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The Benefit of Obedience

May 5, 2024|The Benefit of Obedience| John 15:9-17

JD Cutler

Click here for the sermon audio

Last Sunday we examined the first 8 verses of John chapter 15 under the heading the necessity of abiding. 

We looked at what Jesus tells his disciples during part of his last teaching discourse prior to the cross that begins in chapter 13 and extends through chapter 17. 

We saw that Jesus teaches us that apart from him there is no salvation and there is no fruit, which is evidence that we have been brought into a saving relationship with him and grafted into the true vine. 

Attached to the true vine we are rescued from destruction and saved from experiencing the Holy and Just wrath of God against our sins. 

This is why we must be connected to Jesus, but His instruction to his disciples does not stop there. 

Too often I think we only think of and talk about coming to Christ in judiciary terms. In Christ we are saved, redeemed, set free from experiencing the Holy and Just wrath of God the Father,that is true. But too often we miss that Christ did not come just so that we would have eternal life, but that we would have it abundantly. 

John 10:10b (ESV) I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 

If we understand that eternal life is in view in John 10, then abundant cannot refer to amount, eternal life is eternal, right?

Then in what way did Christ come to give us abundant life? If the amount is not in view, then I think it is the fullness of that life that is. 

How do we experience this abundant life? We saw last week, according to Jesus, we must abide in him. 

Last week we defined abiding as remaining in the condition of being intimately joined together with Christ, allowing the spiritual, life-giving power to flow in and through us to produce fruit in relation to our new nature. 

If abiding is necessary and abiding is remaining intimately joined with Christ, how do we do that? Christ addresses this as he continues teaching his disciples. 

Let’s pick up this morning in verses 9-10 as a way of introduction to our subject today.

John 15:9-10 (ESV) 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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.

Jesus goes from ‘abide in me’ to ‘abide in my love’. 

Jesus says I have loved you, abide in that love. The question that comes between verses 9 and 10 is how? How do we abide in your love Jesus?

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. 

The word if is a conditional conjunction. If (this particular requirement is met), then (this result will happen).

This is where we have to put our theological hats on. If we understand it as, ‘If you keep my commandments, you keep yourself in my love would’ that would then imply that we remain in Christ by our actions and inversely if we do not keep his commandments we are separated from his love. And if we understand it like that we come into direct contradiction with what we are told about Christ’s love by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:35-39.

Romans 8:35-39 (ESV) 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So if this is not a separation from his love, then how do we understand what he is saying here?

I think what Jesus is teaching is that we can retain his love for us but fail to experience the fullness of it in our lives. 

Think about it like this, parents, I’ll use Brittany and I as an example. If our kids are being rebellious and disobedient, they are not unloved by Brittany and I. That is we do not stop loving them, they are not separated from our love, but they are not experiencing the fullness of our love in the relationship. Even further, they may feel unloved when they are disciplined or excluded from certain aspects of what the family is doing, but you know as well as I do, that their feelings are not indicative of the truth. We love them as much when they are relationally distant to us as when they are relationally close to us. 

Christ says that he abides in his father’s love by obedience to Him. Again, we know that Christ’s love for the Father is not in question and the Fathers love for his son is not in question, so what does he mean by he abided in the Father’s love? 

He experienced it constantly, he was aware of it, cherished it, rested in it, enjoyed it. He goes on to say, just as I have abided in my Father’s love, so you should abide in my love. In the same way. How did Christ abide in the Father’s love? As I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 

Obedience is the key to abiding in Christ. 

If the key to abiding in Christ is obedience, and in abiding in Christ we will experience abundant life, what does that look like?

This is what I want to dig into this morning, what does abiding in Christ mean for our lives. What is the benefit to us to walk in obedience to our Lord? 

Jesus goes on to give us three benefits in our text that obedience to him brings into the lives of believers.  

Obedience to Christ brings joy. 

Let’s pick up in verse 11 of our text this morning as we see why Jesus is telling his disciples these things. 

John 15:11 (ESV) 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

As we trace Jesus’ discourse with his disciples, we see his great care for those that are his displayed over and over again. 

After Judas has left the upper room and Jesus has predicted that the disciples will deny him this very night, he says (ESV) 1 “Let not your hearts be troubled.

A little later after promising the Holy Spirit, the Helper that will be with them forever, he says, John 14:18 (ESV) 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

He goes on to say, John 14:27 (ESV) 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

It is in light of this context of comforting and encouraging his disciples that he says I am the true vine, abide in me. 

All these things leading up to this moment, Jesus says that he has spoken them so that they may not only have his peace, but his joy. Perhaps more in our time than in the time of these first disciples, there is a need to stop and ask. What is joy?

There are two problems to answering that question, one is external. In our culture joy and happiness have been so intertwined and happiness has been reduced to a warm fuzzy feeling dependent on circumstance and situation, that when we talk about joy, there is a danger that our western minds will think that Jesus is talking about a warm fuzzy feeling in our hearts. 

Two is internal, oftentimes well intentioned people will say something like ‘joy and happiness are different in that happiness is situational and joy is not’. You’ve heard that before?

I could not disagree with that statement more. I think that thinking has done more harm than good in the church. We have told people that joy is independent of any situation and this has left many people not only wondering why they do not have the joy that the Bible commands and worse that they are the only ones experiencing this in the church. My prayer is that if that is you today you would understand that your joy does depend on the situation, just not in the way you might think. 

Now there is a difference. Happiness is normally situationally based on external factors. One behavioral health resource says this about happiness. Happiness is a feeling of contentment or satisfaction in the present moment, based on what we do and how we behave. We get that, happiness is a feeling based on external situations. 

Joy on the other hand is situationally based as well, however, it is rooted in internal situations vs external ones. Things like a sense of purpose and meaning.

Both joy and happiness are situationally based, one is just more concerned with external situations and one with internal situations. Let me give you a few examples. 

One can be happy but not have joy. Your team winning the superbowl or the tournament, a bonus at work, a day off, an awesome gift, all of these can affect our happiness, and yet someone can experience happiness and not have any joy. The moment enough time passes, sometimes hours, sometimes days, the farther we get from the source of happiness or the moment of happiness, the less happy we are. This is why some people chase happiness in their lives like addicts chase their next high. They will jump from relationship to relationship, marriage to marriage chasing happiness all based on a lie. 

The world today tells us that happiness is found when we experience life on our terms, so people change jobs, change spouses, change sexual partners, change genders, all searching for a particular set of circumstances that will produce happiness, never realizing that external factors cannot produce what they are actually looking for, which is joy. 

Joy on the other hand, someone can have apart from happiness. I can have external situations that rob me of happiness, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, poverty, oppression, and still retain a deep sense of joy because of my internal situation. I am loved by Christ, I am secure in Christ, I am growing in Christ, I have a present and a future hope in Christ, I am created for good works. All things will work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. 

The problem for the Christian who is not experiencing joy is not that they lack the internal situation for joy, but that they do not rest in it. 

I have spoken these things so that my joy might be in you and that your joy might be full.  

What is Christ’s joy? We are given a clue in Hebrews 12. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV) 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

What was the joy set before him on the other side of the cross? Satisfaction of the wrath of God, atonement for his people, glorification at the right hand of his father. In short, fulfilling his purpose. 

Having once for all completed everything necessary for salvation, he has set down in the fullness of his joy. Christ’s joy will never be less than it is right now and it will never be greater than it is right now, because it is full, or complete.

The Christian gets to participate in Christ’s joy when they are united in his death and joined to his life. We now possess the joy of knowing our sins are forgiven, of knowing we are one with Christ, of knowing that the fullness of his joy in us is coming on that day when we see him face to face. Why? Not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ has done. 

However, Christ makes a distinction between his joy and ours. He tells us that his joy will be in us, but that what he has spoken will lead us to fullness of our own joy, the very thing that men and women everywhere are searching for. 

How is our joy filled up? Jesus says by abiding in his love. How do we abide in his love? By obeying his commandments. 

The reason many of us who should be experiencing joy as Peter describes, that is ‘inexpressible and filled with glory’ is that we are not walking in obedience to Christ. We are living our lives the way we want to, with a less than perfect purpose with a lack of a sense of identity in Christ and in result and reality are no better off than those who do not have Christ, beholden and captured by chasing happiness through external circumstances. 

Friends, this is not what Christ saved you to. He knows what brings fullness of joy, because he has experienced fullness of joy. This is what he desires for his people, this is why he tells us that his joy comes from abiding in his Father’s love and that he abides in his father’s love through obedience to his commands. Jesus is telling us the secret for joy, which is counter-culture, counter our fleshly nature, and maybe even counter-intuitive, but nonetheless, Jesus says it is obedience. 

Not only does obedience to Christ bring us joy, secondly…

Obedience to Christ brings relational closeness. 

John 15:12-15 (ESV) 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus says in 10, if you keep my commandments (plural), then in verse 12 he says this is my commandment(singular). 

This should remind us that there are many things Jesus commands of us, but just as he says in relation to the Mosaic law, there is a way in which to summarize what is required. 

Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV) 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

All of what God commanded hangs on these two commandments. In the same way, all that Christ commands his followers hangs on his commandment to ‘love one another as I have loved you’. 

John 13:34-35 (ESV) 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 15:12 (ESV) 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:17 (ESV) 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Jesus tells us that our love for one another is obedience. Pressing further, he defines what kind of love he is talking about. 

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Previously Jesus has said John 10:11 (ESV) 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He goes on to say.

John 10:14-17 (ESV) 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.

We know that what he is talking about is his atoning death on the cross where he laid down his life and three days later, took it up again, accomplishing the task of bringing in his sheep, both of the fold of the Jews and of the fold of the gentiles to the one good shepherd, into the one flock of God. 

What is different about what he says here? Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 

No longer does he use the generic language of sheep, but he brings it down to the relational level of friends, companions, those close to one another. 

Again, between verse 13 and 14 there is a question lingering there. If great love is displayed in someone laying down their life for a friend, and Jesus says he has loved them with this great love, then who is a friend of Jesus?

Only those who have a personal close fellowship with him while he walked the earth? Did he only lay down his life for these 11 disciples and the others close to him? Who was the love he was about to demonstrate on the cross expressed towards?

No, he says, you are my friends if you do what I command you. He goes on to say to these 11, I do not call you servants anymore, but friends. Why? Because a servant does not know what his master is doing, there was a time when this was true of the disciples, but he is now plainly declaring to them what he is doing and what the Father has told him to do. 

There are a couple of notes to make here. First, even after this Jesus calls them servants. He is still the Lord. 

The disciples, like Peter and later Paul would refer to themselves as servants of Christ, or slaves to Christ. So in no way is he changing the dynamic between his authority or his position and theirs. What he is saying, is that by sharing what the Father has commanded, by sharing in his obedience to the Father, they move from mere servants, to servants who are friends. 

There is a relational element to what Christ is saying. 

Those whom he dies for, those who are brought into a saving relationship with, those the father has given him, that have been grafted into the vine, he calls them friends, which is amazing isn’t it?

That the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would condescend to sinful men and women who show no friendliness in and of themselves, but in every way and at every opportunity are enemies to God. 

But he has. He has not only saved us, but he has made known to us the will of the Father, the heart of the Father, and the plans of the Father. He has entrusted to us, through his word, his revelation. 

You might ask, how do we enjoy the fullness of this friendship Christ says that those that are his have?

We spend time in his word to understand it through his spirit so that we may obey it and not only prove that we are in fact his friends, but to grow in our relationship with him. 

In the Regenesis process, we have been talking a lot about the marks of a disciple, as in what things should be evident in the life of a disciple, particularly here at EBC. One of the things we have noted is that a disciple is a pursuer of Christ. 

We have defined that pursuit as evidenced in part as one who seeks Biblical truth to facilitate Biblical living.

That is someone who does not simply desire Biblical knowledge, but a biblical life. 

Do you feel close to Christ? Hear me, not do you know that you are in him and have been saved by him, do you feel close to him, like you do a friend? 

If not, why not? Christ said that he gave his life for his friends. For the same reason many of us are not experiencing the joy that could be ours, we are not experiencing closeness to Christ, because we are not walking in obedience to Christ. 

Closeness to Christ is not found in an emotional worship experience, although that can be refreshing for your heart, closeness to Christ is not found in simply knowing what God’s word says, although there is wisdom found within it, closeness to Christ, as defined by Christ, is found in obedience to what he commands of us, summed up by Christ as our love for one another. A love that is self-sacrificial and aimed at the good of others. 

Not only does obedience to Christ bring joy, not only does it bring relational closeness, the last thing we are going to look at this morning is that…

Obedience to Christ brings fruitfulness in life.

Let’s pick up again in verse 16. 

John 15:16-17 (ESV) 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

After emphasizing the joy that these disciples can have and the relational closeness that they can experience, even after he is gone, he reminds them that none of these benefits came about by their own work. 

Peter, you did not choose me. John, you did not choose me. On and on down the line.

What does Jesus mean here? Certainly at the very least, here is a reference to their being first called as Disciples and then second as apostles. They did not apply to be his disciples, they did not push themselves forward to be his apostles, in every step of the way, it was Jesus who did the choosing. 

Is that all that Christ is speaking of here? 

If the things that he has told them that they can possess in him, joy and closeness are not confined to these apostles, but given to all Christians, then we should not confine what is said to the apostles. 

So what does he mean that they did not choose him, but that he chose them. I think what we have here is Jesus speaking to the election of his followers. 

The apostle Paul says it like this in Ephesians 1. We don’t have time to read it all, but let me encourage you to do so this week. We will just read three verses. 

Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

No one chooses Christ first. All of the glory of salvation rests in his sovereign choosing and not in ours. This is a foundational understanding of Christianity, even if we can argue the finer points on what was the basis for his choosing, which is not our purpose this morning. It is enough for us to see that Christ chose us and that he goes on to say that he chose us for a purpose. 

I appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide. 

Don’t miss the similarities between what Jesus says here and what Paul says in Ephesians. 

…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. 

Or in places like 1 Thessalonians (ESV) For this is the will of God, your sanctification:

Or particularly plainly stated in Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Christ saved us to a purpose, that we should bear abiding fruit, walk in the good works prepared for us, and progress in our sanctification, all ways of saying the same thing. 

Furthermore, Christ says, as we bear fruit we are encouraged to pray more fervently for more fruit. 

Do you want more power in your prayer life? Be more obedient to Christ. 

Do you want to see your prayers answered? Bring yourself in line with the desires and heart of Christ.

In this way, Christ gives us two areas of fruitfulness that will increase as we obey his commands. 

In what our life produces and in what we pray for. 

Both will be transformed to Christ-likeness when we walk in increasing obedience to our Lord. 

Let’s just take for example the average Christian here at our church. If you take the very basic command that is required of those that belong to Christ and prioritize the gathering of the Saints rather than forsaking it, you will come into contact with not only more truth from scripture that informs your life but you will be brought into contact with more closely and regularly with the very people you have been called to love. The more you obey Christ by loving one another in the way he has commanded, the more opportunities and the more deeply you will be able to love one another, and on and on it goes. The more you love one another, the more you will understand how to pray according to the will of God, and the more fruitful your prayer will become, and the more you will want to pray. While this is happening, the more you experience the fullness of joy and purpose the more you will want to proclaim the goodness and mercy of God to everyone you meet. You will literally be transformed by pursuing Christ into all that God desires for you, a disciple who produces much fruit. 

Who here desires to be more fruitful in their lives? Then Christ tells us the answer, walk in obedience to him. 

As we come to a close, let me ask you this question. 

As a Christian, what is it that you are searching for? Is it not joy, is it not closeness to Christ, is it not fruitfulness in your life? I believe that every genuine Christian not only wants these things but searches for them. 

The problem is that we often search in the wrong places. 

We seek them in experiences, so we jump from church to church looking for one whose music gives us the most emotional response. 

We look for a preacher that makes us feel good so we can substitute emotional happiness for joy. 

We try to find a Bible study that goes deep, so that we can gain knowledge, confusing ‘what we know’ with what ‘we do with what we know’.

Friends, Jesus tells us how to experience his joy, how to be close to him, and how to be fruitful in him and it is rooted in obedience to his commands. These same three benefits also work as evaluation tools to ask if we are walking in obedience. Do I have joy from being united to Christ, am I close to Christ in my day to day life, am I producing the kind of fruit consistent with being in Christ, both in my prayer life and in what my life produces?

As a non-Christian, that may be here this morning, what are you searching for? Is it not joy and purpose, belonging and love?

The world tells you that it can be found apart from Christ, but the Bible says that it cannot. It is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Being joined to him and then obeying him will bring you not just eternal life, but abundant eternal life. You must repent, turn from the things you are searching for and looking for fulfillment in and turn to Christ. If you have questions about coming to Christ, about what it means to be joined to him, please do not hesitate to come down this morning when we stand and sing in a moment so that we can share with you or set up a time that we can meet. I would love to tell you how to find joy, purpose, and belonging in the love of Christ. 

For the Christian here this morning, we must ask ourselves. 

Do we desire to keep his commandments? Do we desire obedience? Because apart from that we will never experience what it is the Lord has for us. 

Obedience to Christ is not a way to salvation as some religions teach, rather it is the way to experience the abundant life that he has made possible through his atoning sacrifice for those he loves.

Let us pray. 

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