Here are my study notes from yesterday morning’s lesson. We spent some time talking about joy in life, and how big of a deal it is that in this section of Scripture Jesus reveals His desire for us to have joy. That’s a far cry from the stoic detached God we hear about from critics of Christianity! I hope you enjoy these short notes, and that this week you are challenged to think especially on verse 11.
15:9-10 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
The Awesomeness Meter…Broken
I think there are basically 6 points to verses 9-14 that need examined. But first, I can’t move on to look at these general themes without noting something in particular about verse nine – as I was looking at this verse and the whole section I just couldn’t get over Jesus saying that He loves us (note the past tense there as if he’s always loved us) “as the Father has loved me.”
What this ought to tell us is something about the relationship between the Father and the Son, and also something about how much Jesus loves us. I’m not sure how much it would help to prattle on here about this, because every explanation or description I think of to describe it seems to make it seem trite in comparison with what I know Jesus is describing.
Think of it this way: when God does something, He does it in a BIG way. Not size-wise, but in terms of awesomeness. Think of the awesomeness meter being broken! Okay, now that the picture is in your head, realize that the intensity and depth of His love for the Son is going to match that depth and intensity that the Son has for us. If that doesn’t blow your mind I might as well quit teaching now!
Its this kind of truth we need to lay as a foundation stone for our understanding of Christian doctrine. Let me give you an example of why….if someone asks you if you can loose your salvation, or if Jesus is really with you in a trial, or if God is really in control of all the details of your life, or if Jesus really died specifically for you, and so on…you can answer in the affirmative because you have a foundational understanding of how much Jesus loves you.
- Jesus doesn’t loose any sheep – He’s too powerful and loves you too much
- Jesus doesn’t abandon you – He loves you too much
- God the Son is in control of all things and that includes all the details in your life – He loves you too much not to be involved
- Jesus really did die for you – because He loves you as much as the Father loves Him
I think you probably get the picture! Paul got the picture also, and that’s why he could write the following:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
The Mark of a Christian
So the first part of verse 9 is foundational, and as we examine verses 9-14 I want to look at the mark of discipleship and what enables us to obey. Christ is primarily here concerned to show what life in the vine looks like, and to exhort His disciples toward that life which will reflect their relationship with Him. Just as it was the purpose of ancient Israel to be a light to nations and show forth the glories and joy of living in true relationship with God, so too is it our privilege to be a light to the world and show others what true communion with God looks like.
I want to explore these truths under six headings:
- Disciples Obey
- Disciples Obey Because Jesus Obeyed First
- Disciples Obey and get Joy as a Result
- Disciples Obey because they love Jesus
- Disciples Love Jesus Because He First Loved Them
- Disciples Are Called to Radical Obedience and Love
Notice that there is a sort of ascending or building house of truth here…
Jesus says that the result of being united with Him is that we will bear fruit. If you are in the vine then you will bear fruit – so what does that look like? It looks like obedience.
The mark of a true disciple of Christ – a born again believer – is that they will bear the fruit of obedience to the commands of Jesus.
That is why Jesus can confidently assert, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” Keeping the commands results from abiding in Christ.
If you are consistently not obeying Christ’s commands, then there is good reason to wonder if you are truly saved and numbered among His sheep. It is a simple fact that those who have been converted become a new creation, and that new creation behaves in ways that are different than those who are not “in” Christ.
Of course the sanctification process is slow – painfully slow sometimes! – but we know that what God began He will be faithful to complete (Phil. 1:6).
Disciples Obey Because Jesus Obeyed First
Note now from verse 10 that Jesus isn’t asking us to do anything that He didn’t first accomplish. He is the “righteous branch” (Jer. 23:5) and is not only our example, but also paved the way for us to be capable of obedience. That’s what Jesus is saying when He says, “Just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
These are the two truths we must internalize here:
- Jesus obeyed first and is our example of how to live in righteousness and truth
- Jesus’ obedience means that even when we fail we will still be righteous in the eyes of God
Jesus was just as human as we are, tempted as we are, and yet was without sin (Heb. 4:15; 2 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5), and Jesus’ obedience has been imputed to our account (Rom. 4:22-25) in order that we might become “the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
The result of this obedience is not only the ability to obey through the power of the Holy Spirit, but the beautiful truth that when we fail (and we will) we can boldly come before the throne of grace and ask for forgiveness – with the confidence to know it will be forgiven (Hebrews 4).
Therefore, because Christ’s righteous life ransomed us from a life of sin and corruption, which would have resulted in eternal death, we give Him our lives as an offering. We serve, we teach, we follow Christ – we obey.
As Christians we now follow the example of Christ by the power of Christ. Just as He obeyed through the power of the Spirit, so we too “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4) and obedience to His commands.
Of Christ’s submission to the Spirit Bruce Ware comments:
Although Jesus was full God, as a man he chose to rely not on his own divine nature but on the power of the Spirit. In this way, he lived his life as an example for us (1 Peter 2:21-22), and fulfilled the perfect obedience that Adam had failed to accomplish…As a man, Jesus submitted fully to the Spirit, even though in terms of rank, within the Trinity, Jesus has authority over the Spirit.
Likewise we Christians are to submit to the power of the Spirit as we follow the example of Jesus. Romans 6:17-18 describes this beautifully:
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18, ESV)
15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Disciples Obey and get Joy as a Result
Just as Christ is our example in obedience and walking in the power of the Spirit, so too is He in receiving joy as a result. Look at what we read in Hebrews 12:
…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, ESV)
I think this joy is not only something we experience in heaven, but also here on earth. There is a joy in obeying your Lord – in serving Him with all of your heart. This is proven by our own experience, is it not? We obey Christ’s word and someone benefits by our kindness, or our generosity and it thrills our soul! In this way the kingdom of heaven’s benefits are made manifest in our hearts even before we see that kingdom consummated upon Christ’s return.
This is what is meant, then, by the psalmist’s exhortation, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Ps. 34:8)
Obedience to God is not drudgery it is joy, and this is so because it is done in love. That’s why Jesus said above, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” Love is the overarching descriptor that Jesus uses to explain the nature of His obedience to the Father and our obedience to Him. Without love your obedience is a “clanging symbol” (1 Cor. 13:1) and is completely unprofitable.
As we’ve said previously, love for God and others is a mark of being a Christian. As was mentioned in chapter 13:
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
Therefore all of this joy springs forth first from a heart that is loving toward others and toward God. Without this love there will be no joy. All of your “righteous” deeds will be like annoying sounds upon the ears of those whom you purport to serve.
A Last Word About This Joy…
There will be sometimes that we obey knowing that it is the right thing to do, and are empowered by God do obey, and yet we don’t experience that joy right away. It seems like we’re doing something difficult and not something that excites us. But I can only attribute this to our sin nature.
For example, I once told Derek (Stone) that I really didn’t enjoy doing evangelism, but I would sign up to go because I knew it was the right thing to do. Gradually, I asked for God’s help, and He changed my desires. Am I a gifted evangelist? No! (I laugh just asking the question!) But boy o boy do I enjoy sharing the gospel when I’m given the opportunity. What held me back from enjoying evangelism rather than just carrying out my “duty”? My sin nature.
It is our sin nature that prevents us from being joyful all the time. It is our sin nature that brings millions of Christians to church every Sunday as if it were some perfunctory gathering and not a joyful time of worship. It is our sin nature that mellows our worship as something mindless and heartless. It is our sin nature when we think that showing up to church is something special when 90% of our friends are sleeping in. It is our sin nature that cares more about the style of worship than learning out to worship properly in the first place. It is our sin nature talking after church when we nitpick about the sermon and yet haven’t lifted a finger to serve for months and months.
Don’t be fooled. You are a sinner, and in this world you will have trouble – and much of that trouble will not be brought on by Satan (as if you’re that important), but by your own sinful self-centeredness.
You will never experience the joy of the Lord if you continue to live in the flesh instead of walking by the Spirit. Forget yourself and your self-centered schedule and your self-centered dreams, and start reorienting your life around the Son of God. That is my prayer for you this year.