This is our fifth annual For the Church Conference here in Kansas City. Have on this campus and it is a particular joy every year for me to get to preach it and to reconnect with so many friends and ministry partners and then to see over the past five years this go from being a dream, a conference that we said, “We’ll host and hopefully a few folks will show up.” And a few folks did show up that first year in the fall of ’14 and then year by year to see it grow in momentum and attendance and then to come together for just a concentrated period of time and to encourage one another to fellowship together to worship together and to sit under the Ministry of the Word together. It’s a particular stewardship, a joyous stewardship we have here at Midwestern Seminary. So, thank you on the front end of this conference for entrusting us with about 24 of your hours and trusting us with the privilege to open God’s Word and to speak it to you and trusting us with opportunity to host you on this campus.
And it’s to enjoy all the, the synergistic ministry opportunities and conversations that take place. Thank you. My title assigned to me is Christ and discipleship, Christ and discipleship. And I want to invite you to turn with me in your Bibles this afternoon to the gospel of John. We’re looking together at John Chapter 15 verses one through 11 thinking together about Christ and discipleship. As you’re turning my prayer for you and for this day and for tomorrow has been three things that together we honor the Lord. I have attended conferences doubtlessly as have many of you where you leave there thinking “I had some enjoyable conversations. I laughed a lot, but I’m not sure we honored the Lord.” My prayer is that we will honor the Lord together through worshiping the Lord together through coming to God’s word together. My prayer, secondly is that all of the Lord servants here, hundreds of pastors and ministers and ministers in training that you would leave here in encouraged by the grace of Christ and that that would result in churches being strengthened.
Our motto here, you know well, For the Church. That’s not just a tagline–that pulsates across this campus and through the hearts of those who serve here and so our desire is that you leave this conference and that churches around the country and beyond are strengthened through what takes place. Here my title, Christ and Discipleship, my theme, Christ and discipleship. We’ll be looking together in John Chapter 15 verses one through 11. Begin reading with me in verse one Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away every branch that bears fruit. He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine
so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the true vine and you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me. He is thrown away as a branch and dries up and they gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in me, my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done, done for you. My father is glorified by this that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples just as the father has loved me, I have also loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love just as I have kept my father’s commandments and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full.” Let’s pray together. Father, we bow in this sacred moment and father, our hearts have been stirred. We’ve been awakened through worship and into worship and we sang so triumphantly that final song together. And Father, that is our hope. That is our prayer. That is our, our certainty, that the life we have is the life that we have through Christ. And Father I pray now as we look at these verses together, would you probe us? Would you open our lives and our hearts before you in a way that we come to grips with the glory of Christ and of being his disciple and abiding in him. Would you through these verses dislodge complacency from our lives, make known before us sins that we are to confess sinful habits that we are partaking in.
May this be a time, a moment, an hour of cleansing as it were, cleansing and washing by your Word and by the Ministry of your Spirit. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen. These are powerful words we read from our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not a mere quaint passage with quaint words of devotion. There is a severity here that pops up throughout these 11 verses. At times these verses are soothing, are comforting, are full of promises for us but in other places we are, we are probed. We are prodded, we are cut as it were. There’s a severity in this passage which reminds us that the Christian life, discipleship is a life and death struggle. For the minister, the Gospel minister, to live life is to be engaged in a spiritual warfare ministry combat where sin is to be treated seriously. Spiritual growth and vibrancy is to be pursued earnestly and we’re to live life with a keen realization that the stakes are high in these things. Stakes are high for the lives of those to whom we preach.
Stakes are high for the congregations that we shepherd, but most urgently and most personally, the stakes are high for us. Those who open the Word, those who speak it. My aim from this passage and from this sermon and through this text is to challenge us anew as it relates to our personal discipleship, our personal sanctification, our personal growth in Christ to be challenged anew from these verses and that these verses would open up for us and remind us and disclose to us where our lives in Christ truly are. As I was reflecting on this passage, my mind was taken back to a frequent travel occurrence for me these past several years. About three years ago, I was traveling international with my wife and we were seeking to come back from being overseas and as we were seeking to actually to come back into the United States, I was pulled, pulled aside for extra screening and extra conversation and more screening and more conversation. My luggage was unpacked, my things were filtered through, my hands were swabbed and then I was interrogated. Uncommon to me it doesn’t typically happen. Well as I would travel a couple times later, a few months later, a similar occurrence and, and finally I found a TSA agent who was a little talkative. I began to ask him what was going on. He said to me, he said, “Mr. Allen, you are on the international terrorist watch list.” Yes, me, your friendly neighborhood seminary president.
And I said, “You’re kidding me.” He said, “No, you are on the international terrorist watch list.” I said, “You mean to tell me that every time I travel internationally, I should expect this?” He said, “Yes, if not more.” I said, “Can I go to like you know, a local Homeland Security office and have this cleared up?” He said, “Well, you can try and it may help you state side, but anywhere you go international, your name will continue to pop up.” “Why?” “Because someone with your exact name and your exact birth date has committed an act of terror.” “Me? Is this a matter of stolen identity?” “No, it’s not you. It’s a different person, but he has your name. He has your birthday so you should always plan to have extended travel and extended time to get through security wherever you go.”
Recent weeks I was traveling internationally, recent months traveling international. I had a colleague with me and I got pulled out the line to be searched, to be unpacked. I went through that a second time before I boarded the plane. I was pulled out to be searched. All my clothes were unpacked again. My hands were swabbed twice. I was interrogated for 15 minutes. Alas, I barely made the flight there. “When might I expect to be free from this burden?” I asked the TSA agent, “He said, when you age out of it, which should be in about 12 to 15 years.” They treat it so seriously because lives are at stake. We ought to treat this passage in our personal discipleship, our personal life and Christ similarly, because lives are at stake for us as ministers, and I use that word elastically today.
I assume that if you’re in the room today, you’re in some way engaged in ministry. You may be a pastor, you may be training for ministry. You may be the, the wife of a pastor. You may be leading a small group, a counselor, whatever it is, but you’re here in the room. You’re at this conference because you care about gospel ministry and to some degree in some way, most likely you are engaged in said ministry for us, for you. Nonetheless, priority number one is not the size crowd we preach, not the size of church we grow, not the beauty of the music we produce, the punchiness of the articles we write or any other metric. Priority. Number one must be that we are faithful, fruitful, growing disciples of Christ. It matters for you, for your ministry, for your family, for your life. Why? So?
How so? We confess this afternoon together that your ministry, our ministry is first dependent upon our character. 1 Timothy 3 one through seven teaches us what it means to measure up as a man of God. As a pastor, as an elder, and I remind us this afternoon that those qualifications are not a onetime threshold to cross, but an ongoing accountability to God’s Word and to God’s people. We all have seen tragically the man or woman whose gifts took him or her someplace where his or her character could not keep them. Secondly, the crucible of spiritual leadership demands our growth in Christ. The pressures the urgencies of local church ministry are such that we have to first and foremost steward the hearts within us before we seek to shepherd the hearts beyond us. We can’t take other spiritually where we have not been. We may be able to point them the way, but we cannot show them the way. Third reason why this is important. This passage speaks to us. That is because as we are growing in Christ, we will be able to avoid the status of being a Pharisee. Phariseeism as this piqued of all tragedies is it not? We see it throughout the New Testament. We see Pharisees throughout the New Testament, this, select group of Jewish spiritual leaders. They were credentialed, they were accomplished, they were universally respected, but Jesus likened them to whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside but dead and decaying on the inside.
Fourth reason why this matters to us. The stewardship of your call demands that you are a growing disciple of Christ and investments have been made in you. Parents have poured into you, churches have invested in you, mentors have guided you, professors have instructed you, churches have supported you, spouses have propped you up, children have sacrificed for you, and all of this comes together with a profound stewardship that every gospel minister owns. Fifth, the glory of God is at stake in your life and in your ministry. The church is plagued by hypocrites who rob God of his glory. Slippage and compromise in small things often leads to calamitous falls,
but more urgently and perhaps more appropriately. today, we have all seen the tragic implosions in very well known public ministries and public ministers, but less noted in the flameout are the fizzle out. Those whose ministry never erupts in scandal, but they just slowly, quietly drift away from Christ, drift away from the word and drift away from the ministry that God had set them apart to. How do we guard against that? None of us here wants to be numbered amongst that list. We guard against that by prioritizing what it means to be a disciple of Christ, to follow Christ, to live for Christ, to enjoy the life of Christ, to bear the fruit of Christ in our lives. So we come together this afternoon at the beginning of this conference at what I believe is a, is a sacred moment, a strategic moment, a strategic occasion for the word to filter and to sift our lives together.
Remember what’s going on here. The Gospel of John, this great book. By the apostle written to teach us that Jesus is the son of God throughout the Gospel. We see page after page, chapter after chapter of this demonstration that this man, Jesus, is unlike any other man who has ever lived. To make that plain, the apostle documents for us, seven different signs in this book. Chapter Two verses one through eleven Jesus turns the water into wine. Chapter four verses 46 through 54 Jesus heals the nobleman’s son. Chapter five verses one through seventeen Jesus heals at the pool of Bethesda. Chapter six verses one through 14 Jesus feeds the 5,000. Chapter six verses 15 through 21 Jesus walks on the water. Chapter nine verses one through 41 Jesus heals the man born blind and then chapter 11 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
Each sign is a flashing signal to first century Jews that this man is the Messiah. This man is the one to whom the prophets pointed. This one man is the one that that the prophets of old wrote of and taught us to expect. And so John documents that claim with seven signs and then also of course, he overlays that with the seven great “I Am” statements which are even more compelling and more shocking because every time Jesus stands before a crowd and declares “I Am” their minds harken back to Exodus chapter three. Remember that great scene–Moses is there in the wilderness. He sees a bush, ablaze, but not being consumed by fire. A voice speaks from that bush and reminds Moses, instructs Moses that he is standing on holy ground. He removes his sandals, his knees are shaking, he is wobbly there. So much so he hides his face because he knows that he’ll be ruined if he beheld the holy one that speaks from this bush. And the Lord tells Moses to go to the children of Israel and to tell them to get ready because we’re about to leave captivity. Moses asks, “But who do I tell them sent me? Who do I say to the sons of Israel that has sent me?” And the Lord says, “I am who I am. Say to the sons of Israel, ‘I am’ has sent you, thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, this is my name forever. This is my memorial name to all generations.” And so every Jewish boy, every Jewish girl was taught from childhood the great story of Exodus three. And they were taught from childhood to celebrate the Passover feast. And they were taught from childhood this great unspeakable name of Yahweh I am.
And so Jesus bursts on the scene, performing signs, healing the lame, raising the dead, feeding the multitude, walking on the water day after day after day, demonstrating that he is the divine one, the sent one. But if that weren’t enough, he shows up at what is even more shocking than these miraculous signs are these labels he claims for himself. And John Six he says, I am the bread of life. In John 10 he says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” In John 10 he says, “I am the door of the sheep.” And in John 11 he says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” In John 12 he says, “I am the light of the world.” In John 14 he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father but through me.” And now lastly in John 15 in the upper room, he looks to his disciples, these collective few and he says, “I am the true vine.
My Father is the vine dresser.” The last “I am” statement, the final “I am” statement, but also the only one to make an additional assertion. “My father is the vine dresser.” This is a stunning assertion of deity. Jesus has owned the divine name “I am.” He announces himself I am the true vine in my Father, I am his Son. He is the vine dresser. Now, what do we see in these 11 verses here? Just let your eye fall down through this passage with me here before we walk through it and clearly thematically we see this call to bear fruit and admittedly on the front end, there are some knotty phrases here, some things that that we have to kind of harmonize with the broader New Testament and broader Scriptures. But the theme here I believe is encapsulated in verse 11 where Jesus says, in summary, these things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full.
So thematically here, Jesus is saying, as you abide in me, my joy will be in you and that joy will be complete. Verse two he tells them to bear fruit. Verse four he talks about bearing fruit. Verse five bearing fruit, verse eight bearing fruit. So in summary, we are called to bear fruit. We do bear fruit through lives committed to and saturated in the life of Christ. What does it mean to bear fruit? What is this talk of peaches and apples? Grapes? Of course not. It’s a common biblical expression we see in other places, and we can think of it this way. To bear the fruit of Christ is to have motives that resemble the modus of Christ, to speak words that resembled the words of Christ, to have hearts desires that represent the desires of Christ, virtues and virtuous acts that resemble the virtues and virtuous acts of Christ; deeds that resemble the works of Christ.
And then we see other places like Galatians five and the fruits of the spirit and, and this life in Christ living through us. Now the passage in my estimation breaks down in basically three groups here, three movements. And so we’ll just walk through this together and we’ll be equally convicted along the way. Number one, the father’s purpose, the father’s desire. We might even say the father’s expectation is for us to bear fruit. Verses one through three. Verse one, ego eimi. I am the true vine. Why this analogy of the vine? The vine is a common analogy in the ancient world, a common occurrence in the ancient world. In the Old Testament, we see Israel referenced as the vine in multiple places on multiple occasions. But Jesus here is sharpening the metaphor in such a way as to say, you have heard it said that Israel was the vine. But I say to you that I am the true vine, not Israel. They have proven dead, not Israel. They have proven a failed state and a failed people, not Israel. They have failed to bear fruit. Christ is saying, I am greater than Israel. I am. The true is true. I am the true vine and it is through me and through me alone that you might bear spiritual fruit.
Chapter 14 we won’t turn there but we’ve already encountered this, this mutual and indwelling between Christ and his disciples where Jesus says, you are in me and I in you. My wife and I celebrated 20 years of marriage this summer and as two people have been married 20 years and we grow together with each passing year we know one another better. We can complete one another’s thoughts and sentences as a good married couples should be able to do with increasing frequency. Over the years there’s a oneness that draws us closer and closer and closer and closer. That’s the picture we get here of life in Christ where as we grow in him, we are drawn closer to him. We are in him, he is in us. We are one in him. The father is the vine dresser, the viticulturist, the one who? The gardener
we might say. The one who works the vine the one who works the vineyards, Jesus says, I am the true vine. My father is the vine dresser. Now, verse two, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away, and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” Now verse two is knotty and we admit that on the front end. It’s a little puzzling because it seems at first glance pretty straight that the branch that doesn’t bear fruit is a dead fruit, a dead branch, a dried up branch, and it’s whacked away and thrown out. But Jesus here seems to be suggesting that branch was well in me. Verse two, the same time that these other branches that are bearing fruit, hey, the father prunes so that it may bear more fruit. What’s going on here?
Don Carson reflects on this verse and says, “The transparent purpose of this verse is to insist that there are no true Christians without some measure of fruit. Fruitfulness is an infallible mark of true Christianity. The alternative is dead wood. Verse two is a touch alarming.
One can be taken away; a synthetic, not authentic convert.
Jesus is saying to us here that life in Christ resembles the life of Christ and perhaps at times in contemporary evangelicalism we’ve grown so accustomed to the air of decisionism where we point to a moment or to an event and we hang our spiritual hat on that happening where Jesus is poking us here and saying through these verses, “But what is going on in your inner man?”
For some, it was a gesture towards Christ in Vacation Bible school, others, a gesture towards Christ at youth camp or some outward act of writing your sins on a piece of paper or throwing a pine cone in the fire or some other act that you look at it and say, “What exactly did take place 14 years ago?” I praise God for every childhood conversion and there are many, and there are many of my own family and I rejoice in that. But if our Christianity began and ended at some distant point in the past, then I would caution you not to be too reliant on that occasion. The picture here is it life in Christ is a life of bearing fruit. The end of verse two, the Father prunes so that may bear more fruit. The picture is of again of the gardener lifting the vine up and chopping it and cutting it, chopping away the sucker branches, chopping away the drying branches so that these branches may be lifted up and may flourish.
We’re taught this in Hebrews chapter 12 are we not? Hebrews chapter 12 verses 5 through 11. I’ll turn there and read quickly. You can turn with me quickly or just, or just listen slowly. Hebrews 12 we’re told, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord nor faint when you are reproved by him. For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines and he scourges every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you endure. God deals with you as with sons, for what son is there, whom his father does not discipline. But if you are without discipline of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respect them. Shall we not much rather be subject to the father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seen best to them, but he disciplines us for our good so that we may share his holiness.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful. Yet to those who have been trained by it afterwards, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. They’re many ways to distinguish between my children and someone else’s children. They tend to resemble me. They are tall like my wife and I are. They, they talk like we talk. They have certain behavior patterns that are indicative that they are Allen children, but one very obvious way to determine they’re my children is I actually will discipline them. I don’t discipline my neighbor’s children. I don’t discipline my colleagues’ children. I don’t discipline my church members’ children or certainly not in the same way that I would discipline my own, right? Why? Because I am their father and I care about them in the ultimate degree. And Jesus is saying that in verse two the Father cares. He prunes, he lifts up.
The author of Hebrews is saying the same. Verse three “For you have been cleansed because the word which I have spoken to you.” The regenerative power of the word and the Spirit work and our life. What is Jesus saying? These verses ought to make us sit up. The father’s purpose, his desire, even his expectation is that we as his children will bear fruit, the fruit of the Christian life, the fruit of conversion. I was reflecting with some friends recently just about church services and the local church and ministry and local church these days. And we got to swapping stories about our own childhood and adolescent years in our local church and different preachers we heard and some of these preachers, they came through my church and I was this kid. I mean, they scared me to death. Okay. I think many of us in the room are recovering fundamentalists, and I say that with a smile on my face.
We grew up in spiritual contexts where spirituality was about what you did do and what you didn’t do and no confusing the two and it was rigid and clear and that it sometimes felt harsh. I remember one occasion, I was a very young adolescent, probably 11, 12, 13 years old. We had a guest preacher, famous preacher by the name of Jay Harold Smith, came to our church and preached. A few of the older folks in the room will probably remember that name. I remember as a kid reading the church bulletin leading up to it, they said a congregation of our size, which the church I was grew up in average about 3000, a congregation of our size should expect about 10% of Sunday morning worshipers or about 300 to get saved that Sunday. I was like, “Whoa, this is like, this is big stuff here. What’s going to happen?” Well I’m like 12 years old, I’m there. He shows up, he comes down, he preaches a sermon. I was scared spitless. The title of the sermon was “God’s Three Deadlines” and all three illustrations were about some individual who had crossed a line with God and was struck dead before the sun went down
and I wanted to hide under the pew the whole time. I’m not kidding. It scared me to death. I don’t know how many people got saved that weekend. I know everybody got scared that weekend. And my friend and I and friends, we were talking about this. We were kind of chuckling about it, but then it occurred to me
when is the last time I was scared in corporate worship? When was the last time the preached word convicted me in such a way that fear was an emotion I sensed. I’m not suggesting that should be a routine emotion. In fact, we even talk about the appropriateness of that emotion for those of us who are in Christ and held securely by his hand. But I wonder if something may be missing from contemporary evangelicalism. If we have a generation of church goers who have never encountered the fear of the Lord. It’s hard for me to read verse one, two and three without a touch of fear hitting me. I don’t want to know a branch that’s taken away for not bearing fruit. I don’t want to be such a branch. Our passage turns more hopeful though in verses four and five and we see secondly, the Son’s power enables you to bear fruit.
Notice what we see here. Jesus says, “Abide in me, remain in me, grow in me.” Simple but not easy. Abide in me how clearly the sense here abiding or remaining. There’s a sense of patience involved in this. A sense of deliberateness involved in this, sense of saying no to distractions. The spiritual disciplines as a mean of grace plays a part in prayer and Bible study and worship, corporate and private. The other spiritual disciplines may play a part, but we’re told here, Jesus says, you being in me and in my presence and I and you, that is the linchpin. That is the key. Verse Four, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, cannot, not even, will not, cannot
unless it abides in me. So neither can you unless you abide in me again. These words are severe, cannot, will not unless neither. Verse Five I am the vine. You are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit for apart from me, you can do nothing. There’s a promise here. There’s also a warning here. And they both are in the extreme sense, are they not? As you are in me, as you abide in me, you will bear much fruit. You can bear much fruit, you can expect to bear much fruit.
But apart from me you can do nothing. Nothing of spiritual importance, nothing of spiritual worth, nothing of ultimate spiritual good. So what do we make of these two verses? I think the application goes something like this. In our parents’ generation church life in the 70s and the eighties and nineties the great word of application from this verse in places like Luke 10 Mary and Martha would be to contrast doers versus abiders and to challenge the doers in the room to spend more time abiding so they’re not just busy in Christ, but they’re actually growing in Christ. That’s a legitimate word of application, especially for those of us in the room who are ministers, because we often find ourselves going from responsibility to responsibility from sermon to sermon, from visit to visit, counseling session, to counseling session, and all the more and being drained dry. There is indeed, often a barrenness to busyness. We mustn’t let ministry keep us from Christ. Well, I wonder if a more appropriate word of application in the year 2019 for us in the room is something like this. Perhaps the great contrast isn’t doers versus abiders. Maybe it’s abiders versus distracted. Maybe it’s abiders versus those who merely at best occasionally attend church and their commitment is nothing greater to Christ. I read in recent days, Lifeway research produced a report showing that the average church member in evangelical churches now attends an average of 1.6 times per month.
Serving on seven committees, a body of deacons and go on to three Bible studies a week and three services a week and all that can choke out growth because there is no time to abide. But shuttling your children from sports league to sports league, shuttling yourself from entertainment opportunity, entertainment opportunity, shuttling your family from vacation to retreat to this outing, to that outing to such a degree where a local church is an ancillary part of your life and not essential part of your life. Don’t be surprised if you raise a generation who know nothing of abiding in Christ.
But here’s the point, verses four and five fruit bearing is not something we accomplish for Christ. It’s something we realize in Christ. In other words, ask not what you can do for Christ. Ask what he can do in you and through you. The only way to bear fruit is through abiding in Christ. Now see with me thirdly and finally verses six through 11 and that is that our passion, your passion should be to bear fruit. And there I see half a dozen reasons why here listed. Reason number one, verse six ‘If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up and they gathered them and cast them into the fire and they are burning.” And what’s going on here? This is a difficult verse. Is this suggesting that we can at once be in Christ but then lose our salvation? Well, I think not for theological and biblical reasons. One basic principle of hermeneutics is that you interpret the less clear passages by the clearer passages. John writes in places like John 10 and John 6 an overwhelming slam dunk case for the security of the believer. We see other places like Romans eight and of course the entirety of the Pauline corpus where we see the fact that we are protected and held in Christ.
So it’s not what he’s saying here. He’s not suggesting that you lose something you once had, but there is a hint of warning here that the person who strolls in and out of church but has no real sense of the life of Christ in them. Perhaps all along they were tares and not wheat, and so at the end of the age that will be revealed. You see, we desire to bear fruit verse six because it evidences we are in Christ. It doesn’t guarantee we’re in Christ. It does it keep us in Christ but it reminds the world, reminds ourselves that we are in Christ. Second reason, verse seven an empowered prayer, life. Notice verse seven if you abide in me, my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. We tend to fantasize about the second half of that verse, what we may be able to get, but the key to the second half of the verses, the first half of the verse, then a few are in Christ and your mind and heart is saturated with his mind and heart and your desires are his desires and your ambitions are his ambitions.
Then your requests will be remarkably similar to his requests. Notice the link here between Word and love and Christ. My words abide in you.
Ask whatever you wish and it will be given. Abiding in Christ leads to empowered prayer life. Third, abiding Christ and bearing fruit glorifies God. That’s the first half of verse eight “My father is glorified by this that you bear much fruit and so prove so demonstrate to be my disciples.” That’s a basic goal of the Christian, right? We were taught that as kids when we taught our kids, “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The goal of the Christian. How was God so glorified? His life on display through you and ministers bear a particular stewardship for God’s glory. The more visible the ministry, the greater the platform, the higher the pedestal from which we speak. The more heightened the stewardship. It doesn’t make breaking news when the guy pastoring a church of 28 runs off with the church secretary; that might be local news in that town. It might be disastrous local news in that town, but it tends not to make the Drudge Report. But when a minister, with a high platform with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, with the large church who has spoken prophetically to issues in the culture, when that flame out happens can take years, decades, generations to overcome.
Jesus is saying in verse eight, as you bear much fruit, on the contrary, God is glorified in that. Reason number four. Verse eight, assurance of salvation. “You so proved to be my disciples.”
Matthew chapter seven verses 16 through 23 Jesus talked about bearing fruit. Did he not? Again, alarming words. They convict, but here Jesus makes plain as you live for the Lord and the Father’s glorified through you it’s a reminder that you are disciples. Say, how do you know you are a Christian anyway? How do you know? Well, I think the Bible presents two parallel and complementing realities. Number one, the objective reality. Have you called on the name of Christ? Have you repented of your sins? Has there been a moment, a place where you felt conviction and faith, faith burst in your heart and you believed in Christ? That is the objective reality and the primary reality and the main reality that is fleshed out and added assurance comes through this subjective reality of a life that has been changed, new desires, a new direction and new vocabulary, new passions, new ambitions, the waning of sin and sinful tendencies, the increase and the desire for Christ.
Why has your passion to bear fruit? Fifth, verses 9 and 10 to enjoy the unmatched experiential love of the father and the son. “Just as the father has loved me I have also loved you.” We should revel in that phrase. Think of the Father’s love for the Son. Unmatched, unquantifiable, inestimable so that though, just as I have also loved you, abide in my love. Remain in my love, enjoy my love. Verse 10 “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” You see the Father, the Son, the disciple, the love between the Father and the Son and the Son and you, the love between the Father and the Son and the keeping of the commandments, the obedience to the Father and the call for us to obey the Father and Son as an expression of that love. You see, it’s a sign of love. Why don’t you maintain fidelity to your spouse? For me, I don’t want to get shot, but there are other reasons, right? It’s not a contractual obligation. Merely
it’s not a legal responsibility. Merely
it’s the heart of love. You love this person. You willingly, happily say no to every other. When you say “yes” to your other, it’s the heart of love and that’s the picture of verses 9 and 10. It’s not an “Okay, it’s my duty. I’ll keep your commandments.” No, it’s a, it’s a heart of love to want to honor the Father and to want to honor the Son and then notice sixthly we bear fruit to experience the fullness of joy in Christ. Peculiar verse 11 abiding, bearing fruit, keeping commandments, cast out a lot is at stake in verses 1 through 10. Verse 11 “These things I have spoken to you.” Why? “So that my joy may be in you.” See the connection? Abiding in Christ. You’re in him, he’s in you. His joy is within you. His joy is coming out of you and that joy is complete, is full and so I have spoken to these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may the made full as disciples of Christ.
We are here in this September afternoon thinking carefully about this passage because it matters and I’ll confess as I read these verses at times they jolt even me. I’ll confess as I’ve studied these past weeks or so, they’ve jolted me. I’ll also confess that if I get to heaven one day and God says to me, you took this passage like this a little bit too seriously, I can live with that. I think I can’t live with just casually brushing through a passage like this and saying, “We’re all one saved, all saved. No matter how you live, just enjoy Christ and get on your merry way.” Passages like this are to bind us and what we know theologically about the security of believers and all that we gained through Christ and our victory through Christ experientially that is fleshed out in the here and now day to day by being warned and passages like this. Being encouraged in passages like this being strengthened from passages like this. For those of you in the room who are ministers in particular, the final word of challenge, we all, we all are fatigued by the flame outs and the fizzle outs. We all are saddened. We all are shocked. We all are wearied by seeing the name of Christ sullied on a near weekly basis.
I was reading an in recent days, or I saw an analogy there that just made a lot of sense to me. This article was reflecting on the aftermath of World War II and the fact that during World War II, the allies dropped about close to 3 million tons of bombs on Europe. About 1.5 million tons dropped in Germany alone. That equals several million bombs. Estimates are that about 10% of those or several hundred thousand of those bombs remain not yet detonated thus annually in Germany for instance, annually several thousand undetonated bombs are found that have to be dealt with. You can imagine disarming these bombs is a treacherous job to the few such a bomb is to jeopardize one’s life. It’s assigned in Germany to the bomb disposal services. Let’s thank the Lord we don’t have to have such an agency here. A highly trained corps of engineers and bomb specialists that take all the precautions, leave nothing to chance annually.
They deal with several thousand bombs. It’s a dangerous job. Routinely these bombs actually go off while the German bomb squad seek to diffuse them. Here we are, 75 years later, still tens of thousands have yet to detonate bombs, lying just under the German landscape in churchyards, schoolhouses neighborhoods, playgrounds, hospitals, places of business, shopping centers, restaurants, recreation space, and to the naked eye, all this happy, all a serene, all is safe but just under the surface and tens of thousands of places there is a bomb. Oh so close to detonation, poised to take lives, collapsed buildings, shatter families, brother ministers. So it is with sin.
And John 15 one through eleven instructs us to guard our lives, to be first and foremost to be growing disciples of Christ. Because whether we realize it or not, we think we are walking through fields that are safe and serene. But just like in Germany, we saw offering a strolling through the valley of the undetonated bombs. Let’s pray. Father, we come to you this afternoon and I pray Father, that you would help us to apply these verses to our lives. Help us Father to think carefully and clearly on this passage and passages yet to be preached today and tomorrow. Help us Father to renew ourselves to priority number one, and to be men and women who are marked by the life of Christ in us, through us, flowing out from us. Father, we pray. I pray in particular for ourselves that this conference for many who came here weary, who came from the verge of some foolish decision who came here as it were, dancing through fields littered with undetonated bombs. Would you do a fresh work in our hearts today and tomorrow for the glory of Jesus; for the glory of your church? And in his name we pray. Amen.