Let’s flip the question a bit. How did Jesus want His followers to be identified? According to John 13:33-35, Jesus wanted His followers to be identified by their—wait for it—love.
After that last meal with His disciples, He gave them a new command: love one another. Easy enough, right? The next sentence, however, raises the bar: “Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” That is a far more specific definition of love than we are used to. The kind of love Jesus calls His followers to is self-sacrificing and considers the other person first. Does that describe how you love others?
This week’s devotions are focused on love. We live in an incredibly self-centered, decadent, and arrogant society. Self-sacrificing love is not a virtue that often makes its way into the news. What is worse is that the kind of love Jesus has called His followers to is often not clearly apparent in our churches—or the lives of those who call themselves believers.
Jesus wants us to love the way that He does. It’s how the world will know we belong to Him. Is that kind of love apparent in your life?
GETTING YOUR WISDOM TEETH pulled. Getting ditched by your friends at school or in your cabin. Having your heart ripped out and stomped on by your recent crush. These are definitely situations that you don’t look forward to experiencing. It doesn’t matter if the pain is physical or emotional. We want to avoid it, minimize it, or get rid of it. What is the most painful experience you have had?
Read John 15:18-22. Reflect on verse 18.
What did Jesus say would happen if you follow Him?
Why will the world hate you?
What scares you the most about being persecuted for your faith?
What are some ways you try to avoid persecution?
How can you have hope in the midst of persecution?
Jesus never beat around the bush. He told the disciples straight up what would happen if they followed Him: they would face persecution. When you live a life dedicated to and on fire for Jesus, you can be sure that you will suffer for your faith. The world hates you! (Heartwarming, huh?) It hates you because of whose you are. You see, the world hates Jesus with a passion, and you belong to Him. But He knows what you are going through because He has already experienced it. You can trust Him to give you the strength to endure. Are you looking forward to the pain that following Jesus will bring? Probably not, but you can look forward to the day that Jesus wraps His arms around you and says, “Well done.” Remember: your suffering is only temporary; glory is forever.
PEOPLE IN THE WORLD often seem to want to get rid of Christians. It seems like the rules limit when we can pray and read the Bible. We know that Jesus has conquered the evil forces at work in the world. So what does this mean for you and me? It’s important for us to remember that we are in a battle. Ephesians 6:12 tells us we battle against spiritual forces, not physical forces. We must fight the battle in prayer, worship, and Bible study.
Today we are looking at John 16:29-33. How does verse 33 encourage you?
Do you find yourself turning from God in hard times? Why?
When things are difficult, how do you respond? Prayer? Complaints? Anger?
Does it make it easier or more difficult to trust God? Explain.
How does God provide for you during difficult times?
Why is it important that Jesus says He told His disciples these things so they could have peace?
In what areas of your life do you need the peace of a Savior who has overcome the world? What steps will you take to let Him have control of those things?
Do you ever feel like you are being singled out because of your faith? Like it would just be easier to throw in the towel and give up the faith? Jesus told us this would happen. Every day is a battle, and some days we fight harder than others. We study the Bible and learn God’s truths so we can hold fast in hard times. We study passages like the one we have today because it’s a good reminder that Jesus knows what has happened and what will happen—and He’s still in control. He wants us to have peace. The best ways to have peace are to trust Jesus, pray, read your Bible, and spend time with other Christians. It may not be easy when hard times come, but we can make it through because we know that Jesus has overcome.
Read This Passage: John 14: 21-26
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” —John 14:26
NO ONE LIKES to be left alone, especially in a dangerous situation. And in this life, it seems like the people you love are always leaving. So imagine the disciples’ thoughts as Jesus announced that He was going away. Even though Jesus and the disciples had faced opposition during His earthly ministry, this core group must have had a sense of confidence and security because they followed Someone who could walk on water and raise the dead! But now, here He was, announcing that He was leaving to go to His Father. He wasn’t going to be there with them anymore; He was leaving. And they’d be all alone.
Jesus knew that He was going to send the Holy Spirit to His followers after He ascended into heaven. In today’s key verse, He pointed out that He wasn’t leaving them alone to do His work on earth. They wouldn’t be orphans (John 14:18). He was sending the Holy Spirit who would gently remind them of His teaching and help them better understand it in light of Jesus’ death and -resurrection.
The point is, like those early disciples, we too can have confidence as we face a world that either ignores or opposes the gospel. Christ hasn’t left us alone to figure things out all on our own. He has given us His Word and His Holy Spirit, which means that we never need to feel afraid or alone. God is with us.
So when you feel alone and forgotten in this crazy world, seek the Holy Spirit and allow Him to remind you of God’s teaching, truth, and love.
When have you felt utterly alone in this life? How would it help to turn to the Holy Spirit? How has God taught you to rely on Him in these lonely moments?
Read Galatians 5:14-26 and see what the Holy Spirit’s work in your life should look like. Are you allowing Him to work in your life?
Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit and enable you to follow His leading.
Read This Passage: John 14:1-6
In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. —John 14:2
MOVING DAY! Those are two words that bring a rush of mixed emotions to just about anyone. If you haven’t personally experienced the adventure and trauma of moving, then maybe you have had the experience of waving good-bye as a friend moved away. Anyone who moves usually has a sense of loss over what is being left behind. Many times, though, this sense of loss is off-set by the anticipation of what new opportunities may lay ahead. Usually in moving, though, the greatest loss one experiences is that of leaving friends. Because each relationship is unique, when a friend leaves, you experience a deep loss. Friends are irreplaceable. But what if you knew that in the future you were moving to the same town as your friend? It would be so much easier to be apart if you knew that it was only for a short time. There would also be an added sense of eagerness about the future.
Is this how you feel about heaven? Many people look forward to heaven so they may once again see a friend or family member who died. While this can be a very valid hope, it should not be our primary reason to want to go to heaven.
Today’s key verse tells us Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us: heaven. We have a lot of ideas about heaven, gold streets included. The most important thing you need to know about heaven is that you’ll be with God. You’ll meet Jesus face-to-face. You’ll live in the presence of perfect holiness. Since Jesus has already gone before us, “Moving Day” should take on an entirely new meaning—a meaning of hope. Are you ready?
How are you preparing for your eternal move? Are you putting a lot of things in earthly storage, rather than gaining treasures that will transfer to heaven? Take an inventory of your possessions and decide if they serve an eternal purpose or are weighing you down on this earth.
A lot of people claim there are many roads to God. Read John 14:6 again. How many ways are there to heaven?
Thank You, God, for the promise of heaven. Thank You for preparing a place for me. I can’t wait to be in Your presence!
Read This Passage: John 15:18-22
“If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours.”
People today are always making predictions about what’s going to happen in the future. They try to predict which way the stock market and the housing market will go. Meteorologists try to predict what weather patterns will emerge. Pundits make predictions about who will win political races, commentators try to pick the winners in the biggest sporting events, and entertainment reporters spend a lot of time trying to predict the year’s best movie, actor, and song. At camp, many of you try to make predictions about what the SockWar theme will be, or what activity you will play that evening.
But predictions aren’t really new. Today’s key verse involves a prediction Jesus made to His followers about the future. Unlike our present-day -predictions about movies, sports, weather, and markets, Jesus’ prediction had to do with how the world would treat those who chose to follow Him wholeheartedly.
Jesus knew that really living out our faith wasn’t going to be easy. He knew that people would take notice when they saw real live faith, and many of them wouldn’t like it. And the truth is, there are people all around the world facing persecution because they are choosing to follow Christ. The Bible says that we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens because, after all, they persecuted Jesus. Is there any reason to believe that we will have it better than the Son of God?
While most predictions don’t change the way we choose to live, this prediction helps us gain the necessary strength to keep pressing on. The real question is, what will you do as a result of Jesus’ prediction? What do you think your counselor would do? Would they stand up for Jesus? Will you choose to quit following Christ or will you choose to draw even closer to Him? Follow Christ and draw closer to Him every day.
Write down the ways you believe you have been persecuted for following Christ. Think back to those times and ask yourself if you walked away stronger or more defeated in your faith because of the way you handled the situation.
Check out www.imb.org or www.releaseinternational.org to gain a better understanding of how Christians are being persecuted. What can you do to help minister to those who are suffering today?
Praise God today for the times you face persecution. Thank Him for the opportunity to grow stronger in your faith. Pray for those around the globe that are facing persecution today.