Summary: Exposition of John 13:34-35 regarding the command to love one another
Text: John 13:34-35, Title: The Mark of a Christian, Date/Place: NRBC, 1/10/10, AM
A. Opening illustration: “even now, there is nothing else that causes the heathen to stumble, except that there is no love…Their own doctrines they have long condemned, and in like manner they admire ours, but they are hindered by our mode of life.” –John Chrysostom, 380 AD, writing about the lack of love among Christian men in his day,
B. Background to passage: In the past six weeks, I have had two recurrent themes in my life as it relates to this church. The first of which is that I grow increasingly frustrated with our lack of real growth numerically here at New River. Some of us where talking at the association about the church plant, and how other churches and pastors felt about it, and I was asked if there was a possibility that jealousy would rear it’s head in our pastors. And I said, “of course, I am jealous!” It just seems like to me that we should have experienced more growth here at NR in three years time. I have visions of having to go with two services because of the crowds, but they never come to reality. And so in my frustration I ask “why?” The second theme that has come recently become repetitive in my mind and heart related to NR is we are consistently bad and caring for one another—all of us. In the past 6-8 weeks, we have lost members that we have not cared for adequately and hurt others in our midst beyond belief. And it is not something that has just happened recently. I have had conversations, at least five or six with different church members, where they have brought up the subject, not to complain, but to express genuine concern for our church as a whole; and they all say virtually the same thing: (and maybe the glasses are a little rose colored, but the point is that we’ve changed for the worse) in past years care and concern for others in the body has flourished, or at least been much better than now; and that has led to or been the result of superficiality in relationships between us. We don’t each other and we don’t care for each other. And these two themes came together in my prayer time on Monday morning and in this message this week, in that we still have some things to work on internally before God will really grant the growth to NR. Because if he did, we wouldn’t be good stewards of that growth, and NR would be on the yo-yo cycle of growth again, as it has been in the last 20 years. Common problem, Jesus speaks to it. Give warning to visitors that this is in all churches; and not ours severely. Related to several other themes and problems in our church, and most churches today, and we are reaping the results.
C. Main thought: Jesus speaks his one supreme command that should revolutionize the/our church. And we must reshape our worldview, and then/therefore our practice of this truth. And maybe this is one of the last hindrances to growth at NRBC.
A. The World’s Discernment (v. 35)
1. John indicates later in his letters that love that we have for one another verifies the reality of our conversion; and the lack of it testifies to our false hope in a non-saving faith. But here it is the world and the church that will be able to look at the church, see its love for each other, and know (the verb here is middle/reflexive, indicating that they will know on their own, inherently) that these men and women are Christ-followers/learners. To them, this is the true verification of our faith in the God who is love.
3. Illustration: “It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand on us! ‘See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another…see how they are ready to die for one another.’” –Tertullian, 195 AD, “Upon His authority he (Jesus) gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians…In other words, if people come up to us and cast their teeth against us in judgment that we are not Christians because we have not shown love toward other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative which Jesus gave them.” –Schaeffer, “The church may be orthodox in its doctrine, and vigorous in its proclamation of truth, but that will not persuade unbelievers unless believers love one another,” –MacArthur, “Orthodoxy without principial obedience to this characteristic command of the new covenant is merely so much humbug.” –Carson,