May 5: We Love One Another

May 5: We Love One Another

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Audio of Scripture reading and sermon only

May 5: 6th Sunday of Easter

Other sermons in this series
“How Shall We Love?”

Scripture: John 15:9-17

Who among us doesn’t want to have a satisfying and enjoyable life? In Lee Aplin’s obituary, it was said that he lived a full and vibrant life. A full and vibrant life is probably something we all desire for ourselves. And we’d like to think it’s something God wants for us as well. To support this idea, we quote Jesus, who said, “The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest (John 10:10).” That verse would seem to suggest that God wants us to have a full and abundant life, right?

Have you ever heard of “the prosperity gospel?” It’s this belief—that God wants us to have a full and abundant life—but on steroids! The prosperity gospel is a popular Christian belief system that financial increase and physical well-being are always the will of God for a person; and that faith, positive speech, and financial donations will increase one’s material wealth. It’s a popular theological position espoused by a majority of today’s best-known evangelists and preachers on TV. And why do you think that is? It’s because it results is a boatload of money being poured into their own coffers. The tenets of the prosperity gospel are rooted in a distortion of Jesus’ statement, “give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). The prosperity gospel is truly a false and dangerous doctrine despite its widespread teaching these days.

So, if Jesus is on record as saying that he came into this world so that we could live life to the fullest, which would seem to support the idea that God wants us to have a full and vibrant life, what’s the problem with the prosperity gospel? Mainly this: that it equates “life to the fullest” with financial well-being. The belief is this: having lots of money equals a full and vibrant life; not having lots of money equals a less-than full life. But that perspective is in out-and-out conflict with the true biblical measure of a full and vibrant life.

So, yes, in John 10, Jesus mentions his purpose of bringing us a full life. And in chapter 15, he clarifies what God considers to be full life. Beginning with verse 9, he says, As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. And then he gives us the “formula” for how to remain in his love: If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. Of course, his commandment, from chapter 13 (as well as 15:12), is to actively love others so that they might experience God’s life-transforming power in their own lives. And in verse 11, he clarifies what a full life looks likes: I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete (John 15:9-11).

A life of “complete joy” is what Jesus came to give us. That’s God’s desire for you and me. A life of “complete joy” and life “to the fullest” are two ways of saying the same thing. They’re one and the same.

And so, what is it that makes our joy complete, our life full? It’s when Jesus’ joy in shed abroad within us; when we’re filled with the joy Jesus experienced which came from living in obedience to our Heavenly Father. That’s where our greatest joy comes from. Let me ask you: is there even a sliver of evidence to suggest that Jesus’ joy came from being financially wealthy or physical healthy? Not in the slightest! What gave him joy was living out the life he came into the world to live, a life of obedience to the Father’s commands, commands which ultimately led to the cross, where he personally demonstrated the truth of John 15:13, that no one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.

Here’s how one commentator puts it.

’That my joy may be in you and your joy might be full.’ [Jesus] is saying that our joy, the human experience, that fleeting but powerful passion that fills us up…is not complete until it’s joined to his joy, the holy, divine joy that knows that there’s no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  Our joy is complete – or mature, or perfect…only when woven into his joy.”

I like that—our joy is complete, our lives are fullest, when it’s woven into his joy. And his joy was complete by loving us death—how own death.

I suppose it could be argued that there is a type of prosperity gospel which is aligned with the true gospel message. If so, let’s be very clear about what the currency is that we’re both giving and receiving. God’s currency for true prosperity is not the dollar, but love—self-giving, grace-filled, sacrificial, for-the-sake-of-others love. Give away that kind of “currency” and you will discover that it comes back to you in greater abundance. Let’s pray…

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