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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:Abide in Me
Text:John 15:9-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Abide in Me 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, last week Sunday we began our consideration of this wonderful metaphor which Jesus gives us here in John 15 – that of the vine and the branches. This is a powerful metaphor in that it borrows from the imagery of the physical union of the vine and branches and the fruit which a vineyard produces, to convey to us the spiritual imagery of what it means (what it looks like) for us to be connected to Christ.


And for those branches that are connected to Christ, there is both encouragement and exhortation. In verses 1-17 Jesus says no less than 10 times: remain/abide in me. The Vine, our Savior, knows what’s best for us, the branches. Jesus knows that each and every day we need to remain in close and intimate contact and communion and fellowship with Him.    


And in preparation for coming to the Table of the Lord today, that’s what we’re going to be considering. Here, Jesus calls us to Abide in Him

1) The Idea of Abiding 

2) The Joy of Abiding


1) The Idea of Abiding

I’ve decided to begin this sermon by talking about the Idea of Abiding for two main reasons: first, because it’s easy for new believers to misunderstand (or misinterpret) what Jesus is saying here; and second, because for long-time, or even life-long believers, it’s easy to overlook or to ignore what Jesus is saying here.


If you are a relatively new believer, or just learning the truths of the Christian faith, I say that it’s easy to misunderstand what Jesus is saying here because it almost sounds as if Jesus is making this a condition of our faith and belief. Look at verses 4-5 for example. It says: Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.


That sounds very much like Jesus is setting a condition whereby all those who want Jesus to abide in them must first prove themselves and abide in Jesus. In other words, it sounds like Jesus is saying “you first”. You must first commit to Jesus; you must first show by your own desire, by your own initiative, by your own power that you belong to Jesus, and THEN Jesus will commit to you; then Jesus will come to you and abide in you and fill you with his power and grace.


I know that’s the way it works in many other areas in life. An investor, for example, isn’t going to invest his money in an idea we have, or in our business, or in a product we have developed unless and until he first sees that it works; unless he’s convinced that he’s going to get a good return for his money! He’s going to say: “Convince me. Show me what you got. Then I might consider investing in you.”


But thank the Lord, this is not the way it works with Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. As one commentator mentioned: The words ‘Abide in me’ do not constitute a condition which man must fulfill in his own power before Christ will do his part. Far from it. It is sovereign grace from start to finish, but the responsibility of abiding in Christ is placed squarely upon man’s shoulders, exactly where it belongs.


Last week, we talked a lot about that ‘sovereign grace’ as we emphasized the fact that union with Christ -- Christ in us, and us in Christ -- is something which God does on our behalf. And that is something that Jesus drives home in the verses we read today. Look at verse 16. You did not choose me but I chose you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.


The very nature and definition of grace is that God always initiates; God always makes the first move toward the powerless, lifeless sinner. Just as God came to fallen Adam, and God came to a stranger named Abram and called him to go to a land that He would show him; just as God appeared to a man named Moses in the burning bush to reveal His Divine Name, so too, God comes to us first. Jesus calls those to himself whom the Father has chosen.


And those whom the Son calls, he opens their hearts, and their minds, their eyes and ears; He makes their will, their heart, their spirit pliable so as to be open and receptive to the life-changing message of the Gospel. So that they might respond to the call of the Gospel in faith, doing that which the Gospel calls them to do, namely, repenting, believing, trusting, obeying -- but not by their own power. It is only by the power of God’s grace that is already at work in them.


And that is the same dynamic that is present here in this passage. When Jesus says Abide in Me, he is only commanding his people to do (by grace) that which Christ has already given them the will and the power to do. It is the prayer of Augustine at work, as he said, Oh Lord, command what you will, but give what you command. 


So to recap: abiding in Christ is NOT what we do in our own power – to show Christ that we are sincere in our faith; so prove to Jesus that we are serious -- all in the hope that Jesus will one day come to abide in us. No. Abiding in Christ is the happy result of Christ abiding in us; it is the loving duty and sacred privilege of the child of God who has already joined to Christ by faith.


Now the second reason we need to talk about the Idea of Abiding is because it is easy for long-time believers, for life-time believers to overlook and ignore this. Why do I say that? I say that because there is always a danger for those who have believed in Jesus Christ their whole life long to view the Christian life as something of a life of ease; as a ‘walk in the park’ so to speak.


I could be wrong here, but I think that (for many of us), when we hear Jesus say “remain/abide in me”, we interpret that to mean that Jesus is talking about the obvious things: to come to church; to read our Bible; to pray on a daily basis – we consider those to be our main responsibilities.


And while that’s part of it; and while those things are absolutely essential to abiding in Christ, it is far from being the whole of what Christ is calling us to do here. But the thing we tend to overlook is that abiding in Christ, remaining in Christ is not an easy task.


As William Hendriken’s notes, there is exertion here; I interpret that to mean there is a striving-after Christ and the things of Christ and His Kingdom that does not come without great cost to the believer. There is the dying to the flesh; the leaving behind the things of this world; the daily sacrifice of self; and even in some instances, as Christ Himself demonstrated in his sacrificial death on the cross, there is the laying down of one’s own life for the sake of the Kingdom.   


There are many passages in the Bible which speak of the idea of abiding and remaining in Christ.  Philippians 2:12 says Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.


In I Peter 1: 10-11 Peter says Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


And in I Timothy 6:12 Paul says to Timothy: Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.


Those words are hardly an invitation to a Christian Tea Party where we all (metaphorically speaking) pull up a chair and sit down at the table and eat muffins and sip tea until our time on earth is done, or until the Day Christ returns. It’s not like we say once saved always saved and then we go our merry way as if the prize has already been won and we are free to live as we like.   


No. There’s work to be done. There’s battles to be fought; there’s faith that needs to grow and be strengthened. There’s gardens that need to be weeded! There’s sin that needs killing. There’s trials to be overcome. The Apostle Paul knew this better than most Christians. In 1 Corinthians 9 he encourages the church to strive for godliness and self-control, and (as he does so often), he uses an illustration from the world of sports and competition to drive home his point.


He says, Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. (In other words I’m not a shadow boxer that only pretends, that only trains and practices and looks good doing it). No. I’m a real fighter and I’m in the ring everyday landing blows and striving to win. He says: I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. I take that to mean: I make it my business to practice what I preach, so that my message will not seem hollow or meaningless. 


Here and elsewhere, Paul is speaking about his constant and relentless, lifelong pursuit of godliness and holiness – not that he feared that he wasn’t saved. Not that he thought that his salvation was hanging in the balance and that maybe his personal holiness would swing the pendulum in his favor. No. He was confident of his salvation. He knew that his salvation rested not upon his holiness but upon the foundation of the finished work of Jesus Christ on his behalf!


See, what Paul was striving after was to abide in Christ. To remain in Christ, to be conformed more and more after the image of Christ (Romans 8:29); to put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:10).  


The Apostle Paul understood what this entailed and with every fiber of his being, until his last and dying breath, he was striving and fighting with all the energy and strength and with the grace God gave Him to abide in Christ, so that Christ would abide in Him!


And when we look at our life from that perspective, beloved, I believe we see just how little we actually do struggle and fight and exert ourselves to be like Christ. Just consider what Jesus calls us to do here. In verse 9 Jesus says: As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commandments you will remain in my love just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.


Jesus gives us a very simple and straightforward way to show our love for him: by obeying his commands. Show me you love me by keeping my commands. But how often don’t we fall short of this? How often don’t we treat God’s 10 commandments as God’s ten suggestions, and we freely and willingly break God’s commands n thought; word; and deed?


And I believe that those of us who have been raised in Christian homes and who’ve heard good preaching our whole life long, we face the danger of becoming desensitized to the call to holiness. We come to church, we go through the motions, we shadow box a bit – we look the part of the Christian, but then the work week comes, or the weekend comes, and we don’t give God’s commandments second thought.


Maybe even subconsciously we think to ourselves: it doesn’t really matter if I sin against God, or if I steal a little money; or if I cheat on my test; or if I lie to my boss; or if I don’t obey my parents; or if I have sex with my girlfriend or boyfriend, or if get drunk or high with my friends – because God’s going to forgive me anyway. God’s got my back. Once saved always saved.


I warn you beloved. Don’t play that game with God. Don’t put your eternal salvation at risk. That’s not the fruit that God is looking for. In fact, that approach resembles the bad fruit from those branches that the Father threatens to cut away. That’s what happened to Judas. He was in and among the faithful; he was in close proximity to Christ. But Christ was never in him, and he was never in Christ, and in the end, his betrayal (his fruit) proved it.   


Jesus says, if you truly love me, you will strive to keep his commandments. You will struggle the struggle; they will fight against sin and seek to overcome it. That’s what I want to set before you today as we come to the Table of the Lord. The idea of remaining in Christ is the effort we make at striving after Godliness; at pursuing holiness; at putting a priority on being Christ like in all of life; and of bearing good fruit, fruit that will last! 


2) The Joy of Abiding

Secondly, before we come to the table of the Lord, I want to speak briefly about the Joy of Abiding in Christ. Look at John 15:11. Jesus says: I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.


As Christians I believe we can speak of the joy of the Lord in (at least) two ways. We can speak of our joy of being found in the Lord; and secondly. we can speak of the Lord himself taking joy in us. When we speak of our joy of being in Christ, it makes perfect sense. If we abide in Christ and He in us, then what is true of Christ will be true of us. Since Christ loves righteousness and holiness and justice; since he shows kindness and mercy and compassion; since he practices self-control and patience and faithfulness all of those things will be reflected in us!    


So, too, when it comes to the joy of the Lord. If we are in Christ then the joy of the Lord is our joy. And what brings God joy? What makes Christ happy? The joy of Jesus was doing His Father’s will. It was doing that which magnified and glorified His Father.  


Hebrews 2 calls us to fix our eyes upon Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. Who, for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. In spite of the pain and shame and suffering of the cross, it gave Jesus joy to obey His Father and accomplish the work of salvation, to fulfill all righteousness. To save all those whom the Father chose unto eternal life!  


And Christ’s joy should be in us (it should be our joy) as we strive (as we talked about earlier) to obey God’s commandments, as we fight against sin; as we pursue holiness.  Think of it this way: we’re not to look to this world (indulging the sinful flesh) as a source of joy and pleasure, but we look to Christ, to ask Christ to fill us with His joy -- the joy of being found faithful; of being a loving child of God who honors God by keeping His commandments.


Then we can see how the second joy is possible: that Jesus can take joy in us! Just think of what the Psalmist says in Psalm 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer!


I think of the way we parents or grandparents look upon our children or grandchildren. Yes, there are times when we are upset, disappointed and even angry with our children because of what they do. None of our children are perfect. They all need Christ. But as parents and grandparents we can see past those faults and imperfections and we take genuine joy in our children and grandchildren. The sight of them fills our hearts with joy and they put a smile on our face!


God takes joy in us in much the same way. Yes, it’s true -- we’re far from being the people god has called us to be. And it’s hard to imagine Jesus finding anything in me that can bring him joy, but this passage tells us how that’s possible. By abiding in Him. By striving after holiness. By living our life in loving obedience to God’s commandments.


May this be our heart’s desire; may this be our constant prayer; may that be our life’s goal and highest ambition beloved! May we be filled with the joy of the Lord as HE ABIDES IN US, and may the Lord be filled with joy as WE ABIDE IN HIM! Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Pastor Keith Davis

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