Good morning once again,
Let’s bow our heads in prayer.
Open our ears, O Lord, to hear your word and know your voice.
Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills, that we may have soft hearts and open ears for your word.
And may my words be your words not my own, Amen
Quite a familiar reading to many I am sure.
Now if I was to ask almost any Christian today, “What is the greatest commandment in the Bible?” the answer I hope would go something like this:
“To love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself.” Or they would recite the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31) Now back before I became a Christian, I never knew that was a saying from the bible I just thought it was a good rule to live your life by.
Christ’s greatest command, according to the Gospel of John, is that we love one another as Christ has loved us. When we think about the consequences of such a love, we may quietly admit to ourselves, “I could never love others to the full extent that Jesus loves me.” Can anyone actually fulfill this commandment? In the passage before Jesus’ command to “Love each other, as I have loved you” Jesus speaks about the foundation of that love.
In John 15:1 He says, “I am the true vine; you are the branches… Abide in me… and bear much fruit…” There’s something deeply important about the concept of a vine or a vineyard in Israelite thought. The vine has become a symbol of Israel as the people of God. Israel is pictured in the Old Testament writings as the vineyard or the vine of God.
It is interesting, however, that the OT prophets never used this concept apart from the disintegration of Israel. For example, Isaiah pictures a vineyard that has run wild. Jeremiah complains that the nation of Israel has turned into an “immoral plant of a strange vine.” Hosea decries the fact that Israel is an “empty vine”.
When Jesus made the statement, “I am the true vine”, we can just see all of their barricades go up. Jesus was actually saying to them, “Listen, my friends, you think that you are a branch and a vine just because you belong to the people of Israel.
You think that you are the real thing just because you are a part of a special nation… because of your birth and nationality.” Interesting we can see much of the same thinking today, I used to think I was a Christian because I was British. But that is not the case.
We read in the Bible that the prophets saw a vine that was in desperate need of pruning. And they were right. Again, and again, the people of Israel strayed from their intended purpose as God’s chosen people. Jesus, however, has a legitimate claim to the title of “true vine”, because his fruits were rooted in the power of God. Israel had lost its rootedness in God their Saviour.
But Jesus was firmly rooted in the love of God. Jesus was firmly established in an intimate living fellowship with God and faith in God. His actions and teachings had their life-source in God’s love. The secret of the life of Jesus was his connectedness with God.
He withdrew regularly into a solitary place to meet and have fellowship with God. Jesus was always abiding in God. In our day we find it hard to withdraw from our busy schedules to be with God. We are hard pressed for time to listen to His voice of love and grace. When we take the time to speak to God, we are often not patient enough to wait on Him and listen to His voice.
“Remain in my Love”, we hear the invitation of Jesus coming to us.
Don’t just do a hit-and-run kind of deal. But, remain! Abide! Stay for a while! And listen… “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you…”, says Jesus in verse 9. You might ask the question, “How, exactly, did Jesus experience His Father’s love?” What did he get from God in exchange for his obedience?
Well, we know for a fact that God never gave his son Jesus a Mercedes to drive around town or even a horse and chariot - which would have been more appropriate in his time.
But we know also that the heavenly Father gave his son Jesus an infinite sense of belonging and being rooted in his love. “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”, we hear the blessing spoken at the time of his baptism. God gave Jesus a firm foundation… the conviction of His Presence, his counsel and his faithfulness in times of trial and temptation. Jesus received from His heavenly Father a peace that far exceeds the restlessness of this world. The Father’s love assured him of a sense of security and safety in this harsh world.
That is the confirmation that we too can experience through the love of Jesus. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you…” As we experience the love of Jesus, we are the beneficiaries of a love that goes far beyond material things. It is a love that exceeds human understanding. It is a love that cannot be earned… a love that knows no boundaries… A love that we couldn’t get if we chose it… That’s right! We did not choose Jesus. Rather, he chose us.
Now at this point, you may ask if God chose us why are there wars why do little children die, why oh why this that and the other.
What started the first world war, in short, was power wanting more and greed and hate of others, these things are pretty much why all wars start. So could God stop wars, could he stop knife crime in our country, could he stop shootings in the US could he stop everything bad happing, the answer is yes He is God, people that think he should have never read the bible and have developed a god of their own understanding, God gave us free will, free will to love and to kill, God loves us so much that he says you chose I will not make you do anything I will just show you what to do.
God chose us for Joy. Jesus said in verse 11 “I have told you this that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”. The love of Jesus toward us is motivated by joy. Happiness is a human quality. We are happy when we get our way, or, a young child is happy when he sees a clown, or when they are invited to a birthday party.
Just over two weeks ago our twin grandsons were born and that was a great joy to the whole family and to our friends. But the joy Jesus is talking about is a quality of happiness that surpasses the purely mundane everyday joy. This joy springs from an inner peace that we have only in the belief of our salvation and love in God.
A grief-stricken person, for example, can experience incredible joy in knowing that there will be an eternal reunion with the loved one. A joyful person is one who knows that he or she is a forgiven sinner and we are all sinners.
We are chosen for love. There’s that wonderful and disturbing phrase that Jesus said in verse 13, “No one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.
I read this story of the soldier in the First world war, who asked his office if he could go out into the “No Man’s Land” between the trenches to bring in one of his friends who lay seriously wounded in.
“You can go,” said the officer, “but it’s not worth it. Your friend has probably died, and you will throw your own life away.” But the man went. Somehow, he managed to get to his friend, lift him on to his shoulder, and bring him back to his own trench. The two of them tumbled together and lay in the bottom of the trench.
The officer looked very sympathetically on the would-be rescuer, and then he said, “I told you it wouldn’t be worth it. Your friend is dead, and you are mortally wounded.” ” It was worth it, though, sir,” he said. “How do you mean, ‘worth it?’ I tell you your friend is dead.” “Yes, sir,” the soldier answered, “but it was worth it, because when I got to him, he was still alive, and he said to me, ‘Jim, I knew you’d come.’”
In verses 14 and 15, Jesus chose us to be his friends. Jesus says, “I no longer call you slaves or servants… I call you my friends.” And Jesus tells us, “I have something greater yet. You are no longer slaves, you are my friends.”
And Jesus died on the cross for everyone, in fact, if you were the only person in the world Jesus would have died for you, why because He loves each one of us.
Jesus calls us to be his friends. We can come to him at any time. We are full partners with him in trying to save this world because He has made His business known to us.
We are fully fledged partners with Him in the cause of bringing the world into Gods kingdom. We are his partners… his ambassadors. Jesus chose us to be His voice, his hands, and feet. He has appointed us to Go and Bear fruit in other word go and get results. There are many ways in which our friendship with Jesus can find expression. The fruits of love that we bear for Christ are limited only by our imagination and by the depth of our love of Jesus.
And kindness is the sweetest of fruits. In fact, if kindness was a stock market item - you couldn’t pay for it with money - that is how high the need for kindness is in our society. Kindness is that quality of love which is as much concerned with the feelings of others. It is as concerned with the sorrow, the struggles, the problems of other people. Kindness has learned the secret of looking outward at all times, and not inward.
What this really boils down to is that we have no choice in the matter. Jesus says, “This is my command: Love each other as I have loved you.”
The way I read this if we want to be His friends… if we want to remain in His love… if we want to obey Him as He has obeyed the heavenly Father… then we have no choice but to oblige.
I can tell you if you do not know the joy that Jesus is talking about, you only have to give your life to Him and follow His ways, nearly 11 years ago I gave my life to Jesus, before that if someone had asked me what religion I was I would have said, Christian, but I was not.
I did not know Jesus I did not have a relationship with Him and I did not follow His way or even try to follow them, now I know what that joy is and I know that it is open to all that give their life to Jesus.
A friend of mine Jimmy Tibbs, who came from Canning town, who in a past life spared with the great boxer Muhammad Ali then called Cassius Clay, was involved in grown-up gang stuff and was in fact blown up in his car with his son, and did time for stuff back then, any way my friend eventually gave his life to Jesus and it totally changed him, he now says if I have got it wrong what have I lost but if I have got it right I have gained everything including eternal life.
God loves us, each one of us. In a perfect world, we would all Love God and love our neighbour as ourselves, at that point all wars and hate would stop. And I can hear you saying yeah in a perfect world, but this is not a perfect world, and you would be right it is not a perfect world but, if we respond to Gods love for us then we can start to make it a perfect world.
Through Jesus God has chosen us to for his divine purpose, namely for Joy, for expressing acts of love, to be his friends, and to be his hands and feet and voice to be His people.
All we have to do is chose to follow Jesus.