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"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever." (John 14:15-16)
When I was just a little kid, somewhat smaller than I am now, I used to live in the Almost Heaven. It was in the lovely farmland community of Ballengee West Virginia. Yes, it seems just a short time ago when I was nine or ten, couldn’t have been I thought more than six or seven years ago. I lived with my summer parents Fonda and Lester Lively on their Red Gate Farm. Lester had two dogs and I remember when he first introduced them to me. One was a beautiful white dog and the other a snarly looking black dog, although they both were friendly enough towards me. The black dog was named Caine and the white Abel. Lester always kept them chained to a post apart from each other. I felt sad for them and asked why he never let them loose to play? Lester said that if they ever came into contact, they would fight to the death, as Caine was a very bad dog. I pondered that for many summers as they lived their lives chained staring each other down. Fonda used to kid me and say, “If you be a bad dog today, I’ll chain you to you learn your lesson. Each summer I tried to be as good as I could and Fonda never had to chain me.
On the night before the crucifixion of Jesus, He led His disciples to the Upper Room, where they were to have the Passover Supper together. He walked along with the disciples following, and the disciples were involved in an argument as to which one would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. I can hear James and John stating that they would be the one on Jesus’ left and right as they were the Sons of Thunder. (Mark 3:17) Then I hear Peter interrupting, “Excuse me. You fellows know that I am the leader, as it is always I who ask the questions and have the boldness to lead.” Then there is Thomas, who just a short time before persuaded the disciples to go to Jerusalem with Jesus and die with Him. (John 11:16) Jesus, in His forbearance, would not entertain the argument and continued to lead them to the Upper Room.
When they had all situated themselves in the Upper Room, Jesus looked at His disciples and knew that they had not grasped the significance of this evening or the events that would come about on the morrow. The Upper Room would be their last night together before His death and He had much to say to them. Here was His opportunity to teach them intimately, as there were no crowds about them now. It was just Jesus and His twelve and their hearts were not prepared to hear His teaching. Their hearts were filled with self-ambition. Here their Master was not at the forefront of their thinking, their self wants were. The disciple’s hearts were filled with selfishness and self-righteousness and were not able to hear the Divine Truths that they now needed to face the trials that lay just ahead of them. In His midst, there was one who would betray Him, one who would deny Him, and all would desert Him in the hour of His greatest need. How then could they face the world unless their hearts were able to understand the Divine Truths He had to teach them this evening.
As the disciples sat there cooling down from their heated debate, eyeing each other thinking now you will see who is the greatest, Jesus removed His outer garments and placed a towel around His waist and took a basin of water.
Jesus went around the room, stopping at the feet of each disciple and washing their feet. None said a word but just sat there watching as Jesus stopped at each one. Have you ever been to a foot washing? It is a very humbling experience to have. Both for the one whose feet are being washed by a friend and the friend who is washing the feet. It will tame you right down and it is near embarrassing. How they must have felt, yes, a little ashamed, for they had been arguing who was the greatest. Now the God of the universe was knelt before them washing their feet. It was more than Peter could take and he told Jesus that He would never wash his feet. Jesus rebuked Peter with these words, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." (John 13:8) If we cannot accept the washing of Jesus so that we are clean, so that our hearts are right, then we will have no part in Him. Jesus washed their feet, each one because He loved them. He loved them with love, wrapped in humility.
Now that the disciple’s hearts were impoverished of self-pride, now that they had placed their Master back upon the throne of their lives, their hearts were right to accept the Divine Truths found in His Word. Jesus had taught them on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3) Now that the clutter of self and the world had been removed, now that they were focused on the purpose of their mission through Jesus, now that they were ready to share in His passion, they were able to receive the words that would enable them to persevere.
It was then that Jesus said, for me, one of the most profound of His words, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) Some may see this as a question, but I see it as a challenge. “If you love me?” Jesus knew that they loved Him without a doubt. They had been given to Him by the Father. After a night of prayer, the Father revealed to Jesus who He had given Him to be His Apostles. (Luke 6:13) They had suffered with Him the mockery of the people, they had suffered with Him the attacks of the Pharisees, and Peter had boldly testified before them, "Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life." (John 6:68) Did they love Him, they had forsaken everything and followed Him. There is no doubt that they loved Him. Love was a prerequisite to the challenge, “Keep My commandments.”
Jesus is the Word of God. (John 1:1) God’s Word is the absolute truth because it is the source of all knowledge. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:33-36) And the Word of God is in the context of His love, as God is love. (1 John 4:16) We trust and obey His word and His word leads us to eternal life in His Kingdom.
When we trust and obey, then we follow Him in faith. "And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23) If we love Him, then we will follow Him and by our testimony, we prove our love for Him. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
When we, as the disciples did that night in the Upper Room, have our hearts right with God through Jesus Christ, then the barriers between the God we love and us have come down. Then the prayer of Jesus will have been answered in our life and He will sit upon the throne of our lives and lead us to the Promised Land. "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever." (John 14:16)
It is not an easy life here in this world, and there will be trials and tribulations as long as we are on this earth. But we will know which way to go, we will know what to do, and we may be bewildered but we will never be lost. Like Peter, when walking on water we must keep our eyes fixed upon the Master and we will not sink. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6) The Spirit of Truth dwelling within, an answer to the prayer of Jesus, will enable us to achieve the work that God has set before us. With our little faith, we may not be able to all ways see, but we will see the end by our faith. Faith in the Word of God will enable us to understand that the end will work for good. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) We have the full power of God within us and we can live free from the trappings of this world with our vision set upon the reality of the Kingdom to come. "You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)
Caine and Able were on the cross with Jesus in their midst. Caine, the bad dog, was making a mockery of our King. "One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" (Luke 23:39) Able the good dog knew that he was not a victim but was reaping that which he had sown. Able believed that Jesus was the “King of the Jews” and had faith that He would save him. Abel said, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" (Luke 23:42) "And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) Both dogs sealed their destiny that day on the cross they bore. Cain eternity in the abyss. Able eternity in Paradise.
I do not believe for one moment that I am wrong. The answer was given to me one warm August day in the Almost Heaven when I asked Lester, “If Cain and Able got lose, which dog would win?” And Lester looked at me and gave the truest of answers for all our lives. “The one I feed the best.”
The challenge for us each day is which dog we are feeding the best. Do we feed our flesh with all that it wants of this world? I am not talking about just bread. As you can see, I have had more than my share. But what about all the evil that surrounds us on the internet and television. On the billboards that line our paths. That conversation that we have with the people we meet. Are we feeding our hearts and souls with the garbage of humanity? Or, are we feeding our hearts and souls with the Divine Truths found in the Word of God? Are our storage bins filled from our lust of the world while our Bibles gather dust on the table or beneath that stack of magazines?
Do you love Him, ask yourself and answer in truth. If you love Him, then keep His commandments. Study His Word, obey His Word hidden in your hearts, and walk-in His Word in faith. Do this and that spiritual dog Able will overcome that wretched dog Caine. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5)
Thomas N Kirkpatrick
First Baptist Church of Durant, June 28, 2015
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