To see that we only need to look at the cross… The question is do we love Jesus? Do you? Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”