One

We are one in Christ so that others may be won by Christ

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Read: John 17

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they [the disciples] are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

Reflect:

Jesus prayed for his disciples and he prayed for me. He prayed aloud, so his disciples could overhear and witness his prayer. Jesus prayed for me and for all the Christians through the ages to today. He prayed for all who believe that Jesus was sent by God the Father, for all who believe this because Jesus’ disciples were faithful in their witness to speak about Jesus and write about him so we might know these things to be true (John 20:31 and 21:24).

In his prayer to his Father, Jesus made the same request for his disciples as he made for later Christians, including me: Jesus asked that we may be one, in the same way the Father and the Son are one. Jesus asked that we be united together.

Then, our unity in the Church, in Christ, will be a witness to others that Jesus was indeed sent by God.

People will ask, “How can you possibly get along with him?” They will say, “How can you put up with her?” They will want to know, “Why do you spend time with them?”

The answer is: “Because Jesus has made us one.”

We are one body, the body of Christ. We are one family, the sons and daughters of God the Father, sisters and brothers of Jesus the Son. We are one in spirit, because we have the One Spirit in us.

Christians are one because we have been won by our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and so that others may be drawn to faith in Christ also.

Crux:

We are one in Christ so that others may be won by Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the Holy Father, the Righteous Father, perfect and pure as you reign in heaven.

You are my Father, my Father in heaven, gloriously gracious as you sent your Son to earth.

Thank you for sending Jesus to redeem me from my past life of meaninglessness and wandering. Thank you for setting my feet upon the Rock.

Thank you for giving me a new family, my church family, that we might be one in love for you and for each other. Thank you for my dear friends in the church, friends that I would never have met if it had not been for your desire to win each of us for your kingdom. Thank you for our fellowship together, whereby we love each other, edify and encourage each other, offer mercy and grace to each other, and minister to each others’ needs.

May we be truly one, demonstrating your unity in the Trinity to the world through our love for one another. May others see our unity and be amazed and moved by your Spirit to seek out the source of this unity in Jesus, the one whom you sent.

May our church be especially and particularly united as they meet for their quarterly business meeting tonight. May our church members be loving to one another, putting each other’s needs before their own, considering each other more worthy than themselves. May we magnify your glory by our unity as the locally gathered church.

Amen.

Loved

God’s love for me grows in response to my growing love for Jesus

Read: John 16

“So with you: 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)

“In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27)

Reflect:

Jesus is talking here about the immediate future: what will happen after the Last Supper sermon is ended. “Now” is their time of grief because Jesus is about to die by crucifixion, an ugly painful death during which the disciples will be scattered and leave Jesus alone while he bears their sins in his body on the cross. But the disciples “will” rejoice and “will” ask “in that day”, once Jesus has been raised again to life. The disciples will rejoice because Jesus has won their forgiveness and granted them righteousness, admitting them to the family of God, indwelling them by God’s Spirit.

Then, Jesus Christ will no longer be a physically present intermediary who will relay their requests to the Father so that the Father may display his love for Jesus by answering Jesus’ prayers (as, for example, was necessary when healing a boy suffering convulsions, Mark 9:14-29). Instead, the Father will love Jesus’ disciples directly and in a different manner to his general love for “the world” (John 3:16). God’s love will now be amplified in response to the disciples’ love for Jesus and belief in him, and their prayers will be answered generously and completely.

This is complicated, but basically what it means is this:

God’s love for us, which began in eternity past when he chose us in Jesus before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), is now expanded in response to our love for Jesus, which his Spirit enables.

God loves us, so we love Jesus. And God loves us all the more, because we love Jesus. As Christians respond to the Spirit and love the Son, the Father witnesses our love and loves us more.

Crux:

God’s love for me grows in response to my growing love for Jesus.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are love: You are the origin and source of love. You instigate love, magnify love, exemplify love, amplify love. You enable and expand my love for Jesus. You also respond and reply to my love with your own love for me. You build my love for Christ and you bless my love with your own for me.

How glorious are your ways, O God,
your paths beyond searching out!

You have chosen to bless me with full and complete joy, unending and everlasting joy, found in seeing and knowing and loving and believing in Jesus, whom you sent as a gift of love to me.

O LORD, how wonderful is your will,
your gifts above all treasures.

Please continue to bless me by building my love for Jesus. Keep my eyes focussed on Jesus and not on myself, nor my family, nor my community, nor my country. May I see Jesus and not my situation, not my suffering, not my opinions, not my preferences. May I love Jesus all the more, and may your love for me abound in response.

Thank you for your loving kindness to me. May I find my delight in you, so you may delight in me.

Amen.

Vine

Jesus commands his disciples to love each other and so glorify God

Read: John 15

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1)

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8)

Reflect:

Jesus and his disciples have left the room where they ate the Last Supper, and are now probably wandering among the fruit orchards somewhere on the Mount of Olives. I can imagine Jesus running his hand carefully over a few green vine leaves, dark now in the deep of evening, using their surroundings as stimulus for another illustration of the relationships between Jesus, his Father and his followers.

Jesus = the True Vine

Jesus’ Father = the Gardener

The Disciples = Branches

John 15v1-17 1
Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

A vine does not exist without a gardener to plant it and tend it, growing it where and in what shape the gardener desires. A branch does not produce fruit unless it is connected strongly to the vine, else it withers and weakens, or the gardener cuts it off entirely.

Again, God the Father is shown to be greater than God the Son, and infinitely greater than the Son’s disciples.

Jesus’ disciples are told to remain in the Jesus-Vine in order to bear fruit. How do they remain in Jesus Christ and he in them? Jesus said his words will remain in them, by the power and work of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father and testifies of the Son (v26). Jesus said they will remain in his love by keeping his commands. Most notable and relevant is Jesus’ most recent command (John 13:34) for the disciples to love each other, as Jesus loved them: sacrificially, with their very lives.

Then, Jesus says, because his disciples are connected so strongly vitally to him, they may ask for what they want and will certainly receive it. Does a grape vine wish to grow figs? Does a pear tree desire to bear plums? Neither would the disciples ask to bear fruit that is not in keeping with their connection to the true vine, Jesus. So of course “it will be done”!

When the disciples ask to bear fruit, they will: the fruit of love for one another. Their love demonstrates their connectedness to their vine, their discipleship to their Rabbi. Through their love, the disciples give glory to God the Father. This is true joy!

Crux:

Jesus commands his disciples to love each other and so glorify God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are both Gardener and Vine and only in you may I have fullness of life.

Because I am joined to Jesus, his Spirit in my spirit, I am truly alive and able to bear the fruit you desire me to grow: love for others.

As I pray this I remember Jesus’ assertion that he will never lose me (John 6:39) so I don’t fear being cut off from him. I do earnestly desire to grow into a strong branch, able to bear the weight of much fruit without cracking or toppling. I confess that ofttimes I feel like I will break under the weight of loving those you have brought into my life, so please grant me your strength to continue. Keep your Holy Spirit sap flowing into me, nourishing me, LORD!

May this branch be much like the Branch of Jesse, the True Vine, Jesus Christ. May I love as Jesus loves, being willing to lay down my life for those I call “friends”, the other branches of the true vine. Whatever, whenever, however, may I show myself a true disciple of my Rabbi Jesus by loving as he loved, in my everyday ordinary life, so you may be glorified.

Amen.

Commanded

Read: John 14

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happened. so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince off this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. (John 14:28-31)

Reflect:

The greatest act of love the world has ever witnessed was Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. His death was not compelled by this world’s prince (ie, the devil); it could not be, because the devil has no power over Jesus (v30). Rather, Jesus’ death was an act of obedience to his Father’s command (v31).

Jesus’ words in this passage reveal anew three key things about Jesus’ nature:

  1. Jesus has the ability to foretell truth (v29).
  2. The Father is greater (even) than the Son (v28).
  3. The Son willingly obeys the Father (v31).

Even though Jesus said seeing him was the same as seeing the Father, in some sense God the Father is, has always been and will always be greater than God the Son. There is complete harmony between the members of the Trinity, yet their is also hierarchy and subordination. And this does not mean that there is a lack of love, nor is there any disobedience. This loving obedience allows Jesus to be completely calm and assured for his future, even though he is very aware he is going to his death.

Crux:

Jesus loved me to the cross because his Father commanded him to.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for Jesus’ act of love on the cross. Thank you for your love within the Trinity for each other, and for your love for me.

Please help me to love others in the way Jesus loved. Please help me to know others are greater, and that’s okay. Please help me to obey Jesus’ commands and teaching because I love him.

Please help me to understand what Jesus teaches me, with the help of the Advocate’s teaching. Please disciple me, be my Rabbi, through the voice of the Holy Spirit, so I am reminded of all I know to be true about Jesus.

Make me mature in my faith. I know this will mean disciplining me when I am disobedient. I submit to you in that as in all things. Please conform my spirit, my soul and my self to the image of your Son Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Love

Jesus loved me to the end; I must love other Christians likewise

Read: John 13

It was just before the Passover festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15)

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

Reflect:

Jesus set me an example to follow, and it wasn’t just washing feet. I’ve done that for my children many times, for my husband only once that I remember, and never for people outside my family. This act of foot-washing symbolised love that is willing to humble itself before the other person, to serve them wholeheartedly.

When Jesus told his disciples to love one another in the way he had loved them, he meant them (and me) to love perseveringly and enduringly (v1), humbly and sacrificially (v14), deliberately and intentionally (v3-4), whether the person receiving our love understands our act of love or not (v7). This kind of love has very little to do with sex, as our society sees it, at least.

Crux:

Jesus loved me to the end; I must love other Christians likewise.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You love me! What a marvellous, precious truth. Thank you for loving me.

Thank you that I have been able to carry this truth around in my heart all day today, through the busy intent focussed times and the laughing splashing fun times and the quiet steady peaceful times. Thank you for speaking these words into my soul, deep into my innermost being today:
“You are loved by God.”

This has cheered me, challenged me, encouraged me, exhorted me, softened me and sheltered me as I knew the reality of your love for me. Thank you.

Please help me always to love others. May I see needs and seek to meet them. May I listen patiently and not just be in the room. May I have the right words at the right times – and quietness and a closed mouth when that is needed. May I be generous, ready to share; humble, ready to serve; and kind, ready to comfort.

Amen.

 

See

Seeing Jesus is seeing the very face of God

Read: John 12

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” (John 12:20-21)

“The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.” (John 12:45)

Reflect:

After the miraculous sign of bringing Lazarus back from death to life, even foreign worshipers had heard of Jesus and wanted to see him for themselves. I wonder how many of these curious travellers became believers when they saw Jesus. How many realised that what Jesus was saying was true: that in seeing Jesus, they were seeing the LORD God himself, incarnate!

When I remember back to the occasion of my conversion to Christianity, I recognise the Spirit working in many ways over many years to bring me to that point. I also recognise that it was one single moment in time that changed my life forever, because (by the Spirit) I saw Jesus Christ clearly and realised – finally – that God had sent him to die for my sins and to save me.

It was in joyful celebration of this faith that 15 years ago we named our firstborn son Joshua, which means “God saves.”

Crux:

Seeing Jesus is seeing the very face of God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for opening my eyes to see Jesus clearly so I might see you fully revealed. Thank you for bringing Lazarus back to life and for bringing me to eternal life. Thank you for showing your glory to these Greeks and for showing your glory to me.

Thank you for my son Joshua. May you reveal yourself clearly and fully to him, granting him mercy to know you, love you, and find eternal life in you. May you strengthen his faith when it is weak and weaken his pride when it is strong. May he give glory to you rather than seeking it for himself. May he appreciated your mercy to him and seek to extend your mercy to others. May he proclaim your one way of salvation and your free offer of salvation, showing Jesus to all those whose eyes you open to see your Son in his glory.

Amen.

Usurpers

I need to believe in Jesus, not seek to usurp Jesus.

Read: John 11

Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” (John 11:47-48)

Reflect:

Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead. This is not just any “sign”, this is a giant neon broadway sign flashing “Messiah! Messiah! Come begin your Eternal Life Here!!!”

And yet, here are the Top 70 VIP Jews, the Sanhedrin, holding a committee meeting. This scene could have been right out of some present day professional development day (makes me think of that TV show, The Office…) where the HR rep tries to focus people’s attention: “What’s our vision? Are we on task and on track? What are we accomplishing here, people?”

The sad thing is, the chief priests have got their job roles and responsibilities completely mixed up. Instead of using their positions to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, like John the Baptist faithfully did, they’re worried about losing things that aren’t even theirs in the first place.

It’s not “our” temple, it’s the LORD’s, the place the LORD God chose as a dwelling place for his Name. (Check it out: Deuteronomy 12:3,5,11,21 etc and 1 Kings 5:5 and 8:29,35,43 etc.)

It’s not “our” nation, it is the nation the LORD made of Abraham’s descendants, a nation he chose to call his very own (Genesis 12:2, 18:18, 21:8, 46:3), a nation the LORD God calls “my people” over and over and over again (Exodus 3:7,10, 5:1, 7:4, 8:1,20-23, 9:1,13,17, 10:3 as well as Leviticus 26:12 and a gazillion other places).

Surely, what belongs to God cannot be lost by God’s people. Not to the Romans. Not to any pagan non-believers, no matter how strong they might seem in comparison to God’s people. My God is bigger, and he protects his own.

Crux:

I need to believe in Jesus, not seek to usurp Jesus.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I acknowledge and honour you as God Most High, Sovereign Ruler over all creation and over the nation of your people most especially.

You chose to make your Name dwell in the temple in Jerusalem for a time, and you chose to dwell among your people as Immanuel, God with us, for a time. Now you dwell in the hearts of your people by your Spirit, for all time. I honour you with your current temple, my body, and seek for you to be honoured by the body of all believers, the church.

You chose to make a nation of your very own from Abraham’s descendants, and to expand your nation to all who believe in Jesus Christ. This is your new nation, your eternal nation, the church, won with the blood shed by Christ.

LORD, make me (and we, your church) a people who know exactly whom we belong to and do not let us try to usurp your position of sovereign headship. Help me to be a good citizen of your kingdom and not to desire the nonsense of dual citizenship with the nations of earth. May I represent Jesus my King well as an ambassador to those who do not believe in Jesus.

Amen.