What does it mean to be a Christian? Have you ever thought about that before? When you say you are a Christian, what do you mean? When you display the fish symbol on the back of your family’s SUV, or list Christian as your belief on social media, what are you saying? – I think there are many ways we could answer that question. The title “Christian” was first used for the earliest followers of Jesus. So being a Christian means to follow Jesus. The title of our sermon series is taken from a song called “I just wanna be a sheep.” There is a stanza in that song that goes; “I just wanna be a Christian, because they have Christ within.” So perhaps when you say you are a Christian you are saying that Christ lives in you. Or, by calling yourself a Christian you are probably saying that you believe and trust in Jesus and want to be like him. And there are plenty more things we could say. But I think we can sum it up this way: Being a Christian means to love Jesus. I’m a Christian. I love Jesus. 

Last week in our “I just wanna be a sheep” sermon series we talked a lot about love. Our focus was on our love for one another. We are to love our fellow sheep just as the Good Shepherd loves us. As we wrap up our sermon series this week, we turn our attention to how the sheep love the Good Shepherd. As Jesus reclined around the table with his disciples and taught them in the upper room the night before he was crucified, Jesus was very clear about how we are to love him. Let’s take a look at John chapter 14: 

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 

Jesus’ words here are in response to a question that one of the disciples asked him. “Judas (not Judas Iscariot) – so this is not the same Judas who betrayed Jesus, but another Judas – said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’”(John 14:22) Judas’ question reveals that there was still some confusion among the disciples about who Jesus really was, what kind of king he would be, and the true purpose of his mission. Judas is saying to Jesus: “Lord, if you are going to take the authority away from the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom, you must show yourself – your power, your authority, your care – not only to us but to everyone, to the world.” See, Judas had in mind a political, earthly goal. But Jesus, as always, had in mind a heavenly goal. So Jesus answers Judas by distinguishing between believers – his followers, sheep of the Good Shepherd, Christians, people who love Jesus – and unbelievers, the world. And he couldn’t have been more clear. Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching… Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. Jesus says, “You either love me or you don’t. You either obey my teaching or you don’t.” That is the mark of someone who loves Jesus. He will obey his teaching. 

There are two words here that we should place under the microscope. The first one is “obey.” It really has the idea of “keep” or “hold on to.” The second is “teaching.” This is everything that Jesus has said or stands for. It could be translated as “message” or “word.” We are to hold on to Jesus’ word, all of it – his commands and his promises. A person who loves Jesus will hold onto his word. 

If someone is a fan of the Green Bay Packers, can the same person also be a fan of the Chicago Bears? No way. Those two directly oppose each other. You are either a fan of one or the other. In fact, I’m pretty sure both fan bases have insulting songs and jokes directed at the other team. I can’t be a fan of both teams. If I am a Packer fan, well then I am most certainly not a Bears fan. Jesus says the distinction between those who love him and those who don’t love him is that clear. I can’t at the same time love Jesus and also live as someone who doesn’t. I can’t. It’s impossible. 

If people didn’t know that you were a Christian, you never told them that, would your life tell them? What would the way you talk, what’s important to you, how you spend your money, how you spend your time say to them? Would it be obvious that you’re different from the rest of the world? Do you obey Jesus’ teaching, do you hold on to Jesus’ word so firmly that it is clear that you love Jesus? Or might you sometimes be tempted to live in a way that would cause you to be confused for someone who doesn’t love Jesus? There’s a reason we so often are tempted in this way. It’s because of the clear line Jesus draws here. If we fit in as someone who loves Jesus and whose home is heaven, that means we will never quite fit in here on earth. We will never feel entirely comfortable.

That night in the upper room, the disciples were certainly feeling uncomfortable. It was phrases like this from Jesus that troubled them: He said, All this I have spoken while still with you. They were overwhelmed and anxious at the thought of Jesus’ departure. And then he drops on them this command to obey his teaching. How could they possibly remember everything Jesus had said to them?! How would they ever be able to hold on to his word when he would no longer be with them?!

Jesus wasn’t going leave his disciples to carry out this daunting task on their own. Listen again to the comfort he gives them. And know this is the same comfort he promises to give you and me. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Wow, there’s a lot there! But it’s nothing less than exactly what you and I need. 

Let’s unpack what Jesus promises. “The Advocate.” – This is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. In fact, we have all three persons present in these verses: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “Advocate” is a unique title for the Holy Spirit, and also very insightful. The Greek word here literally means “one who is called alongside” or “one who is called to give aid.” Other translations use words such as “Helper,” “Counselor,” “Encourager,” “Comforter.” It’s a perfect description of the Holy Spirit’s work. “Whom the Father will send in my name.” – Moments ago we confessed this truth in the Nicene Creed. Did you catch it? We said, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” This is what we mean when we say those words. The Holy Spirit goes out from or is sent out by the Father in the name of the Son. This truth is so important to our faith that it’s included in one of the three ecumenical creeds. (The Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed) And what does the Advocate, the Holy Spirit do? Jesus says, he “will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.” – How would the disciples possibly remember everything Jesus had said to them? The Holy Spirit would teach them and remind them. The Holy Spirit does this for you and me too. He teaches us and reminds us of everything Jesus has said. He does this through God’s Word. Whenever we read, hear, and study God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is at work teaching and reminding. And finally, “Peace…” Jesus’ peace is not the same as the world’s peace. It’s doesn’t depend on a certain number of zeros behind the digit in your bank account, where you live or what you do for work. It doesn’t depend on harmony between countries or within families. It isn’t disturbed by changed plans. His peace keeps us at one with a holy God and safe in our salvation. Jesus’ peace calms troubled hearts and makes the afraid confident no matter what happens, no matter what threatens. 

To summarize all of that in one simple sentence: Jesus doesn’t leave us alone. So, you will never be left alone. Just think of the great lengths he went to, just hours after saying this, to make that true. Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” and then he stretches out his arms on the cross. He stretches out on the cross, so you and I would never be overwhelmed when he calls us to obey him. Rather we see him on the cross, and we just wanna be sheep; sheep that listen, love, and obey. Because we see that no matter what Jesus ever expects us to do as we follow him, he always expects more of himself. 

What does it mean to be a Christian? Yes, being a Christian means to love Jesus; to love him by obeying his teaching. But let’s add one more part to that. Being a Christian also means resting in Jesus’ promise of peace. Amen.