The subject is love. Although we us the term love very loosely sometimes, saying we love this food or we love those clothes, although the word of God differentiates between a natural, horizontal love and a spiritual, vertical love, we ought to be reminded that for the child of God there is really only one kind of love; there is love. By way of introduction to this tremendously important and fascinating subject, consider these examples. There was a young man who was courting a maiden. He professed such a great love for this young lady of his choice that he expressed the willingness to swim the widest ocean for her, or to climb the highest mountain. Indeed, wild horses could not keep him from her side! Then after a farewell embrace he said to her, “Good night. I’ll see you on Friday if it doesn’t rain.” What do you suppose ran through the young lady’s mind?. . . . There is in our land the custom of recognizing Mother’s and Father’s Day. Children and young people make or buy gifts for their parents as an expression of love and gratitude. When these tokens are unwrapped, the parents use the ties or perfume, but oftentimes their unspoken reaction goes something like this: “Oh, I like these things you have given me, but do you know what I would really like? You don’t have to give me gifts. Just listen to what your mother and I say to you all the year through. That would be the finest gift!”
So it is with love as it relates to God and to Christ. This love is the response of the child of God to God’s eternal love for him, and is actually the same love as we have for our parents, our fellow saints, those we court, and our neighbor. In His farewell sermon as it is recorded in John 14:15, Jesus states, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Today as perhaps never before these words must be understood and kept by the members of Christ’s Church, be they young or old.
The commandments to which Jesus refers are the Ten Commandments, the moral law given to Israel at Mount Sinai through Moses. These two tables of the law, written full, cover all life’s relationships. And those tables, written in rock by the very finger of God, give us a law that is eternal and unchangeable, modem permissiveness and situation ethics to the contrary notwithstanding. The essence of the Commandments is that we love the Lord our God with our whole being and our neighbor as ourself. Jesus does not direct our attention to the Law as if it were the way by which we can gain entrance into heaven: for that is not the way to salvation, and it never was. Even for Israel the Law was a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ. The law functioned as a whip with one hard message: You are cursed if you do not keep all of this law. And thus the believing Israelite looked to the coming Christ, Who is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes (Rom. 10:4). Yet even after Christ sacrificed Himself, the law remains. Although its function has changed, its contents have not changed in the slightest. Engraved in the hearts of God’s people by the Spirit of Liberty, it is our faithful guide for a life of thankful service.
Thus Jesus says, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” Meditate upon them by day and by night. Take heed to them. Walk in them morning and evening, in the home and by the way. But there is a certain warning here. God has delivered us from the icy grip of death and caused us to enter into His friendship that we may enjoy Him forever and ever. We might begin to think that God requires us to express our gratitude for so great a salvation in some unusual, spectacular way. So that we begin to look about us for big deeds, magnificent works, splashy activities. And as we search for these, we neglect the simple, little things right around us that ought not to be left undone. We forget that being a Christian does not usually involve us in big, attention-getting things . . . not for most of us at any rate. We march in the army of Jesus Christ taking little steps and doing little tasks. There are times, of course, when a faithful life demands of the saint that he stands ready to perform startling deeds. In Old Testament times this was required of Elijah and Daniel and many others. Later Stephen was martyred for his good confession, and the apostles were hauled before councils again and again. The history of the New Dispensation Church is liberally splashed with the blood of the martyrs. For the faithful there was exile, there was torture, there was death. But the battle we are given to wage does not center about such wonderful sacrifices of life. Today the Christian life moves with little steps, day after day.
Do you remember the example used earlier? There was this young man with his ardent love. But how many times would he have to swim the ocean or climb lofty mountains for his lady love? His words were empty and meaningless. She wanted to see him rain or shine, and if his car were out of gas, would he walk? That’s the kind of mistake we must avoid in showing our love for God and the Savior. Don’t say to God, “I would rather be put to death than deny Thee, I would rather be burned at the stake than say Thy Word is not Truth!” Don’t say that sort of thing because in an age when these things are not required of us, such a profession is self-deceiving and meaningless. At the present time, the Lord is ruling over all things from heaven in such a way that we have freedom to read the Bible, pray, worship publicly according to the dictates of our consciences. But this does not mean there are not many temptations which, if not successfully resisted, will result in our denying of the Christ! The Devil has learned to be more refined, more subtle in his approach to the sheep. He has learned that the blunt, frontal attack backfires on him; and so he tempts in these days in respect to the little, daily things. And so we must be directed to the words: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
A couple of practical points ought to be made. First, great emphasis is placed today on witnessing and evangelism projects. These projects have the special aim of getting the church member involved. Now the Church must certainly engage in mission work through her office-bearers. And every member of the Church, young and old, must witness to the power of God’s grace. We are His witnesses, we are the light of the world! But what dangers this topic presents! How are we to be God’s witnesses, and where? Specifically, because this is being urged upon the young people, how do young people witness to God’s redeeming grace? Many say that evangelism teams must go to other communities and even other states in order to reach people there. Others say that the youth ought to conduct periodically the worship services in their own churches so they can express what God has done for them. (Usually they speak of what they have done for God.) This is the error we mentioned above, the search for the unusual. Such activities do not recognize that God has put you in a certain life-position, and that in that place you are called upon to live a consistent, holy life.
The correct, most effective method of witnessing is for young people to keep the Commandments of God. Even though all the Commandments must guide you, four stand out for youth as far as witnessing is concerned. These are days of terrible Sabbath desecration; therefore, keep the Sabbath Day holy! Be active on Sunday, but busy yourselves only with those things which are kingdom-centered and kingdom- preparing. And refuse to go along with the trend of making the Lord’s Day a day of selfish pleasure seeking. Secondly, these are days of lawlessness and open rebellion in all the areas of authority that God has instituted, namely, the home, the church, the government, and industry. Be submissive and obedient to those over you through whom it pleases God to govern you. That will shout to those around you that you are a true yoke-fellow of Jesus Christ, and that you have learned the first principle of the Kingdom . . . humility. Thirdly, more and more man’s language becomes profane and stinks of the sewer. The Names of God, His Christ, Their attributes are boldly being dragged through the mud of men’s sinful lives. Refuse to swear and curse, even if it means you have to bite your tongue. Admonish those who are profane in speech. And finally, there is the 7th Commandment which enjoins purity in words, thoughts, desires, and actions. Through television and the movie, through magazines and the stage, the Devil would make wicked fornicators of all of us. Be pure! Refuse to engage in sexual permissiveness, which is only another form of the bondage of sin. View marriage as the sacred bond between one man and one woman for life. This is the holiness which must clothe us as a robe, without which no man shall see God, but which having, children of God shall shake the world as all men behold your Christianity.
Secondly, the last few years have witnessed the spectacular growth in many church fellowships of neo-pentecostalism which teaches there are two kinds of Christians: there is the common garden-variety Christian who has been reborn from above, and there is the elite Christian who not only has rebirth but also has been specially filled with the Spirit, which filling enables him to do spectacular (splashy) things, and unusual (bazaar) deeds. He can speak in strange tongues, he can have direct speech with God, he can perform acts of healing on the unfortunate. Be warned that these fantastic claims are mere fantasies. Do not get caught up in this Biblically groundless movement! You see, when such things are thought to be the essence of the Christian life, the things that ought to be done are left undone. The way to demonstrate the presence of the Spirit, which fills every child of God without exception, is to manifest the fruits of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is above all else a walk in the quiet way of God’s commandments. Hear Paul inGalatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. . . .”
Will such things witness to God and give Him the glory? Such things as meekness and gentleness intoday’s world of competitive striving? Precisely! Keep the words of Jesus and love one another. Then are you His disciples!