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Monday, March 20, 2006

A new commandment...

Notes from Jonathan Stephen’s sermon yesterday morning. I really hope there’s nothing unsound here, but if there is, it’s entirely my bad notetaking.

John 13:31-38

Verses 31-32. There’s a lot of glory mentioned in these verses! What is the chief end of man?
“To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

The cross was the supreme glory moment. The Son is glorified in the Father and the Father is glorified in the Son.

It was a very lonely path to the cross. Nobody else could do it.

Jesus here begins to prepare His disciples for life after He has gone.

The way the passage reads, we could take out verses 34-35 and it wouldn’t make a difference, it would still make sense. And Peter seemingly ignores those verses too! His question in verse 36 relates back to Jesus’ statement in verse 33.
Why has Peter ignored two of the most precious verses in the Bible?!
Because he’s so distracted by the idea that he cannot go with Jesus, so concerned that Jesus is questioning his commitment (“I will lay down my life for you” – verse 37), so wrapped up in himself…

Peter is ignorant, arrogant and self confident and this leads to him missing something very important that Jesus wants to tell him. We need to remember that we cannot do anything in our own strength. The stronger we think we are, the less we achieve, the more we put distance between us and our Saviour.

We need to be less, Jesus needs to be more.

Love is part of the fruit of the Spirit and we will never obey this great command unless we are full of the Spirit.

“A new commandment…” – What’s new abut this command? In Leviticus we’re told the Law says to “love you neighbour as yourself”, and Jesus summarised the whole Law using this and one other commandment. So what’s new?

1. It’s new as far as who they are to love
The disciples already knew they were to love their neighbour, and they knew who their neighbour was. But there is a special kind of love to be reserved for fellow believers. “Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love” – our unity is to reflect the unity of the Godhead. It’s a greater unity than that of race or family. The ties of grace are stronger than the ties of blood.
This isn’t easy. And it’s impossible to obey without the power of the Holy Spirit overflowing in our hearts.

2. It’s new in how they were to love
The old Law said to love your neighbour as well as you love yourself. But now – as Jesus loves us. How does He love us?
Sacrificially:- We’ll never take in the full extent of this. “Greater love has no man than this…” How do we do that? Anything is going to be a pale reflection of Jesus’ sacrificial love but I must reflect it as best I can. We get this so wrong. For example, very often our first question when joining a church is “What can I get out of this?” Christian love and unity is about what we can give. The unselfishness of the love of Christ. People you don’t get on with – do something for them, invest in their lives a little, and you’ll be surprised at how you start to care for them.
Feelingfully:- Jesus wept when his disciples wept and rejoiced when they rejoiced.
Intimately:- We’re very often ‘once bitten, twice shy’. But Jesus doesn’t put up barriers. He gives himself to his disciples.
Permanently:- Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Let nothing separate Christian from Christian.

3. It’s new because of why they were to love
The reason in the Old Testament was “because I have redeemed you, therefore you should love”. They were to love because of a physical redemption from physical slavery. We, however, have been delivered from spiritual slavery, from an even greater bondage at an even greater cost. And also because we’re a small band of people in a hostile and fallen world. Therefore it is necessary and natural to band together. “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” If the world hates us, we need to love one another. Always ask “Am I being faithful/loving/obedient?” ALWAYS question your own motives first, before, if necessary, questioning the motives of others.
And because of verse 35 – the result. “All men” includes you, so you could say “by this you will know that you are my disciple”. Also includes fellow believers. You may have theological differences but still truly love, and express that love. The supreme badge of the Christian is not orthodoxy but love. Don’t have to separate the two though. In fact don’t.
You can never separate the truth and love. Never lose love.
But the main burden of verse 35 is unbelievers. This love is a fantastic evangelistic tool.
Unity is about the gospel. “See how they love one another” – what a testimony that is and more powerful than words (though we must use words as well) – the kind of love that Jesus showed to us.

Related blogpost:- Unity in a Christian Union?


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