Love and Obedience

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Jesus connects love and obedience in three passages in John 14.  They are John 14:15, 21-24, and 31.
John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  John 14:21-24, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me:  and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.  Judas saith unto him, not Isacariot, Lord,  how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?  Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.”  John 14:31, “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.  Arise, let us go hence.”
Jesus and the Father
John 14:31 is the only passage in the New Testament where Jesus explicitly affirms that He loves the Father.  The love Jesus has for the Father motivates Him to obedience to the commandment of the Father.  Love disciplines the heart and makes compliance to its object a natural part of its relationship with the object.  The strength of love is tested by obedience.   In Jesus’ case, obedience meant facing death upon the cross for the redemption of the sins of mankind.  The writer of Hebrews comments on this, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9).
Consider the alternative which is disobedience.  Disobedience to the Father means a lack of love for the Father.  Lovelessness leads to lawlessness which causes a breach in relationship with God.  Disobedience involves the desire to fulfill one’s own will rather than God’s will.  This is selfishness.  Disobedience involves the desire to please self at the expense of relationship with God.  Disobedience is a failure to accomplish the desire of the (supposed) beloved.  When we say we love God and disobey Him, we lie.  The disobedient person really loves himself!
Jesus’ love for the Father was intense.  His obedience involves great suffering and sacrifice.  Where there is great love for God, there is authentic compliance to His Will.
Jesus and You
John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  Love comes before obedience.  It is possible to obey God without loving God.  But, you cannot love Jesus and disobey Him.  In Mark 10:17-23, the conversation between Jesus and a rich young ruler occurs.  In this conversation, the rich young man asks what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus tells him to keep the law (the man was under the Law of Moses at this time).  The man replied that he had kept the law from his youth up.  Jesus told him that he lacked one thing.  Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor.  The man refused and went away sorrowful for he had great riches.  The man loved material things more than Jesus.  Jesus loved him, but he did not reciprocate that love.  Here is a man who kept commandments without loving God.  Without love, obedience is vain (I Cor. 13:1-3).
Obedience to God is a test of love for God.  Jesus said if a man love me, he will keep my words.  Jesus affirmed that the words He spoke were from the Father.  To reject Jesus’ words is to reject the Father.  The Father loves those who love and obey Jesus.  Jesus and the Father will come and make their abode with those that love and obey Jesus.  Disobedience indicates lovelessness.  Where there is no love for Jesus, there is no relationship with Jesus.
How can you be in covenant relationship with Jesus when you disobey His will?  In Matt. 7:21-23, Jesus mentions those that claim relationship with Him but, in fact, because they have not obeyed Him, they are not known by the Lord and identified as workers of iniquity.
No one has ever been saved by faith alone.  To affirm such is to affirm that love is not an essential part of one’s relationship with God.  Faith and love are both essential to salvation.  The scriptures teach that we must trust and obey and that we must love and obey.

Unintended Consequences

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Six days before the Passover, the final week of Jesus’ life, He has supper with his friends. He is with Mary, Martha, Lazarus and others.  Martha served the meal.  Mary honors Jesus by anointing Him with a costly ointment.  The ointment was Nard from an East India plant.  It was costly.  In Jesus’ day it was valued at $50 and in our day it would be worth about $500.
Judas objected to the use of the ointment in the anointing of Jesus.  He thought the precious ointment should have been sold and the money given to the poor.  John reveals (John 12:1-11) that Judas did not care for the poor.  He was a thief.  Judas was the treasurer for the apostles (he held the bag or exercised authority over the money spent).  Judas represents many who hide under a mask of religion their real aims, using sacred things to advance selfish interests.
Jesus defended Mary.  He said, “Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.”  She did a good work.  She did what she could and in this sacrificial act, she showed honor and love.  It was a spontaneous act of devotion to the Lord prompted by love!  This act of love and devotion would be memorialized in the gospel.  “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her” (Matt. 26:13).
Mary’s love and devotion to Christ is as important as giving to the poor.  Judas’ remarks show a lack of love for the Lord.  Mary’s act was spontaneous.  It was prompted by love.  The telling of it is inspirational to others.  Sometimes our actions have unintended consequences.  Unintended consequences can be either good or evil.  In this event, the consequences were good.  The telling of Mary’s love may inspire spontaneous gifts of love in service to Jesus by individuals throughout the world and as long as the world stands.  What happened one night in Bethany is now overflowing to the world and spreads its power eternally.  It is the power of love!  Love can motivate, inspire, and lead others to act in a similar fashion. Mary demonstrates the heart of a servant.  The ointment, though costly, was freely given in honor of the Lord.
Consider for a moment the difference between Jesus and Judas.  Jesus looked for and saw the good in another.  Judas, on the other hand, found fault in the same act!  Judas’ fault-finding reveals his character.  He had evil in his heart rather than love.  Jesus saw an act of love and blessed it, protected it and nurtured it.
Consider the difference between Mary and Judas.  The Judas’s of this world challenge the Mary’s of this world to love in spite of criticism.  It would have been a tragedy for Mary to stop loving Jesus in the special way that she did because Judas’ words killed the kindness and devotion in her heart.  Judas spoke from an evil heart.  Mary acted out of a heart full of love.  The result was that Jesus recognized Mary’s sacrifice of love.  If she had sold the money and given it to the poor, she would not have obtained such high acclaim.  She acted humbly.  Jesus exalted her.
Mary inspires all who read of her spontaneous act of devotion and love to imitate her spirit and love.  What acts can she inspire in you?  Go where love leads!

Last Impressions

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First impressions are the impact that we make upon others when we first meet them.  We may say or do things that they will remember for a lilfetime.  Last impressions are equally as important.  Before Jesus’ death, He met with His disciples in the upper room and told them some very important things.  The Upper Room Discourse is found in John 13-17.
Service Motivated By Humility
Jesus took a towel and a basin of water and washed His disciples’ feet.  Peter protested at first, but then conceded once he realized that if he did not permit the Lord to wash his feet he would have no part with him.  Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).  He further explains this example, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”  Jesus taught a service model of leadership.  This model, if followed, will lead to greatness in the kingdom of God. It is no surprise that those in the business world have picked up on it and utilize it.  Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store leads with respect and emotional intelligence.  He tells his employees that he loves them and can often be seen giving them  a hug.  People will work harder and be more loyal when they believe you love and respect them.  Our greatness is not determined by occupying the highest positions.  It is accomplished by doing good for others and working diligently in the Lord’s kingdom.
In John 14:1-3, Jesus emphasizes faith in God and in Him.  Comfort comes to the heart through faith in the promises of  God.  Faith and hope are inseparably linked.  If we will follow Jesus, we can live for eternity with purpose and peace.  Only in this way can we know real joy.
In John 15:1-8, Jesus taught that He was the vine and the disciples were the branches.  “I am the vine and ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).  Strength and productivity are the result of being spiritually connected to the vine (Jesus).  Spiritual nourishment strengthens the human soul for the struggles of the soul.  In John 15:9-14, Jesus mentions another source of strength.  Jesus desires that they abide in His love.  By keeping His commandments, they will abide in His love.  Then, He commands them, “That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:12-14).  His disciples must abide in love for Him and for one another.  This way they will be spiritually connected to Him and to each other.  They will never be alone!  There is strength in numbers when those we love stay close and supply help.
In John 16:5-15, Jesus promises that after He ascends into heaven, He will send the Comforter (The Holy Spirit) to be present with them and to empower them.  The Holy Spirit  would guide them into all truth.  He would reprove the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.  His word would be the means of communicating God’s grace and goodness to men.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ contains this message of good news (Rom. 1:16).  The power to save men is still found in the gospel.
In John 17:1-26, Jesus prays for Himself, His disciples, and all those that would believe on Him through the gospel.  Jesus prays that His disciples would be one “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (John 17:21).  Spiritual union with Christ is the foundation of unity among brethren.  Christ is the only foundation upon which we can build (I Cor. 3:11).  He is the central force that holds all Christians together.  Jesus prayed for unity and we must pray for it too and then endeavor to keep it.
The golden thread that runs through the entire discourse is love.  In John 13:1, John tells of Jesus’  love for His disciples. John states that Jesus loved them unto the end.   In John 13:34-35, He commands the disciples to love one another.  In John 14:15, He speaks of the disciples’ love for Him.  In John 14:31, He mentions the love that He has for the Father (this is the only passage in the New Testament where Jesus directly affirms His love for the Father).  In John 15:12-13, He speaks of the greatest love, i.e. sacrificial and selfless love manifested in His own death.  In John 15:17, He repeats the command for them to love one another.  In John 16:27, Jesus references the love of the Father for the disciples.  In John 17:23, He tells of the love of the Father for the Son and the disciples.  Finally,  in John 17:26, He prays that the love of the Father for the Son may be in the disciples. The discourse begins with love and ends with love.  Love is the bond that holds every relationship together.
The last thoughts expressed by the Lord to His disciples were designed to sustain them through difficult times and guide them to greater service in His kingdom.  Faith, hope and love are intermingled in these thoughts.  Together, they make a formidable last impression.


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“If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). In every sports contest, the players desire to go undefeated. Whether they do so or not, will depend upon them, i.e. their athleticism, strength, endurance, skills, health, coaching, opponents, etc. In sports, human ability determines the outcome. In the spiritual battle between God and Satan and good and evil, divine power is available to secure the victory over sin and death. Because of God’s power, any human being that loves Him and follows Him can stand in the victor’s circle.
The Contrasts.
God is for us. But, Satan is against us. Jesus is our friend. Satan is our enemy. Jesus is our Advocate (I John 2:1-2). Satan is our adversary (I Pet. 5:8-9). Through Christ we can be victorious (I Cor. 15:56-58). Following Satan will lead to defeat (Rev. 20:15).
The Choices
Choose up sides. When we were young and wanted to play softball, we chose up sides. We picked among several players to be on separate teams. We always wanted the best players on our team so we would have the greatest opportunity to win the game. God is: all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing, all-good and all-just. Satan is “all evil.” Now, who would you want on your team? Not only consider the players, but consider the positions. Whose side are you on? (Ex. 32:26). You must be for God! Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matt. 12:30). God is the best player and being on His team is the best place to be.
The Confidence
God will accomplish His purposes and His promises (Rom. 8:28-30). He can bring us to glory (Matt. 19:26). With God on our side and we on His, we cannot be defeated! Paul explains the power of love in binding us to the heart of God in Rom. 8:35-39. He asks, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Does he refer to Christ’s love for us or our love for Christ? Obviously, he refers to our love for Christ in this verse (v. 35). God’s love for us is absolute. Paul mentions 17 things in the next few verses all of which could affect our love for Christ but would not impact God’s love for us. Later, Paul mentions the love of Christ for us (v. 37). God’s love for us and our love for Him makes us inseparable. If we are inseparable, then we are undfeatable! “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!” We have the power to prevail.
The Crown
Earlier in Romans 8:29-39, Paul wrote, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firsborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Paul speaks of the redeemed. To be glorified is to possess eternal life. Yes, God can bring us to the ultimate goal of the Christian life. That goal is life with Him forever!

Without Prejudice

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In I Tim. 5:21, Paul by the Holy Spirit writes, “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.” Paul made a solemn charge to Timothy to carry out his ministry without partiality (prejudice).
Definition of Prejudice
W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, III, p. 204, states that the word prejudice is from the Greek word prokrima which means prejudging. He also states, “preferring one person, another being put aside, by unfavorable judgment due to partiality.” Prejudice involves two aspects. The first is partiality or respect of persons. Without partiality means that we do not show favoritism to one person over another or, negatively, that we do not show ill-will to one person over another based upon who they are or how they look. This is an attribute of fairness in dealing with others. God is no respector of persons (Acts 10:34)! This attribute of our heavenly Father is one that we can and should imitate (James 2:1-10). James makes the practical application of the principle. He denounces the favoritism that might be shown in a worship assembly to one who is dressed in expensive clothing (the rich) over one who is not dressed in costly apparel (the poor). The second aspect of prejudice is prejudging. To pre-judge is to judge before we have the facts or the truth. We make up our minds before we have the facts. In John 7:24, we are instructed to judge righteous judgment. Righteous judgment is based upon the truth. We must wait and gather the facts before we draw a conclusion. Judgment based upon the truth eliminates stereotypes. A stereotype is where we establish a preconceived way of thinking about people and judging people that molds our opinions about them. Some examples of social stereotypes include: all black people are lazy and white men can’t jump. Stereotypes are ways of prejudging people based upon a generalization of some aspect or characterization of them that betrays our feelings of superiority. Prejudice involves both partiality and prejudging. God condemns this type of thinking and the behavior it generates.
Types of Prejudice
There are many types of prejudice, but three are worthy of mention in this article. The first is racial prejudice. Racial prejudice involves judging people based upon the color of their skin rather than the content of their character. Or, another way of stating is that we judge people on the basis of the ethnicity rather than the truth about their lives. The second type of prejudice is religious prejudice. Judging people based upon their religious affiliation rather than the truth of their personal beliefs and practices. An example of this type of prejudice can be seen in the conversion account of Michael Shank who wrote the book, Muscle and Shovel. In this book, Michael relates an incident in which members of the church of Christ were called “water dogs” a derrogatory term given because Christians in these congregations believe that baptism is essential for salvation and that it is an immersion in water. Third, there is relational prejudice. Relational prejudice is where we judge people based upon their social status or birthplace or some other factor rather than the truth of who they are. Jesus was from Nazareth where He grew up. Later, in His public ministry, there were those who castigated Him by saying, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth” (John 1:46). Nazareth may have had a bad reputation, but the savior of the world came from Nazareth. The statement was prejudicial. It is also an example of the “genetic fallacy” the fallacy of origins. In James 2:1-10, James denounces those who show prejudice based upon social standing.
Errors of Prejudice
All types of prejudice violate the law of love. Jesus states this law in Matthew 22:36-39. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourself. The law of love is illustrated in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). In this parable, Jesus teaches that racial prejudice is wrong. The hero is a Samaritan who was despised by the Jews. The Jews referred to Samaritans as “dogs.” But, when Jesus asked who was neighbor to the man who fell among the thieves, the correct response was “he who showed compassion.” In other words, the one who showed love for his fellowman. Prejudice also violates the law of justice. Justice is based upon truth. Prejudice involves pre-judging before all the facts are available. It is judging based upon preconceived ideas. For justice to be served, the truth must be known and preserved. Prejudice also violates the law of unity. In Galatians 3:26-28, Paul indicates that “in Christ” we are all “one.” Spiritual union with Christ occurs when we believe in Christ and obey His commands. The result of spiritual union with Christ is that we are all one “there is no more Jew or Greek, bond or free, male or female.” We all take on a new spiritual identity and are just Christians. Prejudice destroys this unity and causes division which does untold harm to the body of Christ.
Prevention of Prejudice.
Prejudice can be prevented by developing authentic love for one another. In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul declares, “Be ye followers of God as dear children and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” Love is selfless and results in sacrifice. Love is humble. Love slays pride which is at the root of prejudice. Love slays feelings of superiority. Love will forego a right to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Prejudice can be prevented by seeking the truth in all situations. What does God say? What are the facts? Pursue the truth and you will be rewarded with righteous judgments. Prejudice can be prevented through self-examination. Prejudicial judgments are condemned by Jesus in Matt. 7:1-3. We attempt to remove the speck in our brother’s eye while we have a beam in our own eye! First, remove the beam in your own eye! Judging begins with our own heart! See also I Cor. 11:28 and II Cor. 13:5.
The remedy for prejudice will not come through politicians or the laws of men. It will come through surrender of the heart to God’s Will. Only God can transform the human heart through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When Love Dies

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In Matthew 24, Jesus instructs us concerning two major events: the destruction of Jerusalem and His Second Coming.  The destruction of Jerusalem is detailed in 24:1-35.  The Second Coming is discussed in 24:36-51.  With regard to the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus gave many signs.  However, with regard to His Second Coming, He gave no signs (vv. 36-37).
Jesus makes an interesting statement in the context of Matthew 24 that deals with the signs concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.  He states, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12).  This statement indicates an inverse relationship between iniquity and love.  As iniquity increases, love decreases.  As love increases, iniquity decreases.  Jesus predicted greater iniquity because men would love God and each other less.
Iniquity is lawlessness.  It is sin or evil.  Lawlessness produces an undesireable effect: lovelessness.   To “wax cold” is the process of dying love.  When lawlessness abounds, love dies.  Love produces a warmth of the soul.  Coldheartedness is the result of iniquity.
Love God Less.
Love for God is manifested in the following ways:  adoration (praise, worship); attachment (covenant relationship with God); affection (desire of the human heart for the sacred indicated by priorities); attitude (reverence and godly fear); and activity (obedience and righteous conduct).  When men love God less, God is not praised or worshipped.  Often something else takes God’s place, idolatry develops.  Idolatry destroys the identity and nature of God by changing human concepts of godness.  When men love God less, they do not seek to live in harmony with God’s law.  They become rebellious and disobedient to God.  They do not make God a priority nor do they fear God and respect His word.  Iniquity abounds and love for God diminishes and dies.
Love Neighbor Less.
Lawlessness produces many sins against one’s neighbor.  Adultery is a sin against one’s neighbor when someone steals his wife.  Fornication is a sin against one’s own body and God.  But, it is also a sin against one’s neighbor when we use him/her to fulfill the lusts of our flesh.  In the absence of true, committed, love, sex becomes gratuitous and recreational.  It becomes pleasure oriented.  However, it also becomes the means of disease and unwanted children.  Sometimes unwanted children are sacrificed to convenience and aborted.  Abortion is a sin against another human being.  Yes, when iniquity abounds, love for others diminishes and dies.  When we lie, we destroy trust.  No relationship can survive in the absence of trust. Lying is a sin against our neighbor.  Murder is also a sin against one’s neighbor.  When lawlessness abounds, violence increases.  Sometimes we do not show any respect for the reputation of our neighbor.  Slander, gossip and back-biting are all sins that abound when we love less.  In Matt. 24:10, hatred and persecution are mentioned.  Hatred is enmity for another.  Christians will be persecuted when iniquity abounds.  The list could continue, but these sins surely prove that in the absence of love, numerous types of evil will befall our neighbor.
The Power of Love
Love for God and for neighbor are commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 22:36-39).  Love for God and for neighbor contain religous and moral elements that act as good leaven in the world in which we live.  Love for God comes first!  We cannot have true love for our neighbor and have a distorted view of God.  God is love (I John 4:8, 16).  We learn love from God (Eph. 5:1-2).  Love preserves relationship with God.  Love preserves purity while lawlessness destroys it.  Love protects my neighbor.  Where love abounds, iniquity diminishes and dies.  James tell us to “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:8).  One of the most powerful ways to resist Satan is to love.
You Choose.
Now that you are fully aware of the outcomes of both iniquity and love, you must choose.  Where iniquity abounds, love dies.  Where love abounds, iniquity dies.  You must decide.  You choose.

White Carnation

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Today, I am posting a poem by Hilma E. Willis.  The poem was published many years ago on August 23 by The Journal Leader in Caldwell, OH.  It was written for Mother’s Day.  The title:  White Carnation.
Mother’s Day with special meaning
Brought to mind the tears she shed,
Hasty words so often spoken,
Loving phrases left unsaid.
On her dress a white carnation
Pure white ribbon on its stem,
Faced the group that sat before her
As she quietly said to them–
Mothers are one-time possessions,
Not because they are few,
But because in all their numbers
Only one belongs to you.
Mothers love us, serve, and teach us
As they help our lives begin;
Nurse each illness, share each sorrow,
And rejoice if we win.
Mothers try their best to guide us
And start our steps aright,
Keeping watchful eyes upon us
As we test our wings for flight.
Mothers pray for us in secret,
Keep our names  before the Lord
And will even go on loving
If neglect is their reward.
Though they seldom speak to others
Of the family hurts that burn,
Each one longs to hear “I Love You”
From the child of her concern.
If you have a mother living
And you love her, tell her so–
Tell her now and tell her often
As the seasons come and go.
Little slights and silent absence,
Thoughtlessness upon your part,
May not change her deep devotion,
But will cause her pain at heart.
You can lessen anxious moments–
If you implement this plan–
Take the time for little visits;
In a hurry, just say “Hi”;
Give a hug and say “I Love You”;
For no reason, just stop by.
Sometimes send a simple letter
Or a postcard if you will–
Do not let her box stay empty
Or her telephone be still.
As you wear a red carnation
Love of mother to convey,
Know that thoughtful words and actions
Give her joy any day.
Life is short and passes quickly,
Sorrows happen overnight–
In a flash, a red carnation
May be changed to one of white.

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