Psalm 98

A psalm.

98 Sing to the Lord a new song
because he has done wonderful things!
His own strong hand and his own holy arm
have won the victory!
The Lord has made his salvation widely known;
he has revealed his righteousness
in the eyes of all the nations.
God has remembered his loyal love
and faithfulness to the house of Israel;
every corner of the earth has seen our God’s salvation.

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth!
Be happy!
Rejoice out loud!
Sing your praises!
Sing your praises to the Lord with the lyre—
with the lyre and the sound of music.
With trumpets and a horn blast,
shout triumphantly before the Lord, the king!
Let the sea and everything in it roar;
the world and all its inhabitants too.
Let all the rivers clap their hands;
let the mountains rejoice out loud altogether before the Lord
because he is coming to establish justice on the earth!
He will establish justice in the world rightly;
he will establish justice among all people fairly.

John 15:9-17    Love each other

“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 17 I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.

Life in the Vineyard Continued: Chosen and Appointed

Last week, our scripture was John 15:1-9, and we talked about the vital importance of remaining in touch with Jesus.  The image that Jesus used as he talked with his disciples was a vineyard –and he talked about  the vine and the branches – we are the branches, Jesus is the true vine and the Father is the vineyard keeper.  When we live our lives intertwined with the love and power of God, we are healthy – we grow and we are fruitful.  And just like a branch that is torn off its vine, when we are separated from the source of life, we wither up and die —- we will never produce fruit if we don’t remain attached to God.

Today’s scripture follows immediately after that.  Today’s scripture continues to talk about what life in the vineyard is like – it talks about the lives of Jesus’s disciples.  Jesus talks about the ones he has chosen and appointed to bear fruit in the world.  Today, we are going to think some more about what the believer’s life might be about.

I have to tell you that this scripture really grabbed me this week as I worked on it.  There are a ton of great things in just eight verses – it’s just full of amazing things about what it’s like to live in the vineyard, to live as a follower of Jesus.  And so, I want to ask you to think about a few of these amazing things.  I’m going to use the word “amazing” a lot.  And I want to see if you are following along with me, and to see if you can agree with me.  So, periodically I’m going to ask you – “Are you amazed?”  And would you just say – “I am amazed” if you hear what I’m saying and agree.

I want to start with verse 16 and work my way back, so keep your Bible open if you have it out, and check out verse 16:

16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last.

I am amazed by this!  Jesus didn’t just choose the disciples he’s talking to in this scripture.  He chooses us, too.  You see your creator chose you from the day you were conceived.  And since the day you were born God has been calling you closer and closer.  That’s how God’s grace works – that’s how God’s unconditional love works.  Before we are even aware that God exists, God is moving in our lives to draw us into faith in Christ.  Throughout our lives that same grace continues to lead us to know in our hearts and to know in our heads that there is one true God and one savior of the world.  It is that grace that leads us to say “yes” to God.  And it is that grace that continues to help us grow in faith and that helps us remain in God’s love.  God’s grace is poured out on us every single day drawing us to live more fully attached to the vine of Christ.  I am amazed that God chooses us!  Are you amazed?

But God doesn’t just seek us out for God’s own personal benefit, but for lots of reasons as this scripture says.  And one of the reasons that God chooses us is so that we might live with joy!  Listen to this in verse 9:

“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete.

How amazing is that!  When we follow God’s commandments to love him and to love each other, the love and joy of Christ is within us, and we can live in complete joy!  When we remain in the vine, we live with complete joy – not ordinary joy, not joy every now and then, but complete joy!  Can you even imagine??  I don’t know about you, but I want more joy in my life!!  Complete joy would mean that even when we have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day – we can experience joy.  Even when we are in the depths of despair we can seek the presence of God and begin to feel joy.  We are chosen and appointed to experience complete joy!  It is waiting for each of us.  There are two things we must do to receive this joy – we must receive this grace of God, this love of God that is continuously offered to us, and then we are called to obey God – to follow God’s commandments to love.  I am amazed by God today; are you amazed?

Look at the next section, starting with verse 12:

12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you.

I am amazed that Jesus would call his disciples friends!  If we obey Jesus’ commands to love each other – if we are willing to show love that makes great sacrifice, we are friends of Jesus.  We are friends of the savior of the world, the king of kings and the Lord of Lords!  God doesn’t see us as slaves busily doing God’s work in the world just because he commanded it!  We are peers of the King!  We are partners with the Savior!  We are chosen and appointed to work with God to show the world what love really is.  We are chosen to have a close relationship with Christ, as a friend.   We are allowed to know the heart of our friend Jesus, and we are able to get his advice on our lives by learning about his words and actions and then imitating them.  Listen to how one writer describes this friendship we have with Christ: “No longer do we need to gaze longingly at God from afar off; we are not like slaves who have no right whatever to enter into the presence of the master; we are not like a crowd whose only glimpse of the king is in the passing on some state occasion.  Jesus gave us this intimacy with God, so that he is no longer a distant stranger, but our close friend.” (Barclay, John vol. 2, 178).  I am amazed that we, too, can be friends of God!  Are you amazed?

So let’s review before we look at one last thing.

God chooses us and appoints us –

God’s grace is constantly working on us!

And in living with God we receive love,

we receive complete joy,

and we become friends of Jesus – we know the mind of Christ and we are partners with Christ.  Are you amazed, yet?

And all of those things lead us to the purpose – why does God give us all these gifts? What do we use this love and joy and knowledge of Christ for? What are we chosen and appointed for?

Look at verse 16 again:

16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last.

We are chosen and appointed to bear lasting fruit.  We are chosen and appointed to be fruit bearers in the world.  We are chosen and appointed as ambassadors or as representatives of God in a world that is struggling to experience love and joy.  We are supposed to love each other in real life ways every single day.  I am amazed that God would choose us as his ambassadors to tell others about this radical way of living in obedience to God’s commandment to love each other deeply!  Is it just me, or are you amazed?

Verse 9, the very first verse of this section says this:

“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you.  Remain in my love.”

My mind has gotten all worked up trying to understand and describe how the Father must love the Son.   After all, they are both God-they are 2/3 of the Trinity!  And then I remembered that Jesus was talking to ordinary men; he wasn’t trying to trick them.  He was speaking to them about a relationship they would identify with.  I would imagine that these disciples had children.  And I bet they had left those children at home to follow Jesus.  And so maybe Jesus was reminding them of the love they had for their families and perhaps Jesus was hoping to explain in some way they could understand the great love that he had for them.

“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you.  Remain in me.”
This is a great love, an amazing love, that Jesus had for his disciples.  And that he has for you, too.

Just a little later, the disciples will witness this love that Christ talks about in a real way – they will witness Jesus laying down his life for his friends.  Even though Jesus had told them he was going to die, the disciples didn’t really understand it or take him literally.

And I’m afraid we don’t really understand this or take Jesus literally either.  And I’m worried that we don’t really understand or take literally Jesus’ command to love each other.

12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.

So, as our closing prayer, would you fill in this blank and offer it to God and take a minute to listen.

What would it mean to love ______ like the Father loved the Son?

Mighty God we are amazed by your loving presence.  Would you continue to reveal to us how great your love is?  Would you continue to reveal to us how to love one another?  Amen.