John 15:12-17 ESV
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Why do you think God has to command us to love one another? I believe it is because we, in our own human nature, are incapable of the kind of love he is talking about here, and because our flesh fights against such love, too.
By nature, we are selfish people, driven to fulfill the desires of our flesh. Yet, through Jesus’ death on a cross, he crucified sin, and he did so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. So, when we believe in Jesus, we die with him to sin, and we are resurrected to new lives in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (See: Rom. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). And all this is the working of the Holy Spirit, as we yield to his control.
But, this “believing in him” is ongoing. And, daily we must, by the Spirit, put to death the fruitless deeds of darkness. Daily we must die to sin and self and put on the love of Christ. And, daily we must choose to resist Satan and flee temptation and say “No!” to ungodliness and worldly passions. And, daily we must choose to put on the armor of God, and to put on Christ’s love, and to yield to the control of the Spirit, and to walk in Christ’s holiness.
And, this is why we need to be commanded to love one other with God’s love, because it does not come natural to us. It is something we must choose to do each day in the power of God’s Spirit at work within us. And, sometimes it is moment by moment, especially if any of us live in situations where we are being abused or misused or persecuted for our faith in Jesus. We have to choose to love our enemies and pray for them and do good to them and say to them what will be beneficial to them and not harm them.
And, what is beneficial for them is not always going to be what will necessarily make them feel good, or what is going to get them to like us in return. Remember here that Jesus spoke the words of truth and of life to people, and many of them hated him in return, and they persecuted and killed him because of what he said to them for their good; for their benefit.
So, loving people as God loves us will require that we tell people the truth about their sin, and that we expose the fruitless deeds of darkness, and that we call people to repentance and to obedience to Christ, and that we warn them about deception and believing lies. And, that is not always going to endear us to people, or get us rave reviews, or make us popular.
John 15:18-21 ESV
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”
Does the world love you as its own? Or, does the world hate and reject you? As well, does the worldly (fleshly) church love you as its own? Or, does the worldly (fleshly) church hate, despise, reject and/or push you away?
If those who live according to the pattern of this world, who adopt its practices, who believe its philosophies, and who mimic its attitudes don’t, in some way or another, feel disassociated from you because of your beliefs and your lifestyle, and because of your testimony for Jesus, then something is wrong. For, if we are truly following Jesus Christ with our lives, and if we are truly loving people as Jesus did, including teaching what he taught, then those who live according to the ways of the world should not love us as their own, but they should keep a “safe distance” from us, at least.
For, Jesus called us out of the world. We are, thus, not to love the world. We are not to embrace the culture around us. We are not to participate in what is worldly and ungodly and unholy. We are supposed to be different from the world. We should stand out as weird. We should not blend in so that people will think we are “cool” or so we can connect with the people around us.
Thus, we should not be doing what we know is sinful, as a matter of course. This is not to say we will never sin (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2) or that we will be perfect, and never need correction or discipline. But, we should no longer make sin our practice. It should not be what controls our lives. Our hearts, minds, passions and desires should not be given over to what is worldly, but they should be given over to what is of the kingdom of heaven.
So, if we are living for the Lord, and we are walking in obedience to him, and we are being Jesus to the world around us, and we are speaking the truth in love, because we are concerned about others’ eternal security, then just know that we are going to have enemies, even from within the gatherings of the church, and even from church leadership. For, the people who hated Jesus the most and who plotted and carried out his death were the leaders in the temple of God. So, don’t be surprised if you get more persecution within the church than you do out in the world.
John 15:22-25 ESV
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”
We are told in scripture that if we hate other human beings, and hate is the opposite of love, i.e. it is doing harm to others willfully and knowingly, then we can’t love God, and we don’t really know God (See: 1 Jn. 2:9-11; 1 Jn. 3:15; 1 Jn. 4:20).
So, when we cheat on, lie to, deceive, gossip about it, slander, curse, disdain, steal from, and commit adultery against others (which includes lust), as a matter of practice, we are not loving them, but we are acting in hate towards them. And, we are acting in hate towards God, too. For, however we treat other people, especially those who are followers of Jesus, is how we are also treating Jesus, likewise (See: Matthew 25:31-46).
But, there is another message here, as well. And, that is that if anyone hates or rejects Jesus Christ as the Christ, the promised Messiah, then they cannot possibly believe in the One True God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, the Jews who reject Jesus Christ do not believe in the God of their ancestors who did believe in the One True God. And, that is Jesus’ message here.
And, believing in Jesus, again, is not a one-time event in our lives, nor is it a prayer that we pray once, or a decision we make once, or a public confession of faith or baptism or anything where we profess faith in Jesus Christ at some singular point in our lives, though it can begin there.
Believing in Jesus is ongoing, continuous, enduring, faithful, persistent, and persevering, and it endures to the end of our lives or until Jesus comes back.
Believing in Jesus also involves daily putting sin to death in our lives and daily submitting to God and walking (conducting our lives) according to his Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, and all in the power of the Spirit of God now living and at work within us.
If we do sin against God, we repent of it, confess it where appropriate, and we move forward in following (obeying) Jesus Christ with our lives, one day and one moment at a time, in his power and in his strength within us. For, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are being conformed, by the Spirit, to the likeness of Christ, so that every day we should be becoming more and more like him in all that we do, are, think, believe and say, to the glory of God.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
*copyright status is public domain
Sunday, December 9, 2018