Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31)
Dave Was an Example
I recently retold a story by Donald A. Carson, New Testament scholar and professor. When Carson was in college, he led an evangelistic Bible study. When he felt out of his depths and when skeptics asked the hardest questions, Carson would introduce them to Dave who was a bold witness for Christ on campus. One young man, Tom, came to Dave saying, “I came from a family that doesn’t believe in a literal resurrection and all that stuff. But we’re a fine, good, church-going family. We love and care for each other, and we do good in the community. We’re stable. So what have you got that we don’t have?”
Dave encouraged Tom, “Watch me. Move in with me. I have an extra bed. Just follow me around. See how I behave, what’s important to me, what I do with my time, the way I talk. Watch me, and after three months you tell me there’s no difference.” Tom didn’t take Dave up on that offer, but he kept coming back to watch how Dave lived his Christian life. Eventually, Tom called on Christ to save him, began to follow Jesus, and went on to become a medical missionary.
Carson concluded: Christians are people who confess: “I’m one poor beggar telling another poor beggar where there’s bread. I drank deeply from Jesus’ springs of living water and He knows I need more of it every day. If you watch me you’ll see some glimmerings of Christ my Lord and Savior, and ultimately you’ll want to follow Him too.”1
Jesus’ Disciples Love and Obey God
Scriptures: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Christ is quoting from Deuteronomy: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Mark 12:30; Deut 6:4-6)
Comment: Of course this is basic, but Christians often get rusty on the basics. Jesus rebuked the Ephesian church which was very well taught, saying: “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”2 The Ephesians were diligent about maintaining orthodoxy (correct doctrine), but their love for God Himself and devotion to Him cooled down. Jesus calls them to repent and return to the primary thing in Christianity—loving the Lord and our neighbors. John the Apostle taught: “We love Him, because He first loved us.”3 One key way we demonstrate love for God is to obey Him. Deuteronomy 6 teaches that and so does the Lord Jesus: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”4
Take away: Satan lied to Adam and Eve that obeying God would never bring happiness. Scripture teaches that we are not saved by obeying, but saved for trusting and obeying the Lord. If we follow our selfish desires, we will harvest destruction, but if we follow the Spirit (and His written word), we will harvest eternal life, joy, blessing, assurance, direction, heavenly wealth, and fulfillment in Jesus. The Psalmist says: “In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.”5
Jesus’ Disciples Love Other Christians, Neighbors, and Even Enemies
“Trickle-down economics” claims that if we cut taxes for the richest, the benefits will trickle down to others. The wealthiest Americans will supposedly create more jobs for middle and lower-class citizens and the benefits will be enjoyed by everyone. This theory is widely disputed. But the Lord does intend His prior love for us to transform us and make us loving toward others. That’s the best kind of trickle-down.
Scriptures: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” Christ said: “Love your neighbor as yourself….Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (1 John 4:10-12; Mark 12:31; Matt 5:44-45)
Comment: The commands to love other Jesus-followers and neighbors is well known, but not obeyed by us consistently. Christians can be picky and petty with others, loving them only if we think they deserve it. We forget that we were and are still unworthy of God’s grace, mercy, and salvation. Christ said, “When you have done everything you were told to do, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”6 I have never done all that God requires and sadly never will, until Christ returns for us. I’m like the centurion who said to Jesus, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.”7
Loving is even harder, but Christ teaches us how. He reminds us that even though God hates evil, He also loves and cares for every one of His creatures in some ways and does good to them.8 The Lord shows them kindness by giving them rain from heaven and crops in their seasons. He provides them with food and even fills their hearts with joy.9 All happiness they enjoy comes to them as God’s free gift. If the Lord can do them good, so can we.
Take Away: C. S. Lewis wisely advises: Do not waste time bothering whether you feel love for your neighbor (or enemy or fellow Christian). Act as if you did. Then we discover one of the great secrets. When we are behaving as if we loved someone, we come to love them more. If we injure someone we dislike, we will dislike them more. If we do them a good turn, we will dislike them less. We must do this to glorify, please, obey, and imitate God, not to make people think well of us.10
To be continued
Notes (various translations): 1 Adapted from D. A. Carson’s sermon “Biblical Authority: The Exclusive Authority of Scripture for Faith and Practice” (2008). 2 Rev 2:4. 3 1 John 4:19 NKJ. 4 John 14:21. 5 Psalm 119:88. 6 Luke 17:10. 7 Matt 8:8. 8 Psalm 145:9. 9 Acts 14:17. 10 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 9 on Charity.