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Conquering, binding love

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

Scripture Readings

  • 1 John 3:10-24
  • John 13:33-38

Introduction

On 6 June 1944, members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion under Cptain Miller fought ashore to secure a beachhead. Amidst the fighting, two brothers are killed in action. Earlier in New Guinea, a third brother is killed in action. Their mother was to receive all three of the grave telegrams on the same day.

The United States Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, was given an opportunity to alleviate some of her grief when he learned of a fourth brother, also conscripted and in active combat on another front and decided to send out 8 men to find him and bring him back home to his mother before something would happen to him.

The unit, under the direction of Captain John Miller set out to save the young man and see that he returned home alive.  Most of the men in this unit paid the highest price in their quest to save them.  Captain John Miller was mortally wounded, with the young man his unit had been sent to find at his side while he was dying.   A small squadron of P-51 Mustang fighters suddenly appeared on the horizon and the young soldier said to Captain Miller that the tanks were tank busters, upon which Miller referred to the planes as “angels on our shoulders”. He beckons the soldier closer and with his dying breath, tells him “Earn this… earn it.”

Years later, now as an elderly man, that soldier walked down the rows of graves in a cemetery, which are mostly marble crosses. He is accompanied by his wife, his daughter and her husband, and three teenage granddaughters. He searched the crosses and stopped at a specific one, where he fell to his knees, crying. His family walked up behind him and tried to comfort him. Almost impossible to hear he uttered the wish that he had lived up to Miller’s wish and had been worthy of all that Miller and his men had done for him. He asked his wife to tell him that he’s led a good life and that he’s been a good man. He salutes Miller’s grave.

This, of course is the story of Private James Francis Ryan, the story behind the award-winning movie Saving Private Ryan.

Our theme for this sermon today is “Conquering, binding love”.  Keep the story of Private Ryan in your minds.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was with his disciples in the Upper Room.  He had finished his public ministry, the door was shut to the world.  He knew the hour had come for Him to go back to the Father.  In less than 24 hours He would be crucified.  His heart was troubled, yet He was at piece knowing that He was doing the will of the Father.  He washed the feet of his disciples and taught them to follow his example.  He exposed the one who would betray Him.  He told his disciples that He is leaving them and that they would not be able to follow Him.  Those who would hand Him over were almost on the doorstep.  Surely his disciples were not fully aware of what was to come.

My children

Our Lord looked at his disciples and explained very clearly to them:

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. (John 13:33, NIV)

Using the expression “My children” so much of what He taught them, as we read about it through the Gospel of John shines like a very bright light upon them.  Remember how He explained to them in Chapter 1 that:

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:11–13, NIV)

In Chapter 3 He taught:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:5,7, NIV)

In John 6:37 He said:

All those the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (John 6:37, 63–65, NIV)

In John 10 He declared:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:11, 18, NIV)

About Himself Jesus said:

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25–26, NIV)

The clock had been ticking since Jesus said to them:

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. (John 12:27, NIV)

This hour has now come.  The clouds were very dark on the horizon; the storm about to break lose.

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. (John 13:33, NIV)

So, when Jesus called them “My children” he confirmed to them that God had claimed their live from all eternity to by his; He made it possible for them to be born not of a man, but of God; He gave them the life from above through the Spirit to be able to see the Kingdom of God.  They were fed on the Bread of Life; they came to the Lord because the Father had drawn them, and He did not drive them away; by the grace of God they were enabled to hear his voice as the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep; by Gods’ eternal plan they were enabled to believe in Him as the resurrection and the life;  He washed them clean from their sin as He humbled and emptied Himself to became like a slave washing their feet; they were given part in Him – all of this was of God’s doing who made them his children though Jesus Christ his appointed Saviour.  He is their Father, and they were able to walk in the light and hear the words of God who sent Him.

My children.” God is our Father.  There is no better title here on earth.  The God of the universe bowed down in his Son Jesus Christ, and by the mighty work of his Holy Spirit made which was born of dust, born in sin, unworthy of grace and salvation, children of God.  Yes, He gave them who believe in his Son the right to be called children of God.  My friend, be sure to understand this: it is not the size of your farm, or the size of your bank account, or your status in society, or your wise words, or your intellect, or any other form of status that defines you as Christian.  It is the grace of God in Jesus Christ which makes you a child of God.  That is your title; that is your purpose in life, and that is your destination in life.  It is therefore the most important thing that can be said of you, “He/she is a Christian!”  This fact defines who we are.  It is marvellous, unfathomable and profound.  David says in Psalm 40:

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. (Psalm 40:2–3, NIV)

Paul says in Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

He does not say that he has crucified himself with Christ; no, the voice is passive, “I have been crucified.”  It is the work of Christ – when He died there, by faith, I died too.  Paul says in another place:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (2 Corinthians 5:17–18, NIV)

My dear friend, make much of this: if you know Christ as your Saviour, you are his child.  Thank God for it in the morning when you rise to a new day; tell the Devil that he has no right on your life; use your skills and talents to God’s glory every moment of every day; rejoice that you have been saved from eternal destruction; hang this title with pride around your neck, and never, never be ashamed of Christ.

Loving God’s family

It was in the dark hour of the night before Jesus was betrayed and killed that he commanded his disciples:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34, NIV)

Much is said about Christian love these days.  In an age of not constant and absolute truths and values, love is equalled to tolerance.  Misquoting the words of our Lord to not judge one another, love nowadays means tolerate one another at whatever cost.  It is not what Jesus taught, and it is not what the Spirit of God instructed Paul to write down when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter of love:

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6, NIV)

The words of our Lord in John 13 which He gave as a new command, namely “to love one anther as I have loved you” has nothing to do with a sentimental, emotional or misty-eyed love where we, at best, try to live with one another, or bear with one another.

I deliberately told the story of Private James Francis Ryan in the beginning to bring home something about what Jesus was talking about.  Remember, the enemy was at the door.  Over and over Jesus had told his disciples that He would be handed over in the hands of sinners to be killed.  That hour has now come.

For the disciples to follow Jesus meant to be exposed to the forces of darkness which would have but one goal and that is to destroy them.  Listen to the words of the Lord later that same night:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 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. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (John 15:18–20, NIV)

Right in beginning when He called them as his disciples, there on the mountain when He delivered his first sermon, He said:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12, NIV)

Jesus talked to and instructed his disciples here.  Listen to the these verses:

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them. (Matthew 5:1–2, NIV)

Now what Jesus was talking about then right there in the beginning when they began to follow Him, was about to happen.  The world would hate them as they hated Jesus; they would have to pay a price for being his disciples and being called his children: the world is hostile, filled with hate.  But they, on the other hand, would need to stand together, look after one another, love one another as Jesus loved them.  That is the recipe for survival.

As disciples they would need to set aside their differences, they would need to set aside any hint of lording it over one another; their lives would be known by their care for one another.

Furthermore, whereas they had been identified to be disciples by following Him around where He walked in Galilee and Judah, He would leave them.  They would not be able to be identified by his physical presence; they would be identified by their love for one another which was supposed to be of the same value and perseverance as the love Jesus had for them.

What a high calling!  The world would know the church of Jesus by the quality of their caring love for one another.  They way they care for one another, have concern for one another by being willing to put their live on the line for one another and in the same time sacrificing their own desires – almost like the soldiers who gave their life to save their fellow soldier in the story of private Ryan, will put them aside from the rest of the world.  This love which is not from this world but which is born from the heart of God has no equal on earth and imitates the love of Christ which He displayed from his disciples.

How do we love?  It is easy to say we love, and by that we mean that we can more or less get along as we bear with one another.  Of course our love is not really known to this world unless we experience the heat of the battle against the forces of darkness.  This to me, says that we cannot not really express our love for one another before what it means to really love the Lord Jesus – and as such, become a spectacle in this world.  When we understand the hurt of rejection, if we understand the pain of suffering for His Name, we will probably begin to understand that we need a fellow brother’s love top uphold us; and only then will we understand what it means to love the other brother who is going through the tough times of persecution.

John had heard Jesus say that Judas was the one — the betrayer. At that moment he must have been so confused in his mind.

The term “little children” is only used by John, and we find it again repeated in his letter.  If we also understand that the term “New Commandment” is only used by John here and in his apostolic letter, we will understand what John understood about the love Christ had in mind when He commanded them that night to love one another.

To be a disciple is not just to be outwardly aligned with a Christian church or a Christian movement or a Christian name, but miraculously changed by the Spirit into a person with a new heart of love for the Father and for Jesus and for his followers. And love is how you can know this has happened.

  • Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
  • We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. (1 John 3:14)
  • By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)
  • Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

Listen to 1 John 3:23

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (1 John 3:23, NIV)

Listen carefully, one commandment:  to believe in Jesus Christ is followed by love for one another.  If you declare yourself openly to be a disciple of Jesus — your Saviour, your Lord, your Treasure — then your love for others will be decisive in showing that you are real.

Jesus says this a new commandment, but in fact it is not really new.  What makes is new is the fact that never before had the Son of God come into the world and laid down his life for his people.  This degree of greatness making this degree of sacrifice, had never happened. This is new.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. (1 John 2:9–10, NIV)

The reason the love we have for each other shows that we are truly Jesus’ disciples, is that it is only possible because we are grafted into the life and love of Christ. We love as he loved, because we love with his love.

Conclusion

Our love in Christ we have for one another is not a love which try to copy the love of Christ.  It follows from a life which is in Him; as we walk in the light we love one another; as we walk in the light we find brothers and sisters in the light, fellow believers who also found the love of Christ and are now abiding in Him.

The context in which Jesus gave the new command to his disciples, was that on conflict.  In this conflict Christians will and should be known by their sacrificial love they will display for one another.  We do not have any physical conflict yet in Australia; so, let’s in the meantime practice to be good soldiers for when such a time arrives.  You surely have a brother and sister in Christ who has to go through some battle at the moment.  Go, stand by him or her.  Tell and show that your love for Christ determines and defines your love for him or her.  They are your family in Christ.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 9 June 2013

 

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