What Old Disciples Owe the Young Ones

300px-MatthewHenry“…Until I declare your power to the next generation,
your might to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18).

“It is a debt which the old disciples of Christ
owe to the succeeding generations to leave behind them
a solemn testimony to the power, pleasure, and advantage
of knowing Jesus Christ and the truth of God’s promises.”

— Matthew Henry

Why are we not to fear death?

Psalm 23:4 says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”

Matthew Henry expounds this text and JRR Tolkien shares a beautiful story:

1. Because there is no evil in it to a child of God; death cannot separate us from the love of God, and therefore it can do us no real harm; it kills the body, but cannot touch the soul. Why should it be dreadful when there is nothing in it hurtful?
2. Because the saints have God’s gracious presence with them in their dying moments; he is there at their right hand, and therefore why should they be moved?

I will fear no evil. If one finds himself in a valley of deep darkness (or shadow of death), he need not fear. The Lord is with him and will protect him. The rod and staff are the shepherd’s equipment to protect the sheep in such situations.

A child of God may meet the messengers of death, and receive its summons with a holy security and serenity of mind.

In the Return of the King, as the orcs are over-running the city, Gandalf talks with Pippen about how death is not the end.

Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. There’s another path; one that we all must take. The curtain of this world rolls back….and all will turn to silver glass, and then you see it….
Pippin: See what?
Gandalf: White shores; and beyond them, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: Well… that isn’t so bad….
Gandalf: No… no it isn’t.

Learning to love like Jesus – How?

John 13:34 traces two great movements of grace — ‘just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’ Jesus calls this his “new commandment.” What makes this commandment new? In a nutshell, “Just as  I have loved you”

“New” (kainen) implies freshness rather than simply “recent.” The word in the original Koine Greek is ‘kainos.’ It denotes the new primarily in reference to quality, the fresh. Another Greek word ‘neos’ denotes the new primarily in reference to time – recent.

The newness of Jesus’ precept stems from his calling his disciples to love one another just as he loved them! Jesus’ constant, sacrificial and unconditional love must be the pattern for their attitude and relationships with one another.

Words like this from our Savior’s lips caused Albert Einstein to say: “I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene… No man can read the Gospel without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. Jesus is the most merciful, self-giving, and loving person that you could ever meet and know.”

Why does Jesus raise the standard? He knows that we will never rise to fulfill our Lord’s mandate until we grasp how much we are loved by him. Thus, at the outset we are told what this text is about: It is about being loved by Jesus.

Jesus calls all of His disciples to love one another just as He loved them. Thus, a very pertinent question is how did our Savior love His disciples while on earth? How did Jesus love?

How does he love us?  Persistently. He had loved them without reservation and without limit (13:1 – He loved them to the end. His love is a persistent love. He doesn’t give up on us.

Sacrificiallylaying down one’s life (twice – vv.37&38) … He ‘laid down His life for us’ John 15:12-13 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Unconditionally – Naturally, we love those we find attractive. But who is Jesus loving here in this text?  Who are the ones that Jesus is loving in this passage? This original band failed him. They were fickle and cowardly in their devotion to their Lord. This should greatly encourage us because reminds us that there is hope for us.

Thus, how are we to love one another? Persistent, sacrificial and unconditional love for one another is the distinguishing trait of the Christian.

QUESTION: Where am I sacrificing time, talent, and treasure to care for the physical, moral and spiritual well being of others? Such self-sacrificing love shown by his followers would be the witness to the world of true discipleship.

The adapted quote below from Matthew Henry takes this command of Jesus out of the realm of mere sentimentality and speaks of this command in a challenging, practical, and helpful way.

  • He spoke kindly to them. Gentle answer…Patient and kind.
  • He concerned himself diligently for them, and for their welfare,
  • He instructed, counseled, and comforted them, 
  • He prayed with and for them…  
  • He vindicated them when they were accused… 
  • He publicly owned them to be dearer to him that his mother, or sister, or brothers. 
  • He reproved them for what was amiss…He truthed them in love. 
  • He compassionately bore with their failings. He doesn’t take into account a wrong suffered…  A helpful illustration of this comes from the movie Invictus: The captain rugby player for South African’s spring box marvels that Nelson Mandela could be imprisoned for 30 years in a small cell and come out ready to forgive those who put him there and not be embittered.
  • He believed the best about them, 
  • He passed by many an oversight. Love covers a multitude of sins.
  • BUT the special instance of love for us which he was now about to give was when He laid down his life for us on Calvary’s cross.

Friends, we must all honestly admit that we cannot love one another in the way and manner that Jesus loved us. BUT, His Holy Spirit comes to empower us to do that which is humanly impossible… to love one another persistently, sacrificially, and unconditionally by faith.

Too often, I find that something else fuels and energizes us in our efforts to love our Savior and His people. Look again at Peter in vv.36-38. Peter was initially fueled and energized by a fleshly self-reliance rather than the Lord’s love for him. Like Peter, we are all prone to talk big about loving the Lord and one another. You can almost hear Jesus’ loving rebuke of Peter: Will you really lay down your life for me? You who trembled to walk upon the water to me. You who when I spoke of my sufferings cried out ‘far be it from you Lord!’ At the end of the night, Peter had failed at love. Even still, he was not snatched from the grasp of His loving shepherd (John 10:28) and neither will you!

The burden of Jesus in John 13:34 is that you personally experience His love. If you do, you will extend His love to others. A community founded on the love of Christ has no other purpose for existence that to extend His love to others.

Reflections on What Jesus Desires for His Church

 

The prayer in John 17 is Jesus’ longest prayer recorded in Scripture. In it, Jesus reveals his priorities for His people and what he was most passionate about for us prior to His death for our sins. Christ does not pray that his disciples might be rich and great in the world, but that they might be kept from evil, strengthened for their duty, and brought safe to heaven.

– Adapted from Matthew Henry 

Every time we gather together we either strengthen or weaken the evangelistic appeal of our church by the quality of our relationships with our fellow church members. The biggest barriers to effective evangelism according to the prayer of Jesus are not so much outdated methods, or inadequate presentations of the gospel, as realities like gossip, insensitivity, negative criticism, jealousy, backbiting, an unforgiving spirit, a root of bitterness, failure to appreciate others, self-preoccupation, greed, selfishness and every other form of lovelessness.
These are the squalid enemies of effective evangelism which render the gospel fruitless and send countless thousands into eternity without a Savior.

John Milne

Although individual Christians, and the church in general, tend to fall short of the fullness of unity that the Lord intends, whenever such unity is even partially realized the result will always be deep joy, a persuasive witness to the world, and a display of God’s glory.

 

Love Stoops to Conquer – Worship Reflections for John 13

The foot washing episode of John 13 serves as “a rebuke to the disciples’ ambitious strife, far more powerful than words could have spoken: Such a rebuke that never again do we see a hint of the old question, ‘Who should be greatest?’ It was Christ’s answer to their unseemly conduct, and a lesson to all Christians “who love to be first” for all time. It said, ‘Let him that would be greatest become the servant of all.’”

– B.W. Johnson

Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the cross I cling;Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Augustus Toplady

 

The best commentary on John 13 is Philippians 2 because it describes the stages of Christ’s mission. Note what the text says in 13:4: “Jesus rose from supper” just as he had risen from his heavenly throne. “He laid aside his garments” just as he had laid aside his heavenly glory. “He girded himself with a towel” just as in the incarnation he took the form of a servant. Verse 5… “He poured water into a basin and began to wash and wipe their feet” just as on the cross he secured our cleansing from sin. Verse 12…. When he had washed their feet and taken up his garments, “He resumed his place…” He sat down again just as when he had purged our sins he returned to his heavenly glory and sat down at the Father’s right hand. By these actions, he dramatizes his whole saving mission.

John Stott 

For Judas to betray such a master, to betray him so cheaply and upon no provocation, was such downright enmity to God as could not be forged but by Satan himself, who thereby thought to ruin the Redeemer’s kingdom, but did in fact ruin his own.

Conscious that we labor under darkness, and conscious of our inability to judge what God is doing, should make us sparing and modest in our censures of his proceedings…Unlike the Apostle Peter in John 13.

– Adapted from Matthew Henry

Praying for Our Church Family from Acts 15

Every Wednesday evening a band of brothers and sisters meet together to pray for our church. We take one chapter of the book of Acts and share a few thoughts about it. Then, we pray Scripture for our church family. If you need some specific prayer requests to pray for yourself, your family and friends, and your own community of believers. Here are a few ideas from Acts 15:

Pray that God would set a guard over our mouths. In Acts 15, words have the power to divide or to unite… To hurt or to heal.

Pray that the truths of the gospel of grace would not be betrayed by any of our teachers (for our adults, youth, and children).

Pray that the gospel would make progress and that it would be a matter of great joy among us. Pray for increased effectiveness in helping fulfill Acts 15:14 – “Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.

Pray that we would use our liberty and freedom in the gospel to serve one another and not as license to serve ourselves (Galatians 5:13 – “For you were called to freedom, brothers; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”)

Pray that God would instill in us new resolve to preserve and promote the purity and peace of His church.

Serving the Lord requires taking risks (v.26 – “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”) Pray that we would be willing to take risks in serving our Lord. C.T. Studd: A gambler for God!  He joined the ranks of the great gamblers of faith, Abraham, Moses, etc., in Hebrews 11, and the true apostolic succession, “Men that have hazarded (gambled with, to jeopardize life to magnify and make known the name of Jesus Christ) their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).  Studd wrote:  “No craze so great as that of a gambler, and no gambler for Jesus was ever cured, thank God!”  His answer to the missions committee that rejected him was:  “Gentleman, God has called me to go, and I will go.  I will blaze the trail, though my grave may only become a stepping stone that younger men may follow.” (C.T. Studd: Cricketer and Pioneer, p.112)

Pray that the Lord would grant us charity and courtesy in dealing with the different opinions, views, and sentiments of others in our body of believers.
Repentance teaches us to be severe in our reflections upon ourselves; but charity teaches us to be courteous in our reflections upon others. O what mischief that pride and passion do in the world and in the church, even when they are found in good men!

– Adapted from Matthew Henry

The Responsible Use of Gospel Freedom

Here are a few helpful quotes on how we are to use our gospel freedom responsibly.

Remember that God’s kingdom is not eating and drinking but living together in the righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; so serve Christ, not yourselves, with your eating and drinking.
— Nelson Kloosterman

A Christian is a most free lord of all, and subject to none.
A Christian is a most dutiful servant to all, subject to all.
Martin Luther

As to God, our great concern is righteousness—to appear before him justified by the merit of Christ’s death, sanctified by the Spirit of his grace; for the righteous Lord loves righteousness.
As to our brothers, it is peace—to live in peace and love, and charity with them, following peace with all men: Christ came into the world to be the great peace-maker.
As to ourselves, it is joy in the Holy Spirit—that spiritual joy which is wrought by the blessed Spirit in the hearts of believers, which respects God as their reconciled Father and heaven as their expected home.
—  Matthew Henry

Rather than resembling a moral combat zone, the church is to be a place where all of us obey the Apostle Paul’s moving mandate: Accept one another as Christ has accepted you in order to bring praise to God (Romans 15:7).