Thursday, January 10, 2008

Practically Walking in Spirit

The discussion thread of the last post is a good example of the exchange between believers revealing the Mind of Christ. I believe the Lord’s heart is pleased when believers share constructively and from a place within the heart each knows as being in the spirit. George writes in his second comment of the thread, “This is a living God we trust -- not something to study, but Someone to know, follow, and obey.”

Today's post is a thought which I believe is foundational for growing in the spirit. If it resonates with someone and increases understanding of the “practical” nature of his or her walk, my goal is achieved. More thoughts tomorrow, and I look forward to more practical knowledge from others in the comments!

John 14:15 – If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.

This scripture is often used to describe how our obedience is evidence of our love for God. Which of course it is, but usually the emphasis is on what must be done to obey God. The scripture is used to insist on obedience from the flock. In context, however, Jesus is exhorting the disciples in matters of faith. Going back into chapter thirteen, Jesus has just told Peter that he will deny Him. The number break to chapter 14 moves into Jesus words, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.” In fact in thirteen, Peter has asked where Jesus was going just prior to his affirmation of faith which is what precipitates Jesus' prediction of Peter's denial. Jesus then moves onto words of comfort as He describes where He is going and is offering encouragement on living without His physical presence. There is no reason to infer a break in context from Jesus speaking in thirteen to what follows in fourteen, in which He is speaking words of exhortation on belief. Within that context, John 14:15 is a word of comfort. Jesus is instructing the disciples and us in a cause and effect relationship. Loving Him produces obedience. We can be confident of this! The point is love for Him, not the things done in obedience.

The practical? Learn to rest in God’s love and be inspired to love Him more in return. Remember the overall metaphor God has authored, the church is being prepared for eternal union with the bridegroom, Jesus. In the metaphor, we are His betrothed. Individual contributions to this eternal state are to grow in love for God, and this has the benefit of affecting life on earth by increasing one's obedience as an individual and the depth of experience within the community of believers.

Going at the idea in reverse, disobedience means what? It is evidence that love for God was either not alive or impure. Practical response? Ask forgiveness, look to see what the moment teaches about one's faulty love, and seek the Lord above and/or about whatever need was behind the attempt to find satisfaction selfishly. Ask Him for understanding of the unfaithfulness to be equipped for faithfulness. Be confident, He will answer this prayer; if one does not learn a pure love for God in the matter, He will be faithful to continue to work on the issue!! He is patient to bring the lesson again and again, if it is needed. The goal is loving the Father in this area in which the individual has attempted to live without Him. Living without Him is living out of the spirit!


Steve Sensenig said...

This makes great sense! Let me see if I understand what you're saying about the verse in John:

Traditional interpretation: "If you really love me, you will show me that you love me by keeping my commandments."

Proposed interpretation: "If you focus on loving me, then keeping my commandments will not be any problem for you. It will actually be quite natural. So just love me."

Is that close?

ded said...

That's what I was trying to say!

Makes Christ's "burden" seem light, maybe?

George said...

We behave better when we want to please someone, or Someone, than when we try because we think we have to.

Steve Sensenig said...

For me, it makes quite a few pieces "click" into place.

I've long felt that the legalistic approach, even to the commands of Jesus, was misguided, but couldn't quite put my finger on how to see it more properly.

Putting this verse into the frame that you've helped me see here makes a HUGE amount of difference!

Thank you!

Craig V. said...

I've nothing to add except "Amen!"

ded said...

Steve, I am glad you were encouraged here.

George, you have a tremendous ability to speak the truth concisely. It is an evidence of your own walk in the spirit.

Craig, I appreciate you reading and commenting. Even when you don't comment, I am confident you are reading! That matters to me.