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Weekly Devotion

November 02 2020


“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept 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: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  John 15:9-14 NIV


If were to be totally honest, I would likely self-identify as a pretty selfish person.  Most of the time, I look at the successes of others and secretly envy what they have accomplished.  I also compare myself favorably to others who seemingly have blown it and silently thank God "I'm not like that guy" (see Luke 18:11).

So when the opportunity presented itself for me to donate a kidney to one of my church members, it came as a complete surprise to me that--without hesitation--I volunteered to be tested. It came as an even greater surprise that, when it was determined that I was an exact match for my friend, Mike Warren, I readily jumped at the opportunity to schedule the transplant.

At 5 AM on September 15, Mike and I arrived at the Eason Transplant Unit of Methodist University in Memphis to begin this journey that will forever join our lives together. The surgery took twice as long as expected. There were complications. There was pain...A LOT of pain! And while I am slowly but surely recovering my strength with full kidney function, as I write this devotional Mike continues to struggle in his recovery. Please pray for him.  Doctors are hopeful he will fully recover and the kidney will add years of quality life, praise God!

In John 15 Jesus is describing what true discipleship means. We are to remain connected to Jesus as a branch is connected to the vine of a grapevine. Only then can we produce the kind of fruit that shows we are right with God.  He then drops a bombshell of sorts.  He describes this fruitfulness as sacrificial love. "Love each other as I have loved you." Wow! That's a tall order! Last time I checked, no one I've personally known have hung on a cross for another person. What is Jesus saying?

He goes on to explain that greater love has no one than to lay down one's life for one's friends (plural). I think he's talking about himself here. Why do I say that? Becuase I think he's describing his plan to become the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world by hanging on Calvary's cross.  Is Jesus asking us to experience the same excruciating pain and shame of crucifixion in order to demonstrate our love for Him? Not at all (although many of the early martyrs did just that). Rather, I think Jesus is saying we are to have the attitude that our lives are NOT our own once we become followers of Jesus Christ.  We freely offer our time, our resources, even our lives for the cause of Christ because of His love working in and through us.

Which gets me back to the transplant. I am not capable of doing such a loving thing on my own.  But the love of Christ in me--birthed in me because of HIs grace--compells me to joyfully obey my Master, even it if means offering a part of myself to another.  People have commented on this amazing act of generosity on my part, as if I had any part in it. No!  It was Jesus only and Jesus always who did this.  

In Matthew 5:16, Jesus says "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." He says "LET" your light shine, NOT shine your light. I take that to mean it is God working through us when we submit to His will. That way, others will glorify God, not us. Jesus calls us friends when we do stuff like this.  I am His friend, which means I will do whatever He commands. And what He commands is...love.

Prayer:
Jesus, Son of God and resurrected Lord of life, thank you for demonstrating unconditional, supernatural love for us by your sacrifice on the cross to take away our sins and give us an everlasting relationship with You.  Empower us by your Spirit to love others as you love us, even if it means moving us out of our comfort zone or giving of ourselves beyond our own perceieved limitations.  All for Your glory and Your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Stephen Bittick, Pastor ><