Being Picked First on Team Jesus

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Recently, I was privileged to hear Maxie Dunnam speak for a chapel service in Memphis. I won’t try to preach his sermon here, but I do want to present his premise because it was, well, quite frankly, beneficial to me. I’m not completely sure why the sermon moved me except that in the simplicity of the moment, God spoke.

Maxie Dunnam took his text from John 15. You’ll remember that chapter begins with the famous “Vine” grafting parable. “I am the vine, you are the branches…” The chapter concludes with another very remarkable and well covered section on the disciple’s’ relationship with the world. “…because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

In the middle of these two very prominent sections of scripture is another fairly important and oft referred scripture. I think it’s important because it pulls those two sections together. Jesus tells the disciples, “You are my friends.” It would be easy to see that, right? The disciples, having hung out with Jesus daily for a couple of years, would have developed a friendship with Him. Makes sense to me. But, that’s not why they were friends. Listen to His words.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another. (John 15: 12-17, NASB)

We get hung up on the very first line, “Love one another”. If we squeeze past the first line, then we get stopped cold by the second sentence, “Greater love has no one than this…”. Then, we drop all the way down to the last verse of this paragraph. The emphasis is almost always, “LOVE ONE ANOTHER!” (my emphasis)

However, there’s more to this paragraph than that we love one another. See, the disciples saw themselves as servants to their Master, Jesus. Remember, out on the sea, in peril of losing their lives, they cried out to Him (asleep in the back of the boat, “Master, don’t you care if we perish?”  (Mark 4:38) Some translations have it teacher, others master. Either way, it is not a level relationship, but one of authority. But, here in John 15, Jesus tells the disciples that they have moved from one category to another. He says, “I no longer call you slaves … but I have called you friends.” They’ve moved from a Master/servant relationship and have moved into a loving relationship with Him. That’s great! Wonderful!

Yet, there’s a kicker here that you need to see. Do you remember being a child on the playground? Perhaps you were wanting to play a game of baseball. Everyone lined up against the backstop and two people started picking their team mates. Were you ever the last one picked? What was said was something like, “Here, you take her/him and you can have first bat.” See the trade off? You choose the poor player and you get the chance to bat first. There you are, the last one chosen. You know the reason why you were chosen was not for your great athletic skills but for the benefit of first bats. But, listen to what Jesus tells the disciples. “You did not choose Me but I chose you.” Did you catch that? It wasn’t up to them. They didn’t choose Him. He chose them. He wanted them to be on His team. It was His choice and He chose them. Not leftovers chosen for the sake of some other benefit. He chose them because He wanted them.

I don’t know about you, but knowing that God chose me to be on His team, in spite of my shortcomings, my many faults and failures, all of the warts and other unsightly scars, amazes me. He chose me to be His friend. I’m not the last boy at the ball diamond waiting for someone to value me – He already did. He chose me. I’m on his team because He chose me, just as He chose you! What a trip! God, the God of the universe, chose us to be his friends. I think I can live with that.

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Dale Hale was an elder in the Wesleyan Holiness Association of Churches. He pastored nearly three years in Ponca City, OK., then spent the next seven plus years ministering in Council Bluffs, IA. He current serves as Director of Distributed Learning at Asbury Theological Seminary.

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