Summary: God equips and enables his children to obey his word.
Can you hear the jazz man blowing his trumpet? The commentary from National Public Radio? What about the sweet refrains of the gospel music calling folks to praise? Or the neighbor talking to a friend in Illinois? Do you hear the many voices? You would if you had a radio or cell phone, for this room is full of sound, pushed through here by powerful transmitters. All you need is the proper receiver.
In a way, that illustrates the teaching of the Lord in our text. Love for God is like a receiver which tunes our hearts to hear his voice and obey his word. Jesus tells his disciples that even though he must go away, he will reveal himself to God’s children (to those who love him), and whoever loves him will keep his commandments.
[Read John 14.15-24. Pray.]
The Coca-Cola company’s clever slogan for Sprite is “Obey Your Thirst.” In other words, many soft drink voices speak, but the wise lady listens to her own desires. She does not obey the demands of others; she does what she wants to do – she obeys only herself.
There seems to be much in that brief slogan which appeals to the spirit of the age. Many people imagine they will obey none other than themselves. Somehow what we really should do must bubble up from within, from our deepest passions and desires. Should we obey ourselves, or another? How will we decide whom we will obey?
A similar philosophy is displayed in the Outback Steakhouse slogan, “No Rules, Just Right.” We are to imagine them as fun-loving, carefree, happy-go-lucky, kind of mates – but we all know how terrible a restaurant can be without tight rules dictating quality control. So they have “no rules,” they just do everything right: “We are totally relaxed and nonchalant, but you will get the service and quality you demand.” Really?
I think many people imagine that they have a type of internal, moral compass which directs their choices. We might even say the Bible agrees, calling it our conscience. But God also says that, like the many unheard sounds travel through this room, many magnets exert unseen forces to spin the needle away from what is right. We may imagine we are obeying our own pure desires, when, in fact, we are the victim of outside forces and influences.
In fact, maybe we can go a step further – while many “magnets” fight for supremacy over our lives, true freedom comes when we are conformed to God’s will. A compass works, not when the needle does what it wants, but when it is directed to true north.
Similarly, the alternative to obeying God is not freedom, but obeying another authority. Because we are created beings, we cannot transcend authority and control. Past experiences, malevolent spiritual authorities, sinful desires and passions, college professors, television advertisers, our family of origin – these only begin to enumerate the voices calling for obedience. So, as we begin, I ask that you consider two things to frame this teaching of Jesus.
First, please realize that true freedom is not the license to do whatever we want, but the ability to do what is right. Consider the simple fact of playing the piano. I have the “liberty” to bang on the keys, but I do not have the freedom to play a Bach Concerto. True freedom comes through the rules of the instrument and obedience to the requirements of discipline. When God calls us to obedience, he is not constraining freedom, but offering the freedom to live as we were made.
Second, please keep in mind why Jesus claims your devotion. When he says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” I am forced to ask myself, “Why should I obey Jesus?” To answer, I look back at his life and see many solid reasons. First, he is the Creator and Maker – he was there in the beginning and all things were made through him. Therefore, he knows me, what is right and best, and he alone knows the path to life and fullness. Second, he is the Sustainer and Keeper – he orders all things in the universe so that those who are conformed to his will and ways find joy and pleasure. He is also the Judge – one day all the other voices vying for my service will be silenced, and only his word will remain as the final standard. He is also the compassionate Savior – other authorities seek my submission for their own ends. Jesus came to serve – he alone seeks your perfect good in his perfect will.
Often in the Bible God unites love and obedience. For example, in the second commandment he promises to show his steadfast love to those who “love him and keep his commandments.” Deuteronomy 10.12-13 provides another example: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” So when Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments, he is self-consciously claiming equality with God and the right to dictate our lives and our loves. All of these reasons and more are wrapped around the call to keep the commandments of Christ.