Sunday, March 25, 2012

God's love and human love (Jn. 13:36-38)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 1 April 2012 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 13:36-38

John 14-16 recorded Jesus’ parting words which focus on the coming of the Holy Spirit. Before end of John 13, there is a new commandment. “A new command I give you, Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

From the Old Testament, we already learn that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbour as yourself. Why then is Christ’s commandment to love one another called a new commandment?

The Old Testament puts the obligation and initiative on one to love others. The New Testament does not assume you can love others. You will love others through the way Jesus loves you. You first receive the source of love from Jesus, then you can love others.

Humans are not the source of love, but the Son of God is. If Jesus did not manifest the love of God in this manner, none of us will be able to love others. So this is a new commandment. Our own love and emotinos are created. It is very limited. It has constraint. It is stained by sin and constrained by selfishness.

Nobody loves like Jesus did. He gave His life to save sinners. We all experience love, from our parents, from our friends, our lovers. But are these real love? Augustine wrote about love. He said even sexual love is selfish. When you enjoy love at its height, are you giving or receiving? The expression of human love has is self-centred, is unlike the self-sacrificing love of God. It is very difficult to truly love. Even the love we have towards our spouse might start well in the beginning, but we become bored after some time. After knowing someone for a long time, we start to focus on their weaknesses.

Therefore the command to love one another needs to be renewed. We need to return to this verse, to love as Jesus have loved us.

Simon Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” (v. 36). After such a great teaching on love, he forgot immediately and asked about less important things. This is the problem of our day. We immediately turn our minds to earthly things after being moved by great sermons. A person who jokes immediately after preaching, or a person who is concerned about the performance of his preachign, is not a true preacher. A true preacher is solemn, prays before and after preaching.

After a great moment of gathering, we need to be silent for a moment to reflect our spirituality and our relationship with God. This moment of meditation is very important.

Jesus did not reprimand Peter. He said, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (v. 36)

In a few chapters earlier, Jesus said to the Jews “Where I go, you cannot come”. But what is this place? He meant the cross, however He did not explain then. They have no part in Jesus and will die in their sin. However, to Simon Peter, Jesus said, “you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” There will be a momentary gap, but Peter will recover and will finally follow Christ.

Peter did not ask Jesus to correct him, instead he felt insulted. He asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (v. 37)

He did not reflect upon himself. Often we blame God first as we go through trials. We are paranoid. Many people measure their own obedience as they serve God. They use this way to look down on other people. You think you really love the Lord? When you think so, you are arrogant indeed. None of us love God enough. None of us can love unless He loves us first. He is the one who gives us opportunities to serve Him.

Peter thought he loved the Lord the most. He said he was willing to die for Jesus. Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for Me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown Me three times.” (v. 38)

Many people think they are spiritual because they have read a lot. Yet when trials come they discover the exact opposite.

Peter indeed denied Jesus three times. Jesus said the spirit is willing, but the body is weak. “You do not even have the strength to speak the truth for my name sake. You think you will die for me. The most horrifying thing is you are not aware and still boast about it.” The Lord is so sacrificial and full of compassion. We who claim to serve Him are still so calculative.

John 13 ended here. It shows the qualitative difference between God and man. It started with the record that Jesus knew He was going to the Father and having loved His own, He showed them the full extent of His love and He loved them to the end. This is God’s love. At end of the chapter, Peter said he loved Jesus but denied Him three times that same night. This is man’s love. Man’s love is so selfish and so weak. But God’s love is so great, so unfailing.

May we love through Christ. Let us not be deceived. Let us look to the love of Christ.


At 12:17 AM, Anonymous benjamin ho said...

Hi Mejlina, very encouraged by your faithful postings all these years. Hope you have been well in Melbourne. When would you be coming back to Singapore for a visit? - Ben


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