Loved

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

Advertisements

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.

Gods?

Jesus is God’s Son and I was created in God’s image

Read: John 10

“I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods” ‘? If he called them ‘gods’ to whom the word of God came – and Scripture cannot be set aside – what about the one whom the Father sent as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” (John 10:34-36)

Reflect:

Jesus begins with one metaphor in this chapter, using imagery of shepherds and sheep, gates and thieves. This is fairly simple to understand, especially since I have had the pleasure of hand-rearing several lambs from birth, feeding them from bottles, taking them for walks through our town (tourists would stop and take photos as I led my lamb along by a leash, as one would do with a dog, and later, as the older lamb followed along behind me without a leash). I’ve rolled my eyes when my lambs knocked at our back door with their front hooves as soon as they heard me in the kitchen in the morning, seemingly demanding the milk they knew I was preparing. I’ve laughed at my lambs rollicking frolics and marvelled at the way they have indeed come to my call, recognising and responding to my voice.

I find it easy to understand the figurative language which describes a Christian knowing Jesus’s voice and following him in the same way a lamb knows and follows her shepherd.

The second metaphor in this chapter is much more opaque. Jesus refers to himself as God’s Son, and to those “to whom the word of God came” as “gods”. The psalm Jesus is quoting (Psalm 82) describes a scene of God’s judgement and rebuke of “gods” who are unjust fools, not like the One True God at all. They are described as “all sons of the Most High” who will still die, just as every mortal dies.

As Jesus stated, this Scripture cannot be set aside. So how do I understand it and what do I do with it?

I can’t accept that it is right to think that those who receive the word of God (people who read or hear the Bible’s message, generally) are literally gods in the same sense the Father, Son and Spirit are God. This understanding would be completely at odds with the rest of the entire Bible, starting with Genesis 1, which related the creation of people by an uncreated God. And this understanding is also at odds with Psalm 82 itself, which is clearly portraying these so-called “gods” in contrast to the One True God who sits in judgement on them and disciplines them.

So I have to understand that this use of the word “gods” by the psalmist Asaph and by Jesus in quoting the psalm, is a metaphor. It is a use of figurative language, just like the use of the word sheep to describe God’s people in other parts of John 10.

One way the imagery can be understood is to say that the people to whom the word of God has come are idolaters who worship themselves, just like each and every person does a little bit of self-worship at some time of their lives or another. If Jesus is using the passage this way, then he is condemning his hearers for their religious hypocrisy in condemning him as a blasphemer when he proclaims himself as God, while at the same time they are acting as if they are their own little self-proclaimed gods. This makes sense with the passage.

Another way the imagery can be understood is as a reference to the fact that when God created people, he made us in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27). We are, in some senses, replica gods, image-bearers of God himself, like God but not God. So why should we (or Jesus’ hearers), who are made in God’s image, be surprised when we meet the One who bears the image of God perfectly? This too makes sense with the passage.

I am convicted of my sinfulness and convinced of my need for Jesus and my potential for glory.

Crux:

Jesus is God’s Son and I was created in God’s image.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are perfect and I am far, far less than that. Your Scripture says that I was made in your image, yet I frequently do a very bad job of making your glory known.

You are love, You constantly had compassion on others during your Immanuel years. You care for your sheep, of whom I am one. I frequently am not loving, compassionate or caring. I’m not gregarious or extraverted, which isn’t a fault in itself, but my selfish ignoring of others is a problem. I know if I push myself to hard to be friendly and chatty I will melt down or burn out. Please help me find balance, especially with my church family at Camp this weekend.

Please help me to know you and respond to you just as a good sheep does her shepherd. Please help me to follow in your steps as a good sheep follows her shepherd. May I bring you glory as I show your image clearly to the world.

Amen.