Today Jesus tells us, “If a man loves Me, he will keep My words. … He that does not love Me does not keep what I say.”
There are very few people in our society who outright hate Christ and are willing to say it. In almost every case, people want to appear to be in favor of Christ. Especially those who go by the name Christian will always say that they love Him. Yet they may willfully disobey or outright deny things that Jesus said.
This is because people often do not have the real Jesus. They say that they love Jesus but they are only loving an imaginary Jesus. The real Jesus offends them.
So they may claim that the real Jesus would never condemn homosexuality because He is loving. He would never condemn sex outside marriage because He is never judgmental. He would never condemn abortion because He is a champion of women’s rights. He would never condemn people of other faiths, because He is inclusive. And so on.
I am not speaking about those who have casual errors that have crept in. A person because of weakness may sin, or misunderstand what the Word of God says. In time they may be led by the Spirit to greater comprehension.
But rather than excuse us, our weakness should spur us on to greater diligence in the Word. We should beware of becoming people who willfully disobey Christ’s words. Then it is not just a matter of weakness. They may have all kinds of good reasons to ignore the words of Christ, or at least reasons that they think are good. But the truth is, they have rejected the true Christ for an imaginary Christ, no matter how much lip service they give to loving Him.
We are actually like that more than we like to admit. One way is that we Lutherans sometimes excuse our sins with the excuse that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We kind of shrug our shoulders as if to say, “Eh, I couldn’t help it anyway, and I’m forgiven, so what does it matter?” We should be taking sin very seriously, not ignore it or sweep it under the rug. Instead, we should look at our sins as grave offenses against God, and learn to be horrified by them. If we love Christ and keep His Word, could we do any less?
So our love for Christ is seen first of all in our obedience. We should try as hard as we can to follow His commandments. But then, secondly, we should repent when we fail. If we stop repenting, soon we may not care whether we obey or not.
These are ways that we keep the words of Christ. But the even more important way that we keep His words is by believing in Him. This is not an act of obedience that we produce from our own ability. On this Pentecost Day we should especially remember that only the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens His Church in the one true faith.
We believe in Christ in obedience to His Word because the Spirit accompanies it. He comes along with the Gospel to ignite faith in our hearts and nurture its growth.
We need this Gospel for faith. True faith grabs hold of the promises of God. Apart from the promises, there is no true faith. Oh, there are many false faiths that trust in promises that they imagine Jesus gave. Imaginary Jesus gives many promises. But the true Jesus give promises that are set down in Scripture. We love Him and keep His words by believing these promises.
Christ gives us promises today in which to put our faith. First, the Father loves us. What a great promise! Because we love and believe in Christ (the real Christ of Scripture), the Father loves us. His love is so powerful that He will be the truest Father that could ever be. He will protect and defend us from our enemies. He has turned us away from destruction to take us home, where He will see that we are safe for all eternity. That is a Father who loves us!
Second promise: The Trinity dwells with us. We know that because we were Baptized into Him. God wrote His Name upon us so that no one else can claim us and steal us away from Him. He lives with us, even now. For where His Name is, there He will be. He cannot abandon His own.
Thirdly, Christ promises us God’s peace that is beyond understanding. This peace tells us that our hearts should not be troubled. Now, we should not use this promise in a fleshly way. If I feel earthly sorrow or pain, I should not say that Christ’s promise of peace is false. He can never be false. His promise always stands, and we should trust it. But remember that the peace is beyond understanding. It is not an earthly peace that is judged by our fallible emotions. Yet the peace is real. If we could perfectly and without sin hold onto His promise, our hearts would never be troubled by anything. And sometimes, God helps us feel peace even in the midst of hardship and trouble. That is a precious gift.
But His peace is more than what we feel. We have genuine peace with God. Christ has paid the price so that we are no longer enemies with God. The price was very great. The Covenant of peace was written with His Blood, the same Blood that we drink today.
This leads to the fourth promise: Christ says, “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do.” Christ tells us that He has obeyed the Father because He loves the Father. Obeyed the Father in what? Well, these words were first spoken by Christ in John fourteen on the night He was betrayed. He was about to suffer, die, and rise. In love for His Father, Christ obeyed His Father’s command to go up to the Cross and become the salvation of men. See how obedience and love go together for Christ as well as us. In spite of the great difficulty and pain, Christ did not fail to show His love in the greatest way possible, in the place that did not look like love. It looks so unlike love that many people have difficulty looking at a crucifix. Yet that is the love of Christ, just as the empty tomb also shows how much He loved the Father, and us.
Finally, Christ promises that the Comforter will bring to remembrance the words of Christ. This is NOT an excuse to laziness. We are not to say, “The Spirit will tell me as much as I need to know, so why study the Scriptures?” That would be to pit the promise against obedience. We are to be devoted to the Word, and listen carefully to the teaching of the words of Christ. If we are lazy and ignore His words, that is not keeping them, so how could we say that we love Him? For He says, “If a man love Me, he will keep My words.”
The most direct application of the promise, “The Comforter will bring all things to remembrance,” is that the Spirit would help the disciples to recall the words and deeds of Christ. That is why we can rely upon the text of Scripture. It is not merely the words of men, but in truth the Word of God. So we should rely upon it, and gladly hear and learn it.
In a secondary way, the Spirit continues to teach and guide us into all truth. The Word is living and active in our hearts. Faith and sanctification take place in us as the Spirit’s work. We need not fear that the Word will be empty and useless for us. It is always the life-giving Word of Christ, which is the Word of the Father, empowered by the Spirit.
In the Name of this one true God, who makes His home with us. Amen.
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