The Advocate and Obedience

Jesus explained to His disciples that he would ask the Father to send another just like Him, the Spirit of Truth, to be His Advocate. And He would be with them forever. What good news for today. Forever; imagine that for a minute or maybe two! That’s a long time. COVID-19 won’t be with us forever, but the Spirit of Truth will.

He will empower Jesus’ followers to keep believing into Jesus; to abide in intimate relationship with the Triune God; to continue Jesus’ work; to keep praying according to everything that Jesus is, says, and does, and to love Jesus and keep His commands.

We have been considering key transitional issues and messages that we can glean from John 14-16 in light of the message that Jesus gave His disciples as He prepared them for their coming transition from His physical presence to His spiritual presence through the Holy Spirit.

The messages so far:

  • Believe into Jesus…He is our living water and bread of life. He is the way, the truth and the life.
  • God is intimately involved in our lives, look at Jesus and listen to Him; He explains God.
  • Everyday there are opportunities to join Jesus in His ongoing work, don’t stop.
  • Keep praying in Jesus’ name.

For the last two Sundays we have been considering the next issue and message:

Transition issue: Tendency towards inflexibility, stubbornness, and entrenchment, (where the familiar, our will and way can quench the work of God’s Spirit among us).

Transition Message: Follow (receive) the Spirit of Truth’s direction.

Last week: The why’s of receiving the Holy Spirit’s direction? John 14:18-20

Jesus’s answer: The Holy Spirit would bring continued relationship, empowered by Jesus’ resurrected life which brought all who believe into Jesus into eternal communion with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Those are all inner realities? What about external realities of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling?

John 14:21–24

21“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”22Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”23Jesus answered and said to 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 abode with him.24“He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.

Twenty years ago I was privileged to visit churches in Far East Russia. While Russia was no longer under Communist control, any benefit had yet to be realized by these communities nine time zones away from Moscow. While believers could meet publically without fear of reprisal they still experienced daily shortages and hardships. What I noticed immediately was how fervently they prayed in Jesus’s name, as if their very lives depended on it! Also, they exhibited hearts for obedience to God, exhibiting quick repentance, often with tears, when they failed to do so. Sadly, over the next several years, on my continued visits, I noticed a decline of these two external realities of the Holy Sprit’s presence. What had influenced them in the wrong direction? Two introduced elements stick out: Western consumerism and pragmatism. They had begun to swim in the self-sufficient pool of our culture, the lure of the quest for affluence and personal peace.

In John 14 Jesus is saying that the heart and soul of following Him is having a relationship with Him and the Father through the Holy Spirit. Relationship begins with listening and responding, actual interaction. But when relating to God, responding and interacting is of a certain kind. He is the supreme authority of all.

What is the outcome of the reality of the Holy Spirit’s coming? If the inner reality is continued relationship empowered by Jesus’ resurrected life which brings eternal communion with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then what is the external response/reality? What can be observed in the life of one who has believed into Jesus that reveals the inner realities of the Holy Sprit’s presence?

What we often look to in our church culture is some experience. Maybe ecstatic: speaking in tongues, seeing visions, experiencing miracles or on the other end of the spectrum, maybe some activity like reading the bible, praying or going to a church service.  While experiences and religious activities have their place they are actually secondary to the core reality that Jesus provides. In fact, without the core reality of the Spirit’s presence all the experiences and activities are meaningless.

Loving Jesus

21“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

Jesus restates what He already said in verse 15: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”  He explains, whoever is in a committed relationship with Me, experiencing my resurrected life and communion with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, returns that love by obeying My words.

While there is an order to receiving and giving love (1 John 4:9–11) in John 14, Jesus is not saying that God’s love is conditioned on our obedience. We were loved by God when we were His enemies and separate from Him because of our rebellious natures. But the reality of Jesus’ and the Father’s presence through the coming of the Holy Spirit is conditioned on obedience. The bond of love that would provide the atmosphere for this loving fellowship would be the result rather than the condition; for obedience is the outcome of love. In other words obedience is not the condition of God’s love for us but the proof of our comprehension and reception of His love and in turn our love for Him.

Those believing Russians had been so very much aware of God’s love for them through His continued provision and sustaining presence that what flowed out of their lives was submissive prayer and loving obedience. They weren’t perfect, but they admitted when they weren’t, repented and received God’s forgiving grace desiring continued relationship above everything else.

So, it should not surprise us that before Paul gives the exhortations found in Ephesians 4-6 he prays what Jesus taught.

Ephesians 3:14–19 (NASB95)

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Obedience is not the condition of God’s love for us but the proof of our comprehension of His love. When the Holy Spirit comes He brings the assurance that we are God’s beloved children, and as beloved children we express our love by obedience because we value that continued relationship above everything else.

In this way Jesus’ commands stop being lists to perform and become invitations to continued relationship.

Missing the Point

22Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” 23Jesus answered and said to 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 abode with him. 24He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.

Judas appears to still be hung up on Jesus’ prior statement in verse 19: “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. “

I don’t think Judas was intentionally going down a rabbit trail, but it’s pretty obvious that he is not catching Jesus’ point. I don’t know about you, but I often get left behind when people are talking, thinking about something that they said and, therefore, not listening to what they are saying! But when it comes to obedience it’s easy to want to talk about something else. That’s why the Church is often filled with controversies over exalting certain experiences and religious practices above others. When we go down these rabbit trails it’s as if we are trying to prove who is more spiritual, still trying to earn God’s favor through performance rather than receiving God’s love and responding with obedience as an act of love because we value this communion with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit above everything else.

But Jesus is not side tracked by the question. For the third time in this short instruction and encouragement He states, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.”  Instead of focusing on His appearances He restates His encouragement with a twist, you keep my word and you will experience the Father’s love and OUR abiding presence. When Jesus emphasizes something three times in a short time we might want to give attention!  

Actually, Jesus is offering the best comfort of all—there wouldn’t really be any separation from Him and His followers. Because Jesus would return to the Father, the Holy Spirit would be come, allowing every believer constant access to the Father and the Son. To those who love Jesus, the Son and the Father will come through the Holy Spirit and make a permanent home with them.

Obedience comes from love and trust. Thus a person who does not love Jesus will not obey Him. A sobering way of stating Jesus’ point is to say, “The quality of our obedience is a direct reflection of our love for Jesus.”

Jesus equated his teaching with the Father’s will. Thus, loving Jesus is demonstrated by one’s obedience to the revealed will of God, the Scriptures.

But the key question isn’t really about what words to keep or how to keep them, but whether we love Jesus. Like Jesus said plainly and clearly, ““He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me.”

Paul is famous for his approach to writing the churches. He always starts his letters by directing his readers to look at how much God has loved them before he asks for a response of obedience.  

In Ephesians 1and 2: Look how God has demonstrated His love for you.

In Ephesian 3: Look how God has demonstrated His love for me (Paul).

In Ephesians 4-6: How then should we live in response to His love, as we love Him with all that we are?

As we slow down because of COVID-19 the Holy Spirit is giving us time to consider how well we listen to Him and follow His direction. I am confident that He wants to break any remnant of inflexibility, stubbornness, and entrenchment that gets in the way of doing the works of Jesus.

How ironic that the Ephesian church that Paul instructs to surrender to God’s love and respond in loving obedience is the same church Jesus critiques in Revelation 2 that they had lost their first love. They had endured persecution, remained doctrinally sound, and exposed false teachers, yet because they had lost their first love their light could go out. How critical is our love for Jesus? It’s at the heart and soul of the relationship that the Holy Spirit’s brings to us. We are not talking about romantic love, but a love that believes into the object of love so strongly that whatever is asked that love will do with joy and thankfulness.  

Lord, we bow in utter awe at You love for us. Your love’s depth, width, height, and length is too much for us to comprehend but with your Spirit’s help we want to try. Open our eyes that we may see daily how You love us. Open us up, Lord, to express our love for You by receiving Your invitation to continued relationship through obedience. Help us to respond to the opportunities that You put before us to demonstrate to those around us that Your love overflows. Amen

2 thoughts on “The Advocate and Obedience

  1. “The bond of love that would provide the atmosphere for this loving fellowship would be the result rather than the condition.” Well said, Ken. Very good message. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks, Ken, for creating this blog and for this post. I really like the emphasis on our obedience being a response to God’s love for us. “In other words obedience is not the condition of God’s love for us but the proof of our comprehension and reception of His love and in turn our love for Him.” I think many people think the opposite – that we need to obey God in order for Him to love us. May we never forget how much he loves us even in our frailties and mistakes!

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