KEEP MY COMMANDS
If you love me, keep my commands (John 14:15).
The fourth requirement of a disciple is obedience.
The concept of “keeping” the commandments means much more than obeying them. In Hebrew thought, to keep meant to remember and preserve as well as observe. To preserve meant to uphold and to keep intact. Israel was to live as a community.
The commandments or “Torah” – God’s teachings or instructions for living, were God’s constitution to preserve the community. It had a two-way focus – their attitude towards God and their attitude towards one another. By being faithful to God’s teaching, they were not only preserving their own lives but also the well-being of the entire nation.
Jesus gave His disciples a “new” commandment on the eve of His death – ‘that you love one another as I have loved you.’ This commandment was not new in the sense that they had never heard it before. Love for one another was embedded in the greatest commandment; to love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and to love their neighbour as themselves. All 613 commandments in the Torah fleshed out the greatest commandment by practically applying it in all the circumstances of their lives.
Jesus drew the attention of His disciples to the greatest motivation for observing and upholding God’s commands – love for Him. His mission included the revelation of the true nature of God – not the rigid disciplinarian they had recreated Him to be, but a loving and gracious Father who set boundaries around their lives so that they could live safe, happy and free lives within those boundaries.
Unfortunately, the religious “Gestapo” had set up their own boundaries which were so unrealistic and restrictive that the people groaned under the weight of ridiculous rules. Fear of failure replaced real love for God. Some tried in vain to appease Him by rigidly sticking to the letter of the law. Others gave up and lived lawless lives. Jesus offered rest to those who were tired of trying to carry the burden of the religious yoke. His yoke, He said, was easy and His burden was light.
What was His yoke? Summed up in one word, His yoke was love.
A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13: 34-35)
When He spoke those words to His disciples in the upper room, He swept aside all petty manmade and irrelevant rules and focused on the heart of God – love. If love directed their lives instead of religion, they would observe, preserve and uphold what God wanted them to do in every circumstance and situation. They would not have to run to the book to find out what to do. They would worship God alone and contribute to the unity of their community at the same time.
Why did Jesus call love a “new” commandment? It was not new in the sense that Jesus had thought up something that had never been known. It was “new” in the sense that He was calling them back to God’s original intention. We could use the word “renewed” instead of “new” In the religious climate in which they lived, heart and motivation were buried under a load of rules. Jesus called them back to what God had created in the beginning – people who related to and loved Him as their Father.
But that’s not the end of the story. It’s all very well commanding us to love one another, but how do we do it when our basic nature is selfish and greedy? Jesus made a promise to His disciples and to all who follow Him that He would give them the Holy Spirit to live in them and to transform their hearts so that they would have the power to obey Him. The Holy Spirit would replace Jesus’ presence on earth as His “other self”, one exactly like Him who would lead them into truth, reveal Jesus to them and remind them of His teachings.
It can’t get better than that! Jesus actually living within, working in us, transforming us into His image, teaching us how to be true sons! The Holy Spirit enables us, as we respond in obedience to His promptings, to follow, learn, imitate and obey our rabbi in a process of ever-increasing maturity. What other so-called “god” can do that!
Obedience to our Master is not an impossible and beyond-our-reach demand. Jesus would never ask us to do what He does not empower us to obey. After Pentecost, His disciples lived out His command to the extent that, in spite of intense persecution, the church grew because people were attracted by their love.
Nothing is impossible for us to obey with the Holy Spirit within. The same Spirit who empowered Jesus lives in those who believe in Him.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!
ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6
My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.
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