Jesus Lives to Call Me to Live for Him

6th Sunday of Easter
May 21, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Jesus Lives to Call Me to Live for Him

John 14:15–21 (NIV84)
If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. 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. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

Dear friends in Christ,

Do I have to? That is the verbal or just in our thoughts response to many requests. Do I have to? Do I have to do the dishes now? Do I have to do my homework? Do I have to do the laundry? Do I have to do the job my coworker was supposed to do but now is assigned to me because they didn't do it? Do I have to be nice to that person? Do I have to?

Of course, we don't have to. We can be mean. We can leave the work for someone else. We have a choice to do what someone asks or not.

However, when God asks it is a little different. Do we have to obey his commands? Yes. God's commands are not optional. Jesus calls us to live for him. Living for Jesus is not optional for a Christian. It is still difficult but we can live for Jesus because he lives for us.

Living Because of Jesus

If you love me, you will obey what I command.

This is a simple statement by Jesus. However, the meaning is anything but simple. We have trouble with both sides of this statement. Take the first part, “If you love me.” The word for love is an unconditional love, a one sided love, a sacrificial love. It is not friendship love or romantic love. This is true love that thinks of others first and most. Do you love Jesus like that?

What would you put ahead of Jesus and his Word? What would you skip church or miss your daily devotional time for? Sports? Job? Money? Video game on your phone? Social media surfing? Sleeping? Television? Running? Can we say that we love Jesus with true, unconditional love when we put conditions on the time we spend with our Savior's Word? We do not and we cannot love Jesus like that.

In addition, we have lots of problems with the second part of Jesus' simple statement. “You will obey what I command.” We don't obey what Jesus commands. In the previous chapter, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another.” And we love ourselves more than our neighbors, more than our families, more than anyone. In the chapter before that, Jesus says, “The man who loves his life will lose it.” And we get all upset and worried when something goes wrong in our earthly life showing that we love the stuff of this world more than we love God and his Word.

We have not and cannot love Jesus perfectly and we have not and cannot keep his commands. This is what Jesus says to his disciples and to us his believers who fail to love him and obey his commands.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. 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. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

He should abandon us but he send the Counselor. He should leave us as orphans but he adopts us into God's family. He could leave us dead in our sins but he makes us alive because he too is alive. He does not leave us with only a command to love and obey him, but comforts us with the assurance of forgiveness.

The Holy Spirit is the Counselor whom Jesus promises to his believers. We receive this gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptism. He continues to dwell with us and comforts and guides us through God's Word. First is the comfort that Christ Jesus has died to pay for our loveless words, actions and thoughts. This same Jesus rose from the dead to give spiritual and eternal life through faith in him. The Spirit comforts us by telling us that we are not left to work out our salvation on our own, as orphans. Jesus came to us who had no relationship with God and Christ became our brother so that we have a Father in heaven. We are no longer orphans.

Then Jesus makes this amazing statement:

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

Through faith, given by the Holy Spirit, you are united with Jesus. He is in you. You are in him. We are not united in the same way as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God. We are not God, but we are connected closely with our God through faith in Jesus. Though we did not love and obey Jesus as he requests, he is with us.

Living For Jesus

Therefore, instead of asking Jesus, “Do I have to?” when he tells us to obey his commands, we ask ourselves, “How could I not obey my Savior who has loved me so?”

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

We want to live for Jesus who lived and died and lives again for us. Jesus gives us the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, so that we can actually love and obey God. Not perfectly, for even our righteous acts are like filthy rags by themselves. Through Christ, those feeble attempts at thanking God are counted as good and perfect because Jesus is good and perfect. How can we not love the One who forgives sins and presents us before God as perfect, respectful and thankful children?

But how do we thank God? How do we live for Jesus in this life? Again, Jesus provides the help, or better, the Helper. The Holy Spirit not only comforts us with the gospel but also instructs us in the truth and guides us in the way of the Lord. We thank Jesus by obeying his commands. We know what he commands by knowing the Bible. We know the Bible because the Holy Spirit gave us faith and works to instruct us whenever we hear or read the Scriptures.

In the history of the Western church, there have been attempts to show thanks to God in ways by doing things he did not command. At the time of the Reformation, 500 years ago, believers were told that it was God-pleasing to go and look at relics. These were supposed artifacts from the time of Christ, bones of the apostles, fragments of the cross and so on. God never said to do this. Some were told to thank God by not getting married so priests, monks and nuns were forbidden to be married. God doesn't say that being single is better than being married or the other way around.

We look to the Scriptures to see how to thank God in our lives. The Holy Spirit guides us to what truly pleases God. In Romans, Paul tells us, “in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). Living for Jesus is not just showing up at church for an hour a week. It is what happens this hour and the other 167 hours of the week. It is fleeing from sin and temptation. It is loving Jesus by the way you treat your neighbor. It is obeying Jesus by the way you raise your children. It is how you interact with people throughout the day. It is showing love and patience with the person who messed up your order again, with the person who caused an accident, with the child or parent who just doesn't seem to get it. Showing unconditional love to the people in our lives is showing love to Jesus. This is obeying his commands.

We don't have to make up good works to do. We don't have to do something big in the world's eyes like give away millions of dollars. Jesus asks us to love him by obeying him in the little things, hour by hour, person by person. With the Holy Spirit always comforting us with the forgiveness of Jesus and empowering us with the gospel, we will not say, “Do I have to?” Instead we will say, “How can I thank, love and serve my Savior?”

Amen.


 

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