*All scripture references taken from the New American Standard Bible.
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (John 14:15).
Today, many have come to despise the word “commandments.” This is understandable, as there are countless souls who have been bruised and wounded in churches which have often imposed regulations or ordinances that are contrary to what the Word of God teaches. This is at times, tragic, as many of those wounded never fully recover. The conflict they face often overwhelms them, yet it is here, in this overwhelmed state, that true soldiers of the cross overcome and are formed. The obstacle course of navigating their wounds is merely part of their training.
Years ago, when I first meditated on John 14:15, I pondered what it truly implied. I sought to reconcile this passage with the concept of grace, since we live in a day or age of grace. As we ponder John 14:15, I will quote two other excerpts from the same chapter, which further fortify our context: He who has My commandments and keeps them, is the one who love Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him (v.21). And: If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him (v. 23).
There are two arresting truths that Jesus states here: One, the evidence that will prove our love for God, is that by keeping His commandments—all other evidence must be questioned. And two; He states that if we do keep these commandments, both the Father and the Son will make their home within us. What greater promise could we possibly possess? These commandments would appear to be a high priority on the Father’s heart for His Children. So high in fact, that He offers His personal residence within us if we keep them. This warrants a deep search of the divine purposes concerning these commandments. To facilitate these promises however, we must wrestle with this question: What are the commandments we are to keep, since we are no longer under the law, but under grace? Doesn`t “grace” mean we are now free, no more law, ordinances, or regulations? Didn`t Jesus fulfill the law?
Jesus did fulfill the law, but the commandments in question have nothing to do with the law, it is rather all about unquestioned obedience to the dictates of the Holy Spirit, as further implied in verses 16-17: I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
Here we see that the Spirit comes to us in two different measures; both upon, and in us. What could we possibly hope to gain in life that would even remotely parallel this incredible promise, to have both the Father and the Son possess our hearts? If we could uncover the mystery behind it, perhaps we would be more willing to seek after it. Selah.
This may come as a shock to some, but within church leadership circles; to have a large following, to be trademarked by healings, or by unusual prophetic gifting for example, will not always validate, or prove we are obeying these commandments. The gifts are one thing, obedience is quite another. Let’s not confuse the two.
Allow me to further underscore our context, by alluding to a few more excerpts from the Gospels which charge us to keep these commandments:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34).
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love (John 15:10).
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).
If our love for the Father is compelling, it will in turn cause us to equally love our brother. We cannot claim to love the Father, while at the same time despise our brother. Consider 1 John 4:20-21: If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
This passage eliminates the false belief shared and exercised by many (albeit most oft internally), who say, “I love God and serve Him only; therefore I have no need of any correction from my brother.” It is a most serious error to trifle against those God sets over us. Without repentance from such error, He will set us aside, or “sideline” us from moving in the greatest capacities of what He has called us to do. To then obey those who have authority over us, is a principle God highly honors. To do otherwise, mocks His very character (see Heb. 13:17 and 1 Peter 2:13-17).
As we prayerfully exercise and subsequently grow in spiritual discernment (a largely neglected and ignored spiritual gift), we will not have to wonder about who it is that God has placed over us within His divine tapestry of leadership and accountability. If we are brutally honest with ourselves in this regard, we will confess that we all know inwardly who it is that has been placed in our lives, and throughout our lives, that we should be submitted.
It may surprise some to know that even the greatest names in our day, who have perhaps authored dozens of best-selling books, and who have commanded large audiences the world over, carrying-out great Kingdom exploits, are themselves submitted to someone who has been placed over them, for the purposes of further effecting a deep and ongoing formation of submission and humility. Very often, the figures placed in our lives accordingly are little-known. However they have most often walked long trenches of deep suffering, over many decades. And through their sharing of the very sufferings of Christ, have been granted authentic apostolic authority, to in turn serve as tiers of accountability.
These figures are not necessarily placed in and over our lives that we may draw upon their revelatory musings, but much rather that we be systematically arrested spiritually, and forced to remain ever-mindful that it is “the wisdom from above” and “the fruit of the Spirit” which must lace everything we do within the work of the ministry, or our works have become “a noisy gong” or “a clanging symbol.”
The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy (James 3:17).
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… (Galatians 5:22-23).
The word “fruit” in this context, is synonymous with the word “evidence.” Therefore, the evidence of your ongoing maturation and yielding to God’s whole counsel in your life will be that exemplified through the wisdom from above and the fruit of the Spirit. For these attributes will adorn those who are wholly submitted to God’s divine order of accountability.
I do not wish to suggest that those placed over us are always right. Not by any means. But again, this is not the issue. Much rather, we obey simply because He requires it. Our subsequent reward is that God will then personally deliver us from every adverse situation that is hindering us from our destiny. It is after, and not before “we have endured,” that we receive the promise (Hebrews 10:35-37). The promise is that God Himself will begin speaking to us directly through the Holy Spirit. This is a gift unspeakable, for He causes our eyes to behold His secrets, eternal, and infinite. We then begin to hear the undertones of His voice, and with this, the honored and commensurate responsibility to build-up His Bride.
His commandments include both a yielding to His direct Word to us through the Spirit, and a submission to obeying His delegated authorities in our lives. Subsequently, we must allow the Holy Spirit to wholly invade our hearts and to take-up complete residency and command complete charge of our lives. This equates to an “unconditional surrender” to His guidance, His ways and means, and the priceless gift of heightened sensitivities to the ebb and flow of His every move in our lives. This is what brings Heaven down to earth, and this is how the Lord answers the following prayer: “Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done.”
Millions have prayed this prayer throughout the ages, little knowing the extent of what they are actually praying for.
John, in his epistles, has much to say on the issue of heeding God’s commandments. In fact, he gives very little “squirming room” on this issue. He underscores the high stakes which God mandates on this principle, through direct and piercing statements, as follows: By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His Word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know we are in Him (1 John 2:3-5). To obey, will always lead us directly to the Fathers heart. No place on earth can provide a safer place, than to be anchored in the perfect will of the Father. When once we find this place, all doubt, darkness and fear will vanish, leaving a peace and clarity of mind in unprecedented measure.
John continues: I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. He who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him (1 John 2:8-10).
We do not need to openly hate our brother to fall into this category; we only need to carry a camouflaged grudge, hidden within our hearts, to be guilty of this. As long as this is present, we will stumble. The security which arises out of the obedience to which John refers on the other hand, is absent of any pride or self-seeking. It is by and through exercising deep humility that we may rejoice in God’s perfect provisions for overcoming our personal conflicts, as well as that of enjoying our safety in the midst of various trials, upheavals and tumult.
If we are to prevail in our callings, we cannot expect to forego any commandments that are distasteful to us, and get away with it. We may for a time, but sooner or later this will come back to haunt us. Thank God; Grace is always available through repentance. It is a required principle of God, that the calling or ministry we receive at the beginning, must of necessity follow through, unbroken to the end, and on His terms. Trust me; I know this to be true. This calls for radical obedience, but God forbid that I should speak out-of-turn what He Himself is trying to teach us here.
John continues: Let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father (1 John 2:24). This doesn`t mean we never fail, but it does mean we humble ourselves when we do. This is how we maintain unbroken intimacy with both the Father and the Son. John further expands upon how we maintain it: The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1 John 2:27).
In order to comprehend this teaching directly from the Spirit, our ears need to be sensitized and tuned to what He is saying, otherwise we will miss it. We here in the West, have a tendency to complicate matters through the power of reasoning, in our carnal thought patterns and logic, which have blinded our eyes to the critical need of simple obedience to the Word and the Spirit. By what should be embarrassing contrast; the simplified faith and power that is in operation in many Third World countries presently, is far outstripping we in the West, in bringing souls into the Kingdom. See what the apostle Paul has to say on this note (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
To yield to this level of obedience, firmly establishes us in the joy and hope of our God. In unfeigned confidence, we may know for certain that all of our prayers and petitions are being answered. Disappointments at this point are no longer a part of our human make up, for our trust is undeniably anchored in His promise. John confirms this: And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us (1 John 3:22, 24).
We here in the West, who truly abide and overcome, will do so at a greater cost then many in Third World countries, since we have much more to lose. As we follow the commandments, we will deny ourselves many opportunities or privileges in life that we might otherwise pursue or gain, but we rather choose to follow the call of poverty to enrich others. Attached to this, are many trials, tribulations and adversities. This was exemplified by Moses, who, “By faith…when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh`s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he was looking to the reward (Hebrews 11:24-26). Like Moses, we attain our destiny by making steadfast choices to follow the Lamb in our life’s journey, and at every turn (Revelation 14:4). On the other hand, life on earth is much easier, and with much less conflict, when we side-step the necessity of these choices. We will thereafter wander in desolate places, never recognizing the path that was originally carved-out in the wilderness to accommodate our every step.
There are those who have started out well and have invested much of their lives into the Kingdom, only to give up the race and to turn aside. This is a tragic evolution, since this often leaves the victim in a state of deep deception, compounded at times by delusion. They not only deceive themselves, but others as well. The truth and the light they had formerly received through the Holy Spirit, they now facilitate for their own gain, thereby corrupting the truth and defiling many. This is what John encountered in his day, which prompted the following: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).
In John’s day, this meant Jesus did not come in the flesh only; but that He also came in Spirit (1 John 4:2). In our day this is commonly understood to mean that since Jesus has already come and given His life for us (in the flesh), there is no need for Him to come and crucify our flesh. Hence, we deny Him entrance into our hearts, saying, “His goodness is sufficient, He has done it all, setting us free to live life at-will to our fleshly dictates.” This lie has broadly infiltrated Western thought, releasing licentiousness, vice and lawlessness unspeakable. The Church itself has fallen victim to this delusion in greater measure then we would care to know or acknowledge. This condition is making a mockery of His commandments. To obey the commandments, is in essence, abiding in Him.
John continues: This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son (2 John 1:6-9).
Here at the end, John again confirms the presence of both the Father and the Son to be with us, if we follow-through in a posture of radical obedience. To miss our way in any given point, will leave us in disarray, being double-minded, and tossed by every wind of doctrine (see James 1:5-8, 4:7-8).
In light of our current meditation to this point; how can we afford to remain passive, and to impose upon God’s grace in this “land of freedom,” any longer? Do we believe His patience to be unlimited? When is it time to stand up, and to speak the Word in its convicting power? When we choose to do so, Gods servants may look the enemy in the eye and say, “Step aside, for The Lord of Glory is coming through!”
How long will we continue to ignore the costs of such abandonment to the commandments of our Savior, seeking an easier way? Who will stand in the gap, as Paul did in his day, when he declared: Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
It is in our weakness that God’s power is facilitated, enabling us to disciple the very nations.
To the natural or untrained eye, there is never any personal, outward glory in our weaknesses, or reproaches. Unless we are permitted to see this process through the eyes of our hearts, through a posture of humility, we miss the demonstrations of God’s power that would otherwise be within our command.
If the nations are to be restored, someone will need to carry a mantle of deep humility in the fear of the Lord, to effect such; not unlike Nehemiah, as he prayed for the restoration of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 1). Who knows what would yet happen, if the Church would be willing to fall on her knees in a state of deep contrition and repentance? Acknowledged, sectors of the Church in America are praying in this spirit, some desperately. Let it be known however, that it will only be through our collective contrition, as well as our obedience, that our prayers will become effectual.
May God in His mercy convict us of our pride, as He did Jacob of old at Peniel, where Jacob met with deliverance (see Genesis 32:24-30). Without a crisis in our lives, we rarely meet God in a personal way. If, and when we do, it will result in deep humility and bended knees—the antithesis of pride. Jacob, the schemer, became the new man, “Israel,” out of which descended the people of God by the multiplied thousands. But he first had to learn to bow before his greatest enemy (see Genesis 33:3-4).
In closing, it was back in 1995 that I was given the forgoing message, and that seemingly within the span of a lightning strike. It took a number of years however to fully assimilate it, and to fit the pieces together. The day I received it, I also was told to write it down. But due to other pressures I was encountering at the time, I steadfastly failed to record it, for I was frustrated and exasperated beyond measure. I thought the task useless, since I was also losing what I understood my ministry to be at the time, for a day had come when the Holy Spirit began to depart from me. In deep shock and fear I pled with the Lord to give me one more chance, and I would gladly record it if the Spirit would return and help me. I was granted this opportunity, and was told to rent a cabin 200 miles away (at the time), at the straits in upper Michigan, where I ultimately spent several days writing. Following which, once again I was restored to God’s grace. This was a defining moment. Little did I know however, what yet lay in store for me in the form of tests I was to meet, before I would be allowed to release this message.
Our timing is rarely in line with the Lord’s. In fact, this will remain one of our greatest challenges in this lifetime—that to remain sensitive to His every step, that we may continually abide in Him.
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts, than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
And though we will never know the full extent of His thoughts or His ways, we can know with the greatest degree of certainty, that “the greatest of these, is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
For more information about Ben’s ministry, as well as directions for obtaining a copy of Ben’s book, Baptized by Fire—the Gethsemane Way, you may view the following web address: www.anabaptistconnections.org. You may read Ben’s previous articles: The Apostolic Age and Heaven’s Hidden Gems, at:www.RestoreTheHouse.com. You may contact Ben personally via the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org