Are We Willing to Love as Christ Loved Us?
Discipleship Lesson #07
September 9, 2018
“Our Father, as we continue our study and what it means to be a disciple—the challenge to follow Jesus—we pray that You would help us to understand what this is.
“As our Lord taught, we are to count the costs, we are to understand that discipleship is not the way to salvation, but it is directly related to understanding our spiritual life, to following the teachings of our Lord, to come to understand the truth of Your Word.
“And to let it saturate our souls in such a way that God the Holy Spirit is able to produce in us, in some small measure, the character of Jesus Christ, that He might use that to draw and attract people to the Cross, to salvation, to eternal life.
“As Paul says in 1 Timothy, You desire all men to be saved. Father we pray that You will challenge us with what we study today.
“In Christ’s name. Amen.”
John 13:34–35. In this short series we’re looking at what Jesus taught in reference to discipleship, the challenge to every believer to follow Him. As I have stated at the beginning of each lesson—because there’s so much confusion about this—that being a disciple or becoming a disciple is not the same as being saved.
Becoming a disciple does not save us; we are saved because we put our faith in Jesus Christ.
John 20:31 states it very clearly. John writes that “… these are written—that is, in context these signs, eight major signs, miracles ending with the resurrection—these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
There he states the gospel precisely. It is belief in Jesus. It is simple understanding that Jesus is who He claimed to be, the Son of God. As I quoted in the opening Scripture, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Those are profound statements by someone:
If they are not true, they are a deceiver.
If they are true, then we have no choice but to follow Him because as He said, He is life itself.
He reiterates that in John 11, “I am the resurrection and the life.” John references that in the beginning of his Gospel that “in Him was life and this life was the light of men.”
In John 3, he goes on to say men rejected Him. They loved the darkness rather than the light. We are to follow Him, and that means, as we studied last time, we are to abide in His Word, and His Word is to abide in us.
We’re looking at the question related to the mark of a disciple. In John 13:34–35, Jesus states very clearly that the identifying feature of a disciple—not a believer, but a disciple—is love for one another: to love one another as He has loved us.
It’s important to make this distinction because there are a lot of people who go around, and they’ll see somebody who is living a certain lifestyle or they’ll do something or they’ll say something: they lose their temper, they’re angry, they say something out of bitterness, or resentment toward somebody.
And they say, “How can that person be a Christian?” Wrong! How can that person be a disciple? They’re not exhibiting the love of Christ, which is the mark of a disciple.
A believer is simply someone who has trusted in Christ for salvation. At that instant they are declared just before God, because they received the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, they’re born again, they’re regenerate, and they’re given eternal life.
But once we are saved, once we are a new creature in Christ, the question is, “What do we do?” Jesus says, “Now that you’re saved, follow Me.” That’s the challenge before us.
Here He says that the mark of the disciple is that we love one another. John 13:34 Jesus says,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
So twice in that verse we get the command to love one another, and we get a comparative there that we are to love one another as Christ loved us.
In the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18, we’re told to love our neighbor as ourselves. A lot of people don’t understand the differences there.
In Luke, you’re to love your neighbor. Your neighbor may be a Hindu, may be a Moslem, may be an atheist—who knows what your neighbor is—but you love them, and the comparative is “as you love yourself.”
The assumption there is we all love ourselves. Every human being is self-centered; self absorbed, we all have this great attraction for ourselves, so there’s a pattern there. We are to love our neighbor.
Just as we want good things and to be treated a certain way, we want what the Old Testament Law is saying—that you should love your neighbor just as yourself; you should treat them as you would wish to be treated.
But for the believer in Jesus Christ, who is regenerate, who has a new nature, is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit and is walking by the Spirit and abiding in Christ; He ups the ante.
We are to love one another. In context of John, and in context of the New Testament, one another means other believers. It doesn’t negate the command to love our neighbor as ourselves, because that verse is repeated several times in the Scripture; in Galatians 5:14 just to note one of the places.
We are to love one another. This is a special sign, special indication of our discipleship, and being in the body of Christ. We’re to love other believers; we’re to love one another “as I have loved you.”
Now other believers may not be so lovable. I could probably give you a long list of believers I know who are not very lovable. Because when we are not walking by the Spirit, when we’re walking according to our sin nature, we’re not very lovable.
All of that arrogance and self-absorption and anger and bitterness can boil over and we can be very, very difficult to like or to even be around.
Jesus says that we are to love one another— believers— even when they’re obnoxious, even when they say and do things that offend us, hurt our feelings, even when they betray us, even when we don’t ever want to see them again in our life.
That’s how Romans 5:8 describes you and me in relationship to God. We’re obnoxious, we’re enemies. “God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners …”
That is, still in rebellion against God: when we are saying horrible things about God, rebelling against Him, ignoring Him, all of the things that a sinner does in relationship to God as he walks independently of God. God demonstrated His love for us and sent His Son to die on the cross for us. That is the demonstration of what love is.
We live in an era and a generation when most people talk a lot about love and know absolutely nothing about love. They want love, but they don’t know what it is. And the way they define love is a way that lacks all integrity, all value, and all significance.
They define it as sentimentality: they may define it just in terms of physical attraction, they may define it just in terms of something that is very superficial, just liking somebody, and just wanting to be around them for the moment.
They define it totally in terms of emotion, and that’s what you get when you look at the dictionary. But when we go to the Scripture, love is described in ways that are not emotional, ways that in fact counter an emotional concept of love, and ways that demand a high level of integrity.
We can only get that kind of integrity in our souls if we we’re walking with the Lord. It is produced by God the Holy Spirit. This is why in Galatians 5:22 when Paul lists the fruit or the production of the Spirit in our lives, the very first thing that he mentions is love, “For the fruit of the Spirit is love …”
It is something that is produced in us by God the Holy Spirit. We can’t just gin it up on our own.
Jesus says, “I give you this new commandment.” It is enhancing and moving beyond the Old Testament commandment that you “… love one another as I have loved you.”
How did Jesus love us? He died for us. He died in our place. He came as the revealer of God to us. He taught us and He died for us. His death is not an example for us of how to sacrifice for what we believe in.
It is His payment on our behalf for our sin. That is the expression of love. It is sacrificial in that it cost Him everything and it costs us nothing. It is not free to Him, but it is free to us.
That’s why salvation is based on grace. And grace is an expression of love. We have to understand love to understand grace, and we have to understand grace to be able to truly, biblically love one another.
John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this—that is by this kind of love produced in your life that will set you apart from all other human beings—all will know that you are My disciples.”
It is the mark of the Christian disciple here: that we love one another. Three times in two verses He says, “Love one another.”
To understand this, we have to understand a few things that are taught elsewhere in the Scripture, pulling all of these things together.
Since this is foundational to being a disciple, the mark of a disciple, we can expect that the Scriptures are going to teach a lot about love, and they do. There’s no way I’m going to cover all of that in one, two, or three hours.
But I want to hit the high points to remind us of how important this is. This is something that should be intentional and focused in our life, something we are conscientious about that God the Holy Spirit is prompting us as we grow, to learn to love one another.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, as Paul is listing various characteristics of love, he says at the end of verse 4 that “love is not arrogant.” That’s the way the New American Standard translates it.
The Greek word is PHUSIOO, which is literally the idea of not being puffed up; it’s the idea you don’t blow yourself up. You’re not a big windbag talking about yourself and how great you are. It’s not about being conceited.
This was an idea that was very common in many different generations and cultures, that somebody who was conceited was windy. They blew a lot; they blew a lot about themselves.
In fact, in the 1880s when Chicago was given the opportunity to host the World’s Fair, they bragged about it so much that they were called the Windy City. See, you thought they were talking about meteorology, didn’t you? They were braggarts about how great they were and how great they were going to hold this world exhibition.
That’s the idea here: people who talk about themselves. It has the idea of being conceited, to thinking more highly of yourself than you ought to think, and to be arrogant and self-absorbed.
That’s the very nature of our sin nature, is it’s all about me. Satan’s sin is described in Isaiah 14:12-14 in terms of five “I wills,” because the essence of our sin nature is to focus everything on us and not on others.
It’s all about me, and we all understand that life is really all about me. You wake up in the morning and the first thing you think about is, “What do I need to do for me?”
But the Scriptures teach that as we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, the issue is, “How can I serve God first and others second?” Our love for God is to motivate our love for others. At the core of love is an understanding of humility. It’s the direct opposite of arrogance and self-absorption.
Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit …”
Notice he doesn’t say, “Let some things be done,” “Let a few things be done.” He skewers the whole self-absorption motivation at the beginning.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
The word for lowliness: there are a couple different words that are used in relation to humility in the New Testament.
We see both of them in Colossians 3:12 where Paul writes, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.”
It’s interesting how we have this clothing metaphor. You’ll see it in various places in some of these passages where Paul talks about putting this on, because it covers up our nasty sin nature. It is new clothing, new apparel that we have as a result of the work of God the Holy Spirit.
“Tender mercies” is a word that we find in several places associated with love and with humility, and it has to do with genuine compassion, not the kind of pseudo-compassion we often see in our world today.
We have a lot of politicians talk about being compassionate to various social groups, but when you analyze the data, not much has ever happened. That’s pseudo-compassion. It’s all talk. It’s all show and no action.
Genuine humility is an expression of genuine love and care for people that results in action. It has been said many times, to the point where it’s almost a cliché that love is a verb, and that is true. That means there is action involved.
This action involves true, genuine compassion or care. Compassion is the expression of mercy and grace towards those who don’t deserve it. Kindness: just being kind to people.
We live in a world today where civil discourse has deteriorated to a level far below the gutter. People don’t know about good manners. Politicians are the worst. College students are probably at the same level. They’re just motivated by selfishness.
That is seen in the anger, the resentment that just comes boiling over, and yet, what the Bible says about Christians is we’re to be kind to one another, even when the person we’re being kind to doesn’t deserve it. When they’re yelling and screaming in our face and doing all kinds of other things, we’re to be kind.
These two words so often are linked together in Scripture: humility and meekness.
The first Greek word, TAPEINOPHROSUNE means to be unassuming; you’re not self-promoting. It was a negative word in Greek culture because it only described somebody who was really poor and had nothing, somebody who was lowly or abased, or who didn’t promote themselves.
If you were going to get anywhere in Greek culture, you had to promote yourself. This word was used more as a negative term about those who didn’t have anything to say about themselves or to promote themselves. It wasn’t something that was very positive.
One of the things I read years and years and years ago—this is one of the first words I ever learned to do a word study on, long before I even went to seminary—was that this idea was seen in the polis of ancient Greek as somebody who really didn’t assert their own rights or privileges.
At the time I was running an in-school suspension class with a bunch of snotty-nosed junior high kids, who every time you are correcting them they would say, “I’ve got my rights!” This spoke to my soul. Humility is not the assertion of one’s rights. I’ve never forgotten that.
The other word PRAUTES has the idea of being considerate or gentle. Now we have to understand this because we often identify gentleness as not a very strong characteristic.
When we look at the Scriptures, for example in Numbers 12:3, Moses is said to be very humble. This is in the New King James translation. But the Greek Septuagint translated the original Hebrew anav with the word PRAUS. Moses is considered the meekest or most humble man in the world.
Now this is a guy who’s leading 2½ to 3 million Jews through the Sinai Desert for 40 years. You’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to be tough, you have to know exactly what you’re doing, and how you’re doing.
You have to have great confidence in what you’re doing and in the direction that you’re going. You are a strong, solid leader; you’re not being walked on by anybody.
What is the essence of what it means to be humble? We see this in Philippians 2:8: Jesus humbled Himself by being obedient and going to the Cross. This is what humility is.
Moses was submitted to God. Submission is a very important concept in relationship to love. You have to be oriented to authority.
If you have somebody who’s rebellious, they can’t be oriented to authority. And if they can’t be oriented to authority, they can’t be humble, and they can’t truly love. It’s all about them.
Colossians 3:13 says, “… bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, ...”
Notice the comparison. You don’t forgive each other like the pastor forgives people or like your mother forgives people or like your best friend forgives people. We’re to forgive one another as Christ forgave people.
What did Jesus say when He was on the Cross to these religious leaders who brought Him up on false charges, to the Roman soldiers who had beaten Him mercilessly and tortured Him and whipped Him? He said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
That’s how Christ forgives us. There’s no hint of anger, resentment, bitterness. It is a true and genuine love.
Colossians 3:14, Paul says, “But above all these things put on love …”
There’s that concept again. Actually to “put on” is not repeated here. The Greek word is in Colossians 3:12, and it’s just repeated here in English, but it’s the same idea, emphasizing—“… put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”
The Greek word there indicates completion or maturity. It’s hard for us to love when we’re immature, just like it’s hard for a three- or four-year-old to truly love anyone because as we all know, three- and four-year-olds are all about themselves.
1 Peter 5:5 says that we are to “… be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility ...”
We’re studying this section on Thursday nights, and the connection between submission: its proper orientation and respect for authority; and that’s necessary to be clothed. There’s that “put on” metaphor again to be clothed with humility.
Then a quote from Proverbs 3:4 that “God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble”—those who submit to His authority.
Ephesians 5:21 has the same idea of “submitting to one another in the fear of God”—just before it starts talking about husbands loving your wives, wives submitting to your husbands, parents training, raising their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and children obeying their parents.
The first thing is submission. If you don’t have authority orientation to submit to the authority of God, then it impacts and destroys everything else in life. That’s why as parents it is so important to drive the arrogance and the independence out of the sin nature of your little child.
They need to learn to control that, and that discipline will only come as you instill that in them. Otherwise, they will grow up to be rebellious and anti-authority, and they will have trouble in work relationships, they’ll have trouble in marriage and family and friendships. It will resonate and destroy much in their lives.
Ephesians 4:2 uses the same two words again, “… with all lowliness—I would translate it with all humility—and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.”
That “bearing:” I like to translate that just “put up with” because sometimes that’s what we have to do. We love someone, but they’re operating on their sin nature or whatever, and we need to just put up with them.
We put up with them on the basis of humility and gentleness—that authority orientation. We have to learn that ourselves. That’s what God is teaching us sometimes when He brings a bunch of people around us that are nothing more than obnoxious jackasses. He’s teaching us to be humble and obedient to the Lord.
Colossians 2:7 brings out another dimension of being grace-oriented: we have to be grateful. Our English word “grateful” is based on the Latin root for grace. Grace and gratefulness go hand in hand.
Those who are humble are grateful for what God has provided for them, and recognize that God has provided everything for them. Only on that basis of humility can we learn to truly love one another. We have to have humility.
Next, there has to be a correction in terms of our own mental attitude sins.
In Ephesians 4:30, the main command is “don’t grieve the Holy Spirit.”
When we sin, it grieves the Holy Spirit. We’re no longer walking by the Spirit, and He’s no longer able to produce in our lives. We’re told to put aside all bitterness, wrath and anger, clamor, all of which have to do with self-absorption. We get bitter, angry, and resentful because we don’t get our way. Somebody treats us differently from the way we think we ought to be treated.
We are to put that aside, and we are to be, Ephesians 4:32, “… be kind to one another—even when they’re obnoxious and don’t deserve it—tenderhearted—that’s another word related to the root for genuine compassion and— forgiving one another …”
The word that’s translated “forgiving” here, as well as in Colossians 3:13 is CHARIZOMAI from the root CHARIS, which means grace. It doesn’t literally say, APHIEMI—forgive one another. It goes beyond that.
It says, “be gracious to one another,” emphasizing the fact that they don’t deserve your forgiveness. We are to be gracious to them and treat them not as they deserve, but treat them how we would want to be treated if we were acting the fool.
Both Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13, in the context of talking about love, emphasize the prior necessity of forgiving one another.
In Colossians 2:7 and also in Ephesians 3, we have the emphasis that we are rooted and grounded in love.
We’re going to study this; probably not for a couple years, as we will be beginning a study in Ephesians on Sunday morning within the next two or three weeks; and we will eventually get to this passage.
In Ephesians 3:18, Paul is emphasizing the dimensions of God’s love, that these are infinite actually. But the more we study and grow the more we understand the expansiveness of God’s love, and His provision for us.
We are rooted and grounded in Christ in faith. We are rooted and grounded in His love.
As we bring this to a close coming out of John 13 we see a development of Jesus’ command in John 14, John 15, John 16, and John 17. I want to focus on one section in John 15 where he’s developing this.
He has already said if we’re going to be His disciples, we have to love one another. In John 15:10 He said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.”
In other words, if you disobey what the Scriptures teach in the New Testament, then you will not abide in His love. Abiding is not something every Christian does. Abiding is what Christians do who are walking by the Holy Spirit.
When we sin we’re no longer walking by the Spirit, we’re no longer abiding. We need to confess sin and we are restored to that relationship; but it’s a dynamic relationship.
Walking isn’t something that you do just passively, neither is abiding. It is the active application of scriptural teaching in the life. It means you’re abiding in the Word and the Word is abiding in you. You are saturating yourself with the Word.
We talked about that last time, that it is essential to being a disciple. Other than that, you’re just a wannabe. To be a disciple, we have to make a plan and a priority in our life, to structure our lives around our spiritual growth and spiritual advance.
It’s going to make us different from other people. Other people are going to have their kids doing all kinds of activities, which are fine and good, until it gets in the way of your life as a service and worship to God.
When it gets in the way of that, it becomes idolatrous. Anything can become an idol in any of our lives, and we’ve all done this many times where we consistently put something else, someone else, or some other activity in front of our own spiritual growth.
To abide in Jesus’ love, we have to keep His commandments. Again and again we see that keeping His commandments is a standard barometer for understanding our love.
A lot of people emote a lot about Jesus. They sing little ditties about how great Jesus is, “Jesus is my friend,” but they don’t have a clue what Jesus taught.
Jesus said, “If you’re going to abide in My love, you have to keep My commandments.” That presupposes that you know what those commandments are, that you understand what the New Testament teaches, not superficially, but profoundly and in depth, which comes about because you spend a lot of time reading and studying and going to Bible class where you’re taught what all this means.
John 15:12, Jesus says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Again, that’s the pattern. We have to understand what happened at the Cross, deeply and profoundly.
I learned something new this last week. The trespass offering that is often identified back in Leviticus might be better translated a reparation sacrifice. It was a sacrifice that was brought if you’d financially defrauded somebody. Not only did you have to pay back everything you defrauded them of, you had to pay about a 20% fine on top of that.
The word for that sacrifice is the word used in Isaiah 53 for what Jesus did on the Cross. If you grasp this, you will grasp that we hardly have ever probed the real question on the extent of Christ’s death on the Cross. He paid back the whole debt of our sin and beyond to the Father. He paid back all that the Father is defrauded of in all of human history by all of human sin and more.
We don’t even come close to probing the depth of what happened on the Cross. But that’s important for us because it teaches us what love is. We have to think about that.
John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. Therefore, I command you to love one another.”
The example is Christ. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated His love toward us—this is how you understand love—in that while we were still sinners—while we were obnoxious and in rebellion against God—Christ died for us.”
He did His utmost. He went above and beyond to provide for us when we were as hostile to Him as we could possibly be, as unattractive to Him as we could possibly be, as obnoxious and filthy as we could possibly be. He died for us.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world—literally it means “in this way God loved the world”—that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
To talk about love and loving one another, we have to start at the Cross. When you talk about romantic love, if it doesn’t start at the Cross, it’s starting on some empty foundation. All love begins and ends with an understanding of what happened at Golgotha.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study, to reflect, to be reminded of the importance that You place upon our love for one another. That this is the mark of a disciple.
As believers we need to ask ourselves these questions:
Are we willing to love one another?
Are we willing to abide in Your Word?
Are we willing to count the cost?
Are we willing to take up our cross daily and to deny ourselves and follow Jesus?
That’s the challenge to us as believers.
“There may be some who are here today or some who are listening who never quite understood the gospel before. They could not explain it. They’re not sure if they’re going to go to Heaven. But Scripture makes it clear that the good news is that we can do nothing to save ourselves. But Jesus Christ did it all.
“He paid it all. He went to the Cross and died in our place, so that the penalty was paid, and all that is left for us to do is to accept that free gift, and we do that by believing Him, believing He is Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, Who died for our sins—and accepting that free gift.
“Father, we pray that for those who never trusted Christ that they would have a clear understanding of the gospel and respond to that in belief.
“For the those of us who are believers, that we might be reminded not to take life easy as believers, not to just rest and relax, but to trust in You and to press on to spiritual maturity, thinking in terms of the really long game, living today in light of eternity.
“We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”