Today’s verse of the day is John 14:21…
“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.” (NIV)
Or, as the NLT puts it…
“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
Now, on first reading, it may seem like God’s love is conditional upon your obedience…
IF you love God first, THEN God will love you in return.
That, however, doesn’t seem consistent with the rest of the scriptures and what I’ve come to know about God. The Bible says, in Romans 5:6-8…
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
And, also in 1 John 4:10 it says…
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
This, to me, sounds like God’s love for me personally is not dependent on my loving him.
I think what the passage in John 14:21 is referring to is an invitation to enter into an experience.
That God loves you is already a reality…for God. He is experiencing it. That love is a reality that you can experience as well, but it takes faith, trust and obedience to be able to understand and enter in to. In other words, it takes obedience in order for Christ to be able to show it to you.
Let’s think of it this way…
Have you ever gone to a rock concert?
I have. I have performed in them.
Here’s a little secret that usually only guitar players are familiar with. You see, to get a guitar amplifier to really produce the sound that it was intended to produce, you have to crank it up. You have to turn it up pretty loud and drive the circuitry of the amp.
I would imagine it’s kind of like a race car or high-performance car. Imagine driving a race car at 30 miles per hour. Boring, right?
Same thing with an amp. You’ve got to open it up and let it do it’s thing.
The problem is, you can’t really do that at home – especially if you live in an apartment or condo. The landlord or association will have you tossed out.
Nor can you or should you drive 200 MPH down your neighborhood streets.
That’s why they create arenas and race tracks. There is a venue for these things. In order for you to experience the awe and power and intended purpose of these things – you have to enter the arena. You need to get your ticket, enter through the door and go inside to have the experience.
It’s the same way with God’s love. It’s there. The amp is turned up. The engine is revving. You just need to enter in to the arena to experience it. Then, it will become a reality to you. It’s not something you can read about in a book or magazine or hear about in a newscast or podcast.
Have you ever seen video footage of a fireworks display? It’s not nearly as breathtaking as being there in person.
Jesus is saying that you can’t just read about the commands and recite them to other people. That’s like telling people where they can go to see a concert, but never going there yourself!
He is giving you the ticket to get in the doors yourself. Believe. Trust. Obey. Come on in.
On Top of the World
I went to the Skydeck of the Willis Tower yesterday. They claim to have what they call an “unforgettable experience” waiting for you.
You buy your ticket. You enter in through the door.
Once you’re in, you have the opportunity to “step out on faith”. There is a glass ledge in a glass case that you can walk out on and be suspended in air – 103 stories above the ground – the highest height in the Western Hemisphere without being in a flying contraption.
As I stood in line to wait for my turn, I noticed that people that were going before me were getting really scared as they walked into the case. Because I was not out there experiencing it for myself, I had no idea what they were going through. It’s easy, from that perspective, to criticize people and think that you won’t be scared.
Then, I had my chance.
I have to be honest – it took me a moment to fully step out on that ledge. Like everyone else, I had to stretch out my arm and touch the glass walls to ensure myself that everything was going to be fine.
It truly was an unforgettable experience. One that I never would’ve had if I had never taken a step of faith.
It’s not enough to just have a ticket to the event. You have to go and experience it for yourself.
I had a ticket to go to the Skydeck for almost a full year.
My family and I were given free tickets. My wife and girls went last year at Spring Break time. I wasn’t able to join them, but the ticket was good for a year.
For a year that ticket sat on the counter – with a picture of what other people were experiencing – nagging me to go. It kept asking me, “When are you going to make time for me?”
I kept putting it off, because I’m a busy guy and…it’s hard to get downtown. I don’t get down there very often.
Finally, an opportunity presented itself, and I took advantage of it.
Boy, am I glad I did.
It’s not the one who has the ticket that has the experience. It’s the one who has the ticket and uses it that gets the full experience.
You have the commands of Jesus at your fingertips – the most notable, of course, being the command to love one another. Now, if you want to fully experience God’s love for you and have Jesus show himself to you…
Do as I strive to do on a daily basis: Love your neighbor as yourself.