Deeper relationships last week with God this week with one another, and you just blessed me to no end the way you sang. That’s him. Bind us together in love and that’s what we’re gonna look at this morning. As true Christian friends, how we are bound to one another in love through a commitment to one another, just as God has committed himself to us and loved us, that he might forgive us, and so then we get to offer that forgiveness with one another even when it costs something. Back in my college days, a friend of mine, we were in Montana at the time, and I was finishing school and we were reflecting on the number of friends we had had in high school and later on who had walked away from their faith, weren’t practicing it anymore. And those years are tough on a young person’s faith. And we were asking ourselves, out of all of our friends who had walked away from Christ, how was it that he and I were still. Living our Christian faith and following Jesus. And it came down to one thing. It was the friends that we kept, our Christian friends helped us in those turbulent young adult years of keeping our faith in tact and following Christ. And isn’t that true for you? Not just back then, but even today? We need friends who are with us and can keep us together following Christ. But we also need friends to stand in the gap when the, our, the rug is pulled out from underneath us in our lives and we are in trouble. Another friend that I knew when he was in high school, one night after he graduated, I got a call from someone who knew him and said, oh, he’s in a tough place. Something’s happened in his life. And, and he’s, he’s emotionally distraught and he threatened to kill himself. Could you go. See him. This was in Minnesota, in the middle of winter, about nine o’clock at night. I was finishing seminary. I remember, uh, I was studying for a Hebrew test. I can still remember this, and I was more than willing to set those studies aside and go see my friend, but more than that. I mean, it was a heavy hearted drive out to his farm place out in rural Minnesota. I pulled up to the place at night, middle of winter only to see him walk outside, bare back. I. Bottle of beer in one hand, shotgun in the other. I, I, I kind of say jokingly, don’t shoot. He sets the beer bottle down, takes the shotgun, pull, uh, pulls off three rounds real quick into the dark field beside the house, sets the gun down by the outside of the house, goes into the door and closes it. I walk up to the door not knowing what I’m gonna find, open it to find him. Just standing there saying. Someone finally came and he throws his arms around my neck and begins to sob deeply. After he composed himself and he started to share what had happened, how things had become so dark for him, and he was at his parents’ place.
They were weighing a trip, and the loss and pain had been so unbearable. He was drinking and he had this shotgun that he loaded up and had even sat on the edge of the couch, put the butt of the gun on the floor, put the muzzle into his mouth and his finger on the trigger. And by God’s grace, he didn’t squeeze. It was a close call. We talked, we prayed, we cried. I didn’t judge. I listened and eventually was able to get him to a safe place and with others who could help him recover from this trauma in his life. That almost ended it. And my friends, he needed a true friend to stand there along with them and keep him from falling over the precipice of life. And that can happen. It can actually happen to any of us. Let’s be honest. We are not invincible. We are not immortal. And sometimes our life gets tough, and that’s when we need a true friend. And don’t you long for a friend or a group of friends that you know have your back no matter what happens, a crew of friends that you know that you can rely on and to be honest about your need of help, you know, they’re not gonna judge you, but they’re gonna step alongside with you and support you. We long to belong, don’t we? And you were not meant to live life alone. Not now, not ever. And Jesus understands this need of every human being for relationships we’re made in his image. And he has this relationship with the father and you have the trinity, and then now with us, his creation and this need for healthy relationships abounds across all humanity and, and we have the best resources to live into it as the Christian Church, as Christ’s body. Loving one another. It’s foundational to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. So if you brought your Bibles or you can turn in your devices and follow along with me, we’ll also have it up on the screen. We’re gonna read from John chapter 15 verses nine through 17, where Jesus talks about the kinda love we have with one another. And. It was Jim Red it for us from John’s own pen. Later on now we’re going to hear John recording Jesus’ own words to his disciples then and to you. Now today, Jesus said, as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you, abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love just as I have kept my father’s commandments and abide in his love.
These things. I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love as no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends. If you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants for the servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends for all that I have heard from my father. I’ve made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide so that whatever you ask the father in my name, he may give it to you. This is my command to love one another. The word of the Lord. Amen. God, let’s pray. Father, as we delve into your word, I ask that by your Holy Spirit now you would enliven each of our hearts to receive it, and that as we abide in you and your word abides in us, our roots would grow deeper and our lives would bear fruit to the glory of your name. Jesus. Amen. Dear friends, grace and peace to you from God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Today we’re gonna look at building deeper relationships with one another, and in particular three hallmarks of true Christian friendship. The first of which is this word, what I call covenant, a covenantal love covenant. It’s not a word that we really use. Often is it, if at all, in, in our, in our daily lives. But it, it’s a covenantal love God toward us. And then he calls us to live in a covenant love relationship with one another. And here’s what it really means, covenant friendship. It means being there for that other person no matter what. Not just when it’s fun and easy, but when they’re difficult and, and need to be loved. It’s this underlying commitment. To love someone else no matter what. Covenant is an underlying principle of scripture. We see it from the covenant back in Genesis 15 that God made with Abraham all the way up to the new covenant, sealed with the blood of Christ in the New Testament. And we are constantly reminded that God has this covenant or contract with us, but your contract might be one way to think about it, but covenant is more than that. It’s a gracious commitment. Where God fully identifies with you, sharing all that he has and is with you and loyal to you, no matter the cost, and it costs God a lot to love you. This relationship, we see it most deeply expressed in the incarnation of God. We just celebrated that last month. Jesus, God in the flesh. God’s covenantal love with us. It’s, it’s not this two-way contract of like, you come halfway and I’ll meet you the other. And it’s not a contract based on compromise, but it’s a covenant based on promise. And here’s the wonderful truth. Your right relationship with God is not based on the promises you’ve made to him. ’cause let’s be honest, we’re not the all the best at promise keeping always are we. But God is, and so God’s covenantal love for you is based solely upon his promises to you and promises that you see. God has made and kept in sending his son Jesus Christ. God is a hundred percent for you. His covenantal love is based on him, not on you.
It’s this predisposition that he has for you, because in Christ Jesus, God loves you even when you’re unlovable. Here’s how the Bible puts it in Romans five, verse eight, but God demonstrates his own love for us in this. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ died for you, not because you were a good person or he know you’d become this really good, perfect person. He died for you when you were still a sinner. Another way to think about it’s when you were an enemy of him, he still died for, you see God’s love is it? It’s not a feeling. It’s not the way our, our culture considers love, which is more like, Than love. It’s not easy and done when it’s convenient. The dev, the word for divine love in our text is the word agape in Greek. Some of you may have heard that before. Agape love. It’s a choice. It’s a predisposition that God has toward you. It’s a sacrificial love that we see most clearly in Christ and his cross, and it unites and it heals. Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of, of the will. And this is what it means. When the Bible says God demonstrates his love for you, it’s while you’re still a sinner. Christ died for you. And this is the kinda love with which we are called to love one another, to love others even when they’re not lovable, even when they sin against you. Which then calls for the second key hallmark of Christian friendship, and that is forgiveness. Jesus said this in our Texan verse 12, this is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. You don’t love one another outta your own. Conceptional love you. Look to God and Christ and how you’ve been loved, and that’s how you’re called to love one another. As Christian friends, then it means working through the hurts that happen.
Let’s just be honest, we’re human and we’re gonna rub up against each other some ways that make us bristle or that even hurt. And isn’t it something how it’s in the Christian Church that we can even see divisions run on for years between people when we of all people have the greatest resources to forgive truly and deeply. We are called to love one another. That way as God has loved us in Christ, which is marked by forgiveness. The Bible says it this way in Ephesians four, verse 32. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you. So it’s because of Jesus that God loves and forgives you, and it’s because of Jesus that you can then love and forgive. Someone else. And Jesus said in John 1335, it’s by this, that everyone will know if you’re my disciples, if they see how much you love one another. And what better way to show that kinda love than to forgive someone even when they’ve hurt you deeply. So let’s try to get a little more personal. What does, what might forgiveness look like for you? Today. Is there someone in your life with whom you know there’s a rift and there’s been no reconciliation or healing? What can be your part in moving that brokenness toward restoration? It’s to confess, it’s to forgive. Confession is what opens the gate that can lead to forgiveness. I think about Matthew, the tax collector part of Jesus’ Posse of 12. He was before Christ called him a tax collector. And you know, I think we can kind of easily whitewash what the implications were for these people. But Matthew’s a tax collector. It was like he was right down there with prostitutes and quote sinners. It was code for like some of the worst kinds of sinners among us. That’s who Matthew was before Christ called him. And while the scriptures don’t tell us all the backstory, Of Matthew. You’ve seen, we actually showed a couple episodes here of the chosen, you’ve heard of this, it’s a production, it’s in its third season now. We showed episodes one and two here last month in episode two. There is a scene there fictional. Yes. But I think following the, the, the biblical record, what was it like for Matthew and his family? When he was this tax collector, I mean as a tax, he was not just a tax collector, he was his father’s tax collector. In this story, talk about a deep hurt. Matthew had not only caused his family to lose their reputation, but because of this, his father had lost his business and the father then had actually reciprocated by disowning his son.
Deep broken relationships, and maybe some of you can understand the depth of that kinda hurt. But then Jesus comes, he calls Matthew as a disciple, and Matthew’s life has changed because of Christ. Matthew’s Father, Alpheus and his wife actually go and listen to Jesus preach on the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus’ words start having an effect in their lives. So I’d like you just to imagine with me now what this might have been like as you watch this little clip from the Chosen. Please watch the screens is my friend. You have a friend. Yesterday, my rabbi said that every time we pray to God, we must ask him to forgive us our debts and. I recognize that I owe equate debt to you, Matthew. You don’t owe us any money. The debt isn’t material. Yeah, I hurt you. And I heard our community and, and my rabbi also said that before we lay a sacrifice at the altar, if we know a brother has an offense against us, we should leave the sacrifice there. And go be reconciled. Uh, of course, only priests lay gifts at the altar. And, and, and you are not my brother. But, uh, this example is in many ways a metaphor, which I’m learning. And yes, Matthew, we get it. Move on. I never understood why I was so different from everyone else. I, I just wanted a comfortable life. You wanted to be better than everybody face. No, you are right. And I loved affluence because of it. I was comfortable behind bars in the boot and the armed escort behind the go door. All the while you were scored at synagogue, you lost your reputation and friends. I shamed our family. I turn my back on our people. And I believe the choices I made were better for me and more important than my family and faith. That was selfish, which is wrong, but I, I I didn’t understand that then, but, but I do now and I’m sorry. Yeah. I, I wish I could take back the harm I caused you. I, uh, alright. Alright. I, I will search for something I can do to atone. Matthew, sit down. I prefer to stand. Please. I don’t deserve the courtesy. You’re not the only one who must atone.
Are you hungry? I lost my business because of you and you are correct. We lost our reputations and friends. I know. But I had no right to reject you as my son. God should strike me down for the things I said to you. I was shameful. Can you forgive me? I only made things worse. I’m. Sorry. We are sorry, but what? But what has changed? I sinned. We saw him too, Matthew. We heard his sermon. He’s the teacher you are following. Yes. He called me and I knew have already aone. They were the most true words I’ve ever heard. Some of it’s shocking. I know I wrote it all down. You are a scribe. You’ll redeem our family’s name, Matthew. He chose you to this day. I don’t know why to forgive. Someone truly sincerely from the heart, it starts with confession and confession. It’s not just a a, a short. Off cuff, off the cuff expression of I’m, I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done, or if you were hurt, I’m sorry. It’s owning it deeply. You know how when you’re seeing little kids, or maybe this happened to you, you’re fighting with a sibling and your mom or dad comes up and saying, now stop it, and I’ll just say you’re sorry, and what do you do? You just go, I’m sorry.
I think we do that sometimes as adults with each other as well, and that’s not. True confession. True confession means owning your part in the brokenness and not just what you did, but then trying to understand how it hurt the person you have offended and you know, you also need to hear it on the other side of that coin. When someone approaches you and says, here’s how you’ve hurt me. Will you let the Holy Spirit work in you? The kinda love that you can hear that. And respond in confession yourself. That will lead toward forgiveness to, to offer forgiveness to someone who’s hurt you. You need a deep wellspring to draw from. And if you’re like me, my resources are limited, but Gods are not because in Christ Jesus, God has forgiven you. Not just once when you first came to faith or when you were baptized, but now every day of your life, you live in daily repentance and he forgives you as on this side of eternity. We still struggle with sin and so we confess it and God is what, faithful and just and will forgive you your sins. Now, that’s an unending wellspring that you can draw from. Then as you seek to ask for and offer forgiveness one with another. Because you see, when you are hurt, there’s really only two options for you. I first heard this from Pastor Rick Warren. He said, you can become either bitter or you can become better. Being bitter means just hold on that resentment and don’t let it go. And isn’t it sad that in the church of all places there we, there are those kinds of relationships where someone’s unwilling to let go of that hurt and they become bitter and resentful. Or you can become better. And the only way to become better is to let that the poison of that hurt be removed and a healing balm of the forgiveness like God has forgiven you to forgive one another in that same way. And that’s the key for Christian friendship to forgive, is to dwell in God’s forgiveness for you and then ask God to give you the will. And the opportunity, and then the faith to forgive one another. That’s what it means to grow deeper in our relationships as Christian friends, based on God’s covenantal love for us that then calls us to forgive.
And here’s the third and final point. Even when it costs you something, it involves sacrifice. Forgiveness involves sacrifice. It did for God. Jesus said in our text, greater love is no one than this, that a person lays down his life for his friends. And I think we can sometimes make that like, oh yes, it’s like the ultimate commitment of, of someone dying for others. And there are plenty of stories of that happening, but there’s also the, the dying to self that needs to go on day to day. Not in some dramatic way that you might rise to that occasion, but rather in an ongoing way to forgive. How about someone who keeps offending you repeatedly? That’s a whole nother message. God still calls you to forgive just as God forgives you, as you repeatedly sin Also. Greater love is known than this, that he lays down his life for his friends. Here’s the real rub. Jesus lived those words that he said actually he lived and died and as Christ followers and we are called to take up our cross daily, died to ourselves and follow him, and we have ample opportunity to do so. When there is hurt in a relationship and we can seek forgiveness and reconciliation, and so here at Victory, let’s be a place where forgiveness occurs regularly. Often it’s the expectation that we know we’re gonna hurt each other, so then let’s find ways to forgive one another. I’m not giving you a license just to go out and just. Do whatever regardless, and then you’ll just somehow forgive and wipe up the mess. No, we are called to love one another sacrificially, but when there are hurts, then to seek forgiveness even when it costs. Let’s be a place where forgiveness occurs, where grace abounds, where we can be honest, not just with God when we confess out loud publicly, but with one another. Honest and forthcoming about the hurts we have done and that have been done to us, and then to find true and genuine forgiveness with one another. I, I’ve seen this go on here with us already at victory in, in kind of a, a smaller sort of way, just being a, a friend to someone in a, in need, not a desperate life ending need. But there, a couple women last weekend were telling me that one of ’em doesn’t like to go to church alone. And the other woman was saying, and I don’t, I can’t drive, I don’t know how to get to church. They found each other and they’re just two peas in a pod. Happy as can be coming together to church, worshiping the Lord and being good Christian friends to each other. For others. I know there’s deeper ways that you show this kind of Christian friendship. Those who lovingly and sacrificially will care for a neighbor, not even a family member. It’s an ongoing commitment and it’s a, it’s a covenantal commitment really, where for months they’re involved day after day and the care needs of this person no end in sight, and it’s because of the love of Christ. Others here I know have, for example, cared for an aging parent with whom there’s a. There’s a rift in the relationship, but the need is there, and this child is stepping up to care for a parent who doesn’t make it easy, and they end up having to forgive their parent daily as they lovingly care for their mom or their dad.
Why? Why can this go on in the church? True Christian friendship. It’s it. It is, but it’s more than just courtesy or good manners. It calls for a willingness to forgive even when it costs. It’s what Jesus did for you and for me when he emptied himself. Paul writes about it this way in Flippings two. He says, in your relationships with one another, have the same mindset of Christ who being in very nature God. So Paul is saying, look. As you relate with one another, think about Christ who being God himself did not consider equality with God. Something to be used to his own advantage, but rather he made himself nothing. Another translation says he emptied himself. Taking the very nature of a servant and being found in human likeness. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. And as we take up our own crosses daily and follow Jesus, we are then called to forgive one another, even when it feels like we might be dying. As we sacrifice our sense of position or writes or privilege, Paul writes to the church in Colossae about it this way, bear with each other and forgive one another. If you have a, any grievance against someone, forgive. As the Lord forgave you. So did you get it? Covenantal commitment. Love God toward you, you toward one another with forgiveness as its centerpiece, even when it calls for sacrifice on your end just to love one another, just as God has love you. So here’s, if you take one thing away from this message, here’s what it is. Be friends with one another. The same way Jesus is a friend to you. You need Christians like that in your life and you get to be a Christian friend like this to someone else. So build deeper relationships with one another. And do you know what the result of it is? It’s joy Jesus says by this. My love is made perfect in you, and my joy is in you, and your joy is complete. And the it’s a joy that Jesus himself experienced when he endured the cross. The writer of the book of Hebrews chapter 12 says it this way, for the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross scorned at shame. And then the writer says, so consider him who endured such opposition from sinners so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. And that’s my prayer for you and for all of us here at Victory, we will not grow weary and lose heart in loving one another. A commitment that’s willing to forgive even when it costs. Let’s pray. Father in heaven, be glorified. In us and here in victory so that you might be glorified in the world. Mark us as a people of love, to love one another like you’ve loved us, Lord Jesus, even sacrificially and be glorified now in us and in our lives. Ask in your precious name. Amen.