************ Sermon on John 13:34 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 2, 1998
"Love One Another"
I The Commandment to Love
A We all know that we live between the time of Christ's going and our going to be with Him. Or, to put it another way, we are in the time between His ascension and His return.
Christ has given His Church precise instructions of what to do during this time. He has commanded us, for instance, to spend the time between evangelizing the nations (Mt 28:18ff). He has commanded us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, look after the sick, and visit the prisoner during the time between (Mt 25:34ff). He has commanded us to fight sin, evil, and temptation during the time between (Eph 6:10-20). He has commanded us to watch and pray and be ready for His return during the time between (Mt 24:36ff). He has commanded us to preserve the truth and fight falsehood during the time between (Jude). And, during the time between His ascension and His return, He commands us to love. "A new commandment I give you: Love one another" (John 13:34).
B Someday, when the Lord Jesus comes again, says the Apostle Peter,
(2 Pt 3:10) The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.The new heaven and new earth will be vastly different from the present one. For one thing, there will no longer be any sea (Rev 21:1). No longer will there be any curse (Rev 22:3). There will be no temples or church buildings (Rev 21:22). There is no need for the sun or moon (Rev 21:23). There is neither marriage nor giving in marriage (Mt 22:30). In the future life there will be no faith – for we will live by sight instead of by faith. In the future life there will be no hope – for our hope will be fulfilled. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Rev 21:4). At that time God will make everything new (Rev 21:5). Even our bodies will be resurrected or transformed to be like Christ's perfect body.
There is one feature of this present life that will be found unchanged in the future life. That one thing is love. As Paul puts it,
(1 Cor 13:8) Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.Notice, in contrast to all else, love abides; love never fails. Love is the one power in this life that can generate itself. It is the one reality in time that goes into eternity unchanged. Love will never need to be stopped or transformed into something better. Because love is the one perfect reality of this life, it abides throughout this life and into the next.
C Love, people of God, is so very important. It is what the Lord demands of us, of the church, during the time between His ascension and return:
(Jn 13:34) "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
James Schaap tells about a speaker who filled assembly halls and churches wherever he went. People sat on hardwood benches and stared at him, entranced and enthralled by what he said. When the speech was over, many went out crying, claiming that their lives were changed forever. The man was a phenomenon. Thousands obeyed him; those who didn't, he despised.
There was a writer who spent years studying the world she lived in, then wrote a shelf full of books about how things were and how they might be. Thousands read her books, and later her newspaper columns, because she seemed to have a crystal ball. If she said there would be war or peace, there was. She lived alone in a mountain cabin and refused to see any guest.
A scientist worked his entire lifetime to find a cure for a crippling disease. He was so devoted to his task that he cared very little for his wife, and his children never knew him. When the man was almost sixty, he found the cure which had eluded him for so long. His story appeared in all the leading magazines. Soon an inoculation was developed; the disease he fought against was conquered. He received a medal of honor.
A preacher who read the Bible very carefully decided to start his own church, convinced that all the other preachers were dead wrong about their doctrine. Often, right in the middle of the worship services, he would thunder against those who didn't believe exactly what he preached. Sometimes he would weep, right up on the pulpit. Everywhere he looked he found enemies. All of them, he claimed, were children of Satan.
There is a church that is known for its deeds, its hard work, its perseverance in the faith. It doesn't tolerate wickedness. It has endured hardship. It does not grow weary in defending the faith. This church is orthodox, adhering faithfully to the historic Creeds and Confessions. It defends the faith of the fathers and admonishes those churches and individuals who are slipping from the truth. Sounds like the perfect church, doesn't it?
The speaker, writer, scientist, preacher, and church all were gifted with talent and power. All did great things. But all fell short, way short! Because all were without love. "Repent," says the Lord to the church, "or I will destroy you." You can read about this church in Revelation 2. It is the church in Ephesus.
Listen to what the Spirit-inspired apostle says to such churches and such people about the need for love:
(1 Cor 13:1-3) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.Are we too nothing but noise? Do we also fail in the demand for love?
D Love is one of the characteristics that Jesus commands of His church during the time between His ascension and His return. In fact, it is easily the most important characteristic. Faith, prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, they all mean nothing apart from love (1 Cor 13:1-3). A theology second to none, the most carefully crafted Creeds and Confessions, the most beautiful sermons, they too mean nothing apart from love.
Love is one of the ways of identifying the followers and disciples of Christ. "All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another" (vs 35). And an absence of love? It can mean only one thing: that we are not followers and disciples of Christ.
Love, my brothers and sisters, is so very important, so vitally important, in the life of the church. It comes even before the true preaching of the Word, the right administration of the sacraments, and the faithful exercise of discipline.
It is also love that draws people into the church. Did you know, the churches that are growing are the churches filled with love? Loving, caring churches, whether they be liberal or conservative (and it surprised me to find this out), are the only churches that are experiencing growth.
II The Kind of Love
A What is this love that Christ commands of His church during the time between His ascension and return? He says, "A new command I give you: Love one another." The emphasis in the Greek falls on the fact that it is "a new command."
What is new about this command? Love itself is not a new command, but an old one that we meet at Mt. Sinai already (Lev 19:18,34; Deut 10:19). What is new is the reason, the motive:
(Jn 13:34) "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."We are to love because of, on account of, Christ's great love for us. In Christ we are all brothers and sisters who must love each other because Christ first loved us.
B The Greek word for love here is "agape." This is a "giving" love. This is a love which gladly and willingly makes sacrifices for the other. This love seeks to give rather than to get. Agape love keeps on loving even when the other person doesn't respond; agape love keeps on loving without asking for anything in return.
Agape love seeks the good of the other person. It strives, to the very utmost of its power, to avoid anything which is harmful, injurious, offensive, abusive, or demeaning to the other person. Such things as physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse are totally contrary to such love.
Agape love turns the heart towards the other and away from ourselves. But, then, the self is never the center of the Christian's being. The Gospel teaches us to always consider the happiness and feelings of others.
A true story of agape love from the time of Oliver Cromwell in England:
Title: Ringing of the Curfew Bell
A young soldier had been tried in military court and sentenced to death. He was to be shot at the "ringing of the curfew bell." His fiancee climbed up into the bell tower several hours before curfew time and tied herself to the bell's huge clapper. At curfew time, when only muted sounds came out of the bell tower, Cromwell demanded to know why the bell was not ringing. His soldiers went to investigate and found the young woman cut and bleeding from being knocked back and forth against the great bell. They brought her down and Cromwell was so impressed with her willingness to suffer in this way on behalf of someone she loved that he let the soldier go saying, "Curfew shall not ring tonight."
Of course, agape love must always be sincere (Rom 12:9). A "sincere" love is from the heart. It is free from hypocrisy or pretense. Judas is probably the best example of an agape love that is not sincere: in the Garden of Gethsemane he came to Jesus and kissed Him (Mt 26:49). Jesus exposed the true nature of Judas' love when He said, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Lk 22:48).
C Agape love is so easily talked about. We all agree, I am sure, that we need more of this love in our marriages, our families, our churches. You see, none of us – neither you nor I – are perfect. Rather, we are sinners – redeemed sinners, to be sure – to whom cling the tentacles of evil, hate, lust, greed, envy, malice, anger, discord, selfish ambition (Gal 5:19-21), and the like – all of which stand opposed to agape love.
We also find ourselves living and working in a world which does not easily harmonize with a self-giving love. You see, today is the age of "self" in our culture. The modern generation of men and women are self-centered and focus on self-fulfillment, self-pleasure, and self-glory. That too does not help the cause of love.
Finally, we all lead such busy, busy lives. We rush around all week long with work, play, church, kingdom. Sometimes we are too busy to find time for love. Who among us has little to do but find ways to be nice to needy people in Visalia and the surrounding community?
Topic: TimeYou know what this tells me? When we are too busy, with tight schedules and impossible deadlines, there is no time for love. I am willing to bet that the Good Samaritan was not in a hurry. What we all need to do is to slow down, to take life a bit easier, so that we have time for love and care and compassion.
Subtopic: Right Use of
Title: Take Time to Love
An ethics professor at Princeton Seminary asked for volunteers for an extra assignment. Fifteen students showed up. He divided the group of fifteen into three groups of five each. He instructed the first group of five to proceed immediately across the campus to a certain spot; if they did not get there in fifteen minutes their grade would be affected. A minute or two later he instructed the second group to also proceed across the campus to the same spot; but they were given forty-five minutes to get there. After they left he instructed the last group to go across the campus to that spot too; but they were given three hours for the trip.
Now, unknown to any of these students, the teacher had arranged with three students from the Drama Department to meet them along the way, acting as people in great need: the first one they met covered his head with his hands and moaned out loud as though in great pain; the second, a little bit further along the way, was on some steps lying face down as if unconscious; the third, on the very steps of the destination, acted out an epileptic seizure. You know what the ethics professor discovered? Not one of the first group stopped, two of the second group stopped, and all five of the third group stopped.
D The Lord Jesus sets Himself before us as an example to follow. "As I have loved you, so you must love one another." What can we say about Jesus' love? His love, of course, was perfect in every way. Out of love He went to the cross for our sins. He is the only One Who has ever succeeded in truly giving over the self for the sake of others; only He has succeeded in showing a pure agape love. In his first inspired letter John says,
(1 Jn 4:10) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus has ascended into heaven. But before He left He gave the church some marching instructions, some rules, on how to live between His going and His coming:
(Jn 13:34) "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page