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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - Obedience, The Test of Our Love

Charles Stanley - Obedience, The Test of Our Love

Charles Stanley - Obedience, The Test of Our Love
TOPICS: Obedience

When you say to someone, "I love you," what do you mean by that? You say, "Well, that depends on to whom I say it". If I say it to just a casual friend, maybe it means one thing. If I say it to my children, I mean something else. If I say it to my wife or my husband, I mean something else. But when you say, "I love you," what do you really mean by that? Well, suppose somebody says to you, "I love you". What do you think they expect from you as a result of that? Do they have any expectation at all or they just saying, expressing something they feel on the inside? In fact, the truth is, if you had to define love, you might have a little difficulty defining it. And if you look around you and look at the world and the way the world expresses all the different ways, they say they're loving people, most any of us would be confused by what love really is because often times people say I love you and horribly mistreat us.

Sometimes they say I love you, and it's sort of a casual, joking kind of thing. But you know, with God loving is not joking. There's nothing that has any lack of seriousness in it when God begins to talk about love. Sometimes when we say, "God, I love You, Lord, I love You," I wonder what we really mean by that? Well, sometimes it's real unclear to us what we mean, and we say, "Well Lord, as best I know my heart, I love You". But with Him, none of this is unclear. It's very, very clear what He means when He says to us, "I love you". And He wants it to be very clear to us when we say to Him, "I love You, Lord". He wants us to know exactly what we're saying, what that means. And for it to be meaningful to Him, there's something that is required when we say it.

So, what I want to talk about in this message is simply this. And this is the title, "Obedience: The Test of Our Love". And I want you to turn if you will to John chapter fourteen. John chapter fourteen. And anytime the Lord repeats something over and over and over again, it's because He wants to make an emphasis on it. And so, when He says the very same thing three times in one chapter, He really means He wants us to listen. Now you sometimes laugh and sorta joke about the fact that I say to you. Are you listening? Well, it's because I want you to hear what I'm saying. Because it's not my opinion, it's what God says. Look if you will, beginning in verse fourteen of the fourteenth chapter. He says, "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it". Now listen, "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments".

Look if you will in the twenty-first verse. He says, "He who has My commandments, and keeps them, is the one who loves Me. 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. He who does not love Me does not keep My words, and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me". Now let's look at these verses for a moment. Look back again in verse fifteen. He says, "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments. Love Me, you'll keep my commandments".

Now, what does He mean by that? He doesn't mean all the commandments He's ever given in the Bible because lot of commandments He gave the nation of Israel that only apply to them. All their ceremonial laws were commandments of God only apply to them, don't apply to us at all. Then you say, "Well, what commandments are they"? They are, all those commandments that have to do with moral issues. And when Jesus, for example, sort of interpreted the Ten Commandments in the Sermon on the Mount, He made it very clear. It's very clear what He meant. And when He talked about how we treat each other, for example. This is a commandment. He says we're to treat each other the way we want to be treated. Or as we say, "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you".

Well, some people say, "Well, if that's what you want me to do, you forget it". But Jesus made it very simple. He says we're to treat each other the way we want to be treated. That isn't a suggestion. He didn't say, "I suggest that you consider the following statement". He says, "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you". He says, "If your brother stumbles, don't criticize him. Pick him up. Help him. Not stomp on him, kick him after he's down". He didn't say, "I suggest that you do that". Because if you look in the scriptures, what He tells us to do is very clear. He says, "Lay down malice, walk away from it. Lay down wrath. Lay down anger. Lay down these attitudes that don't fit who you are". Very, very clear so you don't have to say, "Well, I'd obey God, but I just can't go back through the Old Testament. Forget it".

All you have to do... Listen, you can start with Jesus, and you'll have all you can handle. And you know what? You'll have all you need. There's not anything, there's not anything He told us to do in the Old Testament that He hasn't told us somehow that we're to do in the New Testament. And He makes it very clear. The issue is, is that your attitude? Is that your spirit? Is that what you want to do in your life? And, you know, I was, I like to go to the beach every once in a while and sometimes, you know, I was walking the other day along the beach, and I was walking along in the morning and the waves are coming up, and so I found myself just walking just on the edge of them, not to get caught by them, get my shoes all wet.

I thought to myself, "How many times have I treated sin the same way"? You don't want to sin, but you want to get just as close as you can without it. Hm, hm, hm. You know what? That may not be disobedience, but you are certainly asking for it, because the wave's gonna get you on a blind side without looking. All you gotta do is turn your head one moment. And people say, "Well, you know, I really try my best to obey God". If you're obeying God, you're asking, "What does obedience call for"? Not, can I skirt sin without committing it? What does God want me to do? What does God desire? I mean, I think about a good way to wake up in the morning, and I love saying this to the Lord. He says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You today, oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer".

And what Jesus said, I wish I could say it, and I say it anyway. Lord, I only want to do those things that please You. And then, thirdly, I will go in the strength of the Lord my God. That's the way to get up every morning. Think about it. You asking God to guide your thoughts, to guide your actions. You want to go in His strength, and you want to do the things that please Him. But how many people get up in the morning and they're trying to figure, "What am I gonna do". Never ask God, never seek the mind of God about, "How am I to live my life today"? Would you say that your lifestyle is a lifestyle of obedience? Then if you can't say that, then how can you sing, "Oh, how I love Jesus."? And can you sing any of these songs about loving Him?

You see, the truth is, we can get so enamored and covered with stuff that's counterfeit and plastic and unreal. But when it gets down to it, for example, and two people are getting ready to get married, they can talk about how sweet the other one is, and how wonderful you are, and on and on and on they go. When it comes down, if they're wise, when it comes down to saying, "I do", you better have a lot of down-to-earth, hard, cold facts in mind. Love, love is not just an emotion. It isn't just a feeling. Listen, it's a belief inside of you. It's an action in your heart. It's something that's going on in your mind, your whole being. When you love somebody, you don't love them, "Well, see ya, love ya, thank you very much". But rather, "Here I am. Here's all of me". And you don't say, "Well, I love you". Or how many people have said, "Well, you know, I love you".

If you say that to me that way, no I don't know that. But if you say, "I really do love you. I really do love you". You know what? Gets all the way to my heart, gets all the way to your heart. But if somebody casually tells you that. And I wonder how often we are sort of casual with God about our love for Him. Do we really love Him? Or we just say it, "Well, now Lord, you know, I love you," and in the midst of our prayer that's so totally, absolutely self-centered, "God, you know I love You, in Jesus's name". You know what? Tacking Jesus's name on the end of a prayer doesn't mean a thing. You don't tack that on the end. What that means is, "I come to You by Your authority, in submission to Your will, to walk in obedience to You. Therefore, on that condition, I'm trusting You to answer my prayer".

And so, often times we don't have any idea what's going on. We say, "Lord, You know I love You". And so, we expect God to just take our casual statement and apply it when He knows better. If you love Him, He says you will obey Him. You will treasure His Word. You'll keep His Word. You'll want His Word in your heart. Nobody has to beg you to read the Bible. They don't have to beg you to pray. They don't have to beg you to come to church. And you don't hear me pleading with people to come to church. I'll tell you why. I know that if I present the truth of God's Word, you hear it, you obey it, you'll be here when you oughta be here. And I don't think you oughta beg people, beg people, "Please do this, please do that, please do the other". For the simple reason if we're living obediently before God, you know what? We're gonna do that.

Now, we all need encouragement, and we need motivation. But we're not begging people to do something, we're saying, "You know what? This is a right thing to do. This is a proper thing to do. This is a wise thing to do. This is a godly thing to do". And you know what? When you're doing the godly thing, it's an expression of your love for Him. Now, when I think about what He said, He said, "If you love Me, you will obey Me". So, it's very specific; so it's not emotional. We're not talking about feelings, we're talking about, listen, not just words but action. What is it about your life that is an expression of your obedience to God? Then you'll have some sense of security. Then you'll have a sense of self-esteem. Then you'll have a good feeling about yourself. Because you know that you're doing what God wants you to do.

So, it isn't just a matter of feelings because people can have all kind of feelings. A second thing I want you to notice about that is this. That throughout the scriptures, when we're talking about love, we're talking about relating it to the Word of God. And you'll notice what Jesus said. He said, for example, in that twelfth chapter and the forty-ninth verse, listen to what He said. He said, "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment, as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life, therefore, the things that I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me". So, listen. If you and I are going to be obedient to God, we must know His Word. You must read His Word and, in other words you say, "Well, I do read His Word". It's not enough to read it.

What does He say? You know there are hearers and then there are those who hear Him and obey Him. So, for example, what is a commandment anyway? Somebody says, "Well, I'll..." Somebody says, "I love to keep the commandments". What is a commandment? A commandment, listen, is an authoritative word or series of words given to us by God for the purpose of obeying them. That's what a commandment is. God does not give commandments as suggestions or possibilities. He, listen, He expects obedience. He anticipates obedience from you and me. And so, when you think about how precious God's Word is to us, he says, for example, "The grass withers, the flowers fade but the Word of our God shall stand forever". Why? It's because it's God's guidebook in our life.

And so, if you're going to be obedient to God, you have to be in the Word of God. Meditating upon His Word means that I read it. I think about it. I ask questions about it. I talk to Him about it. But most of all, God, how does this apply to my life? Are You saying something to me? Is there something in this passage You want to say to Me? You see, the Word of God is a vital part of obedience. Because notice what He said. He said, "Keep My commandments. Keep My Word". And so, what is He saying? He says if you're gonna obey Me, you've got to know what My commandment is. You've got to know what My Word is.

So, when a person... and this is why I encourage you to come to church. And there's no reflection on guests now, I know you probably didn't come prepared maybe. But you oughta come, if you're a member of this church, oughta come to church, the Bible in your hand, a pen in your pocket, or a pencil, either a notebook or a pad or you keep the bulletin and take notes. Why sit here for an hour and listen to somebody if you're not gonna remember it? And Jesus said, "Verily, verily I say to you, he that heareth My words and doeth them". Want you to turn if you will to Luke chapter, look at Luke chapter six. This is one passage and there are others but look at this. And this is a good question we have to think about. And this is why I say you oughta take notes because you're not gonna remember much if you don't. And I've not said anything thus far that's not important. Amen? I'm just telling you the truth.

So, if it's truth and you ought to remember it. Now listen to what He says. Verse forty-six of Luke six, "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not listen, and do not do what I say"? Now I want you to look at this. This is serious business. He said, "Why do you call Me Lord, and you don't do what I tell you"? He said, "I'm gonna tell you what kind of person you are". He says this is the kind of person you are, "Everyone who comes to Me, and hears My words, and acts on them, obeys them, I will show you whom he is like: he or she is a person like a man or woman building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock, when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house, could not shake it, because it had been well built, founded on the Word of God".

He says, "A person who hears My Word and obeys Me is like a person who chooses to build a house and they find a good solid rock to build the foundation on so it cannot be blown over in a storm". He says, "Now, if you're the kind of person who goes to church, listens to the Word of God, and you," listen, verse forty-nine, "But the one who has heard, and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation, the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great". If I say to you, "Are you a wise person"? Most people aren't gonna say, "No, I'm not wise". But here's what He says. He says, and there's not any person in here who would buy him a piece of property that was soft ground as far down as you could go, and decide to put a house on it, especially if there's a creek that runs by every once in a while and it over flows.

You say, "Well, that'd be foolish to... that'd be foolish". You know what He's saying? It is a very foolish man or woman who hears My Word, walks away and does not obey it. Now, you think about how many foolish people there are in America who go to church week after week after week, do not carry a Bible, no pen, no pencil, no note. And you know what that says? Listen to what that says. I don't anticipate hearing anything worth remembering. You say, "Well, I would never say that". Let me ask you this. And I make it rather clear. In other words, point after point after point when these three little boys who are nine, two nine-year-olds and an eleven-year-old walk up to me and give me a whole page and a half of notes that they took, then if kids can do that, adults can do it.

Now, here's what that says, now you have to take this from a loving heart. You got that? I'm getting ready to lay it on you, many... You okay? My loving heart because I care. Listen, I'd rather you sit here and get angry and say next time I'm gonna take some notes. Wonderful! But listen to what Jesus said. "You listen to the Word and you don't obey it, you're foolish". Because listen, you're building a foundation for your life that isn't gonna stand when all hell breaks loose in your life, and you don't know what to do next. It's foolish. And you, listen, all of us have lived long enough to know there are gonna be storms in life. There gonna be all kind of storms in our life.

You know the people who survive the storms? People who got a firm foundation. You see, you can go through the toughest storms of life without getting depressed and going on drugs and going to the doctor for this and down in the dumps and you know what? Next thing you taking a whole bunch of junky stuff that all you needed was a Word of God. All you needed was a Word of God. And I say this because it has nothing to do with me but the Word of God. Lady said to me on the cruise. She told me all the things she'd been through, and she said, "Been to three psychiatrists". She says, "I've spent thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars". She said, "I heard a message from you". Wasn't my message, God's. "I heard a message. I believed what you said. I have never been back to a psychiatrist since". And she says, "You can tell I am a very normal woman who loves the Lord God".

Listen, that's not the power of preaching. That's the power of the Word of God. And you see, what I want you to see is this. He makes it real clear. I mean, there's no question about what we're talking about. You obey Me, He says, you love Me, you obey Me. You hear the Word of God, and you obey it, very wise. You hear the Word of God, you don't obey it, you're very foolish. Listen. Now I don't mind somebody else calling me foolish. I don't want God having to call me foolish, saying, I told you. You heard it. You ignored it. So, what you have to ask yourself is this. Do I really love Him? Or am I a foolish person who thinks I'm gonna build my life on a foundation without the Word of God when...?

Listen, He's always, He's always linking it up. If you love Me, you will do what? You will keep My commandments. Not that you'll feel good and go to church, read the Bible and pray, you'll keep My commandments. Which ones? All of them. Well, how am I gonna know all of them? Listen, you don't have to worry about that. You have to make a decision; God will show you what to do. He will bring to your mind and heart, and as you think about times that you've read the scriptures and you just went across some of them, you didn't fully understand them. And then you get in a situation, and you think, "God, what in the world am I to do in this situation"? God'll bring back a passage, a verse or something you've heard from a sermon or read in a book, and so forth. And you know what? The Spirit of God, he says, "The Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance the things you ought to remember".

The issue is we can obey, but we need the Word of God to know what He teaches so we'll know what to do. And see, no believer should be pulling out their hair and saying, "Oh God! I don't know what in the world to do. What am I gonna do"? You know what? It's all right here. And the reason people get into that position is because they don't want to do what He says do. And they're looking for somewhat, some way out. They go, cry out to God and cry out to God and cry out to God, "Oh God," and God's already giving them an answer and you know what they're doing? They're trying to convince God somehow, there must be some other way. No. And you see, here's the thing about obeying God. There's no such thing as picking and choosing. This is what people do.

People say, "I believe part of the Bible". Which part? Well, the part that makes it possible for me to sin without being convicted and condemned. That won't work. Listen. There's no picking and choosing the commandments. He says, "Keep My Words, Keep my commandments". Which ones? That's not even the question. Except those ceremonial laws back there had nothing to do with us today. Which commandments? Well, all of them. Treat my neighbor as myself. Love my neighbor as myself. Thou shall not steal, lie and cheat, and all these other things. But all the things I am to do. Serve the Living God. Walk in obedience to Him. Love other people. Try to witness to them, share the gospel. There are so many things that we are to do that are included. We know what to do. And so, it's not a matter of picking and choosing.

Now let me go a little step further. Not only am I not picking and choosing which verses I don't want, but you can't pick and choose how you want to interpret them. In other words, when God says something, He says it exactly the way He means it to be said. And so, people take verse of scripture, and they'll say, "Well, that's just the way you see it". Let me ask you this. Is there any other way to see this? "If you love Me, you will obey Me". Is there any other way to see this? "Thou shalt not steal". I mean, He makes it very clear. When He says, "Lay aside, that is put out of your life, all wrath and anger and malice and all impurities and all those things". It's all there. When He says, "Lay it aside", walk away from it. When He says, "Thou shalt not", don't do it. When He says, "Thou shalt", that means do it.

Now I don't know how much simpler can it get than that? You can't pick and choose, nor can you pick and choose the interpretation that suits your lifestyle. What you have to ask is, "God, what are You saying to me"? Now, the one thing I think often times we forget is we grieve the Spirit of God. Now remember this. You can only grieve somebody who loves you. And you see, someone, someone that you don't love, they can't grieve you. Someone could walk up and just bless you out and tell you off. If you don't love that particular person, in other words, they're just some stranger walks up and misinterprets who you are or what you did or what you said and just blesses you out good fashion.

And you can just stand there and say, "Well, thank you very much". But you know what? If it's somebody you really love, somebody that somebody that you love with all your heart. You'd do anything in the world for them. And they absolutely obliterate you verbally and verbally abuse you over and over and over again. What happens? Gets to your heart. You feel hurt deep down inside. You can't describe it. Tears can't flow fast enough or long enough or stop flowing. You got hurt. You got hurt because you loved that person, and they disappointed you. And you're hurt deeply. And it's so grievous to you because you didn't expect it. You weren't ready for it. You hadn't, you hadn't anticipated it.

And besides, worse than that I think to me personally is when I am misunderstood. When I have done my best and I'm misunderstood, that will grieve my heart. If I've done something wrong and somebody says something, you know what? I can handle that. But if it's for somebody to misinterpret and to criticize and to totally misunderstand your very pure motive, that's very grievous. Now, I can remember the first time I ever got that message. I don't exactly know exactly how old I was. I have a pretty good idea. I was old enough to know better. But my mother was gonna leave and go somewhere, and she wanted me to stay at home, and I didn't want to stay at home.

And so, I said something that was very, very, very unkind to my mom. She left anyway. She came back, and I was already worried about her coming back. And so, she came back, she set me down, she said, "I want to tell you something, Charles". She said, "You know, I work forty hours a week, and I make nine dollars and ten cents". And she said, "I try to dress you the best I can. I try to provide what you need with the little we do have, just the two of us". And she said, "We don't have a lot of things". But she says, "I would do a whole lot more for you if I could. This is the best I can do". And she said, "I love you". And she said to me, "I'd lay down my life for you". And she said, "You hurt me deeply. What you said hurt your mom deeply". I mean, by then I am in horrible shape.

That was the worst, I'm gonna call it a beating. That's what it was. It was a horrible whipping but it was what I needed. And I think for the first time, and I never forgot it, I realized that I hurt my mother, not because she was my mom, I hurt her because she loved me so deeply. And you know what? Never, in all my years after that, and I was just six or seven, something like that. I wouldn't have thought of saying anything that would hurt my mom. You know why? Because I loved her. And that day I felt her pain, even as a kid, that I'd hurt the person who laid down their life for me. I never said an unkind word to her after that. I couldn't do enough for her. I loved her dearly. I grieved her spirit. I hurt her. And I had to think about later on in life and many times I've thought about it.

How many times have I grieved the heart of God? How many times have I done things and grieved His heart? Because my mother could only love me as a mother loves a son, which is a wonderful love. But Jesus loved me enough to go to the cross and took every sin I've ever committed and everyone that I'll ever commit and never complained or said except, bore my sin-debt absolutely in full because He loved me. There's no love to match that. And to think that I would sin against Him, grieve His heart, cause Him pain. He said, "Grieve not the Spirit of God. And that's what we do".

Whether it's an act or series of acts, we grieve His Spirit. We hurt the God who loves us. And you know what? If you've ever loved anybody with all of your heart, and they hurt you deeply, I don't have to explain or define the word grieve. It can be so deep and so overwhelming there's no adequate explanation. And if I think about hurting someone else who is human versus hurting the absolute pure heart of God, what a difference it must be and how He must be hurt. He says, "If you love Me, you will obey Me". No substitutes, that's just the way He put it. "You keep My Word, keep My commandments, you'll do what I tell you because it's what's best for you. If you love Me, you will obey Me".

And Father, how grateful we are for Your patience. How many times You've had to forgive us. And I pray today in Jesus's name that the Holy Spirit will take this simple, truthful message, Your simple word explained, apply it to every single heart who hears it. That every single person would have to ask, "Father, do I fall in the category of an obedient person? Or am I careless, indifferent about my life and my obedience to You"? And Father, I pray the Holy Spirit would speak to someone who is unsaved and help them to understand every day of their life they grieve You, living in unbelief and defiance and rebellion against Your will. Help them to understand that when they stand in the Judgement, there will be no acceptable excuse. And then Father, I pray for all of us, that You'd make us so sensitive to Your presence in our life, we will do exactly what You said, guard those commandments, treasure Your words, follow them and know that it's always the right direction. And we pray this in Jesus's name, amen.

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