Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

05/13/12 Sermon

 
John 15: 9-17

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

 
 

Our scripture today is fitting on Mother’s day in that we hear Jesus’ command to love one another.

Of course, Jesus' command to love one another is appropriate at all times, but it does take on special meaning today since we are expressing love for those special ladies who brought us into this world and loved us in a way that only a mother can.

But when it comes to loving others besides our moms or family, it’s not always an easy thing to do…..not even for church people.

A teenager came home from choir practice early one evening and his Mom asked, "What brings you back so soon?" 

And the teen replied "We had to call off choir practice this week,"
 
How come, his mother asked?
 

“Well, the organist and the choir director got into a terrible argument and they began to scream and tell each other they hated the other”.

His mom asked, “Well what started the fight”?
 
And he said “Oh it was all about how your supposed sing, 'Let there be Peace on Earth…………."
 
Jesus’ command to love one another is not an easy one. We can all struggle with finding love in our hearts for all of God’s people.
 

And it certainly wasn’t easy for the disciples and the early Christians who heard this teaching.

They grew up with a Jewish faith that celebrated the destruction of the Egyptians, that despised the Gentiles.
 

They certainly didn’t love those who had held them in captivity in Babylonia either.

The Psalmist in Psalm 137 speaks of revenge against the Babylonians and hoping for the dashing of their children against the rocks.

And of course the early Christians would have also struggled with this command to love one another as they were hated by many of their former Jewish friends and persecuted by the Romans….
 

So this was indeed a hard teaching. After all, Jesus wasn’t saying tolerate one another or like one another, he was saying LOVE one another.

Now for us today, the call to love one another is still such a challenge. We can find it difficult to love certain people.
 

Perhaps a certain religion, or race, or a certain political group or those who support a cultural stance we don’t agree with.

Of course on an individual level, there are those who we may have a grudge against….those who have hurt us----there are those we resent or judge.
 
And then there are those we simply are indifferent to.
 

We say we don’t hate anybody but at the same time we don’t love them.

We’re just too busy to care one way or the other.
 
But this won’t do either----- Jesus’ call to love one another is a command that we cannot get around.
 

As followers of Jesus, loving one another is not optional; it’s a requirement.

After all Jesus says in verse 14 if you are my friends you will do what I command.
 
So how do we go about following this command?
 

Well, following this command is where things can get a little tricky.

For many, the call to love one another means we need to get to work helping others.
 
And so many have embraced this call in our culture today.
 

Non-Christians as well as Christians are involved in many ways of helping others and being involved in their schools and communities.

Altruism and philanthropy are at an all-time high.
 

But the motivation behind this kind of loving one another is something to explore.

Polling shows that the motivation behind the “love one another” attitude today is either because of a moral responsibility i.e. an “ought to” mentality of being a good and virtuous society OR for selfish reasons of feeling good about yourself or to be seen by others as a goodperson.
 
And while this is all good and helpful and God works thru these individuals and organizations, at the heart of this is not necessarily a genuine love for others.

Jesus’ command to love one another is not simply a charitable love done out of moral obligation or even an affectionate, emotional, brotherly kind of love.

Instead the kind of loving one another that Jesus has in mind is the kind of love Jesus had and brought into our world.
 
It is an unconditional love that has power--- A love that is about offering healing and forgiveness---that gives hope and peace, that brings forth freedom and justice, and promotes goodness and joy………………………..
So how do we go about following Jesus’ command to “love one another”?
 
Well it’s not a kind of love we can conjure up on our own.
 

Jesus makes this point to his disciples in the first verse of our scripture. He says

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 
 

This love comes from Jesus.

Jesus is picking up right where he left off in the 1st 8 verses where he teaches the disciples that he is the true vine---- the power source.
 
His love flows from him into us. We become conduits or channels of his love.
 

But how does this happen?

Well beginning in the 13th and 14th verse Jesus speaks about the relationship of friendship.
 

Jesus tells his disciples that they receive his power of loving one another thru an intimate, very close friendship with him. Jesus wants to be our BFF.

But how does being friends with Jesus lead us to his way of loving others?
 
Well let’s think about the friendships we have with people right now.
 

Ask yourself--- who is my best friend and then ask why they are my best friend?

Most likely they are your BFF because they are someone you’ve built trust with.

They are more than just acquaintances and more than someone you just have pleasure being around.
 

They are someone that you have invested a lot of time with---that’s why you only have a few close friends because they take a lot of your time and presence.

A true friend is also someone you can just be yourself with---you can share unseemly things about yourself or share your regrets and they still care about you.
 
A true friend is someone you have opened up to and are vulnerable and transparent with.
 

Now when you have a close friend like that, have you noticed how you begin to take on their characteristics, their mannerisms, their language, you think the way they think (can be either good or bad).

Husbands and wives can be thinking the very same thing at the same time……
 
Now when we are friends like that with Jesus we begin to take on his characteristics---we care for what he cares for, we like what he likes and we also love others as he loves.
 
Jesus says in verse 14: You are my friends if you do what I command.
 
Jesus is making the point that if you do what I command it’s because you are my friends… It just happens.
 
Now the ultimate question before us today is, are we friends with Jesus?
 
Jesus wants desperately to be our friends because when we are, 2 things happen.
 
1st of all we become friends with God. And God is desperately trying to have a friendship with us.

That’s why he sent Jesus. He wants us to be back into the friendship he created us to have with him to begin with.

Are you aware that God wants to be in a friendship with you?
 
I know that that is something we can often forget.
 
We often see God as some kind of mean and harsh judge ready to pounce on us.
 

I was reading about a pastor this week who loves baseball who said he often saw God as a manager who would joke with you and slap you on the back but was ready to sit you down on the bench when you struck out or made an error.

But then he was reminded that God is a friend—a true friend as we discussed before who loves us and is on our side thru good times and bad times.
 
God simply wants to be friends with us in the way we enjoy our own best friends.
 

Still, God also wants to be our friends for another reason. And that reason is because he wants this world to be a place of friendship and harmony for everyone.

That’s what he intended from the very beginning.
 
He created this world with human beings in it to enjoy life together with Him and with one another. He created a world with the idea of goodness and justice and peace and love and life everlasting.---------------And that still is the plan.   
 

With that in mind, as we become close intimate friends with Jesus we begin to have his love infused in us and we begin to change.

We become freer and more accepting of who we are. We are at peace. We have assurance and confidence because we know that God loves us and accepts us. He’s our Friend.
 
As a result, we become carriers of his love that bring about the Kingdom that He desires.
 
And it begins with those in our church family.

It’s interesting that in the gospel of John, Jesus tells the disciples to love one another.

He doesn’t say love your enemies or love your neighbor as he did in the other gospels.
 
In John he says love one another.
 
This refers to an intramural love or loving of those in your church family.
 

Jesus is calling his disciples to begin loving one another with each other.

Now this was very important for the early Christians because they were being persecuted.

They truly needed to be bound together by a love that would lay down their life for each other.
 
And it’s this kind of love that we need for one another today. Jesus wants us to love one another as a congregation in a way that we will take care of each other and support one another.
 
(Core, making visits, helping hand/deacon fund—be willing to share that we need help)

Jesus wants us to be open and vulnerable with each other and love one another as a church because if we don’t love one another we certainly can’t love anyone else.

And if we don’t love one another as a church we can hardly have the power of a witness in us that can transform this community into the place of friendship and harmony that God wants……..
 
Today the question before us is are we friends with Jesus? Because if we are friends with him, we can’t help but have the kind of love that loves others.
How do we go about being friends with Jesus?
 

Well it comes by the same way we become friends with people here on earth.

It takes us spending time with Jesus as we do with a friend.
 
We share whatever is on our hearts and minds.
 

We go to him in prayer, not because we’re supposed to or to get him off our back or to get a favor but because we just want to be with him.

We pray in a way that we would talk to our friends. We share our celebrations, our disappointments, our unseemly things, our regrets.

We tell him that we have hate and prejudice or impure thoughts.
 
We tell him everything just as we would a close personal friend.
 

And as we do--- we grow in our friendship and become more and more like him.

Today if you’ve been pushing Jesus away and keeping him at a distance, afraid of him or keeping him as a casual acquaintance, go to him in prayer and tell him that you want that to change.
 
Tell him that you want him to be your BFF.

That’s what he wants with you and everyone else.

Receive his love of you that you might make this world a place of harmony and friendship where we all LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
 
 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen