This morning our Men’s Breakfast Bible Study which meets from 7am-8am finished studying the gospel of John. we began studying John in April 2008 – it’s taken us one year to journey through this great gospel -each study being around 50 minutes long. During this past year i have had the benefit of reading a number of commentaries cover to cover. I’ll post some book reviews later but some of the commentaries I used and read were…..
HERE Audio and type
I was tempted just to re-read Paul’s sermon from last week because it fits exactly with today’s readings – about love. But I thought I had better say something different!
God Loves me. God loves you. Familiar words. Comforting words. We use these words regularly as believers to encourage and comfort one another. We say this to unbelievers in our evangelism – God loves you, he wants you to come to him.
Yet I wonder if we have ever fully realized the immense and powerful consequences of these words.
The infinite God of the whole universe LOVES YOU AND HE LOVES ME.
Our Gospel reading begins with a stunning statement from Jesus – As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.
Let these words echo in your spirit for a moment.
The way that Jesus loved his disciples was not LIKE, or a mirror of, or a sample of God the Father’s love – it was and is the SAME way that God loves Jesus – a love which comes from the eternal Trinity – a perfect, holy, complete love.
How does Jesus love his disciples as the Father loved him? Jesus holds NOTHING back in his love.
Our Epistle clearly lays out this principle. John asks “what is love?” And the response is “That God loved us by sending Jesus to die for us.” The template of love is the sacrificial love of the Father – the Father who sacrifices his Son for us and the Son who sacrifices his place in heaven to live on earth, to be separated from the father and to die for our sins.
While we may know people who seem to love much, often we give our love hesitantly, or falteringly, or fearfully, or half-heartedly or even with conditions, Jesus gives his love fully, completely, unconditionally, sacrificially and willingly to those who follow him. It is not a bit of his love, or a sample of his love, or a taste of his love – Jesus loves us COMPLETELY.
This is the template to which we are to hold up our own love FOR God – our love of our spouses, our love for our parents, our love for our children and even our love for our enemies. That’s the template. That’s the standard.
That is the incredible commitment of Jesus’ love and that is the love, he experienced from the father – nothing held back.
If Jesus’ love for us is complete and total – nothing held back – then we really cannot say we have received a bit of his love, or that we have some of his love.
The love of Jesus MUST transform us – if we say we have Jesus’ love – if we say God loves us – we are saying the complete, unconditional love of Jesus, of God has come upon us. If we cannot say that then we have not understood the love of God for us.
God’s love HAS to be transforming – to encounter the living God cannot leave us un-changed – it cannot. Giving our life to Jesus is not just a verbal transaction; “Lord forgive me, I believe in you and want to confess my sins to you.”
These words begin an eternal transaction where our acceptance of Jesus puts into motion a move in the spiritual realm whereby we are no longer under the sentence of death but have been given life; where it is declared to the principalities and powers that we are now children of the living God and our future is to be with him.
God’s love HAS to be transforming because how else will be we obey v12 of our Gospel reading – Love one another as I HAVE LOVED YOU. Or v11 of our epistle reading Beloved, if God loved us we also ought to love another.
Firstly we can only do this because of the Holy Spirit. As Paul said last week, God asks the impossible of us – if you love me you will obey my commandments. But the very next words from his mouth are “And I will send you the Holy Spirit.”
In order for us to love each other in the way that Jesus loves us and in the way the Father loves Jesus, requires New Birth. It requires us to start again.
We, the church, you and I are to Love one another in this complete, unconditional, self-sacrificial love that has no limits – even to the laying down of ones life – remember Jesus’ words love one another as I have loved you!
This is a COMMAND – not an option. You have no option as to whether you will love me to the point of laying down your life for me – and I am going hold you all to that!!
– and I don’t have an option in loving you. It is a command – a moral obligation as followers of Jesus. we are undeserved recipients of God’s love and we in turn are to love others whether we think they deserve it or not.
Augustine said it well when he wrote: love is so much the gift of God that it is called God!
This love that we are talking about – this Trinitarian love which stems from the Father is also meant to be the source of our unity as believers. Our unity is not in our styles of worship. Or in our theology. Or in whether we accept people. Our unity comes FROM a love that is ABIDING IN, REMAINING IN CHRIST.
This is what Jesus means by Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus loved us by doing only what the Father said. We are to love one another BY doing ONLY what Jesus says.
John emphasizes this in his epistle. God sent his only son into the world so that we might live THROUGH him. Remain In Him, Abide IN Him, live THROUGH him. For John unity is remaining in and living through Jesus – doing only what Jesus and his word says to do. To depart from that is to step outside of Christ – and any unity outside of Christ and his commands cannot be true or lasting unity. And to try and build unity on social issues, cultural norms or anything outside of Christ will fail.
The love that Jesus speaks of here is a love that is rooted in obedience to the ways of God. If you separate this love from the commands of the living God then it is no longer the love of God – but the love of man. If we decide to love others on our terms or on the cultures terms it is not the love found in scripture.
We are to love one another so completely that when we see one of us doing something which is not Christ like, or that goes against the teachings of Jesus then we are tell each other. We are to say, Jesus said we are not to do this – please stop it because by doing such a thing you are no longer abiding or remaining in Christ. The love that Jesus says we are to love one another with includes warning our brothers and sisters when they do what is not acceptable in the Bible. We warn not to condemn but because we love them as Christ loved us.
John Wesley’s love for others is evident when he said:
‘In plain terms, wherever I see one or a thousand men running into hell, be it in England, Ireland, or France, yea, in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, I will stop them if I can: as a minister of Christ, I will beseech them, in his name, to turn back, and be reconciled to God. Were I to do otherwise, were I to let any soul drop into the pit, whom I might have saved from everlasting burnings, I am not satisfied that God would accept my plea, ‘Lord, he was not of my parish”.
Or Charles Spurgeon who said…
If people are determined to go to hell at least let them leap over our bodies to get there.
Of course, there are days when we do not love or show love. Our hearts are not completely redeemed – as Luther said we are both saints and sinners – we still sin. But when we fail to show love we are contradicting our new birth.
This is why we must take sin so seriously – it is not just ‘I’ve had a bad day today’ but ‘Today, by not loving, I have broken Jesus’ command to me – I have denied my new birth. The full weight of God’s anger should fall upon me.’ But the we say ‘praise God for Jesus Christ, my redeemer, my savior for I can confess to him that I have not loved and he will forgive me because he has taken the full weight of God’s anger against sin on my behalf.
Confession of our sins is so important – it sets us free – it reconciles us to God.
This type of Love – the love we are commanded to love each other with – a love which abides and remains in Christ will grow in us as we mature as believers and as we daily seek to put Jesus and his words into action in our lives. And as we seek to exercise this love as we seek to ask the Holy Spirit to increase this love is us we will begin to show signs of it’s effect in our life. We will have a spiritual security which will bring us peace because we will know that we did not chose God but that God has chosen us. We will begin to bear fruit in our lives. And this fruit is not just about bringing others to know Jesus, although that’s part of it – one writer has said that the person who is born of God is a window through which the love of God shines into the world. But it’s also a fruit in our everyday lives, fruit at home, at work, with family and friends, as a husband or wife, father, or mother, son or daughter, employee or employer. And this fruit we bear is not temporary but John says it will itself remain in Christ. Finally John says we will no longer have fear in our lives. Imagine living life without fear – even the fear of death will leave.
One, early church father said that because God is love the one who lives in Love reaps the fruit of life from God. While still in this world, he even now breathes the air of the resurrection.
So, Jesus’ command to us – Love one another as I have loved you…
Let’s do it.