You know, when you’re not bearing fruit or some of your body language, when I talked about how serious this is, down deep, you have such a perverted view of God, you think He is down on you.
The biggest problem of being restored back to a living relationship is you so think that everyone will be and God is down on you. I want you to know, He’s not. He just wants to bear fruit.
In fact, He shifts it in verses 7 through 11. What He is going to do now is He is going to talk about the benefit and why it is so important to bear fruit. Not just for His glory, but for our good.
Picking it up in verse 7, notice what He says, “If you abide in Me,” by the way, it’s a third-class condition. What it means is: Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. It’s your decision.
But, “If you will, if you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.” Isn’t that amazing? When you abide, He says you have access. You have access. He said more than Peter, more than John, more than the disciples, you have access to the throne room of God.
When you are staying in communion and His Word is in you, and you are talking with Him, He says our hearts and our agendas are going to get so aligned, ask whatever you will. Not just ministry things. Your heart’s desire. I am your Father. I want to answer. And anytime I can answer in a way that would be pleasing to you, I would love to.
Notice in verse 8, He says, “By this, My Father is glorified that you bear,” notice, not more fruit, not fruit, “that you bear much fruit, and so you prove to be My disciples.”
Fruitfulness. As you abide, as you get connected with believers, as you are in God’s Word, you’ll notice the little picture I put on here for you. I tried to show you what it might look like in the picture of a wheel. When Jesus is the center of your life and you are in His Word regularly and talking, this “before God” element of the Christian life, He says what is going to happen is you bear fruit. And that’s a life of extraordinary impact. And that’s an extraordinary life.
I was talking with John and we were talking about this passage and how God, over time, changes our lives. And I didn’t grow up as a Christian. And I had never read the Bible and I was a really slow starter. But after twenty-five years in the Scriptures, probably tens of thousands of hours. And I have been in small groups, probably, ever since maybe after the first year or so. And little by little learned where God wanted me to serve.
And as I have done that, the life of Christ, over time, gets formed in you. We are just regular people, but He gets formed in you. And I was in Atlanta at the time, leading an organization and a guy moved from Atlanta and saw my name somewhere. He called Walk Thru the Bible and said, “Is this the Chip Ingram from Gahanna?” I said, “Well, yeah!”
And he says, “You remember across from the high school? My house…” His name was Martin. And I said, “Yeah!” And I used to live in front of the high school, because that’s where the outdoor basketball courts were.
And he said, “Well, so you’re a Christian now?” “Yeah.” “Like a pastor or something?” I said, “Yeah, yeah, kinda, yeah. Sort of. Yeah, really.” And he said, “Really?” I said, “Yeah!” And he goes, “Well, can I ask you a really hard question, because this is hard to digest.” I said, “Well, sure.” He said, “Are you as arrogant now as you were then?” I mean, twenty-five years! Keep sharing the love, Martin!
But you know what it for me was? My honest answer was, “You know what? God has changed a lot. I am sure I still deal with a lot of self-focus and arrogance that I am not aware of.” But I just said, “Martin, I didn’t know Christ in high school and I was so insecure, and all that puffing up and all that talking and all that junk was really me desperately longing to put up some sort of false me that I thought people might like. And so that part got crucified and died.”
And you know what it reminded me of, though? I hung up the phone and I thought, Oh, God, what an extraordinary life You have produced inside of me. I’m not that arrogant person. I don’t struggle with that. I’ve got some other struggles.
And never in my wildest dreams, I had never even opened the Bible, let alone that God would ever allow ordinary people like us to be used. You know what it’s like when the grace of God goes through our lips and lives and words and resources, through the PVC pipe of our fleshly humanness, and that grace lands in the heart of a person and they find eternal life? Or a marriage comes back together or a kid gets off of drugs and you realize, A normal, regular person like me was used by God! That’s bearing much fruit.
And you know what happens? God gets glorified and it proves or demonstrates that you’re His follower. But it gets even better. Look at verses 9 and 10.
Verses 9 and 10 He says, “Just as My Father loved Me, I have loved you. Abide in My love.” Now, would you digest that? Jesus is saying, “As God the Father perfectly, unconditionally, deeply, intimately loved Me, I love you. Now here’s what I want you to do: Abide, stay connected in living communion. Not with My rules, not with religion, with My love!”
Well, what is that? Unwavering devotion to you, unbridled devotion, uncommon service. All those things we talked about? That’s how Jesus loves me and you. Then look at verse 10. He says, “If you keep My commandments,” because you’re asking, Well, I want that kind of love. How do you do it? “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”
And so notice in your notes, you might jot down: Love resulting in heartfelt obedience.
At the end of the day, these people that I talked to this week, and I think God orchestrates everything. And some were really wealthy and some were really good looking and some very successful and work in all these super-duper companies.
You know what they really want? They just want the same thing I want, the same thing you want. At the end of the day, if you just keep playing it out, Let’s see, if I do this and if I get married someday and if we do this and if I could work at this company and then if this could happen and then if I could do this and then if I could do this and if my kids did that and they could go to these schools and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Then I would be...loved?
So, like, what is the big endgame, right? And Jesus said, “Here’s the endgame. It’s the first game. Just walk with Me. Make Me the center of your life. Make My Word the number one thing you do every day. Talk with Me deeply and honestly and from the heart. I am so wanting to answer your prayers. You are already loved.”
When you are already loved, then your insecurities start to diminish. When you are already loved, there’s nothing to prove. When you’re already loved, there is nothing to lose.
And when there is nothing to prove and there is nothing to lose and you don’t have to do image management and you don’t have to worry about what everyone else is doing and how fast they are going up the ladder and did they get this? Or did their kids get into this school and your kids didn’t? Or did they make the traveling team? Blah, blah, blah.
You can relax! And you can be who God made you to be. And then as you abide, He works. He works. Apart from Him, you can do nothing. But as you abide, He will use your life. He will change you and He is for you.
In fact, notice the very last line. He says, “These things I have written unto you,” – why? “that My joy might be in you, and that your joy might be made full.” See, we don’t believe that. God’s motives for you to make Him the center, the passion, the focus, the identity of your life is that He knows what delivers joy, that circumstances low or high can never deliver.
And He not only wants you just to have His joy, but He wants that to come to fruition and fulfillment.
Someone has said that the business card of the Early Church was joy. And their marketing strategy was love. And you know what? That’s what is going to change the Silicon Valley. That’s what is going to change your neighborhood, your workplace, my neighborhood is when we abide in Him.
And now He is going to shift from our personal relationship with Him and the intimacy that it gives us, He is going to say, “Now, I want you all to have a relationship with one another that mirrors My relationship with you.”
In fact, the only way to abide is not just in the horizontal, coming before God, but there is an “in community” and there is an “on mission” focus of this abiding relationship. So look at verse 12.
Verse 12, what does He say? He says, “This is My commandment: That you love one another just as I have loved you.” Well, what does love look like? “Greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends,” condition, “if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, for all things I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
This is amazing stuff. “You didn’t choose Me, I chose you and I appointed you,” I gave you a job description, “that you should go,” and do what? “…bear fruit – and that your fruit should remain” – why? “so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give to you.”
Notice, He gives us an impossible command. The impossible command is that I am supposed to love you all, are you kidding me? …like Jesus loves me. Well, what does that look like, Chip? You’re supposed to be willing, I don’t mean theoretically, I don’t mean sort of hyperbole. I am supposed to be willing to give my physical life for you, if God would call me to do it. That’s what He said!
Stronger than blood relationships, stronger than what people think – the Early Church, when they followed Jesus, He said, “Look, I want you to stay connected to Me, and then I want you to love each other.”
And I don’t know about you, it’s impossible. But as I am in God’s Word, as I get to know God, and as I get in community with other people, He produces a love that I don’t have that is supernatural that means that I will lay down my schedule, I will lay down my priorities, I will lay down my money, I will lay down my dreams, I’ll interrupt my life to allow the Jesus in me to give you what you need, even to the point of my life.
I jotted something as I was studying this, I don’t want to misrepresent, so I want to actually read it: “The uninvolved, go to church services, and believe a set of doctrines that Jesus taught that does not translate into a passionate concern of sacrifice of one’s life and resources for other Christians is a foreign concept to New Testament faith and the Christian life that Jesus commanded.”
I don’t know what happened, okay? It happens with people, it happens with organizations, it has happened to the Church in America. It’s not true around the world. Around the world, people are dying for one another, even as I speak.
But the idea that you could come to a meeting, one point six times a month, or maybe twice a month, and throw five or twenty dollars in a bag and listen to someone talk and hear a band play and think that that is what it means to be a Christian, because you intellectually believe these things, that doesn’t translate into a passionate following of Jesus and a willingness to lay down your life for other people, that experience called the “Christian Church in America,” is foreign to the New Testament.
It’s just completely not there. And, yet, we have millions and millions and millions of people who think they are abiding and cannot figure out why their life doesn’t work and their marriages don’t work and they don’t have the peace and they don’t have all the things that God promised in verses 7 through 11, because He is not the center. And there is not time in His Word, and there is not a passionate following of conversation and there is not a connection of being in community where you are doing life with people.
And what matters most is not your success. What matters most is not where your kids go to school. What matters most is not what people think – fame. And what matters most is not how much money you have or whether you ever go public or invent something or get the patent.
What matters most is your personal relationship of staying connected to Jesus, your love for other Christians, and you being a branch or instrument of grace, placed in the most strategic city in the entire world, in your neighborhood and where you work so God’s will on earth can get done in a way it gets done in heaven. Whoo.
Boy, talk about a paradigm shift, right? It’s a completely different kind of Christian.
But, notice, after the impossible command, I love this, He gives an unimaginable reward. He calls us His friend. We hear this kind of stuff, I don’t know about you, but just go, Yeah! Right? Help!
You’re His friend. And don’t read in your Western, twenty-first century view. The word “friend” here in the culture and in the Greek language was, it means, “the inner circle of a king or an emperor.”
That meant that he had advisors, he had people who they didn’t have to knock. They could come in anytime. They knew the secrets of the king. When he was talking about, What are we going to do? Where are we going to go? What…? All of that, his friends, these people who were on the inside who knew what was going on and why it was going on, and could even talk with him about it. That’s what Jesus says you are.
It’s not like your little peons who are given an assignment. Of course we are servants to the most high God. But He says, “No longer do I call you slaves or servants, even though I am Lord and Master and CEO of the universe. I call you friends because I am bringing you in.”
You talk about an unbelievable privilege! High cost, of course. You get to be a part of, number one, having an intimate friendship with the Maker of the universe, and you get to be a part of His assignment, which is: Change the world.
I’m really happy for all of you who work at Apple. I am glad Jobs said: Do you want to keep pushing sugar soda or change the world? I’ve got news. There is a bigger changing the world than what apps people get and what new resources and technology that happens.
And He has placed you in companies like that all around the Silicon Valley and you travel all around the world, because you are an ambassador of the Living God. And the temptation will be, Oh, Jesus, please help me be successful for my agenda to fulfill what I want, to do what I want, to make my life work for me. And that is a lie from the enemy.
And here is the tragedy. The people who I set up with counseling, the people who I work with, they already have that stuff. And what happens is when you succeed at the thing that you think will deliver and it’s an idol, and it doesn’t deliver, it is devastating. And Jesus says…is there anything wrong with any of those? No. But what is at the center?
Look at that picture. Is Jesus the source and the center of your life? And then are those spokes functioning? Are you in God’s Word? Do you really talk to Him? Are you really in community? Is there a group of people you are really doing life with?
And then finally, the very end of this chapter, I’m not going to address this, because it will be the next series. Basically, after that, He is going to tell them, “Here is the high cost of loyalty.”
“If they hated Me,” verses 18 to 27, I’m just going to give them to you. “If they hated Me, they are going to hate you. If they persecuted Me, they are going to persecute you.”
In fact, this section opens up and ends as we go into chapter 16, He is going to say, “I just want you guys to know, I love you, I am for you, I am coming back, I want you to abide, I want you to love each other, be willing to die for each other,” which they did, “and I am going to give you this unbelievable opportunity to be My close, personal friend and fulfill My mission for all eternity and, by the way, you better put on your chin strap and put on all your pads, dude, because it’s going to be rough. They are going to hate you like they hated Me, because you’re not a part of the world. And the more you do what I want, lovingly and kindly, guess what? Then I want you to respond the way I did, where you forgive them. Where it’s always truth, but no compromise. There is no fear of anyone, but you love everyone.”
And He says, “Then they are going to kick you out of the synagogues,” which back then meant, I will lose my citizenship in Israel, my kids are not going to get educated, I might have a hard time getting a job. And they just lined up behind Him.
Verse 27 says, and here’s the agenda, “Just as the Holy Spirit will bear witness of Me, each one of you will bear witness of Me.” I want your life and your words and your attitudes to reflect Me in this way.
That’s God’s call for us.
I would like you to lean back, if you would, for a minute. I gave you a very simple, clear, step-by-step way to learn to get the “before God” portion of your life rolling. I don’t need to go through it. It’s very simple.
You can change it, but if you want to abide, you have to get before God daily. If you want to abide, you have to be in community weekly. And if you really want to abide, you have to be on mission. Be looking for God, I want You to use me.
And I’m not talking just about church ministries. I’m talking about being on mission, 24/7.
I’d like you to lean back, if you will, and if you feel comfortable, shut your eyes, because some of you are here and there’s no fruit. People are not accusing of you of being a radical, devoted follower of Jesus.
And some of the issues in your life right now, God wants to reposition you, He wants to lift you up, He loves you, He is for you. And He wants you to lean in.
And part of that will be, Okay, I don’t really know what You want me to do. Well guess what? You haven’t been talking to Me lately, and you haven’t let Me talk to you. So start this little reading plan and just begin to abide, and I will show you.
There are others of you here and you are just, you are bearing fruit and you are walking with God, but you just cannot figure out what is going on right now, and you are afraid and you are fearful and it’s a struggle.
And, Whew, if this is what it means to really walk with God and have all this adversity, He is pruning you, okay? Lean in. Be patient. Just draw near. Draw near to God, He will draw near to you.
And there are some of you that you just find yourself here and you have been really far away from God and you are fearful that you are one of those branches that, in terms of future usefulness, you are just being thrown on the pile. And Jesus says, No, no, no, no, no, no. It’s why you’re here. I love you. Let’s get back in the game. Let me love you. Let’s reconnect. Address whatever you need to address, but let…
As you think about, What would it look like? What do you need to do? What is just the first step? Just ask God right now, Lord, what is the first step? What is the next step to take a step toward You? And I guarantee, you do that, He will show you all the others.