Love One Another: Abiding in Christ through the Church

Abiding in Christ- Mission/Vision  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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If you have been at Pathway for any length of time, you will have heard the following statement: we exist to bring people into a supreme friendship with Jesus Christ, His family, and to befriend the unchurched for the glory of God.
Those two little words, His Family, we define that as the church. At this church, our vision of the church is to be A Community of Friends Committed to Jesus Christ. Today we want to talk about how we live out that vision of church.
John 15:9–17, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another.
Before we get into the particulars of the text, I think it’s a good idea to grasp the imagery that is inherent to the text. This passage is set within a greater context that began in chapter 13. John 13:1, Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
In that passage, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples giving them an example to do to others as He has done for us. After that He instituted the Lord’s Supper, & launched into a discourse, His final discourse from chapter 14-16, which culminates in His High Priestly Prayer in John 17.
We need to think about this text within the greater context of Jesus’ last words to His disciples before He went to the cross. Within that context, He uses an image to describe Himself, His Father, and His disciples.
John 15:1–2, I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
The image isn’t hard to picture, and it’s pretty easy for us to focus on a singular branch, in which we may think about ourselves, our own connection to the vine, the pruning that God does within our own lives, so that we bear fruit. When we do that, I think we lose sight of the bigger picture- there is only 1 Vine (Christ), but many branches (Church). 5, I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
In typical Western fashion, especially as individualistic Americans, I’m afraid we read a passage like this and think mostly, if not only, about ourselves- a singular branch.
But there is a bigger picture here. Christ is concerned about all the branches, not just yours, and how they all fit together on the same tree.
You can focus on one branch, but if you do, you will miss the beauty of the whole vine producing fruit together. John 15:8, By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
How can we come to the place where we see the church as more than just a place that we go to on Sunday mornings to get our own needs met and come to see the fullness of the vine as the whole tree, all the branches together, each one connected to the vine, and all producing fruit together as one beautiful tree? How can we get there?
There is a word here that is repeated three times in these 3 verses, but 11 times all together from 4-11. The word ABIDE- to remain, stay, or reside, in the sense of continuing in a certain state, condition, or activity.
ILL: Marriage- before I was married, I resided with my family, then I left home & resided in the home of a friend, after that, I resided in a dorm room in college, & an apartment by myself.
But now, I reside with my wife- I abide with her in this state of marriage, we are connected in a way that is different & more special than anyone I have resided with before.
Your relationship with Jesus is like that, just as His relationship with the Father is like that. Jesus says He loves you like the Father has loved Him, and that you should abide in His love just as He has abided in the Father’s love. How did Jesus abide in the Father’s love? By keeping His commandments. How can you abide in the love of Jesus? By keeping His commandments.
He told them this so that His joy would remain (i.e., abide) in them and be full (or complete). It means to be containing as much as possible.
ILL: Imagine a coffee cup, it can only hold so much before it starts overflowing, or a gas tank on a vehicle, if the pump doesn’t do the auto shut-off when the tank gets full, it just spills that precious gas all over the ground. This fullness of joy is what Christ wants you to experience and you can only have that as you keep His commandments.
That seems to fly in the face of what our culture and society would tell you. The world will tell you that joy comes from being your own person and doing your own thing, but Jesus is telling you that ultimate joy comes from being the person He made you to be- loved by Him & in love with Him. Joy is the byproduct of abiding in the love of Jesus.
When we love someone, we do what they want us to do, so when we love Jesus, we do what He wants us to do. And what does He want us to do? Love one another. That’s the commandment that we get in the very next verse- vs. 12, love one another as I have loved you.
There is a qualifier on Jesus’ commandment to love one another. If He were to just tell us to love one another, we may not know how to do it.
The commandment to love one another is so BIG, it’s like eating an elephant, you just don’t know where to start. But Jesus gives us the starting place- He says to love one another as I have loved you. Well, how has Jesus loved us?
Jesus lived a life fully SURRENDERED to God
Jesus lived a life of SERVICE for others
Jesus gave His life as a SACRIFICE for all
Jesus SHARED His life with His disciples and friends
Jesus’ example was to live for God and lay down His life for His friends. This verse, vs. 13, is our theme verse, Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. How do we share the love of Jesus by laying down our lives for our friends?
One of the best things you can do for your friends is BE THERE. You may have heard it before, but most people spell love T-I-M-E. When we give someone a gift of money, we can always earn more money. But when we give someone the gift of time, we’re never going to get that time back. The older I get, the more I realize that time is the most valuable commodity we have. How we spend our time is how we spend our lives. So, how do you spend your time? How will you spend your life?
Donald Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life)- “If we are going to be like Jesus, we must see the use of our time as a Spiritual Discipline. Having so perfectly ordered His moments and His days, at the end of His earthly life Jesus was able to pray… “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do (John 17:4).”
If we are truly going to share the love of Jesus with other people, then we are going to have to share our lives with them. 1 Thessalonians 2:8, So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. It means being there for people.
Recently I listened to an episode of The Church Lobby podcast - How Just Showing Up Can Change Everything. The Church Lobby host interviewed the author of a book entitled- Just Show Up: How Small Acts of Faithfulness Change Everything. Summary- We tend to think it’s the big, bold moments that matter. In reality, it’s the steady accumulation of small acts of obedience to God that add up to a life of meaning and impact. – Drew Dyck
ILL: The Tale of the Starfish- thousands of starfish had washed up on the seashore, and a little girl was walking along tossing them back into the ocean. An old fisherman came along & said- Look at all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!
The girl was crushed, but after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up & said- I made a difference to that one!
I don’t know why we get it in our minds that when Jesus says in vs. 16- I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that He meant something big & bold. Why can’t it be that He chose us & appointed us to do what He says in vs. 17- love one another?
Loving one another doesn’t have to be showing up & showing out, it might just mean showing up, & isn’t that big enough? Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15).
Another way to put it might be, instead of showing the love of Jesus, is shine the light of Jesus. Matt 5:16, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
It doesn’t have to be BIG; it just has to be REAL. If love is real, it is REAL BIG. Let me share with you a few small ways you can make a BIG impact, just by showing up in love & shining the light of Jesus.
1. Go to church. Statistics tell us that for the last 2 years, weekly church attendance has been at the lowest recorded rate since 1992 (32 years).
Gallop- 20% of American adults attend church weekly and 10% almost every week; just 11% of American adults attend church once per month.
Barna- Two out of five churchgoers report regularly attending two or more churches.
In a time when fewer & fewer people are committed to going to church, & even fewer are committed to A Single Church, you be the difference.
Hebrews 10:25, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Go to church.
2. Get in a Life Group. Our church has about an 80% return on our worship service attendance present in life groups each week. That ratio is phenomenal when compared with most churches! Our Sunday school, or life group ministry, exists to help children, youth, & adults grow in their faith and build friendships through biblical community.
Acts 2:42, And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
3. Engage w/ a Discipleship Group (D-group). If SS/Life Groups is a step in your discipleship pathway toward friendship with God & others, we believe that discipleship groups help you leap forward in your faith. What’s the difference between the two?
SS/Life Groups are medium-sized groups that help you build community. D-Groups are small (3-5 people), gender-based gatherings for men and women to grow together in biblical community, responsibility, accountability, and maturity. Proverbs 27:17, As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
You’ve heard Pastor Richard talk about being a 5-5-5 disciple: 5 minutes in the Word, praying the 5 points of prayer; well, a d-group is the last 5 that unlocks the secret to the first 2! Our church wins whenever a person makes a friendship with a member in a small group to be discipled.
A d-group is where you truly learn how to show the love of Jesus towards someone, how to truly lay down your life for your friends, and how to truly love one another.
This is what it means to abide in Christ through the Church- stay in the Love of Jesus, share in the love of Jesus, and show the love of Jesus to one another. This is how we become a community of friends committed to Jesus Christ.
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