Yesterday I found myself in front of 25 young people who were preparing for confirmation. I was there to witness the difference it had made for me to put God at the centre of my life.
It was a real privilege to be invited to do this and to conclude this time of testimony and sharing God had guided me to the following text. Some words of Jesus that briefly summarize the Christian life.
Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.
My Father will love them,
and we will come to them
and make our home with them. John 14: 23 NIVUK
The first thing to note is the necessity of love for God.
It is not for nothing that Jesus said;
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22: 37-38 NIVUK
This is the very beginning of the Christian life, we have not even started if we do not love God.
But why is this necessary? How can we love someone who is invisible, untouchable? Why put this difficult thing first? Why not start with something easier, something more basic and within our grasp?
The answer is because the Christian life is impossible unless it is motivated by a love for God, except that it is the expression of that love.
Loving God is the only appropriate answer to an encounter with Him. God is so good, so loving, so merciful, so gracious, so full of love that to know Him is to love Him.
So if we do not love God, it is because we have never actually met Him in any real way.
So every Christian life begins with such an encounter with God that triggers in us, as its natural effect, a love for Him.
Following this Jesus tells us how this love for God is expressed – by obedience.
This is also logical, if I love someone I want to please them, to do what will make them happy and to avoid doing things that will hurt or displease them.
So if we love God, this love is expressed by a desire to know what God wants in terms of the way in which we should live in this world – which brings us directly to the Bible. It is through His Word that God gives us all the necessary clarifications about how we can live in a proper manner, a way that pleases Him.
Our love will express itself, then, in a serious engagement with God’s word and the putting into practice of it in our lives.
Jesus continues by explaining the consequences that follow from this activity – and they are massive!
God the Father will love us! Meditate a little on this sentence. The God of the universe, the one who created everything, who keeps everything in existence by His powerful word, He will love us! Us! Creatures of dust that only last a moment! Certainly, it is not we who love first, rather our response of love to an encounter with God enables us to discover that it is God who has loved us from the beginning. Indeed it is only His love that has brought us to Him.
And more than this, Jesus and his Father will come to us! God – the Father and the Son – expresses His love for us by coming to us. Such is His love that He feels the desire to be with us, reflect on that a little!
And more than this, even, God will dwell in us. The God of the universe will live in us! Such is His love He will not accept to be separated from us, not for a moment.
And if all this happens, imagine the consequences! If God Himself dwells in you, if all His power, His love, His creative energy remains in you, can you imagine that an ‘ordinary’ life would even be possible?!
Isn’t it rather more likely that this divine life, present in you, will be expressed in a powerful, transformative and creative way? Imagine the adventure of a life like that!
For me, this is the Christian life, the true Christian life, a loving relationship with God that expresses itself in our turning towards God, in our obeying Him, which, in turn, triggers the experience of His presence in us, with us, which will express itself through His activity in our lives to advance His project for the redemption of the universe!
That’s the gospel.
If you are not blown away by it,
it is because you haven’t understood it!