John 15:1-17 (Five)
How wonderful that Jesus called his disciples friends. I have known and do know the friendship of God. What is even more amazing is this – God has called me his friend. How can I be a friend of God? But I can. And I am. Not because I claim it. But because he tells me it is so.
Greater love has no man than he lays down his life for his friend. Greater love for me is this – that every moment of every day I lay down my life for my friend God. That is why he gives me what I ask. That is why he hears me. That is why I have confidence in God. That is why I love God. That is why I love my neighbour. That is why I love me.
I didn’t always love me. I used to hate me. But God loves me. I love God. I love me. I am my friend. I have life in the vine. Life in Christ. Where else can I get that life? Who else can be my friend? Who else will call me their friend? Oh, I can serve many masters. I sometimes do. But they never call me friends. They always call me servant. But Jesus calls me friend.
I have been thinking about how Jesus showed his disciples how to live in the kingdom of God. Like me, they were slow learners, but Jesus did not give them an academic education, though he could certainly have done so; instead he taught them the practicalities of living each day as a child of God. He monitored their spiritual progress, or lack of, and often encouraged them while not being afraid to rebuke when necessary.
Jesus taught his disciples relationship skills, gave them a passion for the poor and underprivileged, and showed them how much their Father in heaven wanted to give. He modelled intimacy with the Father, and was intimate with the disciples; he opened his heart to them, even if he may have sometimes wondered why he bothered. Who does all that for me? And, if no-one does, how can I show others? What does it really mean to make disciples?
Isn’t it amazing that, as the Father loved Jesus, so Jesus loved his disciples. ‘Now,’ he told them, ‘remain in my love.’ What does it mean to remain (or abide) in Jesus’ love? Obedience springs out of the heart of love, but has to be forced out of the heart of duty. So Jesus wants obedience to be a labour of love, a joy of the heart; not a dutiful resignation to a task that we really don’t have a heart for.
Jesus made known to his disciples everything that he learned from his Father. Whatever God has given me is not for me alone – it is not my property – but it is for sharing and giving. Many people have a theoretical/ theological/ doctrinal knowledge of the truth that God loves them; but many people do not actually know God’s love, many people do not know the God of love. Whatever I have received, it is for me to give it away. Whatever love I have known, it is for me to love others with.
Greater love has no man than this – that he lay down every moment of his life for others, because he has laid down every moment of his life for God. But death becomes resurrection as night becomes day, and the life of God in me touches someone else and brings life. When I know the reality of this, it is no wonder that the Father will give me whatever I ask. For whatever I ask, I ask it for others. That is how Jesus loved his disciples, and that is how I have known his love to me.
Lord, as I have known your love, let me make your love known. Knowing you is life, let your life in me touch others. May I bring living water where there is deadly dryness, may I bring resurrection power where there is the stench of death, may I bring your love where there is a desperate need to be loved. May all the glory to you and never to me.
This passage embodies the heart of spirituality – knowing God and making him known. There is intimacy with God and with each other, there is transcendence with God and with each other. If I remain (abide) in Jesus, I will bear much fruit – but that fruit is not for me, but for others. If I remain in Jesus, I may ask whatever I wish and it will be given me – but that it is not for me, but for others. Jesus commands us to love one another – why does he not command us to love God? Indeed, Jesus commands us to love each other as he has loved us – why does Jesus not speak of our love for him?
I have come to believe that, for me, my life’s purpose is summed up in this: Knowing God and making God known. My life is therefore a life of spirituality. But what is my life in the midst of so many? What is my life in the context of time and space? Who am I that I should make a difference? And so I thought upon these things …
• Baptist Union of Scotland, Heart, Mind and Mission, (Glasgow, Baptist Union of Scotland, 2001)
• Richard Foster, A Celebration of Discipline, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1980)
• Iain H Murray, D Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The Fight Of Faith, (Edinburgh, Banner Of Truth Trust, 1990)
• Iain H Murray, D Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The First Forty Years, (Edinburgh, Banner Of Truth Trust, 1982)
• Clark Pinnock and others, The Openness Of God, (Carlisle, InterVarsity Press, 1994)