I remember being stopped a few years ago by someone in the community, asking if I was the new preacher at the First Christian Church. I said I was, and she asked what I was currently preaching on. Being that I lean toward expository preaching (preaching chapter and verse), I was in the book of James, and I told her so. What she said next sticks with me: “I don’t like James, it’s such a judgmental book.” This didn’t stick with me because it was the first time I’d heard it, it stuck with me because, over and again, I hear Christians repeat similar things about similar passages of scripture: anything that calls us to Holiness, to expressing our faith in Christ by our actions, that calls us to do more than be a Sunday Christian usually stirs us up and makes us uncomfortable. I am by no means saying that is who this individual is, but it led me to think of my own life. How often have I been to scared or nervous to share my faith? How often have I been called out of the boat, only to stay put? How often have I used an excuse for my own selfishness to not obey the Word? Yet I can’t help but come to one conclusion: Jesus says (several times, in fact) that if we love Him, we will obey His commands, that if we are His followers, we will do what He says, and that if we are His friends, we will obey Him. Why does Jesus say all of this? Because obedience is the highest form of love. It is why God rejected Israel’s sacrifices throughout various times in its history: just like the rest of us, Israel tried fulfilling its flesh while trying to attain the Holiness of God. The two are mutually exclusive: either you’re in the flesh, or you’re in the Spirit, and neither is, at all, compatible with the other. This is where WE must choose: do I obey Christ or obey my own nature? Jesus says that if we seek to save our lives we will lose them, but if we lose our lives for His sake, then we will find them. He is the only Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes the Father but through Him. Obedience is the best way to show love for Him, and so we must seek to be like Christ, who was, Himself, obedient to the Father in every way. Let us, then, show our proof of our love for Christ: let us obey Him and do as He commands! And His commands are not burdensome, nor does He command “Do as I say and not as I do!” His life showed us what true obedience looks like. His Death showed us what true love looks like, and His resurrection gives us Life that is truly Life. That is worthy of obedience! John 14:15-31 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 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.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 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.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 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. 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.
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.