How can we impact our hate-filled world for Christ? Part 3

“Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’ ” John 13:38

We are learning how to impact our hate-filled world for Christ. So far we have discovered we must comprehend God’s love (John 13:31-33) and commit to loving others as Christ loved us (John 13:34-35). The final way to impact a hate-filled world for Christ, is to CLING TO JESUS SO HE CAN LOVE OTHERS THROUGH US (John 13:36-38).

Jesus’s announcement of His departure and consequent separation from His disciples raised concerns in their minds (John 13:33). Peter spoke up first. “Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.’ ” (John 13:36). Peter loved the Lord so much he wanted to go with Him. Jesus gently tells Peter it would not be possible for him to be with Jesus right then, but He did encourage Peter when He said, “you shall follow Me afterward.” Perhaps Christ was referring to when Peter would die and go to heaven to be with Him.

“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.’ ” (John 13:37). Peter was perplexed about the Lord’s destination. Because of the opposition of the religious leaders on previous visits, Jesus had departed from Jerusalem. Peter supposed on this occasion that Jesus would depart to another region outside of Jerusalem.  The disciples had accompanied Jesus on other departures from Jerusalem, why couldn’t Peter accompany Him this time? Peter concludes that Jesus was departing alone because it was too dangerous for the Eleven to follow Him. On this occasion Peter was not afraid to go with Jesus in the face of danger. He would be loyal to Christ even unto death! Notice Peter’s self-reliance: “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” He does not say, “By God’s grace or with God’s help I will lay down my life for Your sake.”

Peter had good intentions, but it is much easier to express them in a secure room after good food than in a darkened garden with a hostile mob. We can be a lot like Peter. In our minds we envision ourselves as better followers of Jesus than we actually are. Pride can cause us to think too highly of ourselves and then we fall flat on our faces.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’ ” (John 13:38). The Lord knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. He knew Peter would disown Him when his life was threatened. Peter needed to learn to rely on the Lord to remain loyal to Him. Jesus would lay down His life for Peter, but Peter in no way would lay down his life for the Lord at this time.

How do you think Peter felt when he heard Jesus predict his three denials of knowing Christ? Confused? Shocked? Peter was certain he would be faithful to Christ even when threatened with death. “I’ll show You, Lord, how loyal I am to You!” Peter thought he could remain faithful to Jesus in his own strength. Perhaps he thought he could love the other disciples like Jesus loved him by using his own abilities. “Lord, I love these guys so much, I will even lay down my life for them!” “No Peter,” Jesus says, “You must learn to rely on Me to do this in your life.”

We cannot love one another as Christ has loved us unless we trust Him to love others through us. It is not a natural desire to wash dirty feet, especially when those dirty feet belong to someone else. Nor is it natural for us to want to cleanse the dirt in our own spiritual lives. God must work in our hearts to enable us to do this.

Jesus is calling us to let Him live a supernatural life through us so we can love the undeserving as He has loved us. This coming week, you will probably have opportunities to love other believers with dirty feet. You may learn that someone has gossiped about you and said some very hurtful things about you. You may be tempted to do the same to him or her. Someone at your work or school may push your buttons and test your patience. You will be tempted to get angry and retaliate.

Like Peter, John is reminding us that we cannot love Jesus’ way in our own strength. We must rely on Christ who can give us the power to love others selflessly, sacrificially, and unconditionally as He has loved us. Today will you make a commitment to obey Jesus’ new commandment and love one another as He has loved you? You won’t regret it and it may encourage an unbeliever to investigate this Person by the name of Jesus Christ. The world desperately needs disciples of Jesus who love like Jesus loves.

Prayer: Lord God, I cannot give to others what I do not have. This is why it is so important to spend time with You so I may receive Your love for me. Like a water bucket under a faucet, I need You to refill my love bucket under the fountain of Your love when I am running on empty. I can tell when I need to be refilled. I tend to be easily irritated or angered, and it is difficult to let go of past hurts and be available to love others. Thank You for reminding me that I cannot love others in my own strength. I need to spend time with You, talking to You in prayer and listening to You as I read and study the Bible. The more time I spend with You, the more You enable me to love those who matter to me. I give myself to You, my Lord and my God, to be a channel of Your love to others. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

How to reach self-reliant people with the Gospel

“Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’ ” Mark 10:21

After Jesus taught that childlike faith was necessary to enter the kingdom of God (10:15), He encountered a rich religious man who lacked this childlike faith because he trusted his riches instead of Jesus for his kingdom entrance (10:17-24). This man thought he was good enough to enter heaven. What he failed to understand was that only God was that good. If Jesus truly is “good,” (10:17), then He must be God because “no one is good but One, that is, God” (10:18).

Christ sought to show this rich man his need to trust in God (Jesus) who alone is good by using the Law (10:19; cf. Rom. 3:20), but the man proudly said he kept “all these” commandments “from” his “youth” (10:20). He thought he was good enough to earn his way to heaven. Even though this man arrogantly thought his own righteousness was great enough to get him into heaven, we are told that “Jesus…loved him” (10:21a). Christ’s love is not turned away by stubborn arrogance!

Jesus then sought to show this rich man the “one thing” he truly lacked – childlike faith in Christ (10:15) – by confronting him with the call to discipleship – “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (10:21). But because the rich man trusted his riches (10:24), “he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (10:22). This wealthy man loved himself and his possessions more than his neighbor.

Jesus explained to His disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a [sowing] needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (10:25). From a human perspective, this rich man was too big of a camel, too proud to ever become “small” enough to pass through the needle’s eye with a childlike act of faith. Instead of being ready to put child-like faith in Christ alone to save him from his sins (10:15), this rich man was confident of his own morality and goodness. 

But Christ assures His disciples (and us), that “with God all things are possible” (10:27). Just as no man could ever push a big gamely camel through the eye of a sewing needle, so no amount of human persuasion could ever bring a self-reliant, rich man to trust in Christ alone for the gift of salvation. But God could do it. Salvation is a miracle. It’s not only a miracle that rich people get saved, but that anyone can get saved. Jesus had skillfully used the call to discipleship to reveal to the rich man that he was not as good as he once thought. Perhaps the rich man would come to grips with his own inability to save himself and see his need to trust in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life (10:15; cf. John 3:15-16, 36). 

Maybe you know someone who is very wealthy and self-reliant and has no interest in spiritual things. Don’t give up. Trust God to prepare that person’s heart to place his childlike faith in Jesus alone to save him from his sins.

And if you are a person who is wealthy and self-reliant, I believe Jesus would look you in the eye and say to you, “Don’t you understand? I have done the tough part. I did the suffering. I died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead. Now all you have to do is open up your arms and receive this free gift of eternal life with childlike faith in Me.”  And I think He might also say, “I know that is hard for proud people to do. I know it’s hard for successful people to do, people who have relied on themselves their whole life. I know it is difficult. But take courage and do the right thing and open up your arms and receive this free gift.” And when you do, Christ will give you His free gift of everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29).