• Tony Birkhead

#thechallenge Week - 2




The challenge is found in the command to see what love demands of me!


INTRODUCTION

Love is the defining mark of biblical community, and everything else flows from it. Our God is love, and He commands us to show His unconditional love to the watching world by modeling Jesus’ love for us. Our society is often confused when it comes to love, so it’s up to us to show true love by the way we interact with one another. We can do this by supporting one another, sacrificing for one another, sharing with one another, and submitting to one another.

KEY SCRIPTURE

John 13:34-35

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

1 John 2:3-12

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. 7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. 9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.`


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ JOHN 13:34.

Jesus and his disciples had joined together to celebrate the Passover feast in which Jesus reminded His disciples that he was going to suffer and die on the cross. Given that Jesus’ remaining time with His disciples on earth was coming to a close, Jesus delivered to them a “new” command.

Does it surprise you that love is something Jesus had to command? Why or why not?

Who is our “one another”? How do our love for God and our love for one another go hand in hand?

The biblical command to love our neighbors as ourselves is not a new commandment (Leviticus 19:18). By the time Jesus spoke John 13:34-35, He had already cited love for neighbors as one of the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:34-40). Jesus even taught us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). So what was new about the command in John 13:34? The answer is in Jesus’ words: “just as I have loved you.” The disciples were to love one another according to Jesus’ model. But little did they know the depth of love Jesus was about to demonstrate.

What did Jesus mean when He said for the disciples to love one another in the same way He loved them?

Look at John 13:1-17. What characterized the love Jesus had for His disciples in this scene? Similarly, what characterized the love Jesus showed us in going to the cross?

From what we read before and after John 13:34-35, we see what it means to love as Jesus has loved us. In John 13:1-17, Jesus modeled humility by washing the feet of His disciples. After giving the command to love one another, Jesus went to the cross. Laying down His life for us was a great act of love. His humble service and His sacrifice fill the word “love” with the meaning it is to have for us.

How might thinking deeply on what Christ has done for us cause us to truly love others?

READ JOHN 13:35.

What are the ramifications of Jesus’ statement in this verse? What’s riding on our ability to demonstrate love?

What message do believers give to the world when they show love for one another? What message do they give when they fail to show love for one another?

How does our love for one another glorify God?

As followers of Christ, our motivation for expressing love is Jesus’ example, which means our love, too, must be demonstrated through action. Loving one another through humble, sacrificial service can be a powerful witness to the world that we are His and that it is good to be His. Through our visible expressions of love, non- Christians should be able to see the love of an invisible God.

Why is it essential that we live in community with other Christians if we hope to cultivate Christlike love for others?

READ 1 JOHN 2:3-12.

What does verse 7 show us about the nature and character of God?

As far back as Leviticus 19:18, the people of Israel were commanded to love their neighbors. However, this command takes on a freshness for the Christian given the demonstration of Jesus’ love. Jesus laid down His life, not for those who were worthy, but for those who were unworthy. When we love as Jesus did, we play an active role in revealing the light of Jesus to those around us.

Who has loved you in a manner similar to how Jesus does? How has that person brought light to your life?

How could John be so definite in his statement that if you hate your brother you live in darkness?

The defining mark of the disciple of Jesus is love. In this command, we see how the love of Jesus is expressed day in and day out. When we love each other, we are transferring what we have first received from the One who died to save us from sin and death. As we do, the darkness is continually pushed back in favor of the light.


MOVING FORWARD

  • How might faithfully participating in our group help us to be intentional in the way that we love other believers?

  • What are some practical ways we could demonstrate love for one another in our group? How might our group express love for the larger body of Christ at our church?

  • How is loving one another in the church essential to our witness to those outside the church? What needs to change about the way you love others so that you might be a better witness for Christ?


PRAY TOGETHER

Close by asking God to perfect His love in you and help you better appreciate Jesus’ sacrificial act of love on your behalf. Pray for the opportunity to put your Christ-like love into action this week, and pray for love to become the mark for which our church is known in our city.


COMMENTARY

John 13:34-35

Jesus invited His followers to embrace His love and to express His love through their interactions with each other. His commandment to them was not new in the sense that it was different in substance. Rather, it was new in application—one’s neighbor was anybody. It also was new in its model—Jesus’ self-sacrificing love, especially displayed later on the cross. In an encounter with a scribe, Jesus summarized the commandments in the Mosaic law (Mark 12:28-31). Stated in two Old Testament passages (Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:4-5), the Mosaic commandments directed believers to love God wholeheartedly and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.

As Jesus prepared His disciples for their future in His body, the church, He yearned for them to experience the new commandment in their relationships. He had corrected their earlier ambitions over position and greatness by His own humble service of washing their feet. As Judas left the Passover supper the disciples were eating with Jesus, He focused attention on their covenant commitments to one another. Three times in two verses, Jesus repeated the essence of His teaching. To love one another was the supreme means of identification for His disciples.

The kind of love Jesus commanded the disciples to give was not merely the brotherly love of human fellowship. Even unbelievers related to others on that level of love. Jesus wanted His followers to experience and to express God’s love. Each of the four occurrences of the Greek word translated “love” and “loved” in John 13:34-35 uses a Greek word meaning God’s kind of love. This love seeks the good of another rather than benefit for self. It sacrifices without condition and serves without motive of personal gain.

The source of such love is the Lord Himself. Jesus knew human nature does not love sacrificially and unconditionally as God loves. He reminded the eleven disciples of the way He loved them. The words Just as meant they were to love one another in the same way and to the same degree He loved them. Their only hope for success in loving this way lay in their relationship with Him. As they were channels, receiving and passing on Christ’s love, they could fulfill His intention for their lives.

The object of the disciples’ love was one another. Jesus certainly was not excusing the disciples from loving other people who were not His disciples. He was not suggesting they form an exclusive club in which they loved each other but not those outside their group. Rather, Jesus was setting a new standard for love among believers.

The disciples’ purpose in showing godly love was to witness for Jesus. According to Him, only the disciples’ love for one another showed the world they were His disciples. Only by love would they endure together and impact their world.

Jesus calls Christians to love one another, as He said, “Just as I have loved you.” We who have received Christ’s sacrificial love are to extend that same love to others. His love transforms our hearts so we cannot help but love. If we fail to love, we should examine ourselves to see if His love truly resides in our lives (1 John 4:7-8).

Love among believers provides the foundational testimony to the lost. Unbelievers may criticize Christians, but many do have high expectations of those who claim Christ’s name. They look for holy lifestyles among believers and love in their relationships with one another. Weak love among believers results in weak witness to nonbelievers. Worse, when Christians argue and fight with one another, lost people use their bickering as an excuse to reject Christ. The world judges our love for God by the love we have for one another.

Christians should love one another to glorify God. Just as children’s behavior reflects on parents’ character, even so our love paints a portrait of our Heavenly Father. Just as you are glad when people comment on the good behavior and loving attitudes of your children, so our Heavenly Father rejoices to see His children living in harmony and love.

1 John 2:3-12

In 1 John 2:1-11, John warmly and tenderly addressed his readers as little children not only here but in many other places in the letter. As a part of that affection, John wanted them to not sin. The verb tense here conveys acts of sin as opposed to habitual sin. John assumed they weren’t living a sinful lifestyle, but also realized that there would inevitably be a time when they did sin. What would they do then? According to John, they should remember the good and finished work of Jesus.

John described Jesus as our advocate, the same word Jesus used for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16. The word means “one called alongside” to present a defendant’s case. Jesus is the righteous one who fully obeyed the Father’s command, and because He is, He is qualified to represent us before God. The greatest way He demonstrated His love for us and His obedience to the Father was His voluntary death as the propitiation for our sins. The term propitiation refers to the removal of divine wrath. Jesus took the righteous and just punishment for sin on Himself, and because He did, we can always return to that fact when we find ourselves in sin.

But these sins cannot be our general pattern of life, because obedience to Christ’s commands is evidence that our faith is real and we know Him. The word know conveys the idea of knowledge by experience. Unlike the false teachers John was writing against who argued that conduct was unimportant, John claimed that anyone who claims to know Christ but doesn’t keep His commands is a liar. The genuine believer is the one who consistently keeps Christ’s word, walking as He walked.

As true believers walk as Jesus walked, one of the primary ways that walk will be exhibited is through their love. This wasn’t a new command; it’s as old as Leviticus 19:18, but loving one’s neighbors as one’s self was fresh in its centrality in the Christian life. It echoes the words of Jesus in the upper room (John 13:34), and its emphasis is on loving as Jesus loved. This kind of love pushes back the darkness of evil and hatred and reveals the true light that Jesus is and brings. So important is this love that a person cannot truly live in the light and at the same time hate his brother. That hatred is evidence that a person remains in the darkness, or in the realm of evil.



DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

1 Timothy 1:5

Have you ever lived next door to a musician? It can be a real treat when he or she is accomplished. But what about when said musician is, for instance, a lousy drummer who knows how to do nothing but pound…? We all understand that in the right context musicians gathering to play is lovely.

A symphony, for example, can perform tremendously beautiful and resonating pieces. They each play their part, complementing one another to form one cohesive sound. But remember Paul’s warning to the Corinthians, that “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Corinthians 13:1)?

A Christian who misses that the “aim of our charge is love” is like someone pounding away at a cymbal, drowning out everything surrounding it. When we don’t aim for love, our selfish pride takes over. Our actions drown out the cross of Christ and point to ourselves instead of our Creator. Realize then, that the body of Christ is meant to be a beautiful symphony, with everyone following the Conductor’s baton, playing in concert with one another, everyone’s sound harmonizing with the others.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”

Ephesians 4:1-3

As a leader in the early church, Paul did not want the early Christian movement to destroy itself from the inside. They faced plenty of persecution from external sources, so it would have been very hard to maintain the momentum they were developing across the Mediterranean if there was not this commitment to maintaining the unity of the Spirit.

Human nature is not always agreeable though. Sometimes we feel like there are those people that we just cannot get along with. It might be something as basic as a personality conflict, but we just have problems appreciating certain people. Paul encourages us to bear with each other in love particularly within the church. He doesn’t promise us that we are all going to get along perfectly. However, we have to maintain the unity of the Spirit because we are Christians, and we are brothers and sisters. That ultimately becomes a matter of priorities.

Do we ultimately care more about unity or disagreement? I am sure that we would all claim to answer that question in the same way, but the ultimate proof is in how we treat our brothers and sisters. My prayer for all of us is that we bear with each other in love even if it might be difficult. In the end, the result of doing God’s work as a united force is worth all the effort we put into overcoming our differences.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

Gosh, I hear this a lot in Christian circles that it’s un-Christlike to not “like” someone. Well that’s a bunch of hogwash. All of us have different personalities, and it is unrealistic that you will “like” everyone, or be in relationship with them.

There are four Greek words for love, two used in the Bible specifically: phileo and agape. Now, phileo is a deep friendship type of love. This would be those people you hang with, your besties, the people you actually like to be around and “click” with. The other type of love is agape. Agape is a willful love, a purposeful love of the heart and the mind, that shows kindness in spite of whether or not you “like” someone. Hence, it’s a stronger love.

It was agape love that drove Jesus, not because He liked people or what they did, quite the contrary. He liked a few close friends. He chose willfully to show kindness and mercy to even His enemies, those who profaned Him. It was agape love that kept Him on the cross so that His enemies could become sons and daughters.

We are told, “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Eph 4:32) This is agape love, that you willfully show kindness, even when you don’t “like” someone; that you willfully forgive, even when you don’t feel like it.

This purposeful agape love, therefore, makes it possible to “love your enemies and do good to those who misuse you” even when you don’t “like” them. If you’re struggling with this today, draw on His strength and His power!

Adapted From: http:// shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 4

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

John 15:12-17

Good friends are hard to find, and our busy schedules don’t help. Many people don’t make time to cultivate meaningful friendships—are you possibly among their number? If so, notice how Jesus prioritized time with His friends. He lived closely with His disciples for three years and proved to be not only their Lord and Savior but also the best friend they’d ever had.

Unlike the disciples, we’ve never physically walked with Jesus, but this doesn’t exclude us from His friendship. First 1 Peter 1:8 says, “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Every person who trusts in Christ becomes His friend, and the ultimate proof of His unwavering love is that He laid down His life for whoever would believe. Without the Savior’s amazing act of self-sacrifice, His disciples—along with every one of His followers since then—would have been eternally lost and separated from the Lord forever.

Although Jesus is a unique friend unlike any other, we can learn much about friendship from His example. He tells us to love one another as He has loved us, and His is a self-sacrificing love that does what’s best for the other person. Jesus was open and honest with His friends, making known to them all that the Father had told Him.

What a comfort to know that though others may disappoint and abandon us, Christ always remains a faithful, patient, and loving friend. And as we seek to emulate and obey Him, we will become that same kind of friend to others.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

Romans 2:4

Just as patience will take anything from others, kindness will give anything to others. God, of course, is our supreme model in this. Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4 NKJV).

You’re a Christian because God’s love won you over. The goodness of God brought you to repentance. In the same way, if a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, then she will respond. Just as the church responds to Jesus, a wife will respond to the loving initiative of her husband.

We’re to show kindness to one another in practical things. For example, when you first started going out with the person who became your wife, you wanted to impress her. You dressed nicely and cleaned up your car. You picked her up at her house and opened the door for her. You told her she was beautiful and brought her little gifts.

Then you got married and well, things changed a bit. You still bring her gifts: “Honey, here’s my dirty laundry. Can you get it washed soon?” You still open the door for her, but you close it before she’s all the way through. You’re taking her for granted.

The Bible says of the virtuous woman that “her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her” (Proverbs 31:28 NLT). Guys, when is the last time you praised your wife? When is the last time you complimented her?

I don’t know why, but it’s generally the nature of men to suppress emotions and to suppress affection. So we have to make a conscious effort to go against the grain of what comes naturally. We have to make a conscious effort to show kindness.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

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