TO KNOW HIM IS TO LOVE HIM
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
— John 14:15-24, ESV
“To Him Is To Love Him” is the title of a song introduced in 1958 by The Teddy Bears. It reached number one on the Billboard charts. The hit was written by the band’s lead singer, Phil Specter, who died this year in prison while serving a life sentence for murder. Given Specter’s infamy and the fact the lyrics came from words on his father’s tombstone, perhaps the song needed a little reformation.
It was covered by many, most successfully in 1987, when it reached number one again, this time on the country charts, as sung by the trio of Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt. These are three of my favorite females in the world (next to my beautiful wife, daughters, and granddaughters), and they raised the standard of the song significantly.
Now I’d like to take the title and elevate it infinitely, by ascribing it to God. To know God is to love Him. And, to love God is to obey Him. Obedience without love is cold legalism. Love without obedience is hot hypocrisy. To get it just right you have to really know, truly love, and fully obey the living Word and the written word of God.
How do you know God?
All of creation cries out for the Creator to be known and worshiped. Nature is God's handiwork. History is His playground, battleground, and holy ground. In the fulness of time, Jesus Christ came to show us “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (ref. Colossians 2:9, NIV). The Holy Spirit, mentioned by name for the first time by John in this text, “Proceeds from the Father and the Son” (Nicene Creed). The Holy Scriptures, the word of God, the Bible, reveals the only true and living God as one supreme being in three persons, Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
Consider what this text alone tells us about the tri-unity of God, a key theme in the Gospel of John from the prologue. This short passage of Scripture refers to God as the “Father,” ten times (in noun or pronoun). It is mostly a quotation from God the Son, and “Jesus” or “Lord” are mentioned an astounding 29 times. And in seven perfect references, we are explicitly introduced to the third person of the Trinity, the Parakletos, the “Helper” (ESV), the “enabler and strengthener,” (better translation) “the Spirit of truth,” the blessed Holy Spirit.
God has clearly revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some take this to mean there are three separate and distinct beings, each lesser than the other, like Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other religions. But the Gospel of John (and all of Scripture) teaches there is one supreme being, one true and living God, revealed in three persons, acting in tri-unity to accomplish God’s ultimate purposes and plans.
We must know the Father, immortal, invisible, who has ordained and chosen a people for Himself to live with Him eternally. We must know the Son, incarnate, not invisible, who came to earth to make an atonement for the people of God, forgiving our sins and giving everlasting life. We must know the Holy Spirit, who regenerates and indwells the people of God, remaining with us and in us to enable us to know, love, and obey the Lord our God.
This is the doctrine of the Trinity. This is how God makes Himself known: the Father has chosen to make Himself known in the Son through the power of the Spirit. This is how we know the Lord: the Spirit enables us to believe in the Son, who unites us in relationship with the Father. Once we know Him, we cannot help but to love Him.
How do you love God?
One of the ways to know if someone loves you is to address them in a conditional sentence, then lower the boom. “If you love me,” can precede almost any request, major or minor. It can come before a marriage proposal, the purchase of an expensive gift, or summon a beverage out of the refrigerator when you’re too lazy to get up from the couch.
Jesus used the phrase quite seriously as He lingered in the upper room with His disciples. All of the Gospel of John up to now has recorded the heights, depths, and lengths of Christ’s love for His disciples. Now for the first time, He questions and commands their love for Him.
Most people think they love the Lord if they just say so, but no. Some believe joining a church, irrespective of any involvement with the church, is enough, but not by a long shot. Others feel no matter what they say or do, God loves everybody and everybody loves God so we are all going to be all right in the end. This is a massive misunderstanding of the love of God.
Jesus clearly said that true love for Him is not based upon what you say, or how you feel, but what you do, namely, obey Him, His word, His commandments. Vs. 15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Vs. 21, “Whoever has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” Vs. 23, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” And, the antithesis in vs. 24, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” Could Christ compel us with a more clarion, constant call?
Some argue “my commandments” are limited to the red letters in modern printings of the Bible. Jesus did speak important imperatives, like “repent,” “believe,” “follow Me,” and “love one another,” obedience to witch should be sufficient to mark one as a lover of Christ and a true Christian. Yet there is more to Christ’s commandments than those found within the four Gospels.
Let us go back to our knowledge of God. To know and love Jesus, is to know and love the Father and the Spirit, too. All of the commandments in the Bible are God’s commandments; therefore, they are included in what Jesus calls “my commandments.” Christians may ferret out the civil, ceremonial, and dietary laws of the theocratic old covenant, but moral imperatives such as sanctity of life, sexual ethics, and truth-telling never go out of style. Jesus would also want His followers to forgo the ridiculous rules of the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath, but He does insist on keeping the Lord’s Day holy for worship, rest, and reordering of one’s life under His lordship. Finally, let us not forget the subtle directing of the Holy Spirit, who commands us from within with a still, small voice, teaching us and leading us in keeping with the collection of commandments in the Holy Scriptures.
The one you love the most is the one you disobey the least. If you love yourself supremely, you will keep your own commandments at the expense of God’s. If you love someone or something more than God, you will disobey God to please them for temporary gain or pleasure. But if you truly love the Lord Jesus Christ, you will keep God’s commandments, first and foremost, no matter what the cost.
Imagine what it would be like if confessing Christians kept the commandments of God, out of love for Him, and love for one another. There would be little crime, since most of our nation’s highest laws are based on the moral imperatives of Scripture. There would be scant want, for charity and generosity poured out through Spirit-filled believers could be much more efficient than programs mandated by a soulless government. There would be no sexual revolution and its subsequent curses of no-fault divorce and free-for-all abortion. And all of our churches would be full on Sundays!
But of course, not all confessing Christians are true Christians. John MacArthur wrote in his watershed book, The Gospel According to Jesus, “Obedience is the only possible proof that person really knows Jesus Christ.” Only true believers know Him, and love Him, and obey Him, in three-part harmony.
To know Him is to love Him.
Those who do not know the Lord cannot love the Lord, for you cannot really love someone you do not know. Obviously, those who do not love the Lord do not care to obey Him, either, although unbelievers often do obey the commandments of God for their own good. All humans bear the imago deo and everyone possess a God-given conscience, which explains natural obedience. But such obedience does not save, only supernatural faith, which is proven by loving obedience.
It must also be admitted that often those who know the Lord and love the Lord do not obey the Lord, all the time. No one can, perfectly, except the one perfect person who ever graced the earth, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. But disobedience in the life of a true believer is a lapse, not a lifestyle. Such lapses are fleeting and temporary, not stretched into years, decades, or the length of one’s life. If you have not walked in obedience to the Lord in a long, long time, you are not backslidden, you are lost. Salvation is for those whose knowledge and love for the Lord is proven by a persistent obedience.
Let’s go back and look at God. It is the Father who grants saving faith. It is the Son who died to make faith save. It is the Spirit who enables and empowers faith and its subsequent obedience. Take away any one of the three — Father, Son, Holy Spirit — and you don’t have God, you don’t know God.
Let’s take a good look at ourselves. We know God by faith, we serve Him in love, and we prove it by obedience. Take away any one of these three — faith, love, obedience — and you do not have a Christian, you do not love God.
To know the Lord is to love the Lord. To love the Lord is to obey the Lord. This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!