Longing for God – Psalm 63

God “has put eternity in man’s heart.”

Man has this built-in craving, longing for the eternal, esp. for God. If nothing else, one has a sneaking suspicion that there is more to all this than meets the eye. Some stifle & suppress this, but it never goes away. When a person becomes a part of the people of God this appetite for the Almighty is augmented & must be fed regularly. Sadly, some Christians starve this appetite and is one reason we see people walk away from the Lord. But those few happy souls who hunger & thirst for righteousness & are satisfied so that they might hunger for more, for them…

God is the singular desire of the searching, thirsty soul.

What does it look like to long for God? Psalm 63 captures this craving which Christians today ought to have.

The Soul’s Longing (1)

1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Seeking God: Even “my God,” its personal. 1) Earnestly: With eagerness, zeal. I’m going to do this now, immediately; I can’t wait. 2) Early (KJV): First thing I’m going to do even before the sun comes up, I gotta find you. The pillow is despised & the coolness of the AM embraced so that sweet communion with God might be enjoyed.

The Thirst for God: “My soul…my flesh” – everything about me, my whole being craves God. All of me longs for Thee! Notice that God is the object of this thirst; not creeds & confessions & councils; not religious leaders & preachers; not even religious exercises & practices; GOD alone can satisfy this craving. And God is of such a nature that He will grant this request…

It seems that just about every night after the boys are scrubbed, their teeth washed, they’re in their pajamas, prays have been said, & the light turned off that I will hear from the boys’ room, “DAD!” And when I go in there they invariably ask the same thing, “Can I please have a drink of water?” Good dad that I am, I get it for them. So here is David on his bed (v.6) saying, “GOD! Can I have a drink please?” The Father is of such a nature that He readily fetches it for him. And for us!

The Soul’s Looking (2-4)

2So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

In the Sanctuary (2): David wasn’t at the sanctuary (the tabernacle in his day) to see the crude structure; nor if the temple had been built in his time would he have gone there to see the wonderful stones & wonderful buildings; whenever he went up to the sanctuary it was to seek “my God,” esp. His power & glory. This is what David longs for in the wilderness.

3Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

God’s Love > My Life (3): God’s covenantal, steadfast, unending love is better than life, or rather, “lives.” God’s love is better than 10,000 lives! Life is dear, but God’s love is dearer. Life is valuable, but God’s love is supreme. Why? Because life is temporary, but God’s love is eternal. Oh, that more people today understood what the saints of old knew.  Too many people view their life as all important, as tho this is all there is. Indeed, some Christians do likewise. No! God’s love is eternal and the thing we are to reach out for.

4So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.

Worship (4): Praise from his lips (3) will flow from his mouth as long as he lives. My whole life is given over to the lover of my soul. The lifting of holy hands (lit.) was an outward manifestation of the inward disposition – as the soul reached out for God so the body too reached to the heavens (or Jerusalem) in an attempt to grasp His presence. Here is the summation of man’s creation & purpose & destiny: the praise of God’s glory.

The Soul’s Living (5-6)

5My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

Satisfaction (5): “fat & rich foods” are the best of the best, the choice cuts of meat and freshest vegetables & fruit…but remember, this is a spiritual feast provided by God. This “hidden manna” brings spiritual refreshment as we eat with the lover of our soul. It is the food we eat which the world does not know, living water to drink which the world refuses to drink.  So it has been that the saints of God have always been sustained & satisfied by the spiritual.

6when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

Meditation (6): Although David misses Jerusalem, he acknowledges that he doesn’t have to be in Zion to enjoy a spiritual feast. Right here on his bed as he recalls & ruminates on God, His glory & power (v.2), he fares sumptuously. “If day’s cares tempt us to forget God, it is well that night’s quiet should lead us to remember him” (Spurgeon). We see God best in the dark.

The Soul’s Lodging (7-8)

7for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

“Shadow of Your Wings” (7): The top of the Ark of the Covenant was called the mercy seat and this is where God’s presence abided. There were two (2) cherubim on either side of the ark with their wings outstretched and touching over the mercy seat, defending God’s glory. David alludes to these wings and in their shadow where God dwelt is where David finds His help & joy.

8My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Intimacy with the Almighty (8): The word “cling” or “follows close” (NKJV) is the same word used for when a man leaves father & mother and “clings” or “cleaves” to his wife. It denotes the close, sacred union of the soul with its God. It means we are glued to God, the lover of our soul. So the soul clings to God & God clings to the soul with His right hand. Even as a husband’s “right hand embraces” his wife (Song of Sol 2.6; 8.3). This is close, personal, active love.

All of me longs for Thee! It should be, ought to be, must be the earnest desire of every Christian to see & enjoy more & more of the power & glory of God. We must long for deeper intimacy with the Almighty, even as our flesh craves food & drink. Only God can satisfy the souls appetite for Him.

Stay thirsty my brethren!

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Grow in the Will of God, part 3

Having explained what the mystery of God is (3.6) and his role as well as the church’s role with regards to that mystery (3.7-13), Paul offers prayer on behalf of these Christians, closing the first half of this epistle.

The Appreciation of the Mystery (3.14-21)

Paul prays for Christians to be filled with the fullness of God in their inner being.

Ephesians 3:14–21 (ESV)

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,

For this reason: Paul resumes his previous train of thought to conclude what he began in 3.1. Since the Gentiles are partakers of grace with the Jews according to the manifold wisdom of God, Paul lifts his voice in prayer. There is a similarity here to 1.15; there he prayed for knowledge, now he prays for love. Love is the supernatural expression of knowledge of the divine.

Paul prays to God that his brethren not only know (1.15ff), but that they live out what they know. Our knowledge is the basis for life. We need to live out what we know. Love is the supernatural expression of knowledge of the divine. When you know God, you will love God’s family, the church.

I bow my knees before the Father: Knelling is a typical posture for prayer (Luke 22.41). Father  is a term used often in the NT to describe God. No doubt it derives from Jesus who taught His disciples to pray “Our Father in heaven” (Matt 6.9) and Himself prayed “Abba, Father” (Mark 14.36).

Posture in prayer: Kneeling is typical (Luke 22.41; Acts 20.36; 21.5), but not the only posture for prayer; standing (Mark 11.25), sitting (1 Chronicles 17.16), and prostration (Matthew 26.39) are also found in Scripture. “One may pray in any position, even with only a groan or in silence; but the positions noted have come to mean much in the church and for the individual. Careless, thoughtless attitudes of body are not good. Formalism is no more to be feared than the thoughtlessness of meaningless attitudes.” (Lenski 490)

15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

From whom…is named: There are a couple of ways to understand this phrase. 1) God’s Fatherhood is over saints (on earth) and angels (in heaven); 2) God’s Fatherhood is over everything, everybody in heaven or on earth (cf. Eph 4.6). He is the Creator and Progenitor (Originator) of all things. Hence, He is Father of all, over all, through all, and in all. The former seems to be in view; God is Father of His Fatherhood or Family (esp. the church) which bears His name. Paul has presented the cosmic Christ (1.22-23) & the cosmic role of the church (3.10-11); now he presents God as the cosmic Father.

Deism is merely a theology of atheism. It is atheism with a god. The notion that a god set in motion the universe, got it off the ground, then stepped away to focus on…whatever it is a deity like that focuses on is simply another brand of atheism. Further, that kind of god is not worthy of reverence or respect (i.e. worship). Why would I want to know a god who does not seek to know me? In fact, the God of the Bible is closely involved in His creation. It is true that God is with us, Christians; Matthew’s gospel makes this clear (1.23; 28.20). It is equally true that all humans live, move, and have their being because of God’s involvement in the world (see Acts 17.26-28). So in a general sense, God is the Father of all; however, in a specific sense, only His family (i.e. church) derives its name from Him.

16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

That according to the riches of His glory: Paul is not asking that God give from or out of His glory, but according to His glory, which is His essence. Thus, there is no limit to His giving.

He may grant…in your inner being: The verb strengthened is passive voice, i.e. this is something God does. He makes us strong, healthy, vigorous. He does this “through His Spirit.” How this occurs is not addressed nor is it Paul’s point. This is spiritual strength/enrichment for it happens “in the inner being.” We must be willing/attentive souls. Where the Spirit is, there is power, life, vitality. Absent the Spirit, the Body is dead.

Paul prays for these Christians to be empowered, strengthened by the Spirit of God. But if the Spirit does this, why don’t we experience it more? Why does it seem the church is so ineffective today? Two possibilities present themselves:
1) The theology is wrong: Yes, that is what Paul said, but that is not what he meant. This reduces the Christian life to a purely humanistic striving with only our might and power to help. It is too anthropocentric, focused on me and my ability to keep the law of God perfectly. Further, this view means that God is neither able nor willing to work.

2. The theology is right, but we abort the process: Yes, the problem is with us, not with God. He said what He meant when He promised spiritual strength in the inner being, the “moral might” (as Avon Malone calls it) we need to engage in glorious battle with the spiritual forces of darkness, forces that if we attempt to face on our own will slaughter us. “The real problem is that we do not care enough. We do not have the necessary discontent within ourselves that will lead to change. We like the privileges without the bother” (Snodgrass 185). The Spirit seeks out willingness to hear and allow ourselves to be transformed. By the way, transformation is the work of God, not ours. Even as this strengthening is God’s work, so is transformation.

17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

So that Christ…through faith: Paul prays that Christ may dwell in the hearts of these Christians. To sum up the Christian experience, we are to be absolutely soaked, permeated with Christ in our lives – inside, outside, all-around. He takes up residence in and redefines us, shaping and strengthening at the core of our being. Faith is the key to keeping Christ in us.

In the NT, we find the constant struggle to describe the Christian life. In some instances, we are called to “put on’ Christ; in other instances, the Christian is described as being “in Christ” (throughout Ephesians). Then there are those rare occasions (5 total in NT), where Christ is said to live in us. If Christ lives in us, those cherished American ideas of independence, self-determination, and self-fulfillment must be abandoned. As to independence, we are independent of everything but Jesus Christ; indeed, we are wholly dependent upon Him. As to self-determination, self has died and we are totally determined by Him. As to self-fulfillment, we seek only to fulfill Christ’s will which brings true fulfillment to us. Self is dead; Christ lives in me. See Galatians 2.20.

That you…in love: The presence of Christ in the heart of the Christian means love. Rooted is an agricultural term; like a tree, love is the soil by which Christians are nourished. Grounded is an architectural term; like a building, love is to be the foundation upon which the Christian life is built.

18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

May have strength…all the saints: Knowing the love of God is not the exclusive privilege of a few enlightened ones; the whole church (all the saints) needs the strength which comes from God to understand what has previous been hidden, namely, Christ’s love (v.19).

Spiritual comprehension and the ability to spiritually discern especially the love of Christ is only realized in the context of the holy church. Outside the church, one will lack the strength and ability to apprehend Christ’s love. The reason is because it not merely intellectual but also experiential. Absent the church, the body of Christ, one will fail to experience the love of Christ expressed through His body. “God knows nothing of solitary religion” (John Wesley).

What is the…depth: Some have found different shades of meaning in these words. For example, Jerome says Christ’s love reaches up to the angels, down to even the demons and evil spirits, it’s length covers all men and the breadth covers even those who drift and wander. Some see the cross which points up, down, and toward the horizons. Some think it could stand in contrast to the temple of Diana which was one of the wonders of the world. It seems best to understand these as a unit communicating the infinite & intense love of Christ with us in the center of that love.

Picture Paul as he writes of Christ’s love in the center of an enormous sphere or cube which represents Christ’s love. He can see how high and deep and wide and long it is and yet it is unfathomable just how great the structure is. It is breathtakingly grand. And to know Christ is to know His love.

19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

To know…surpasses knowledge: Such a vast love surpasses knowledge and is therefore unknowable. Yet the apostle calls Christians to know Christ’s unknowable love. It exceeds our capacity for comprehension. Still Christians must be ever in pursuit of knowing Christ’s love.

On knowing the love of Christ: “To know this; to feel this; to have a lively sense of it, is one of the highest privileges of the Christian. Nothing will so excite gratitude in our hearts; nothing will promote us so much to a life of self-denial; nothing will make us so benevolent and so dead to the world” (Albert Barnes).

That you may be…of God: “Among all the great sayings in this prayer, this is the greatest” (Clarke). To be filled with God is a great thing; to be filled with the fullness of God even better; but to be filled with all the fullness of God is incredible. Paul is praying that the church would be filled and flooded by all the fullness of God Himself. Again, this is a passive voice verb, i.e. God fills His people with His fullness. This is “the richest, best gift of God to man” (Barnes).

Though we can never fully know Christ’s exceeding love, how can we come to know Christ’s love? “It must find expression in experience, in sorrows and joys, trials and sufferings, in ways too deep for the human mind to fathom, or for human language to express” (Morris 114). I would add that it is also related to our connection to the community of believers, i.e. the church. As we sing, “Sometimes we laugh together, sometimes we cry,/ sometimes we share together heartaches and sighs” (“God’s Family” chorus). When we “rejoice with those that rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” we are experiencing the surpass love of Christ.

20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

Now to Him…we ask or think: This is not something yet to happen nor is it something no longer happening. He is still able to do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” He is able to do “superabundantly above the greatest abundance” (Clarke). Or He is able to do “to the extent which we cannot express” (Barnes). God is able to do “beyond everything” (Lenski). Trying to describe His ability is like chasing the wind.

According to the power at work within us: These are present tense verbs, i.e. God is still able and is still working. His power is working in us. Connect this with v.16, “power through His Spirit in the inner being” (same word for “power”). To the degree we are willing/yielding to be transformed and allow that power to work is the degree to which we will mature/grow, & be the NT church as God/Christ envision.

The power to grow lies in God’s power, not ours. If the foregoing is so – the Father is over all, through all, and in all as the Father of the whole fatherhood; Christians are powerfully strengthened by the presence of the Holy Spirit, permeated with the perpetual presence of Christ, called to know the unknowable love of Christ, and are filled with fullness of God Himself; and we serve a God who can do more than we could ever ask of imagine – then how could we ever look at the plan and purpose of God for His church and call it anything but possible, achievable, wise, and right? This leads to another question…

Why don’t we experience this in the church today? Two answers can be given: 1) the theology is wrong; it sounds nice, but God is neither able to nor at work. 2) the theology is right, but we abort the process. Which leads to still another question…

Are we willing to allow God to work through and in us to accomplish His purposes?

21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

To Him be glory…forever and ever: This final exclamation is emphatic – to Him and Him alone the glory! It always was, is, and will be His. In the Body as well as the Head! “The song of praise, begun upon earth, and protracted through all the generations of men, shall be continued in heaven, by all that are redeemed from the earth” (Clarke). God is glorified in Christ and the church for all eternity. Amen means so be it

Paul shows us from both this prayer and the previous prayer (1.15-23) that prayer must be intensely theocentric (centered on God) and Trinitarian (include the whole Godhead). Father (14), Son (17, 19), and Holy Spirit (16) are all mentioned in this brief prayer. This prayer begins and ends with God (14, 19) and God is mentioned throughout. It might be worthwhile to determine what Paul does not pray for (sick, safe travel, freedom from persecution, etc.) contrasted with what he does pray for (spiritual strength by the Spirit, rooted in love, knowledge of Christ’s love for His saints, etc.)

Fellowship with God is Rooted in the Practice of Brotherly Love

1 John 3.1-10 was an expose on the works of the children of God v. the children of the devil. The child of God is to practice righteousness. John concluded that section with the evidence used to identify the child of God: practice righteousness and love one another. This launches the present conversation on loving the brethren.

11For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

For this is the message—some commentators say that since this is identical to 1.5 that John is starting a new division in his epistle. John’s admonition to his readers in light of the Gnostic teachers is to look to the revealed message which they have heard from the apostles from the beginning, not to the secret enlightenment of the Gnostics.

That you have heard from the beginning—”you have heard” is aorist tense. “From the beginning” harkens back to 2.7; this is the beginning of their career as Christians. And it continues to be in-force. Abide in the teaching which they have heard from the beginning (2.24).

Love one another—here is the aim of the message. This was the message even revealed by Jesus (John 13.34-35). Objectively, the singular desire to see Christ formed in your brother.

12We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

Like Cain—Cain’s attitude and actions typifies the conduct of the world toward Christians. Cain was under the influence of Satan even as the world lies under the influence of him (5.19). For a Christian to exemplify this kind of behavior would be worldly, wrong, devilish.

Murdered his brother—the word used for murder in contexts such as these points to the violence and mercilessness of the act, hence, the NET “brutally murdered.” Savagery involved. Gk. Sphazo, to slay, slaughter, butcher, by cutting the throat; John graphically describes this.

Why…? His own deeds were evil—his deeds lined up with the evil one. It seems this also points to Cain’s lifestyle (linked to context); he lived a lifestyle of evil deeds. “own” – as compared to the righteous works, done by faith, of Abel. This produced resentment, jealousy, hatred, then murder.

13Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

Do not be surprised…– Present imperative, “stop marveling.” Apparently, the readers were surprised by the treatment they were receiving from the world. Cain (world) still hates Abel

Brothers—before and after, they are “beloved” and “little children” but brothers in this section.

The world hates you—hatred is the lack of the desire to see Christ formed in another person. “You mean the world doesn’t want to help me look like Christ?” Light and darkness are hostile (cf. John 3.19).

14We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

We know that we have passed—”we know” is perf. Tense from oida; certain, absolute knowledge. “We have passed” is perfect tense. We were dead (state of being) and became alive. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt this change happened. How?…

Because we love the brothers—they are obeying the commandment. Those who are obedient to the commandments of God (namely, the commandment of Christ to love one another) is in the light, has light.

Whoever does not love—lit. the one not loving; connect to “the one hating” in v.15.

…abides in death—the person failing to obey the commandment remains in a state of spiritual death, settled into it. In other words, he remains in darkness (2.9; cf. John 12.46). “A Christian can no more live without love that a plant can live without growth.” Pulpit Commentary.

15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

…is a murderer—a throat cutting brother butcher. You’re a Cain who is serving the evil one. This is the same word that is used of Satan (John 8.44); he was a murderer from the beginning and when you hate you brother (no desire or indifference toward their becoming like Christ), you exhibit devilish behavior.

You know—Gk. Oida, perfect tense. The settled conviction; absolute, certain knowledge.

No murderer has eternal life abiding in him—John is not saying murder is the unpardonable sin (cf. Mark 3.29). Rather, he is showing hate and death go together just as love and life go together. Death and life are mutually exclusive. “Where hate is, there is death; where there is death, there can be no life.” – Woods, pg.280.

16By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

By this we know love—or lit. “we know the love.” “The thing called love” (Smith). “Know” is Gk. Ginosko, to know something through investigation of the facts. They have acquired and possess this knowledge concerning love. How? Looking at Christ’s love. We cannot know agape without a trip to the Calvary/the cross.

He laid down his life for us—”He” is unquestionably Jesus. “laid down” – as one would lay down/aside a garment (see 13.4). He was active in this (John 10.18); no one took it from Him. It was deliberate, voluntary, and even casual. Jesus died on purpose; it was no accident. He died “for us” or “on our behalf.” Cain is the example of hatred (murderer) whereas Christ is the supreme example of love (murdered). Love, then, is wrapped with the blanket of self-sacrifice.

We ought to lay down our lives—”We” is emphatic. We have seen this “ought” before (2.6) concerning the debt we owe to God to live like Christ. We also owe our brethren the debt of love (cf. Rom 13.8). There is an assignment, an obligation (see 2 Cor 5.14-15). While our laying down of our lives has no atoning value, it is a supreme proof of our love for the brethren.

17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

If anyone has the world’s goods—”anyone” is anyone in the household of faith. “World’s goods” (Gk. Ton bion tou kosmou) is your livelihood. The woman with an issue of blood (Luke 8.43-48) spent all her bios, livelihood, trying to get well. Your possessions, property, what you live on, resources.

Sees his brother in need—not just a passing glance; this person worships with you, is your brother/sister and you see them week-in and week-out (daily in 1st century). You’ve watched their plight and understand their need and lack.

Yet closes his heart against him—”against” is Cainish language, behavior (see Gen 4.8). This can also be translated “turns away from him.” To close the heart is lit. to shut up the bowels, the ancient thought that emotions are from the inward parts (similar to our heart today). Implied is that for a moment, his heart was open to his brother’s plight.

How does God’s love abide in him? – rhetorical question: it doesn’t! The motivation of neglect, then, is hatred. And even passive neglect is itself hatred; it certainly doesn’t represent God’s love.

18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Let us not love in word or talk—James 2.15-16 is a prime example of someone who loves in word only. John does not condemn affectionate speech; but this only is empty.

But in deed and truth—Back up what you speak/say with action; love is a verb.

19By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;

By this we shall know—”By this” points back to v.18. “It is by doing these deeds that believers assure themselves that they belong to the truth, because the outward action reflects the inward reality of their relationship with God. Put another way, ‘conduct is the clue to paternity.’” (NET notes). ”We will know” future tense; in any future occurrence/emergency we will know…

That we are of the truth—some commentators say “of the truth” can be understood “of God.” It would seem if John wanted to say that, he would have said it. It seems John is rather saying that Christians can know they are listening to the voice of Christ (Jn 18.37).

Reassure our hearts—(an idiom, literally ‘to convince the heart’) to exhibit confidence and assurance in a situation which might otherwise cause dismay or fear—‘to be confident, to be assured’” (Lowe-Nida). What better to silence the voice of the heart (conscience) than the voice of the Lord! The voice of “the truth” speaks a better word, assuring our hearts.

Before him—in the very presence of God, the Judge.

20for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

Whenever our heart condemns us—our heart (conscience) acts as local peace officer, telling us “good job” or “bad form,” what is right and wrong. Needs divine law—Rom 2.12

God is greater than our heart—God is the Supreme Court; He overrules. Only God can give us a clean conscience by the blood of Jesus: Heb 9.14; 1 Peter 3.21. Cf. Rom 8.1

He knows everything—He knows your lifestyle, career, habitual practice when it comes to listening to the voice of Christ. He understands when we are conscience stricken over sin.

21Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

If our heart does not condemn us—Our heart (conscience) does not convict us of something bad/wrong. If we are free from the internal judgment of conscience…In reality, we need this freedom from condemnation. We need a clear conscience before God. This has implications upon our prayer life.

We have confidence before God—This is present reality. We continue to have confidence/boldness before God Almighty. Lit. confidence is the freedom to speak and coupled with the word “towards” (Gk. Pros) implies a special “face-to-face” communication. Prayer.

22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

Whatever we ask we receive from him—We can ask with the expectation that we will receive. “We ask” is present tense, i.e. we keep on asking. “The prerequisites for answered prayer are an uncondemning heart, the habitual keeping of God’s commandments, and the habitual doing of those things which please Him.” (Wuest) “We receive” is present tense; keep on receiving. This is the Christian’s habitual experience (see also Matt 7.7a, 8a).

Because (causal hoti) we keep his commandments—present tense, we keep on obeying His commandments (see 5.3b). Walk in the light, walk as Jesus walked, abide in Him; contextually, love one another in deed and truth. “Obedience is the indispensible condition, not the meritorious cause, of answered prayer” (Stott).

And do what pleases him—This is a characteristic of Jesus (John 8.29) and He was heard (John 11.42). God desires it and therefore it is fit, right that we do it. This also touches on motivation – out of our love and gratitude we do these things.

23And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

This is his commandment—singular, what God has ordered of humanity.

We believe in the name of His Son—Belief is personal conviction; how can God demand this? When the evidence is clear, then He can command that people believe. It is evident in what He has made (Rom 1.19-20; Heb 11.1). He demands that we evaluate the evidence and believe. Concerning His Son, the evidence is clear and has been preserved even to today. There is enough evidence to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Aorist tense used points to a decisive moment when you put your faith and trust in “the name” (the whole personality, all that Jesus is) of the Son of God.

Love one another—How can God command this? Because He Himself is love (4.8). To know God, is to demonstrate brotherly love. (See John 13.34; 15.12, 17; 1 Jn 2.7; 3.11; 4.7). Present tense is used pointing to the continuous action of loving the brethren.

24Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

Whoever keeps his commandments—lit. the one keeping His commandments; this is present tense, continued, habitual obedience to the commandments of God; lifestyle. What commandments? V.23

Abides in God and God in him— should read: “abides in Him and He in him.” keeps on abiding in God. Same language as 4.15. Whether “Him” is God or Christ would probably be unimportant to John esp. considering John 14.23; 17.21 where Jesus uses the pronouns “we” and “us” dwelling in/with believers. God lives in us, present reality. Fellowship language.

We know that he abides in us—Gk. Ginosko for “know”; that knowledge which comes through comprehension by seeing, hearing, investigation, experience. We understand God has taken up residence in us (fellowship with God); how?

By the Spirit whom he has given us—”he has given” is clearly past tense (aorist in Gk) but the precise time of this giving is disputed. Some say Pentecost (Pulpit Commentary), although it should be noted that “us” seems to include not only the apostle but his recipients. Others say beginning of Christian life (Stott). But then the question of operation arises. Some say it is fact God has given us the Spirit but that only through the Word does He motivate us to present an abode hospitable for the Father and Son to abide (Woods). Others say the Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds, elevate our affections, quicken us in performance of duty, and imbue us with the temper and spirit of the Lord (Barnes). Still others say this is the “Gift Ordinary” of the Holy Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance: Acts 2.38; Eph 1.14; 2 Cor 1.22; Rom 5.5 (Coffman). “By the Word we were taught that such a life was the right one to lead. By the Spirit we are so inspired that we cannot lead any other.” (Pulpit Commentary 86). If I confess Jesus has come in the flesh, to that degree I apprehend that I am inspired and will live accordingly.

Fellowship with God is rooted in the Christian’s love for God

What do you love? Who do you love? What is interesting about our concept of love is the nebulous nature of love. We throw the word “love” around very loosely – we love everything. I love God. I love my wife. I love college football. I love chocolate cake. Each of those has a different level of meaning. That is to say I don’t love God as much as I love chocolate cake nor do I love college football as much as I love my wife. Of course, my love for my wife is different that my love for God. When it comes to fellowship with God and the Christian’s love for God, John has five reasons why the Christian should not the world and should therefore love God (2.15-17).

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Do not love the world—this is the inordinate desire for the world and the things of the world. It is a mindset set on the earthy and earthly. In a word: worldly. It is not only action but these actions are produced by the attitude. Why not love the world? V.17, its passing away.

The world—ordered system of which Satan is the head (5.19). This is the dominion of Satan.

If anyone loves the world—if your desire is for the world (continued practice, habit, career), God has no part with you (fellowship). See Matt 6.24; Luke 16.13. You cannot sacrifice yourself to the world and then sacrifice yourself to God. We cannot serve two masters.

The love of the Father… – It is impossible for the love of God to coexist with the love of the world. Hence, God’s love is not in us for the love of the world has consumed us.

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

All that is in the world—everything the world can produce and promise. Promises of sensual, transient gratification; these promises go unfulfilled, just ask Hollywood.

Desire— “lust” (ASV, KJV). This is a longing (passionate), a craving for a particular thing. In Spanish, it is a “grano” (nothing seems to satisfy until you satisfy that appetite); in the South they call it a “hankerin’.”

The desire of the flesh—Those things internal that we do not have (come of which are essential to survival). Those sensual and impure desires which seek gratification in women/men, strong drink, delicious viands, and the like. Combating this: Rom 13.14

The desires of the eyes— Those things which are external that we do not have. Those desires for the finer things such as gaudy dress, splendid houses, superb furniture, expensive equipage, trappings, etc. ex. Matt 4.8; Luke 4.5

Pride in possessions—Concerning things internal that we do have. Not only the desire but also the boasting of what you have be it honors, titles, and pedigrees; boasting in ancestry, family connections, great offices, honorable acquaintances; bragging about control over future events and destiny, and the like. Ex. Dan 4.30

Not from the Father but…the world—these do not have their origin or end in God.

17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

The world is passing away—It is passing away even now. It will cease to exist, end.

Along with its desires—its all fading away: the vain pursuits, worldly pleasures, generations.

Whoever does the will of God—that is you seek the pleasure, honor, and profit from above. Specifically, in the context, this has to do with not loving the world, loving one another, obeying the commands of God, walking in the light.

Abides forever—Why? Because we are in God (v.5b-6) and God is eternal and unchangeable, unfading. The world will end, but God (and we) will go unendingly in eternity. This is a striking contrast between the believer and the world; the world is passing away but the believer remains (keeps on remaining) forever.

Five reasons not to love the world

  1. Love of the Father (v.15b)
  2. Command (v.15a) – Do not love the world
  3. All this world can give us is unfulfilled promises (v.16) – lust and pride
  4. These things are not from God (v.16b)
  5. The world is passing away (v.17) – it will not last forever.

Therefore, love God.

The Lost Sheep

Once again we have a decent break in the chapter division for ch.15; I believe this is one unit of Scripture that is meant to be taken as a whole as Jesus shows us through vivid parable the grace of God, the pursuit of God, the gentleness of God, and the love of God. This is one of the most loved and (perhaps) oft preached chapters of the Bible. In fact, most unchurched people know about the prodigal son (v.11-24). I will do my best, in the treatment of this text, to maintain the structural integrity of this teaching of Jesus in ch.15.

But we must realize that this context is tied to the foregoing context. Notice Luke 14.35: He who has ears to hear, let him hear. That is how ch.14 ends; notice how ch. 15 begins: Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. Did you see the connection? Jesus finishes his discourse on discipleship with an admonition to hear his words and the tax collectors and sinners heed that admonishment. The lowest of society are doing what says while the Pharisees and scribes, the religious leaders of the day, are grumbling (v.2). What a shocking contrast! Tax collectors were hated by the society – they were seen as helpers of the evil empire, the Romans. As Leon Morris puts it, “They were ostracized by many and regarded as outcasts by the religious.” Sinners were not much better; they lived immoral lives and were publically recognized for their lives which were contrary to the Law.

It is these kinds of people, the despised and disobedient, that Jesus received and ate with (v.2). To eat with someone was not merely to associate yourself with them, but also pointed to welcome and recognition of that person as worthy of fellowship. And so there is contempt in the words of the Pharisees and scribes as they comment on the situation before them: This man, Jesus, who is supposed to be some kind of religious leader, eats with this kind of riff raff! But remember, these people had gathered for a purpose: to hear Him. That is, to hear the voice of the one who speaks and the storms are calmed, demons flee, even dead bodies come back to life (see ch.8). There is life in these words, freedom and peace. No wonder it is these kind of people, tax collectors and sinners, those in social bondage, troubled by their past, dead in their transgressions and sins, who flock to hear Him.

Urged by the contempt of the religious leaders and perhaps burdened to vindicate his audience (for Jesus’ vidication will be found in an empty tomb), he speaks a parable to “them.” Them could be specifically the Pharisees and scribes (very likely) or it could be to the audience in general. Nevertheless, the parable is addressed to “them”: What man of you…. It is a rhetorical question; any one of them would do what Jesus proposes. The picture is painted of a flock of one hundred sheep. One goes missing. The good shepherd will not leave it to die in the wilderness; instead he will go and search until he has found that one lost sheep. Why? The ninety-nine are safe and sound; that one lost sheep is in danger in the open. This was customary.

And finding the sheep, the shepherd does not begrudingly grab the stubborn sheep and grumble all the way back to the flock. He does not beat the stupid animal for going astray. He does not even raise his voice to the animal. If he raises his voice, it is to rejoice over finding this one lost sheep. He gladly hoists this blessed beast onto his shoulder, smiling from ear to ear, as he lovingly takes it back to the flock. He rejoices with his neighbors for it is a happy occasion (v.6).

And here is the application in v.7: heaven rejoices over the repentant sinner even more than over the righteous who need not repent. To be sure, there is rejoicing for the faithful; but there is more joy over the returning sinner. And who was Jesus with? Those who needed a clearer picture of God. The Jews had muddied the water when it came to God. They believed God rejoiced over a returning sinner; but they did not picture God actively seeking out the sinner. And that is the revolutionary picture painted by our Savior. God is a seeking God, he is in pursuit of the straying sinner, doing everything in his power to track down and restore that straying sheep. A Jewish saying was, “There is joy before God when those who provoke Him perish from the world.” Do you see the burden these religious teachers had bound on the lost? But Jesus comes and presents a very different idea about God. He is God who lovingly searches every high and low, every peak and valley, seeking out his one lost sheep. What grand and marvelous news this must have been to the ears of those who came to hear him! They found themselves in the parable and identified with the sheep. God had come to seek and save them and sitting before was the incarnate reality of this truth.

A Call to Courage

A common phrase people use is “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Apparently, many people smelled the smoke radiating from the blazing Pharisees and scribes following the burn Jesus just gave them in Luke 11.37ff. So Luke tells us that “many thousands” of people have gathered around Jesus. Literally, “myriads” of people have come to hear Jesus. So many are there (upwards of 10,000 perhaps, according to some) that some of the people are being trampled. Imagine the buzz of electricity running through the crowd. “If only I could hear his voice,” “if only I could touch him,” “If only…” Here is the attitude God’s people today must once again ignite within His church: a fiery passion to hear the word of the Lord proclaimed. May there never come a day when the people stop their ears or desire not to hear the word of the Lord. People in other countries walk great distances to hear one sermon from God’s word, memorizing key passages read and take it back to their villiage, many of whom have never seen the inside of a New Testament. What hunger, then and now!

An Evil to be Shunned

The rest of Luke 12.1 begins the lesson Jesus wishes to impart that day. But we must realize this is a lesson to many different people, the first of which is his disciples. He tells them to watch themselves or be alert for the “yeast of the Pharisees.” There should be no confusion as to what the “yeast” is – Jesus explains it for us: it is hypocrisy. That is to say watch out for their duplicity. The idea behind hypocrisy is that the person who is a hypocrite is an actor, merely putting on a show externally but internally they are a different person all togehter. They are merely a play actor. The disciple must never become like them. Instead, we are called to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4.15). Our motives are to be pure and our actions are to match what is within us.

Jesus explains why the disciple is not to be an actor – man can never really hide anything. Either everything will be shown for what it is eventually in this life or God will remove entirely the mask used to cover over our true motives. The deeds we do and the words we say in darkness will be revealed in the light of day light. Truly Jesus came into this world to expose the deeds of darkness inasmuch as he was “the Light of the World.” However strong man’s desire to keep hidden his wicked deeds, his duplicity, nothing is hidden from God (see Heb 4.12).

A Virtue to be Cultivated

If hypocrisy is the evil to be shunned then godly fear is the virtue a disciple is to have. So often, a Christian’s fear is of the wrong things. Too often I hear or see how deathly afraid (pun intended) Christians are of death. This is unwarranted. I suppose we might be afraid of the way we may die (like being eaten by sharks or drowning), but we should not fear death. And in light of what Jesus says in Luke 12.4, even the way we die should not be a factor so much. Do not fear men and what they can do to the body, rather fear God for he controls your eternal destiny. And this is the key to overcoming (shunning) the evil of hypocrisy. Fear of what men may say or do to us would cause us to become the play-actor God hates. The Pharisees were masters of planting seeds of doubt and manipulating people, cultivating the hypocrisy that they themselves contained. Jesus says don’t allow this to happen. Cultivate the right kinds of the seeds, namely, revential fear of God. Fear the only who has control over the eternal, not those who believe they have control over the physical. Plainly, fear God, not man.

But the proper kind of fear we are to have is coupled with reassurance for the disciple. The sparrows are not forgotten by God; neither is the disciple. In fact, so intimately does God love and care for us, that he has the very hairs on our head numbered. What a profound thought that the infinite God of this universe still loves and cares for me in such an intimate manner. Stand in awesome fear of God, not in absurd fright of this life.

A Lord to Acknowledge

Jesus now gives us some very sober words concerning our attitude toward Him and how important that. For if we fail to “confess” (NASB) Jesus while on this earth, he will not “confess” us before the angels of God. Our understanding of confession is key. In the Greek, the word is homologese from the root homologeo. You may recognize homo which mean “same” and logo which means “word.” Hence, to confess means simply to “say the same word” about a person or thing. In this case, we speak the same word about Christ as the Son of God as God speaks. And we speak this word before or in front of men. This could be a call to evangelism or it may simpl be the “good confession” before a body of believers. I think the importance is that we recognize our Lord as the Christ. The promise is that if we do this, He will speak the same word as the Father about us. That is, our Father calls us “son” (Gal 3.26-27) and Jesus recognizes that, even affirming that fact to the angels of heaven.

However, the danger is in failing to speak the same word about Jesus. That is, we deny his divinity as the Christ. In this, there is a refusal to agree that Jesus is the Christ. Here is the precise definition of one who “antichrist” as given by the apostle John (1 John 2.22). This man is a liar and there is no affirmation before the angels in heaven. Only a sad condemnation.

In v.10, Jesus explains the unforgivable sin. Much can be said about this passage and for a more  thorough discussion of it click here to connect to my discussion site.

A Promise to Keep

The final words of this section deal (Luke 12.11-12) deal with the disciples on trial. There is coming a time in the ministry of the Twelve when they will be dragged into court and questioned about their preaching (see Acts 3, 4). What is a disciple to do? Jesus tells them not to worry (a key teaching of Jesus in his ministry). Rather, understand that the disciple is covered for the Holy Spirit will speak on their behalf, giving them the words they need to say at that time.

Do we still have this miraculous empowering today? I don’t think so. But we do have the Spirit’s words contained in the sum of Scripture (Eph 6.17). Hence, we must pour over God’s word, commit it to memory so that if we ever are called upon to give a defense for the hope within us (1 Peter 3.15), we are ready with a reasoned response of the things we believe. We are still taught through the Word of God, the Spirit’s words, what we are to say to anyone who asks us to defend ourselves.