OBEDIENCE IS THE EVIDENCE OF LOVE

Bible Reading: John 14:15-26

If you love me keep my commandments” [John 14:15 NKJV]

Jesus replied, “All who love Me will do what I say” [John 14:23 NLT]

Undoubtedly obedience is the language of love, and obedience is the key to enjoying God’s blessing. Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments” [John 14:15]. Sadly, this has normally been understood to mean, “By keeping my commandments you prove that you love me.” This is not what Jesus meant. In the margin of my Bible there is an alternative rendering, which adds the words “you will”, and it should read, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” It is not so much a case of I must obey Him but rather that because I love Jesus I cannot help but obey Him. Love, not obedience, is the basis of relationship. The power of our love for Jesus causes us to obey Him. It is the expulsive power of a new affection.

There are two specific kinds of obedience that God’s Word speaks of in relation to Him. Firstly, obedience to God’s written Word. God’s Word is clear and so many of our problems would be solved if we would simply obey what God’s Word tells us. Secondly, we need to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. There is a direct connection between God giving a person the Holy Spirit and obedience. “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to them that obey him” [Acts 5:32]. Some people have the idea that you can have the Holy Spirit and do as you please, but this is not the case. We are to obey Him. Furthermore, one of the evidences that a person is a child of God is that they are led by the Spirit of God” [Romans 8:14].

For some people, obedience is difficult to handle! To them it means towing the line, submitting to authority, or doing what you are told. In modern society we have come to equate obedience less with love and more with authority. John, however, more than any other Gospel writer emphasized love, and yet more than any other spoke about obedience! The two go together [John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10].

Love is the greatest thing of all. It is greater than faith or hope [1 Cor. 13:13]. Everything we do should issue out of love, our relationship to the Lord, our service for Him, and our obedience to Him. Writing in his first epistle John says, “His commandments are not burdensome to us.” [1 John 5:3].

Questions:

Why do you think it is that in modern society we have equated obedience with submission rather than love?

What does it mean to you personally to be led by the Spirit of God?

Why is it so important to understand that our love relationship with Jesus is the basis of everything else that we do?

What do you think it means to be obedient to the Holy Spirit?

THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH

Bible Reading: John 14:15-18; 15:26; 16:13

Three times in John chapters 14-16 Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth [John 14:17; 15:26 and 16:13]. John uses the same phrase twice in his epistles [1 John 4:6; 5:6].

Many years ago I heard Leighton Ford, Billy Graham’s brother-in-law preach.  He said, “For many people everything is relative, and the only absolute that they have is the absolute that there are no absolutes.” God is truth and His laws are the absolutes on which our faith is built. Because the Holy Spirit is God His ministry is a ministry of truth because God is truth.

We see the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth manifest in several ways. Firstly, God’s Word is truth and the Holy Spirit was the author of God’s Word. Paul says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” [2 Timothy 3:16]. Peter enlarging on this writes, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” [2 Peter 1:20-21]. God’s Word is His revelation of truth to man, given through the Holy Spirit. His Word is a treasure house of truth!

Secondly, the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth convicts people of sin [John 16:7-8]. As a young evangelist, I preached at a Methodist Church in the North of England on Isaiah chapter six. Isaiah was convicted of sin as He saw the sovereign God upon His throne. After the meeting we adjourned for tea in the church hall, but I was called back to sanctuary, and found the minister of the church lying on the floor and crying out for mercy. The Holy Spirit had convicted him of sin in his life. May God make us very sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and may we constantly allow Him to search our hearts.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth [John 16:13]. He is the One who teaches us, and reminds us of everything that Jesus taught [John 14:26]. When we first come to Christ we are as infants, and need to be taught by the Holy Spirit. Yes, He does use godly people to teach us, but in many respects His lessons are more powerful to us when He teaches us directly. Why not ask the Holy Spirit to teach you. The Psalmist wrote, “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me” [Psalm 25:4]. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Any revelation that comes by the Holy Spirit will never contradict what He has already spoken in the Bible, and will always point to Jesus and glorify Him.

Questions:

Why is it important that we should spend time every day reading and meditating upon God’s Word?

What does it mean to be convicted and convinced of sin by the Holy Spirit? Why should this always lead to repentance?

Would you pray the prayer today that the Psalmist prayed in Psalm 25 verse 4 and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you?

JESUS PROMISES ANOTHER HELPER

Bible Reading: John 14:15-18; 16:5-15

Jesus uses the same Greek word parakletos four times [John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7] in John’s Gospel to describe the Holy Spirit. The original meaning in Greek was to come alongside. It was also used in Greek literature of a legal advocate; that is someone who speaks in a persons defence and gives legal counsel. The Holy Spirit is the One who provides us with advice or counsel.

This Greek word is translated in different ways in our various English translations of the Bible. It is Helper, Counsellor, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Consoler and Encourager. Each of these words gives a slightly different shade of meaning to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. It is exciting that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would not only come alongside us as our Helper, but that He would be within us [v.17]. He will never leave us [v.16] and will work powerfully, both for us and in us.

Are you in a battle, attacked by different philosophies, feeling discouraged and needing someone to help you? That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Tragically, many Christians do not have time to listen to Him. This week I was speaking with a Christian businessman who told me that He is now too busy to take time to pray and read the Bible each day. Sadly, He is neglecting the one most powerful source available to help him – the Holy Spirit. Later, in the next chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” [John 15:5]. It is actually an issue of rebellion when we think that we can succeed without a dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said the world couldn’t receive the Holy Spirit because it is not looking for Him and does not recognize Him. It relies instead upon self-confidence and natural ability, and the danger for the Christian is that this aspect of the world rubs off on to Him, and he becomes conformed to the way that the world thinks and acts. Speaking into this, Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, perfect and acceptable will of God” [Romans 12:2]

Some years ago I heard the pastor of a large church in the United States speak of how God had humbled and broken him. He confessed that he had built the church using many of the secular self-help tools available to him, but that he rarely prayed or read the Bible for himself. He confessed that His dependency was not on God but his own ability. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul said, “each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is” [1 Corinthians 3:13].

Questions:

In what way is the Holy Spirit able to strengthen and encourage us as we seek to walk with God?

Why is our dependency upon the Holy Spirit so vital for the Christian life but so often something that we neglect? In what area of your life do you need at this time to ask the help of the Holy Spirit?

THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON

Bible Reading: John 14:15-18; 16:5-15

Knowing that His departure was close Jesus took time to teach His disciples about the Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send to them.

The first clear statement we read about the Holy Spirit is that He is a person.

Jesus said, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” [John 14:16]. A key word in this verse is the word another. There are two Greek words that are translated as another. They are ‘allos’ and ‘heteros’. The word ‘heteros’ means another but totally different. We use this as an English prefix in the word heterosexual as persons who are sexually opposite. Conversely, the word ‘allos’ means another that is exactly the same. In his book, “Foundations of the Christian Faith,” James Montgomery Boice writes:

Since the word ‘allos’ occurs in this text, Jesus is saying that He will send the disciples a person just like himself, that is, one who is fully divine. Who is the first Counsellor? Jesus. He had been the disciples’ strength and counsel during the years of his ministry among them. Now He is going away, and in His place He will be sending a second Counsellor who is just like him. He will be another divine person living with them and [in this case] in them.

The Holy Spirit is a divine Person living inside the Christian. He is always referred to with the personal pronoun He and He has all the attributes of personality. Personality implies the existence of certain attributes, intellect, and emotion and can be defined as one who has knowledge, feelings and volition or will. The Holy Spirit has each of these attributes.

The Holy Spirit has intelligence. Writing to the Corinthians Paul says, “Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” [1 Corinthians 2:11]. Writing to the Romans he speaks about, “…the mind of the Spirit” [Romans 8:26-27]. The word “mind” in this verse is a comprehensive word encompassing ‘the ideas of thought, feeling and purpose. The Holy Spirit has emotions. The Bible speaks about the love of the Spirit [Romans 15:30]; the empathy of the Spirit [Romans 8:26]; and that the Holy Spirit can be grieved [Ephesians 4:30]. The Holy Spirit has volition or will. The Holy Spirit decides to whom His gifts are distributed [1 Corinthians 12:11].

Although some speak of the Holy Spirit only in terms of an influence or power, the Bible clearly speaks of Him as a Person, in just the same way that Jesus was a Person. As God’s children we have a Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, living inside of us!

Questions:

Why did Jesus take time to talk to His disciples about the Holy Spirit before He went to the cross?

Why is it important to understand that the Holy Spirit is a Person and not just a power or an influence? What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit? How can we grieve the Holy Spirit?

MINISTERING IN JESUS’ NAME

Bible Reading: John 14:12-14

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Saviour] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name [as My representative], this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified and celebrated in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name [as My representative], I will do it” [John 14:12-14 Amp. Bible]

As His representatives, we are called to do what Jesus did and even greater things than He did. We know that Jesus is God, and so the question is, “How can we do greater things than Jesus?” Jesus had just raised a man from the dead – surely we cannot do greater than that. The greater works are not in doing more amazing miracles and teaching than Jesus, but rather in their extent and outreach.

What Jesus did was the pattern for what we are to do, but He was limited to one small geographical area. More people were added to Jesus’ followers on the Day of Pentecost than all those who followed Him during His earthly ministry. Since His death and resurrection His ministry through His representatives has impacted the whole world and brought about transformation in both individuals as well as in whole cultures and societies.

In order for us to do these works Jesus has made available to us all the resources that we need. These are primarily the Holy Spirit and prayer. Jesus said that we would do what He did because He went back to His father [v.12]. As a result the Holy Spirit was given, and His disciples received the power to witness wherever they went [Acts 1:8]. We will take a closer look at the Holy Spirit over the next few days, but without His power we are ineffective.

Jesus also made available to us the resource of prayer. As we serve Jesus we can ask anything in His name and He will do it [v.13-14]. Obviously, in the context of this passage it is to do His will and to glorify Jesus. Our prayers must be in accordance with His will [1 John 5:14] and in faith [Mark 11:22-24]. Many years ago I heard a Jewish rabbi interpret Psalm 37:4 in a very different way to the English translation of the verse. In English it reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” but the rabbi said it might be better interpreted as, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you His desires” The closer we live to God, and the more we delight and abide in Him the more His desires become one with our desires, and the more effective our prayers become.

Questions:

How would you answer someone who said that it was impossible for us to do greater things than Jesus did?

What are the two special promises that you can take from today’s reading?

What do you think that is the meaning of delighting in the Lord? How do you do this?

Why is it that this amazing resource of prayer is so little utilized and used?

JESUS ANSWERS THE DISCIPLE’S QUESTIONS

Bible Reading: John 14:1-14

Many years ago I heard someone say that people would sometimes ask difficult questions about the Christian faith and they did not know the answer. They decided to be honest and say that they did not know, but that they would seek out the answer and give it when they had found it. As the death of Jesus approached the disciples were increasingly anxious and asking questions, and Jesus encouraged them by telling them what would happen. Let’s look at some of the things that Jesus said to encourage them.

Firstly, Jesus told them that He was going ahead of them to prepare a place for them [John 14:2-3]. When Jesus speaks of My Father’s House He is clearly speaking of heaven, and many rooms [monē – Greek], are not so much small spaces as dwelling places. Elsewhere Jesus speaks of an everlasting home [Luke 16:9]. Writing to the Corinthians Paul speaks of “the things that God has prepared for those who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. For those who love Jesus He has prepared a beautiful place in which to dwell.

Secondly, Jesus told them that the only way to the Father was through Him [John 14:6]. There is no other way in which we can come to God except through Jesus. When He died upon the cross the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn apart and all may enter God’s presence [see Hebrews 10:19]. Luke makes it very clear, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. Jesus is the way!

Thirdly, Jesus told them that He would come back to them [John 14:3]. Later in the chapter Jesus speaks about the Holy Spirit, and says, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” [John 14:18]. There have been various interpretations to this truth that Jesus will come back to them. Some see it as fulfilled in the resurrection, and others through Christ’s second coming. Others see it as Christ living in His children by the Holy Spirit. Each of these interpretations is correct. Before Jesus returned to heaven He promised, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” [Matthew 28:20].

Fourthly, Jesus told them that they had to continue His work [John 4:12]. They would do the works that Jesus had done and even greater works because He was going to His Father. This must be connected to the Holy Spirit working through them. The greater works could not possibly be in terms of the quality of the works but the quantity of the works.

Questions:

Why was it important for the disciples to have these answers to their questions? What questions do you have that you would like God answer? Why not ask Him and listen to His response?

Why do you think it is important to emphasize that Jesus is the only way to God, even if it is an unpopular truth in today’s multi-faith society?

Why did Jesus say that we would do greater works than He did?

LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED

Bible Reading: John 14:1-14

“Do not let your heart be troubled [afraid, cowardly]. Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me” [John 14:1 Amplified Bible]

The disciples were increasingly aware that Jesus was going to die and they were unsure of what the future might hold. They had left everything and totally committed themselves to follow Jesus and now He was going to leave them. They were confused, afraid of the future, afraid of being on their own and afraid of what might happen to them. These are not uncommon emotions when we experience major changes in our lives.

The disciples were questioning among themselves and asking where Jesus was going and how they could follow Him there. Because they did not know the way or how they could know the Father, Jesus sought to allay their fears, answer their questions, and to encourage and strengthen them.

The words “you believe in God” might be a statement, but because they follow the words, “Let not your hearts be troubled,” they were almost certainly a command. Literally, “You believe in God, believe also in Me!” Here is the primary key to overcoming fear – faith! The faith that Jesus was speaking about was a personal trust in God. It was literally to trust in Him, to lean upon Him and rely on Him. King David experienced fear and his testimony was:

I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The Angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
and delivers them
” [Psalm 34:4-7].

We all experience different kinds of fears. Unhealthy, irrational fear torments, and does not come from God. The answer to all fear is to trust God and let His love fill our lives. The apostle John wrote, “Perfect love casts out all fear” [1 John 4:18]. Writing to Timothy, Paul said, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, and of power and a sound mind” [2 Timothy 1:7]. Faith is something that grows. Jesus likened it to a mustard seed [Matthew 17:20]. A mustard seed is very small but it grows into a large tree [Luke 13:19]. So it is with faith – the more we exercise faith, the stronger it grows. We can exercise a little faith and begin to overcome fear, until fear has totally been conquered!

Questions:

Is there a fear that you have struggled with and never been able to conquer? Would you bring that to the Lord, and trust Him to set you free?

A man once said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe: help my unbelief” [Mark 9:24]. What does this tell you about faith? How did Jesus respond to him?

What do you think are the keys to having a faith that is growing and becoming stronger? What are you doing to become stronger in faith?

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PROMISE

Bible Reading: John 13:36-39

Peter said to Him, “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times” (John 13:37-38).

When Peter understood that Jesus was going to die, he impulsively spoke of laying down His own life for Jesus [v.37]. Scholars believe that Peter was the source of much of the material in Mark’s Gospel. Mark reports that Jesus told the disciples that they would all stumble because of Him, but Peter responded, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be” [Mark 14:29]. We don’t exactly know why Peter made this promise. Perhaps he could not bear the thought of life without the physical presence of Jesus, or maybe he wanted to support Him because he didn’t like the thought of Jesus dying alone. Whatever Peter’s reason was for making this promise, it was certainly a promise that he would not keep.

Peter’s rash promise was not in line with God’s will It was more a statement of self-reliance and pride in his own strength and ability. The Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” [Proverbs 16:18] and “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom [Proverbs 11:2]. Peter’s self-reliance, which was really pride, led to both a fall and shame.

Jesus knew that Peter would not keep His promise, and told him that not only would he fail to keep his word, but that he would actually deny Him. The moment that Peter denied Jesus the third time the rooster would crow [v.38].

Later in his Gospel John records Peter’s denial of Jesus [John 18:15-27]. Luke adds that Jesus turned and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered, and went out and wept bitterly [Luke 22:61-62]. There must have been tremendous pain in the eyes of Jesus, and Peter was a broken man. Would Jesus ever accept him again? Hadn’t Jesus said, “He who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” [Luke 12:9]? Peter would try and rebuild his life, going back to fishing, but Jesus would come and restore Him. When man promises something, wait and see, but when God promises something it will happen!

Questions:

Have you ever been asked about your faith and have avoided the question, and therefore directly or indirectly denied the Lord? How did that make you feel? How do you think that it might have hurt Jesus?

Why is it dangerous to make rash promises? What were the consequences of this for Simon Peter?

Have you ever made a promise to the Lord which you have failed to keep or only partially fulfilled? Do you think that God expects you to fulfil your promises to Him? How much is your word your bond?

A NEW COMMANDMENT

Bible Reading: John 13:31-35

Jesus gives a NEW commandment to love, and yet to love was clearly commanded in the Old Testament. In Leviticus we read, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” [Leviticus 19:18]. What Jesus is speaking about is a whole new dimension of love, and it is specifically related to His death on the cross of which He had just been speaking [v.31-33]. It is Calvary love. This is the highest form of love. The Greek word for this kind of love is agape – the God-like love that sacrifices. The word agape speaks of an attitude or emotion of deep affection for another person, but with a focus on loving action and not feelings alone.

Jesus speaks a lot in the next three chapters of John’s Gospel about the Holy Spirit. Christ’s new commandment to love is specifically related to the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Writing to the Romans Paul says, “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” [Romans 5:5]. This is not our love, but the Holy Spirit in us causing God’s love to flow through us. The Old Testament says that we should love our neighbour in the same way that we love ourselves, but the New Testament says that we should love in the same way that God loves.

How does God show His love? Firstly, God’s love is for His enemies and not just for His friends. Even whilst we were enemies of God He showed His love for us in sending Christ to die for us [Romans 5:10]. Secondly, God’s love is sacrificial. Jesus said, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you [John 15:12 NLT]. How did Jesus love us? By laying down His life for us! Thirdly, God’s love always seeks to bless others.

It is extravagant! Words that speak of love are to do good, to bless, to pray, to give and to be compassionate [see Luke 6:27-36]. Fourthly, God’s love is intensely practical. In 1 John 3:16-19] John writes, “Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions…If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?” It is as practical as helping to meet another’s need if we are in a position to do so!

To love in this way might be very costly and make us vulnerable to being abused and misused, but the consequences of not loving will be even more costly. It is when we love in this way that we will be known as Christ’s disciples [v.35].

Questions:

What words would you use to describe God’s love shown to us at Calvary?

What are the kind of things that might hinder you from being a channel of God’s love to other people?

Will you ask the Lord to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that the love of Jesus for others will permeate every area of your life?

BETRAYAL BY A FRIEND

Bible Reading: John 13:18-30

I once heard it said that no one would ever really be a leader unless they had experienced some level of rejection. King David, in the Old Testament, and King Jesus, in the New Testament, both experienced rejection of the worst kind – betrayal by their close friends. David wrote about this, and Jesus quoted him. “Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me” [Psalm 41:9; John 13:18].

David was probably speaking about Hushai [Samuel 16:23] or Ahithophel, one of his counsellors [2 Samuel 15:12]. Both turned against David, in support of David’s rebellious son, Absalom [2 Samuel 16:20-23]. Writing of this experience of betrayal David said,

It is not an enemy who taunts me – I could bear that. It is not my foes who so
arrogantly insult me –
  I could have hidden from them. Instead it is you – my
equal, my companion and close friend. What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God
” [Psalm 55:12-14].

It is interesting to see the different reactions of David and Jesus to betrayal by their close friends. David said, “Let death seize them; Let them go down alive into hell, for wickedness is in their dwellings and among them” [Psalm 55:15], but Jesus continued to love and even honour Judas Iscariot. Jesus had chosen Judas and they had travelled together for nearly three years. He must have been trusted because he was the treasurer. At a meal it was a mark of honour for the host to give a portion of food to one of the guests. Jesus appealed to Judas’ conscience [v.21] and then, by giving him the morsel of food, He appealed to his heart. Here is love, knowing that Judas would betray Him, Jesus chose to honour him! At that moment Judas must also have realised that Jesus knew what he was planning to do. Jesus didn’t excuse Judas, but neither was He acrimonious or vengeful.

How are we going to respond to those people who betray us? Will it be to desire their punishment or to forgive them? We may not easily get rid of negative emotions, and the rebuilding of trust cannot be guaranteed, but revenge will only be counterproductive. In the Old Testament we see the forgiveness of people who betrayed him, most clearly portrayed in the life of Joseph. Abused, hated, put in a pit, and sold into slavery, his brothers thought they had seen the back of Joseph, but twenty-seven years later they met again unexpectedly in Egypt, where Joseph was now Prime Minister. Joseph’s response to them was to say, “You meant for evil against me, but God meant it for good,” and he blessed them [Genesis 50:20-21].

Questions:

Is there someone who betrayed and hurt you and whom you have not forgiven? What is the negative impact of unforgiveness in a person’s life?

Do you think that David’s reaction was a godly or ungodly reaction? What are your reasons for your answer? If it was ungodly why do you think it is included in Scripture?