Love is the Measure


How do we know if we’re living like a disciple? In this message, we learn that the way to measure discipleship is through love.

Come on. He just wants you. So welcome to Valley Creek. Wherever you are today, Denton, Flower Mound, Gainesville, Lewisville, The Venue, online, come on, let’s just welcome each other together. We are so glad you are here with us, and God is moving in our church right now. You can feel it in the worship, you can see it in what He’s doing, and there are so many great things that are happening. Like yesterday, we had an amazing Serve the City, serving more than 150 non-profits and churches in our region because if we want to see the kingdom come in our region, we need those churches and non-profits to succeed and thrive in Jesus’ name. We just finished up our spring circles semester, which was the best semester of circles we have ever had, the most amount of people we’ve ever had, engaged in a circle.

And as we’re building a discipleship culture, people are getting together, gathering around the word of God, praying, talking about the message. We just graduated our fourth VCLA class, Valley Creek Leadership Academy, which included our 50th graduates. So that is outstanding. And then last week, Mother’s Day, we didn’t do traditional Mother’s Day, we talked about woman. You have no idea how good that was. I think sometimes we come in, we’re like, it’s Mother’s Day, we’re fighting, mom’s mad she didn’t get breakfast, whatever it is, don’t miss what last week was. Go back if you weren’t here, watch it online. If you were here, use it as a resource. Listen to me, every dad needs to watch that with his daughter and speak identity into her.

Every mother needs to watch that with her daughter and speak identity into her. Let’s stop letting the world tell women who women are and let’s start letting God tell women who women are. But it’s got to be more than a weekend service that you pop in and pop out of. That’s why we created the resource site so use it, own your journey. Advance the kingdom. God’s moving. It’s a great time to be alive and be a part of what God is doing here. And we’re in this series called Becoming, talking about life as a disciple. And we’re just asking this big question, like who are you becoming? Are you growing? Are you changing? Are you maturing? Are you becoming freer and healthier? Are you living as a disciple, a learner, a student, a follower, one who become like the one they’re following, Jesus. And every once in a while we have to stop and just look at own life.

In fact, 2 Corinthians tells us examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you unless of course you fail the test? He says, hey, every once in a while you just got to stop and look at your own life. You got to examine yourself to see if your life really aligns with what you say you believe. How’s your faith doing? Is growing? Is it thriving? Or is it retreating and withdrawing? And I’ve been telling you all year, this is the most important year in your spiritual journey because the decisions you make this year are going to determine the direction of your life for the next 5, 10, 20 years to come. So we’re just kind of examining ourselves and saying, hey, how are we doing? Who are we becoming? Am I actually living as a disciple, which here’s what it says, this is how we know we are in him that we’re actually disciples, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

In other words, whoever claims that they believe in Jesus, their life should start to look more and more like Jesus’ life. But the question is, how do we know? How do we know we’re becoming? How do we know we’re growing and maturing and becoming freer and healthier? Like what’s the measure of a disciple? How do we know if we’re actually becoming? Well, Jesus tells us. In John 13, he says, “A new command I give you: ‘Love one another; as I have loved you so must love one another.’ By this all men will know that you are my,” say it with me, “disciples if you love one another.” There it is. He says, love is the measure of a disciple.

The disciples are defined by love. Not knowledge, not information, not church activity, not being a good person, not having good morals, not even being in church or engaged online. He says, love is the measure of a disciple, that love is evidence of sonship. Now, I want you to put this version in context with me. This is John 13, this means that for the last three years, the disciples have been walking with Jesus and he’s been demonstrating to them love on display. For three years, Jesus has been showing the disciples what love sounds like, what love looks like, how love acts, how love talks, how love behaves, how love gives, how love serves, how love sacrifices. And here in John 13, after three years of seeing and experiencing love, it says, “Jesus showed them the full extent of his love.”

It’s the end of his life, they’re in the upper room, they’re taking the Passover together. Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet. This is what’s happening. He’s washed their feet, they’re taking the Passover, he tells them he’s going to the cross, he’s telling them about his love for them and catch it, this is John 13:34 and 35, look at how Peter responds in verse 36, “Peter asks him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’” If you read this in context, it literally hits you in the face like a 2 by 4. Jesus is talking all about love and Peter basically interrupts him and he’s like, yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus, you’ve been telling us about love for three years, we got the love thing. Now, tell us something we don’t know. Give us some knowledge. Give us some revelation. Come on, Jesus, give us some meat. We’re ready for the good stuff.

We got the love thing down. Ain’t that about a whole lot of how we view the love of God? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we got the love thing. That’s elementary, that’s basic, God loves me, I get it. Come on, give me something I don’t know. Give me some knowledge, give me some meat, tell me something I haven’t heard before. Not realizing that love is the heartbeat of the entire kingdom. I mean look at what this verse says. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” This is huge. Knowledge puffs you up, knowledge makes you proud. It makes you arrogant, but love builds. Love creates a foundation and makes sure everything is aligned and fastened together.

Love allows you to build and go from glory to glory and victory to victory and strength to strength. And if we’re honest, there is a whole lot of bloated Christians walking around. They got all kinds of knowledge but they don’t have any love. And they think they know everything there is to know about love. But the moment you think you already know love, he’s telling us you don’t have a clue. That’s what he’s saying. A whole lot of us know God loves me up here, but we’ve never experienced God loves me in here. And this is why it’s so dangerous to pop from church to church looking for the next meal, I need more meat, I need to be fed better. No, you don’t. You need an experience with the love of God. To say that you know everything you need to know about the love of God is literally saying like you know the fullness of God himself.

Be really careful because that is really arrogant and really prideful. Come on, love is the measure of a disciple. In fact, that’s why he says, “So I say live by the spirit, the fruit of the spirit is love.” So if I’m walking in the spirit, love starts showing up in my life. So love is the evidence of Spirit-filled life. Love is the evidence that grace is at work in my life. Love is the evidence that I am now a child of God and brought into His kingdom. Love is the measure of a disciple. You’re like, that’s a lot of words. Yeah, it is. “If I speak in tongues of man and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but have not love, I gain nothing.”

He says it doesn’t matter how gifted, how talented, how much ability you have, how much money you have, how much knowledge you have, how much wisdom you have, how much influence you have, how many followers you have, how good looking you are, he says if you have not love, you have nothing. Nothing. Why? Because God is love. And if God is love, then to look to God is to look to love. To follow God is to follow love. And to become like God is to grow in love. So when Jesus invites you to be his disciple, do you know what he’s really inviting you? He’s inviting you to be a disciple of love.

This is why this matters. God is not just interested in love, He doesn’t just like love, His very essence, His very nature is love, which means everything He says, every command He gives, every invitation He extends, every decision He makes, every action He takes is love. And when we don’t understand what He’s doing, it’s because sometimes we’re just not looking through the lens of love. This is why you watch people as they age they end up in one of two very different paths. People who walk with God and follow Him, they get better as they age. This is why you meet old people and they’re soft and they’re tender and they’re compassionate and they’re kind. And they’re like, I remember Joe when he was 20, he was mean and angry.

And at 75, he tears up at the slightest thing. He sees a baby and he’s just like, ming. What is that? He’s been walking with God for 55 years and the love of God has changed and transformed his heart. Or you watch Billy, the other guy that Joe used to around with and at 75, he’s the meanest, miserable, most angry. You know, those who people are afraid, like rraaa, you’re like, how do you keep an angry face at all times? Because he spent 55 years walking away from love. So there’s no love in there. God is love, so thereby that is the measure of a disciple. Are you with me on that? I mean do you remember John, one of Jesus’ disciples? Do you know when we first meet John, John is a rough dude. He’s a fisherman and he’s called the son of thunder, which means John has a significant anger problem.

He’s got this rage that just lives inside of him. And at the drop of a hat, it is ready to be unleashed on anyone or anything. And we see it in John’s life as he walks with Jesus. But after three years of following love, John, the son of thunder, the guy with the anger problem becomes transformed and he becomes known as the apostle of love. In fact, in John, when John writes the gospel of John, he never refers to himself as John, he only refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. This is John writing about John. Now, you might think, that is one arrogant dude. Like who does he think he is? How does he decide he is the favorite? It’s not what’s happening here.

See, John’s not saying anything about anybody else. He’s saying everything about himself. He’s saying, I am not the disciple who loves Jesus, I am the disciple who is loved by Jesus. And when he caught that revelation, everything about him changed. And the anger broke off and his heart got soft, and he got set free, and he spent the rest of his life talking, writing about and living in love. And because he understands he’s the disciple whom Jesus loved, he’s reclining next to Jesus in John 13 in the Passover. Other translation says he’s literally resting on Jesus’ chest, which means there is no distance between him and God because he understands how much God loves him. So can I ask you a question? Are you the disciple who loves God or are you the disciple who is loved by God?

Do you spend your life trying to love God or do you spend your life allowing God to love you? Because that’s what begins the changes. It’s the love of God that frees us from our addictions and our sin and our struggles, and the anxiety and the shame, and the condemnation. This is what it means to be a Jesus-focused life. And again, if you’ve tracked in this series, this is what we’ve built upon. You are not the disciple who loves Jesus, you are the disciple whom Jesus loved. We have to remember that because we love because he first loved us. In other words, until you receive the love of God for you, you have no love to give. It’s the love of God that changes us and creates love within us to give back to him and to the world around us. Are you with me on that?

You, if you think about this concept, the disciple whom Jesus loved, we struggle with that a little bit because we feel like it’s a little arrogant, it’s a little prideful. And we get things like — we get people that are prideful and arrogant that live with self-exaltation and that are constantly judgmental, talking about themselves. And we would call that pride. And yet for some reason in the church, we bought into this theology that it’s really good to have self-condemnation, self-loathing, guilt and shame, put ourselves down. I’m just a sinner saved by grace, brother. I’m going to struggle with this sin for the rest of my life. We think that’s real holy and humble. Do you understand that’s pride just as much as this is? Self-exaltation is pride. We all get that. But so is self-condemnation. Why? Because who’s the focus? Self. You know what’s humility? Believing that you are who God says you are regardless of how you feel.

That’s humility. And humility says, I am a disciple of Jesus’ love. I might not feel it, I might not understand it, and I might not think I’m worthy of it. But if he says it, humility accepts it and declares it and it’s defined by it. See, you will always love other people the way you believe God loves you. So if you want to know how you believe God loves you, just look at how you love other people. If you only love people when they perform it’s because you believe God only loves you when you perform. If you only love people who you think are worthy of love, it’s because you only believe that God loves you when you’re worthy of love. But if you love people when they’re at their worst, then you believe God loves you when you’re at your worst.

Love is the measure of a disciple. And the question we then have to ask is, well, what does that love look like? Like how does it work out? It is a feeling? Is it emotion? No, love is a person and his name is Jesus. And as we begin to walk in the way of Jesus, love becomes a choice. It becomes a decision. It’s a sacrifice, a servanthood, a generosity that goes with it. In fact, look at this, defines love, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, and it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, it always trusts, it always hopes, it always perseveres. Love never fails.”

That’s the definition of love. So the question that I want to ask you is, have you been living this way in the last season? If this is love and love is the measure of a disciple, then have you been living as a disciple in this past season? Like if you’re a Republican, have you treated Democrats this way? And if you’re a Democrat, have you treated Republicans this way? It got real quiet right there, didn’t it? Come on. You’re a disciple, aren’t you? Then I need to treat somebody who thinks or lives or believes differently like this because that’s the measure of a disciple. How about healthcare? If you believe in masks and in quarantines and in vaccines, have you treated people that don’t this way? And if you don’t believe in masks and quarantines and vaccines, have you treated people that do this way?

How about your family and your friends and the business that you may work at? Or places that you’ve gone? Or schools, the education system? Have you treated people this way? Because this is the measure of a disciple. We can say all day long, oh yeah, I’m a disciple. I believe in Jesus. But then last season, the pressure put on us revealed to the surface what’s really inside of there. And it’s real easy to say, oh yeah, yeah, I love my family. And Jesus says, great, you love those who love you. Even the sinners and tax collectors do that. I’m asking you to have a measure of love for the lost, lonely and broken people out there. That’s the real measure of a disciple.

Come on. But it’s so much easier said than done, right? Like straight up confession, I was working on the message this week, I was in my office. My wife and my kids came in because they needed something from me, and I kind of snapped out of them, I was like, guys, I’m writing a message on love, I need you to get out of here for a while.

I knew it, right? Because it’s not that easy. It’s a journey of the heart. And it’s receiving His love for us that starts to release His love through us. Come on, He defines it for us. This is how we know what love is, that Jesus Christ laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. Love is a sacrifice, it’s a servanthood, it’s a generosity, it’s an action. It is not an emotion and a feeling. We get this all messed up because we’re like, I love ice cream. I love my phone. I love the Cowboys. No, that’s not it. I guess there’s an action involved in loving Cowboys. It’s suffering and pain. But you hear what I’m saying, go bills.

We are supposed to do what Jesus did, a sacrifice, a servanthood, a generosity. Romans 5, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, love was at its best when we were in our worst. When we were enemies and hostile and against God, He still sacrificed, laid down his life, gave. It wasn’t an emotion. It wasn’t a feeling, it was an action. And so if have been living like a disciple? And if you haven’t been living like a disciple over this past season, that’s okay. You can live like a disciple right now. That’s the beauty. So ready? If you’ve been gossiping about people in this last season, a disciple right now would own that and go and speak life about that person that you’ve gossiped about. If you’ve talked harshly to someone, love would say, go and apologize to that person. If you’ve taken something from someone, go give it back.

If you wrote on Facebook something nasty about anyone or anything that isn’t from a posture of love, you need to go on Facebook, delete it and write one that blesses. It’s amazing again how we get real quiet on this part. We’re like, God, I don’t want to take responsibility for that, let’s just move forward in Jesus’ name. Yeah. Moving forward in Jesus’ name is bringing the kingdom to any place we have authority over. Come on, think of Zacchaeus. Remember Zacchaeus? He’s this tax collector, the sinful guy, spent his life, built a fortune, spending his life ripping people off. He meets Jesus, has an encounter with love, get saved, and he stands up and says, look lord, here and now if I’ve cheated anybody out of anything, I’m going to pay back four times the amount. He doesn’t say, this is awesome, I spent my whole life getting rich, ripping people off. Now, I got saved, I met Jesus, now I got all this money I can spend, do whatever I want with it.

No, he realizes love changes him and he says, you know what, I need to make it right. I need to make it right. Yeah, you need to make it right. Why? Because produce fruit and keeping with repentance. Repentance is always evident in our life. It’s a fruit and fruit is love. So it shows up in our life. Like listen to me, if you came here from another church over this past year, man, I want to say to you, welcome. Welcome to Valley Creek, glad you’re here, you’re welcome to be a part of this family. But if you left that church without telling those leaders that you were leaving, you need to go back and make it right. I’m not saying you need to go back and stay there. I’m just saying you need to go back and honor them and tell them that you’re moving on, why? Because you would never leave a job without saying you’re going, you would never quit a team without telling the coach you’re leaving, you would never leave a class without telling the teacher that you’re moving on. So why would we treat the world better than we treat the kingdom of God.
And if you’re sitting there and you’re like, well, I don’t want to do that, then this probably isn’t the church for you because I just told you everything about the heart of our church in that one invitation. I just told you everything about the heart of our church in that one invitation. And the heart of our church said to that — and the heart of our church said to that? Oh, don’t make me camp on that one because I will sit down and we will talk about it. Come on. Treat the shepherds of God better than you do the rulers of this world for goodness sake.

That’s love. We’re like, nah, I just want to receive God’s love for me. Right. And if you receive God’s love for you, guess what, it’s going to show up. Dear children, let us not love with words of tongue. Nobody cares about the little verses you post on Facebook. Actions and truth, actions and truth.

You’re like, but this is supposed to be about love. I know, I know. And some of you, you’re sitting here, you’re like, wait a second, though. But like love speaks truth and love disciplines, and love calls things out, so we should call things out. You’re right about all of that, but you know what else love does? Love covers a multitude of sense. So until you have the kind of love that’s willing to cover over people’s sins, don’t be the one that needs to go and speak truth and tell everybody how they got it wrong. You know you’re loving — you know you’re loving when you can be taken advantage of. Ain’t that how Jesus loves you? He extends so much grace and so much spirit and so much kingdom that you could take total advantage of it? Ain’t that what the prodigal father does when the prodigal son comes home after making some of the worst decisions of his life and the father gives him a robe, a ring and a sandals? He can totally be taken advantage of.

That’s kingdom love. That’s the kind of love that sets free. That’s the kind of love that’s so secure in the heart of God that they’re okay being taken advantage of. Because they know that God will take care of them. That’s love. Are you with me on that? I really want to move on, but I really think it’s really important for some of you to just hear. A lot of us didn’t act like who we say we are over the last year. So a step of faith would be reconciling or bringing restitution to different things that we did and said that were in a line with the heart of God. That’s the heart of — like seriously, the reason I said that, that’s the heart of our church.

I am really sorry that sometimes there are some really uncomfortable things that we’re going to say, we’re never going to stop saying uncomfortable things. Why? Because the kingdom is not comfortable, but the kingdom is full of life. Jesus is always inviting us to let things go, to move into the future with him. He’s always inviting us to make things right with him and through him so that the kingdom can come in that situation. Hear me, if you’re not willing to reconciled, bring restitution or make something right in the past, how are you going to live your life on mission of bringing the kingdom of God into the future? You don’t just get to draw a line and say like, I absolve myself of all those things. And then I’m — let’s go to Serve the City. Hey, let me encourage you, don’t come to Serve the City, go reconcile with that person that you offended. Hey, let me encourage you, like don’t come to the Circle today, like go back on your Facebook thing, delete those posts and make ones up that are right.

You’re like, you don’t want us to do activity? No, I don’t want you to do activity. Never. Like, again, if you want to know about our church, never. Activity, prrrt, wrong church. Kingdom. Next steps. Life. Faith. Forward. And then when it’s there, do something about it. Are you with me? Okay. Dear friends, ready? This is not me saying this. “Let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.” So straight up, he says, it don’t matter what you say, if there’s no love flowing out of your life, then you don’t know God. I’m not saying that.

Valley Creek is not saying that. John is saying that through the Spirit of the living God. The guy with the anger problem who got set free from the love of God and who now wrote one of the letters in the Scripture that teaches about the kingdom. So do I need to feel bad about it? No. Disciples don’t feel bad, we already covered that ground. But they’re quick to repent. They’re quick to see it and realize it and adjust and move forward in Jesus’ name. Come on. In John 13, you want two chapters to read this week on this, John 13 and 1 John4. If you just in them, they will blow you away. In John 13, when Jesus, he says, he shows them the full extent of his love, he washes the disciples’ feet, has the Passover meal with them. This includes Judas. He washes Judas’ feet, the guy who sells him out and betrays him.

Why? Because you know you’re loving when you can be taken advantage of. After he washes their feet, look at what he says. “You call me Teacher and Lord,” like you’re disciples, students, followers, learners, you’re becoming like me, “and rightly so for that is what I am and that’s who you are. Now that I your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” He washes their feet, says this is a picture of love, sacrifice, servanthood, generosity, humility, pouring oneself out, letting go of opinions, prides, preferences and time. I am convinced that time is one of the biggest barriers for a lot of us actually living the life of a disciple because we think it’s too inconvenient. I don’t have the time. Jesus is saying, make the time.

You give up something else, not me. And so the question then is, are you in any way living this life? Sacrificing, serving, washing one another’s feet? And again, not your family. Jesus says, good for you that you love those who love you. He says, I’m talking about those that don’t love you. And you will be blessed. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. Knowledge is always meant to lead us to activity. Not, oh, this is the verse for today, guys. Like now that you know what we just talked about, you will be blessed if you do it, not if you walk out of here and say, got some more knowledge. Got some more knowledge. Why? Because you’ll live puffy. Nobody likes to be puffy, right? Be built up. And love is not about trying harder, it’s not about doing more, it’s not about struggling or striving, it’s about receiving. It’s about being the disciple whom Jesus loves.

And by nature, I can’t help but then give love to those around me because that’s all then that’s in me. Hear me, the human heart was never designed to carry hate. The human heart was never designed to carry offense. The human heart was never designed to carry depression and anxiety and stress and worry and fear and all of those things. That’s why it destroys us. It eats us from the inside out. The human heart was made to live in love. That’s what a disciple does. And Jesus says, we will be known by our fruit and the measure of a disciple is love. So the question for you, is this the kind of fruit that’s showing up in your life? Because this is the fruit of the flesh.

And if this the kind of fruit that’s in your life, it’s one of two things. One, you’ve never submitted and surrendered to the lordship of Jesus, you’re not a disciple, you haven’t starting following him. Salvation is available for you today. Or you have put your faith in Jesus, but you’ve kind of put him in the background and you’ve been living life on your own out of the flesh. This is what then shows up. And I think over this last year when the church had this moment to rise up and shine to the world, they will know you’re my disciples if you love one another, the question we have to ask ourselves is did we show the world that we were disciples by how we lived and acted and engaged? So is this the fruit in your life or is this the kind of fruit that’s in your life? And again, don’t get caught in, all or nothing. Oh, self-loathing. That’s pride. No. You know what, I am learning to be a disciple whom Jesus loves.

I am learning to follow God one next step at a time. I am going to apply something to my life today from this experience. I am going to open myself up and ask God to fill me with love this week. I am going to read John 13 and 1 John 4 because I don’t know that i believe this, but I want to believe it and I want it deeper in my heart. I am going to make reconciliation or restitution for some of the ways I lived and acted over this last season. That is this. Okay?

Last verse. Last verse. I pray that you, okay. Ready? I pray that you be enrooted and established in love because love is the deepest root, it is the core of the kingdom because God is love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. It is not elementary or basic, it is the broadest, widest, deepest truth in the universe.

Ready? And to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. He says, I pray that you would know this love that surpasses knowledge, not God loves me here. Experience God loves me here. That you will be filled to the measure of the fullness of God if God is love and He fills you to the fullness of the measure. He then fills and overflows your life with love. Love is the measure of a disciple. So close your eyes with me. Let me just ask you, what do you think God, the God of love, is saying to you right now?

I think for a lot of us, He’s washing our lives with love. He’s filling our hearts and our minds with love. I think he’s reminding us that we are loved even in the midst of our failures and our struggles and our brokenness and our pain, that we don’t have to self-exalt or self-condemn. We can just be humble and submit and surrender and be the disciples whom Jesus loves. Love is in the atmosphere today because God is in the atmosphere today. Love is knocking on the door of your heart because God is knocking on the door of your heart.

Love wants to fill up your soul because God wants to fill up your soul. So Lord Jesus, thank you for the way you love us. May we know and rely on the love that you have for us. Give us courage and faith to move forward in love. May the measure that we overlay on our lives, Lord, not be success and fame and fortune and victories and influence and followers, may it be love. May we know this love that surpasses knowledge.

And may this Valley Creek Church family be known by our love, in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

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