Hated by the World

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (Jn 15:18-21).

Because the world “does not know the One who sent Me”, it is living in darkness.  And it is a darkness that hates the light.  Jesus is the light (Jn 8:12), and “everyone who does evil hates the light” (Jn 3:20).  And did you know that by virtue of Christ living His life through you that you are also called “the light”?  “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14).

The darkness hates the light.  The world living in darkness hates the Son.  And the world hates us, the Son’s followers.  How do we respond to that hatred?  There are three mistakes we can make as we process and react to the hate all around us.

First, we can take on an unhealthy victim mentality that wants our fair share.  We argue for a seat at the table.  We are owed a place in the public square.  Our viewpoint deserves to be heard.  We constantly blame the  _____  (you fill in the blank) for the lack of respect we have in places of media and political power.  But was that ever promised to us?  The prediction from Jesus above sounds like just the opposite.  The world will hate us.  Something I believe we should expect and accept.

A second mistake is that we can fight fire with fire.  This is similar to the attitude above with a slight variation.  Because the world hates me, I can be a jerk in return.  If you are going to suppress my right to speak out, I will fight to suppress yours.  I will boycott your establishment.  I will … etc.  How does this fit Jesus’ call to love our enemies, and actually shower them with goodness in response to their hate?  Christ’s call to us has always been a higher call of love, not getting even.

The third erroneous approach is basically the opposite of one and two, but just as dangerous.  It is a people-approval idol that doesn’t want anyone to hate us.  And we will do anything we can to not experience the hate.  I am not person one or two at all, but I very easily fall into the trap of person three.  I want people to like me.  I want the new neighbor to think highly of me.  I stand on the sidelines not wanting my true colors to show for fear of rejection; even when rejection seems to be exactly what Jesus says is coming and its OK.  Have you been there?  The world rejected Jesus first.  “And the slave is not greater than his master.”

We are called to speak the truth.  We are called to speak the truth with grace.  We are called to speak the truth with love.  We are called to speak the truth with humility.  “Always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience” (I Pet 3:15-16).

We can focus on gentleness and reverence and a good conscience and we should.  But let’s not forget the ready to speak; ready to give an answer.

The world that hates us has already made up its mind.  And it is a world system that hated Jesus first.  But the individuals that make up that system are not the enemy.  Satan is the enemy.  The person standing against you is not the enemy.  They are actually prisoners of the enemy.  Something we all were until Jesus set us free.

In your interactions with a world that hates us, let’s not focus on the hate coming our way.  Let’s counter that evil wave with a love that is pure, a love straight from the Father.  A love that sends an aroma of grace to a hurting world.

Chosen and Appointed

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.  This I command you, that you love one another” (Jn 15:16-17).

We know that Jesus chose each of His disciples.  We have several of their stories when Jesus called them from their tax collector’s booth or fresh off of their fishing boat.  But did you know that Jesus also chose you?

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4) and to the church of the Thessalonians, he wrote “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (II Thess 2:13).

God chose you.   And He also accounted for your faith in that choice.  Yes, your faith makes a difference.  God chose you and your faith mattered.  Can both of these be true?  “For by grace (God’s choice and total gift) you have been saved through faith (your choice to believe); and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).  You have been called out and saved by God’s grace through your faith.

Now this verse goes beyond this initial calling.  After you were chosen; after you believed and became part of God’s family, you were also appointed.  What post or responsibility were you appointed to?  You were appointed to “go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain.”  Or put another way, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).

You were created for good works.  You were created for bearing good fruit.  As a son or daughter of the Father, this is in your new life DNA.  Jesus could see down the tunnel of time and see you bearing good fruit.  How could He be so sure?  Because Christ is the one producing the fruit in you.  It is part and parcel with being a believer.  It is who you are as a branch connected to the true vine who is living His life and producing His fruit in you.

And answered prayer, seen here for the fourth time in this upper room message, will be part of the fruit-bearing experience.  God will hear and answer our prayers.

Finally, we have what will become one of the greatest commandments in the New Testament; “that you love one another”.  Jesus started our discourse with this commandment (Jn 13:34-35) and repeats it here in this chapter in verses 12 and 17.

The theme of these verses regarding your appointment to God’s family (by believing in Christ) and loving one another is carried on throughout the New Testament letters.  John, for example returns to this very summary in his later letters.  “And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us” (I Jn 3:23).  Yes, you have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit, the sweetest of which is to truly love one another.

Love, Friendship, and Knowing the Father

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends, if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:12-15).

Here Jesus repeats His commandment that we are to love one another.  And the standard for that love is “just as I have loved you.”  We are to love as Jesus loves.  Now, your first thought might be, “That is an impossible standard.”  Is it?  After all, in the truest sense, it is not you or I who are doing the loving.

A consistent theme in Jesus’ message here in the upper room has been, “I, Christ, will be in you.  The Helper, the Holy Spirit, is coming to dwell in you.”  When we love one another, who is doing the loving?  Christ is the one loving our brothers and sisters because Christ is living His resurrected life in us.  We have all we need inside to love “just as I have loved you.”

Jesus modeled love to the most sacrificial level possible.  He demonstrated the “greatest love” by giving His life for us; we who He now calls His friends.  Sacrificial love is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching throughout the gospels.  Loving our enemies.  Being generous to those who cannot pay us back.  Do not look for a return on your love investment.  Give your love away unattached to a condition.  This is sacrificial love.

In addition to laying down His life for us, His friends, Jesus also lives out His friendship with us by letting us in on His plans.  Jesus reminds us that the slave has no idea of what the master is doing.  But we are no longer slaves.  We are Jesus’ friends.  And He wants us to know what He is doing.

Let this idea sink in for a minute.  “ALL things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”  How much is ALL things?  The scope of this is incredible.  All that Jesus has revealed in the gospels; all of His plans and promises that He explained were His way of telling His followers, now His friends, exactly what He is doing in the world.

Please take this to heart.  In Jesus – in His character, actions, and words – we have ALL we need to know about the Father.  There is no big mystery about God that is hidden that we somehow need to uncover; somehow need to figure out.  No, God in His generosity and love toward us has revealed everything about Himself that we need to know.

Are there mysteries about God still out there?  Of course, there are.  But absolutely none that we need to know in order to believe His gospel message and live the life He has chosen for us as His new creation, His beloved child.  Jesus has revealed to us everything we need to know about the Father.  Listen to the Son.

Joy Abundant and Overflowing

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also 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 made full” (Jn 15:8-11).

Again we see the vital link between loving Jesus and keeping His commandments.  Just look at all the love in this passage.  “The Father has loved Me.”  “I have also loved you.”  “Abide in My love.”  “You will abide in My love.”  “I abide in His [the Father’s] love.”

All this love and abiding is only made possible by our connection to the Vine; our union with Jesus.  And by the Vine living His life through the branches, we experience the same quality of love that exists between the Father and the Son.  This exact love is now living in us.  Are we going to cooperate with His love?

It is this deep love filling our new hearts that will energize us to obey His commandments.  His ways (written upon our hearts; Heb 10:16) will become our new normal (See Love, Obedience, and Our New Normal).  His commandments will not be burdensome (I Jn 5:3), and we will find rest (Matt 11:28) even as we enter the yoke with Jesus and obey His instruction.

What is new in this passage is the “where” that all this love, abiding, and obeying is leading to.  It is taking us to a life of joy; joy that is abundant and overflowing.  Jesus is saying that everything He has told the disciples up to this point …

  • about loving one another,
  • about preparing a place for them in heaven,
  • about being the way, the truth, and the life,
  • about knowing the Father,
  • about doing “greater works”,
  • about asking in the name of Jesus,
  • about love and obedience,
  • about the promise and coming of the Helper [Paracletos],
  • about Christ in you,
  • about His promise of peace,
  • about the True Vine and the branches,
  • about abiding in, loving, and obeying Him,

… have all been pointing to joy.  How do we capture this joy?  How do we participate in its overflowing abundance?  What is required from us?

What is required of us is very simple.  We have to believe.  Every one of these bullet points is a true promise from Christ.  And if we believe His words, if we believe in Jesus, if we believe all that He said is true – no matter what circumstance we face – we will truly tap into a joy that is abundant and overflowing!

Bearing Much Fruit

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.  By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (Jn 15:6-8).

“If anyone does not abide in Me” refers to those who do not have a faith connection to Jesus.  These are the lost.  As a believer, you never have to worry about becoming a dried up branch to be tossed in the fire.  Your future as a branch connected to the vine is secure.  The fire imagery in these verses takes us back to the parable of the wheat and the weeds and the end of the age.

In that story from Matthew chapter 13, we hear the sower say, “Allow both the wheat and the weeds to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn’ ” (Mt 13:30).  Jesus later in the chapter identifies the harvest as the end of the age, the wheat as God’s children, and the weeds as the sons of the evil one.  Coming back to John 15, these “branches” sent to the fire – those who “do not abide in Christ” – were never united by faith to the True Vine.

This is why in our last post we could say that “abiding in Christ” is a statement of fact, not a statement of options.  It was accomplished when you embraced the gospel and were grafted into the True Vine.  “Abiding in Christ” is not an imperative to do, but a promise to believe.

Next, Jesus returns to the theme of answered prayer.  This verse starts with another reference to our two-part union with Christ; we abide in Christ and His words abide in us.  There is no practical difference between Jesus’ words abiding in us and His personal indwelling.  Jesus, as the Word itself, is the living embodiment of His teaching.

And the promise of answered prayer is the same as in John 14:13; a promise tied to God’s glory being displayed in the answer.  Additionally, there appears to be a link between our answered prayer and our bearing fruit.  Could it be that God’s answers to our prayers will be part and parcel of our experience of love, joy, peace, and the other fruits of His life in us?

The word “prove” that closes our passage can be troublesome.  Uh-oh, are we on the hot seat having to show a certain amount of fruit-bearing to be called a disciple?  Do we have to “prove” our allegiance by how much fruit we bring to the table?

No, I think the flow of fruit is more natural than that.  Just as Jesus said the world will be able to identify us as true believers based on our love for each other (Jn 13:35), here we see the same concept.  We will demonstrate that we are indeed Christ-followers when we abide in Him … He abides in us … He is glorified in our answered prayers … and we bear fruit in His kingdom.