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Lay Down His Life

by David Johnson

Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program


     Thank you for listening. Its great that we can be together again as we look into the Word of God. The title for the lesson is taken from the New Testament, the title is: “Lay down his life.” Taken from the gospel of John chapter 15 verses 9 through 13.

Please listen to the Word of God.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Wonderful words of Jesus our Lord.

     Love for another can be shown in many different ways. We usually think in terms of romantic love. There is also love within a biological family or between friends. The term ‘love’ can also be used loosely to indicate particular emotional preferences, for example, love for a sports team: ‘I love those cats or cards, I love those teams, or it could refer to love for a choice food ‘I love Mexican or Chinese food.’  The term ‘love’ is really overused.

     The love that Jesus spoke about in the gospel of John chapter 15 was a very different kind of love.  A love that Christians must aspire to live out as the inspired word of God reveals. Jesus stated in: John chapter 15 verse 9A “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.”  Here’s our perfect example. This is a rather amazing statement.  Jesus affirms that the perfect love of God the Father towards his Son is similar in kind as the Son of God’s love for his true disciples. As believers we should be motivated by the wonder of Jesus’ love for us which is patterned after God the Father’s love in its quality and extent. Motivated to love deeply even sacrificially is our calling.

     This is obvious by the following truths: Romans chapter 5 verse 8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Consider also, First John chapter 4 verse 16 “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.”  Jesus thereby gives believers great reason – to love him in return, so he admonishes us.

     In the gospel of John chapter 15 and verse 9B “Now remain in my love.”  We should understand that this type of love toward God, towards Jesus, is not primarily emotional nor in some kind of mystical sense.  According to scripture its primarily according to our steadfast will, not just feelings. We strive to willfully love God, love others sacrificially, unselfishly.

     John chapter 15 and verse 10 “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

     We must choose by our will unto a pattern of obedience to the commands of God to actively (not passively) remain in Christ’s love. It’s a loving obedience; it’s a love proven, validated, verified by our steadfast obedience.  Obedience to his teachings. It’s our obedient spirit exposing true faith that cherishes the love of Christ and fuels our love. 

     The apostle John later wrote in his first epistle: First John chapter 5 verses 3 and 4 “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

     The reason God’s commands are not burdensome, not heavy, is because we trust our Father who always knows best. Kingdom commands are always higher, above the world’s ways, which the maturing believer learns and accepts.

     Obedient love pays great dividends: John chapter 15, the gospel of John chapter 15 and verse 11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”  When believers obey God’s commands it expresses our love and brings great joy to Jesus.  Jesus by his Spirit in us, channels his joy to us. To know that Jesus derives joy from us in our obedience, becomes joy of joy for us. Maturity in Christ brings joyful obedience.

     Then Jesus adds another accompanying aspect of our necessary obedience. John chapter 15 and verse 12 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”  Notice this is a command which must be obeyed to further exhibit our love by an act of our will. That is to love others as he has loved us. Some are not so loveable; but we should strive to love them anyway. So, how supremely does one prove his love for others?

     Answer. John chapter 15 and verse 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  Consider this illustration, this example of this kind of love. Shortly before 1 AM on February 2, in the year of our Lord 1943, the American transport ship Dorchester was steaming through the icy North Atlantic waters from Newfoundland toward an American base in Greenland carrying 902 people, including servicemen, merchant seaman, and civilian workers, when a Nazi torpedo struck far below the water line of this transport ship.  The blast killed scores; many more were seriously wounded. Others, stunned by the explosion, groped in the darkness.

     According to eyewitness accounts, four Army chaplains brought hope in despair to the men. The four chaplains could be heard urging the frightened to be brave, praying for the dying, and guiding the disoriented towards the lifeboats. Men jumped from the ship into lifeboats overcrowding them to the point of capsizing. The chaplains distributed lifejackets. When there were no more lifejackets, the four chaplains took off theirs giving them to four frightened young men.

     Then in the darkness, the four chaplains linked arms, grasped the railing of the ship together as it began to slip into the ocean. And amazingly according to eyewitnesses, ear witnesses they began singing and shouting biblical verses. A sailor, floating among his dead comrades, later said, ‘Their voices were the only thing that kept me going.’

     Of the men aboard that ship, the Dorchester, 672 of 902 onboard perished, including the four chaplains. They sacrificial laid down of their lives for their friends which is the supreme act of their will in love. Surviving veterans of the Dorchester tragedy learned what Christ like sacrificial love looks like in these four servants of God. These four chaplains.

     Yet there is, of course, an even greater, perfect example of the superlative, ultimate sacrificial love in obedience to his Father. A tremendous love toward all mankind. Romans chapter 5 verses 6 through 7 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless. Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.”  Jesus Christ died for you and me, as sinners. 

     First John chapter 3 and 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.”  I remember a teenager who once told me his opinion was that ‘God would never desire that we lay down our lives for other’s. God just wouldn’t ask us to do that. But according to scripture there are circumstances in which we can and should as believers according to the circumstances before us to lay down our lives for others.

     How could we love sacrificially, obediently in this way, how could we do that? For the born-again baptized believer consider the Roman letter chapter 5 and verse 5 as the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write these words which says in part “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  Poured out his love, God’s love into our hearts. Love, agape love, sacrificial love is the preeminent fruit of the Holy Spirit, indwelling us as Christians, born-again, baptized Christians. To lay down our life for a friend is to willingly exhibit obedient love. May we aspire to love our fellow man in this way as God leads or directs.

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10