The Salvation Army was born when God called William and Catherine Booth to express the gospel of grace in new and innovative ways. This grace leads to salvation for the whole person. This grace leads to the transformation of our present existence and ushers in the first fruits of the kingdom of God. William Booth developed a theology and practice of sacramental living that has steered the Army for more than 150 years. Sacramental living emphasizes dwelling continually in the presence of God and abiding with Jesus in the power of the Spirit.
In this series, we are reflecting on themes from the Gospel of John. Just before the passage we are considering today, Jesus gave his disciples a new command, to “love one another” (John 13:34). Now, in John 14:15-31, which is part of his farewell discourse, he provides comfort and security for those who believe in him, considering the confusion and chaos that is going to take place in the next few days as he continues his journey toward the cross. He tells them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). This comfort comes in the form of the third person of the Godhead (the Trinity), the Holy Spirit.
The passage has three significant aspects. The first is a focus on loving obedience. Jesus speaks of love as keeping his commands and obeying his teachings, and of love that comes from God and the love that he has for God. We understand that the foundational character of God is love and we are called to love God and to love others.
The second important aspect is that the Holy Spirit comes alongside us. Loving God and others is difficult, even with our best intentions. We need only look to Peter or Judas for an example of how love for Jesus did not reach the mark. This is where the Spirit comes in. The Spirit is given by God to help and teach us and remind us of everything Jesus said. The Spirit gives us the power to love even when it is difficult.
The third important aspect of these verses is the intimate relationship forged between God and believers. Jesus said, “My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23). In this fascinating teaching, he speaks about being in the Father and the disciples being in him and Jesus being in the disciples.
The Spirit who is with and in the disciples is the same Spirit who equips believers today for sacramental living. The Spirit abides in us and with us. This is an important aspect of discipleship. The Spirit embodies the presence of Jesus in the lives of believers. We come to realize the great gift that God has given us through his Son, Jesus. In this abiding relationship, the Spirit makes it possible to live and embody the command of Jesus to love one another. Jesus said we would be known as his disciples by this love (see John 13:35).
Although Jesus is no longer with us on earth, we are not abandoned. The Spirit reminds us that we are children of God, called to abide in an intimate relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It is only by the Spirit’s power that we can live in this abiding relationship.
As we abide in relationship with Jesus, we embody the message of John’s Gospel. We live so that others may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing they may have life in his name. This is sacramental living. By the Spirit’s power we proclaim and act out this reality of grace.
This is the third article in a five-part series on sacramental living. Articles will be published monthly, alternating in print and online at Salvationist.ca.
Part 1: An Encounter With Jesus
Part 2: Light in the Darkness
Part 4: Becoming a Living Mercy Seat
Part 5: Simply Good News
Major Steven Cameron is the theological formation co-ordinator at the College for Officer Training in Winnipeg
Illustration: Lisa Suroso
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