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Gages Lake Bible Church

Love, the Mark of a Christian - Part 2

Love, the Mark of a Christian – Part Two

John 13:31-38

Gages Lake Bible Church

May 23rd, 2010

 

Intro:

 

We’re continuing our two-part series on the nature of supernatural love. Love as the Mark of a Christian, Part Two. Our context is our continuing study of the gospel of John. We’re closing out chapter thirteen.

 

If you weren’t here last week or if you were sleeping during last week’s sermon, which could be entirely possible, let me bring you up to speed with where we are.

 

We’re in the Upper Room with Jesus and His disciples. Jesus is sharing his final words to his beloved followers. These are precious words—John 13-17—because they are from the heart of Christ directly to those of us who know him and are his followers.

 

They had begun with a pre-Passover meal. Since Jesus requested total privacy, they had nobody to wash their feet. None of the disciples was about to engage in this most menial of jobs, so Jesus Himself wrapped the towel around his waist and washed their feet himself. Jesus was demonstrating the new kind of servant leadership that should characterize His followers in the church.

 

Then Jesus made one last attempt to reach the heart of Judas, the betrayer. Somehow this trusted, faithful man fooled everyone into thinking he was a Christ-follower. But Jesus’ graceful overtures—putting Judas at the head of the table, honoring him with the bread, washing his feet—none of these penetrated the darkness of Judas heart. Satan then entered Judas and he went his way, fulfilling Scripture, and betraying His Lord. This, too, was in the plan of God, foretold by Scripture. This, Jesus said, glorified God and glorified the Son.

 

Then Jesus leaned into the ones He loved. He called them His little children. And he shared instructions. He issued a new commandment, or rather a fresh take on an old commandment. “Love one another.” Jesus, in this commandment, said His followers would go above and beyond what was required by the law—to love your neighbor, the person with whom you share life and have a lot in common—and you would love one another. And you’d love with agape love.

 

We explored what this love looks like—it is sacrificial, truthful, forgiving. It initiates, it goes above and beyond what is required.

 

We also realized that this love is supernatural. This love is a fruit of the Spirit, it is not produced by our own strength. It is not a natural, human love. It is a supernatural love that happens only because Jesus loved us.

It is the first of the fruits of the Spirit—everything flows down from love.

 

So this week, we share part two. My two points last week were:

 

The Source of Love – Jesus

The Supernatural Nature of Love – What Agape Love Looks Like

 

Today we share our last two points:

The Mark of Love

The Secret of Love

 

3) The Mark of Love

Last week we asked the question, “What is the one distinguishing mark of a Christian?” Today I want to ask that question a bit differently. I want to say to you, “How do you know someone is disciple of Christ?” What does that look like?

 

The Bible tells us that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. But we can’t see hearts, can we? We can only see what we see.

 

What would say? If you would have asked me this growing up, I would have probably said something like, “A good Christian doesn’t listen to this kind of music.” Or “A good Christian doesn’t watch certain movies or even go to the movies.” Or “A good Christian has the right hair-cut or doesn’t have tattoos on his arm or probably believes exactly what I believe about the Bible, no more, no less.”

 

That’s what makes a good Christian. But it’s interesting, because Jesus had an entirely different definition for what it means to be a Christian.

 

I invite you to turn to John 13. I want to read Jesus’ words to you:

 

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35 (KJV)

 

If there is one message I want you to get today, it is this. Love Trumps Everything. Love trumps everything.

 

You see Jesus was going to leave the earth, but the movement would continue. And Jesus would leave His followers as His representatives on this earth. We are the body of Christ. We represent Christ.

 

John elaborates on this in his gospel, 1 John. He says:

 

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12

 

In other words, people can’t see God. People can’t Jesus Christ. The only Jesus they see is you. You are the Jesus they see, my friends.

 

But what about your faith let’s them know you have been with Jesus? You’re agape love for each other!

 

You see, Jesus is talking to a diverse group of people here. There is Simon, the right wing zealot. There is Mathew, the despised government tax man. There is Peter, the impulsive one. Thomas the doubter.

 

They were quite a collection. And so Jesus says, “I’m giving you a new commandment, a fresh take on something you already do. I’m telling you to love each other more than is expect.”

 

The law requires you to love your like-minded Jewish neighbor as yourself. By now the Pharisees had invented the rules of who was okay to like who was okay to hate.

 

And we have those rules ourselves, don’t we? Its okay to hate those who don’t like us. Its okay to hate those who don’t believe exactly the way we do. Its okay to just not love those who are unlovable and unforgiveable –in our midst.

 

But look around this room. Jesus said this. He said how will people know that what you say—that you’re a Christian and a follower of me—how ill they know its authentic?

 

By your supernatural, agape love for each other.

 

Jesus didn’t say, “They’ll know you’re a Christian by your statement of faith.” They’ll know you’re a Christian because you go to church.” Or they’ll know you’re a disciple because you go to a lot of Bible studies and you have the right Bible version and the right haircut and you don’t do all the things Christians are supposed to do.”

 

Now, you’re Christianity will show through your love for each other. Dr. James Montgomery Boice said this:

 

"The vertical love of disciples for the exalted Christ must be expressed horizontally in their love for all other Christians. Moreover, the horizontal love, which can be seen by everyone, is proof of the vertical dimension."

 

You see, love, love is the sign of authentic Christian faith. To be a disciple means to literally sit at the feet of Jesus and to learn of him. So you ask yourself, how do you know someone is a true disciple? How do you know someone is a good Christian?

Not by their statements. Not by their hair color or their Bible version. You know they have been with Jesus by the way they treat Jesus’ children.

 

Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” IF so, take care of my sheep. Feed them. Love them. Care for them.

 

A Sign of Something Supernatural

Why is agape love the ultimate calling card of a Christian? Because its so rare, its so unusual. And I have to say. I’ve been around a lot of Christians in my lifetime of growing up in the church. And I’ve seen few, precious few, who I could actually say, have spent time at the feet of Jesus and lived out the authentic life of love.

 

You see, agape love is the sign that there is something going on inside, something supernatural. That is why Paul said it is the most important thing. I’m going to as you to hold your place and turn with me to 1 Corinthians 13.

 

Listen to Paul’s words:

 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (ESV)

 

Paul says, I can have a silver tongue. I can be the best preacher in the world. I can have prophetic powers and foretell or forthell the future based on the Bible. I can have the greatest faith and see many things happen in my ministry.

 

But if I don’t have love. I am nothing.

 

Think on that for a minute. I am nothing. You know why a loveless Christian is nothing? Because all he is doing is practicing the same old tired religion.

 

Every religion has code and a statement of faith.

Every religion has a set of rules.

Every religion prays.

Every religion sings.

Every religion worships.

Every religion does good works for the poor.

Every religion has its martyrs.

 

Paul says you’re just another clanging symbol. You’re just another voice in a sea of voices.

 

But if you sit at the feet of Jesus and learn to love how Jesus loves. If you have the love of God shed abroad in your heart, then you will be different.

 

 I see a lot of Christians standing up for the truth. I see a lot of Christians getting excited over politics. I see a lot of them doing a lot of things. But there are precious few authentic Christians, whose lives is a transparent life of living with and for the Savior.

 

Do you know why people are turned off to Christianity? Because they don’t see this kind of agape love? This different, above-and-beyond type of love lived out.

 

Ghandi, who studied the teachings of Jesus and was actually open to becoming a Christian was asked, If you love Jesus so much why don't you become a Christian?" Gandhi said, "When the Christians decide to follow Him, I'll become one." 

 

Ouch. That’s tough, but it’s true.

 

J. Vernon McGee tells this story:

 

When I was a boy, my dad died and I went to work to support my mother and sister; so I stayed with two aunts and a bachelor uncle. One aunt was a Baptist and the other a Presbyterian. My uncle was an unbeliever and a beer drinker. Every Sunday he would get up just in time for the noon meal. For dinner every Sunday we heard all the Baptist dirt and the Presbyterian dirt. Years later, when my uncle was in the hospital, one of my aunts wept and asked me, "Vernon, why doesn't he come to Christ?" I almost told her. Friend, may I say, we do not win the lost by being Christian cannibals. "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another" (Gal. 5:15). This is the type of thing that is turning the unsaved away from the church today. This is the reason they don't come in to hear the gospel. They hear the gossip before they can hear the gospel! Do you realize that the most important commandment for a Christian is not to witness, not to serve, but to love other believers?

 

What Authenticity Looks Like

You see, I think we spend too much time trying to look like we’re serious Christians rather than actually sitting at the feet of Jesus and being so enveloped by His love that we love like he does.

 

What does agape love look like? Paul tell us:

 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

 

You could replace that word love with Christ. You could say that Christ was patient and kind. Christ did not envy or did not boast. Christ was not arrogant or rude. Christ didn’t insist on its own way. Christ was not irritable or resentful. Christ did not rejoice at wrongdoing. Christ rejoiced with the truth. Christ bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, endured all things.

 

That is authenticity, my friend. That is love, my friend. How do you know someone is spending a lot of time with Jesus? When they begin to live this way.

 

Can you say and can I say? Dan is patient. Dan is kind. Dan doesn’t envy or boast. Dan isn’t arrogant or rude. Dan doesn’t insist on his own way. Dan isn’t irritable or resentful. Dan doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing. Dan rejoices in the truth. Dan bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 

How rare is a person like that? So rare that a person like this makes people stop and look and listen. Even those who disagree know they have been with Jesus. They’re not just some religious nut. They’re a true, authentic, follower of Jesus Christ.

 

This was the power of the early church. They allowed the Spirit to so move through them, that they began to resemble Christ. Look at this passage from the book of Acts:

 

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 (KJV)

 

Ray Stedman: “The world may not always agree with us, they may not always come and join us -- although many of them will -- but they will know one thing: Such people have been with Jesus. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for another."

I want to share one more nugget from Dr. McGee: “Tertullian, an early church father, who recorded much of the history of the early church, writes that the Roman government was disturbed about the early church. Christians were increasing in number by leaps and bounds. Because they wouldn't take even a pinch of incense and put it before the image of the emperor, the Romans felt they might be disloyal. Spies went into the Christian gathering and came back with a report something like this: "These Christians are very strange people. They meet together in an empty room to worship. They do not have an image. They speak of One by the name of Jesus, who is absent, but whom they seem to be expecting at any time. And my, how they love Him and how they love one another." Now if spies came from an atheistic government to see whether Christianity is genuine and they came to your church, what would be the verdict? Would they go back to report how these Christians love each other?”

 

I have been deeply and personally convicted by this message. I used to think that a good Christian was defined by the lists. He did this right and did this wrong. He believed the way I believed and held to my exact standards.

 

How wrong I was. How sinful and prideful and Phariseeical I was! The truth is that what defines an authentic follower of Jesus is his inner life. How does he treat people? Is he real in those private moments? How does he treat God’s people?

 

Paul said we’re to do good, especially to those of the household of faith. And yet most of us hold grudges against other Christians. We despise and envy and backbite and gossip.

 

Churches fight churches. One thing that bothers me greatly about many who stand up for the truth—many with whom I have absolutely agreement on the issues. WE do it with such harsh tones. We lack love. We do it with pride as if its all about us.

 

 And Paul says, Jesus says, “Hey, it doesn’t matter if you stand up for the truth. It doesn’t matter how right you are. It doesn’t matter if you’ve built a huge ministry.”

 

If you don’t have love. If you beat your chest and tear down other of God’s people, you are nothing. You have nothing.

 

But, if and when you love one another, with agape, uncharacteristic love that flows from God’s love for you. You will make a difference in this world.

 

One more passage and then we get to our last point, The Secret of Love.

 

Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
1 Peter 2:17-21(KJV)

 

This is agape love, my friends. Its not just loving those who are lovable. But when you endure hurts and hardships, you are showing the world what Christ looks like. And this is such a rare commodity in our world, you will make a difference. You will do it.

 

3)     The Secret of Love

 

At the end of this chapter, we find Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ appeal to love as He loves. And Peter responded just as we often respond to messages from the Lord. Let’s read John’s words:

 

Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.
Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.
Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.
John 13:36-38 (KJV)


I think John included this, not only to verify that Jesus was indeed the Christ, because he prophesied Peter’s denial, but also because John, looking back, wants to let us know that there is a lot of Peter in all of us.

 

You see, Jesus was telling the disciples. You need to love as I love. And their response? Hey, we do love. And Peter, as if to prove how lovely He was, said that he would die for Jesus.

 

And Jesus said, “No Peter, no you won’t. You’ll actually cave in the hour of decision.”

 

Jesus didn’t do this to Peter to belittle him. Jesus did this to remind Peter that Peter was a human. Peter was a sinner. And sinners, on their own, can’t love the way Jesus wants us to love.

 

You see, the great secret to loving like Jesus is to realize that we don’t love like Jesus.

 

The secret to loving like Jesus is humility. And I see in Jesus response to Peter, two powerful revelations that we must accept if we’re to be humble enough to love like Jesus.

 

We’re weaker than we think we are. Peter thought he was strong. He had his sword, he was going to fight for Jesus. Interestingly, someone said that the reason Peter cut off the guy’s ear was because Peter was a fishermen, not a swordsmen. Peter had bad aim. He went for the head.

But we’re the same way. The reason we don’t love and live the authentic life Christ designed is because we’re full of pride. We think we’re so spiritual. WE think we’re so ready to just lay our lives down for the Lord. We pat ourselves on the back.

 

In Matthew, Jesus told Peter, “Satan wants to sift you as wheat.” In other words, Peter, you’re life is in the balance. You’re not strong. In fact, Satan rejoices when God’s people are so full of pride. Satan can really use a Christian with pride. I’m so loving. I’m so gracious. I’m so wonderful.

 

Can I tell you the most humble men I’ve met? Two weeks ago, Dan Anderson, president of Appalachian Bible College, accompanied the college kids to perform here. Here is a man who speaks at Word of Life, who knows the governor of his state by first name. Here is a man with many degrees and awards. And I have to say that he was one of the most gracious, humble men I’ve ever met. I saw the way he cared for his students. How he loved his wife and loved the college. And it wasn’t an act.

 

I’ve been around a lot of pious, politicians who put on the “everyman” show. This guy meant it. And I’m sad to report that very few prominent Christian leaders live this way. But I can tell that he’s been with Jesus. Why? Because he doesn’t think he’s arrived.

 

Psalms says that Jesus remembers our frame, that we are dust. The Creator knew Peter was weak. But Peter didn’t know he was weak. So often we forget that we’re dust.

 

But you now what is so cool about Peter’s story? Jesus predicted Peter’s denial, but Jesus didn’t’ give up on Peter. Jesus loved Peter. And Jesus loves us. He doesn’t give up on us. We give up on each other.

 

The key to loving like Jesus loves is to realize that we don’t love enough. To realize that we’re always in need of more of Jesus and less of us. When we let loose of our own selfish desires. When we die to ourselves and allow the Spirit to work God’s love in our hearts.

 

Someone asked Dwight L. Moody, "Do you have grace enough to die for Jesus?" He answered, "No, He hasn't asked me to do that. But if He asks me to, I know He will give me the grace to do it."

 

D.L. Moody knew the weaknes of his own flesh. And that humility is why God raised him up and used him.

 

We need to watch and pray. The second key to humilty, authenticity, and loving like JEsus is to do as Jesus instructed Peter. Listen to his words

 

And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest thou not watch one hour?
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Mark 14:37-38 (ASV)

 

Jesus told Peter three times to watch and to pray. Peter’s heart was in the right was in the right place. Peter wanted to die for Jesus. But Peter didn’t now the weakness of his own flesh.

 

That’s why we must watch and pray. Why? Because we’re weak. There is never a time in our lives when we can rest on our laurels. When we can say, “Okay, now I’m loving like Jesus.”

 

No, we must always watch. Watch our attitudes. Watch that pride. Watch that selfishness. And we must pray.

 

How should we pray? We should pray that we can begin to love like Jesus. We should pray that God gives us His love, so that our lives and our ministries and our relationships are authentic. So that we’re not just playing church and religion. So people can honestly say, “They have been with Jesus.”

 

 

Getting Out of the Way

I want to look anew at Jesus words:

 

A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even 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 (ASV)

 

What sets a Christian apart? Its your love for each other. Imagine if this community peaked into this little tiny church. Imagine if they saw us. What would they say? What would we be known for?

 

I hope they’d be able to say this: Those people over there love each other in a way I’ve never seen. And not because they are all the same kind of people. But they are actually all different. They come from different walks of life. But they really love Jesus. And you know how I know they love Jesus? They love each other?

You know, Peter did eventually die for Jesus. But Peter’s martyrdom wasn’t as important as Peter’s love for the brethren. Because it wasn’t Peter’s martyrdom that brought people to Christ as much as it was the agape love demonstrated in that early church that saw thousands and thousands come to faith in Christ.

 

I want to read one more verse:

 

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
1 John 3:14 (ESV)

 

People are looking for love, they’re looking for authenticity. John Lennon’s famous song is still popular today. “All you need is love, love, love.” That is the heartcry of people without Christ. They don’t know Christ’s love. You have Christ’s love.

 

So let’s get out of the way. Let’s humble ourselves. Let’s watch and pray. And let’s allow the Holy Spirit to produce that wonderful spirit of love, that supernatural agape love that only Christ and do through us.

 

I want to close with a poem from Amy Carmichael, the missionary to India:

 

If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting "Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?" then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I find myself taking lapses for granted, "Oh, that's what they always do," "Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvarylove.

If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not feel far more for the grieved Savior than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, "Just what I expected" if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

 

The Gospel

I want to make an appeal to those of you who don’t know Jesus. Jesus isn’t religion. Jesus isn’t another code or lifestyle or club. Jesus is the Son of God and through his death on the cross, you’re sin is forgiven.

 

You have a way to God. You have a home in Heaven secured, when you put your faith in Him.

 

Not only does God forgive you. Not only do you become one of His children. But you have the Holy Spirit in you, teaching you how to love, how to forgive. 

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