Sunday Sermon: ‘Getting Fully In Touch With God Through Abiding’

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1 Timothy 4:8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 

Last week I challenged us to get fit, both physically and spiritually. It’s good to get fit physically. Physical fitness will not only make us feel better, it will also equip us to better handle the challenges of life. But even more important than physical fitness is spiritual fitness. “Exercise thyself rather unto godliness” Paul tells us. (see 1 Tim 4:7) What does it mean to be spiritually fit?

In this series of messages I’m using the word ‘fit’ as an acronym:FULLY IN TOUCH. To be spiritually fit is to be FULLY IN TOUCH with God, the body of Christ and the world around us.

So where do we begin? Last week we saw that spiritual fitness begins with salvation. Jesus said: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”( Jn 3:3) What does it mean to be ‘born again?’ To be born again is to have the Holy Spirit bring to us the life of Christ. Paul writes: “Though we were spiritually dead because of the things we did against God, he gave us new life with Christ.” (Eph 2:5 NCV) Sin brings death to the spiritual part of our makeup. God told Adam and Eve that in the day they sinned – they would surely die. (Gen 2:17) Sin brings death, but salvation brings new life. The Apostle Paul also wrote: For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:22) Through Christ’s death we can be made alive!

Salvation is a wonderful thing but it’s only the beginning. The Bible teaches us that God has so much more in store for us.

1 Corinthians 2:9 Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think , according to the power that worketh in us.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Romans 8:37 …we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Can you sense the excitement that is in these verses. God doesn’t want our Christianity to be dry and boring. He wants it to be alive and powerful! Consider these words from our Savior:

John 15: 1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

This is such a rich passage that we could spends weeks on it along. But as I have studied and pondered over it, I have noticed that there are four key words.

I.  Key Word: Abide

“Abide in me, and I in you.” As we study through this passage we see that Jesus used the word ‘abide’ repeatedly; actually eleven times. What does it mean to abide in Christ? To abide means to: {remain, to tarry,or  to be kept continually.} To abide refers to a constant state of being.

Perhaps Christ’s illustration explains it best. Jesus likened our abiding in Him to a branch being attached to a vine. As the branch is connected to the vine, life flows from the vine into the branch. The two become one. What the vine has, the branch has. What the vine does, the branch does. What the vine is able to produce, the branch is able to produce. The branch becomes an extension of the vine. We are a continuation of what Christ began two thousand years ago.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

It is God’s desire to so transform our lives that the world will marvel; not at us, but at the great God we serve. But in order for this to happen, we must ‘abide in Christ.’

As we continue to study this passage we see that Christ teaches us several important truths about abiding in Him.

A. The Father Will Cultivate Failing Branches

John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

Several years ago David Wilkinson, founder of Walk Thru the Bible, wrote a little book entitled ‘Secrets of the Vine.’ In this book he teaches that the phrase ‘taketh away’ could be translate as – ‘lifteth up.’ In other words, God lifts out of the mud the branches that have fallen down.

Wilkinson learned this truth from a man who owned a large vineyard. The man told Wilkinson: “New branches have the tendency to trail down and grow along the ground… but they don’t bear fruit there. When branches grow along the ground, the leaves get coated with dust. When it rains, they get muddy and mildewed. The branch becomes sick and useless.” “What do you do?” I asked. “Cut them off and throw them away?” “On no!” he exclaimed. “The branch is much too valuable for that. We go through the vineyard with a bucket of water looking for those branches. We lift them u and wash them off. Then we wrap them around the trellis or tie them up. Pretty soon they’re thriving.”

There was a time in my life when I was one of those branches. Though I knew the Lord as my Savior, I wasn’t bearing much fruit for Him; if any. The sin of this world had coated my leaves and for all practical purposes – I was spiritually useless. But God was gracious to me. God came to me and lifted me up and washed me off and trained me to grow along the trellis. Though I’m still not bearing all the fruit that I should or would like, God is using me for His glory and for that I give Him thanks. Thank God He didn’t cut me off and throw me away.

There’s another important truth that Christ teaches in this passage.

 B. The Father Will Cast Away False Branches

John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Notice: the first group of fruitless Christians are those who were in Christ. The second group isn’t. “If a man abide not in me…” This group are those who were clearly never Christians. Regardless of what they professed, they never possessed. Their profession of faith wasn’t real. Are there such people? Jesus said:

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

The Bible says:

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Don’t you understand that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless, of course, you fail the test. CEB

Only God knows who is and who isn’t a true Christian.

As I have studied over this topic I have noticed something very important. It’s the word –‘withered.’

John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered…

Withering is a sign that there is no life. Consider this passage of scripture where Jesus used the word ‘withered.’

Matthew 13:5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

Why did the plant wither and die? Because it had no root. It’s life was only superficial. If someone makes a profession of faith but then quickly falls away, that’s a pretty good indication that they were never a part of the vine.

John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

 II. Key Word: Fruit

John 15:2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

The second key word is ‘fruit.’ Jesus uses this word eight times in this passage. Do you think that He was trying to get a point across?

Christ offers to us a life that is in His words – ‘abundant.’ (see John 10:10) The word abundant means: superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon. Consider also Paul’s teaching:

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

We’re not saved ‘by’ good works but ‘for’ good works. God has saved us for His glory. Recently I picked up a copy of Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.” A subtitle for his book is: “What on Earth Am I Here For?” Let me share with you a paragraph out of that devotional:

“You were planned for God’s pleasure. The moment you were born into the world, God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at your birth. He wanted you alive, and your arrival gave him great pleasure. God did not need to create you, but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment. You exist for his benefit, his glory, his purpose, and his delight.” (pg 65 – Planned for God’s Pleasure)

Is Rich Warren right in what he is saying? Consider this portion of scripture:

Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Notice – ‘for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.’ We exist for God’s benefit, glory, purpose, and delight. I love the way Bruce Wilkinson puts it – “We have been created to fulfill God’s dream.” Our life is about God’s dream and not our own. If only that truth could somehow sink deep into our thinking and begin to actually control how we live and think. If only we would begin to make our choices based upon what believe to be God’s will instead of what was our will. If only we would start living like branches that are drawing their nourishment from the vine and not like branches that are trying to be the vine. If only we would seek to become an extension of Christ and His ministry.

 Jesus said something else that is very important:

John 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

Notice how Jesus defined what it means to be one of His disciples. A disciple of Christ is someone who brings God glory through the spiritual fruit they produce as a result of their abiding in the Savior. Being one of His disciples is not simply something that we call ourselves. Being one of His disciples is who we are and how we live and think.

God is glorified when He is able to bear much fruit in and through our lives. What is the fruit that God is seeking to produce? I believe that a big part of it is what Paul calls the ‘fruit of the Spirit.’ Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, meekness and self-control. (see Galatians 5:22-23) The fruit God seeks to produce also includes: bringing others to Christ, showing the love of Christ to those in need, using our spiritual gift, worship, and our personal joy and contentment.

III. Key Word: Purgeth

There’s a third key word to help us understand this passage. It’s the world ‘purgeth.’ Though it’s used only twice, it’s an important part of what Christ was saying.

John 15:2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

If you’re a careful student of the Word you may have already noticed that the English word ‘purgeth’ is found only once in this passage. Why did I say that Jesus used it twice? Here’s the second use:

John 15:3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

In the Greek the words ‘purgeth’ and ‘clean’ are the same word. What does that mean?

For years I have interpreted the word ‘purgeth’ as: ‘prune’ or ‘pruning.’ In other words, God prunes believers in order to bear more fruit. God trims back the useless things in our lives so that our energy is spent more on bearing fruit and not just producing superficial leaves.

But there is another meaning to the word ‘purgeth.’ It means to make clean. Perhaps something that Jesus did on that same evening helps to explain what He was thinking.

John 13:3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

To understand what Jesus was doing and why He was doing it, we must take a careful look at verse 10.

10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.

Although the word ‘wash’ is used twice in this verse, it’s actually two different words. The first word refers to a complete bath. It’s a cleansing from head to toe. The second word refers to a washing of the hands and feet. What is Jesus saying? He who has been completely bathed doesn’t need to take a whole bath every time his hands or feet get dirty. He simply needs to wash his hand and feet. Or in other words, the person who has been saved doesn’t need to be saved over and over again. What He needs is to wash his hands and feet along the way. According to 1 John 1, the daily cleansing keeps us in constant fellowship with our Savior. Through His pruning process, God removes the things in our lives that hinders the flow of His grace into our lives. The cleaner the relationship is between us and the vine, the freer the flow of His life-giving grace into our lives. Which brings us to our last key word.

IV. Key Word: Friends

John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

I suppose that I should have chosen the word ‘love’ because it was used it ten times and the word ‘friend’ only three. Yet it seems to me that the word ‘friends’ helps us to better understand what kind of love relationship the vine wants to have with us. Wiersbe says that this word describes an ‘inner circle.’ In John 3 it refers to the best man at a wedding. It’s people that are so close to us that our hearts beat as one.

Jesus said:

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

The thought is – Jesus laid down His life for us; therefore we ought to lay down our life for Him and for those whom He loves. Who does God love? God loves the world (Jn 3:16); even those who don’t love Him. (Mt 5:44-48)

Abiding in the vine means to allow the vine to flow in and through us. What’s in the vine comes into us and thus the fruit we bear is the fruit that the vine wants to bear. What kind of fruit does the vine want to bear? Obviously it has to do with the word ‘love.’ Love for the Father; love for the Son; love for each other; and even love for the world.

Conclusion:

Are you in the vine? Have you ever been born again and made a part of God’s family?

Are you abiding in the vine? Are you drawing your daily nourishment from Him and is He flowing both in and through you? Is God able to produce spiritual fruit through your life? Are you willing for Him to bear more fruit and even much fruit? Can you say as Paul said –

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…

 

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