James Merritt - Obey Me
Now, if you're a guest of ours today or watching for the first time, we're in a series of messages that we're calling What in the World as in what in the world does God want from us. You know, we're experts at telling God what we want from Him, we do it all the time. But I think the far more important question should be, okay, what a minute, what does God want from us. So, we started a series a couple of weeks ago and we found in scripture, there are really four specific things that God wants from everybody.
Now, believe it or not, as I've already said, it's not money. In fact, it's not even related to money. And so, just to re-cap, in case you're visiting us for the first time, or you're listening for the first time, two weeks ago we said that the very first thing that God wants from all of us is faith. When you come to God, the very first thing God says to you, when you meet God for the first time, God says, "Believe me. Just believe me". Now, think about it. That makes perfect sense. Because you can't please God if A, you don't believe in God but even if you do believe in God, you can't please God if you don't believe God. So, the first step in having a relationship with God and giving God what God wants is just putting your faith in Him.
So, God says, "Hey, number one thing I want from you, I want faith". Then last week we said, the second thing that God wants from us is love. So, when you come to God, God first says, "Okay, believe Me". And then when you say, "God, okay, God, I believe you". Then God says, "Okay, love Me". And last week we discovered that Jesus, Himself, said the greatest commandment of all the commandments in the Bible is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your mind and to love others as you love yourself. The Bible says God is love. God loved us first. God loves us the most and all God wants us to do is simply love Him back in return. Okay? So, God wants faith and then God wants love.
Now, today, we're going to learn the third thing that God wants from us and frankly, it really follows perfectly, and it follows naturally from the first two things. So, if you brought a copy of God's word and would like to look on or you want to look on some kind of a phone or an iPad, if you'll turn to John 14. Now, if you don't know much about the Bible, there are four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and John is the fourth Gospel. It's in the New Testament. Let me tell you what we're going to learn. Jesus it talking to His disciples. And He's talking about love. And He says something to the disciples that they probably had never thought about before, but once they thought about it, they probably went, "Of course, that makes absolute perfect sense". Because it always is a part of true love.
So, the third thing we learn today that God wants from us, He wants faith, He wants love, and then He wants, let's say that together, obedience. Alright? He wants obedience, because the third thing that God says to us is this, when you come to God, God says, "You want a relationship with me"? Yes, God I do. He says, "Okay, number one, believe Me. Number two, love Me. Number three, obey Me".
Now, if you think about it, we will see how all of this perfectly links together. Because if you really start believing in someone, and then you start trusting someone, you get to know someone. Once you get to know someone and you know they can be trusted and believed, then you'll start loving them. And once you start loving them and trusting them, you'll be willing to obey them. So, to put it simply, to believe God is to know God. To know God is to love God and to love God is to obey God. So, in one simple statement in John 14, Jesus then says, "Okay, I've already told you to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, now let me tell you what that means. Let me tell you how you put that into practice". Here's what he says. He said, "If you love me, keep my commands. If you love me, keep my commands".
Now, up until now, let's think about what's going on, up until now, for almost three years, Jesus has declared His love for His disciples. He's let them know in no uncertain terms, "I love you". He spent three years demonstrating His love for them. He washed their dirty feet. He healed their sick relatives. He protected them from danger and from death. He taught them truth they had never ever heard before and now He's about to display the ultimate reality of His love by going to the cross and dying for their sins. So, there's no doubt about it, Jesus loves them. But now Jesus does a 180. Now He turns the tables. He said, "Boys, I spent three years showing you that I love you. I spent three years sharing with you my love. I have spent three years letting you know there's no doubt I love you. Now, I want to talk about your love for Me. I've shown you how I love you, now I want to show you how you love Me. Because talk is cheap". And He says, "If you love me, you will obey Me".
Now, let me just stop here and say something that makes us a little uncomfortable but it's true. From the time you're born to the time you die, let's be honest, obedience is not easy. It's just not. Think about it. You're a parent. Which do you have to teach your children, to obey or disobey? You have to teach them to obey? Well, here's the dirty secret. When we become adults, we still don't like to obey. We don't like to be told what to do. We love the fact that we live in a free country where we can do whatever we want to do, when we want to do it, and not be told how to live by anyone else and then Jesus comes along, and He says this, He says, "True experience with God will always lead to the obedience of God". True experience with God will always lead to the obedience of God.
So, here's what I'm going to do. We're going to take that one simple sentence that Jesus gave us. Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep my commands". We're going to take that one little simple sentence and we're going to see how love and obedience have to go together. As a matter of fact, it's impossible to really have one unless you have the other. So, three things we're going to say this morning. You ready? Number one? We proclaim our love by obeying. We proclaim our love by obeying. Now, let's take those first four words, okay? Jesus said, "If you love Me".
Now, how many of you remember your English grammar and remember what a conditional sentence is? How many of you remember that in school? Well, some of you do, right? Alright, well if you don't, let me kind of remind you. A conditional sentence in English is simply a sentence that has an if-then proposition. So, if one thing is really true, then the other thing will also be true. So, what Jesus is saying to His disciples right now is this. "Boys, you say you love Me"? "Oh, Lord, You know that we love You". Jesus said, "Okay, if you love me, then the following will be true".
Now, let's get very, very practical. There's one sure fire way to let other people know that you love them or at least get other people to think they love you and hopefully believe that you love them and think that you love them and one surefire way to do that is to tell them, right? If you want people to believe you love them and think that, even if you don't, one thing you can do is at least tell them. Now, where I'm going with all that is what we've been doing since we walked into this building. Because what praise and worship is, is simply proclaiming our love for God. That's why it's important to come to church. That's why it's important to celebrate worship together.
And by the way, that's the way you ought you begin every day. I begin every day when I get out of bed, I begin my day praising God. Why? Because praise and worship is the way that you verbally love on God. That's why even if you can't sing, you ought to sing. Even if you don't think you can carry a tune, give it a whirl. Because when you praise God, and you worship God, you are proclaiming your love for God verbally and openly and publicly. Praise and worship are commanded. God doesn't say it's an option. God says, "I want you to praise Me and I want you to worship Me". Why? Because when you obey God by praising God and worshipping God, you are proclaiming your love for Him.
So, number one, we proclaim our love by obeying. Got it? Number two, we prove our love by obeying. We don't just proclaim it. We don't just say it. Talk's cheap. We prove our love. Now, listen to what else Jesus said. He said, "If you love me, keep. If you love me, keep". Now, let me just tell you something I learned in preparing this message. I never really knew this. I always thought that the verb keep, I just assumed it was an imperative, it's in the imperative mood. Because it sounds like an imperative. Then, I went to my Greek New Testament, which I read every day and so, I went to my Greek New Testament and I read what it was in the Greek language and you know what I found? Because you know, you think that Jesus is giving a command, right? If you love Me, keep my commands. That's really not what He said. That verb keep is not in the imperative mood or the imperative tense. It's in the future tense. What Jesus literally said was, He really made a prediction. He said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commands. If you love Me, you will keep My commands".
Now, here's what Jesus did. He just let us know, there is an unbreakable relationship between love and obedience. They are joined at the hip. There are two things you cannot separate. You cannot separate love and obedience. And here's what we're going to learn. Love is the motive for obedience and obedience is the measure of love. Love is the motive for obedience and obedience is the measure of love. God wants you to love Him before you obey Him. God wants you to obey Him because you love Him. God wants you to give. Not so He'll give back to you. He wants you to give because you love Him. God wants you to serve. Not so He'll reward you. He wants you to serve because you love Him. God wants you to open your Bible and pray and worship and spend some time with Him. Not so maybe He'll do something good for you, but because you love Him. Love is the motive for obedience.
As a matter of fact, you know there are three major emotions that motivate us to do what we do. The first level is what we call fear. That's the first level of motivation. Now, this motivation is the least fulfilling and it's the least satisfying of all the emotions because when you do something out of fear, here's what you're saying. "I have to do this. I have to do this. I don't have a choice. If I don't do this, something bad is going to happen". So, there are a lot of people that get up everyday and they go to work. You know why they go to work? They don't like their job. They don't even want to go to work. Why do they do that? Because they know that if they don't, they fear losing their job. There are children who obey abusive parents. Why? Not because they care, not because they love them. They obey them out of fear that if they don't, they'll be physically harmed.
Now, let me just be honest. Fear is a motivator. But it's a terribly motivator. Because what fear is, it's an external source of motivation for what we do. I'll be the first one to admit it. It is very, very affective. But it is the worst and the least of all the motivators. But fear is one level of motivation. Then there's a second level. It's a higher level. It's a better level. The second level of motivation for what we do is duty. Right? Love says, "I have to do this. If I don't, something bad's going to happen". Duty says, "I ought to do this, because if I don't somebody's going to be disappointed in me".
I read the other day, this was astounding to me. A recent Gallop poll found that 70% of people, you ready for this, 70% of people don't like their jobs, 70% of people hate their jobs and they do not like to go to work. When they asked these people, "If you don't like your job, if you hate your job, why do you keep your job? Why do you keep going to work"? The number one answer is, "Out of a sense of duty". Well, I've got an obligation to feed my family. Or, I believe you ought to put in a full day's work for a full day's pay. Well, this is what I got my college degree in, and so I may as well do what I learned to do. But the highest and the most satisfying and the most fulfilling motivation of all is love. Because fear says, "I have to do this". Duty says, "Well, I ought to do this". Love says, "I want to do this. I gladly do this. I joyfully do this".
I've told you this many times, the very first thing God wants a new believer to do when he loves Him is what? Be baptized. That's the very first command. If you're a believer and you have never followed Jesus in believer's baptism by emersion since you became a believer, you're still behind the eight-ball. There is a commandment you have not obeyed. That is the very first way, one of the very first ways you get to verbally proclaim your love and physically prove your love is when you place your faith in God and show it by being baptized. Because the walk of obedience is the talk of love. The walk of obedience is the talk of love. Alright. So, what do we do? We proclaim our love by obedience, right? We prove our love by obedience. And here's the last thing, we practice our love by obeying. We practice our love by obeying. Now, Jesus is real specific about what He wants us to obey. He said, "If you love Me, keep my commands. That's it. If you love me, keep my commands".
Now, let me tell you what happened. So, on our second date, I proclaimed to Theresa, "I love you". On our wedding day, I proved to Theresa that I loved her by putting on that ring and saying, "'Till death do us part". Now, until one of us dies or Jesus comes back, every day I practice my love. I practice my love by being faithful. I practice my love by doing what I did this morning, which I do every morning. I make her coffee. I practice my love by taking out the garbage. Sometimes I practice my love by staying out with the garbage. But Jesus said, "The way that you practice your love is by obeying My commandments". Then Jesus does us a favor, He said, "Oh, by the way," He said, "I know you're always asking the question, 'So what's in this for me? You want me to obey You. What's in this for me?'" And so, Jesus said, "Okay, let me show you the benefits of obedience".
So, you skip down to verse 21, listen to what Jesus said, He said, "Whoever has my command and keeps them is the one who loves Me". We know that, He's already told us that. Now, watch this. He said, "The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father," now watch this, "and I too will love them, and here's what I'll do, I will show Myself to them". Jesus said, "Do you really want to know Me? Would you like to know what it's like to really experience Me? Would you really like to know what it's like for Me to be really real to you"? He said, "Okay, obey Me. Just do what I command you to do". So, that leaves me to ask a very penetrating question to all of us. Just be honest, don't need to lie about it. God knows the truth. You know the truth. Nobody else is going to know what you said anyway.
So, just be honest. Here's my question to you right now. On a moment by moment basis, I'm talking about from the time you get out of your bed in the morning, until the time you go to bed at night, listen carefully. Is Jesus really real to you? I'm talking about as real as you are to me right now. I'm talking about as real as you are to each other right now. I mean is Jesus that real to you? Well, you say, "Wait a minute, I can't see Jesus. I can see this person". That's not what I asked you. "Well, I can hear this person talk. I don't, Jesus doesn't talk to me out loud". I didn't ask you that. I asked you a very honest, open, true, good question. Is Jesus really real to you on a moment-by-moment basis? Is He the most important relationship in your life? Does He dominate your heart? Does He dominate your mind?
Now, I don't know where you are or who you are, it doesn't matter. But there are a lot of you who listen to me right now, if you're dead level honest, you know what you'd say right now? "Not so much, not really. I do think about Jesus when I come to church and I think about Jesus when I go to eat, or I think about Jesus when I got a big need in my life but not so much". I want to be honest and tell you why. You're experience of Jesus will be proportional to your obedience to Jesus. Your experience of Jesus will be proportional to your obedience of Jesus. Because what did Jesus just tell us? He said, "If you will love Me by obeying me, I will show Myself to you. I'll make Myself real to you. You will know Me, and you will experience Me in a way that you will never ever be able to do otherwise".
Well, that raises a question. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you'll obey My commands. If you obey My commands, I'll show Myself to you". So, this is not a hard question. Where are His commands found? Where? Yeah. Right here. Okay? This is where His commands are found. Now, watch this. I'm going to show you how all this ties together. I can't tell you how many people I have say this to me, I'm talking about believers. I cannot tell you how many people say, "You know, I just don't read my Bible". And I'll say, "Why"? Somebody want to guess the number one reason why people don't read their Bible? I don't understand it. I don't understand it. I just don't understand the Bible.
Now, again, I'm just being honest. Can I tell you the number one reason why, if you're a believer, now, if you're an unbeliever, I get it. You're reading somebody else's mail. I don't expect you to understand it. But if you're a believer and you don't read your Bible because you don't really understand it, can I tell you the number one reason why you find it hard to understand your Bible? It's not what you think. You think, "Well, the reason why I don't understand the Bible is, 'I've got a head problem.'" No, you don't have a head problem. You got a heart problem. So, "What do you mean"? You ready? This will be worth coming to church for today.
If you want to understand the parts of the Bible you don't understand, the way to do that is by obeying the parts of the Bible you do understand. Don't expect to understand this book if you go into it saying, "I'm not going to do what you tell me to do". Or, don't go into this book and say, "Oh, I'm going to understand what you read, and I expect you to speak to me and I expect you to be real to me". If you go in here saying, "I'm gonna obey the parts I do like. I'm not going to obey the parts I don't like".
Now, the way you understand the parts of the Bible you don't understand is by obeying the parts of the Bible that you do understand because here's the way it works. We experience who God is when we respond to what God says to us. We experience who God is when we respond to what God says to us. Reading the Bible, I'll be honest. Reading the Bible will give you information about God. Obeying the Bible brings transformation from God. I'll be honest, if all you do is read this book, it won't change your life, but when you obey this book, it will radically change your life. You cannot be the same when you say, "You know what? I may not like it. It may not go down real well. It may make me uncomfortable. It may cost me, but I'm going to obey whatever God tells me in this book".
Because the problem is, what most of us do, we selectively obey. We obey the parts we do like. We disobey the parts we don't like. Well, if you want to give God what God wants, and you want to really experience Him the way you should, you cannot obey God partially, you've got to obey God fully and Jesus said, "You know what, if you love Me, oh you will obey Me completely. You will obey Me joyfully. You will obey Me willingly. You will obey Me gladly". There was a man who was invited to visit the King of France and he went and visited the king and the king enjoyed their visit so much and it was such a great experience, that he invited the man to return to dinner and sent him an invitation.
Well, the date finally arrived, and the man returned to the palace and the king just happened to be walking through as he was walking in the door and he looked at him and he said, "Well, this is a surprise". And he said, "Well, why"? He said, "I didn't expect to see you. Why are you here today"? And the man said, "Well, your majesty, did you not invite me to dine with you today"? And he said, "Well, I did, but," he said, "you didn't answer my invitation". And the man looked at the king and he said, "Your majesty, a king's invitation doesn't need to be answered, it simply needs to be obeyed". A king's invitation does not need to be answered. It simply needs to be obeyed. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commands". You won't have to keep them. It's not that you ought to keep them, you will want to keep them, because you love Jesus.
So, let me just say this and they we're going to pray. I thought a lot about this and I think more about it the older I get. I really believe this. This is my theory. We'll find out when we die. I believe the moment that we die, I think one of the things that's going to surprise us the most the moment we die and the moment we meet Jesus face to face, I think it's going to hit us. I think it's going to shock us. When we meet Jesus face to face, we're going to say, "Lord, why didn't I love you more"? Why didn't I obey you more? Why didn't I love you more when I was alive? Why didn't I obey you better before I died? Because to believe Jesus is to know Jesus. To know Jesus is to love Jesus and to love Jesus is to obey Jesus because He first loved Us.