Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Real Relationships: Love Like Christ

My Life Group lesson for June 4, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

If you are addicted to social media, you’re not alone.

--- 1.9 billion people use Facebook.
--- 700 million use Instagram.
--- 328 million use Twitter.
--- Supposedly 500 million “use” LinkedIn. (Or at least signed up but never figured out what to do.)

We are more connected than ever before. You can keep up friendships from the old days. You can stay in contact with former church members. You can say hey to family who lives far away.

In some cases, however, our relationships may not be any better.

Do you ever find yourself feeling worse about yourself while reading social media?

Some studies say that if we compare ourselves to others we’ll always come out on the bottom.

Remember: We post photos of us on our best days, not of our kids throwing tantrums. We post pictures of our best food, not the bowl of Cheerios we ate on the couch while watching Netflix. We post about happy events, but not about the mundane routine of our lives.

When we see people face-to-face, however, we connect with them as they really are. As Christians we can see them as Christ sees them – and love them as Christ loves them.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** We were created for two kinds of relationships: 1. Our relationship with God; 2. Our relationships with other people. Each one affects the other.

*** For the next six weeks we’re going to examine our relationships, from forming bonds to deep friendships. We won’t just find the kinds of friends we want for ourselves; we’ll also discover the kind of friend we need to be to others.

*** Today we read in the Gospel of John where Jesus shows us how our relationship with God affects all our other relationships. This one relationship is the key that makes all the difference.

John 15:9-13

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” 12 “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.”

*** Even scruffy-headed nerf herders need love.

--- Relationships can be fragile. Everything’s fine if two people are traveling down the same road, but what happens if those two people don’t see eye to eye? What if open animosity is evident in the relationship? The Christian’s role in a relationship—any relationship—is to love. When we live and dwell in the love of Christ, that same love seeps into all our relationships.

--- We can’t overstate the awesomeness of verse 9.

--- “As the Father has loved” Jesus, so Jesus loves us.

--- God loves Jesus a lot. Their relationship is eternal. God’s flying doves at Jesus and talking about how proud He is.

--- If Jesus loves us just as much, then we are truly blessed.

--- And with that blessing, we will be obedient to Him, in awe of wonder.

--- It’s easy to mis-read verse 10 as saying “If you obey Me then I will continue to love you.”

--- That would be a conditional love, which is empty of grace, and we know that it is God’s grace that saves us.

(If our love for our spouses and children was conditional upon total obedience then it would be a hard home to live in.)

--- We don’t keep Jesus’ commands to earn His love; we keep His commands in response to His love.

--- God’s love changes us when we believe, so that we choose obedience because it pleases Him.

*** Love like you are loved.

--- Verses 12 and 13 make it clear that God the Father and Jesus the Son love us, but it doesn’t stop there.

--- We are to love one another, and in the same way that Jesus loves us.

--- Of course we know it is impossible to love as perfectly as Jesus does.

--- After all, He laid down His life for us.

--- Verse 13 reminds us that we are to express love for others in the same way.

--- Not long before Jesus said this to the disciples, they were arguing about which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24).

--- Jesus knew their selfish ways, just as He knows we are selfish.

--- Thankfully Jesus transforms us with the Holy Spirit to guide us so that we don’t rely on our own strength.

--- You don’t have to actually die in place of another person to fulfill this command.

--- Where we apply this actually comes in tossing aside our selfishness in small, daily matters.

--- We exercise love as we serve others. We can do so by listening, helping, encouraging, and giving. In these small, daily ways, we can love others as Jesus loves.

--- Our love for Christ is seen in how we love others.

--- Do we die to self in order to serve another? Do you give up your own pursuits in order to serve someone you love?

*** Question – What are some ways we can die to ourselves to serve someone else?

John 15:14-17

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.”

*** Jesus is my pal.

--- What’s the reward for being with Jesus? He calls His followers his friends!

--- The blessing of obedience is intimacy with God.

--- You will come to know things that you could never know any other way when you become intimate with God.

--- (Think of the people who work around kings and queens and presidents, those who tend to their needs. They overhear many secrets, and learn about the hearts of their leaders.)

--- You can be a part of the inner circle that comes with serving Him.

--- Amos 3:7 says “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.”

*** Orange you glad you get to serve Jesus?

--- In verse 16 the next step is to bear fruit.

--- Gardeners know, to grow food in your backyard you have to make sure the seeds are planted in the right soil in the ideal climate, and have to be protected from disease to flourish.

--- Just as our backyard food, Jesus provides us all we need to live fruitfully.

--- When you live in a relationship with Jesus, you can’t help but bear fruit.

--- When we walk with Jesus— remaining in Him, obeying Him, and loving as He loves—our lives will bear fruit for Him.

--- And that fruit is the purpose of evangelism and our mission to spread the gospel.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

I read a story this week about a college student who was a new believer, and she was so grateful for what God had done for her that she just wanted to know “How can I pay God back?”

Of course, while we could never properly “pay God back,” we can still show Him our gratitude.

Let His love fill you and flow out of you into love for others.

That’s when you will bear fruit in each of those relationships—fruit that brings glory to God.

*** We all want real, authentic relationships, but that starts with a relationship with Christ.

*** Remain in Jesus and watch how His love strengthens your relationships.

*** Ask God to show you who you’re not loving like Christ. Pray for them, and then reach out to them.

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