Wednesday, May 11, 2016

If I Love Jesus Can I Ignore What He Says?

Yesterday’s blog post inspired a lot of conversation over on Facebook yesterday. Some of the comments seemed to indicate that a few people were getting tripped up on my basic question which was “If Jesus Tells Me To Do Something, Do I Have To Do It?” and started arguing about the “Have To” aspect of the question rather than focusing on the essential idea behind it.

So, in an attempt to better frame my question, and to continue the conversation, I wanted to approach the issue from another angle.

Jesus talks about obedience in terms of our love for Him and the Father. He assumes that if we love Him then we will do what He says.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says it every possible way:

“If you love me, keep my commands.” – John 14:15

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” – John 14:21a

“Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” - John 14:23

“Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”  - John 14:24

“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”  - John 15:10

Our obedience, then, is not only something that Jesus expects from us, it’s an indication of our love for Him and the Father.

So, if I love Jesus can I ignore what He says?

Clearly the answer is “no”, according to Jesus.

One very important thing I feel the need to address is this idea that we just need to “try harder” or “just do it” when it comes to obedience.

Here’s why: Because a lot of us have already “tried harder” to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, and lay down our lives for others, and we have failed miserably.

But why have we failed? Simply because we are trying to be like the Son of God without resting on the power of the Son of God to accomplish the task.

Or, as Jesus phrases it – immediately after all those verses about how love and obedience are connected:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

That is the missing ingredient for many of us.

We are trying to squeeze out enough love from within ourselves to pray for our enemies or forgive those who hurt us and it simply isn’t possible. Because the brand of love that’s inside of me isn’t strong enough for that. Until the "Jesus Brand" of love is filling me up and gushing out of me like a river, I can’t come close to doing what Jesus commands me to do.

So, rather than focus on “trying harder” we actually need to focus more on “abiding in Christ” and resting in Him.

For example:

We come to the place where we know we need to love our enemies or pray for those who hurt us and we say, “Jesus, I know you want me to love this person, but it’s just not in me. Please help me now to love them the way you have loved me.”

And then you prayerfully and deliberately step out in faith to show love to those people as Jesus commanded.

That’s walking by faith.

I can remember a time in my life when a friend of mine had hurt me deeply. The betrayal was painful and devastating. I got up early in the morning and went into our den to pray. 

I knew that Jesus had commanded me to “bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you” in Luke 6:28, but honestly I didn’t want to do it. I kind of wanted the guy to get what he deserved, which in my mind was to get hit by a truck.

But, against my flesh, and in obedience to My Lord Jesus, I started to pray a blessing for him anyway. 

I prayed for God to bless his family, and his marriage, and his children. I prayed that God would shower him with blessings, and answer the prayers and desires of his heart. I prayed that God would bless his finances and his health, and his friends.

Honestly, in the beginning there was no conviction in my prayer whatsoever. I was still hurt and angry. But as I continued to pray, I began to weep. My heart broke for him and soon I was sincerely begging the Lord to bless this brother with every good and perfect gift in the heavenly places. I sincerely asked the Lord to open the storehouse of heaven and rain down blessings without end on this brother who had so deeply hurt me. 

And I meant it.

The bitterness was gone. The anger faded. I had truly forgiven him and I seriously wanted God to reveal more of Himself to this brother.

That’s how you obey the hard commands of Jesus.

Step 1: Admit you can’t do it alone
Step 2: Ask Jesus to help you obey Him
Step 3: Begin to obey Jesus even if you don’t feel it
Step 4: Receive the Grace of God necessary to follow through

And maybe I could add

Step 5: Experience the joy of the Lord as you express your love for Him in humble obedience.

If we love Jesus we will obey Him.
If we abide in Jesus, He will abide in us.
If we trust in Him to provide what we lack, He will supply it so we can follow through.

In this way, we can do what Jesus commands us to do, in love, and we can experience His indwelling Spirit as He empowers us to walk like Himself.

It’s never too late to start doing what Jesus said.

His love endures forever.



No comments: