People of Truth and Love Speaking Truth in Love: John 17:17-26; Ephesians 4:1-16 (Sermon)
Welcome church. It is great to share with you again.
Have you ever been asked an awkward question? For example, your friend asks you, “What do you think of my new haircut?”
In your head, you are saying something like, “It will grow back.” How do you respond to a hairdo that would work well for farm animals or the ’80s? Maybe they tried to cut it themselves? That could be impressive and good stewardship. How do you speak the truth in love?
This morning we are going to answer that question. We shouldn’t share our thoughts about everything all the time. That can be rude and unwelcome. But, on the other hand, people appreciate a friendly heads up if they have something in their teeth or their fly is down.
There are times when we desperately need to say something but are afraid. We don’t want to bother people, rock the boat, make work for ourselves, or burn a bridge. We might worry about what people think. There are other times where we say something and put our foot in our mouths. We come across as judgemental, arrogant, insensitive, uncharitable, and unkind. How do we navigate these waters? How do we know when to speak up and when to be silent? How do we know what to say and how to say it?
Today, we are continuing our series in John chapter 17. Jesus prayed about truth and love and a whole host of things. So let’s read chapter 17, starting at verse 17. This will set the stage for us to explore being a people of truth and love speaking the truth in love. I have asked A.D. to read for us. Would you stand with me if you are able?
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:17–26)
Thank you. Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, Thank you for loving us and giving us the Bible and Jesus. Thank you for your Word. Your Word is truth. Sanctify us in your truth. Teach us truth. Help us know you and love you, and share you. Help us know what to say and what not to say. Help us know how to speak and how to be silent. Help us overcome our fear and pride. We need you. We need your Spirit. Come and guide us and fill us in Jesus’s name. AMEN. You may be seated.
Last week, we saw that Jesus had a heart for the church. John, the Apostle, documented Jesus’s intercession the night he was betrayed. Judas had left the disciples to sell out his master. Jesus saw this danger. Thus, he asked the Father to keep his disciples from the evil one, sanctify them in the truth, make them one with him and each other, and bring them to him in heaven as brothers and sisters. He wanted them to see him there in his glory. He wanted the Father to protect them, purify them, and unite them. In this prayer, we hear Jesus’s heart, and it is a heart of love grounded in truth. He made us a people of truth and love.
THIS MORNING BIG IDEA AND OUTLINE
Let’s dig into these verses and feather in Ephesians chapter 4. We will hear in these two passages that understanding truth and love empowers us to speak the truth in love. Let me say that again for those taking notes. Understanding truth and love empowers us to speak the truth in love. That is the main takeaway today. Our identity impacts our activity.
The first time we read the word ‘truth’ in John 17 is in verse 8.
For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you and they have believed that you sent me. (John 17:8)
The truth is what? That God the Father sent Jesus the Son. From where to where? From heaven to Earth. Jesus repeated that fact over and over and over again. We read it in verses 3, 8, 21, 23, 25. Why? Why is this important? What does God the Father send the Son to communicate? Well, who else do we personally know that left heaven and came to earth? Do we know anyone on a first-name basis God the Father sent from heaven? I am convinced Jesus wanted his followers and the world to know that he was no ordinary man. No one in history was or is like him. I think this fact weds well with all the other facts we read about him in the book of John. John recorded Jesus,
- Existed before the world began,
- Was with God and God (1:1).
- He created the world (John 1:3).
- Was the light of the world (1:9, 9:5),
- Was life (John 1:4, 14:6),
- Was full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
- Was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 35),
- Was the Son of God (1:34),
- Was a rabbi and teacher from God (1:38, 2:2),
- Was the Messiah/Christ [Meaning prophesied and anointed one] (1:42),
- Was the King of Israel (1:49, 12:13),
- Was the Son of Man (1:51),
- Was the Savior of the world (4:42),
- Was the prophet (6:14, 7:40, 9:17),
- Was the Bread of Life Living Bread (6:35, 48, 51),
- Was the Door and Gate (10:7),
- Was the Good Shepherd (10:11),
- Was one with the Father (10:30),
- Was the Resurrection (11:25),
- Was the Lord (13:13),
- Was the only way to the Father (John 14:6),
- Was the true vine (15:1),
- And a friend (15:14–15).
Jesus’s identity was extraordinary. He was more than a carpenter’s son from a small backwoods town. That being said, when Jesus talked about truth, it involved more than just his identity. Look at verse 17. “Sanctify them in the truth” (John 17:17). What truth? Keep reading, “Sanctify them in the truth your word is truth” (John 17:17). The Father’s Word was truth. That raises the question, what was the Father’s Word? Certainly, it related to Jesus since that is how John began. Go back to the beginning of John. Chapter 1, verse 1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1–4, 14)
The Word referred to Jesus. But not only that, in chapter 10 verse 35, Jesus used the word, ‘word’ to refer to the “Word of God,” the Scriptures. So, I think legitimately; this ‘word’ is the Bible and Jesus. So, you see, the truth points to the Bible which points to our Savior.
What do the ‘word’ and the ‘truth’ do? Look at verses 18 and 19. “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:18–19). Jesus wanted the word and truth to sanctify his followers. That means to make them holy and to purify to set apart and to consecrate. So, there can be a transformative power in truth. It can change us, shape us, and motivate us. Knowing the truth can help us avoid evil and false teaching.
How do we know truth? Write down if you are taking notes, John chapter 8 verses 31 and 32. That is John chapter 8 verses 31 and 32. “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” How do we know the truth? If you abide, then you will know the truth. That begs the question, how do we abide? Jesus answered in chapter 15, verse 10. He said you abide in him if you keep his commandments (John 15:10). What are his commandments?
WHAT TRUTH DOES JESUS TEACH?
What did Jesus command? He taught many things. The Jr. and Sr. Highers are studying some of Jesus’s teaching by looking at the Sermon on the Mount right now. In Matthew 22, Jesus summed up the commandments with one verb going two directions. What was that verb? Love. He said basically, love God with everything in you and love people as you love yourself. Pretty basic. Love God and love people. Jesus described the loving in chapter 15.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends... (John 15:12–14)
I find it incredible that Jesus loves his followers. More unbelievable to me knowing my faults, is that he loves me. In John 17, it says that he wants us to have the Father’s love that he has for his Son. Do you love your kids? Do parents love their kids? Does God the Father love the Son? You bet. And Jesus wants his Father to have that kind of love for his followers. He wants that love resident in them. Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall perish but have everlasting life. You are loved. God loves us. That is incredible and true. We are to be a people of truth and love. When we understand God’s truth and love, it motivates us to speak the truth in love. 2 Corinthians 5:14 states, “For the love of Christ controls us.” The NIV translates “controls” as “compels us.” Love inspires action.
E. 1 John 4:7+
John picked up on this and highlighted that theme in his first letter to the church. This week in Life Group, one of the ladies read a portion of John’s first letter that connects these ideas. So, Elizabeth, would you come up here and read for us, 1 John 4:7 to the end? She is going to read from another translation. So, sit back and close your eyes, and hear this letter written by God to you.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7–21)
Thank you. There is a lot in that passage. The bottom line is this, understanding this truth about love empowers us to speak the truth in love. Do you know the Father’s love? Perhaps you need to understand truth and love better. That is okay. Read your Bible and hear it as a love letter to you. Ask God to help you grasp how high, deep, and wide his love is for you in Christ Jesus.
Perhaps you hear this talk and wonder about what is truth. Let me encourage Sunday school, taking notes during sermons, and reading good Christian books. Seek God and ask him where to teach you by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4 boils down the truth to core statements. Let’s read these verses starting verses 1 through 7.
As you are getting there in your Bibles, by way of background, Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, a metropolitan city in modern-day Turkey. He wrote around A.D. 60, and the pastor there was Timothy. Paul was writing in prison. Here we go—Ephesians chapter 4, verse 1.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift... (Ephesians 4:1–7)
What does this teach us about the truth? This seems to be an early creed. Look at verse 4 of chapter 4.
There is one body. What is that? Ephesians chapter 1, verses 22 and 23, tells us, “[the Father] put all things under his [Jesus’s] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” So, we hold dear the belief that there is one universal church. It is a gathering of people of God from all walks of life throughout history, culture, and color. Christianity is not a white man’s religion. Right now, the fastest-growing church in the world is Iran. And Afghanistan is right behind it (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/fastest-growing-church-world/ ). Pew Research shows that almost half of the world’s Christians live in Latin America and Africa (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/07/christianity-is-poised-to-continue-its-southward-march/ ). Friends, heaven will be filled with people from every tongue, tribe, and language. There is one church. It is not a building, a denomination, or a conference.
We believe that there is one Spirit. He is the third person of the Trinity, God in essence but separated in person. So Paul tells us, “For through him [Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18).
We believe in one hope. What is that? Paul referred to it in chapter 1 of Ephesians, praying: “That you [church] may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). God has an inheritance for his people. It is paradise, a Garden of Eden, an Eternal City, heaven. It is a custom-built mansion, treasure, joy, peace, blessing, shalom, rest, and will be amazing. We read in John 17 verse 3 remarkably it is best characterized by an intimate relational knowledge of God and his Son.
We believe in one Lord. This Lord is a reference to Jesus. Paul used the word ‘Lord’ twenty-six times in Ephesians. Seven times he used it with the name “Jesus.”
We have one faith. Paul said it is by faith we have been saved (2:8–9). He didn’t say it is by faiths we are saved. What is this faith in? In chapter 1, verse 15, Paul told us, “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus” (1:15). What does that mean? God says there is no other name under heaven whereby we might be saved (Acts 4:12). It is in Jesus alone that we can boldly come before the Creator of the Universe. He is our salvation and no one else. There are no alternative paths. Jesus is the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through him (John 14:6).
Paul said there is one baptism. We don’t have to jump through baptism again and again and again. It symbolizes the finished work of Jesus. We die to sin and rise with him. We don’t get reborn every time we ask for forgiveness. Jesus died once for all.
ONE GOD AND FATHER
Finally, Paul reminded his readers that there is one God and Father of all. There are not two. There is not a mother and father. There is no ying and yang. Good God and evil God. God is not part of a pantheon. He is Triune. How does that work? That is hard to articulate. Each person of the Godhead is distinct but united. Books have been written about it. Suffice to say; there is one God: Father, Spirit, and Son. One in three and three in one.
Do you believe this? Excellent. Ephesians goes on to tie those basic truths to communicating them in love. Let’s read Ephesians chapter 4 verses 11 through 16.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11–16)
God gives various gifts to the members of his church to build up the church to maturity. None of us have arrived. We all have gifts to share on the local level. Like a human body, we need each part to be fully functional and healthy in our church. That means your prayers, service, financial giving, encouragement are all part of this working together till we reach maturity. When you usher, greet, give, sing, and show up, others are blessed.
God wants us to season our speaking truth with love. Why? Well, that is how God communicated firstly to us. But also there are other voices in the world. They may sound loving, but they are speaking lies. They communicate different ideology and morality than the Bible. So having a basic set of fundamental beliefs safeguards us. But we can’t stop with a few verses. We must continue to study the Word of God, so we don’t drift. If we are not careful, we can be swept away by the prevailing winds of culture and sea of change. That is why we need to go back to our Bibles again and again and again.
We also need to go back to understanding God’s love for us again and again. We have already talked about the importance of knowing God’s love as revealed in the Bible. In the Christianity Explored class this week, we read Mark chapter 2, verse 17. Jesus told some people about his purpose, and it connects to his love for us. He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). So, friends, Jesus came for us, not the people who think they have it all put together. He loves you. And may his love fuel your speaking and loving.
If you already understand truth and love, let’s go to our first question, how do you communicate truth in love? How do you communicate when people don’t want to hear it or we don’t have a relationship or it is uncomfortable? How do you speak the truth in love? Ask ourselves is it true, or is it our opinion? Ask ourselves, is it loving? Those are fundamental questions that can help shape what we have to say. We can also ask, how would we want people to communicate to us? Perhaps, we are not the right person or it is not the right time to speak up. God is calling us to pray. God has not abandoned us. He has given us his Holy Spirit to help us know what to say. We won’t speak perfectly, but we can try to abide in Jesus’s teaching about who we are that we speak rightly.
APPLICATION - SPEAK UP
Maybe you need to speak up more. You know the truth and are not sharing your faith or warning people as you should. Don’t be afraid. Think of what Christ gave up to share with you the truth and express his love to you. Love those around you. Speak up.
On the flip side, maybe you need to bite your tongue, be gracious, charitable, humble, and kind in how your respond to your friend.
The more we understand our identity as a people of truth and love, it will help us communicate truth in love. Let’s take a moment to sort out what God would have us do with this word. I will pray, and the worship team will come up here to lead us in song.