Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, April 26, 2013

5th Sunday of Easter: Having the Love of God Shed Abroad in our Hearts

How do the people around you know that you are one of Jesus’ disciples?

Being a Christian, born again, saved, disciple, Spirit filled – all mean the same thing in the sense that it’s not possible to be one without the other. So, how do the people around you know that you are a Christian, born again, saved, a disciple, Spirit filled?

Let me make it more personal – how do you know that I am a Christian?
Perhaps you've just assumed that because I am a minister, I am a Christian. I think that’s a silly assumption to make.
How do I know that you’re a Christian?

What makes us come to the conclusion that a person is a Christian?

I’ve made a list of some of the ways we might answer that question:

1.    He goes to Church every he must be a Christian. 
2.    She reads her Bible and can quote she must be a Christian. 
3.     So and so prays beautifully....... must be a Christian. 
4.    He goes from door to door telling people about Jesus.......must be a Christian. 
5.    She has been on Alpha course.................must be a Christian. 
6.    He works in the feeding scheme Monday to Friday............must be a Christian. 
7.    So and so is such a good person, keeps all the commandments, has never harmed a fly.......must be a Christian. 

How about this one –

8.    He says he is a Christian – he gives a beautiful testimony about how bad he was, how he met Jesus and invited Him into His heart.............he must be a Christian.

How do we know someone is a Christian?

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about Judgment Day and He says in Matthew 7:22  ‘When Judgment Day comes, many will say to me;  Lord, Lord, in your name we spoke God’s message, drove out demons, performed miracles.’

Do you see that.......... preaching God’s message, driving out demons,  doing many miracles, all in Jesus name..............You and I might think such people must be Christians, must be born again and full of the Spirit of God – we’d be wrong – says don't have to be a Christian, or born again, or Spirit filled to do these things.

If a person who has been blind since birth comes in here now and I lay hands on them, get my anointing oil and proclaim “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, receive your sight.” And they receive their sight, would that say anything about me?

No. It says a lot more about the Jesus I pray to, than about me.

So Jesus says in these verses – you witnessed, healed, exorcised demons but… I never knew you as one of the saved, as a Christian, as person of faith, so… go to hell or ‘get away from me you evildoers.’

How do we know if someone is a Christian, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Jesus gives the answer in our reading (John 13:35) ‘If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.’

How do you know if someone is a Christian? By their love… for… one another.

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas once wrote in his provocative style, "one of the hardest commandments is that Christians are to love one another—even if they are married." Loving others is always a challenge. And if we're honest, at times this challenge is actually heightened by proximity and familiarity. So goes the old maxim, "familiarity breeds contempt."
Yet in the thirteenth chapter of John, Jesus is speaking with his disciples, those with whom he is closest. And it's in this context that he gives this difficult commandment. "Love one another." Perhaps Jesus is anticipating the challenge of carrying forward the Gospel: its difficulties and conflicts for his friends. He knows that among those seated at the table significant disagreements will arise. 
Perhaps this is why Jesus also reminds his friends that this love they are to share has only been made possible by Jesus' love for them, not by their own efforts. Here we are reminded that loving one another—especially those with whom we are close—is made possible only by the closeness of God's love given to us in Jesus Christ. 

When we love one another, we glorify Christ because His love is made visible through us, and when Christ's love is made visible through us, God is glorified. Isn't this amazing? It is often the case—rightly or wrongly—that we assess the love of parents through their children's behavior. If a child shows respect for nature, we assume that his or her parents must have taken him or her on walks in the forest and told him or her the names of the birds. If a child develops compassion for the poor, we assume that his or her parents have talked to them about poverty and given him or her an opportunity to know those who are struggling. What's remarkable about such an assumption is that we tend to believe when we make such assessment that it has almost everything to do with the parent and little to do with the child. I think this is especially true when we come across a very well mannered and polite child, we credit the parents...the glory goes to them.  
Jesus calls his disciples little children. This strikes me as apt. God's love is so profound, so great, that it cannot be hidden away in us. God loves us so much that God will be glorified through us as we love those around us. Thanks be to God.

How often do we say, "Oh so and so ‘loves the Lord’" ...... so what? The command in Scripture is not only to love the Lord your God but also and at the same time.... to love your neighbor.

A new commandment I give to you… you must love one another.’

Is it possible to love the Lord, but to not love others?
I suppose it is possible – but Jesus doesn’t give us the option.
He says....if you love me, you must love the people I love.

Christians… love.
This is our defining characteristic.

Yes, they also go to Church, read the Bible, witness, pray for other people,..... and they’ll do these things to different degrees.......but according to the word of God, the Bible, according to Jesus, what  all Christians have in common, what it is that defines a Christian, a.. saved person… they love.

At the end of the day, well at the End of the Age actually, when Jesus sits on the Judgment Throne (every week our judge’s weigh  evidence and give a verdict) ...... when Jesus does that (judges) it’s not so much – I kept the commands, I never hurt anybody, that He’s interested in – His question will be: ‘But who did you help? You lived a good life, but that’s not what gets you into Heaven. Who did you help…? Who experienced my love… through you? Who experienced a bit of Heaven here on earth, through you?

Many of us ask, "How do I get to heaven?" We live amidst suffering and uncertainty, and, to many, heaven represents a better possibility. The question suggests something that is often held in many popular expressions of Christianity: that it is our job to get to heaven. 
Yet in John's vision, he does not see people 'getting to heaven,' but the New Jerusalem, the dwelling of God, coming to people. In this stunning image, we discover that God's new creation descends to us. Here we see heaven getting to us. 
In the descending of the New Jerusalem, there is a promise: God has come near to us and will never abandon us to suffering, uncertainty—to the forces of death. God's kingdom has come and is coming to make all things new—not just up there, but here; not just later, but now. And the main way that God's kingdom comes and His will is done, is as we commit ourselves to the difficult task of loving one another.

A new commandment I give to you: love one another.

I close with a question:

Does your Christianity compel and enable you, yes, within the limits of your powers and opportunities, to be thoughtful and compassionate and helpful and unselfish towards others round about you – in the Church, on the street, in the home, at school, at work.

Our whole case before God stands or falls by this:

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

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