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Loving God – the rest of last Sunday’s sermon on John 14:1-21

Last week I began a two-part sermon/examination of John 14:1-21.  The title for these two messages is: Loved By God – Loving God! The second part of the audio can be heard when you click here. (The last part of the audio is missing.)  For those who would like to read the notes prepared before the sermon, they are below.

Blessings!

Last week we began looking at the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John.   Today message is a continuation of the sermon from last week, titled:  “Loved by God – Loving God.”

In my comments last week, we looked at the first half of that title:  “Loved by God!”  My challenge was that we read this scripture (all scriptures, really) through the prism of God’s core identity as loving and relational.

What I said was that God’s nature – God’s DNA if you will – is LOVE.  This loving nature is most clearly seen in the self-revelation of God as Holy Trinity – God, the Father; God the Son; and God the Holy Spirit.

Now I know that when we talk about God as Holy Trinity, one of the first things we want to do is roll our eyes.  It’s not that we don’t believe that God is a Triune being, we do.  God is one in three – three in one. Yeah, we got that, we think to ourselves:  “This is just some high brow theology that seems too other worldly to have much earthly meaning!”

I understand that.  I’ve lived many years in that place.  What I am starting to realize, however, is that the revelation of God as Holy Trinity is at the very heart of the Gospel because it so powerfully represents the relationally loving DNA of God.  Before the world was made for all eternity past – and throughout all the human history and into eternity future, God is Holy Trinity.  God has always been and always will be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit engaged in a wonderful dance of love – what theologians have called the perichoresis.

It was out of this love that we have been created.  It is out of this love that we are redeemed from our brokenness and sin.  God’s desire is that we experience and be brought into the dance.  In Jesus, God came to handle our sin, redeem our brokenness, and bring us into himself so that IN HIM we could be brought into intimate relationship with the Triune God.

The message from last week was simply this:  “GOD IS LOVE;” and we are all “LOVED BY GOD.”

Now we come to the second part of this two-part sermon.  What does it mean to say that we LOVE GOD.  It means that we are intimately connected to the provisions of a LOVING GOD.

In John 14:15, Jesus says:  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments — keeping my commandments will be the sign of your love for me.”

There is nothing here about earning, obtaining, or achieving God’s love.   That we are LOVED by God is an established reality of divine grace.  That we LOVE GOD is a sign that we understand the reality of God’s love for us.  To put is another way, in the words of scripture, “We love God because God first loved us!” (1 John 4:19).

How do we express our love for God?  Jesus tells us that we will obey his commandments.  We show our love for our loving God by following the way of Jesus and obeying his commands.  Yet even this is only possible because of the promised provision of God’s grace.  Jesus says that when we keep his commandments, we are not alone.  We are connected through him to the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is our help, our hope, our intimate connection to the Holy Trinity.

When Jesus speaks of keeping his commandments, what does he mean?  Surely we’ve got our lists, right?  When I was a teenager we Baptists had a list.  Do any of you remember it?  “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew, and don’t go with girls who DO!”

When I was a kid, my dad was drinking a beer.  “Can I taste that?”  I asked.  “Sure, son, have at it!”  Now I have never tasted horse piss in my life, but it I had, I imagine it would have tasted like that!

Smoking wasn’t a big deal for me, either.  I have never even had a puff on a cigarette.  I remember when they brought in a lung from a smoker who had died of cancer.  The teacher said, “You don’t want your lungs to look like that when you grow up, do you?”  “Well of course not,” I said to myself.  “I also don’t want my lung to be removed just to make a point to a class of fifth graders!”

Chewing?  Also not a problem for me!  If I wasn’t going to smoke it, I certainly wasn’t going to chew it.

Dancing?  The Baptist I hung out with thought pre-marital sex was wrong because it might lead to dancing.

Going with girls who “did”?  I wasn’t sure what that meant – but I had a pretty good idea.  I didn’t need to avoid that temptation as a teenager.  The temptation did a good enough job of avoiding me.

So, is this what Jesus was talking about – some moralistic code of conduct?  Or could there be something more?

What does it mean to love God?

Whenever I think of the “commandments” of Jesus, I think of his words in Matthew’s Gospel.  Somebody asks Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?”  Jesus responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength – and the second is just kike it: love your neighbor as yourself.  On those two commandments rest all the laws and prophets.”

Now there’s something here that I have never thought about before, but when I read these words for this sermon, it just jumped out at me.  On what does all of the law and prophets rest?  It all rests on LOVE.  Everything God says we will do to show our love for our loving God involves loving God and loving those whom God loves.

It’s ALL about love.

Jesus is saying that everything we need to know about obeying God is wrapped up in that word LOVE.  Three times in the Upper Room discourse, Jesus uses the term “commandment” with his disciples – and each time is has to do with loving one another.  In fact, the only time Jesus says the words, “I command you” in all the gospels in when he follows that phrase with the words, “to love” God or others.

Now if you think you’ve got these commands down pat, think again.  These commands are impossible.  Seriously, do you LOVE everyone?  Do you love God with a purity of heart, mine, soul, and strength?  I know I don’t – but I realize also that this doesn’t keep me down.  You see as soon as we realize our inability to follow Christ’s commands, the gift of Christ comes into play.
Jesus says he gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit – whom Jesus refers to as our “Advocate,” our “Comforter,” our “Encourager,” or our “Helper.”  The Greek work Jesus uses means “one who is called alongside to help.”

Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit.  Understand that the Holy Spirit is not some vague sense of a “positive influence” or “a spirit of good” in the world. The point here is that Jesus tells his followers that He and Abba will send them SOMEONE who will keep helping them, moment by moment, day by day, as they follow in the way of Jesus.

Our Triune God, through the Holy Spirit, doesn’t leave us as orphans.  We are not left to fend for ourselves.  We are not left to figure it all out on our own.  The Holy Spirit comes to mediate the love of the Father and Son, and to confirm to us that we will never be left alone.  God is with us!

In other words, the Holy Spirit is to the followers of Christ what Jesus Christ would be to them if he were here in the flesh!  If we can get this conviction into our hearts and minds and actions, maybe we will become the kind of church where people discover the love of a God who will “never let them go.”

It’s not just HELP that the Holy Spirit bring us.  It is also intimacy with the Triune God.  Listen to the amazing words Jesus says:

“I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you.”

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you a Helper…the Holy Spirit.”

Sometimes I hear people say, “I just wish I could be closer to God!”

Sometimes I say or think that myself.

Here’s the reality.  You can’t get any closer to God than you are right now.

Jesus says, “You are in me!”

Jesus says, “I am in you!”

Jesus says that  HE is in the Father.  (If we are in Him, then we are in the Father, too.)

Jesus says he will ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit – and he will – to be with us.

Jesus paints a picture of our lives being intimately connected to, filled with, and flowing from our Triune God.  You can’t get closer than this.  It is the reality of how things are.

Now, we can reject the reality.  It won’t make the reality any less true.

One year around Christmas time we bought some gifts for the kinds.  We hid them all over the house so they wouldn’t find them.  Then, on Christmas, we dug out the gifts and gave them to the children.  Three months later, we were cleaning out a closet.  Guess what?  We found some additional gifts we had forgotten about.

These were our children’s gifts – but they were not able to enjoy them because they had not been opened.  That’s how it can be with our LOVING GOD.  By grace we have all we need.  God has given us himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  That’s the reality of our situation.  We can live outside that, on our own, if we want too.  But why in the world would we want to?  Let our LOVING GOD LOVE YOU and LOVE  THROUGH YOU.  Amen!

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