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The Marks of a Disciple | Loyalty
May 15, 2022
15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
Loyalty is one of the marks of a disciple of Jesus. Staying close to Jesus and seeking to faithfully follow him means distinguishing between the counterfeit versions of Jesus we so often find in our culture and the real Jesus that calls to us and rescues us. The most popular belief system in the U.S. today that offers a counterfeit form of the gospel is Moral Therapeutic Deism. By moralistic we mean the belief that God rewards those who live a good life by taking them to heaven when they die. By therapeutic we mean a belief that God places few demands on you and just wants you to be happy. And by deism we mean the belief in a god who is distant and involved only when you ask. But John 14 offers us a way to true faithfulness that stands in stark contrast to the Moral Therapeutic Deism so prevalent today.
To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst
To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships
To participate in God’s mission to the world
God of radiant light, shine into our lives, and disperse the darkness that dims our vision; shine into our world, and cast out the fears that long have chained us; shine into our worship, that we may be a people of your hope and promise. Amen.
Responsive Prayer—Psalm 67:1-7
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.
1May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
2That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
3Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.
5Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
6The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.
7God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
1. Not Moralistic
This passage takes place in the upper room on the night before Jesus’ death. You could sum up Jesus’ command to his followers as follows—“let yourself be loved by me”. This is the opposite of moralism. Moralism says if you are a good person, if you treat people well, and if (when) you fail, you can clean yourself up and change your ways. This is the default mode of the human heart. It’s popular and appealing to us because it is flattering. Moralism says you are in control, and you have the power to change who your fate and your future. The gospel of grace tells us we can’t fix ourselves. And while this is good news it’s also offensive because we hate being told we are broken. But Jesus here in this passage says, let me wash you, only I can do that. He washes us and makes us clean because he loves us.
- What are some ways that moralism, as described in Sunday’s sermon, manifests itself in our culture?
- If you would like to share, where do you see it manifesting itself in your life?
- Can you think of other parts of the gospels where Jesus exposes the dangers of moralism? (Hint: think Pharisees for starters!) How does he address moralism? How should we address it?
2. Not Therapeutic
A therapeutic view of God is one that thinks God does not place any demands on us. He simply wants us to be happy and to feel good. This is the image of God as a butler. We want him to stay away and not intrude until we need him and then we ring the bell and he should appear. This therapeutic understanding of God coincides with our modern approach to life where we try and make reality fit our life rather than an ancient approach to life which said our lives need to match reality.
In this passage, v.15, 21, 23 and 24 where Jesus talks about keeping his commands, he is making claims on our lives. Jesus is not saying if you listen to me I will love you, rather he is saying I love you so listen to me.
- How does the fact that Judas denies Jesus, and Peter betrays him help us see Jesus' invitation to follow him as a gracious invitation rather than a moralistic demand?
- If God is not our butler but rather one who makes claims on our lives, how ought this shape our relationship with him?
- What would be some telling signs in our lives that we might be falling back into the false belief of God as butler? How might we remedy these habits?
3. Not Deism
Functional 21st century deism says that God exists but he is distant and removed from our world and does not interfere…but he’s there if we need him. Only when we are really desperate do we shoot off the flare gun and cry for help. But this is not the God that is revealed to us in Jesus. In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples that things are about to change. He tells them he is going to leave them. While they have left everything to follow him, he will not leave them. In v.18 he promises not to leave them as orphans because he will send them another helper—his Spirit. Until this point Jesus dwelt with them, but now by the Holy Spirit Jesus will dwell in them. So God is not distant and detached but he is dwelling within us by the power of his Spirit.
- How does the incarnation and the cross demonstrate God’s intentional and intimate care for his people?
- How can you recognize in your own life a tendency to treat God as distant, therapeutic and moralistic? What does that look like?
- How does Jesus’ promise of the Spirit help us to find comfort in this life?
- Can you share times when you experienced the Spirit’s comfort in your life?
May the God whose hands have made us, whose grace has saved us, and whose Son walks with us, lead us forward to share joy with the world, in the name of the Creator, the Savior, and the Comforter. Amen.