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Would you pray with me? Father, we thank you for the privilege of being able to gather in your name on this day. And we thank you for the gift of your Word, which is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword. We now ask, Lord, that your word would accomplish in us, that for which you have sent it on this day, that by what you do in us, and through us, we might bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ, the name above all other names, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Well, good morning. So you walk into a dinner party, and you have a conversation with a total and complete stranger. Chances are, by the end of that conversation, you will have asked that person two questions: what is your name? And what do you do?
“What is your name?” Who are you? It’s a question of identity, isn’t it? It’s a title that someone is given that really, they carry around for the rest of their life. And then, “What do you do?” It’s the function that you and I would associate with that title, with that person’s name. Who are you and what do you do. Two simple questions, but two simple questions from which we can learn a lot from someone, and we can learn a lot about God. Moses asked God, “Who are you? What is your name?” and God said, “I am. I am who I am.” And throughout Scripture, we read of the name of God being lifted up above every other name. Jesus even taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” So the name of the Lord God is very important, but so is what he does. Scripture reveals a God who is a creator, a redeemer, a provider, a protector, rescuer, a savior, and much more.
See, every page of Scripture serves to give us a deeper, fuller understanding of both who our God is and what he does. The gospel readings from these past few weeks serve to do those same two things to tell us who God is and what he does. Two weeks ago in John 10, we heard Jesus say, “I am the good shepherd.” And last week in John chapter 15, Jesus said, “I am the true vine.” Those are “I am” statements in which Jesus attributes to himself both a name and a description of what he did. Well, today’s Gospel reading picked up right where the true vine reading left off from last week. In today’s text, Jesus, as the true vine, told His disciples five things that he did for them. And that’s what I want to look out this morning.
Jesus Loved His Disciples
The first thing that Jesus said he did to His disciples and for his disciples was that he loved his disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.
As Chad Lawrence pointed out last week in his sermon, love is a confusing word in our world today. Despite what every Disney movie would have us believe, love is not just a feeling. Love is not just happily ever after. Love is a decision. True love involves a sacrificial act of the will. Jesus went on to describe the ultimate decision of love that one individual could make for another.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Now, when Jesus spoke those words, the disciples didn’t know what Jesus was talking about at the time. But just a few days after saying those words, Jesus would in fact demonstrate his love for his disciples as he chose to lay down his life for them. Despite those disciples abandoning Jesus at his greatest time of need, Jesus still chose to love them, choose to love them as he went to the cross, and he died a sacrificial death in their place. If you were to read through any of the gospels, you would find dozens of things that Jesus did for his disciples. But the first and the most important thing Jesus did was that he loved them.
Jesus Called His Disciples
The second thing Jesus said he did for his disciples was that he called them. Look at verse 15,
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.
Three years earlier, Jesus began his public ministry, Jesus called his disciples out of their former lives, and he invited those individuals to follow him. Those disciples didn’t know what they were getting into fully. They didn’t know all the details of all the things that would take place, but they trusted Jesus enough to trade in who they used to be for who he was inviting them to be.
Consider Jesus’s disciple named Simon. Back in John 1, we read that Jesus looked at him and said, “So, you are Simon, son of John. You shall be called Cephas, which means Peter.” See, when Jesus called him, Simon became Peter. When Jesus called him, transformation began.
Now we know that when Jesus called him that transformation was not fully completed in that instant, but when Jesus called him, Simon Peter’s entire identity began to change. Three years later, after Jesus first called his disciples to himself, the strength and intimacy of that relationship was confirmed when Jesus said I no longer call you servants, I have called you friends.
Too often we associate “calling” with a sense of duty. God is calling me to Africa; God has called me to this task, or God has called me to that responsibility. But realize when God calls you, he first calls you to himself. When our duty for God becomes more important than our friendship with God, we have actually forsaken God’s calling in our life. You might say that this was actually the great sin or error of the Pharisees, that their zeal in doing on God’s behalf got in the way of them actually having a relationship with the Son of God who was right there in front of them.
If you want to see a beautiful picture of how our calling must be connected to our love relationship with the Lord, then look to the very end of John’s gospel. It’s there that we see the same Simon Peter. After betraying Jesus and abandoning him at his greatest need, Jesus didn’t tell Peter what he had to do to make up for it. He wasn’t just giving him instructions of what his future ministry was about. Instead, he asked him a question, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” Jesus first loved his disciples, and then Jesus called his disciples. And he called his disciples friends.
Jesus Chose His Disciples
Thirdly, back in this passage in John 15, Jesus said he chose his disciples.
You did not choose me, but I chose you.
Jesus did not choose his disciples because of what they could do for him, but because of what he desired to do for them. Jesus chose prayerfully. In accordance with the will of his Father, Jesus chose. In doing so, in a sense, Jesus took possession of each of his disciples. He said, I love you in such a way you are now mine; not to abuse them, not to lord his authority over the 12, but he possessed his disciples like a new parent takes possession of their child when they leave the hospital for the first time.
Last week was the National Football League draft. A total of 256 players were drafted by the 32 NFL teams; 256 young men had their dreams come true, as their names were called, and they were chosen. But realize the difference between the players who were chosen and the disciples that were chosen. NFL teams spend millions of dollars and countless hours researching and preparing for the draft. A football player being chosen is based on their talents, their achievements and their own merit. They’re being chosen as determined by one question each NFL team asks before making the selection, “What can this player do for us?”
That is the exact opposite of the disciples being chosen by Jesus, for their being chosen wasn’t based on what they could do for Jesus, but on his desire of what he wanted to do for each of them. Through the choosing of his disciples, Jesus demonstrated his nurture and care for those individuals. So, Jesus loved his disciples, He called his disciples, He chose his disciples.
Jesus Appointed His Disciples
Fourthly, in this text, we read that Jesus appointed his disciples.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.
Jesus choosing his disciples and possessing them was not just to put his disciples on a shelf. But when Jesus chose them, he gave them a sense of purpose as he appointed them.
The disciples were appointed to go out on behalf of the one who first loved and called and chose them. This is what we see from those disciples, that they were ambassadors of the love they first experience for themselves. After Jesus’s resurrection, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they went on mission as ambassadors of the one who sent them.
As we may remember from last week’s reading, there is only one way in which the branch can produce fruit; it must stay connected to the vine. We read throughout the rest of the New Testament how Jesus’s disciples stayed connected to the vine, how they met together on a daily basis to read and study scripture, how they prayed, how they shared in the Lord’s Supper together, how they met in fellowship with one another, as they continued to abide and cling to the Lord. They did bear the fruit that Jesus had appointed for them.
Jesus Commanded His Disciples To Love
The fifth and final thing Jesus said he did for his disciples in this passage is that he commanded His disciples.
These things, I command you, so that you will love one another.
Jesus wasn’t just suggesting these things to his disciples. It wasn’t strongly recommended that they do these things. He commanded them that they would love one another. Just as each disciple began their relationship with Jesus as he invited them to follow him, the lordship of Jesus Christ remained as a covering over those disciples even after Jesus ascended to heaven. Why? Because Jesus’s word remained. Jesus’s commands remained, therefore the Lordship of Jesus Christ remained true for every single one of his disciples. Jesus said, “These things, I command you, so that you will love one another.”
If Jesus’s disciples needed a starting point for what it meant for them to abide in Jesus, to remain connected to the vine, they didn’t need to look any farther than the words that Jesus spoke to them about what he had done for them. Jesus said, I “love you.” Jesus said, “I called you.” Jesus said, “I chose you.” Jesus said, “I appointed you.” And Jesus said, “I command you.” And we know that these specific words from John 15 impacted Jesus’s disciples because we find Jesus’s disciples using many of these same words throughout their ministries.
For example, again consider Simon Peter–this man who often got it wrong, who abandoned Jesus, who Jesus had to restore–consider what Peter wrote in his first letter to the early church.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9
You see, when Simon Peter, finally believe these truths to be real for him, that Jesus really did do these things for him, then Simon Peter could confidently declare these truths for the sake of others. So he wrote,” You are chosen, you are a people of God’s possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you.”
What’s True For Them Is True For You
Peter’s words are so important because they help us to see that Jesus’s words in John are not just for us to study as a truth only to have been understood by his disciples 2000 years ago. Peter’s words are so important because they help us to understand that what Jesus said to be true of his disciples is also true of you and me here today. See, the good news of the Gospel is that you are loved. The good news of the Gospel is that you are called, and you have been chosen, and you have been appointed, and you have been commanded. The question is, do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus has done those things for you?
- Do you believe that you are loved by God? Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus died so that you might live. Now my guess is, if you’ve been here more than one week, you’ve heard that more than once; but do you believe it? Not just for the person sitting next to you, do you believe it for you: that Jesus loves you, that Jesus took your sin and has offered you His righteousness, that God loves you? Anytime you need a reminder of that love, we have it when we look to the cross; that once and for all decision of the will in which God made known his heart for his people: I love you, so you are loved by God.
- You are called by God. He knows your name, he knows your joys, he knows your struggles, he knows your pains, he knows your suffering, he knows everything about you. And he calls you to himself. He doesn’t call you to be a servant. He doesn’t call you to duty, he calls you his friend. True and lasting friendship is fleeting in the world today. In a culture in which everyone is friendly, it’s possible to be friendless. it’s possible to have 2000 friends on Facebook, and 500 names in your contact list on your phone, but it’s also very possible to scroll through all those names and not know who to call at the end of a hard day. God calls you his friend, that you might be intrigued fellowship with him this day, and for all of eternity. You are loved by God, you are called by God.
- You are chosen by God. Now, this is the one we actually have the hardest time believing. We look around and think, “Well, God, it’s obvious why you chose that person. God, it’s obvious why you chose them. But I’ve got nothing to offer you. I’m broken. I continue to struggle.” But remember, God choosing you is not about what you can do for him, but about what he desires to do for you–what he has done, and continues to do for you. You see, God choosing you is not a matter of your merit, but a matter of His love, and grace and mercy. And he’s chosen you. You are loved. You are called. You are chosen.
- You have been appointed. If your plan for your life has ever felt a bit empty or unfulfilled, then maybe it’s time to lay down your plan and ask the Lord his plan for your life. Ask him what fruit he desires for your life to bear as you abide in him.
- And then lastly, God has commanded you. Jesus said, “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” Jesus’s commands are for us to love to build, to strengthen, to encourage one another, that our faith is never called to be lived in isolation; that our faith is not actually ever called just to be lived us and him. Our faith is called, we are called, to live in community as we love one another. So you are loved, you are called, you are chosen, you are appointed, and you have been commanded.
See, what this really comes down to is an issue of identity. The world says that our identity is found within us when we look within. But the gospel tells us that our true identity comes when we believe in what has been done for us. So let me ask you two questions. Who are you? And what do you do? With those two questions, we can learn a lot about others, and from those two questions we can learn about God.
But in the stillness of our own hearts, in those quiet moments when you ask yourself those two questions, who am I and what do I do, how do you answer? The world wants you to answer one way–that you’re defined by what you do. You’re defined by your accomplishments, your achievements, your resume, where you live, what you drive.
The gospel of Jesus Christ allows you to answer “Who am I?” with the words I am loved, I am called and I am chosen. And when you struggle with finding an identity in your accomplishments, and you think yourself, ‘What do I do?” then the gospel allows you to answer that question. I have been appointed and I have been commanded.
Friends, when we talk about staying connected to the vine and producing fruit, may we realize that this isn’t about our effort. This is about our identity, in trusting entirely in what Jesus Christ has done for us. The only question that remains is whether we believe his words that they’re not just for others, they are for you and me here today.
Would you pray with me? Father, I thank you for the good news of the Gospel, how it is beyond comprehension, that you as an all powerful, all holy, all good God, would choose to trade place with any one of us. And yet, that is the mercy and message of grace that you offer us this day and every day. Lord would you come and through the power of your Holy Spirit, would you soften our hearts and open our minds to receive that Gospel truth which many of us have heard many times, but some of us need to be reminded of: that we are loved, not from what we can do for you, but we are loved because we are yours. Father, I pray against any sense of identity that is based on our accomplishments in the world around us. And that as we are about to share in this meal of grace, we would come forward with open hands and receive what only you can offer, what only you can satisfy us with. We pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.