Now we're turning tonight in our Bibles to John's gospel chapter 13. If you were here last week, we were looking at the Lord Jesus as He washed the disciples' feet in preparation for the cross - a demonstration of His love for them. You remember, it just came to me as I was sitting down at the back, how the Lord said that He needed to wash our feet continually - but Peter objected. Jesus said: 'Look, if I don't wash you completely, you can have nothing of Me'. So we had a demonstration last week you remember, of washing of feet, and this week we've had a demonstration of the bath! So you've had a demonstration on both evenings, and it's wonderful - and we wish our brother well in the will of God, and we know he will be blessed for obeying the Lord in the waters of baptism.
We're going to read together verses 18 through to 35 of John chapter 13, and I'm reading from the New King James Version. The title of my message tonight is: 'Love and Betrayal'. So John 13 verse 18: "'I do not speak'", Jesus says, "'concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me'. Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me'. When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me'. Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. Then, leaning back on Jesus' breast, he said to Him, 'Lord, who is it?'. Jesus answered, 'It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it'. And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, 'What you do, do quickly'. But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, 'Buy those things we need for the feast', or that he should give something to the poor. Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night. So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, 'Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going, you cannot come', so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another'". Amen.
Let us pray together, and as I have said previously: if you know and love the Lord, do enter into prayer with me that God will speak tonight through His word to meet every need, whatever that might be. So let us all pray together: Father in heaven, we thank You for the record of the life and ministry of our Lord. We thank You for what we have witnessed tonight, a demonstration of obedience to the Lord Jesus - and it's reminding us already of His death, His burial, and His resurrection. We thank You for our brother, Philip, who has been baptised. Lord, we pray that You will bless him and, dear God, that he will know what it is to walk in obedience and the joy of it. 'Happy are you if you do these things', the Lord Jesus said. Lord, we do pray that You will protect him from the enemy, because we know that our Lord, when He was baptised to fulfil all righteousness, pointing to the cross, in Matthew chapter 3, it wasn't very long - we read it in Matthew 4 - that He was tempted of the devil in the wilderness. We know that, Lord, the devil and his demons detest it when we make a public confession of our Lord, and so we pray that You will protect our brother, and indeed us all as we seek to live for Christ. We pray that You will speak to us now, and that You will minister to each of our needs. Lord, we all have need of You. There might be unbelievers in the place tonight, we pray that by Your Spirit You will speak on through the word. There might be those cold in their faith, those who are struggling, Lord. We know we all struggle at times, Lord, we pray that You will speak whatever our circumstances might be, for the glory of the Lord Jesus. Most of all we pray that You will presence Yourself with us now, for Christ's sake we ask it, Amen.
I did say to you last Sunday evening that these chapters, from chapter 13 right to chapter 17, comprise of what's called His Upper Room ministry. The Lord Jesus Christ has met with His disciples to celebrate the Passover and institute The Lord's Supper, and John gives us a record that no other gospel writer gives of the ministry that He shared with them there. It ends, of course, with chapter 17, the intercessory prayer, which has come to be known as the Great High Priestly Prayer of Christ. It is the 'Countdown to Calvary', it is the last week of the life and ministry of our Lord - some call it 'Holy Week'. I think I said last week that this is probably Thursday, I should have said it was Wednesday late, probably the early hours of Thursday morning of that last week. In verses 18 through to 30, Jesus had just washed His betrayer's feet - along with the other eleven, Judas got his feet washed; and we know that the Lord Jesus had knowledge, He wasn't ignorant of what Judas had in his heart, and that it was his intention to betray. We read in verse 2 of chapter 13 : 'And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands' - Jesus was in complete knowledge, and yet with all that He knew about Judas, He did not reveal Judas' secret in this portion that we read tonight. He certainly addressed him, and He addressed the company, but He did not declare who was the betrayer.
Jesus, with the towel in His hand, is the perfect example of humility. We saw that last Sunday evening. Now Jesus, with the bread, again is the perfect example of humility - but Judas, with the bread given into his hand by Jesus, is the perfect example of hypocrisy and treachery. What a juxtaposition, comparison between these two! Now Judas, of course, we know from Mark's gospel, has been solving the problem of the chief priests and scribes. They wanted to betray Jesus at an opportune moment that would not cause public unrest. So Judas betrays Jesus secretly at the dead of night into their hands. Now I want you to understand something: we talked this morning about friendship, and what true friendship was from John chapter 11 - to betray someone is not the same as being their enemy. That's a great misunderstanding many have. You see, the essence of betrayal is that you can betray to death and yet still show a measure of affection toward the one you're betraying. Essentially betrayal comes from the hand of a friend, that's what makes it betrayal. Someone has put it like this: 'A betrayer embraces you with one arm, and stabs you in the back with the other'.
Here we have the greatest betrayer of all time, who was essentially a friend to the greatest Man of all time, Jesus Christ. I want you to know something: Judas professed to be a friend of Christ, and I believe that the greatest betrayers of Christ today are still those who profess to be His friends. You see, you can be affectionate toward the Lord Jesus Christ, but ultimately in your heart, and even in your actions and your secret life, betraying Him. I want you to consider this evening the privileges that Judas had. It's remarkable when you look at this character, he was a privileged man!
The first reason: he heard Christ's words. Now we have got the delight of reading His words. I highlighted those that might be in red in your edition of the Bible, but imagine what it would have been like to have heard those words originally spoken first-hand from Jesus Himself! Imagine sitting on the hillside listening to the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest sermon ever preached. The first time the Beatitudes were spoken from God Incarnate: 'Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled'. The 'Golden Rule' as it's called, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Turn the other cheek. Love your enemy'. Imagine being there! Imagine being there when the Lord Jesus taught the parables, the Good Samaritan for instance, or the story of the Prodigal Son. Imagine being there when some of the disciples came to the Lord Jesus and said: 'Teach us to pray, even as John taught his disciples to pray', and Jesus says, 'In this manner pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done...' - you know the rest, but imagine hearing it for the first time! You could say it in your sleep, but imagine being there when no one had ever heard anything like this before!
Judas heard Christ's words, he sat on the edge of the crowd when He taught the great multitudes, and then he was in the private audience of Christ in the waysides during the twilight hours where the disciples were instructed personally by Jesus. Yet Judas himself never truly believed! It's remarkable, isn't it? He did not know Christ by faith himself. We could go as far as to say: he knew Jesus personally, but he did not know Him savingly - that's an interesting one. You could be here tonight and you know Jesus personally, in the sense that you know about Him, you know as much as the rest, you perhaps went to Sunday school, Bible class, you might have been catechised or whatever they do in your particular tradition of Christianity - and you feel that you are familiar with this Man, this God-Man. You might go as far as to say that He is the Saviour, and the Saviour of the world - but though you know Him personally in that sense, you don't know Him savingly, He has not saved you!
Judas heard Christ's words, see something else: Judas saw Christ's miracles. He was there when the little lad brought his lunchbox of five loaves and two fishes, and the Lord Jesus took it and blessed it and multiplied it, and fed 5000 people besides women and children. Judas was on board the boat when Jesus stood up and stilled a storm miraculously, and they were left saying: 'Who is this Man that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'. So Judas saw Jesus give blind eyes sight, deaf ears hearing, dumb tongues speech, lame legs able to walk and leap and dance. In fact, Judas saw Christ raise the dead! We saw that this morning, John 11, Lazarus - and other occasions. We could say Judas lived a diet of daily miracles, but he never had the miracle of new birth wrought in his heart. He was not born-again.
Maybe you're here tonight and you believe in the supernatural. You do well to believe in it, because it's real. It's the way God does things. Maybe you've even seen the supernatural, perhaps a miracle has been performed in your own life or in someone that you love - maybe it was at a time when there was a great crisis in your experience, or in your family, and you prayed and God heard your prayer, and you will have no one explain it away. You know God answered prayer, and yet you have never had this miracle of the new birth in your heart!
Judas heard Christ's words, he saw His miracles, but thirdly see: he saw Christ save others. He saw the woman at the well, John chapter 4, a couple of chapters before this. She was married five times, the guy she was living with was not her husband. She was trying to satisfy the aching empty void in her soul with relationships and sex. Jesus said: 'I'll give you water', she was at a well, 'but I'll give you spiritual, living water, and if you drink of it by faith, you'll never thirst again'. She did, and it says she went into her home town and she told many of the men, and many believed in Samaria - but Judas didn't. Judas was there when the madman of Gadara, who no one could control, society had given up on and they had put him in their equivalent of a padded room, just at the side of a hill where there were graves, nobody went near the graveyard and they chained him up there - but he wouldn't even stay in the chains. Jesus came, and Jesus delivered that man of thousands of demons, and he was left seated at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. Judas saw it, but was unaffected by the power of God himself.
Judas saw the tax collector, little Zacchaeus, repenting. He had lined his pockets with the taxes that he had stolen off the people on the behalf of Rome, and he was hated by everyone - and yet salvation came to that little man's house. He repaid fourfold everything that he had received, and he gave half of his goods to the poor - but even that didn't move Judas from his sin. Are you here tonight, and you've seen people's lives changed? Maybe they're sitting beside you. Folk in your family, or in the neighbourhood, or in the workplace, folk who have come to this church - but like Judas, you remain unchanged.
He heard Christ's teachings, he saw His miracles, he saw Christ save others - but see also, and this is the most staggering, I think, to me: he did Christ's work. That's right! We read that the Lord Jesus sent the disciples out to spread the word of the kingdom. He had seventy disciples, and He split them into twos, and He sent them preaching the gospel. When they returned they proclaimed: 'Even the spirits, Jesus, are subject to us in Your name' - I don't believe that Judas was an exception to that. I believe that Judas was engaged in the work of God, I believe that Judas was even performing miracles in the name of Christ - and yet he had rejected God's own work in his heart. Maybe you find that staggering, but we read in the gospels that on judgement day Jesus says: 'Many will say on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did I not prophesy in Your name, did I not cast out devils in Your name, did I not do many mighty works' - the word is 'miracles' - 'in Your name'. Jesus says: 'I will say to you, 'Depart from Me, I never knew you!''. The reason He gives in qualifying that statement is: 'You did not obey the word of God'. You didn't truly repent and believe.
You could be a minister in a church, a pastor, an elder, you could be a Sunday School teacher and not be born-again! Our churches, sadly, are greatly affected by this. It's not a new phenomenon. In 1735 John Wesley, who later became the founder of Methodism, set out as a missionary to Georgia in a colony of America. He was an ordained Anglican minister, as was his father before him. Two years into his missionary work, this is what he said: 'I went out to convert the Indians, but, oh God, who shall convert me?'. What a statement! Engaged in the work of God, but the work of grace had never been done in his life.
You know, this is a real evangelical problem: false profession, people who grow up in the ranks of the church, and just sort of slip into the way of doing things. They know how to pray, they know intellectually about Jesus and what He has done, but they have never truly been born-again. Now it's by simple faith, childlike faith, a child can do it, but we've got to make sure we've entered into such an experience. It's generally agreed today, right across the whole spectrum of the evangelical church, that this is a problem. The late Bill Bright of Campus Crusade said: 'Many who call themselves Christians are not really biblical Christians at all. Although they may be religious people who attend church regularly, they have never experienced the new birth and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ'. Dr Rod Bell, President of the Fundamentalist Baptist Fellowship of America, believes that 50% of people that go to church are lost. Evangelist Luis Palau said: 'Of 80% of Americans who claim to be Christian, few live any differently from pagans or atheists, as though God has no claim on their lives'. Dr James Dobson, the Christian psychologist, admitted: 'The majority of Americans are dabbling in religious expression that has no substance'. Can I say to you, particularly young people here tonight: make sure that you are genuinely born-again! It's horrifying to hear some Christian leaders say of the young people, and not so young, that if you sat them down and asked them: 'Give me the Gospel in a nutshell', they can't tell it.
Now I know Judas was ordained to this role, and there's great mystery here and I don't claim to understand it. We see it prophesied there in verse 18, quoting Psalm 41 verse 9: 'I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me''. There's great mystery of the sovereignty of God in this matter, but I have to say to you tonight: I do not believe in any form of God's sovereignty that nullifies man's responsibility. Though God is obviously sovereign in this regard, and it baffles us, I am sure that Judas is guilty and complicit in this crime. Verse 21: 'When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me''. I believe the Lord was giving every opportunity for Judas here, to show that Judas was responsible and was complicit, and Judas had made choices all the way through his time with Christ.
Imagine the grace of our Lord here. He had just washed the disciples' feet, and His betrayer's to boot - what humility! See the depravity of Judas: he had his feet washed by Christ, he knew the plan that was already hatched in his heart to conveniently betray Christ - and yet he went through with it. Jesus knew he was the one Jesus was speaking of. Verse 22 says the disciples were aghast, 'the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke'. Judas was not aghast. Don't think for a moment that the disciples doubted themselves, they weren't saying personally, 'I might be the one, I might be the traitor!' - because it wasn't long before this, and indeed after this event, that they were arguing among themselves who would be the greatest. Rather they were contemplating among the others who was the worst! We read from Mark that they were saying, 'Is it I? Is it I?', and the inference there is, 'Surely not me! Surely not me!'. Jeremiah says the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?
In verse 26 we read: 'Jesus answered, 'It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it''. Now, to break bread with someone in these ancient days was a token of fellowship, a pact of friendship, of mutual trust - and so it was a most wicked treachery to break bread, to fellowship with someone, and for them to go and betray you. David said prophetically of this moment: 'Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me'. How tragic! How must the Lord of glory have felt? Verse 27, when Judas received the bread dipped in bitter herbs, we read that Satan entered him. Then he left to notify the chief priests where Jesus could be found, setting off a chain of events that would lead to Calvary, to the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus. Now I want you to see this please, verse 27, Jesus said to him, Satan had entered him, Jesus said: 'What you do, do quickly'. In everything the Lord Jesus is in complete knowledge and in compliance with the purposes of God to go to the cross, to bleed and die. We saw this last Sunday evening, that when the Lord washed the disciples' feet, He gave Himself wholly and completely to it, laying off His garments, girding Himself with a towel, washing their feet having poured out the water, drying their feet with a towel, and then sitting down. He is in control, He has complete knowledge of what is going to happen - the Father has given all things into His hands, where He's going, and what He's going to do. Wonderful.
Now I have got to say to you tonight that I don't believe that Judas set out to betray the Lord in the beginning. I believe Satan noted that he was acquiring a taste for a secret sin. You see, he was appointed treasurer - we get a hint of this in verse 29, 'For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, 'Buy those things we need for the feast', or that he should give something to the poor'. We know that Judas was a thief from the beginning, if you go back to chapter 12 and the incident - it hasn't been dealt with yet - but the incident of Mary of Bethany anointing the Lord's feet. She took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard and anointed the feet of Jesus, the monetary value of this would have been about a year's wages. Judas protests in verse 5: ''Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?'. This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it'. This was his secret sin, this gave, humanly speaking, this gives Satan a foothold in his life that became a stronghold, that ultimately allowed him to eventually betray the Lord.
Can I ask what your secret sin is that might cause you eventually to betray Jesus? J.C. Ryle, that famous evangelical Bishop of Liverpool, said: 'Open sin has killed its thousands, but secret sin its tens of thousands'. That's why Mark says in Mark 14:11 of this very event: 'He sought how he might conveniently betray Him'. We can conveniently betray the Lord Jesus. Maybe you're one who professes to be His friend - sure most people in our province, and indeed in this island, call themselves 'Christian' in some shape or form. You may have heard his words, saw His miracles, saw Him save others, you might even be doing His work of a kind - but you're betraying Him.
But we've got to move on, what a contrast we find in verses 34 and 35. We've seen the greatest example of betrayal, and now we see the greatest exhortation of love, verse 35: 'A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another'. Now, how is this a new commandment? You know, did the Old Testament not teach people to love each other? Of course it did. Did Jesus, before this moment in His parables and teachings and example, not teach to love one another? Well, yes, He did, but the ancient Greek word here for 'new' in verse 34, it implies freshness, a freshness in this command, or the opposite of being outworn. So this is not a different commandment, but a reiteration in freshness of an old commandment. It isn't that this commandment to love one another has just been invented, but rather that it's going to be presented in a new and in a fresh way - and here it is: 'A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another'. 'You've to love one another as I have loved you'. Now the Old Testament taught: 'Love your neighbour as yourself', but now this new law says, 'Love your brother even more than yourself, to the very point of death, laying your life down for one another'.
So the command to love wasn't new, but the extent of the love here was new, and it was being displayed in the life of Jesus, washing the disciples' feet - but, as that was a figure of going to the cross, this would be demonstrated in the greatest way ever. Romans 5 and verse 8: 'God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us'. Jesus says: 'That's the way you've got to love one another'. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and give Himself for it - but it's not confined to marriage - wives, you're to love your husbands like that; brothers, you're to love brother and sister; sister, you're to love sister and brother like that. 'By this all will know that you are My disciples', verse 35 - this is to be the distinguishing mark of all true believers. Now, if you want more on this, John elaborates on it in his three epistles, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John at the end of the New Testament. In 1 John alone he teaches: 'One who loves his brother abides in the light'. He teaches that: 'One who loves his brother, God abides and dwells in him', but 'One who doesn't love his brother cannot love God', but because of God's love in our hearts, one should love his brother. So again he is emphasising this truth that love is the mark of the fellowship of true believers - and that means all other criteria are secondary!
A lawyer came to the Lord on one occasion, and said: 'Which is the greatest commandment?'. Jesus said: 'To love the Lord your God with all your soul, with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength; and the second is like to it, love your neighbour as yourself'. He agreed with that, because that's what all the Jews believed - this was, indeed, the sum total of the whole of the law and the prophets. So the Lord established love as the highest of all spiritual virtues. Ultimately, first and foremost, love toward God, but whenever that's in the right place, then love to one another. The law and the prophets are summarised in this - in other words, this is what the Bible is all about!
I read an interesting book not that long ago by an author called Gayle D. Erwin, the book is called 'The Jesus Style', and it talks about living life as the Lord Jesus did in our lifestyles. He quotes from these verses, 'A new commandment I give to you', and this is what he says, listen carefully, it's remarkable: 'I was shocked', he says, 'to find that such a statement was missing from the great doctrinal statements of denominations, missing from the great systematic theologies, missing from the creedal statements and, most unfortunate, missing from our daily lives'. This great commandment that summarises the whole of the Bible, that is personified in the manifestation of God Incarnate - it's missing! It's the very characteristic that we ought to have that distinguishes us from the people in the world as belonging to God!
In fact Paul said - we don't have time to look at it - 1 Corinthians 13: 'Without the love of God you're nothing'. It doesn't matter what you do, you can give your body to martyrdom, but without love you're nothing! Richard Sibbes, the puritan, said: 'We are as we love, not as we know'. The great evangelical problem is: we can't get past our brains, especially those of us who are well-schooled in the Scriptures! We are as we love, not as we know. Calvin said: 'Whatever is devoid of love is of no account in the sight of God'. He's just saying what Paul said, 1 Corinthians 13: without love everything is nothing! It's more than this, this very love does not just identify us as belonging to Jesus, but it actually witnesses the life of Jesus to those around, it testifies of Him. Francis Schaeffer said: 'Love, and the unity it attests to, is the mark Christ gave to Christians to wear before this world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians, and that Jesus was sent by the Father'.
Now almost every denomination you go to, irrespective of where it is, they have their own little list of criteria that defines them - I'm not saying all of them, but many of them tend to look down at those that don't match their criteria. We need to be very careful we don't transgress a command of the Lord here when He says it is love that distinguishes us as brothers and sisters, and it is that love between one another that will actually - and you read it in 1 John, this is a remarkable statement - the love that we share with one another will actually prove God's existence, and that Christ came in the flesh as the manifestation of God. That's how powerful our love among each other can be!
But what do they see? Come on now! What does the world see? I mean, just take Northern Ireland for an example - what does the average Joe Bloggs out there say to you? He doesn't go to church, doesn't have any Christian background, and you mention religion or Christianity as they conceive of it, what are their immediate thoughts? Do they see us bickering amongst one another, fighting amongst one another? Do they identify it with politics? Do they see us as, rather than loving one another, seeking to maximise the faults of the other? Proverbs says: 'Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins'. Listen, this is a remarkable statement, and I want it to be indelibly burned on your consciousness: the only aggression a Christian should be known for is aggressive love.
Thomas Fuller made a remarkable statement that I've been thinking about all week, listen to this: 'If God should have no more mercy on us than we have charity one to another, what would become of us?'. Let me repeat that: 'If God should have no more mercy on us', in other words, if He should remove all His grace and protection and care of us, and the only thing He leaves us is the love that we have for one another to look after each other, what would happen to us? Would we become like the dodo? Describing first century Christians to the Roman Emperor Hadrian, Aristides said, listen: 'They love one another. They never fail to help widows. They save orphans from those who will hurt them. If they have something, they will give freely to the man who has nothing. If they see a stranger, they take him home and are happy as though he were a real brother. They don't consider themselves brothers and sisters in the usual sense, but brothers instead through the Spirit in God'. Is that the way we live? Not just among our kind, by the way. Jesus said the tax collectors love tax collectors, and you love people that are like you - you're not any better than they. Vance Havener said: 'Tertullian writes that it was said of early Christians, 'How those Christians love one another!'. Today the world might sometimes be more inclined to say, 'How those Christians hate each other!''.
'A new commandment I give to you'. Oh, we obeyed the commandment tonight, didn't we? 'Commandment of the Lord: be baptised', we've got to do it. We obeyed the commandment of the Lord this morning to break bread and drink from the cup, and remember the Lord in His death. What about this one? 'Love as I have loved you'. Love is practical, or it's not love at all. You might be able to tell me the four Greek words for love - that's wonderful, but practically love rolls its sleeves up. There was once a professor who wrote a very learned book on love, the only defect was that the professor had never been in love. When he took the manuscript to the typist to prepare for the publisher, the typist turned out to be this very lovely young lady. When their eyes met, something happened to the professor which was not in his book. He was happier in five minutes with love in his heart that he had been in 30 years with love in his head.
There is something that needs to happen 21st-century Christianity here in our country. We need a revival of unconditional true love, amongst one another and to those outside. He commands us to love, but as I close maybe you would just turn to one verse. He not only commands us - and, know this, Jesus and God never command us to do a thing in the New Covenant that we cannot do and He does not empower us to do. In Romans 5 verse 5, as I said last week, washing people's feet does not come naturally - whether we do it literally or metaphorically - helping people and ministering to people doesn't come naturally, it's supernatural. Equally so, this love, when you look at 1 Corinthians 13, it is agape love, it is the very love of God, it's a fruit of the Spirit. He commands it, but He gives the power, He enables it. Romans 5 verse 5: 'Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out', or shed abroad, 'in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us'.
It's the Holy Spirit that gets you born-again, and it's the Holy Spirit who fills your heart with love. If you want this love, you need to get it from God. I know that there's probably no one here like Judas - is there anyone like Judas? But there might be someone who's professing to be a friend of Christ, but you're betraying Him. Will you be a true friend tonight, and will you repent and confess your sin, and come to the cross, and become His true friend by obeying Him and being saved? Allow the Spirit of God to come into your life. Maybe you're a Christian, and you truly want to know this love - come to the same place, the Lord Jesus and His cross, and repent of sin and lack of love, and maybe bitterness, or jealousy, or strife. You maybe need to forgive someone for hurting you. I'm not asking you to say that what they did was correct - you're not even meant to condone something that is wrong - but maybe you have to let go of that thing and give it over to God, as Jesus did. He gave over to His Father, who judges righteously, Peter says, all the wrongs that were done to Him. 'Judgement is Mine', says the Lord. Do you have to do that tonight? Let God - maybe if you don't let go of that bitterness, God cannot fill your heart with this love.
Let us all pray. Is there someone here tonight, and you really want to engage with God in this regard? You want to be saved, maybe some of you young people - now, I don't want to do the devil's work and cause you to doubt your salvation, but if you're not sure, make sure. Maybe you're not so young, maybe you know that something is missing, you're not filled with the Holy Spirit, He's not controlling, you're not completely surrendered, you're not producing fruit to the Spirit of God - maybe you're not showing love? Who here tonight will surrender and say, 'Lord, come in and pour in this love into my heart, that I might obey Your commandment'? I need to do that. I don't think I could love any of you unto death - maybe one or two of my own family, but that's really pushing it, isn't it? We love ourselves so much.
Father, I thank You for Your voice. I thank You for the Holy Scriptures, but for the Holy Spirit who still makes them living and powerful, and applies them to our own hearts. Lord, may we heed Your voice tonight, and may we learn - oh Lord, we can get everything so right - we baptised tonight, Lord, and we believe that this is the way to do it, but Lord how much time and energy do we grapple in our minds and with our hearts and wills in loving each other; and, at times, loving each other when we are most unlovable; loving people that we don't agree with; blessing those who curse us; praying for those who despitefully scheme and abuse us? Lord, I can't do that, but You can do it through me; and I pray that all of us here tonight will surrender and allow self to die, reckon it dead on the cross as we've identified it here tonight as being dead and buried. May You live in and through us for the glory of Christ we pray, that others may see Him and glorify God His Father in heaven, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixth recording in his 'Portions From John' series, entitled "Love And Betrayal" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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