Infinite Love, John 17
Discussion & Practice
- Read Matthew 28:18-20. What does it mean to you that God's authority and presence goes with you in fulfilling his command to go and make disciples? How does that reality change the way you approach people?
- What stood out to you most in the sermon?
- In what ways have you tried to enjoy the benefits of relationship with God without giving away those benefits to others?
- Have you ever considered the fact that God has opened up this perfect trinitarian relationship to you? How is this so different than other religions?
- Where do you sense God might be sending you right now? What are your fears or barriers from going there?
Practice: Spheres of Influence. We've started looking at our sphere's of influence together. If you haven't begun yet, write out all of your spheres of influence (work, school, neighborhood, gym, etc.) and fill in names of unbelievers. Start praying for opportunities to share the gospel with them and for other opportunities with people outside your spheres of influence. Pray for God to replace your apathy with enthusiasm for sharing the gospel. Pray the prayer Pete gave in the sermon, "Fill my heart with your love for this world. Then send me.”
We’re in a series facing the apathy we all feel in ourselves and in our church. We are tempted, if we haven’t already, to give up on society. It feels justified because of the dismantling of reality our culture is experiencing.
It’s true of culture in general, that the late modern culture is hard to love. Because of the polarizing extremes, it seems that you have to sit on one side and hate something.
We don’t really feel like we have anything to say to culture. We feel like we could never bridge the gap.
Part of it is out of spite. Part of it is because we are not prepared to handle this culture. We’re ill-equipped and intimidated by this culture. That is not the heart of Christ.
We have to reconnect with the heart of God and his mission. When you pull away from the world, it is a theological problem. You cannot pull away from the world without pulling away from God.
At the end of the day, we have to let God speak into this matter. Is walking away from the world the same as walking away from God?
We saw in Jonah that walking away from the world is a problem WITH God and a problem FOR God. Now he has to deal with you and the world. He has to bring you back.
We have to rethink how to interact with the world which will change our priorities.
We saw in Jonah as a prophet who saw the world differently than God did. We saw how uncomfortable that felt in the story. I hope you felt uncomfortable looking in on the conversation Jonah had with God.
You almost felt sorry for God because of Jonah’s self-centeredness. Apathy is a focus on the self that is gross and embarrassing.
There’s no way to live in a way that you want God but don’t want him to change you.
But rather than God telling Jonah, “We’re done,” God chooses very compassionately to ask a question instead and force Jonah to ponder it instead of just kicking him out.
“Should I not have pity on Nineveh?”
If Jonah answers “no,” he’s basically condemning himself. If you’re not going to have compassion on them, you can’t have compassion on me either.
But if he says “yes,” he’s going to have to become a conduit of God’s grace to people.
God is asking us right now, “Should I love this late modern culture?” If you answer no to that question, you’re excluding yourself from that grace. If you answer yes, you have to be a conduit of that grace.
The fact that God asks that question is so wonderfully compassionate.
The book ends with that question. It just sits there.
Will God dictate my life or not? Will his character, life, heart, sense of justice, plan, call––will that be what dictates my life?
God just let that question to Jonah run through history, like an eternal question forcing us to think about it and answer for ourselves.
Sometimes you will come across people you are not sure God ought to be gracious to. In the course of your life, there are times when you look out at groups of people or you are in the group and you say that there is no way God ought to be gracious to those people.
We must not give up on any culture.
I want to spend some time today answering that question hanging over Jonah. Should God care about Nineveh? Should God care about this culture?
Before we get to anything practical, we have to seriously consider this question.
The resurrection has occurred at this point. This is the most insanely important in all history and with it comes a commission: You’ve got to go tell this.
“Name” is singular here, but the God is three––a triune relationship.
These nations are being invited “into” this trinitarian life
Book: Acedia and it’s discontents It’s a philosophical book that assesses all of culture. He assesses the whole issue of apathy.
“The Trinity changes everything.”
How did he get from assessing apathy universally to coming up with that line?
You have these three persons unique to Christianity. One God, three equal persons who know and love each other intimately, existing eternally.
You have this eternal God who has always operated eternally. God’s essence is relational. It’s so unique that Christianity has this Trinity. It means that reality is relational. It’s not like God puts on different hats. It’s three persons in perfect love.
At the center of cosmic reality is this love between them. Infinite degrees of service and sacrifice, love and joy, adoration and delight, love in its perfect essence––where you give and receive and there are no deficiencies. They are perfect in it.
God is not needy or narcissistic. He has everything. It’s the perfect dynamic of love.
We’re going to look at this in John 17 and how it answers the question.
We’re going to look at this relational dynamic and what it took for you to join it.
In this section of John, Jesus shares his heart with the disciples in the most intimate encounter he had with them.
In John 17, Jesus is very soon to go to the cross. This day in history is here.
How do you get from this perfect Trinity, the perfect dynamic of love, to this moment on earth where one of them has to die? How did that happen?
The loving relationship that the Trinity has is best encapsulated in glory. Glory is who we are because of the kind of love we share with one another. We’re glorying in each other. Part of it means I’m loving to the highest possible level.
Somehow, there is an opening here in this trinitarian relationship and it’s being offered to you.
Eternal life is not just going to heaven, it’s entering into a relationship. God’s very life is being opened up to humans.
Whatever love is here, it has such a force that it cannot stay in itself, it has to be offered. Anything really loving can’t be constricted. There is a “sent-ness” to this kind of love. That kind of love gives and is sent. The Trinity is giving to one another in ultimate levels. If you’re going to love, you’re going to send it away.
What is the glory of God? It’s the essence of who they are. It’s the character that this love produces between them.
God is opening up the Trinity and inviting us into it.
And then God sends us into the world, because that’s what love does. It goes! This is John 3:16 love. Sent into a world that is messed up.
When you love, you sacrifice yourself.
You don’t come into this reality without this “sent-ness.”
God gives to me in love and I give it back out.
This oneness is so much bigger than unity. It’s entering into this incredible fellowship, this dynamic of love. God opened up the Trinity for us.
He repeats it…
Before the world ever existed, reality existed in love. It was a loving force that created. Love motivated it.
Why did God create this place anyway? Love.
Jesus came into a world that has no idea what kind of love the Trinity shared.
What about the Holy Spirit? Jesus says right before this that he is going to send the Spirit, just like the Father sent him. There’s no way to be in the relationship without being sent.
That’s what love does. It just keeps giving out.
That’s your God.
He put everything at risk. Can you imagine putting this relationship at risk to the likes of us?
Let’s run backwards to Genesis. If you haven’t read Genesis 1 lately, it will be the best thing for your spiritual life to see how God started it all.
God opened up the relationship to you in order to send you out as well.
God said conversationally, let us create and share it with humans and let humans share it with each other.
The best thing in our lives our the relationships. I have kids and grandkids and they’ll have kids, and I don’t ever want it to end. Where do you think you got that? A God of love.
Why does the Trinity change everything? Because the motive for creation was love.
This is why God is not just one person. This is why Christianity is so unique.
A uni-personal God would not know love. He would never have had experienced love. If you don’t have someone else to love, you can’t know love or experience love. That kind of god would have created out of power.
But God wasn’t needy or narcissistic. God already had it.
If you were on God and you made people and they didn’t love you, you would have no plan to win them back because you would have never done it.
So when they turn on you, you would have just used your power to crush them.
But God wasn’t caught off guard when we turned away from him as our ultimate reality. God wasn’t experimenting like a mad scientist with human beings.
We broke the system and devastated reality. All of humanity felt it. Death came. When creatures break off from their creator, they die. It’s not a survivable existence.
God had a problem at this point. These people you created don’t love you. What will you do?
God knew exactly what he would do.
C. S. Lewis said that when Jesus came out of this Trinity and died on the cross, he was doing exactly what he was already doing for all eternity passed. He had already been doing that sacrificial love, and now he’s coming to us to show us what that love looks like.
He didn’t do anything he hadn’t already been doing. That’s a trinitarian God.
We get two windows in the New Testament that explain to us what that conversation must have looked like to get from the trinitarian relationship to the cross.
You’re not getting freedom when you run from God, you’re getting imprisoned.
Christ knew that he would come before the foundation of the world. God ordained this whole ransom plan. He knew there would be no way we could sustain the love that he has.
He chose in advance to sacrifice. It was determined before time, because that kind of love already existed in perfect relationship.
This is the plan that a loving God would concoct, because love drove the whole event.
Jesus responds in eternity, before he ever came to earth, that he would do God’s will.
How do you answer the question when God asks, “Should I love the modern world?”
There might be some of you in here who needed to hear it and see it and have it clear that he knows how to redeem the most unredeemable. The plan from eternity past is the perfect plan for every culture.
Of course God would have compassion on this world.
Your prayer ought to be, “Help me to have it. Fill my heart with your love for this world. Then send me.”
You can’t have that love without being sent. Love is the fuel behind the “Go.”
If you’re in here and say, “I can’t be sent because I haven’t been brought into the relationship yet. I didn’t know that was open to me or how far he would go for me. That he was willing to break up this perfect fellowship for me.”
The darkest moment in all of history is when Jesus says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That's the moment God can't look at his own Son because he's carrying the sin of the world. He broke that fellowship for a time so that you could be brought into that fellowship with the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.