John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Anywhere you turn in the Upper Room Discourse, there is a powerful sermon. This section is about the promise of the Holy Spirit, and it would be hard to get any more important than that. That said, some in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement seem to focus on emotion almost to the exclusion of obedience, and that is a drastic mistake. If you desire fellowship with God, there is no substitute for obedience, as this verse makes clear. A big part of the problem is that we confuse love with emotion. That confusion not only sabotages marriages, it sabotages our relationship with God. As Don Francisco sang memorably, “Love is not a feeling, it’s an act of your will.” We tend to think of love in terms of warm fuzzies, when often it is a matter of cold, hard realities. Starting with verse 14, “If you love me, you will obey what I command,” Jesus repeatedly connects love and obedience. We want all the “good stuff” the Bible promises, but that cannot be separated from the obedience of love.
My own life contains many illustrations of this. I first met Cathy, as best I can remember, in November of 1968. I got to know her to a degree over the following weeks, and I liked what I saw. In February, 1969, almost by accident, I asked her to go walking in the snow with me on a Sunday afternoon, taking pictures, after meeting up for church and lunch. We ended up talking for over 2 hours out in the snow, and spent the rest of the day together. After spending much of the next day talking together as well, (apart from college classes) that night I wrote my parents that I had found the girl I wanted to marry. On Thursday of the next week we got engaged, and we were married in May, less than 24 hours after I graduated from college. That was a decision on my part, even more than it was emotion, and I have never regretted it. I wish I could say that my decision to follow Christ was as consistent! There have been times when obedience was not the easy choice, but it has always been the best choice. The longer I live, the more the fellowship with God that Jesus speaks of here becomes my highest priority and joy. It’s not complete yet, and won’t be until I am before my Father’s throne, but I get enough tastes of it to make it all worthwhile. That’s not at all to say that I don’t have emotion, either with my wife or with my God. I have plenty! However, the emotion is the gravy, the relationship is the meat. As a pastor, I seek to lead others into this understanding, so that they too may have clarity as they face the lies of the world and the devil, and choose obedience to their Creator.
Father, thank You for this clear Word. Help me indeed be obedient to You in every detail, today and every day, so that nothing will interfere with my fellowship with You, not only for my blessing but for the blessing of those around me as well, and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!