“It all Comes Down to This”

“It all Comes Down to This”  John 15:9–17
The Sixth Sunday of Easter (B)  5/6/18
Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

If we had just the one verse, we could easily misinterpret… be confused and uncertain as to what our Lord meant… as to what He was referring to when He said… “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

It is pretty amazing and quite shocking what people believe “abiding in Christ’s love” is all about. More than just a few would argue that it is up for self-interpretation… that it is different for everyone because you know what? We are all different and our differences are all good. God simply wants us to abide in love… to be loving and caring. Leave it at that.

That certainly sounds good from a worldly point of view. And it works well with those who seek to have it both ways… to be a Christian… to appear “Godly”…. and to, at the same time, embrace the things of this world.

But how many times have we read in Holy Scripture and heard from the very lips of God that we cannot have it both ways. It comes down to this… we either serve God or man. We either follow God or we follow man. We either embrace God… His Words, ways and will… or we embrace the world.

And when we give it any thought at all… we realize that this is huge… that it has far reaching and very serious implications for us all of our life… in every aspect of our lives. Everything we say and do. In every relationship we have. Everything we pursue. How we live our lives. Is it spent… lived out… serving God or serving man? Which many times amounts to serving ourselves and our own desires. Are we following God or following man? Are we embracing God or embracing the world?

No. Christ’s statement, “Abide in my love” is not open for interpretation except by Christ Himself. And He barely finishes this statement before qualifying the same. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”

“If you have no other gods but Me, you abide in My love. If you do not take My Name in vain, you abide in My love. If you keep the Sabbath day holy, faithfully hear My Word and worship Me, you abide in My love. If you honor your parents and all whom I have set in authority over you in the home, in the church and in the world, you abide in My love. If you do not murder and hold all human life to be sacred, you abide in My love. If you do not commit adultery and lead a sexually pure life, you abide in My love. If you do not steal, you abide in My love. If you do not bear false witness against your neighbor, but speak well of him and put the best construction on things, you abide in My love. If you do not covet, you abide in My love.”

You see my friends, the key word in our Lord’s statement is “MY love.” Not yours… not mine… not ours… not others… but Christ’s and Christ’s alone. It is not up for self-interpretation or one’s personal druthers. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”

But how can we do this if we do not know, remember and constantly remind ourselves of the same… His Commandments that is? The Apostles, the early Church Fathers and spiritual fathers down through the centuries, including the blessed Dr. Martin Luther have all encouraged and exhorted us to daily pray, to daily remind ourselves and give due consideration to the commandments so that we may daily abide in Christ’s love. Silly people.

We are going through the Ten Commandments yet again in Bible class. Silly people. We lovingly remind our children and young adults in Sunday School, Senior Youth Bible Class and Confirmation about the Commandments. Silly people.

Silly people… also called “fools” and even worse by every sinful generation as we simply seek to keep God’s Commandments realizing that they are His good and perfect will for us, shared with us out of love for us. And that love is at the center of the same… at the center of all of them… the first three Commandments (otherwise known as the First Table of the Law) dealing with our love for the Lord our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And the Second Table, the remaining seven Commandments, speaking about our love for our neighbor.

Indeed, we go on to hear Jesus say, This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” You see, the first makes the second possible. God’s love for us in Christ Jesus and in light of this… in understanding and appreciating this… being filled with Christ’s love… then, in turn, our love for others… all others. Not just those who meet our criteria for loving them. To love others unequivocally as we keep our eyes on the cross of all things. For there we see love personified in Christ Jesus. There we come to realize the full impact of our Lord’s statement, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”

And that is what we are… His friends. Christ calls us this, declares us to be this… His friends for whom He willingly laid down His life while we were yet sinners… His enemies.  And we joyfully continue in this wonderful new relationship as we continue to live our lives in the freedom He won for us. As we refuse to go back into the darkness of sin and selfishness. As we do not again submit to the devil and give into his ways.

Our Lord declares, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” And this, endued by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. The Spirit who gives us the wisdom and the strength to follow our Savior as He leads us every day of our lives… as He leads us home, to our true home in heaven with Him.

It all comes down to this, dear brothers and sisters… to God’s love first and foremost. And this, in Jesus Christ. And then that love lived out in Jesus… our love for Him… our love for our Heavenly Father and for the Holy Spirit.

It all comes down to this, … to God’s commands and our diligently seeking to keep the same… where to the outside world it appears to be an obsession, when in reality is simply our fervent desire and determination… all out of love for the Lord our God… all out of love for our neighbor.

It comes down to this… but is “this” reality for each of us… now… in our lives? The answer to varying degrees is “No.” But thanks be to God there is forgiveness for all the times… all of the ways… that we have sinned against God and against our neighbor. Where we have gone against God’s Commandments.

Thanks be to God that we have in Him … in Jesus.. a new start, a fresh start, clean start to go on as our Lord states at the end of our text and bear the fruit of faith and this abundantly all to His glory. To bear the wonderful, beautiful and divine fruit of love. It all comes down to this… and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Amen.