How do we abide? A deeper understanding of Love.
(An audio recording of this message can be found here)
So far we have been studying John 15 and abiding in Jesus as the solid foundation of our spiritual journey.
Today we will look at what Jesus had to say regarding what abiding is about.
How do we abide in a practical way?
Not surprisingly, love is at the core of abiding in Jesus. However, surprisingly (to some), so is obedience to Jesus’ commandments. And not surprisingly, Jesus’ commandments are summarized in loving one another.
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My Love.”
Jesus has loved us with the same love the Father has loved Him!
We are not loved at a lower rate even thought we are infinitely lower than Jesus in every way and infinitely less deserving of love in every way. Yet, despite our smallness in comparison to the vast universe, despite our rebellious tendencies and behaviors, our limited intellect, strength, and general capabilities, Jesus lavishes us with the same love that the Father has for Him.
The love that exists among the Godhead is extended to us, tiny, rebellious, extremely limited creatures that we are.
Not only that, Jesus invites us to abide, to remain, in that love.
But how are we to abide in that love?
How do we go about abiding in that love?
I’m glad you asked.
“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.”
Jesus invites us to follow His example.
When we accept and follow His commandments we abide in His love.
When we reject His values, His way of living, His guidelines, we reject Him and we reject His love, this causes us to cease to abide in the love that He freely extends to us.
The love is there, Jesus loves us, He wants us to abide in His love, but we are free to reject His commandments, placing ourselves outside of the abiding relationship He wishes to have with us.
Jesus is not asking us to do anything that He would be not be willing to do.
Rather He invites us to live just like He lived. Jesus wants us to have the harmony with Him that He experienced with he Father while here on earth as one of us. Jesus lived as a human being continually abiding the Father, always keeping the Father’s commandments. If Jesus had ever broken any of the Father’s commandments or His Father’s law Jesus would have sinned (1 John 3:4).
As I mentioned in a previous post, Jesus had to die on the cross because God’s law can not be changed (Luke 16:17) and the law demanded death for sin (Genesis 2:16-17, Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:22; Genesis 22:8; John 1:29). Jesus came and died. If He could just change the law He could have done it and not had to die. But that would mean that God’s law is faulty and not perfect (Psalm 19:7; Romans 7:12). And if God changed His law once, what’s to keep Him from changing His mind again? The Law of God then, His commandments, which are a reflection of His character must be perfect. And Jesus said He kept His Father’s commandments.
But why is Jesus bringing up the commandments all of a sudden?
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Jesus brings up keeping His commandments with the ultimate goal of causing us to experience His joy continually, and that our joy ma be full!
Jesus shares about His commandments because He wants our joy to be full.
Imagine, understanding God’s commandments not as a burden but as a way of experiencing Jesus’ joy in our lives.
Think of Jesus’ words as the secret to full and remaining joy! Not as a burden, not as a means of salvation, but as a key to living life to the fullest, full of joy! We must allow this passage to challenge our way of looking at the law and commandments. We hear law, commandments, we think rules and restrictions and we want to run away, but as we flee God's laws, Jesus commandments, we also lose the joy that only Jesus can give.
How often we search for a lasting joy and so many think they can find it in "the world" that is, outside God's will, only to discover what the world has to offer can never compare to what God has in store for us. This can become a whole post by itself, so I'll stop here and proceed to the next point.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
When we focus on love, the commandments of God fall into the right category, they can only be properly understood and correctly interpreted in the context of love (Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18).
The commandments are not about earning salvation, or making God love you more, or making God owe you one. The commandments of God point to a lifestyle, a way of life that is according to God’s will and reflects His character and values. Think of it as guidelines to living a love-centric life. Much like what I imagine heaven will be like, a place where everyone loves God above everything else and their neighbors as themselves. The law of God reveals to us how to get a taste of heaven here, it is the key to the best society, to the best environment to live and exist in. God is teaching us what many of us spend our life searching for, the best possible way to live.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Jesus laid down His life for His friends. He demonstrated His love beyond a shadow of a doubt. No one can ever doubt God’s love for us. Jesus demonstrated His love by dying to save us! This sets Christianity apart from all other world religions. Many of the "other gods" are mostly indifferent to us, and none of them are willing to die for us. Remember the cross, Jesus Christ crucified, is often a stumbling block or foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23) but it is also the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24).
Now how do we become Jesus’ friends?
“You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.”
Seems harsh no?
A bit restrictive?
Jesus gave His life. Is it alright for Him to require us to observe certain guidelines that will cause us to experience full joy in our lives? All that Jesus asks of us is for our own good. Every time we follow Him and His teachings our lives improve.
When we bulk at Jesus’ invitation to be His friends (keeping in mind He died so we would not have to), or when we feel like abiding in His love is too cumbersome, we are ultimately telling Jesus that we prefer to be our own gods.
We reject Jesus as our Lord.
How can He be our Lord if we are not interested in following Him, nor in His will for our lives?
So we want salvation, but we are not looking for a Lord, we want grace but no relationship?
Or perhaps we want a relationship on our terms? An open relationship?
"God I love you and Jesus, etc. But I would like to worship around, you know, I don’t want to be constrained."
Do we want to be that guy who wants to live with a woman he claims to love, but is unwilling to commit to loving only her for as long as they both shall live?
"I love you Jesus! But I’m not sure if I want You telling me how to live my life."
Even if what Jesus is asking of us is exactly how Jesus lived while here on this sinful earth. Remember, Jesus kept His Father’s commandments and remained in His love (John 15:10).
“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
Jesus wants us as friends. He reveals His will, His commandments to us, because He wants us to be aware of what He is doing. Jesus also told us what He will do in the future. However, He also leaves it up to us to reciprocate. Jesus has revealed to us the plans, Jesus has not kept us in the dark like a master would keep his servant. Rather Jesus has brought us in as friends.
“You did not chose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear much fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”
We did not initiate this relationship, Jesus did. And this relationship is going somewhere. As we studied last time, there is a purpose to our relationship with Jesus. He wants us to bear much fruit and for our fruit to remain. We are not to only experience temporary highs, but rather to experience a lasting transformation for the better.
Not only that, Jesus intends for us to experience power in prayer as He did. Whatever we ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, for the purpose of bearing fruit, the Father will give us. The Father gave Jesus power, and the He gave the apostles power, and God’s followers have experienced the power of God to bear fruit.
I know many of us have experienced victories over addictions and even personality traits and character flaws. We may not be perfect but we have experienced a supernatural power at work in our lives, causing us to bear fruit we never could on our own.
And lest we forget what Jesus is calling us to do.
“These things I command you, that you love one another.”