Loving Obedience (John 14:15-24)
By Andrew E. Courtis
There are many things that can fill our lives as Christians with distractions from what is most important. Pressure from work, routine busyness and add to this our own daily temptations (which are relentless) are all things that bring trouble and difficulty. What is a Christian to do in the midst of troubling times? Earlier in this chapter Jesus told His disciples to trust Him (14:1-14), and here (14:15-24) He calls for them to obey Him. Three times in this passage Jesus calls for His disciples to show loving obedience to Him:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (14:15)
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (14:21)
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (14:23)
So then, what are we to do in the midst of troubling times? The answer Jesus gives us is a call to loving obedience. There is a lot of talk about love in churches today, but sadly, this love has been redefined into some kind of sentimental and superficial mystical experience. What does it mean to love the Lord Jesus Christ? Loving the Lord Jesus Christ means that after one knows who He is and trusts in Him for salvation, they respond by living according to His will. This is what Jesus requires of His people.
So if we are going to be ready to face this world without fear and be faithful, we must lovingly obey the Lord Jesus Christ. How is this going to prepare us to be fervent and faithful in troubling times? In this passage our Lord promises that He will dwell within His people. Back in the OT God chose to reveal Himself to His people by dwelling with them in the Tabernacle and the Temple. God’s dwelling with man went to a whole new level when Jesus Christ came into the world and dwelt among the people (John 1:14). The Bible also looks forward to the day in which God will dwell with His people for all eternity in the perfect conditions of Heaven (Rev. 21:3). What about the time period between our Lord’s ascension to Heaven and His Second Coming? Let us now consider the way Jesus prepares and equips His disciples to be fervent and faithful in the midst of troubling times after He departs. In this incredibly encouraging, deep, practical and relevant passage, we will consider three special blessings the Lord promises to those who love Him.
Sermon Summary: In this passage we will consider three special blessings that come to God’s people.
1. THE BLESSING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (14:15-17)
The first blessing that Jesus announces to His people is the Holy Spirit. He said,
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (14:15-17).
As we face this world as Christians and strive to be faithful to the Lord, let us understand that one of the great blessings of belonging to Christ is that He gives us the Holy Spirit. Jesus was there with His disciples, and they could turn to Him whenever they wanted. But now He is going and Jesus promises them that He is sending “another Helper, to be with you forever”. This word for “helper” is used of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1 and it is implied in John 14:16). Here Jesus is saying that I am going to send you another, that is another of the same kind, to come and be your Helper. Who is this? It is “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him” (14:17a). This is talking about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Holy Trinity and here He is called the “Spirit of truth”. This is because He will guide us into all truth by exalting Christ. The promise here is that the Holy Spirit will indwell the believer in a way in which He is not in the world.
Remember this, as you go out into the world and face troubling times, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not for a special class of Christians, but rather it is a blessing all Christians receive. However, as we yield to Christ in obedience, this blessing reveals itself in a deeper and more intimate way. Notice again how this section begins, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (14:15).
2. THE BLESSING OF THE SON (14:18-21)
The second blessing Jesus promises His people is the indwelling of Christ. He says to His troubled disciples,
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (14:18-21).
Jesus makes the promise that when He goes from them, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (14:18-19). Jesus is departing from them, but He assures them that He will come to them again. How will that happen? Ultimately this is what He promised back in 14:2, in reference to His Second Coming. But here Jesus is assuring His disciples that in the interim He will be with all His disciples through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is going to die, be buried and on the third day He will be resurrected. For this reason He says, “Because I live, you also will live”. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ secures the salvation of His people and provides us with certainty that we too will one day be raised and will be with Him in Heaven forever. The great blessing promised here is that no matter where you are, Christ will be with you. He adds, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” What Jesus is saying here is rather deep and will be explained further in the next chapter (The Vine and Branches). Residing in every believer is the Lord Jesus Christ, and this residence provides the close union between Christ and the believer.
For the second time Jesus reminds His disciples of their duty, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (14:21). The consequence of such loving obedience is the special love of the Father and Son, which leads to Christ revealing Himself to us. Of course, the reason why we can love Christ to begin with is because God first loved us (3:16; 1 John 4:19). But as we respond to His great love by loving Christ and keeping His commands, this loving obedience brings about a deeper acquaintance with the Lord. As we take time to love Christ by doing what He says, our understanding of Him deepens.
Loving Christ will grow our sensitivity to the reality that He indwells us. The Lord Jesus Christ indwells every believer through the Holy Spirit – what a blessing!
3. THE BLESSING OF THE FATHER (14:22-24)
The third blessing Jesus promises His people is the Father’s indwelling. After speaking about revealing Himself to His disciples after He is gone, Judas (not Iscariot) asked, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” (14:22). The Jewish people’s expectation was that when the Messiah would come, His temporary earthly kingdom would be ushered in and His rule would be over the whole earth – somewhat of a golden age. So Judas’ question really is asking, “seeing that You – the Messiah, the Son of God – are going to reveal Yourself, why is it then that the whole world won’t see it?” Judas is thinking in physical terms. Notice how Jesus responds to this question, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (14:23). The revealing of Jesus in the life of the believer is not a physical manifestation in which the whole world sees it. Rather, it is a spiritual reality that comes by means of loving obedience.
This is the second time Jesus says that as we lovingly obey Him, the Father in turn will love us. This is referring to the special love that we experience as we obey our Lord. Also, notice the second aspect of the blessing of the Father. Both He and Christ will come to us and make their home with us. This means that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reside within every believer. What a blessing! Jesus concludes by saying, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me” (14:24). This reminds us how serious the words and promises of the Lord Jesus Christ are.
As His disciples found themselves in a time of uncertainty and fear, Jesus assured them that they could face the world without fear and be faithful. He called for them to lovingly obey Him, and in doing this they would know the great blessings He has promised them. What happens then if our love for the Lord Jesus Christ is not what it ought to be? What happens when we through coldness or compromise leave our first love? Jesus said these words to a church that did just that,
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first…” (Rev. 2:5a)
In this verse He provides them with a three-fold strategy to recover their first love: Remember, Repent, and Return.
Firstly, He tells them to “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.” The word “remember” is in the present tense indicating an on-going action. This is the first step to recovering our first love; we need to remember what it was. The Ephesian church is to recall it’s past enthusiasm and unwavering loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and then compare that with their condition in the present. In a sermon Spurgeon insightfully said,
“Once you were never wearied with hearing of Him and serving Him. Never were you overdone with Christ and His Gospel—many sermons, many Prayer Meetings, many Bible readings—and yet none too many! Now sermons are long, services are dull and you must have your jaded appetite excited with novelties. How is this? Once you were never displeased with Jesus, whatever He did with you. If you had been sick, or poor, or dying, you would still have loved and blessed His name for all things.”
It is important for us to remember and be reminded because we can very quickly forget (c.f. 2 Pet. 1:12-15). We are to fill our minds with those great memories of joy and excitement for our Lord.
The second step to recovery is to repent. Once we come to the realization that we have departed from our unwavering and enthusiastic loyalty to the Lord, we need to repent. The idea behind this word is a deliberate change of our thoughts and actions, which results in a 180-degree turn. It is no good having great memories that lead to meaningless conversations or to regret. We need to remember with the purpose of repenting.
Finally, after they have remembered and have repented, they are to return and “do the works you did at first.” There is no point just standing there and reflecting on the good old days! We need to run back and do those first works. These are those actions that marked their enthusiastic love and loyalty to Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus said, “if you love me keep my commandments” (John 14:15). They are to obey out of deep love for their Saviour and recover their first love. This is our duty.