So You Want to Be Like Jesus?

 So you want to be like Jesus? You want him to call you his friend? Or do you want to be like Jesus? John 15:18—16:4 confronts you with the sobering consequences of belonging to Jesus. Ironically, the closer you are to Jesus, the more you are like him, the greater the hatred of the world against you.

Make no mistake. There is a battle going on, a conflict taking place. The world, the world under the curse of sin and in rebellion against God, hates you. The “you” is plural. It is a people, a kingdom, the kingdom of God. It is not you as a lone ranger against the world, but the world against Continue reading “So You Want to Be Like Jesus?”

The Joy of Being a Friend of Jesus

It has been a difficult week for the nation, and for a number of individuals I know. Yet, even in our broken world you can abide in Christ’s love, live as his friend, and experience his joy in you, as he tells you in John 15:9-17.

When the Bible gives you an imperative, a command, behind it lies an indicative, a statement of what God has done. And an indicative carries with it an imperative, often expressed, sometimes implied, telling you what to do. Don’t separate the two! Jesus is going to tell you to abide in his love. He will call you love one another. But those commands are rooted in the eternal love of the Father to the Son (expressed also in the Father’s approval of his Son during his earthly ministry), and reflected in the Son’s love for you. Marvel that God does not simply pity you, but actively loves you—loves you to the point of having sent his Son to suffer, die, and rise for you. “It is by this grand conception of being taken up by faith in Jesus into the love of the Father and the Son that the church can understand itself in its uniqueness in and for the world.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, p. 522) As you walk through deep waters, remember Continue reading “The Joy of Being a Friend of Jesus”

Love and obedience

In the process of preparing a message on John 15:9-17 (“The Joy of Being a Friend of Jesus), I am struck by the interweaving of love and obedience. In reading I’ve run across these quotes:

For these two things are continually united, that faith which perceives the undeserved love of Christ toward us, and a good conscience and newness of life. And, indeed, Christ does not reconcile believers to the Father, that they may indulge in wickedness without reserve, and without punishment; but that, governing them by his Spirit, he may keep them under the authority and dominion of his Father.” (John Calvin at John 15:10)

It is when a man keeps keeps Christ’s commandments that he abides in Christ’s love.” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [NICNT], p. 673)


Remain in the Vine

Each day of the final week of our Lord’s public ministry, up until his arrest, had involved him being in the Temple, presumably with the disciples. Josephus, the historian, tells us that above the entrance to the Temple was an ornate vine, made of gold. Clusters of grapes on the vine were as long as a man is tall. Although there is no Biblical record of a command to make such a vine, its presence is understandable in view of the repeated imagery of God’s people, Israel, as a vine. In John 15:1-8 Jesus, uttering the last of his “I am” statements, claims to be the true, the genuine vine.

Live in union with Christ. Repeatedly God had used the image of a vine to describe his relationship with his people. It was an ordinary part of life—many Israelites grew their own vines. Isaiah 5, Psalm 80, Jeremiah 2, and Ezekiel 17 all used the imagery. Near the beginning of this Gospel Jesus had identified himself as the true Temple. Now he is the true vine. Jesus takes the image and applies it to you and your relationship with him.

The point of vine and branches is that the branches are connected to the vine. They are in the vine. That, Jesus says, is how you Continue reading “Remain in the Vine”

The Gift of Peace

What does the term, “peace,” really mean? On a practical level, where do you need peace in your life? More importantly, are you a recipient of the peace that Jesus gives his disciples?

John 14:25-31 invites you to receive the peace that Jesus gives you. Jesus is leaving his disciples, and as his legacy, as his will and testament, he leaves them—and you—the gift of peace. Peace was probably furthest from the hearts of the disciples that night. Anxiety and fear filled them. But Jesus leaves peace as his legacy. “Peace” for Jesus is far more than a causal greeting or simply a wish.

The peace is connected with his death. That means that Jesus is speaking, not first of all of a feeling of peace, though that is part of it. Why don’t we have peace in Afghanistan? In Somalia? In the Middle East? In the Korean Peninsula? Behind war and conflict lies sin. Jesus, by his death deals with the power of sin by dealing with its source, “the prince of this world,” or Satan. Peace has a price (those living near a military base may describe the noise of a jet taking off as “the sound of freedom”), and Jesus is about to do battle with Satan. He is confident of the outcome, Continue reading “The Gift of Peace”