Today we had a guest preacher, Mike Goheen, at our church. He preached on John 14 – 17, but especially on John 14. Pastor Goheen set the stage as so: Jesus has just told his disciples that he is going to die, Judas Iscariot has just been given leave by Jesus to go and betray him, and Jesus has just predicted Peter’s – one of the more courageous disciples – denial of him. The disciples are confused, astonished, and saddened by all of these things happening around them. In light of this, Jesus starts this passage with, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me,” (John 14:1). What a beautiful scene in my mind: Jesus consoling his disciples. I think I need to re-read that verse a million times: how often am I troubled – and often over things that are much less significant than the things the disciples were worried about – and do not trust?
Jesus then goes on to tell the disciples, in Goheen’s words, what life will be like without Jesus and with the Holy Spirit. Four times through this chapter, Jesus says a variation of ‘If you love me, you will obey what I command,’ (John 14: 12, 15, 21, 23). Wow – I can’t remember another place in the gospels where Jesus hammers home a message quite like that!
Pastor Goheen said this morning that often the church puts emphasis separately on these concepts: obedience and love. Focusing on obedience without love causes churches (and people) to become rigid and legalistic. Focusing on love without obedience causes us to write off sin and rely too heavily on grace and salvation to cover our willful disobedience of the Word of God. Jesus, in these passages, is teaching us that both love AND obedience are necessary to right living with God. God wants our obedience to spring from the love that is in our hearts for him. But how, as a fallen people, can we possibly be obedient to God? That’s where Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit come in – “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father wills end in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you,” (John 14: 26). If we are truly in a relationship with God, we can trust that his Holy Spirit will serve as a reminder of Jesus’ commands and will teach us throughout our circumstances. I rest a lot easier knowing that I don’t have to try and be obedient by using my own self-motivation, self-control, or self-discipline – there have been far too many instances in my life where I have failed myself! Thank you, God, for knowing that “the spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” (Mark 14:38) and for giving me your Spirit to help me to obey your commands!