Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Christ makes us his friends, and the world hates us for it

Bible Readings

  • Psalm 9:7-20
  • John 15:9-16:4

Introduction

My dear friends in the Lord, Jesus Christ,

My mother was one of the fairest people I knew.  Like a hen, she would protect her chicks.  Don’t get into Mom’s bad books by spreading stories about her children. As kids, we knew she would always defend us, and it gave us a sense of security.  But in her fairness, Mom demanded that we always act like kids who bore the Schwartz name. We had to show respect and obedience. But, even on the odd occasion where we were apparently in the wrong, we were never left on our own.  Mom would be between us and those we were accountable to, stating her case for fairness, but asking for lenient discipline.  

Chapters 13-16 of the Gospel of John recorded the last and private teaching of our Lord when He addressed his disciples.  They were about to be scattered (16:31), they had a mission:

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8, NIV)

What would the need to remember and take along in their mission to fishers of men?  When times get tough, what did Jesus give them to hang on to?

I have loved you

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9, NIV)

This an extraordinary statement. When our grandson wanted to express how much he loved his mother, he said, “l love you more than all the Holden Commodores in the world.” But really, we do not love comparatively.  When Jesus expressed his love towards his disciples, He used an unmatched comparison.  He loves us with the same love as the eternal Father loved his eternal Son.  This is mind-boggling. How do we know what Jesus says is true?  Just go a bit further in the chapter.  

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12–13, NIV)

In chapter 10  Jesus Christ declared his love:  

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17–18, NIV)

But the reason why both the Father and the Son love the world is not that the world is so lovely and lovingly. As we saw last week, when Jesus came into the world to dwell amongst us, this place was dark.  God’s own did not receive him.  Why not?  They were spiritually blind, and by nature they hated God.  And yet, He loved them as the Father loved them.  We know the verse:  

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, NIV)

So, when his disciples would face persecution and hardship in their fruit-bearing mission, when they were stuck in jails, when they lost kindred and possessions, they could hold on to what Jesus impressed on their minds the last night they spent together, “As the Father loved Me, so I have loved you.   

What carries the church through persecution and hardship?  When all of this world is lost, when health has departed, when loved ones have lost their memory, when we bury those we hold dear above all else, when we lose our names and reputations for the glory of Christ, what is left?  What keeps us going?  I have loved you!  Paul writes:  

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39, NIV)

Remain in my love

Our Lord gave his disciples this command:  Remain in my love.  It can be tempting to despair and walk away from Christ’s love when the going gets tuff.  He may seem distant, and we don’t see his love in our trials.  Jesus knew all of this, and that’s precisely why He added the command, “Remain in my love”.  

How does one remain in his love? You take Him on his word. 

If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (John 15:10, NIV)

Christ had all reason to walk away from the love of his Father. People scorned Him, they hated Him, the devil tempted Him in the desert, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him.  Yet, He says: “just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:10, NIV)

You will have complete joy

When we put the love and the word of Christ first in our lives, when we understand the love God has for us in his Son, when we understand that Christ endured all the scorn and hatred to save us, then, even in the face of hardship, we will have joy.  The world can not add to this joy, and worldly joy cannot compete with this inward and unspeakable joy, because the joy we have in Christ is all we need.  

… fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2–3, NIV)

Jesus prepared his disciples, 

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22, NIV)

This verse most probably was the context of the short time between the death and resurrection of Christ. But ultimately it points to time between the ascension of our Lord into heaven, and his return when He comes to takes his won with Him to be in the presence of the Father.  Even though we do not have Christ in Person with us, our joy in Him nothing can take away.  Many martyrs of the faith sang hymns of joy when they burned on the stake.  Steven, while they stone him to death “… full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (Acts 7:55–56, NIV)

Love one another

One way to love Christ is to take Him on his word and completely trust Him.  But there’s another aspect we should not forget, we must love one another as part of the same family as Christ loves us.  Christian love is comparative love.  What’s the comparison?  As I love you.  This is a big ask.  You look at your fellow Christian and what do you see?  Someone whom Christ loves, someone who has become part of the family of Christ on the same basis as you have: drawn by undeserved love.  

Do we love your brother and sister?   How much and to what degree?  As Christ loves us? As Christ gave up everything for us, so we need to set our brothers and sisters in Him on the same level.  As Mom would say, “You touch my children, and you touch me.  You touch my fellow brother or sister in the Lord, and you touch me.  We are of the same family.  This is a different love the world wants to sell us.  It is not the warm fuzzy feeling I get when someone does something nice to me. What drives my love for my fellow Christian is the love which Christ had for me when He laid down his life to save me.  When my brother weeps, I weep; when my sister is hurting because of the name of Christ, I am hurting.  Together we carried the yoke of Christ.  

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2, NIV)

Friends of Christ have the world as their enemy

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. (John 15:15, NIV)

What happened when we started to follow Christ?  We became part of God’s family.  In Him, we are brothers and sisters.  In Christ we were taken out of the world, we received a new citizenship, we received a new mind and heart, we are born from above, and we received new marching orders.  

The world has no attraction for us anymore.  If we love Christ the way He loves us, our lives are driven for his glory.  When Jesus interceded for his disciples at his Father’s throne, He prayed:  

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:15–16, NIV)

How is it that we could become friends of Christ?  

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:15–16, NIV)

You see the order here?  You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” For what reason?  “You so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”  How is it possible to bear fruit in this world?  Everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” What is our authority?  I have called you friends”.  Friends, not in the sense of being buddies of Christ, but friends because we are not enemy anymore.  So now, we go out in the word with a few things written on our minds:

  • Jesus loves us as the Father loves us.  
  • Jesus laid down his life for us.
  • No-one can rob us of our joy, because nothing in the world can add to our joy.
  • We have fellow soldiers, saved by grace, family in Christ, and our love towards one another is as strong as Christ’s love for us.
  • We have the words of Christ to reach a lost world
  • We did not choose ourselves—we were appointed by Christ
  • The fruit we bear will have eternal consequences, not because of us, but because of Him who sent us
  • We are no strangers to Christ anymore, by grace He has wiped out the enmity between us and God.

So we have the world at our feet!  They are just waiting for us to speak the word. Not so!  

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19, NIV)

Here’s an excellent test to see if we really love Christ.  Does the world love us?  Do they like the things we say and do?  When John the Baptist preached the word of God, he ended up in jail, and later he was beheaded.  Steven died a martyr.  So did about all the apostles and many others who followed Christ.  James writes, 

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)

There is an eternal choice?  Would you follow Christ and inherit eternity because He calls you his friend, or would you rather be in step with the world and forfeit your soul?  

Amen.  

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 27 January 2019

 

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Obedience to Christ through love brings joy and fruit

So that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah the Son of God

Scripture Readings

  • Micah 6:6-8
  • John 15:9-17

Introduction

When God created the world in the beginning, He created everything, and yet, He also created mankind to be under-creators:  God appointed them to be fruitful and fill the earth and subdue it.  Adam and Eve had to work the ground, plant seeds and care for the animals.  God did not create all animals at once – however, all sorts of animals He made.  He did not create all plants, but all the kinds of plants He created.  He did not create all humans at once; He commissioned Adam and Eve to be fruitful and have children and train them up to do the same.  Adam and Eve, and in them all their seed, were the crown of God’s creation.  To them God gave breath so that they were different from the animals and other created things.

It was not their world – it belonged to God, but in a certain sense they were under-creators – always accountable to God. Their task was to be fruitful to the glory of God.

The sin they committed was to take what belonged to God and use it for their own pleasure.  The result was that their fruitfulness and fruit-bearing task would become painful and difficult.  The very fact that their first son killed the second proofed this.

Redemption in Jesus Christ through his cross, resurrection, ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to, in some way, sanctify the original commission to Adam and Eve.  The first miracle of Jesus happened at a wedding in Cana.  Marriages are sanctified in the blood of Christ, and children are a blessing of God.

In another sense God in Christ restored the commission to be fruitful to his church.  In principle Christ restored everything and all authority is under Him, but He calls his church to give effect to the fruit of his death, resurrection and ascension.  As He gave Adam and Eve his breath, He gave us his Holy Spirit so that by his enabling we can indeed become witnesses of Christ to the ends of the earth.

Last week we heard the Word from the first part of John 15.  The message of our Lord was that our Father in heaven, through the Word, is doing what we need to bear fruit.  He lifts us up and prunes us.  This He does for as long as we remain in Christ.

If we do not remain in Christ, we die, all our effort will fail because without Him we can do nothing.  The judgement of God rests upon those who are not in Christ – they will be thrown in the fire.

The fruit-bearing success of the church is to remain in Christ – for as long as they do so, they can ask what they need in their task to be fruitful, and they will receive it.  This is to the glory of the Father.

As the Father loved Me

Now we hear about the reason why God will be glorified: Christ provides the foundation on which He bases our possibility to bear fruit.

“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9, NIV)

Just for one moment let the weight of this truth impact on your mind.

This statement of the Lord uses the Greek tense which describes factual events which took place.  It is something like, “Captain Cook arrived in Australia”, or, “We are your parents.”  One does not dispute statements like this; there is no way to undo these events.  “As the Father loved Me, so I loved you.”

From all eternity the Father and the Son, together with the Holy Spirit have been/were there.  There has never been any disagreement between them.  God is eternally the same – yesterday, today and into all eternity.  So the Father loved the Son, the Son loved the Father and the Holy Spirit loved the Father and Son.  “The Word was with God and the Word was God.”  Without any shadow of turning, without any possibility of failing, or hint of wavering. Perfect for before all times, perfect now, and perfect into eternity.  The love between the persons of the Godhead is far beyond what we can fathom, and not equal to anything we might know.

Now Jesus says, “As the Father loved Me, so I loved you.”  Not the same love, but the same degree of love – eternal, steadfast, without any shadow of turning.

Turn with me to Ephesians 1.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians 1:3–10, NIV)

God loved sinners and wanted them to be saved.  To that Jesus was appointed the only One through whom we can be adopted as his children.  To gain the redemption from God Jesus gave his blood for our sins to be forgiven.  We now know the grace of God, and at the end of time we will stand before the throne of God in the righteousness of Christ.

As my Father loved Me, so I loved you.”  He love us because the Father loved us.  The Father loved Him because He laid down his life out of his own accord, willingly and freely.

My prayer is that we will never forget the statement of our Lord in this verse.  For if we indeed remember it well, what follows will come naturally, “Now remain in my love.”

Remain in my love

How do we remain in his love? “If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love.”  Jesus says He remained faithful to his Father and kept on doing what brought glory to the Father by pleasing Him.  Because He and the Father are one in purpose, He could not do anything other that what the Father commanded Him.

There is something in this to describe our relationship with Christ.  Get this picture.  I read from Psalm 123:2

As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He shows us his mercy.  (Psalm 123:2 NIV)

Slaves were humbly dependent on their masters – they lived by the grace of their masters.  So, obediently they follow the gestures of the hand of the master who would not even need to say a word before they do the bidding of the mistress, so we wait for grace and mercy and then do what our Lord, who bought us free from slavery.  This verse might even go further to indicate the gesture from the hand of the master to declare free the salve in his presence.

Jesus says, “I loved you as the Father loved Me – remain in my love.” This means being drawn into the family circle of God through the love of Christ to experience the love of the Father, will necessarily lead to the desire to remain in that love.  And here at the throne of the Father at the feet of Christ, his wish becomes my command.  I want to do obey, because I take my lead from my Saviour who remained in the love of his Father by doing what the Father commanded.

Love brings fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23, NIV)

The divine character of God, now sanctified through Christ, is reflected in the original nature of Adam and Eve.  God gave them something of His nature in that they were created in his image.  Sin destroyed it, but in Christ that has been made new.  We are now restored in righteousness and holiness that we might rightly know God our Creator, heartily love Him and live with Him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise Him.  We constantly struggle with sin, but our perfect righteousness is Christ – we need to remain in Him in order to remain in his love and the love of the Father.

There is a verse in the Bible that links all of these things together:  obedience, fruit and joy.  It speaks of Christ:

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2–3, NIV)

Because of the love of the Father for Christ, and the love of Christ for the Father – and their love for sinners, Jesus endured the cross, scorning and shame:  his reward was the joy of doing the will of the Father and save the lost.

This brings us to joy.

Fruit brings joy

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11, NIV)

The views, outlook, and aspirations of the Master will be those of the disciples as well. This is the reason for the twofold repetition of the word “joy”—“my joy” and “your joy.” The joy of Jesus is to be the joy of the disciple.

The Bible has much to say about joy.  Indeed, to rejoice and be joyful is a command.  True worship of God is and should be joyful and with rejoicing.

Israel’s worship was often described as terms of a festival of rejoicing.

But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 12:5–7, NIV)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1, NIV)

What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Closing

It is only when we really understand the extent of the love of God in Jesus Christ, and we understand the satisfaction of doing his bidding that we bear fruit, that we tell of Him, that we care for the poor, the sick and the lame, that we become partners with those out there on the mission field, and when we bear the fruit of the Spirit – that we begin to understand the joy of serving the Lord.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 July 2013