When we’re not sure how to live
(John 14:15-21 / May 17, 2020)
I have a book on my shelf titled The 5 Love Languages written by Dr. Gary Chapman (I have the men’s edition). Dr. Chapman is a clinical psychologist who also is a Christian. The premise of his book is that humans give and receive love in five basic ways: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, and acts of service. While humans engage in all five ways of loving, one of them is your primary love language.
Now, you’ll have to set aside time later to think about which is your primary love language, but for now let’s just accept the premise that you have one. Which means so does your spouse, so do your children, and so does every individual that God has created on His good earth.
Now why do I mention this? Because if you say that you love someone, it is important to know how they want to be loved. You may have your own idea of how you want to be loved. You may say, “Well I prefer quality time. When someone gives me their undivided attention, I feel loved.” But that may not be what’s most meaningful to your spouse. Your spouse may say, “Quality time is good, but what really fills my love tank are acts of service, when my spouse helps me by doing things that lighten my load.”
You see, many couples fail to achieve the intimacy they desire for the simple fact that they’re speaking different love languages to each other. They do love each other. They just don’t know how to communicate that love in a way the other person understands. So, we need to learn how to speak the same language when it comes to expressing our love for each other.
Now, Jesus says to us today, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (v. 15). That is how Jesus wants to be loved. It may not always be how we want to love him, but that is how he wants to be loved. He wants us our minds to be focused on him more than they are on ourselves, for that is what love does. It is outwardly oriented, not inwardly oriented as to what I want and what gives me joy, but rather what gives the other person joy. He wants us to hold onto (to obey) what he says, and to cherish it so deeply that that his will becomes our default way of living.
So, first of all, notice that Jesus doesn’t just tell us to love him, full stop. For that could mean any number of things. Indeed, that is why there is so much confusion in marital relationships. The husband has one understanding of what it means to give and receive love, and the wife has another. No, Jesus here reveals to us his love language. He says in verse 21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”
Now, how does that make you feel? For on the one hand, we do love Jesus. But on the other hand, when he puts it this way—that those who obey his commands, these are the ones who loves him—well, that statement makes me wonder how much I really love him after all. For I don’t always obey what he commands. And frankly, some of what he commands and teaches in the Bible is downright offensive to my sinful nature.
If there is one thing we don’t like as individuals, it is when our will is at odds with another’s and that person is telling us to deny ourselves what we want. Oh, how we resist self-denial! There is absolutely nothing worse in life than to be forced to deny yourself what you want. To deny self, we say, is to be damned. And on top of it all Jesus then has the gall to tell us to repent of the sin of not denying our will in favor of his! So, if one of the most unpleasant experiences of life is to have say you are sorry to your spouse, can you understand why our sinful flesh resists repentance and resists submitting it’s will to his?
Now, perhaps you’re also saying to yourself, “Well, maybe I don’t love Jesus as much as I thought I did.” And, no doubt that is true. And yet, at the same time, you do love him. That is also true. For you are a Christian. You have been born again. There is a new Spirit inside of you. And the love you have for Jesus and his cross is a genuine love.
Think about it. There are times in your life where your love for Jesus is so great that you are willing to give your life for Jesus. Peter says, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37). And we say, “Amen!” But then Jesus immediately questions Peter’s love and says, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:38). So, you see the problem. If only Jesus had told us to love him without any explanation as to what that means! Then we could choose to love him however we want! How then are we ever going to love him the way he wants?
Well, Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that he will give them a divine Helper in this matter. He says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth” (v. 16,17). Obviously, Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit, and he refers to him as “another Counselor.” In ancient Greek the word referred to someone who came along side of you to give you counsel and aid. Someone who would never leave. Someone who was always there like a faithful companion, and because in this instance the counselor is the Spirit of truth, we can be sure that his counsel (his advice) is always right.
You see, up until this time the disciples had Jesus with them, and Jesus was their constant companion and counselor. But now he was leaving them. He was going to die, and although he would rise again, he would only be with them visibly for a mere 40 more days. So, what now? How were the disciples supposed to live without Jesus in their life? That is their dilemma and worry.
In the same way that when we go through periods of apparent abandonment, where it’s as if God has just left us on our own and he is nowhere to be found, and we’re not sure what to do; we’re not sure how to live. We say, “What now? How am I supposed to live the life Jesus wants me to live if he’s not here?”
Oh, but that is not true. Jesus tells his disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (v. 18). That is his promise. The believer can’t say that Jesus’ presence is nowhere to be found. The believer can never say, “Jesus has left me.” Jesus says, “I will come to you.” The believer responds, “Okay, Jesus. I believe you. But how?”
Ah! Now this is the part of Christianity we so often get confused. Jesus promises us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God. In the same way that Jesus is God. There is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God had been with the disciples in the person of Jesus, the Son. Now Jesus says, God is going to be with them via his Spirit. So, it’s the Father’s own Spirit. And it is Jesus, the Son’s, own Spirit. Remember how Jesus said, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11). It’s the same Spirit. And regarding this Spirit Jesus informs his disciples, “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (v. 17). Now, what does that mean?
It means that God the Holy Spirit had already been with the disciples for the three years that Jesus was with them in his public ministry. He was with the disciples in the person of Jesus. But now Jesus was going to the Father in heaven, and Jesus tells them that although he is going to the Father, he is nevertheless going to be with them. Indeed, (and this is a key point for Christians to grasp) Jesus’ departure to heaven will be even better for God’s disciples!
So often we think, “Well, if only Jesus was still here.” Or, “If only I could see Jesus the way the disciples saw him.” Well, that that was the very thing going through the minds of the original Twelve as Jesus spoke to them on the night before his death. “How can it be better for us if Jesus is going?”
And the answer is: because when Jesus returns to heaven, God will send his Holy Spirit. That Spirit will come into our hearts through faith and stay there. And so, God will be closer to his people (listen to this!) than at any other point in the history of mankind. At no other point in the history of the world has God been so close to his people as he is now following the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He was with his people in the Old Testament. But he was with them in the form of fire. They couldn’t get close to Him. Remember Mt. Sinai. They had to keep their distance. Then God removed the distance and came to his people in the person of his Son. People could touch Jesus. They could look God in the eyes as they looked at Jesus. They could love him with tears and kisses and hugs.
So, what about now? God says, “Now I come inside of you. Now I make my home with you. Now, you yourself are my temple. Now I am not just next to you on the outside, as Jesus was with his disciples. Now I am always with you. I am your constant companion. I will remain faithful to you through good times and bad, through sickness and through health for as long as we both shall live.” Which is eternity in the life of a Christian. Jesus says in verse 19, “Because I live, you also will live.”
So, understand the intimacy here that exists between you and God. There is real and everlasting love that exists between you and God. He gave his life for you, and so you are forever in his debt. But it’s not a debt of repayment. He doesn’t ask us to repay him; we never could repay him. Rather, it is a debt of love. And you love him! You love him with your heart, soul, and mind. How can you express your love for him? Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” May God help us to do just that. Amen.