I’ve spent the better part of this week reading a book written by a Christian woman named Jackie Hill Perry. Her words have been challenging me and simultaneously filling me with awe as I have taken in her story and watched how God’s word has affected her life. As I read John 15 and 16 today, I was reminded of Jackie’s obedience when she read or heard God’s word. John 15:9-10 say,
” Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”
To remain in God’s love we need to obey the commandments that we know God has given us. As we continue to read scripture and learn more of His commands, we need to obey those also. Our lives should look different as we learn more and more of God’s commands. I don’t know about you, but I find struggle in this. Some commands are easier than others for me to choose to obey, but when I am honest, I have to admit that I have stalled out on change in some areas of my life. My aim is to continue to change and obey more, but I stumble and in some areas, I get stuck in the mire of temptation to continue on in my sin. Jackie says this about temptation, “Just because we are tempted does not mean that we ARE our temptations. We are what the cross has declared us to be: forgiven. Temptations have a voice but so does the Living God. The Scriptures-God breathed and eternally profitable-have the final say on the identity of the saint.” Powerful words for sure, but the beauty of Jackie’s story is that she actually made the change. She doesn’t let temptation win and she chooses to obey God’s commands.
John 15:11 goes on to say, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” God doesn’t want us to obey Him because He wants what he wants. He wants us to obey His commands because He knows it will benefit us. He loves us and wants His best for us. He made us and knows what is best for our lives and what will bring us joy and fulfillment. Jackie’s explanation of obeying God is this, “Christianity seemed in the beginning to be a religion of just duty. I’d met to many disciples who preached more of sin than joy, whose eyes were stuck in a constant state of solemnity, clenched teeth and an endless fascination with holiness. Why hadn’t they ever mentioned the place happiness had with righteousness, or how the taking up of the cross would be a practice of obtaining delight? Delight in all that God is? Even their Savior had this kind of joy in mind as He endured the cross. So why hadn’t they set their focus on the same? In their defense, they were not to blame for my unbelief. I just wonder if they would have told me about the beauty of God just as much, if not more, than they told me about the horridness of hell, if I would have burned my idols at a faster pace. I was able to want God because the Holy Spirit was after my affections just as much as He was after my obedience. Sin had had my attention because it had my heart. In it, I did not merely put up with sin but I loved it. Delighted in it. Adored it. But this ability to love was not given to me in vain. Lest someone believe that to be sinless one should be loveless. The intention behind my ability to love at all was for it to be lavished on the loveliest One alive and in Him that love was safe. Through the Holy Spirit, not only could I see God and His glory with a smile on my face, but I could also see sin for the liar that it was.”
I am trusting today that this woman’s explanation challenges and encourages you to remain in God as it did for me.