Sermons

The Marks of the Committed Christian, Part 1
John 13:31–38

Good Morning, from the Voices of Hope Evangelistic Team, to all who are reading this message, I welcome each of you gathering today by way of the internet. Once again, it’s a blessing to be able to share from God’s Word all over the world. 

The title of my message is “The Marks of a Committed Christian, part 1” and the scripture is found in John 13:31-38, if you wish to turn there you can follow along.

It’s a passage that is really authoritative in terms of discipleship. I suppose the question must rise in the mind of every Christian, what kind of a Christian am I? Not in terms of God’s cataloging but in terms of our own. From the totally non-committed, and all of his works are burned up, clear over to the totally pious committed, saintly, godly, mature, stable believer. And everything in the middle of the spectrum is covered by somebody in the body of Christ. 

What kind of a Christian are you? Are you everything you promised Jesus Christ you’d be when it all began? Or are you everything you promised Christ you’d be three months ago, when you re-evaluated your life and re-committed it? Or are you simply unsure? Are there visible, distinguishing marks that show that your Christianity is deeply committed? 

These are questions that are going to be answered, I trust, in your own heart this morning as we examine this passage. You should have absolutely no doubt evaluating your spirituality after you’ve seen what God says here.

 

In Francis Schaeffer’s book THE MARK OF A CHRISTIAN, he says in the introduction that historically men have displayed different marks, or symbols, to show their Christianity. Certain people wore little marks on their coat lapels. Some still do. Other people, historically, wore chains around their neck, identifying them as believers. And still today we have lingerings of that in crosses and little things that people hang around their necks. There was a time in history even when special haircuts designated believers. We have our symbols today. The sign of the fish … one way … bumper stickers … posters … tee shirts … Bibles … jackets with Jesus all over the back of them. Different symbols, people trying to identify themselves as Christians. And they’re okay; the only problem is they are totally artificial. They are all visible only to the external eye. 

Now, you may be a Christian and wear a button—that’s fine. But you could just as well not be a Christian and wear a button. Wearing the button is totally superficial … or the bumper sticker, or whatever else. The way some Christians drive, it would probably be better if they took off their bumper sticker. But in these particular verses, Jesus gives us three internal, distinguishing marks of a Christian that show the commitment of his life. And they are infinitely more, identifying than any superficial button or sticker. 

We must be reminded that Jesus’ ministry is coming to an end. It is the night before His death. He is spending these last hours with His beloved disciples to prepare them for His leaving. He has just given Judas his exit orders and dismissed him to leave His presence eternally. Jesus then turns to the eleven remaining disciples and gives them a farewell speech that runs from chapter 13 verse 31 clear through verse 33 of chapter 16. So, 13, 14, 15, and 16 are really Jesus’ farewell address to the eleven beloved disciples. In this address there is instruction, promises, warnings, commandments, and all of this private instruction really put together becomes kind of a final commitment of orders to all disciples of all ages. These words are rich, they’re exciting, they’re powerful, they’re informative, they’re motivating, they’re loving, they’re divine, and they’re really all the things a disciple needs to know. To be a committed disciple, if you just took care of John 13:31–16:33, you’d have practically every ingredient you needed to really know what discipleship was all about, it’s all there. In the weeks to follow, through the end of chapter 16, these things are critically to be understood by every believer. 

I think they are doubly significant because they’re the last words of a dying Savior. This is the last commission before Jesus goes to the cross, thus it is very important. 

In these last words of Jesus we find that Jesus gives what should be the marks of the true disciple, the virtues that should characterize all of His own after He leaves. As long as Jesus was in the world there was a certain dynamic, and He Himself had a profound impact and witness. But once He is gone, then the witness becomes dependent upon the availability of His disciples. And so it is strategic that His disciples be marked so that men can know where the truth resides. The problem today is that when Christians are not really authoritative disciples, the world doesn’t know to whom to go to find the answers. And the average guy when assuming that maybe God is for real, and there are answers, looks at the spectrum of Christianity quote/unquote and church and all the rest that goes with it, and he is baffled. And very often there are Christians around him but he doesn’t even know they exist because there are no visible marks. So, Jesus is saying when I’m gone you better be definitive enough so that people know you are the resource. And thus He gives to them three distinguishing marks of a Christian. 

He shows them that the committed disciple is to be completely absorbed with three things; three distinguishing marks of a committed Christian: his Lord’s glory, his love and his loyalty. I’ll say it another way. The genuine, dynamic, visible, detectable disciple has a consuming desire for an unswerving focus on Christ’s glory; an unending love for his brother; and an unfailing loyalty to his Lord. Those ingredients wrap up the dynamic disciple. And they should mark every Christian.

First of all, the committed Christian is preoccupied and absorbed with his Lord’s glory, verses 31–33. The committed Christian is one who is concerned about the glory of his Lord. He is concerned with living to give glory to God. He realizes that it doesn’t matter what people think of him in terms of an end, but only what they think of him in terms of a means to the end that they glorify God, in everything we do the glory of the Lord is to be our motive, our theme, our goal, our reason, our purpose. To give Him glory is what it’s all about. 

The very purpose for which you and I exist is to give glory to God, that’s what it’s all about. In fact, Jesus is called in 1 Corinthians 2 and James 2 He is called the Lord of glory. We are to give Him glory.. And it is the mark of a committed Christian; it is the mark of a really genuine disciple that he gives God glory. His life reflects the attributes of God. God is praised by the way he lives. 

With that in mind, notice verse 31: “Therefore when he was gone out,” that is Judas, “Therefore when he was gone out, Jesus said, now is the Son of man glorified and God is glorified in Him.” 

It almost comes across like a sigh of relief. Now that Judas is gone He’s now ready to speak freely of His glory to His disciples. And He begins His farewell address by hitting the major issue of all issues, His glory. The highest of all themes is the place where He begins His address in verse 31. For a brief 33 years, God incarnate, came to earth in humility, He restricted the full manifestation of His glory. He subjected Himself to human kind and to human frailty in the sense of the physical world, though He never sinned, and He restricted the manifestation of His full glory for that period of 33 years. But here He says—Now, starting tomorrow the Son of man is going to be glorified again. And all the attributes of God are going to be on display. Jesus longed for this glory; in John 17 He got down in the garden and He prayed, “O Father, Father glorify Me with the glory that I had with You before the world began.” He was ready to go to the cross and claim His glorification process as it once was. 

So, with His coming glory in mind, Jesus presents three distinct statements pertaining to His glory. The first statement that He makes about His glory is: “Now,” verse 31, “Now is the Son of man glorified.” That’s a statement of anticipation. For 33 years He has waited to be glorified. Now it comes and His glorification would begin on a cross the next morning. 

Judas had already begun to set everything in motion. He had already initiated the betrayal. In just a few hours Jesus and the disciples would go into the garden of Gethsemane where Christ would continue His teaching; Jesus then would begin to pray and following His prayer Judas would march in with the soldiers and the cross would begin to take place. Jesus says—“Now is the Son of man glorified.” Jesus tied His glory into the cross. 

Let me give you a thought from the sermon of Peter in Acts 3:13: “The God of Abraham and Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus whom ye delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate when he was determined to let Him go.” Peter said—He glorified Him in spite of you, He glorified Him on a cross, He glorified Him in a tomb and He glorified Him through and out the other side of a tomb and He will glorify Him yet in His ascension. That already had happened when Peter said that. 

When we talk then about the glory of the Lord, we’re talking about His death, resurrection, and ascension, it’s all wrapped up in it. Even though the cross looked like shame, even though it looked like disgrace, even though it looked like disaster, it was glory and Jesus could say, “But now is the Son of man glorified.” The deepest kind of shame, and the deepest kind of humiliation with accusations, insults, infamy, mockery, spit and all that men could throw at Him, the agony of a sinful death, in all of that Jesus could say, “Now is the Son of man glorified.” 

The glory of the Lord is a reference to all His manifestation of attributes. To give God glory means to believe in His attributes, to praise His attributes, His glory is the composite of all that He is. And on the cross when Jesus died, He manifested all of the attributes of God. In His death there were radiating from Him all the attributes of God. This death glorified Christ, first of all, and then we’ll see in a moment how it glorified God. 

It glorified Christ because on Calvary Christ performed the greatest work which had ever occurred in the history of the universe. On the cross He brought to pass the salvation of damned sinners, and that work deserves glory. Not only that, on the cross Jesus Christ destroyed sin, that deserves glory. Not only that, Christ through His death destroyed him who had the power of death, even the devil, that deserves glory. And then on the cross, Christ paid the price of God’s justice and purchased for Himself all the elect of God and that deserves glory. And when Christ came to that cross He rendered His life a sweet smelling savor to God, a sacrifice more pure and blessed than any sacrifice ever offered. Jesus concluded His cross by saying, “It is finished.” And He had accomplished the redemption of the human race; He satisfied the justice of God, repaired the broken law, set men free and that’s the greatest work in the history of the universe and thus on the cross the Son of man received glory. So there is in all heaven and earth no act so worthy of praise and honor and full glory as that act of Jesus when He died on a cross, and thus did He say, “In the cross will the Son of man be glorified.” 

And there’s a second aspect of His glory that Jesus mentions, also in verse 31, it says: “Now is the Son of man glorified,” but look at the next statement: “And God is glorified in Him.” How is it that God is glorified in Christ? Remember, God’s glory is His attributes. His love, mercy, grace, wisdom, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, every attribute of God, all of them are His glory. And at the cross every attribute of God was manifest in a way that had never been manifest before and thus God was glorified in the death of Christ, because Christ put on display in His death, all the attributes of God. 

We know that God is powerful, and the power of God is seen on the cross like it is seen nowhere else. The kings/rulers of the earth took counsel together against God and against His Christ. The terrible enmity of the carnal mind and the desperate wickedness of the human heart nailed Jesus to a cross. The hatred of Satan put forth its best effort. The world and Satan and every demon in the universe, threw all the power that it had at Jesus Christ and Jesus had the power to handle it all and by His power in death He broke every shackle, He broke every power of sin, He broke every power of Satan and He broke them forever and that’s power. The cross was a display of God’s power like no other display and that gives God glory. 

So, God was glorified in Christ because Christ displayed His absolute and total power over every other force in the universe. 

Second attribute was the justice of God. The justice of God is seen in the cross like it is seen nowhere else. God said, “The wages of sin is death.” That’s God’s justice. Someone had to die for sin. And when our Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross as the guilty one, the substitute, Isaiah says: “God laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” God actually put all the sin of all men of all time on Jesus Christ. The penalty of the law had to be enforced, even though it meant the slaying of God’s beloved Son, but God would not back off one step from His justice and the cross becomes the greatest display of the justice of God because it demanded out of God the greatest cost, and God paid it. And that kind of justice gives God glory. 

Also, God is holy and His holiness is seen at the cross, like it’s seen nowhere else. You would think that God would have stayed right there with Jesus because He loved Him so much, but God turned His back and walked away, that’s how holy He is. Even though He loved Jesus Christ with an infinite kind of love that’s known only to deity, yet He turned His back and walked away from the cross because of His holiness. Habakkuk was right when he said: “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on iniquity.” And when Christ was made a curse on that cross, God turned His back. And Jesus cried out in agony, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Never did God so manifest His hatred for sin as in the suffering of the death of His own Son. There is nothing in comparison with the offering of Christ Himself in order that every demand of God’s holiness might be fully met. And when Jesus displayed that kind of holiness, God received glory. 

Then there’s the faithfulness of God. God promised the world a Savior and God gave them that Savior. When Christ, the sinless one, was offered on the cross to receive the full and final wages of sin God showed to all heaven and earth that He was faithful. He was so faithful that even though it cost Him His only Son, He went through with it. And when you see that kind of faithfulness, you’re seeing His glory. 

One more and that’s the attribute of love. God’s love is seen at the cross like nowhere else. Here in His love, I John, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us and gave Himself to be the atonement, the covering, for our sins and not for ours only but the sins of the whole world. That’s love. Love is seen in the cross. 

Those are all attributes of God. And they have never been so clear in the history of the world as they were on Calvary’s cross. So not only is the Son of man glorified in what He does, but what He does He glorifies God. And so it is that the Father and the Son are busily engaged in glorifying each other. And we could talk about the grace and the mercy of God and all the other attributes and they’re all there at the cross, every one of them is there. 

Then there’s a third statement in verse 32. “If God be glorified in Him,” (just covered above) “God shall also glorify Him in Himself and shall straightway glorify Him.” Three things, number one, in the cross Christ is glorified; number two, in the cross God is glorified; number three, and God will yet in the future glorify Christ again. That’s the other side of the picture. There was certain glory in the cross but there was an awful lot of glory to follow the cross. The Father would not stop at the cross, there would be the resurrection, there would be the ascension, there would be the exaltation of Christ sitting on the right hand of the Father and yet to come there would be the return of Christ in total glory. So Jesus adds the third dimension of glory, the fact that God’s not through, there is yet to be a future glory for Jesus Christ. 

All this glory that was coming to Christ meant that Christ had to leave. He had to leave to be glorified. So as He is revealing His glory He also says in verse 33: “Little children, yet a little while I am with you, ye shall seek Me, and as I said unto the Jews, where I go ye cannot come, so now I say to you.” The word teknia, that’s Greek for little children, the only time it’s ever used in the Gospel of John. Teknia He’s thinking about the eleven beloved disciples. And He says—You know, men, all this glory means I’m going to leave you. And where I go you can’t come. Like I told the Jews that they couldn’t come, so I tell you. It’s kind of an affectionate term that He calls them … teknia. 

He merely says—you can’t come now, where I’m going to go. And by His death Jesus was going to go to the Father and they would miss Him. They would miss His physical nearness. I can imagine, how many days went by in the lives of those disciples when you heard this statement—Oh, I wish Jesus was still here. How many times would they have said that? In trials and problems. They didn’t want Him to go. Jesus knew that and said little children, My glory involves My leaving, you have to understand that. 

So, Jesus presents to them the fact that He must leave but they must stay to carry on the work. He’s to be glorified, they will too, someday, but not yet. 

So just like those disciples the committed Christian is left here to carry out Christ’s work because we too should be preoccupied with our Lord’s glory. It’s our theme. His cross, His exaltation, His coming again, that’s the display of His glory which is the heart of this message. That’s the gospel, the death, the resurrection, the exaltation and the coming again of Jesus Christ. And we should have a passionate consuming love for His glory above all else. 

If only we were so grieved to see His glory and only if we felt so wounded by His public humiliation among men, but we so often remain silent. So, the committed disciple is preoccupied with his Lord’s glory, he sees the death, burial, resurrection, exaltation and ascension of Christ and His return … all of this being the glory of Christ and that is his message, that is his heart cry. 

Not only is the committed disciple preoccupied with his Lord’s glory but secondly, with his love. Here is a crucial word to these beloved eleven; a mark that really will distinguish them in the world. Even though they’re no longer able to rejoice in the visible presence of Jesus they will still be able to enjoy a full rich experience of love because He’s going to leave them a depository of love in their own lives. He says here that love shall be their mark … verse 34. “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another … in what way?… as I have loved you, that ye also love one another; by this shall men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The first distinguishing mark to the world of a believer is that he is totally absorbed in giving glory to his Lord, and the second distinguishing mark of a committed Christian is his love. 

In 1 John 3:11, John repeated it and this is the message that ye have heard from the beginning, that ye love one another. We have a new God-given capacity to love. The love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts, Romans 5:5. And in Romans 13:8–10, the Bible tells us that now in that new capacity to love that love replaces law. We don’t need rules and regulations. if we have love that takes care of the law, we don’t need the rules. 

What kind of love? “Love as I have loved you.”

That sets the standard. That’s a selfless, sacrificial, indiscriminate, understanding, forgiving love just like Christ’s love. If you want to know what kind of love, it’s the same kind that Jesus had and until we’ve reached that point we have not fulfilled the new commandment. 

Notice what He says, “That you love one another.” If ever the body of Christ existed in that kind of love, we would absolutely devastate the world. But it just isn’t that way. There are factions and little groups and splits and cliques and this little guy over here, sitting up there on his ivory tower with his theological shotgun ready to blow out everybody’s brains that doesn’t agree with him, and you’ve got everybody fighting for their own little four-square feet and somebody doesn’t like this person, and this person doesn’t like somebody, and it’s just a sick, sick thing. And people gossip and backbite and talk and criticize and the world looks and they say—I don’t see too much love, I don’t know whether they’re for real or not. “By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples.” 

Francis Schaeffer said, “God gave the world the right to judge us on our love.” The world looks at us and says—Oh, they love, they must be from God.… oh, they don’t love, they’re not from God. 

How can you manifest visible love? Schaeffer says. Number one, to say I’m sorry to the brother you don’t love? If you’re willing to do that, then you’re really on the road. But let me say this pointedly, if you’re not willing right now, to go to somebody you don’t love and say—I’m sorry—then you don’t want to be a committed Christian. And you don’t want the mark of a committed Christian. And the whole body of Christ is incapacitated … if you’re not willing to do that. 

What really causes bitterness within the body of Christ isn’t doctrinal difference; it’s invariably a lack of love. And the first way to show a visible love is say—I’m sorry. 

There’s a second way to show a visible love, that’s to say I forgive you … whether you’re asked or not. Can you imagine going up to somebody who doesn’t love you and has never apologized and just say—I forgive you for not loving me? Shock them to death. They won’t even know you knew they didn’t love you. A forgiving spirit, registers an attitude of love. 

If you really want to maintain Christ’s kind of love in this world then whatever comes your way—take it, praise the Lord and say that’s okay, I forgive you and I love you. That kind of love would devastate this world. That’s a costly love … and you may have to sacrifice, but while you sacrifice materially you’re stacking it up spiritually. And the quality of our love is “as I have loved you.” The extent of our love? “To everybody.” To everybody, you know, it’s not just Christians, that’s just the beginning. First Thessalonians 3:12, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love, one toward another and toward all men.” All men. Do you love them all? 

There’s the second mark love, love, love, love. And love like Jesus loved.  How can you really love like this? “But in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” Is that tough? To think everybody’s better than you … honestly. “And look not every man on his own things but every man also on the things of others.” That’s just what Jesus did. The only people who have a capacity to love are humble people. If you don’t love it’s because you’re proud and God hates a proud heart. Love is the key. 

First Thessalonians 4:9, “But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another and indeed ye do it.” That little group was just loving each other and their testimony went everywhere. Two weeks after Paul left that place their testimony was all over the known world. “By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples.” Get it on with love and the word is going to get out fast because people will gravitate to love like filings to a magnet. And when it says—love one another— it’s a linear verb—keep on loving one another. That’s our mark and it’s a far surpassing love to any human love. 

Two marks, The Lord’s glory. Are you preoccupied with it? Mark number two, love, love, love … “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples.” 

Father, we thank You this morning, that You’ve given to us a visible, actual witness to the world by our love, and by our total absorption and preoccupation with Your glory. May we just live for the glory of Jesus Christ. May it be, Father, that every time we open our mouths we are uttering things glorifying to Christ. May we speak of His death and speak of His resurrection and His ascension and His exaltation and His coming again, may we exalt Him every time our lips move. May the passion of our lives be to give Him glory. And then, Father, what a tremendous debt we owe this world, to show the world who we are by our love. Father, teach us to do nothing less and because we know You’ve said it, teach us to do it. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

 

 When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible on-line, please click here and may you be blessed by the song, "They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love."