Love is the nature of God; love is the totality and essence of all that the word of God and the law of God teach. This message draws the distinction that God is love, but love is not God. "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. " 1 John 4:8 ESV
How to Live with Joy in the "Little While"
The Spirit's Coming as the Son Heads Home: Where He is Going and Who He is Sending.
Brace Yourself Lambs: Final Words on Their Final Walk
Love: Our Sign and its Source
It's All About Abiding
Living Proof He is the King of Peace
The Lifeless Lunacy of Love Without Labor
The Holy Spirit is With Those Who Believe
The Greater Works of Those Who Believe
Take Heart: The Difference Between Jesus' Trouble and Ours
Welcome. We are in John 15, the second week of three weeks inside this chapter, which is inside the Take Heart series, which is inside The Visible Image series, which is inside the Bible. You need to know it all. John 15 is broken up pretty simply. Verses 1-11 talk about the fact that we need God. Apart from him, we can do nothing. It is the secret to the abundant Christian life.
If you are wondering why you're not experiencing a peace that passes understanding…meaning, purpose, joy, significance, reconciled relationships…I can tell you, and I can support it biblically, that the reason is you don't know the secret. You can't will yourself to faithfulness. You must abide with him.
You are the branch. The branch is not the life; it acknowledges the source of the life, which is the vine, rooted, firmly entrenched in the soil of truth and the eternality of God. All the branch does is bear fruit. It is a vessel, and if it snaps itself off, you can do nothing. Verses 12-17 are the second little reminder: you must love one another. The responsibility is love. We're going to focus on that all day today.
Then next week, we'll close it up with a focus on the fact that we are here to suffer and serve in the world, not to be loved and celebrated by it. This world will not love us, and we should not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among us. That's next week, and it will be great. I believe I need this message more than any message I have preached lately. This may be not for you, but it is for me. I need to be reminded of the truths of today.
Last night, I was talking to a friend of mine who pastors a church in Atlanta. Louie Giglio and I were visiting about some stuff. You may know Louie. We were talking about what he was going to share, as he was encouraging his body as they take some new steps, and he asked me what I was doing. I have to tell you, I said, "Well, I'm teaching on love," and I kind of thought, "How boring is that?" I mean, honestly. You go to church, and the pastor is going to pull out a love message. I rebuked myself.
As I reflected back on what I was doing (and this is why I need this message)… I ought to preach on this every week. In fact, if you don't preach on this regularly… Everything points to this topic, and it's not something we should just go, "Well, love." It's like, "Well, love, doggone it!" If you don't get this, you don't get anything. That's exactly what it says.
Let me tell you what's going on with the idea of love. Love is such a big idea that there are four words in the Greek language used to describe it, but that's not even enough. If you really want to know what love is, the only way you can really describe love is with this amazing verse, 1 John 4:8: "God is love." Can you imagine that? "Hey, describe Todd Wagner."
"Well, I really don't know how to describe Todd Wagner, but I'll tell you what. The only way I can really capture Todd Wagner… God is like Todd." Would that not be amazing? Don't say, "Yes, that would be really amazing." We're not doing that. That's why we're singing, "Jesus Messiah," not some other person's name in that song.
Do you know what's amazing? The Visible Image series is, "Hey, what is God really like? God is Jesus." You can reverse that. "Jesus is God." If you, though, want to understand the glory of love, and I'm truly trying to get you… I'm going to say, "God is love." Now this is important. You can't reverse that. Love is not God. Love is one aspect of God, but if you really want to know what love is, God is the fullest expression of what love is.
What an amazing statement about love. Not just four words, but it is one of the manifestations of God. Again, God is not just love. God is justice. We all go, "Man, there has to be justice. If there's no justice, I don't feel very loved. If you don't right these wrongs, if you don't correct this evil, then you don't love me." We'd all say that. Love is not just doing what people want you to do, and it's not a free-for-all. There is an opposite side to love, and it's justice.
So God is love, but love is not God. Don't ever confuse yourself to think that. There are people who try to teach that, and it's not sustainable. It's a wonderful philosophy; it just doesn't coincide with reality. Love is the nature of God. What an amazing statement. Love is the totality and essence of all that the Word of God and the law of God teaches. When Jesus was asked, "Hey, sum this thing up for us. What are we supposed to do? There are a lot of laws right here…"
Here's the thing. If you really want to know what it's all about… We're studying Leviticus right now if you're going through the Journey with us or you're here on Thursday nights. There are 613 different commands. There are a bunch of grandfather laws and grandson laws and derivatives and derivatives and derivatives. "Hey, Jesus! Sum it up for us. What do we have to do?"
Matthew 22:36-40. "This is what you have to do: you have to love me with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. By the way, I can't separate this from the second one. The second one is just like the first. You have to love your neighbor as yourself. On these two ideas hang all the Law and all the Prophets." Love is the totality and essence of the law of God. It is the central command of Scripture.
Just in this little text today… John 15:12: "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." John 15:17, the bracket on the other side: "This I command you, that you love one another." First John 3:23. It's going to repeat it again. "This is [God's] commandment…" Do you want to know what it is? "…that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us."
It is displayed all across Scripture. You can't miss this thing. It is how the world will identify us as his disciples. John 13:34-35: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you [have learned from me, that you are a disciple of mine, that you have been subject to my teaching, instruction, redemption, deliverance, and ransom. Not by the fact that you sing songs that I'm the Messiah; they're going to know you think I'm the Messiah by the way you love] ."
Let me up it one more. Love is the way the world will know that he is the Messiah. In other words, if we, as his disciples, don't love one another and we keep insisting that we're his disciples, then the world will say, "Jesus must not be the Messiah." This is John 17:21: " [Father, I pray] that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."
If we don't love, if we don't manifest the nature of God, if we ignore the essence of the law, the central teaching of the Scripture, the world will look at us and go, "I don't know who you are, but you're not followers of Jesus or Jesus is not who you think he is. He is not the Sent One of God." Love is the final apologetic, the final evidence that we are his. The world will know that Jesus is who he said he was by the way we love.
Francis Schaeffer, maybe the greatest mind that has lived in the last 150 years or so, talked a lot about this. He said, first of all, we ought to spend the rest of our lives having an intellectual apologetic, learning more about rational explanations for our faith. By the way, if you're here and you wonder if there's ever a place that you can go and ask questions and not be seen as disrespectful or less than good, every Monday night, we are here.
This is not where we equip believers to learn how to rationally defend the faith; this is where equipped believers are there for folks who are trying to investigate God. We created an environment called Great Questions where you can come and ask any question you want as you try to figure out, "Is there reasonable faith?" Every Monday. If you meet somebody who has questions, invite them. Come with them. Sit alongside of them. Send them here.
Then take advantage of the Training Day and Equipping classes all along the way, that you might be, yourself, increasingly ready and equipped out there. But it's the final apologetic. Why? People are not going to say we're his disciples and that Jesus is the Messiah based on our doctrine. They're not going to accept or reject what we say.
Schaeffer makes a great observation in his book The Mark of the Christian. He talks about the philosophies of the day and age. We live in a postmodern age, where relativism and, basically, the epistemology of today's generations… It rejects the idea of absolute truth, so it doesn't want to weigh your doctrine. To reject or accept your doctrine as true or not true when they don't even know if there is truth doesn't really connect with them, but I want to tell you what connects with people.
What connects deeply with people is when they see not what you believe but what you do connect deeply with them. It is the final evidence that we are people who have been reconciled to the God that is. When they look at you and go, "I am irresistibly drawn to this community, to this love…" See, all men are created in the image of God; therefore, they are created to love and to be loved. That's who God is in his essence, and it's who he has made us. All of us are looking for that connection, and when the world sees it here, it can't resist it.
Let me just give you some evidence of this. You may know of the story of a guy by the name of Leo Buscaglia. Have you ever heard that name? He is called "Dr. Love." Not like Dr. Ruth, the love doctor, but Leo Buscaglia is called that. He was the director of the special ed department in the Pasadena School District in California from 1960 to '65. In '65 he came on the faculty at the University of Southern California. He was at USC, and he taught special education and counseling.
Like many young teachers when they get in the classroom… It's a rather overwhelming event and moment, so what Buscaglia used to do is he used to look out over his class, and he used to try to connect with what he called kind eyes…kind eyes that would follow him, that when he was making a strong point would lean in and would take notes. When he was talking about touching topics, empathy would pour out from these students, and it energized him and spurred him on as a teacher when he saw somebody who was tracking with him fully.
There was one student in one of his classes whose eyes he especially found to be kind. He noticed after several weeks that all of a sudden, she wasn't there on a Monday, and then wasn't there the next Wednesday and wasn't there that Friday. So, finally, the following Monday, he asked another student what happened to this girl, and he mentioned her name, and the friend said, "Didn't you hear? She jumped off the Pacific Palisades over a week ago." She said her life didn't matter, that nobody cared about her. She was alone in this world and desperate for meaning, and she couldn't find it.
Buscaglia said he would have given anything to have five minutes with her to talk about her beauty and her dignity and the way he drew strength from her and the way he valued her and cared about her and learned from her as he taught her. But it was gone, and he said, "This is crazy. Here we are on this incredibly large campus, and we're stuffing facts into these students' heads, but we're losing the individual ability to love and connect with one another."
At the end of that year, the dean of education in his area came to him and asked, "What's your five-year goal?" and he said, "I want to teach a new class." They go, "What do you want to teach this new class on?" He said, "I want to teach a class on love." They go, "What are you going to call it?" He said, "I'm going to call it 'Love 1A.'" The professor goes, "Is anybody else teaching on this?" He goes, "No. No one is teaching on it." He goes, "What are you going to teach?" He goes, "I'm going to teach people how to love."
The guy let him do it one year, a non-accredited class. The first year there were 20 students. The next year, there were 200. The next year, there were over 600 students on the waiting list to get in this class. It filled up faster than any other class on the USC campus. Students would run, and within 20 minutes of registration opening, it would be filled and the waiting list would go into the hundreds.
They wanted to be in this class where they were not going to get information but transformation as they were told about love and how to love and how to be loved and how to give love. There was no homework, but he gave them assignments. It was not an accredited class. He made them do acts of kindness to people over 70 and under 7. He made them have a conversation with somebody for over 20 minutes where they only could speak twice to learn to listen and show value with their eyes.
He made them greet each other every day in class with hugs. He made them give $20 away for no reason to a random stranger. He made men do something nice for women. He made races interact with one another. He made you find an enemy you needed to reconcile with and forgive, and he taught them to love. And he went on. It was such a powerful class that word got out about it. PBS in that little local area heard about this and made a pitch. "We want this guy to come on PBS and speak."
They go, "No, that's an old way of television. We're not going to have a stale professor talking and lecturing on something and put it on our station." Then they watched it, and they went, "We have to put this on our station." What they did is they started to put Leo Buscaglia's lectures on love on during fundraising drives, and they always collected more money for PBS during his shows than a John Denver concert, than a Ken Burns documentary, or whatever the favorite shows had been on PBS that year.
When they put this guy on TV, talking for an hour about love, there was more response to PBS and funding for the organization than anything else they did. When he would go and speak, he would lecture for an hour, and he always then stood up there and hugged everybody in the audience or signed autographs as long as he could until every single person in that room who wanted to interact with him could. He'd lecture for an hour and hug for over two hours.
As his energy waned and his handlers, if you will, saw that the night needed to come to a close, they started to go to the end of the line and say, "You can only do one or the other. You can only get a hug or an autograph in the book," and everybody chose the hug, because they wanted to connect with this man, because they're made in the image of God. He had five different books simultaneously on the New York Times Best Seller list.
He basically taught Christianity without Christ, and people were flocking to it, and they couldn't understand it. They asked Buscaglia, by the way, "What is your credential that you can teach on love?" and he said, "I'm Italian. That's all I've got." In fact, what's really interesting… He was born to Italian immigrants. He moved here when he was 5, and he had never learned English.
So, he goes to elementary school, and because he struggled with the language, they thought he was a special needs child, and they put him in special education classes until some teacher had the sense to get to know him and understand there was a thick accent behind his inability to speak English. He didn't know the language. Her compassion and love taught him English and found out that he wasn't, in fact, a compromised mind but a brilliant mind, and that set him on the course of loving children who maybe didn't have what he had and having compassion for them.
One teacher, one student, loving and doing for one what she couldn't do for many, and it affected a university. Jesus is saying, "That's wonderful." By the way, when you come to re|engage… Let me let you in on an insight. All we're doing at re|engage is discipling you how to have successful relationships, and here is step one. We're going to teach you biblical principles to make relationships work.
The very first principle you have to buy into is that you don't have the ability to love your wife like you said you would or God said you should, and until you admit your powerlessness to really love in a way that makes relationships work, your relationships aren't going to work. You can't blossom healthy relationships disconnected from the source of healthy relationships.
So step one is just acknowledging, "I don't have what it takes to love." I can make you feel good for a semester. I can take different philosophies of the day and age. We can do small random acts of kindness, but we will not be exceedingly kind and bear this mark unless we know the God who is love. This is no small topic, and Todd Wagner needs this topic.
A friend of mine talked about his early days at seminary, and some professor asked, "Hey, what do you think is the most important spiritual discipline?" If you go through Equipped Disciple with us, you'll come across this thing called the wheel, which is a simple teaching tool that talks about four major pegs, or spokes, that make up the Christian life. There's Bible study, there is fellowship with God through prayer, there is fellowship with believers in community, and there is intentional interaction with lost people through evangelization or witnessing.
This professor asked these seminary students, "What do you think the most important spiritual discipline is?" And what do you think seminary students would typically say? They go, "Study of God's Word. It's what informs everything else." The professor said, "No, it's not, because you can study God's Word or you can pray and not do the thing God wants you to do. The most important spiritual discipline…if you don't do this, you are not a disciple…is live in community."
Do you all ever get a little weary of us talking about community here? Let me tell you why. This is important. This is why we talk about it. It's why one of the key verses this summer is going to pound this idea into you. We're going to tell you it's not our idea. That's why we start with 2 Timothy 3:16. "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable…in fact, it's the only thing that can teach you, reprove you, correct you, and train you in righteousness, that you might be adequate, prepared for every good work."
If you just study and don't ever do anything… In fact, the monastic lifestyle… Isolation is completely incongruent with biblical Christianity. The most important spiritual discipline is community, because it's what's going to show you your need for God's Word, the fact that you can't stay in community very long if you don't abide with Jesus Christ, and you won't care about people who are largely cretins and offensive to you and who don't know how to love because they don't know the Lover. You're not going to seek them.
See, what happens is if you live in isolation from other believers, you're never going to manifest what the purpose of all of the disciplines is. I want to tell you why. That's why I won't hire somebody, if they have a seminary degree, because they have a seminary degree. I won't necessarily not hire them if they're a graduate from a seminary, but at Watermark, we just say, "Listen. Do you love God and love others?"
I can teach you theology and sound doctrine, but if you have sound doctrine and you don't love, you don't have sound doctrine. If you're degreed in learning and you have not learned to love, we don't want you on our team. We don't want you in leadership. We're all continually going to be learners, but let me tell you something. If we don't love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and we don't love our neighbor as ourselves, we have nothing.
In fact, I'd say it this way. If you think about that wheel, that spoke… If you don't live in biblical community, if your relationships do not have the characteristic of love…sustaining, abiding relationships with one another, reconciling through conflict…you are a flat tire that is hindering the transportation of the gospel. That's what you are.
I've said before if you're here and you're not in biblical community, you're not a regular attender; you're an irregular believer. That's why I say that. If you're not abiding with one another, loving one another as you abide and follow Jesus, you're not following Jesus. That is John 15:12-17. Are you with me? This, gang, is really important. This is why my life verse has changed. Let's just read John 15:12-17 and take it a verse at a time.
"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another."
Father, would you just let me teach this text in a way that would make us a source of glory to others, that they would go, "Hey, these people follow Jesus, and Jesus is God, because there is nobody who loves and flowers forth intimacy and diligence in relationships and forbearance and kindness and grace and forgiveness and oneness like them." Would you make us lovers, just like Jesus, as we abide with him? For your glory and our good I pray, amen.
John 15:12: "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." If you want to write something down, write this down: it ain't enough to be right. I hate that verse. I love to be right, and that's just a consistent issue in my life. As I grow, God is showing me, "Hey, Todd, the mark of a Christian, the mark of a Christ follower is not that he's right. The mark of a Christ follower is that he loves."
God is righteous. God is love. God is justice. He's all of those things. "But, Todd, if all you are is right all the time, that's just not going to get the job done." I'm going to say this again. There's a guy who was an Oxford scholar, later an Anglican priest, a guy named Frederick Faber who lived in England in the 1800s. I read this quote about two years ago, and it has been jacking with me ever since. It simply says, "Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning."
Kindness has done more to bring people to God than zeal and passion, eloquence in speech, or learning. God doesn't need me to be impressive. He doesn't need me to be brilliant. What the Lord uses is love, not separated from truth, and that's why my life verse has changed. For the longest time, the verse that really drove me was 1 Peter 3:15. "…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…"
Every time I quoted my life verse, I'd always take that first phrase and go, "'Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts,' but let's get to this part: 'Always be prepared to make a defense when anyone asks you to give an account for the hope that is within you, and yet do that with gentleness and reverence.'" I was ready.
Do you want to know why you can believe the Bible is God's Word? Do you want to know why you can believe in a historical resurrection? Do you want to know why you can believe and rationalize that God is loving and God is sovereign and there's still evil in the world? I would love to tell you, but that verse is bracketed by love, and I just went right to the middle. My life verse was not 1 Peter 3:15; it was 1 Peter 3:15 B and C, not so much A and D.
"Hey, Todd, sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart. In other words, abide with him. Bear much fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is love. And as you tell people who ask you because they see your life just be so informed by others-centeredness and selflessness and care and sacrifice… When they say, 'Why do you do that? Nobody else does that. Why do you forgive people who hate you? Why do you speak kindly when people speak poorly of you?' then you're supposed to respond with gentleness and respect for them. Be ready to give a reason why you believe that Jesus is who he said he was, but it's all about abiding with him. That's what creates that."
Do you know what my life verse is now? My life verse has been, for the last several years, when I saw myself raising a bunch of children who were just like me… They love to be right, and it was not bringing a home that was defined by peace, because we were all all about being right. I go, "I'm changing my life verse, and this is now your life verse." It's Proverbs 3:3-4.
When I went to Israel recently, I got emeth checed, which are the two Hebrew words that come out of Proverbs 3, as little necklaces for my little girls to wear around their necks. For my boys, I just tattooed it on them, because they can't afford to have a necklace they can take off. "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man."
That is my life verse. You might go, "Well, Pastor, you might want to start praying that into your life a little bit more." I'm asking you to pray for me. Pray for me that I would not let kindness and truth leave me. Rightness is part of the truth, and love is the checed, or the kindness and the faithfulness and the love of God, but it's not enough to be right. That's what Jesus is saying in John 15. "Hey, guys. I want you to love one another."
Look at verse 13. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." We sat in here, and we started singing about God's love from the very beginning, and we focused on the fact that it was my sin that held him there, that his shoulders carried my burden, that the Father turned his face away, that this wretch could be redeemed.
Here's what you need to know. God doesn't love you because you're beautiful. God doesn't love you because you're good. God loves you because he is beautiful and he is good. You have nothing to offer him. He doesn't pick you because you're going to make his team better. You're the kid lined up against the wall who almost guarantees, apart from some miraculous intervention, that the kickball team you're about to be selected on is going to lose.
You're that overweight, acne-ridden, thick-glasses-wearing, socially awkward little girl that he says, "I want to go to the prom with you. I'm going to give my life to you. I'm going to make you beautiful. I'm going to do what you can't do. The standard for you to be in relationship with me is perfection, and you can't make yourself perfect. Only the God who made you can make you again. But I'm not just loving; I'm also just, so I can't wink at sin and go, 'Oh, come on!'"
So God died for his justice' sake. He really didn't die because he loves you; he loved you so he died, because he is just. That's what the Scripture says. "That he might be both just and the justifier of those he loves." And this is love fully accomplished. Look at verse 14. "You are My friends if you do what I command you." There's the evidence right there.
This is very important. It doesn't say, "I am not your friend if you don't love me."Remember when I taught through John, chapter 14? There's a verse there, John 14:15, that says, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." I made a big point out of saying, "Listen, gang. This is the evidence that we love God: that we keep his commandments." John 14:15 does not say, "I'm not going to love you if you don't keep my commandments." No.
The Scripture says, "I'm going to demonstrate my love for you in that while you are still an abusive, self-absorbed, power-hungry damager of relationships, I'm going to die for you. While you're still awkward, unloving, immoral, I give my life for you. When you understand what I've done to redeem you and take you out of darkness and put you into relationship with me, all I want you to do is respond to that."
Again, we are not a series of tasks we are seeking to accomplish so God will love us. That is religion. We are not a tournament of narratives. We're not a collection of ideas. That's a philosophy. We are people who live in relationship with God. There are not seven sacraments we have to perform for us to be acceptable to God. There is one sacrifice by God offered to us that we acknowledge we need, that we ask could be applied to us, that by grace through faith is given to us, that we are reconciled by what he has done in love to him so we can then live in relationship with him.
When I tell you that all God does is give grace and glory, that everything he asks is a blessing and his commandments are not burdensome, what do you want to do with that God? You want to go, "How do I get to know him? How do I get to follow him more?" That is exactly the idea. Jesus is saying, "If you really knew who I was…" That's what John said. "How can you not keep from singing?"
I love when Wes was up here and started to pray. He goes, "Let's thank the Father for that kind of love," and he started to pray, and a bunch of you started to clap. You have my permission to over-clap any of us next time anytime we're doing that. It's the right response. More than a touchdown was just scored, more than a single victory, our eternal, steadfast championship of righteousness has been accomplished.
When you know that's what God has done for you, you ought to go, "What kind of love is that, that he would leave the glory of heaven, the ease of eternity, to come into a sin-stained, selfish, abusive, hateful world, that he could reconcile us to him?" If you knew that, you'd go, "Well, how could I not love him?"
That's why Jesus is saying, "Some of you guys are having a hard time loving me and serving me, because I don't think you really know who I am and what I've done." I'm going to show you why in a minute. Look at this in verse 15. "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you."
All he's saying right here is slaves execute the master's will without having any understanding of why the master asked them to do it. They don't know the heart of the master. It's just the law. "I'm the master. You're the slave. Get it done." Some of you guys still have this idea with God. "Don't you dare do that! You got it? I'm God. Stop it!" That's your view of God.
Jesus said, "That's not the way it works anymore. You're not my slaves; you're my friends. I've brought you in. I've shown you the heart of God. I am kind and I am good, and now you know why I do what I do. You know what my motive is, which is your blessing, so you now partner with me in pursuing this redemptive plan I wish for you, not because you're taking orders but because you know me and you love me and you see that I have your best interests in mind, so you walk with me."
So you're not one of those people who hears God say, "Don't you dare have sex outside of marriage!" You're one of those people who go, "Oh, sex is God's gift. He is a big fan of sex. He invented sex. He wants you to enjoy sex but in a way that doesn't bring guilt and shame and children who you're either going to want to abort or bring into the world in a way that's not going to allow them to have what God intends for every child to have: a loving biological mother and father joined forever in unconditional love and mutual subjection who raises them in security and peace."
God just wants to bless people. He's not trying to rip you off, and you know that now, because you've stepped into the heart of God. He's not slapping your hand, like, "Don't do that!" It's like, "Hey, we know together. We've talked about this. This is what happens when you turn from me. It leads to death. I know it seems right to you." You have come to know the heart of God, so you know his commandments are not burdensome. They are life-giving.
That's Jesus' argument. "You've seen me. Have I ever asked anything of you that doesn't ultimately bless you?" What's the number-one motive for why you give? Jesus says, "This is why you should give. If you try to just build for yourself security on this earth, that's a bad idea. This earth is not going to hang around for a long time.
If you try to find comfort on this earth, you can't really find it, because thieves steal, moths eat, and rust destroys. Dollars are devalued. But if you invest in something that's eternal, there are no thieves, there's no moth, and nothing will ever perish there. It's best for you if you invest with me in that which lasts." Do you see that? That's his motive in everything, because he loves you.
Verse 16 just pops. Frankly, it's just difficult, and it's repulsive even to those of us who call ourselves believers. Back in the 1970s, there was a little campaign called "I Found It." Those of you guys who watched first-run The Love Boat and Fantasy Island like I did remember this campaign. It was called "I Found It," which talks about a bunch of us who found Jesus. John 15:16 says, "No, you didn't. Jesus was never lost. You were. He found you."
You didn't lie in bed one night and go, "You know, God must be really lonely and needing friends, and the only way he could probably have friends in his eternal perfection and glory is if he incarnated himself in the person of his Son, born of a virgin; therefore, he would not be imputed the sin of Adam, and I, in my lostness, could be redeemed, by faith justified by his perfect and full provision as the wrath of God was propitiated by the cross. So I think I will repent and come to him and find him to be God."
No, that's not what happened. You were a rebel against God, mocking his name, and he chose you. He sought you and wooed you and let you suffer apart from him, and he tenderly brought you near. "You did not choose me; I chose you, and not only did I choose you, but I appointed you, that you would go and bear fruit and that you would bear fruit that would remain." See, here's the deal. When God calls you into relationship with him and out of death and emptiness and isolation, he calls you into that which will last.
Yesterday, I was talking to my son and his buddy. We were actually driving somewhere Friday and Saturday. We were together, and we got talking about the NBA championship. They're big LeBron fans. We were going to an out-of-town basketball tournament. We were talking. I was just trying to give them an eternal perspective.
I said, "Guys, let me tell you something. LeBron is a gifted athlete. He's fun to watch, but you don't want to be LeBron. Your goal in life should not be to be great through basketball. Basketball is a great game. It is a lousy god." I was reaching for a way to communicate to them. I said, "Okay. Terry Bradshaw. Do you guys know Terry Bradshaw?"
They go, "Yeah." I go, "Who's Terry Bradshaw?" They go, "He's that really overweight, fat, funny guy on Fox NFL Football." I go, "Really? That's who Terry Bradshaw is, the funny, crazy guy on Fox Football? What else?"
"I don't know."
"He was LeBron. He won four Super Bowls for the Pittsburgh Steelers."
"Terry Bradshaw was a quarterback? You've got to be kidding!"
These guys are 17. They're sports fans. I'm like, "Exactly! Let me tell you something. LeBron is going to be that fat, overweight guy one day who your kids don't believe was ever the man." They go, "No way!" I go, "Way!" And we had this intelligent conversation for a little bit. I go, "Do you guys know who Bill Russell is?" They go, "Um…"
I go, "Bill Russell was that guy with a beard who gave the MVP trophy to LeBron that was named after him. Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships. You think he's an old black man trying to be Santa Claus. No. It's Bill Russell, and LeBron hopes to win as many championships as he did, but you don't know that. He's just an old guy who needs a cane." They showed him yawning during the NBA finals. Did y'all see that?
Listen. I have no problem with LeBron wanting to win championships. Just don't make it your god, and don't make your job your god. Don't make your body your god, because I don't care what you do; your body is going to deteriorate. I don't care what you do; that house is going to be torn down. I don't care what you do in this life. If you make it your means of significance, you're going to always go to bed desperate.
Just like Thoreau said, most men lead lives of quiet desperation, but God in his love chose you and showed you something. He said, "I have something better for you." D.L. Moody was a great pastor in the 1800s in this country. He had a sign above his desk that said, "He that does the work of the Lord abides forever." In other words, with eternity. It's not in vain.
So I told my kids… We were driving down to play basketball. "Listen, guys. Go play basketball, but don't play basketball in vain. No one is going to care who wins this game, but God cares that whatever you do you do heartily for him, because everything you do by faith to love him and honor him is a pleasure to him, but if all you do is try to impress your friends that you can dunk or you can hit threes, that's fleeting, because one day you're not going to be able to dunk."
I go, "Believe it or not, there was a day your dad could dunk. There was a day I shattered a backboard." They go, "You shattered a backboard?" I go, "Yeah." And they wanted to talk about that. I go, "You don't want to know that I shattered a backboard. You want to know that I am abiding in forever. No one cares. What matters is people. What matters is abiding with Christ. What matters is eternity, and you have to invest in it. What I'm telling you is God loved you enough to seek you and choose you and make you a part of that."
He says, "…that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." Remember, this sounds a lot like what I taught to you last week. "If you abide in me and my word abides in you, ask whatever you want and it will be given to you." I love this. "God always gives you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows," one guy recently said. That's brilliant. He always gives you what you would ask for if you had the mind of God.
That's why the best prayer is, "God, not my will but your will be done. If you're taking suggestions, I'll throw them out, but you don't need my suggestions. Just help me be faithful in whatever you have for me. I don't really care. I want to live for you today and right now. Tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. I just want to live with you and abide with you, because if I do that, my toil will not be in vain." How great is that God?
Then verse 17: "This I command you, that you love one another." What a great way to bracket this thing. Do you see this whole thing? He's walking with his disciples. This is a 14-minute walk. I'm going to review a few things. "Guys, you need me. You can't love if you don't have an abiding relationship with me, and you have to love one another. And the world needs you. You have to serve the world.
The world is going to hate you, and if you don't know that I'm King and sovereign over this world, you're going to bail on that, so you need me. Love one another and serve the world. Tell the world about me, because you're going to be the means I use to rescue the world, just like God used me to rescue you. By the way, do you remember God is love? God is me. I am God. If you're going to be connected to me, you have to be love."
This week, I'm driving down Northwest Highway, and it's hot. It's in the afternoon. I only have a few hours. Sometimes it's hard for me to find a little bit of time to myself. I had a few hours. I was going to go to a quiet place I know, and I was just going to sit down for a little bit and do some reading. Traffic is way backed up. It's like 3:15 on a Thursday afternoon. I'm wondering what the deal is, so as I move forward, sure enough, I look and there's this stalled car.
It's a nice car, pretty new car from Sewell. It's sitting there right in the middle of everything. I kind of drive by and look over, and I see up to my right a little driveway off Northwest Highway, so I pull into it, and I walk back, and I see this gentleman sitting in there, just drenched with sweat. I go, "Sir, can I help you?" He was trying to fumble with his phone and talk to this lady over OnStar. He was a little bit older, so this stuff wasn't exactly easy for him.
I said, "Hey, can I help you?" He goes, "Yes, please." I go, "How long have you been here?" He's just drenched. He said, "About 20 minutes." I said, "Okay. I'm going to do this. We're about 200 yards from the intersection. I'm going to push you up here, and we're going to get in there, and then I'm going to help you get somebody to come get your car, figure out who can help you," and all this different stuff.
Another guy jumped out. We pushed his car up and got it where it was safe, out of the traffic, and then I took him into the Starbucks that was right there, and he and I sat down. He got an iced coffee. I was going to let him alone and just said, "Hey, let me talk to the OnStar people. Do you have anybody you live with?" "No. I don't live with anybody."
I said, "I'll help you any way I can. When the tow truck gets here, I'll get out there. If you need a ride home, I'll make sure you get that." He came over and said, "Can I sit with you?" I said, "Sure." He goes, "Thank you. That was really nice." I said, "Well, do you mind if I tell you why I just did what I just did?" I said, "Because I want that small act of kindness to remind you of something a lot bigger than what I just did, of God's great love for you."
I go, "Have you ever thought about life, why we're here?" He goes, "Well, you know what? Actually…" I go, "Why you're here, why there's evil, where we're going, what this life is all about." He goes, "I was lying in bed last night asking myself these questions." I go, "How old are you?" He said, "I'm 70-something." I go, "Well, man, I want to tell you something. You need to know these things when you're 7 no less than when you're 70."
He went on to tell me his story, and because he didn't know these answers when he was 7, he has lived 63 really hard years, and he's still trying to figure out what this life is about. Do you know what happened? When God wanted to reach this guy, he didn't have him walk into Watermark; he had me love him. He said, "I love Kit, Todd. That's my son, and for 70 years I've been seeking him. I'm not going to seek him through your lecture; I'm going to seek him through your love."
He and I sat down, and we talked about God's great love for 70-year-old men who have never known the answers to life's greatest questions, and again and again he thanked me. I just said, "You know that car out there?" Let me tell you something. His battery was full-on. His tank was over half full. God took this brand-new car and just choked it, shut it down, turned the fuel system off right there in the middle of Northwest Highway because he loves him so that somebody would stop and tell him, "Let me just show you. God hasn't forgotten you in the middle of this heat."
If you think a man sweats in 90-degree heat, try to be 70 and not know the answers to the great questions of life. See, this is what love does. Love seeks. Are you seeking people? They're everywhere. This town is full of people wondering if there are any answers to life's great questions, and if you're not initiating with them, if you don't know the names of your neighbors, if you're not intentionally investing in the people who are around you, then I have to tell you, I don't think you're abiding with Jesus. That's all he did.
I have six kids. My 9-year-old still… It happened again last night. There were four of them lying around. I walked in about 11:30 at night. Boom! He pops up. He puts down what he's doing. He runs to me. He jumps. He kisses me on the lips. I rewrite the will every time he does it. I just go, "Do y'all see this? This is why 90 percent is going here and the other five of you are going to sue each other in probate court for nothing. That's why!"
There are two kinds of people in the world. There are "There you are" people ("Eh, there you are") and "Here I am." Actually, Camp is a "There you are" in the good way. Some people walk into a room and go, "Here I am. Acknowledge me." Camp is a "There you are!" and he runs to me and jumps into my arms. He puts down his Xbox. He puts down his ice cream. He leaves games with his friends when he sees me, and he runs.
My other kids… I'm looking at them. I say stuff like this to them. I go, "There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can count and those who can't," and I walk away. That's kind of the level of communication I have with them sometimes. They're like, "What? What does that mean? What did he just say?" But no, I'm just always telling them, "Love seeks."
By the way, I just spent most of my weekend seeking my 17-year-old son. I have a great relationship with him, but getting in his world, being in a car with him and his friends, going places, listening to him, understanding how hard it is to be 17 and working your way out and trying to find security through sports and girls and figuring out your new body, your new temptations, just seeking his heart, loving him, laughing, being a guy and shepherding his soul, seeking him, because I love him, as I've sought him all 17 years. Love seeks.
Love doesn't just seek, though. It's not just a cloud without wind. Love does something. Love speaks. It says the truth. Silence in the midst of sin is a sin. Our world, our church becomes so ineffective, because so much of what happens in the world these days… The church just wants the world to love it. God doesn't want the world to love the church; he wants the church to love the world, so you have to speak the truth in love with gentleness and reverence.
But I see our church not wanting to say things anymore, because the world goes, "That's not politically correct. You can't say that." Love doesn't do what people want; love does what is kind, and it's not kind to let people continue to make choices that have devastating effects. Love speaks. You have to learn your voice. People who need others to love them cannot love, because they are needy, and they are trying to figure out what they need to get from you so they get what they want.
Christians have been loved, and we abide with him, and we give love, but we don't just give it in words. Love serves. We don't just love with word or with tongue but in deed and in truth. It doesn't have to be great acts. It can be small little acts where we just find out what people need and show them what love looks like when it goes forward. We learn people and what delights them, but we act. We don't just tell them something. We're there. We're present. We mentor their kids. We share our food. We serve their community. We don't increase our comfort.
Love sacrifices. We don't just love because it's easy. Luke 6 says, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, because you're not speaking the truth to them. Woe to you if all you do, in effect, is love men that do well for you. That's what the Gentiles and those who don't know God do. But I tell you, love ungrateful and evil men, because that's the love of your Father." That really hurts when you give and don't get something back, but that's the love we're called to.
Can I just tell you something? We're wrestling a lot here with this whole idea of divorce and remarriage at Watermark, and we're just trying to say, "If we're really his people and we really want to love, we don't want to have love the way the world loves," which is, "I'll love you as long as it works for me, and if you don't love me this way very long, then I'm not going to love you back, and I'm going to teach you not to treat me that way, because I don't like that way, so if you don't love me that way, I'm gone. I'm moving on."
Wherever we're going to fall out on this, I can tell you this: when you get married, you'd better mean what you say. What most of us do is just really sweet to show up and give our vows before God. "For better, for worse, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, I'll keep you only to myself as long as I shall live or until death separates us," but that's not what most of us mean, is it?
What most of us mean is "Until you shack up with somebody you work with, until you get addicted to porn, until you gain too much weight, until it's too much work to get from you what I can get easily in a fleeting relationship somewhere in Cleveland, and then I'm moving on." That's the way the world loves. God forbid that that is the way we love!
No, the way we love is the way Christ loves the church. He keeps seeking, he keeps speaking truth, he keeps serving, and he sacrificially gives himself sometimes to a people or a church that have no responsiveness to him. We have to up our game, because the world looks at us and goes, "I'm not really sure your Jesus is who you think he is, because you guys love just like everybody else loves. You leave just like everybody else leaves. You don't stay." I want to stay.
I'm going to tell you, I can't stay in a Community Group, much less a marriage if Jesus and I don't stay together continually. Are you filled with dysfunctional relationships in your life? It's because you're not abiding with Christ, and because you're not abiding with Christ, the nature of God is not known through you, the law is not fulfilled, the central command of Scripture is not obeyed, people don't think you're his disciple, and they don't think Jesus is the Messiah, and you have no apologetic.
We have to love. It's the mark. It's the sign. We love not so God can love us; we love because he first loved us, and that's where we're going to end. We're going to end just by delighting in the fact that we serve a Father who seeks us, gives himself to us, overwhelms us with his kindness. With that as our mindset, we'll go out and love this world. Will you stand with me and sing that?
Father, I pray that as we get ready to remind ourselves of what love looks like it's you seeking us, not us seeking you; it's you staying faithful to us until the end of time, not us being steadfast toward you; it's you speaking words of truth and then serving us. Words of truth are that all of us have sinned and fall short of your glory, but you've shown us what love looks like by taking the wages of our sin and carrying it yourself. We thank you for that love, and I pray that we would get a bigger glimpse of it today and we would abide with you and the world would know that we're your disciples and that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, amen.