Intro: Has there been a time in your life that you doubted the love of God when the circumstances were unpleasant and painful? This experience can either be before you were saved or after. Probably if this happened before you would question why God has allowed this to happen to you. Now that you are a Christian you can accept it as a trial and according to Paul we ought to be thankful because it is the will of God. Yet when things are going well we tend to take God for granted, especially in obeying His commands. In the study of “Experiencing God” I learned that “A love relationship with God is more important than any other single factor in your life.” This has made a radical and drastic change in my values but most of all in my relationship with God. Our Scripture of meditation for the week comes from the attitude of Paul regarding the love of Christ that compels him, meaning he had a strong interest in sharing the gospel and giving it his full attention.
“The Compelling Love of Christ”
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I obeyed my Father’s command and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love
has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 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. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:9-17
We are now on our third passage from John 15. I want us to notice that there is no more reference to “if a man” or “if anyone.” It is now limited to “if you”, addressing it only to the eleven disciples and to true believers today. The first very important truth from our text is this. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” When I was a young Christian the most important thing I knew happened to me was all my sins have been forgiven and I have eternal life. This is normal and the first response after one has been born again. And most probably it will take some time for him to reach this truth in John 15. This is no longer “For God so loved the world” it has become personal. Christ loves me with the same love that God the Father loved Him. Have I really grasped how much I am loved? Do I appreciate this fully when in fact the Scriptures say that God also hate some people in the world and more people are going to hell? God loves the world in general but He also hates sin and sinners. Shocking as it may, here’s what Paul wrote.
“Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls – she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Rom. 9:10-13
The gospel truth is that God is love and God is just. The only way to reconcile both these truths is that justice had to be satisfied. The love of God stops at the cross. For the love of God to reach us it has to go through His Son. Jesus Christ the Son of Man and the Son of God who left heaven to be punished for sins He did not commit. This is what God made him to be.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21
But have you considered, how can God do this to His Son and punish Him for sins He did not commit much less deserve? This is the only way God can love us. There is no doubt God loved His Son. And yet if Jesus did not sacrifice His life to pay for our sins, we will all be in hell. And the greatest thing that can happen to anyone is to be loved by Jesus with the same love that His Father had for Him while He was in the flesh, just as we are.
“Now remain in my love.” When one has fully grasped how much being loved by Christ mean, would he consider this is an option? And why shouldn’t we want to remain in His love. When a love relationship between husband and wife grow cold one could say, “You don’t love me anymore.” Will Christ’s love ever grow cold? Never, but it is our love that does. Last Sunday, I gave an illustration where Jesus is the head and we are the cars in a train. When we are asleep there is no movement for the train. But when we wake up and start our day, what do we need to do? Connect with the head by faith. We already looked at dying to self so Christ lives in us represented by the Holy Spirit to take full control. Even though we are connected we still need to be willing to obey every command that the Holy Spirit reminds us to do. We apply this by doing our routine like having our quiet time with the Lord, reading His Word and prayer. Then we prepare to go to work because this is His will. We get there on time just as we come on time for our appointment with God on Sundays to worship. When we work we will do everything without complaining and thankful for every circumstance that we may go through good or bad. We do a good job working as unto the Lord.
Remaining in His love means and requires this as a mind set. “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s command and remain in his love.” How did Jesus obey His Father’s command?
“But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” John 14:31
Jesus was driven to obedience by His love for His Father. In the same way our obedience and willingness to do what Christ commands should be driven the same way by our love for Christ. The Holy Spirit is the one who supplies and produces that love for Christ. Our part is only to decide to be willing to obey after surrendering ourselves to Christ daily. When we have died to self the Holy Spirit takes over to empower us to do the will of God. Even Jesus while He was human needed the Holy Spirit and yielded to His leading.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Luke 4:1-2a
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” There is a joy that is produced by the Holy Spirit but I believe there is another joy that Jesus wants us to experience that He gives. When Jesus was about to be crucified, this was what He went through.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2
Jesus did not have this joy while He hung on the cross. In fact when God His Father abandoned Him, He was alone and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was when God made Him to be sin for us. God turned His back on sin and Jesus lost His fellowship with His Father. Did He have joy at this time? Certainly not for joy and sin cannot come together. That joy came to Him after the cross. This is now the joy that He shares with us when we face persecutions, hardships and difficulties just as Paul also went through. Are we exempted from this? No. For Jesus said,
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first… If they persecuted me they will persecute you also.” John 15:18, 20b
This is what Jesus meant when He said, “that your joy may be complete.” Regardless of the circumstance you are in good or bad you have the joy of Christ and that is complete. But that joy comes to us after we have also died with Him. “I have been crucified with Christ.” This is the joy of the Lord.
Jesus highlighted a command that should be obeyed by everyone He loved. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” This is not the love you have for your neighbor or those who hate you. This is the love for another believer. He gave them this command earlier and said it again.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
This is new and special command to believers for believers. This is the evidence to the world that we belong and identified with Christ that brings glory to Him bringing us to a higher relationship with Him. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Who are these friends Jesus is referring to? “You are my friends if you do what I command.” He is not here referring to being saved but to a new relationship with Christ. It is true that Jesus is our friend and there is a hymn for that. “What a friend we have in Jesus?” Because Jesus is our friend we can trust Him to come to our help and He is a faithful. What about us? There is a difference to be a friend of Jesus. Can He trust us when He sends us to tell someone the good news that we will obey? Are we willing to take risks to stand for Christ and do the right thing? A pastor in Iran was sentenced to die because he will not recant for being a Christian. In the Muslim faith when one converts to Christianity this is punishable by death. There is one man in the Old Testament that stands out that God calls His friend,
“But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend.” Isa. 41:8
Why did God call Abraham His friend? I believe that when God commanded him to sacrifice his only son whom he loved, he obeyed without hesitation. He was willing to give up his only son out of obedience to God.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said, “do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”…The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.” Gen. 22:12, 15-17a
Abraham feared God and for us we obey because we love God. Can you imagine if we become friends of Jesus, just like Abraham we have God’s promise of blessings to be a channel of blessing to who God will call. We now have a new relationship with our Master. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.” Jesus here is not minimizing those who serve the Lord. This should be what everyone who is saved ought to do serving the Lord and most are already doing. In addition to being a servant He wants us to be His friends. “Instead I have called you friends for everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Becoming a friend of Jesus is the greatest blessing next to being loved by Him. Jesus already made known to His disciples what they needed to know. Every good thing and every blessing that is already theirs. Knowing God from the beginning. Yet what was lacking at that time was power to do the commands that Jesus has given them. That power came after the Holy Spirit came to reside in them, just as everyone who has received Christ as Lord is given the Holy Spirit. This is what they were to make known those they will disciple later on.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20
Paul affirms this to us when he prayed for a friend and fellow worker,
“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Philemon 6
How do we become active? When we hear the call and obey the call to go. “You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” We are all called to be witnesses for Christ. Then as we grow in grace and knowledge of Christ and remain in His love He gives us the privilege to be used by Him to seek and save the lost. The fruit that we bear is when we reproduce an offspring for Christ. We simply share the faith and Jesus saves those whom His Father gives Him. We are His messengers and channel of the blessing of salvation. This is the fruit that will last forever, the souls saved and reproducing disciples in order to disciple others.
How does God the Father view all these? “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” Earlier by remaining in Him, Jesus promised to give them whatever they wish. The more they got answers to their prayers the more they became obedient to Christ. When we are bearing fruit, the Father gives us whatever we ask in the name of Jesus for His sake.
At the end of our text, Jesus again gave this command a second time, “This is my command: Love each other.” Why was this very important to Jesus? Loving each other is a testimony to those around us, in the community and even to the world that we are his disciples. If there is quarrelling and backbiting among the members of Christ body, what impression will those who are witnessing His church have? How can Christ be with us when there is no love for each other? Judge for yourselves the religion where we came from, did you find the followers loving each other? Even among Muslims they are even killing now each other and dethroning their leaders. So what should stand out as different about us Christians? I thank the Lord that I see this among you and I trust that what is happening inside is spreading outside our walls. This is the greatest testimony that will make the message of the gospel glorious and attractive giving glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is God’s message to the world for us to bring outside our walls.
“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
This is God’s message to us, His body inside our walls.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16