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A New Commandment for the New Community

From the series Love One Another

There’s one thing that Jesus told us we could do to let the whole world know we belong to Him. Chip begins this series by revealing what that one thing is and how to activate it in your life today.

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Message Transcript

I’ll never forget the first day I walked into Mr. Hall’s Algebra I class. Ninth grade. Now, you need to understand that Brad Starr and I always sat together. I got my growth in life very late and so in ninth grade, in a junior high – seventh, eighth, and ninth – of several hundred students, Brad Starr was the only boy shorter than me and, I don’t know why this is, but he was class clown number two and I was his assistant.

And so, we would get to classes early, Brad could make everybody laugh, and I was sort of his stagehand and I would just stoke the fires.

That’s until Mr. Hall’s class. Lights are off, Brad has got everyone going, and I am just ready, you know, it’s my time to really soup it up and get it going because Brad was the funniest guy I ever met. And, the lights came on: “Mr. Starr!”

And here, our introduction to Mr. Hall came. Flat top, black glasses, tape on the right, you got it. Pocket protector; chalk dust on the corner. And he sat over that overhead so that the light always reflected off his forehead.

This was math as we had never known it. “Mr. Starr, you are now excused,” and they had a brief conversation, and he was gone. And so being second in command in the clowning activity, I started to whisper to someone, “Mr. Ingram!” “Eww.” “Would you like to join Mr. Starr?” “No sir, no sir, Mr. Hall.” That was my introduction to Algebra I.

We learned that you would be there one minute early. The lights will be off. He will walk in at exactly on the hour, the lights will come on. You will sit quietly, you will not talk in the minute before he arrives, you will have a Number 2 pencil, you will have nothing on your desk but your homework that is completed. If it’s not completed, you will not stay there. And you will learn math. “My name is Mr. Hall and you can call me Mr. Hall.”

I was scared to death of that guy. And I should have been. From that day on, I arrived early, I brought a Number 2 pencil, I cleared my desk, I always did my homework, and then something happened.

Math was a dreaded subject for me up until ninth grade. I hated it. You ever found how much you hate things you’re no good at? But day after day, week after week, he began to put x’s into the second power and over y, minus y. And all of a sudden, I realized, for the first time in my life, someone helped me understand what it was. I sheepishly started coming in a little early and asking him a few questions.

My academic career turned in ninth grade largely because Mr. Hall took me where I had never been before. I actually learned and now love math. You know why? Because from day number one we all took Mr. Hall very seriously.

And as we start, here’s the question I have: How seriously do you take Jesus? On a scale of one to ten, and you do it privately, you know? Ten being totally sold out, you take Him very, very seriously. He’s the center of your life. Your actions, your thoughts, your dreams, your time, your finances. One: “I think about Him now and then, mostly on weekends. Some weekends.”

How seriously do you take Jesus? Go ahead, go ahead, rate yourself. You don’t have to tell anybody. Give yourself a number.

Now, I know some of you are not going to do this and you’re saying, “Wait a second. You can’t really do that. How can anyone really know how seriously they take Jesus? Come on. This is one of those introduction, communication deals where they sort of trick you and give you these numbers and no one can ever know what number.

Often that’s true but this isn’t the case. According to Jesus, you can know in about thirty seconds exactly how seriously you take Jesus because by His own words, from His own lips, He gave a litmus test of who takes Him seriously and who doesn’t.

Notice, there is a teaching handout. You might want to go ahead and pull this out. On the very front of the teaching handout, let me read just a few, I could give you dozens, but let me read just a few selected passages from the lips of Christ and as I read these, see if you can’t evaluate how to know how seriously you take Him.

From John 8:31 and 32, a group of people, Jews, had just come to believe in Christ. Jesus, therefore, was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word,” the word “abide” means, “to take in the Scripture for the purpose of putting it into practice on a regular basis.”

“If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Next passage, John 14:21, Jesus on the last night, speaking to His closest followers, “He that has My commandments and keeps them, He it is that loves me. And he who loves Me will be loved of my Father and I will love him and I will disclose,” or, “reveal Myself to Him.” Do you see the pattern yet?

Well, it gets obvious in the last one. Matthew 7:24 and 26, He’s closing out the Sermon on the Mount. He has just talked about kingdom living and He makes a summary statement.

Matthew 7 verse 24, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock.” Contrast, verse 26, “But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”

You inductive thinkers have got it, don’t you? There’s a thread that goes through all three passages and I could give you dozens more. You know how you know how seriously you take Jesus? Very simple. Taking Jesus seriously means we take His words seriously.

According to Jesus, you can know! You can know how seriously you take Him because according to Jesus, to whatever extent you take His words seriously, to that extent you take Him seriously.

According to Jesus, if you hear what He says and put it into practice, you take Him seriously. If you honor His word, you take Him seriously. You remember the very first parable, Mark chapter 4? It’s an amazing little line, I don’t know if you’ve missed it or not.

Mark chapter 4, the parable of the seed and the soil. There are four responses to how people respond to God’s Word, the words of Jesus. Remember, three of them are not so good and one is very good?

Do you remember privately what He told his disciples? He says, “If you don’t understand this parable about response to My words, you can’t understand any of the parables!” Did you get that?

The most axiomatic reflection of your relationship and my relationship to Christ is how you respond to God’s Word. There are lots of other things but the most important, according to Christ, about taking God seriously, is how do you respond, how do I respond to Him, His Word?

So what’s the sixty-four-dollar question today? Well, what did He say? You’re looking at me like it’s going to be profound. No, it’s not very.

Turn the page, will you, on the teaching handout? So, what did Jesus say? Once we find out what He said, how seriously we take that word will tell you and will tell me how seriously we actually take our relationship with Jesus.

Not how seriously we think we take it, not how seriously other people may think we take it, not how we feel, but when we see what Jesus says and how we are or are not responding to what He says, we can know.

Now, the next question that ought to come to your mind is, “Chip, He said a lot. Where do you begin? He said so many things, this could take us down a trail that could take years.” Well, that’s true.

But on the very last night He lived on the earth, He took all that He said and He pulled it all together and He went to the top and said, “If you don’t remember anything else, closest followers, if you don’t get anything else I’ve ever said, here is a new commandment.”

He never said that any other time, “Here is a new commandment. Here is something that goes to the very top. All the teaching, all the miracles. You’ve seen Me raise people from the dead, you’ve seen Me walk on water, you heard the Sermon on the Mount, we’ve had late night discussions. But, hey, guys, push all that to the side. Here is a new commandment. If you don’t do anything else, this is what I want you to do.”

John 13:34 and 35. It says, “A new commandment I give to you.” Now, what is that? “That you love one another.” How? “Even as I have loved you,” now repetition for emphasis, “that you also love one another.” Why? Why is this so important?

Verse 35, “By this,” by what? By how we love one another, the way that He loved us, “By this all men,” the whole world, “by this all men will know that you are My disciples,” condition, “if you have love for one another.”

Now that’s not a very long passage, is it? I don’t think there’s anything in all the Bible more important of what Jesus said. I mean, on the last night, He said, “Here’s a new commandment.”

So let’s do a little Bible study, okay? I put some questions underneath that passage. Let’s just, together, get a pencil out if you’ve got it and let’s just do some Bible study and ask some penetrating questions of this passage so we really understand what’s going on here.

The first question that’s most obvious to me is: What is the “new commandment?” I mean, what does He mean by “new?” You might take a little pencil and circle the word “new”. There are two words in the New Testament at least for “new”. One has the idea of chronology, you know, something is old chronologically and now it’s new. That’s not this word.

This is a word for “new” as in “not born out.” “New” as in “unused”. The word is used, remember when Jesus went into a tomb? Now, it was a tomb that was carved out of a rock but it was called a “new tomb.” Why? Not because it hadn’t been there a long time but it was unused.

This is new. This is fresh. This is something that’s going to bring about refreshment and impact and it’s going to be a new paradigm, if you will.

And you’ve got to ask yourself, “Okay, well what is that command?” It’s to love one another. Now, you Bible students, especially some of you that have been in the Old Testament for a while, your mind clicked back, I’m sure immediately, to Leviticus 19:18 and it says what? That we’re to love our neighbor as ourselves.

So, what’s new about this? Jesus is saying we’re to love one another, the Old Testament said we’re to love one another. What’s new about this? Here’s what’s new. The how, the measure. Before, we were to love one another in the way that we wanted them to love us. Or we were to love one another – how? The way we would want to be loved.

The new part of the commandment is Jesus takes the ante and He puts it all the way up here. He said, “No, this new commandment is not about loving people the way that you want to be loved.” That’s not the litmus test anymore. What is it? What’s the text say? “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Wait a minute, you mean Jesus actually wants us to love one another the way He loved them? You bet. Well, what’s that look like? Open to John chapter 13, let’s get a little context here.

John chapter 13 verses 1 to 5, He begins to give them a little idea. It says, “It was just before the Passover,” the last night of His life, “Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and to go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world,” get this line, “He now showed them the full extent of His love.”

What He’s going to do this night, with His closest followers, knowing this time the next day He will have been crucified, He’s now going to show them the full extent of His love.

Verse 2, “The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.” Get this, the next line is critical why Jesus could love in such a radical way.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His control, and that He had come from God and that he was returning to God;” notice the purpose clause, “so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, wrapped a towel around His waist, and after that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.”

Now, we don’t understand. You can’t quite get what’s going on here. He’s the Lord, He’s the rabbi, He’s the teacher, right? He’s now going to show them the full extent of His love.

He was secure, He knew God was sovereign, in control, nothing to lose, nothing to gain, no one to impress. He knew where He came from, He knew where He was going. Out of that security, He’s going to show them the full extent of His love, and He is going to do what not even a regular servant did but only a bondservant did and the bondservant, was at the bottom of the heap!

These guys had all walked in and because there wasn’t a servant at the door where the big canister type thing was where you would wash your feet, and the way that they ate in the Middle East, you would kind of lounge on these little couches.

And so, when you’re lounging here, someone’s feet are pretty close to your face. They were all so proud because someone else was on the pecking order, in fact, we learned what? They were arguing on the way to the Lord’s Supper tonight about who was the greatest.

So, what’s it mean to love like Jesus loves? It means to willfully not regard position or status or how people perceive you, and to lay aside ego and security issues, and to give to other people what they don’t deserve to meet their greatest need, even when their hearts may not be open to it.

And He says, “That’s how I want you to love one another.” In fact, flip over to chapter 15. Chapter 15 verse 12. You need to understand chapter 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, all this is happening one evening.

It’s God giving us an inside picture. It’s like there was a camera there that last night with the disciples. And we’re getting to see and hear what was going on and what Jesus is thinking and their fears and their struggles. And then they let us know what’s going on.

Verse 12 of chapter 15, “My commandment is this: Love each other” – how? “as I have loved you.” And then He defines it. What’s that mean? “Greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for his friend. You, My disciples, are My friends if you keep My commandments, if you do what I command.”

So, what’s this new command then? Well first, it’s not new as in something that’s never been heard of. It’s new in terms of our love for one another is to be at the level of sacrifice, of dying to our own self, of putting other people’s agenda – it’s a crucifixion of the “me first” mindset and it is a commitment to others-centered, grace giving, Spirit empowered, “I’m going to do for you what you don’t deserve if it costs me my life.”

The early Church believed that there had to be a willingness to literally, physically die for one another. That’s how literally they took this passage. The call for us, the mark, the signature, the litmus test of all followers of Jesus for all time, is this. It’s not how much they know, it’s not what church they go to, it’s not how well they can teach.

The mark of a Christian, the signature of the body of Christ, the litmus test for your life, my life, and every believer of all time is very simple: The degree to which you love other believers with the radical, self-sacrificing, putting them first, and death to the “me first” mindset that you put into practice on a daily basis. That’s the mark of a Christian.

That’s what the new commandment is. Now, we have alluded to the second question. Well, when was this given? Why did He say this? I mean, when was this given? Add some real octane to what’s going on in the passage. This is the last night He is going to live. This is the Lord’s Supper.

And as I referred to, the disciples, were walking ahead of Christ, according to one of the other gospels, and Jesus came in a little bit later. And they had this argument. And He asked them, “What were you guys arguing about?”

And they got kind of sheepish as they all are there in their dirty feet. And what are they arguing about? “Who is the greatest among us?” One guy was sticking out his chest going, “Hey, man, I went to the transfiguration! You guys didn’t see that.” “Yeah, but I got to hold the money.” “Yeah, well so what? I was chosen before you. I’ll tell you what…”

They didn’t get it. Now, to get some context here about why He gave this command, think of this, the God of the universe took on human flesh and He did a lot of things with a lot of people but these twelve got more of Him than anyone.

These twelve saw things that no one has ever seen. They walked together; when they had a struggle, they had late night talks; three of them have seen at least two or three people raised from the dead; they’ve heard sermons like no one has ever heard; they’ve seen miracles, they’ve been a part of miracles as they passed out the loaves.

Now, imagine being Jesus and thinking, “You’re going to entrust the mission, the revolution to these twelve. In fact, You know it’s only eleven. You know one is going to bail out. He’s going to betray You.”

Can you imagine on the very last night that You’re on the earth and You’re thinking, “This is the group that’s going to take the message. We’re going to entrust. And the number one point on their agenda is who is the greatest? Is this how to get discouraged before You go to the cross? I mean, is this like, are they ever going to get it?

See, the context is important because it came on the last night, it came around the Lord’s Supper, it came at a time here where they were arguing, and it came after He had washed their feet.

This command came after Jesus said, “Let Me show you what it looks like. You guys are arguing about who is hot stuff.” See, don’t forget, we get these passages in our little Bible story mode and, “And this is John 13,” no, this isn’t John 13! This is reality!

They know who He is! Peter has said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” They knew He was the Messiah! They knew He was God! They knew God was in their midst and that day the God of the universe washed their feet.

I think that picture burned in their heart like few experiences ever. And afterwards when He said, “I want you to love one another the way I have loved you,” you know what went in their mind? “This means washing feet. This doesn’t mean ooey-gooey feelings. This means obeying when you don’t feel like it. This means giving up rights and privileges and time and finances. This means doing what is totally unnatural to me.”

What did Jesus deserve? Absolute worship and homage. And He willfully became a servant. That’s the new commandment.
What did Jesus deserve? Absolute worship and homage. And He willfully became a servant. That’s the new commandment.

Now why? Why do you think He gave it? Let me give you three reasons. The first one is very tender. If you’re in John 13, flip to verse 31. An interesting thing about verses 31, 32, and 33. They come right before verse 34. So, there’s often a real parallel about what’s happening there.

Pick it up with me. He’s already washed their feet, Judas had taken off, He’s going to betray the Lord. “When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will glorify the Son in Himself, and will glorify Him at once.’”

Jesus was seeing Satan leave the room, He was seeing how this whole thing was playing out, His mind flashed back, I’m sure, to eternity past and the counsel of the Godhead, the sending of the Son before the foundations of the earth.

He saw it all and now it was coming. And now the eleven faithful were around Him and He talked about this whole, what’s “glorified?” It means “to reveal.” It means “to enhance the reputation of.” It means for these people, all the plan is becoming unveiled so the world could see the awesome love of God.

Now, notice how His heart gets so tender. Verse 33, “My children,” téknon, very interesting word. It has the idea of a father gathering his younger children out of a heart of compassion. And He’s speaking to these grown men. He’s washed their feet, and He looks into their eyes around that table and He says, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for Me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.”

Now, again, we read that and think, “Oh, gosh, He’s leaving. Yeah, we know. He’s going to be ascended.” See, we know the story! They didn’t know the story! All they knew was for the first time, I said He was fully God, He was also fully man.

When Jesus sat down in His robe, and there was water in the seat, when He got up, His robe was wet. When Jesus walked through mud, His feet got dirty and they were muddy. When Jesus got a hold of some bad drink, He got an upset stomach. He was fully human!

When Jesus walked for many, many miles, John 4, He got tired. And so He sat down to rest.

These disciples had the experience of being unconditionally loved, accepted, affirmed, listened to, they were in a perfect relationship with a perfect human being.

And now He just said, “I’m leaving. No more late night talks. No more great insight. No more forgiveness. No more looking into a set of eyes that said, ‘I knew you blew it, I know you feel bad about it, I love you unconditionally anyway and I’m so glad you came and owned up to it. I’m so proud of you.’” That’s gone.

No more theological questions where you say, “Excuse me, Lord, you know, they’re saying that over there and this passage I was reading the other day, would You please explain it to me just one more time?” That’s not going to happen anymore.

Now notice the text. After He says that, what’s the next verse? Look in your Bible, verse 34, “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another” – how? “Just as I have loved you.” You see, they had this relationship with Christ and He’s telling them, they’ll understand later in John 14, He’s going to the Father.

This experience of intimacy and love like they’ve never had anywhere in all the earth, you know what He’s saying? “Since I’m leaving, I want you all to begin to fill that vacuum by the way you treat one another.”

His number one reason for this command was, “I will not be there in My physical presence. You need eyes to look into; you need an arm around your shoulder; you need, at times, to be rebuked like I did Peter on more than a few occasions. You’re going to need a physical body where the Christ in them can give you what you need. And so that’s why the new commandment.

The second reason is not for their individual, personal reason but it’s for the group, a corporate reason. The night before, the night before He turns over the mission to them, they’re still arguing about who is the greatest.

This commandment, taken seriously, eliminates discipleship/sibling rivalry. There can be no competition. It’s done. If they actually believe this is the new commandment and this is what they’re to do – the idea of trying to be the greatest just gets cut at the roots. So, that’s the second reason.

And the third reason is global. The first one was personal for them. The second was for the group, disciples. The last one is global. What’s verse 35 say? “By this,” by what? By the way you all, to the degree you all, to the extent you all, to the authenticity level that you all, vulnerably, honestly love one another, all men will know that you are followers of Mine!

He’s saying, “The movement, the revolution, everything I’ve taught, the miracles I’ve done, and the promises I have made, it all hinges on something. You guys modeling the message. If it doesn’t work in your life, it’s not going to sell anywhere.”

And so that’s why this commandment became the apex. Now, let’s ask the last question before we talk about us. How seriously did they take this? How seriously did the early Church take this new commandment? Is this like, “Oh, yeah, there are a lot of commandments in there. And Jesus talked to us a lot. I know it was the last night we were together and all that jazz but, you know, one commandment, there’s another commandment.”

How seriously did they take it? Let me show you. Turn to Acts, will you? Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2. Phenomenal. You talk about taking something seriously, you talk about that axiom of how seriously you take Jesus is how seriously you take His words. Early Church, Pentecost, Peter preaches. Three thousand come to Christ.

Verse 42 of chapter 2, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship and to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and their goods they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes, they ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God, enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

You see, this environment occurred at the birth of the Church: Devotion corporately; from home to home, people having deep talks; breaking bread; sharing hearts. “Oh, you got a financial need? Hey! You know what? I’ve got more than I need, you can have this.” No one had need.

Now, I know, I hear you. I can hear you thinking, “Well, yeah, this was their first emotional response. It was early on.” Turn the page. Turn the page.

Chapter 4. Five thousand more have come to Christ, some time has gone by. Verse 32 of chapter 4, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of them had possessions that were his own, but they shared everything that they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And much grace was upon them all. There was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales, and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

I would say they took it so seriously the whole economic structure of their lives changed. Their priorities changed. Their time changed. Their values changed.

Turn the page, not done. Chapter 5, verse 41. Now they’re undergoing persecution, they’re getting it. The disciples have been beaten, verse 41, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

Now listen, this is a summary. We have now a lot of time expiring. Verse 42 is a summary, a characteristic of the early Church. “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the Good News that Jesus is the Christ.”

Relationships, relationships, relationships, relationships, relationships. Love, love, love, love. Needs, needs across all barriers, the early Church did it. Turn to 1 John with me, will you? All the way in the back. Get to Revelation and go left. All the way in the back.

Let me just highlight a couple things. I want you to get, I want you to get how powerful this is. I want you to try and get your arms around, this is not a command that’s on a salad bar and you get to choose one or not choose. This is the whole enchilada.

You do this, you follow Christ; you don’t do this, you’re not really following Him, according to Jesus. 1 John, he’s the same author. Three quick letters written. Chapter 2, verse 9, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness.”

Turn the page. Chapter 3, verse 11, “This is the message you’ve heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” Verse 14, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” Verse 16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love in words and tongue,” in other words, be warm, be filled, yeah, hope it goes well for you. Uh-uh. “But let us love with actions and in truth.”

Verse 23, “And this is the commandment: To believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. Those who obey His command live in Him, and He in them.”

Chapter 4, verse 7, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love, whoever does not love,” look at it, “does not know God. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His Son, the one and only One into the world that He might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but He loved us and He sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”

Are you getting a drift? Is there a very unsubtle message? Skip down to verse 16, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we have confidence on the Day of Judgment: Because in this world we are like Him.” Don’t skip over that. “In this world we are like Him” – how? We love how He loved.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made in perfect love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar, she is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this commandment: Whoever loves God,” get this down, “must also love his brother.”

How seriously did the early Church take it? They took it so seriously that eleven people and a group of about a hundred and twenty followers who couldn’t vote, who had no political clout, who had no technology, no satellites, no talk shows, no printing press, who only had the word of mouth, who had no power in the system, a group of eleven, and by now about a hundred and twenty, loved one another so deeply, so radically that their lifestyle, even in the midst of persecution by three hundred years later, transformed the entire culture of Roman society.

And the secular historians – I mean, they were made as lampshades, Christians were. They were fed to the lions. Here’s the testimony of secular historians: “O how they loved one another. O how they loved one another.”

The revolution, and that’s what Christianity is, it’s a revolution, was ignited because the early Church took it seriously. And I’m telling you, that’s what we’re about.

You see, when we begin to get outside the lines and love each other in radical ways, where it really is, there is a price tag, where it’s death to ourselves, death to our agenda, out of our comfort zone, loving people of different color and different background; loving people you wouldn’t really like to be like; loving people that your emotions don’t click on and you don’t have any ooey-gooey feeling.

You choose to extend yourself because they’re a part of Christ’s body. Loving people from multiple backgrounds, loving people with political agendas that are so far away from yours that you say, “And that’s okay. I don’t have to agree with you. I’m going to treat you with dignity.”

Reaching into a person’s life or a mom or a dad or a son of someone who has AIDS, and who even got AIDS for all the reasons the Bible condemns and saying, “You know something? I understand that. But you still need to be fed, don’t you? You still need a ride to the hospital, don’t you? You still need some financial aid, don’t you? I’m going to love you the way Jesus loved me.”

I tell you what, a group like this gets their arms around that and the Spirit of God gets a hold of your heart and we start loving each other that way… If we love, they will come. If we love, they will come. And it’s not a field of dreams. It’s a promise of reality.

Well, here’s our challenge, you ready? Our challenge, I’ve pretty well said it, but let me succinctly state it: Is to take Jesus’ words seriously.

The look that you’re giving me right now is, The implications of this are absolutely overwhelming, and you are right. And they’re absolutely exciting.

Why is this so critical? Let me give you six quick reasons. Why is it so critical? Number one, personal loyalty to Christ. I don’t know where you’re at, don’t know what you do, don’t know how often you read the Bible, or how much you pray or anything else. I’ll tell you this though, for you and for me, if I don’t love other people the way Jesus loved them, I am disobeying the only time in all of Scripture Jesus said, “I have a fresh, I have a new commandment.” So, I’m not loyal to Him. It’s my first step in obedience to Christ.

The second, Christianity is anemic. All the Barna research, all the Gallup Polls tell us what? Christians don’t live any different in morality and ethics, not much, than the rest of the world. We start loving one another, we’ll break through that.

The third reason it’s so critical, people are hurting. I don’t have time to grasp, to explain what it’s like for a family to go through cancer.

I was in Dallas, I sat in on a faculty meeting at Dallas Seminary. For twenty-five minutes they did nothing but take prayer requests, students and faculty. And it was just, “So and so has cancer; this student, one of our top students was hit by a car; this student has a brain tumor.” People, in the body of Christ, in this room, in this room if we could give everyone a flashcard and a little marker and put the number one critical hurt in your life, if your wrote it and then we held them all up, you would look around the room and you would just weep.

People are hurting. And they need you to love them and you need to be loved.

The fourth reason it’s so critical is that life is complex. I don’t know about you, there’s so much information coming at me and so much, we can’t navigate life alone. We need each other.

The fourth reason is that soul care or life transformation isn’t happening for many. And what I mean by that is there are Christians authentically coming to Christ, I mean, really coming to Christ but they don’t have a group around them to help them get into the Word or process information.

You know what? Every couple has big, big problems. And if you’re the exception, God bless you, mentor us. And there are different seasons in your relationship, you get to points where you just look across the bed, across the table and you think, “I don’t even like that person. I don’t want to be married to them!”

Well, you don’t get divorced, you realize, “Welcome to the NFL, this too will pass,” you get some help, you think differently, you work on some issues, and then you look back five years and say, “Wow, boy, that was pretty normal. But, man, we came through it.”

Every family has struggles with kids! Every man that I have met has struggles with lust. Soul care! Helping one another in life transformation – it’s not happening because people aren’t connected. So, we put up façades, we play games, and your soul shrivels. We’ve got to love each other. We’ve got to help each other. You were never designed to become more holy on your own.

The last reason, it’s our greatest apologetic, verse 35 of chapter 13. The greatest apologetic, people can disagree, disagree, disagree. When their son is in trouble, when their wife is in trouble, when their kid has cancer, when they have a big problem, when you love them, guess what happens? All those intellectual reasons start to just filter away. They just filter away.

When you remove your prejudging, when you reach into people’s lives that they think, “Oh, evangelicals don’t care about us, they’re the narrow, bigoted group.” When you break those stereotypes and you radically love and when they see us love each other, [dog barks]  I’ll tell you what, it makes the dog bark.

[Laughter] You’ve got to be quick in this room or you’re in trouble! Second, how are we going to accomplish this? We had a little comic relief and now we move on. Okay, those are the reasons. Now, here’s what you need to understand.

This is not going to be one of those messages like, “Oh, wow, I really need to love people more.”

There are nuggets in the Bible that talk about how to love one another, how to encourage one another, how to admonish one another, how to bear up with one another, how to restore people who have sinned, in the way, in the right… And we’re going to learn. And we’re going to grow.

“A new commandment I give unto you:” Jesus says, “love one another.” How? Just as He loved us.

Father, I pray in the name and the power of Your Son that we would take Your words seriously. I ask for grace, courage, sensitivity, and wisdom.

And we tell You we can’t do it out of self-effort, we can’t do it by trying harder. We ask that You would so fill us with an awareness of how deeply and unconditionally we are loved that we could become so secure, or at least significantly secure enough, to start giving away what we are receiving. God, we know this is Your will; we offer it to You in the name and the power of the Lord Jesus. Amen.