Keep My Word – May 1, 2016

“Keep My Word”
Acts 16:9-15 John 14:18-31
Jesus said, “Those who love me will keep my word…obey my teaching.” For the gospel writer John the key word…the key teaching of Jesus was love.
First and foremost…for John…love is the basis of everything. God loves Jesus. Jesus Loves God. God loves humans. Jesus loves humans. Humans love God through Jesus. Humans love each other. Heaven and earth…humans and God…humans and humans are all brought together by the bond of love…the simple…but powerful and meaningful bond of love.
For John the only proof of that love is obedience. It was to those who loved and obeyed him that Jesus appeared when he rose from the dead…not to the scribes and the Pharisees and the hostile Jews.
This obedient and trusting love leads to two things. First it leads to safety in the end. On the day when Christ triumphs those who have been his obedient lovers will be safe…though the rest of the world is crashing. Second…it leads to a fuller and fuller revelation. It is to the person who keeps his commandments that Christ reveals himself. No unrepenting evil person can receive the full revelation of God’s love.
There is more to Jesus’ word to the disciples that night.
He spoke of his ally…the Holy Spirit. He said the Holy Spirit will teach us all things. And…the Holy Spirit will remind us of all that Jesus said. That will help us discover the truth. It will keep us on the right path of conduct.
Jesus told them of his gift…his gift of peace. And…the word Jesus used doesn’t mean only the absence of trouble. The word of Jesus means everything which makes for our highest good.
Jesus spoke of his destination. He was going back to the Father. He was being released from the limitations of the earthly world…and restored to his glory…just as we will be.
Jesus spoke of his struggle. His final battle with the powers of evil would be the Cross. He was not afraid of it…because he knew that evil had no power over him. He was certain of his conquest…not defeat.
Jesus spoke of his vindication. People could only see humiliation in death on the Cross…but Jesus knew the time would come when they would see in it his obedience to God and his love of humans.
It was these words of love…and the presence of the Holy Spirit that Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy took with them to the riverbank that day. They went to the river because there was no synagogue in Philippi. They were in Philippi because that’s where God had called them…and the Spirit had safely transported them.
Paul and his companions walked outside the city on that Sabbath looking for some fellow Jews. They discovered a small group…all women…who had met to recite the Shema and pray and read the Law and the Prophets.
Lydia probably took her name from her native province. Because she was a Gentile who saw truth in Judaism and wanted it…she was influenced by the Jews. Most of the people with her were probably family and servants. Lydia had been prepared by God for an encounter with the gospel. As she listened…Luke wrote… the “Lord opened her heart.” “The LORD opened her heart.” The man that Paul had seen in his vision turned out to be a woman. When Paul was among the Pharisees he probably thanked God that he was not a woman…a slave or a Gentile. As he had grown in faith and experienced the word of the Spirit Paul’s attitude was sharply altered.
Remember…his word to the Galatians (Gal 3:28 NIV)
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
As Lydia placed her faith in Christ she experienced the wonderful sensation of her sins being borne away. Joy welled up within and flowed over to her companions. Her entire household believed. They were all baptized on the spot in the nearby river. What an astounding spiritual success! God opened the heart of one woman. God opened the heart of one woman. And that city became a beachhead for God in what until then…had been the pagan Roman Empire.
Christ told the disciples to keep his word…to obey his teaching. Paul and his companions did. Christ told the disciples the Spirit would come to them. The Spirit came to Paul in a vision and along the river’s bank. Christ told the disciples he would bring them peace. On that day his peace came to Lydia and her companions.
Knowing what happened to Paul, his companions and Lydia and her companions…all because Jesus’ word was kept…and his love was shared…ought to make it easy for us…to feel and to share…Jesus’ love.
Jesus said…“Those who love me will keep my word…obey my teaching”…a word and teaching of love. The same Jesus invites us to his table this morning.
Let us come to his table where his love and the Spirit will renew us for the work of keeping his word…give us His peace…the ability…the strength…the opportunity…to share His word…His love…and His peace with others.

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