Sunday, January 28, 2024

“As I Have Loved You” [Matt's Messages]

“As I Have Loved You”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 28, 2024 :: John 13:34-35  

In 2024, we must grow in our obedience to Jesus’ command for us to love one another.

I’ve skipped ahead in the Gospel of John this morning because I want to give you a taste of my annual report and my pastoral vision for 2024.

We won’t get to chapter 13 for several more months. We’ve only just finished up chapter 6 last week, but as I have been praying about what to write in my annual report for today’s meeting, my mind has kept jumping ahead 7 chapters to this “New Command” that Jesus gave His disciples in chapter 13.

You know ever year I try to sum up the year with a word or a phrase. Last year it was it “good.” I had been praying for a good year for us in ‘22, and the Lord gave us one, praise His name.

And the word I ended up choosing for ‘23 was “exceptional.” I had been praying that the Lord would “shalom” us or “prosper” us in ‘23, and I believe He gave us an exceptionally prosperous year. 

There has never been a year quite like 2023 for Lanse Free Church. One exceptional thing was the sabbatical that you gave me last year. You graciously relieved me of my pastoral responsibilities for an entire quarter of the year. I was gone from May to July, and you gave me a much needed rest. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I can’t tell you grateful I am for that. I really needed it. I had been burning the candle at both ends, and it was exactly what I needed. 

But you all didn’t rest while I rested. This church went full steam ahead. The church elders and other leaders carried all of my responsibilities and you all kept the pedal to the medal on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ! I was so proud of you, and it also showed me how exceptionally healthy our church currently is.

From my report: “In 2023, the Lord prospered us with more people! Our average attendance at worship grew 11.8% to 142 people per Sunday. We have a lot more than 142 people who call our church ‘home.’ Our attendance team tracked 293 distinct people who came onto our campus on Sunday mornings in 2023. A few of those were guests from out of town, but 235 different people showed up with some regularity."

The Lord also prospered us with many more members. We received 11 new members at our meeting in December, and there are 8 more for us to present for membership at today’s meeting. I’m not good at math, but that’s 19 new members since this time last year. That is a 24.3% increase in church membership in the last twelve months! That’s the most new members I’ve ever seen in my 25 years here and the most members we’ve had in my time here, too.

The Lord is doing something exceptional among us, and I praise Him for it! I say all that and a lot more in my annual report. Come to the meeting to hear more.

So what is my “vision” for ‘24?

As I think about the challenges that lay ahead, my mind keeps coming back to our Lord’s New Command for His Disciples, “You Must Love One Another.”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus gave this command to His followers on the night before the crucifixion.

It was at the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot had just the left the room to go betray Him. We just learned last week in chapter 6 that Judas was going to do that. Now he’s done it. And Jesus is teaching His disciples more about God’s glory. How the Father is going to glorify the Son and be glorified by the Son–paradoxically by His suffering. And Jesus has said that He is going away and that the disciples can’t follow Him there.  I can hardly wait to get to chapters13 through 17 and study that passage with you in depth.

But in that context, Jesus issues this command. He calls it a “new command.”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Do you hear the repetition? Three times in two verses, Jesus presses home this command, “Love one another.” “Love one another.” “Love one another.”

I’ve got three points of application this morning, and they are all basically the same thing, “Love One Another.”


It’s interesting that we have to be commanded to do that, isn’t it? Apparently this kind of love doesn’t just happen naturally. We have to obey Jesus to do it. There must be something hard about it. 

Do you find it hard to love other Christians? I do. All Christians do. Christians have been struggling to love one another ever since Jesus gave this new command. That’s because we’re sinners and we’re different from each other. We don’t all see things the same way. We don’t always want the same things.

And so it’s work. It’s hard work to love one another. 

Love always sounds good until you have to start doing it. Think about 1 Corinthians 13. The “love chapter,” right? We love to read about love in February which is right around the corner.

1 Corinthians 13 says this, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NIVO).

That sounds great, doesn’t it? Remember when we memorized that together? 2008 that was.

It sounds great until you realize you have to actually do it.

It’s hard to be patient.
It’s hard to always be kind.
It takes work to not envy, to not boast, to not be proud.
It’s hard to not be rude, to not be self-seeking, to not be easily angered.
It’s hard to not keep a record of wrongs!

But that’s what Jesus says we need to do with each other.

Love one another to obey Jesus.

Those words “one another” are super important. They show up again and again in the New Testament. 

And every time they do, they give us another facet of what it means to love one another. I think there are over 50 times when the New Testament tells us something we are supposed to do to or with one another.

One of these years, I could preach an entire year and just do a different “one another” each week.

Though a bunch of them are simply “love one another” or some variation of that. John, especially, is stuck on repeating the New Command so that we get it stuck in our little brains.

One another
One another 
One another.

It starts in many ways with knowing one another, right?

I think that’s one of our major challenges as a church right now. If there are 235 regular attenders and 142 of them on any given Sunday, it’s hard for us to love each other because we don’t know each other.

And every one of us has that problem. I hear that from our older members, and I hear it from our new attenders. “I just don’t know all of those new people.”

And who do you think has it hardest? It’s the newer people. Because they hardly know anybody!

So, I love the new feature that Jenni is doing in the bulletin, where we get to know our new members. And we have a lovely picture of Sue in this week’s bulletin and all about her. Thank you, Sue.

But we really need to do this for everybody, especially those who have been here for a long time. Because not only do we all need to know Sue, but Sue needs help to know everybody else.

So, there’s this amazing tool called The Church Directory. And Jenni is updating that. It’s a list of all the people who call this church their family and how to get a hold of them.

And we give this to everyone who calls this church their family. We put it in their mailboxes! Have you checked out your family’s information in the directory for Jenni?

Have you updated your photo? Just like we have a photo of Sue, and it’s so helpful to know who that is, we would like to have an updated photo of YOU so that people can put a name to that face. And how that face looks today. You don’t want a picture of me with wavy hair on top of my head. Nobody would recognize me. Some of your kids are tiny in those pictures, and they are not tiny any more.

But the Lord has something even more powerful than the directory that we can do to solve this problem as a church family that He has also commanded us to do in the New Testament to love one another.

And it’s really simple, but it’s really powerful.

Greet One Another.

The Apostle Paul is big on that command. Greet one another in the Lord. That means to say, “Hi.” It means to cross a boundary and welcome somebody. It means to shake a hand. It means to ask, “How was your week?” It means to say, “I see you there.” With a little kid, it’s to get down on their level.

And we’re doing it. I see you doing it. I see you greeting one another every Sunday. Keep it up, and do more. Don’t just greet your friends. Don’t just greet the people you greet every week. Keep greeting them, but expand. Go after others. Make it your goal to greet someone this week that you haven’t greeted yet or recently. Don’t wait for them to do it for you. Go and greet them.

If everybody does it, we’ll all meet in the middle!

Don’t worry about whether they have been a part of the church a long time and you’re a new person. Everybody is feeling disconnected right now. So many of you feel new. If you have been coming for a month or more then you’re part of the old group now. Greet one another. Welcome one another. Ask someone their name.

You might have to do it several times before you get it down. That’s okay. The Bible doesn’t say, “Remember everybody’s names.” It says, “Greet one another.” “Greet one another.” “Greet one another.” “Greet one another.”

And it says, “Pray for one another.” That’s another powerful way to show love for the other disciples. When people bring up prayer requests here in church. Jot it down and then pray for them. I know you do that. Keep it up!

And Denise is doing a wonderful job of keeping us updated on various prayer requests that come across on email. Do you get the prayer emails from Denise? See Jenni to get signed up for those. They come at all hours of the week into you inbox and then you can pray for them whenever you get them wherever you are.

You know one of the best places to pray? It’s right here in this room. Take a prayer request from the people you greet on a Sunday, and pray for them right then and there! Ten seconds of prayer on a Sunday can be used of God to answer their need and knit you together with your brother and sister in Christ in Christian love.

We’ve got to spend more time with one another. That might be just lingering a few more minutes after church on Sundays.  Don’t run out the door. Find somebody after church to build fellowship with.

The Bible says that need to “Show Hospitality to One Another.” To open up homes to another. To invite each other out for lunch. Everybody in this church eats. I know that for a fact. Everybody in this church eats. So the Bible encourages us to eat with one another. A bunch of us are going to do that in just a few minutes. We are OBEYING Jesus when we eat with one another!

Who could you invite out for lunch or over for lunch after church? Or on a Saturday or on a weeknight?

I’ve got a whole list of people right here you could choose from! We need each other. We need to build community with one another. Nancy just recently gave me a little devotional page that she had read and been encouraged by from the Daily Bread.

It says, “Community is essential for our growth and support. Don’t try to go it alone. God will develop that sense of community as you share your struggles and joys with others and draw near to Him together.” Amen!

That’s why we have things like the Ladies Fellowship Hour and the Skacel’s Community Group. And the youth group meeting starting tonight.  And the Prayer Meeting. Because we need to get into each other’s lives. In obedience to Jesus.

That’s not always going to be easy. Especially when we rub each other the wrong way. Another way we obey Jesus and show love for one another is to: “Forgive one another.” And to “Bear with one another.” These disciples of Jesus were going to disagree. They were going to sin each other. They were going to struggle to get along with one another. All Christians do.

But Jesus wanted them to love one another and that always means being ready to reconcile and forgive and bear with each other in our weaknesses and failings. And the more Christians you have, the more sin you’re going to have that needs to forgiving.

People ask me if I’m excited that our church has grown so much, and I am. But I also say, “More people, more problems.” “More sinners, more sinning.” And more people for me to hurt through my sin. We are going to need much grace for us to get along with another as we grow.

Our older generation is much larger than our younger generation. Even a lot of our newer members are older people. So our older generation (including me) needs to bear with the younger generation, especially as the younger generation steps up to lead us into the future. And our younger generation (no longer including me) needs to bear with the older generation as you step into leadership of church family into the future. New people will want do things in new ways. And we’ll need to be patient with one another as we work it all out.

And as we work it all out, we will not only obey Jesus, but honor Him.

As we love one another, we will bring honor to our Lord. We will show that we are His disciples. That’s what He says in verse 35.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

It’s a “distinguishing mark” of the Christian to have brotherly love. The world will know that we belong to Jesus if we love one another. 

Say to the person next to you, “We get to love another in ‘24.” Ok. That was easy. Now say it to the person in front of you and the person behind you. “We get to love another in ‘24.” 

And when we do, the world will have to sit up and take notice. There is a great need and opportunity for Christian love in our nation and world right now. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed it or not, but it looks like it’s another national election year in America. I thought we just did that! And it looks downright divisive once again. Will those that name the name of Christ be known for their love in 2024?

We have in this room Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Non-Voters–all Christians. We will love one another in ‘24? Will the world see the Christians loving each other say to themselves, “What is going on over there? I want some of that. Those people are really different from one another. And they disagree. Maybe strongly. And yet they obviously are loving one another.”

And of course, loving one another isn’t even the hardest thing that Jesus asks us to do. He commands us to love even our enemies. But that’s another message for another day. Do you see the opportunity the church has to honor Jesus in our world in ‘24?

There is an epidemic of loneliness in our society right now. There’s all kinds of causes for that. But whatever they are, it’s out there. People are lonely. They may be “connected,” through social media, to more people than ever but they feel disconnected. They feel alone. What an opportunity we have to BE FAMILY for those folks! So that we can all sing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.”

As we enfold people into our church family, we are honoring Jesus. We are acting as His disciples.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

By this! Not by what we proclaim about ourselves on our social media. Not by our bumper stickers. But by how we treat one another. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

How are you doing obeying that command?
When you read those words, what comes to your mind?
How does this sit with you this morning?
What changes might you need to make?
What is the Holy Spirit saying to you heart?
What is He putting His finger on?

Because just as we have a great opportunity to honor the Lord Jesus by loving one another in 2024, we can also greatly dishonor the Lord Jesus by failing to love another this year, as well.

And don’t think that even as I emphasize bearing with and being patient with and living in harmony with one another, that I don’t recognize that another key part of loving one another is exhorting one another and speaking the truth to one another.

We may need to be sharp with one another at times this year because love speaks truth even when it hurts. The wounds of a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Prov. 27:6)! But those kinds of wounds are always for the ultimate purpose of healing. They are always patient, always kind. Never rude.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

That is the command of our Commander.

Those are the orders of our Lord.

And He didn’t just tell us all to do it, He showed us all how it’s done.


In His example.

What is new about this New Command? Why does Jesus say that it’s new? I mean the Bible has told God’s people to show love for a long time before this, right? It’s the Law of Moses to show love. Love God and love your neighbor. That sums up the Law, right? So that’s not new.

I suppose it’s a little new that this is Jesus saying it to His disciples. So it’s not just love your neighbor but love your fellow follower of Jesus.

But I think the real newness of this command is the new standard of what love looks like. It used to be “Love you neighbor as you love yourself.” That’s in Leviticus 19:18. And it’s still a good guide for our conduct today. Love as you want to be loved. But He goes deeper here, doesn’t He? Look at verse 34 one more time. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

He has shown us how it’s done. Earlier this very evening, He started the meal by taking a bucket and a towel and walking around the table washing His disciples feet. He acted like a servant, putting their needs about His.

And in just a few hours, He’s going to get nailed to a Cross to show the true extent of His love. His love is so sacrificial and so powerful that He actually saves people eternally with it.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (Jn. 5:24 NIVO).

Because Jesus went to the Cross for you. You can cross over from death to life.

And you can love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Not just to love them as you want to be loved but to love our brothers and sisters like our Savior has loved you!

You can follow Jesus’ example and obey His new command. And if we do that (however imperfectly), people will have to stand up and take notice. And they will be drawn to Jesus.

And our church will be exceptionally blessed once again.

We must love one other in 2024.
We get to love one another in 2024.
And Jesus will get the glory.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15
08. "God So Loved The World" - John 3:16-21
09. "Above All" - John 3:22-36
10. "Living Water" - John 4:1-26
11. "Ripe for the Harvest" - John 4:27-42
12. "Your Son Will Live" - John 4:43-54
13. "Pick Up Your Mat and Walk" - John 5:1-18
14. "To Your Amazement" - John 5:19-30
15. "Testimony About Me" - John 5:31-47
Christmas Eve Bonus: "The Astonishing Gift" - John 3:16 Again
Christmas Eve Bonus: "We Have Seen His Glory" - John 1:1-18 Again
16. "Enough Bread" - John 6:1-15
17. "You Are Looking for Me" - John 6:16-36
18. "I Am the Bread of Life" - John 6:35-71