Go

Gages Lake Bible Church

Love, the Mark of a Christian - Part 1

Love, the Mark of a Christian

John 13:31-38

Gages Lake Bible Church

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Pastor Daniel Darling

 

 

 

 

Intro 1:

 

A woman died and arrived at the Gates of Heaven.

While she was waiting for Christ to greet her, she peeked through the gates. She saw a beautiful banquet table. Sitting all around were her parents and all the other people she had loved and who had died before her.

They saw her and began calling greetings to her.
"Hello - How are you!
We've been waiting for you!
Good to see you."

When Christ came by, the woman said to him, "This is such a wonderful place! How do I get in?"

"I see here that it says here that you have accepted my gift of salvation but my Father said to make sure you have to also spell a word," Saint Peter told her."Which word?" the woman asked.

"Love."

The woman correctly spelled 'Love', and Christ welcomed her into Heaven.

About a year later, Christ came to the woman and asked her to watch the Gates of Heaven for Him for a short time and let him know if anyone arrived..

While the woman was guarding the Gates of Heaven, her husband arrived.

I'm surprised to see you," the woman said. "How have you been?"

"Oh, I've been doing pretty well since you died," her husband told her "
I married the beautiful young nurse who took care of you while you were ill
And then I won the multi-state lottery.
I sold the little house you and I lived in and bought a huge mansion.
And my wife and I traveled all around the world. We were on vacation in Cancun and I went water skiing today. I fell and hit my head, and here I am. What a bummer!  How do I get in?"


"You have to spell a word," the woman told him.

"Which word?" her husband asked.

" Czechoslovakia ."

 

Intro 2: If I were to ask you the single most important identifying characteristic for a Christian, what would you say? In other words, what is the most important personal character trait for you to possess, the one thing that will make you stand out and mark you as a follower of Christ?

 

The apologists among us would say “It’s important to know what we believe and why.”

 

The fundamentalists among us would say, “I think it’s important to stand on solid doctrine. The truth sets you free.”

 

Those whose heart beats toward social justice might offer this, “Our good works in the community, using our hands and feet to serve those in need.”

 

And the evangelists would say, “Well, I think we have to be bold in our witness sand get out there and share the gospel.”

 

All of these things are important. They are given great coverage in the Bible. Without any one of these, we’re an incomplete church.

 

And yet, today as we read Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus gives us a surprising commandment.

 

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:34-35 (KJV)

 

That’s a powerful statement. How will someone know you’re a Christian? They’ll know by the way you love your fellow believer.

 

Today, I want to unpack Jesus statement. What does it mean to love fully? What does it mean to love each other like Jesus loves?

 

I have to admit that I’m powerfully impacted by Jesus words to us today. In fact, there is so much here, that I’ve decided to take it in two parts. I have four points and today we’ll discuss only two.

 

I invite you to turn in your Bible’s to John 13:31.

 

 

1)     The Source of Love

 

If you’ve been following our study of John you’ll know the context and the setting for Jesus words. But in case you haven’t or you’ve missed a few messages, let me bring you up to speed.

 

Chapter 12 brought Jesus’ ministry to the Jewish people, his public ministry, to a close. From this point on, Jesus will be speaking intimately and personally to his own disciples.

 

John 13-17 contain some of the most precious truths in all of the Scriptures and for Christians. Jesus discusses some important bedrock truths of the Christian faith: Heaven, Holy Spirit, Love, Fruit, Live in Him, Death, Life.

 

The disciples are in the Upper Room. They are sharing a meal before Passover. But Jesus requested absolute privacy. Which means there are no people around to wash the feet of the disciples as was customary after a long day.

 

The disciples weren’t about to wash each other’s feet. So they just began the meal. And argued over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom. You see, they still didn’t get or wouldn’t accept that Jesus was about to die, to go to the cross.

 

So Jesus demonstrates real leadership by putting the towel around his waist and getting down and washing the disciple’s feet. Jesus held this up as the model for servant leadership. Instead of angling and fighting for position, the church, which would be built on the foundation of the Apostles, would be led by men who served each other. Jesus actions were also representative of what JEsus does to us, in daily caring and sanctifying us. We’re cleansed once by salvation, but daily he washes our feet, sanctifies us with the Word and with water and with the towel of grace.

 

It was also here that Jesus gave a final appeal to Judas, who He predicted would betray him, to fulfill the Scriptures. And yet even though Jesus knew it would happen, Judas still made that terrible choice.

 

This is where we pick it up today. Let’s read from John’s Gospel:

 

Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
John 13:31-32 (KJV)

 

The other gospels seem to indicate and many scholars believe that this is when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, the Communion time. Only believers can truly participate in this most intimate of moments with the Savior, because only believers, who have died with Christ and been buried in baptism, can have that unity, brokered at the cross, by which we have fellowship with Christ.

 

Many things happened when Judas left that room. First, the tension was gone—and now it was just Jesus and his disciples. Those who don’t now the Lord can’t experience that same kind of relationship and intimacy with Jesus that believers can. And they can’t demonstrate the supernatural, sacrificial, Jesus-like love.

 

But how does this love develop? It had to happen because of the cross. Jesus said that in Judas going about his betrayal, The Father was glorified, Jesus was glorified, and Jesus would be glorified.

 

Five times the word “glorify” is referred to. The original Greek means doxa. And it refers to one’s opinion of God, ones’ worth and character. Jesus was glorified at the cross because as Adam dragged the human race into sin, so Jesus, as the Last Adam, rescued and reversed the curse of sin. He defeated sin and death.

 

God was glorified, because His justice was satisfied by the cross and His love was revealed at the cross. His holiness demanded that sin be paid for. His character and his love demanded a sacrifice for sin. God’s love was revealed in full at the cross.

 

And Jesus would be glorified later by the Resurrection and the Ascension into Heaven to the right hand of God. And he’ll come again in power and glory to establish His Kingdom.

 

It’s interesting, that Jesus, after Judas leaves, I imagine him leaning in here, and he addresses them. Let’s read from John’s gospel again:

 

Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
John 13:33 (KJV)

 

He calls them little children. This is the only time John uses this term in the gospel, but he frequently uses it in 1 John. It was typical for rabbis to call their pupils children and for children to call their rabbi father.

 

I think there is a spiritual application. Again, only those who are God’s children can truly love the way He loves. In these chapters, 14-17, Jesus shares benefits available only to those who are His Children. And I might add, that all are not God’s children. Only those who have been born again by faith in Him. This had no benefit to Judas, He wasn’t born again.

 

It also gives you insight into the heart of Christ toward us. We’re not his enemies. We’re not in competition. Christ isn’t out to get us. We are his children. He loves us with a parental, caring, perfecting, sanctifying love.

 

So many of us grow up or have in our heads this idea of the anger of God. And it is true that fearing God in a reverent holy way is wise, we must bask in the love of God. I think we don’t begin to love and act and serve God the way we should because we don’t fully realize how much He loves us.

 

This is the love I want to model for my kids. I want them to fear me, but I mainly want them to know I will always love them.

 

We can only love—because God is the source of love. 1 John 4:7-8 says:

 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

God doesn’t love. God is love. And only those who know God can love the way God loves. And even among those who are His followers, until we fully grasp the depth of Jesus’ love, we’ll not be able to fully love.

 

2) The Supernatural Quality of Love

 

Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 13:33-34 (KJV)

 

I think it’s interesting that Jesus tied these two things together. He’s leaving and he commands them to love. You see, if God is love and if Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love, then when Jesus left the earth, the only way people can see God’s love is through His disciples.

 

Jesus is saying to them. I’m going where you can’t go. I must suffer and die and pay for sin alone. But I will rise and when I leave I leave you with my love, it’s a supernatural love, birthed on the cross.

 

I want to dig into what Jesus is saying here.

 

A New Commandment I Give You. What was new about this commandment? The truth is that it really wasn’t new. This word doesn’t necessarily mean “new in time” but it means “new in experience.” And so in one sense, Jesus wasn’t giving them anything new but Jesus’ own life and death and sacrifice put a fresh perspective on the meaning of love. Jesus was love personified.

 

But in another sense, what Jesus was asking, requiring of His disciples was new. You see in the Old Testament, in the law. In Leviticus 19:18, we read:

 

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Leviticus 19:18 (ESV)

 

The Jewish people knew this law well. But you see, this wasn’t hard for the Jewish people to do. Because the law only expected that you love your neighbor. Well, they all lived in communities with like-minded people, with their own kind. So they were only required to love other Jewish people.

 

And by this time, the Pharisees had developed groups of people that they were to love and groups that were okay to hate. This is the expected kind of love, the natural kind of love. The law only requires a minimum standard of behavior in society.

 

But Jesus said, my love will go above and beyond that. Jesus said you will love one another. Now think of the implications of this. The church would be Jew and Gentile, bond and free. They would be required to love people with whom they had nothing in common.

 

Remember who was in Jesus group of disciples. There was a political zealot. There was a hate tax man. There were the Galilleans, who were way different than the Jerusalem folks. Jesus said to them, “The law says one thing. The law requires you love that person with whom you have in common.” But the love Jesus models and asks of us is agape love. Loving that brother or sister who is different than you. Who rubs you the wrong way. Who may injure or insult you.

A New Commandment I give you. Some have called this the 11th commandment. Because Jesus didn’t suggest or offer an idea. Jesus commanded that we love.

 

Why does Jesus command agape love? Because to love like this is not natural. Its not something that you normally do. It’s not required by the law. It’s not something that people typically think is expected.

 

This is a supernatural love. This is a love that flows only from Christ. Now most of the time, we demonstrate phileo love. We love because we’re loved.

 

The love you show you’re spouse, at least when you first met and you were enraptured. That wasn’t agape love. It was a phileo love, because you knew there was mutual interest.

 

But as you grow older and you live with each other and you begin to see each other’s faults, you must summon agape love from Christ.

 

What does this love look like? Rather than giving a list, Jesus pointed to Himself. He said, “love as I love.” How did Jesus love?

 

a)     He loved sacrificially. Agape love is sacrificial. As Jesus laid down his life for us, so we should lay it down for our brothers and sisters.

 

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 (ESV)

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16 (ESV)

 

What does this mean? What does this look like? It means we take up our crosses and die to ourselves. You see phileo love is a love that only works when we’re loved in return. And this is not a bad love. This is a good, human love. But agape love is sacrificial. It is looking at that person, that brother or sister in the Lord, and serving them. Washing their feet. Encouraging them. Giving to them. Putting ourselves out for them.

 

Now I have no doubt that most of us would die for each other. But the question is, will we live for each other?

 

b) Jesus loved first.

 

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11 (KJV)

 

Agape love, supernatural love, love that is above and beyond what is expected—is love that loves regardless of what worth that person can bring to you or to me. Paul says it perfectly in Romans:

 

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8 (KJV)

 

You see, this is the mark of a Christian. Everybody loves, whether you’re Bbudist or Muslim or atheist. They all take care of their kids and love their wives. But only followers of Christ can summon that agape love, that love that loves when someone else is ugly, sinful, hateful, awful.

 

We’ll get into more of this next week, but I want to say today that this is the single most identifying characteristic of a Christian. That you love in an agape way. People are tired of religion, they want to see authenticity. Will you love when someone wrongs you or hates you?

 

c) Jesus’ love is a forgiving love

 

Jesus loves is a forgiving love. It’s a love that initiated reconciliation when we were sinners. It’s a love that keeps on forgiving. When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive, Jesus said, “70x7.”

 

Peter had thought he was pretty forgiving. He offered seven times, which was 2 and a half times what the law required. Jesus said, “I’ve called you to something different. You’re going to forgive above and beyond what is expected.” This is real, genuine love. Why? Because Jesus forgave us above and beyond what is expected.

 

I heard once a man say to me, ”Well, we tried forgiving this person three times.” And this excused their gossip and smear campaign against this person. Because they forgave him three times. I said to him,”Well, I’m glad Jesus wasn’t like that with you.”

 

d) Jesus loves is a truthful love. Remember Jesus said to watch him as the model for love. What does Jesus do? He washes our feet with humility and grace. But the water represents the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, the towel represents grace.

 

Some Christians want to think that love cancels out the truth, as if we can just wipe away righteousness and holiness. But love that doesn’t have the truth is not love at all. And as Christians, we’re required to wipe the feet of our brothers and sisters.

 

Sometimes that means we cleanse the dirt with the Word of God. This is loving. I heard a famous Christian singer recently say that we should accept homosexuality because we need to be more loving. But God’s love never requires that we deny God’s truth. Now, we should be graceful, and humble and servantlike in our approach to anyone’s sin struggle. Too often churches and pastors scrape at people’s feet and remove the skin and do more damage than good.

 

But on the other side, we must share the truth? Why because sharing the truth of the Word of God is the most loving thing. Because the truth sets people’s hearts free.

 

As a father, if I let my son Dan Jr play in the medicine cabinet, am I really loving? If I let him wander the streets, am I loving? If I let my kids believe lies, am I loving?

 

d) God’s love is a corrective love.

 

The writer of Hebrews eloquently says this:

 

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Hebrews 12:6 (KJV)

 

You see, the love of God is not a baseless, warm, fuzzy, Hollywood love. It’s a real love. Its an active love. It’s a sacrificial love. And it’s a corrective love.

 

Now we have make sure we have the right view of God. I fear that many Christians see God as an angry guy out to get them. Ready to strike lightening. And the truth is God is nothing like that toward His children. But God is also not some loosy-goosy parent who doesn’t care what his children do.

 

And so when we sin, God lovingly corrects us, not because he’s mad, because God is love. And he wants to sanctify us. He wants to wash us with water by the Word.

 

I have to correct my children from time to time. And it’s a tough thing for a father to do. I take no pleasure in doing it. But if I don’t establish boundaries, what kind of parent am I? Kids want boundaries. They cry out for them. And same with us. God gives us boundaries for our own protection.

 

Everything God forbids is because it will destroy us. God’s rules aren’t just arbitrary and made up. They have a purpose. They are rooted in His love.

 

And so it is with us, dear friends. We must lovingly correct each other. Our job as brothers and sisters is provoke to good works. We don’t show love when we ignore sins in the lives of others. We’re to speak the truth in love.

 

Jesus says we must love – one another. That implies that it is person. Someone said that we can’t love the entire world, but we can love each other.

 

You can’t change the world. You can’t stop the murder and mayhem, but you can love one another.

 

But in order to “love one another” you have to actually know one another. I want our church to be so united in love that our best friends are here. That we get to know each other in an intimate way.

 

Imagine what we could do in this body if we laid our lives down for each other. If we did above what was expected? If we lovingly confronted each other with the Word, with grace, with the towel of humility and service?

 

A Love that Begins With Christ

So now you’re sitting here understanding what agape love is and you’re probably thinking, Wow this is so overwhelming. I can’t do this.

 

And the truth is you can’t. But listen closely to Jesus words again. I want to read from the NASB:

 

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
John 13:34 (NASB77)

 

How do we love with agape love? We love as Jesus loved us. In other words, we only love, because Jesus loved us. His love for us empowers us to love others.

 

John illuminates on this principle in 1 John 4:7

 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

But I want you to turn to another passage. 2 Corinthians 5:13

 

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 2 Corinthians 5:14 (NKJV)

 

In one sense, to agape love is a commandment and so we do it because Christ loved us unconditionally. And there are times that you must choose. You can live for yourself or you can die to yourself and love as Christ loves.

 

Paul said, if One died for all, then all died. We died with Christ, our affections and lusts. We don’t live for ourselves, we live for Jesus.

 

We don’t grade our love based on what is expected, what is human, what is normal. We grade our love on the cross, where Jesus went beyond what was expected and sacrificially gave himself for us.

 

The cross is our reference point. So when you’re tired and hurt and lonely and crabby. When you are hurt so bad you can’t seem to forgive. You look back at your Savior, your naked, wretched, beaten Savior and you say, “I will forgive. I will love. I will serve. Because Jesus did it for me.”

 

And yet at the same time, where God commands, God always equips. Jesus didn’t tell us to agape love and then leave us without any means of doing it. Psalms says that God knows our frame, He remembers we’re dust.

 

And so it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit, by leaning in on Jesus, be drinking deeply of His Word and His power that we love.

 

You see you can’t go home and say, “Great sermon. I really need to love more.” Because you can’t do that. You can’t love in an agape way.

 

Love is something that is born in us by God. Two more references:

 

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Romans 5:5 (KJV)

 

The love of God is implanted in us by the Holy Spirit. You don’t love more by just loving more. You love more by basking more in Jesus love for you. By digging into the Word of God. By being faithful to hear God-ordained preaching. By getting on your knees and asking God to give you a loving heart.

 

Personally, I found that I love more after I’ve been with Jesus. Those days that I’m in the Word, I come home and I’m naturally more loving to my kids, my wife, my family. I’m more forgiving of their offenses. I’m humbler. I’m less angry and less impatient.

 

Love, the love God asks us of us, the love God requires, is something produced by the Holy Spirit. I have one more passage:

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-contol. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

 

Notice that the first fruit of the Spirit is love. Love is not something related to personality. Oh he’s just a loving person. Agape love is produced by Christ in you, by the Holy Spirit’s work in your love. You can’t work hard at love. You can only walk with the Spirit.

 

And it’s no coincidence that love is the first trait mentioned. Because love is the most important.

 

Love empowers everything else. Joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. You can’t exhibit the fruits of the Spirit if you first haven’t been transformed by God’s love and He hasn’t put love in your heart.

 

That’s why love is the mark of a Christian. Jesus said, “They will know you’re mine, because you love.” We’ll study this in depth next week—what it means to be an authentic Christian, one who everyone knows has been with Christ.

 

We’re going to look at 1 Corinthians 13 as a parallel passage. We’re going to ask ourselves—is this me, is this you. Do we exhibit these characteristics? And if we don’t, what does that say about us?

 

Closing

 

I want to say this as we close. None of us love enough. Because none of us is as close to God as we could be. Paul said it was his entire life’s goal to know Christ.

 

Don’t’ go home intending to love more. Go home intending to know more fully God’s love for you. Bask in His love.

 

And if you’re here today and you’re not one of God’s “little children”, know this. If you want to love the way God intended you to love, you can only do this by a relationship with Him.

 

And you only know Him through His son, Jesus Christ. Do you know Jesus? Remember God loves you, even when you’re unlovable. God loves you even when you’re a sinner. God loves you even as you’re not worthy.

 

You come to God as you are. And God reaches out in love and enables you to s love others.

 

 

Read More