LOVE: THE TEST OF DISCIPLESHIP, #693
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (JOH 13:34-35).
That intimate family relationship that Christ and His church have one for another is how the world will know that we are His disciples. Jesus warns of a hypocritical love in Judas, who has joined himself to the service of Christ, but His heart is not with Him. The Lord Jesus is cautioning us that the world can detect your attitude toward your brother.
The Apostle Peter was so strong in himself that he said he would lay down his life for Christ's sake, but self-confidence reflects a wrong attitude. If we are going to be the light of the world, our confidence must be in God.
We are also told that we must love one another in 1JO 4:20-21. "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also." Our actions speak louder than our words. Judas was a follower of Jesus. He called Him Master and Lord. His actions did not correspond with his words. His heart was not with his Master, and the enemies of Jesus could sense that.
In JOH 13:21-22 we read, "When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake." The disciples could not identify him. Sometimes the world can tell a wrong attitude a lot quicker than fellow Christians can. They probably saw some things wrong in Judas, but they also saw wrong in their own hearts. If you have a right attitude toward your brother, in your own mind you would not dare to hold yourself above that brother, and say, He is the traitor, not me.
Our Saviour's words instruct us to examine our own hearts to distinguish between the character of Peter and the character of Judas. What prompts us to be religious? Is our heart with the flock or is it that we have something we are going to gain?
In JOH 3:3 we read, "Jesus said, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." That is where the difference was, that work of grace in the soul, that moving of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, that work of regeneration and that purification of our desires. Peter's desire was to be with his Master even if it took him to death. Judas was willing to sell his Master to death because he was not gaining an earthly kingdom as he had expected. Judas posed as a disciple of Christ but was never renewed in the spirit of his mind. He never had a change of heart. However with Peter, even though he stumbled into self-confidence, his heart overflowed with love for his Master. We must examine whether our hearts are genuine.
Judas was the man prophesied of in PSA 41:9. "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me." Do you see the difference? One loved unto death, and the other one loved money unto death. Is our religion based on our going to heaven? Are we serving only for what we can gain? That is what Judas did.
On the other side of this same principle see what our Saviour said to Peter in MAT 26:40-41. "And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." That is such a beautiful description of one who possesses grace. The heart is willing, but we are not able to perform what we want to do.
This blessed acknowledgment by our Saviour of the weakness of the flesh was not intended as an excuse to serve the flesh, but as a warning against self-confidence. We cannot say, We can do this because we are sinners. No, that is not what the Lord was telling Peter. The Lord was warning Peter against self-confidence. Peter was standing too strong in himself, and the Lord allowed him to fall. He had a right desire, but he was attempting to perform in his own strength. It is in a consciousness of our weakness that our true strength lies. When we feel strong in ourselves, we are on a banana skin and we are ready to fall, but when we see our weakness and we lay ourselves upon the Lord, therein lays our strength.
2CO 12:9-10 says, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
When Peter was strong, he was weak, but when he realized that he could not stand in his own strength, that is where his strength lay.
The reason the fall of Peter is recorded in scripture can be seen by what Paul wrote in 1CO 10:11-12 about the children of Israel in the wilderness. "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
The most obnoxious thing in the eyes of the world is when a man boasts of his own strength. The most evidence that we are Christ's disciples would be when the world sees that we are weak in ourselves, but boast of the strength of God. We make no big claim of anything we can do, but we confide in the everlasting arms of God.
After our Saviour made such a searching revelation in verse 11, "Ye are not all clean," Judas remained unmoved. It is amazing how easy it is to hear for someone to hear a sermon and to think, Boy, that is sure good for him, or, if he could just hear this. In so doing, Satan robs you of taking home the message for yourself.
Matthew's Gospel reveals how brazen the hypocrisy of Judas was. He still dared to partake of the Lord's Supper after Jesus told him plainly he was a traitor. Take notice of that in MAT 26:25-27, "Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it."
Immediately after this, Satan was given full sway of Judas' heart. JOH 13:27 says, "And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly." As Judas went out immediately after receiving the sop our blessed Saviour said in JOH 13:31b: "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him."
That eternal love of God shines the brightest through the gift of His Son. In JOH 3:16 we read, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The love of the Father for His elect was so great that the Word of God uses it to define true love. Look at 1JO 4:10, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
In JOH 13:32 we read, "If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him." So how shall the Father and the Son be glorified in the church? JOH 17:21 says, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
Jesus says in His intercessory prayer that there will be a oneness of spirit, a oneness of mind, oneness of purpose. Can you imagine the oneness of purpose there is in the Father and the Son? Oneness in purpose in the salvation of the church. The Father giving His Son freely, and the Son unhesitatingly giving Himself.
That same oneness that there is between the Father and the Son is what He wants between His people. This is why our Saviour reveals to us what evidence we have of who are His true disciples. In JOH 13:34-35 we read, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." And in JOH 17:21, "That the world may believe." That they will intellectually believe that God has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. It is through this oneness of spirit that the Father and the Son are glorified, "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
When Christ's disciples strove among themselves about who should be the greatest, Jesus told them in MAT 18:3, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Do you know why? If we take the lower seat, and the Lord says, Come up here, that is honor, but if we take the higher seat and the Lord says, Step down so someone else can take the higher seat, then we have been dishonored.
1CO5:6-8 says, "Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." This atmosphere reflects to the world for the glory of God that we are His disciples.
After Judas and his leaven of hypocrisy were removed, our Saviour addresses His disciples as "little children." That self-glorying, self-exalting striving about who would be the greatest is no longer among the disciples. It was under this new intimate title of "little children" that our Saviour revealed the immense importance of Christian love and unity of the Spirit. JOH 15:12-14 says, "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
This is the same principle taught in 1JO 4:10-11. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." When you see the love of God in forgiving us our debt, how can we look to a brother as a debtor? How is it that we do not forgive his debt? How is it that we are not able to write it off?
One of the most important areas where this love for one another is brought to proof is in our willingness and ability to forgive. Look at the Lord's Prayer in MAT 6:12, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." However, we put it backwards and ask Him to forgive as we forgive. Sometimes it makes us tremble to ask the Lord to forgive us only with the quality that we forgive. Our Saviour reemphasizes the need of a forgiving heart in MAT 6:14-15. Immediately after teaching the Lord's Prayer, He follows it right up with, "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
I talked to a woman one time who was being persecuted on her job, and she told me that after about six months people came to her and asked, How is it possible that you can respond with such love when they are doing those things to you? This opened the door for her to share the gospel of Christ with people who had never before been willing to hear about Christ.
In this area of forgiving we are to be imitators of Christ as evidence that we love one another as He loved us. Look at PHI 4:30-32, "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." That forgiving spirit reflects to the world that attitude of a humble spirit quicker than anything else.
What was new about this commandment to love one another? There is a distinction between this and the old commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," as we read in MAT 22:39. There is a difference between loving your neighbor as yourself and loving your brother as Christ loved you. The love spoken of in our text is more intimate. We must do to every person as we would they do to us. The love you have for a family member is more intimate than that which you have for a friend or a neighbor. That is what Jesus is talking about. He wants to see an intimacy in the family of God.
In PSA 103:13 the Scriptures teach us of that parental love. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him." Loving our neighbor is such a powerful testimony because it is so against our human nature. Our fallen nature wants to exalt itself. That is why the world will know that we are His disciples, because Christ is revealed in us. They can see Christ in our actions, in our attitudes, in our walk of life, in the way we reflect love for our brothers.
1JO 2:9-10 says, "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him."
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