The Heart of a True Disciple

It is a theme that is worth repeating again and again: without the love of God, our servitude is counted as nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-7). Clearly, this central treasure of God-centered love has been evident in the lives of saints throughout history; but the chief architect of this pattern of piety is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who did all things out of His infinite love for the Father:

John 14:31: 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. [ESV]

When we think of the Lord’s worldwide message, we often think of the Gospel itself which plainly speaks of the Lord’s wonderful love for mankind (Titus 3:1-5); but according to John 14:31, there is another message that is worthy of world renown – it is the message of the Son’s perfect love for the Father. The Lord Jesus Christ wanted the world to know that He did all things out of a loving desire to do the things that are pleasing to the Father – those things that were in keeping with His perfect will:

John 8:29: 29 “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” [ESV]

John 8:29 reinforces our understanding of John 13:31. The Savior could never be accused of heartless obedience to the Father – may it never be! Instead, all that He did was accomplished out of a heart of adoration and affectionate love for the Father. Contextually, John 14:31 is the capstone of the Savior’s description of a genuine Christian’s love and obedience:

John 14:21-24: 21 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.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 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. 24 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. [ESV]

In the previous discussion concerning love, the Savior drew a very clear link between a person’s actions and the condition of their heart. Those who love Christ will have and keep His word. Those who do not love the Savior will not keep (obey) His words. This important teaching comes to us just after Judas went away in order to betray the Lord. Contextually, His teaching is as timely as can be. He wants the remaining eleven to understand the following principles, according to John 14:21-24:

  • It is not enough to have the Lord’s commands. The Pharisees had the commandments of God, but they were utterly devoid of any love for God (John 5:39-42). Clearly Judas had a knowledge of the Lord’s commandments, but resolved not to keep them.
  • It is not enough to merely obey the Lord, for He desires more than heartless obedience from His disciples. In all things, we are to serve the Lord out of a heart of love for Christ, as He declared – “whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”

Mere obedience is not an indicator of true faith and love, for we know that there will be many who will have named the name of Christ, but never knew Him:

Matthew 7:18-23: 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

In this context of Matthew 7 the word “know” [egnön] speaks of the idea of a relationship – that is, a loving relationship. Like Judas, whose appearance was undetected for so many year, there are many whose service to the Lord may be very impressive – even spectacular; but without a relationship of love, it all amounts to nothing but a selfish pursuit of mere religion. Here is the importance of the Savior’s own example before us. His deeds were born out of a heart of righteous devotion. Obedience to the Father’s will was not something that was done with private disdain, but with the joy of doing all that which is pleasing to the Father.

John 14:28: 28 “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father…”

The joy that was set before the Son (Hebrews 12:1-2) was the joy of doing the Father’s will, from beginning to the end:

  1. Through His ministry with the disciples.
  2. Through His arrest, persecution and conviction.
  3. Through His torture and crucifixion.
  4. Through His resurrection and…
  5. Through His ascension.

Every ounce of obedience that was rendered by the Son, to the Father, was given because, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:31). By the Redeemer’s example we comprehend that we become better disciples when we imitate the pattern of loving obedience that is found in the Son Himself. When the Savior was asked which was the greatest commandment of all, He responded as follows:

Mark 12:28-31: 28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Here is the greatest motivation to be found in the heart of any Christian; it is the same motivation that is found in the bosom of the Savior who did all things out of His great love for the Father.

Behold, the wonderful love of God – we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

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