Remain in My Love (John 15:9-17)

Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.” 


In John 15:9-17, Jesus tells the disciples that he loves them like the father loves him. What does that mean? It means Jesus loves us a lot. Shouldn’t we get that Jesus loves us? He lives for us, dies for us, and rises from the dead for us. He does all of that out of love. Hear that. Jesus really loves us. But, here is the thing, that doesn’t mean we always feel that love. In fact, there are many people, both inside the Church and out, who Jesus loves. The reality is that every human being ever created is loved by God. That is a truth. Jesus came to save all mankind. Also true and terrible, is that not every man will accept that salvation. Many of those whom Jesus loves choose to live outside of his love.

It is a tragedy, one that “being a Christian” in name only will not save you from. Jesus makes that clear too when He is talking to his disciples. These are followers who walked with him up until the end of John’s Gospel. He tells them he loves them and then says “remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.” 

It might be tempting to think that Jesus just laid out some sort of quid pro quo scenario. There is a cynical voice that creeps in and says, “see you have to earn Jesus’ love.” But, this is not the case. 1 John 14 tells us that “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Jesus loves us, not because we earned it but because that is who he is. God is love. 

So, what is the deal with the “keep my commandments” talk? Well, Jesus knows human nature. (John 2:24) He knows that, as much as he loves us, we are prone to finding other gods. We worship our sports, our work, our children, celebrities, and on and on. So, he gave us a commandment to keep us safe, and in his love. It’s the first one, “You shall have no other gods!” It isn’t so much that God is asking for something, or else! Instead, he is warning us against all the things that will draw us away from him. God desires the very best for us and wants us to live in the reality of his love. His commandments are the guide-rails that keep us on that path. 

Consider the rest of this passage. Jesus commands us to “love one another, as I have loved you.” Can you imagine a life lived totally in this way? How much joy would there be in that? A life where every person you met was treated like they were someone incredibly precious. A life where people regularly sacrificed and put others before themselves. If every Christian really took this command to heart, we would not have to look for the love of God. We would feel it regularly through the work and life of our fellow believers. 

Too often, we have equated being a Christian with being in some sort of club with great long-term benefits. Too often, living the faith becomes completing some vague list of minimum attendance requirements. The truth is, we were meant to live in the love of Christ and to go forth and share the love of Christ. The two are not separate but, instead, are intimately connected. Jesus makes that clear. If you are going to remain in his love, then you are called to love like he does. 

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Christmas, Easter AND PENTECOST!


We all know Christmas and Easter. One marks Christ birth, the other marks his resurrection. A lot of celebration and festivities accompanies each of these feasts. That is a good thing. These are huge events. Through the incarnation, i.e., Christmas, a savior who is God himself is born to us. God becomes fully human. Jesus, the son, remains fully divine but makes himself reliant upon the Holy Spirit to keep him in union with his Father. There is a great mystery in that. Why would God do this? Why would he establish this relationship between himself and the Spirit? 

In Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the death of, well, death.  Jesus takes the sin of the world to the cross, he offers himself as an atoning sacrifice, and he dies. That is good Friday. If the story ended there, it would be tragic. If God had died, and that was the end of the story, it would be a pretty terrible story. Thankfully, Easter happened. Jesus rose from the dead. That takes a tragic story and makes it amazing. To top it off,  forty days later Jesus ascended to heaven. It is a fantastic tale and an awesome reality. The problem is a lot of people, both in the Church and out of it, act like it is the whole story. It is not. 

Yes, God came. He lived as a human. He died for our sin. He conquered death, rose to new life and went back to heaven on a cloud. Incredible! But, once he ascends to heaven, aren't we basically in the same situation we were in before he came? I know Christ died for our sin. I know he rose so that we might have new life. But, if the story is over at the Ascension, we have no way to live in that new life. 

Christmas and Easter are reality changing, but they are not enough.  They are only part of the story. Big parts? Yes. Huge parts! But alone, the story is incomplete. God did not come to save us, and then leave us. His plan was something much greater. Jesus says as much in John's Gospel. In chapter sixteen, at the last supper, Jesus teaches the disciples that something new is going to happen. Another person is coming. This person is so crucial that Jesus tells the Apostles that it is better for him to leave so this new person can come. Those are not my words. They are Jesus' words. Here is the quote from John 16:7

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you...

Did you catch that?  Try to wrap your head around it.  Christmas is a big deal. Easter is a big deal. Jesus is saying that the coming of this next person is a big deal too.  Big enough that Jesus tells the Apostles he needs to go so that the Advocate can come. Right before Jesus ascension, Jesus talks again about this. 

“He enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Before he returns to heaven Jesus tells the Apostles, "you are not done yet. Go wait for the Holy Spirit." So, they went back to Jerusalem and, waited.  When the time came to celebrate the Pentecost, the Jewish feast celebrating the giving of the law, something unexpected happened, 

Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

The Advocate had arrived. God, in the person of the Holy Spirit had come. Just like Christmas celebrates the coming of Christ, Pentecost marks the coming of the Spirit. In Christmas, we celebrate that God has come for us. In Pentecost, we rejoice that God has come to dwell within us.  Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are the three great feasts of the Church. Without the last of these, we would still be distant from the Lord. Through the coming of the Spirit we are made members of Christ's family, and in the Spirit we are enabled to "cry out, "Abba! Father."" Don't miss it. Pentecost is important. We need to celebrate the great thing that God has done for us. 

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