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Choosing, Loving and Obeying
John 15:9 - 16
People are looking for love and intimacy as never before. Millions of people are living with other people but are lonely. Jesus knew he would be leaving his disciples soon and prepared them for the time when they would miss Him. He anticipated their loneliness and isolation. I have recently experienced that sense of loneliness and wondered whether that intimacy which Jesus speaks about was possible.
Jesus tells his disciples that the same kind of relationship which existed between the Father and Jesus was there between Him and them. The disciples had seen the power and strength which Jesus had drawn from His love of the Father. I am sure that they saw the eager aniticpation on his face when he would go off to be alone with his heavenly Father. Many times they experience the revitalization Jesus received from those times when Jesus had spent time praying. The writers of the gospel indicate that some of the most significant ministry of Jesus took place after spending the night in prayer.
Love looks for ways in which it can help others. God the Father, loved the world that He sent His only Son to die for the sins of all people so that we might be freed from the bondage of sin. I am sure that when you have lived and worked with someone forever and have to part with that one even for a time you will miss that significant other person. When Jesus came down to earth, he willingly left the glory in heaven to become a sacrifice for sin and to be separated from the Father. Jesus cried out from the cross - My God, My God why have you forsaken me. God forsook his percious Son when he took upon himself the sin of the world.
The Bible tells us that the very nature of God is love. Love without an object of love is meaningless. Jesus was the object of God's love but we read that believers too are the beneficiaries of God's love. Romans 8:32 reads "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" God gave us his best and most cherished gift so that we could escape the bondage with which Satan seeks to destroy us.
Jesus pleads with his disciples to remain in his love. How can we remain in Jesus' love? He goes on to explain. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love. Obedience is the sign of love. Jesus demonstrated that for us by being obedient to the Father even unto death (Phil 2:8,9)
I began to wonder what are the commands which Christ gave? How easy would it be to keep all the commands of Christ. If I failed in one area then part of my relationship to Jesus will be hindered.
It is a difficult process to determine which verses contain a command in English but in the Greek there is a special verb ending for every verb that is a command. I got at my bible on the computer and had it do a little search for me to find all the verbs which appear in the imperative in the Greek.
I discovered that there are over 400 times in the first four books of the New Testament which record the life of Jesus where the imperative form is used. There may be duplication of the same commands in the different gospels but that represents a real challenge to get to know what these commands are and to obey them all. Jesus gave us a clue which was the most important command. Mt 22 he told us that the command which will summarize all the Old Testament commands is to love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind. The second one is like it, Love your neighbour as yourself.
We may feel somewhat overwhelmed with this challenge to obedience but Jesus said this so that we could experience His joy and that our joy would be complete. As we gain victory over sin through obedience there is a real joy which permeates our lives. I can still remember that joy and freedom which I had the night I gave my heart over to God. This is the joy that God wants us to experience continually. Have you the joy of the Lord
A lack of joy is often an indication that we do not have a clear conscience. Christians who fail to obey Christ's commands are some of the most miserable people around. A person who knows what is right and then goes out and does wrong cannot enjoy the pleasures of sin. Disobedience dulls the conscience, darkens the soul, and deadens our spiritual energies therefore keep the commandments of Christ with unswerving obedience. The person who knows he has failed is often critical and bitter. Certainly not the picture of a joyful exuberant Christian.
Jesus was able to look beyond the present circumstances to see the ultimate victory which he would achieve and thus he could even go through the pain of his trial and the cruel death on a cross with quiet resolve. ( Hebrews 12:2) As we are able to see the crown of life which will be ours in glory, we can face tempations and trials with joy knowing that God is the victor and will give us the strength we need.
Jesus tells us that he makes known to us the master's business. As a result we are not just a slave but Jesus becomes a friend. Friendship is extended to all who believe. This kind of relationship indicates the depth to which God wants our relationship with him to achieve. Being a friend means that we are loyal, we trust God and we do not work against the purposes of God. Are we willing to give up our life for God as Jesus gave up his life for us. Being a friend means that we are willing to sacrifice our life, our ambitions and even our future for God. If we are willing to make that commitment we will become fruitful. This commitment is one of obedience.
The third point we wish to focus on is that we are chosen. Why God chose us is a mystery and a privilege we are not to take lightly. I marvel and praise God that He allowed me to learn of the Gospel at an early age so that I could experience a wonderful relationship with God.
There is a purpose for being chosen. I Peter tells us that we are a chosen people. The Jews were also a chosen people but they failed to use God's blessings properly. They chose to use God's special blessing on their own pleasures. Are we like the Jews or are we like the people in the early church who brought all to the apostles to share amoung the community of believers.
We are chosen for two reasons. The first to become fruitful - to help others come to the knowledge of Jesus as saviour and Lord. The second reason for choosing us was so that we could ask the father in the name of Jesus for that which would bring glory to Him.
This is not just some magical formula which we tack on to the end of our prayers but has a much deeper significance. At one time I was taken to task by some well meaning brothers because I did not end my prayers with this ritualistic formula - I pray this in the name of Jesus. Some people feel that they can pray for anything and as long as they tack on this little phrase God is obligated to answer those requests. I've got news for you - it doesn't work that way.
To pray in the name of Jesus means three things
1) The prayer which is offered is in accord with all that the name stands for. We cannot expect God to answer prayer which come out of selfish motivation - and God knows our hearts. We may pray that God will transform our spouse into a generous, loving, unselfish princess but if God wants to teach is patience, endurance, love and kindness that transformation will not occur in the life of others until God has used them to make a difference in our life.
2) Any prayer offered in Jesus name needs to seek God's glory if we expect it to be answered. Jesus has just told is disciples that God is glorified when we bear much fruit. Thus the prayer that will bring glory to God will be that prayer which interceeds for the transformation of people and the world to be obedient to God.
3) Prayer need to be consciously uttered under Christ's lordship. I John 5:14 says "This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." God has revealed his will to us - that is - that the whole world be saved. Are our prayers in accord with His will?
Yes we are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." I Peter 2:9
My title for the message this morning is my summary. Choosing, Loving and Obeying - notice the comma after Choosing in the titile? The title reflects the role of Christ. Christ wants us to take him as a model for loving and obeying the commands of the Father. In our relationship with him He has chosen us.
If we remove the first comma in the title we have what should be the response of everyone choosing loving and obeying. For the believer we demonstrate our love by our obedience. We love him because he has chosen us to bear fruit and to ask him for that which will bring glory to the Father.
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