- Psalm 9:7-20
- John 15:9-16:4
My dear friends in the Lord, Jesus Christ,
My mother was one of the fairest people I knew. Like a hen, she would protect her chicks. Don’t get into Mom’s bad books by spreading stories about her children. As kids, we knew she would always defend us, and it gave us a sense of security. But in her fairness, Mom demanded that we always act like kids who bore the Schwartz name. We had to show respect and obedience. But, even on the odd occasion where we were apparently in the wrong, we were never left on our own. Mom would be between us and those we were accountable to, stating her case for fairness, but asking for lenient discipline.
Chapters 13-16 of the Gospel of John recorded the last and private teaching of our Lord when He addressed his disciples. They were about to be scattered (16:31), they had a mission:
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8, NIV)
What would the need to remember and take along in their mission to fishers of men? When times get tough, what did Jesus give them to hang on to?
I have loved you
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9, NIV)
This an extraordinary statement. When our grandson wanted to express how much he loved his mother, he said, “l love you more than all the Holden Commodores in the world.” But really, we do not love comparatively. When Jesus expressed his love towards his disciples, He used an unmatched comparison. He loves us with the same love as the eternal Father loved his eternal Son. This is mind-boggling. How do we know what Jesus says is true? Just go a bit further in the chapter.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12–13, NIV)
In chapter 10 Jesus Christ declared his love:
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17–18, NIV)
But the reason why both the Father and the Son love the world is not that the world is so lovely and lovingly. As we saw last week, when Jesus came into the world to dwell amongst us, this place was dark. God’s own did not receive him. Why not? They were spiritually blind, and by nature they hated God. And yet, He loved them as the Father loved them. We know the verse:
For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)
So, when his disciples would face persecution and hardship in their fruit-bearing mission, when they were stuck in jails, when they lost kindred and possessions, they could hold on to what Jesus impressed on their minds the last night they spent together, “As the Father loved Me, so I have loved you.”
What carries the church through persecution and hardship? When all of this world is lost, when health has departed, when loved ones have lost their memory, when we bury those we hold dear above all else, when we lose our names and reputations for the glory of Christ, what is left? What keeps us going? “I have loved you!” Paul writes:
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39, NIV)
Remain in my love
Our Lord gave his disciples this command: “Remain in my love.” It can be tempting to despair and walk away from Christ’s love when the going gets tuff. He may seem distant, and we don’t see his love in our trials. Jesus knew all of this, and that’s precisely why He added the command, “Remain in my love”.
How does one remain in his love? You take Him on his word.
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (John 15:10, NIV)
Christ had all reason to walk away from the love of his Father. People scorned Him, they hated Him, the devil tempted Him in the desert, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him. Yet, He says: “just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:10, NIV)
You will have complete joy
When we put the love and the word of Christ first in our lives, when we understand the love God has for us in his Son, when we understand that Christ endured all the scorn and hatred to save us, then, even in the face of hardship, we will have joy. The world can not add to this joy, and worldly joy cannot compete with this inward and unspeakable joy, because the joy we have in Christ is all we need.
… fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2–3, NIV)
Jesus prepared his disciples,
Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22, NIV)
This verse most probably was the context of the short time between the death and resurrection of Christ. But ultimately it points to time between the ascension of our Lord into heaven, and his return when He comes to takes his won with Him to be in the presence of the Father. Even though we do not have Christ in Person with us, our joy in Him nothing can take away. Many martyrs of the faith sang hymns of joy when they burned on the stake. Steven, while they stone him to death “… full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (Acts 7:55–56, NIV)
Love one another
One way to love Christ is to take Him on his word and completely trust Him. But there’s another aspect we should not forget, we must love one another as part of the same family as Christ loves us. Christian love is comparative love. What’s the comparison? “As I love you.” This is a big ask. You look at your fellow Christian and what do you see? Someone whom Christ loves, someone who has become part of the family of Christ on the same basis as you have: drawn by undeserved love.
Do we love your brother and sister? How much and to what degree? As Christ loves us? As Christ gave up everything for us, so we need to set our brothers and sisters in Him on the same level. As Mom would say, “You touch my children, and you touch me.” You touch my fellow brother or sister in the Lord, and you touch me. We are of the same family. This is a different love the world wants to sell us. It is not the warm fuzzy feeling I get when someone does something nice to me. What drives my love for my fellow Christian is the love which Christ had for me when He laid down his life to save me. When my brother weeps, I weep; when my sister is hurting because of the name of Christ, I am hurting. Together we carried the yoke of Christ.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2, NIV)
Friends of Christ have the world as their enemy
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15, NIV)
What happened when we started to follow Christ? We became part of God’s family. In Him, we are brothers and sisters. In Christ we were taken out of the world, we received a new citizenship, we received a new mind and heart, we are born from above, and we received new marching orders.
The world has no attraction for us anymore. If we love Christ the way He loves us, our lives are driven for his glory. When Jesus interceded for his disciples at his Father’s throne, He prayed:
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:15–16, NIV)
How is it that we could become friends of Christ?
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:15–16, NIV)
You see the order here? “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” For what reason? “You so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” How is it possible to bear fruit in this world? “Everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” What is our authority? “I have called you friends”. Friends, not in the sense of being buddies of Christ, but friends because we are not enemy anymore. So now, we go out in the word with a few things written on our minds:
- Jesus loves us as the Father loves us.
- Jesus laid down his life for us.
- No-one can rob us of our joy, because nothing in the world can add to our joy.
- We have fellow soldiers, saved by grace, family in Christ, and our love towards one another is as strong as Christ’s love for us.
- We have the words of Christ to reach a lost world
- We did not choose ourselves—we were appointed by Christ
- The fruit we bear will have eternal consequences, not because of us, but because of Him who sent us
- We are no strangers to Christ anymore, by grace He has wiped out the enmity between us and God.
So we have the world at our feet! They are just waiting for us to speak the word. Not so!
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19, NIV)
Here’s an excellent test to see if we really love Christ. Does the world love us? Do they like the things we say and do? When John the Baptist preached the word of God, he ended up in jail, and later he was beheaded. Steven died a martyr. So did about all the apostles and many others who followed Christ. James writes,
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)
There is an eternal choice? Would you follow Christ and inherit eternity because He calls you his friend, or would you rather be in step with the world and forfeit your soul?
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 27 January 2019