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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Divine visits (John 14:18-24)

'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.'

Jesus again reminds his disciples of the great privilege that they possess in contrast to the world, which he describes as seeing him. I suspect what he means is that they will begin to understand the union that exists between him and them. This union is certain because he possesses life. 

The proof that they have spiritual life is obedience. Notice the order that Jesus uses. Each disciple has the commandments, that is, he treats them as a prized possession. We keep material things of value, such as a painting or a piece of pottery in a secure place, but not in an obscure place because we want to see them. Similarly, the disciple has a secure place for Christ’s teachings and that secure place is the disciple’s heart and mind. He meditates on the sayings of Jesus and becomes like the person described in Psalm 1; he hides God’s Word in his heart in order to prevent sin overpowering him. Thinking about God’s law makes him spiritually discerning and creates a strong desire to obey it. Meditation and practice go together.

Jesus then says that there will be a divine response to such Christian living. There will be a response of love from both the Father and Jesus, with the response by Jesus being one of further manifestations of himself to his loving disciple. This amazing promise leads to another question from one of his disciples, Judas, as to how Jesus could show himself in this way. This question seems to be a different kind from those asked earlier by Thomas and Philip because there is no hint of rebuke in the Saviour’s reply to Judas. Instead he expands his teaching. Perhaps Judas asked it with a sense of wonder. How different he was from the traitor who had the same name!

Jesus says that the Father and he will come and live in the inner life of an obedient disciple. This does not mean that they were not there before. Rather it means that there will be further visits throughout one’s Christian journey if one is obedient to Christ’s teaching. This is a remarkable promise – God who dwells in the purity of heaven desires to make his home in the hearts of his people who are still sinful.

These divine visits are explained by three details. First, they are visits of love, whether by the Father (v. 23) or by the Son (v. 21); second, they are visits in which particular responses or activities of the Father and of the Son will be identified; third, they are visits in which the Father and the Son come together to bless the obedient disciple. These three features are achieved by the presence of the life-giving Spirit.

No doubt there are ways in which these divine responses will overlap. Yet it is good for us to experience distinct fellowship with each person of the Trinity. We should ask the Spirit to bring into our minds and hearts the thoughts of the heavenly Father toward us and the attitude of the Saviour towards us. These divine encounters are obviously intimate, and there is always the potential for increase of them. There are no limits to the love of God.

We should gladly confess our need of the Spirit in order for these riches to be enjoyed. We need him because of our weakness and our need of strengthening (Eph. 3:16-19).  And we should remember the price of disobedience as Christians. It is to miss out on heavenly visits from the Father and the Son. 

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