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ENCOUNTERING JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
About this series
Jesus Unfiltered - Love
When we get past the poetic, ideal of love and dig down to the practical, day-to-day details, “love” begs some questions: What does it really mean? How does it think? How does it behave? In this third volume of his series Jesus Unfiltered, Chip Ingram explains, through John chapters 11-15, what love really looks like for those who call Jesus, Lord.More from this series
I want you to imagine that I would give you a little wristband like this and on it would be loaded seven hundred and twenty hours. That’s how many hours there are in thirty days.
And as you put this wristband on, it wouldn’t come off. And it is going to start counting down from the moment I click it. And in thirty days, you’re going to die. You have thirty days to live on this planet.
After a couple days, you look, and you go, Wow, it’s under seven hundred. In about a week, there are one hundred and sixty-eight more hours gone. Pretty soon, you look and you only have one hundred and sixty-seven hours left.
Here’s my question: Who would you hang out with in the last thirty days of your life? And why? Where would you go? You’ve got thirty days. Every day you would watch the hours clicking down towards zero. Where would you go? Why would you go there?
You talk about something that would reset priorities, right? What unresolved relationship or unresolved issue, or what is something really big that really needs to get done, that if you had seven hundred and twenty hours, beginning today, that somewhere in that time you would say, No matter what, I’ve got to nail that. I need to forgive her. I need to resolve that issue. I need to address that.
See, another way to say that is, because when you think in vivid, clear terms like that, and if you get really honest, what you’re really asking is: What is most important? Right? And what thirty days does, it brings a level of urgency that you realize, Wow, I would have to address that in thirty days.
And the unconscious delusion that we have all the time in the world causes us to procrastinate on those, doesn’t it? See, the real question is: What is the most important thing in life? Right? That’s the real question.
And on the front of your notes, I want to suggest that we have learned in the last five weeks here that loving God and loving people is the most important thing in life. All right? More than success, more than money, more than kids, more than family – loving God and loving people. Jesus said, “This is the first and greatest commandment: that you love the Lord your God with all your soul, your might, your heart, and your strength; and you love your neighbor like yourself.”
Why? Two reasons. Number one: Love never fails. And number two: Love lasts forever.
You know, whether it’s knowledge or fame or sex or money or education or knowledge; no matter where a lot of our time goes – every, single one of those things will pale, and literally become meaningless if they don’t flow out of love.
It’s been an unusual week for me of interacting with people going through some pretty hard and big things. And recently this week I had a number of conversations with people whose lives are, literally, falling apart and wanting help, and even feeling like there is no hope for life whatsoever and why even stay alive?
And then I look at their lives and the people who I have interacted with are good looking, wealthy, live right around here, have lots of money, have at least had beautiful families, and yet because there is not love in relationships with God or with them, they feel like life doesn’t matter.
The third question I want to ask you is then, what actually is love if it’s that important? And then you’ll notice on the front, I really put a quick review of the last four weeks. And if you happen to be visiting and this is catching your ear, you can go on our website or get the Venture Christian app, and all these messages are on video.
But this is how Jesus described love. It’s not an ooey-gooey feeling, it’s not, I feel good about someone, or, We kind of connect. Jesus said, “This is love: love is unwavering trust in God’s timing, purpose, and plans, even when they are different than our own.” Remember that? That was John 11.
Jesus said, “Love is unbridled devotion.” So devoted that you give extravagant gifts, you give your reputation, you make great sacrifices. That was John 12. Jesus said, “Love is uncommon servanthood.”
When you really love people, you actually consider other people and their issues more important than your own. And so Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.
And finally, Jesus said, “It’s uncompromising obedience to His Word, regardless of the consequences.” There in John 14 He told them, “The future, I’m leaving, and it’s going to be tough for you all. But obey Me as the proof of your love.”
As you open your notes, the context of what is going on here raises the big question for you and for me, like it did those disciples.
Here is the question. They were told, “I want you to continue to do what I have been doing.” What was Jesus doing? Revealing the Father and loving people in radical ways, in order that they could be rescued by what He said and how He did these miraculous works.
And He is going to say to the disciples, “Your job is to continue the mission.” And He has told them, “I’m going to leave, then I’m going to come back.” And then He challenged them deeply to say, “I want you all to continue what I started.”
And here’s the question they had to be asking, “How? How could we possibly love like Jesus?”
That little review I did: Uncommon servanthood, unbridled devotion, extravagant gifts. When you look at your life and when I look at mine, that bar is high, right? How in the world? But that’s what He said. We are to love people and love each other the way He loved us.
And what He is going to do is He is going to teach them in John 15, the “how.” They’ve gotten up from the dinner, they have sung a hymn, the Lord’s Supper is over. And on the way to the Mount of Olives where He will be arrested, there is a vineyard. And as He stops at the vineyard, as best we can tell, He began to give them a word picture that would communicate to them how they could stay in vital union with Him in such a powerful way that His very life, by the person of Holy Spirit, living in them, would produce a life of love and mission just like His.
To do that, we pick it up with the promise in John chapter 14. Jesus said, “If anyone has,” here’s the key that you need, “faith.” You’ve got to believe! You’ve got to trust! He says, “If anyone has faith, he will do what I have been doing.” Well, what was Jesus doing? Revealing what God was like, and He was on mission.
Jesus said, “I came to seek and to save that which was lost.” And He gave the baton to His disciples and to us and said, “I want every, single person on the face of the earth to know I love them, I have died for them, I have forgiven them, and your job is, by your words and by your actions, to communicate that. In fact, you’ll do greater works than even I did.”
And then in John chapter 15, He gives us the process. And the way He does that is this metaphor of the vine and the vineyard and the vinedresser. Follow along as I just read the first six verses. And you have heard it, but I want you to just dig in and look at it for yourselves. Touch it and feel it. Imagine yourself stopping at a vineyard, being scared to death about the future, but having confidence in Him and wondering, How in the world can I love the way that I am supposed to love?
And Jesus would look at you and say, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that doesn’t bear fruit, He takes away,” or literally, “He lifts up. And every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it that it might bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”
Command, verse 4, “Abide in Me,” – remain, stay connected, have living union, is the idea, “and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit unless it is abiding in the vine, so you cannot unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Warning, verse 6, “If anyone does not abide in Me,” He is speaking to believers. The first line is, “I am the true branch; every branch in Me,” He is speaking to believers here. But as a believer, you can not stay connected. You can get distracted. There are times where you haven’t read the Bible in days or weeks. There are times where you haven’t prayed effectively or deeply in a long time. There are times where busyness and the drift of work or family or discouragement or addictions cause you to fade farther and farther away from your union.
You are still His son, you are still His daughter, but you become useless as an agent of grace, because your life doesn’t reflect Him. And your focus and priorities have nothing to do with Jesus’ agenda.
And so in verse 6, He says, “If anyone doesn’t abide in Me, he is thrown away,” notice, “as a branch,” not as a son or daughter, “and they dry up and they gather them and they cast them into the fire and they are burned.” And we will talk about what that means.
In your notes, notice, first and foremost, Jesus said He is the true vine. He is the true vine. In the Old Testament, Israel was the vine. In the temple, there would be pictures of vines that reflect it. In the period of the Maccabees, on the Jewish coin, there was a vine.
Israel was God’s vine. It was to tell the world of His love and His justice and His righteousness, but they rejected their King. So He is saying to them, “I am the true vine. I am the connection with the Father.”
Second, our soul, the Father positions and prunes us for fruitfulness. He says, “Any branch,” did you notice the progression? No fruit, fruit, more fruit, much fruit. And He is going to address each one.
He positions us and prunes us to bear more fruit. Notice in verse 2, He says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit,” He takes away. Literally, if you would look this up in a Greek dictionary, the very first one, like, when you go to a dictionary, there are three or four meanings? It would say, “Lift up.”
In fact, in John 6, when they lift up or picked up stones to stone Him, it’s the exact same word.
This isn’t a picture of Judas being taken away. He is already gone. When you’re a believer and you’re not bearing fruit, here’s the picture. In Palestine, often the vines would run on trellises. Some would run on the ground. And they wouldn’t be in a position to get water and air and what they needed to grow. And so what they would do is they would pick up the vines and take literal sticks with a “v” and they would lift them up off the ground to position them so that they could grow and produce fruit, not just leaves and vines.
Some of you are living a life that has you positioned not to bear fruit. Your schedule, your priorities, what you put in your mind, certain relationships, a preoccupation with work. You’re not positioned, you’re not bearing fruit. People don’t rub up next to you and go, Wow, now there is somebody who really loves Jesus. Your life, currently, isn’t one where you look back and you have multiple relationships with people who don’t know Christ that God is using you to draw them to Himself, and some of them putting their faith in Him.
And the reason is, out of God’s love He says if you don’t bear fruit, He is going to reposition you. When a vine grows along the ground, it makes some connections. When it gets lifted up, it’s a little painful.
God is taking some of you through difficult times that you don’t understand. And, honestly, I love God and I don’t know what is going on, but this relationship is not going well here and my supervisor is down on me at work over here and I’ve got a problem over here, and I’ve got health issues over here.
The kind, velvet vice of God’s love, He will lift you up. He will reposition you. And the goal is – He’s not down on you – it’s to get your attention so that you can fulfill His mission: Reveal the Father and share His love with people who don’t know Him.
The second group, He says, is that He repositions some, but there are some people that they are bearing fruit. They love God, they are progressively becoming more like Christ, they are in His Word, they are talking to Him honestly from their heart, they are doing community with some other people and doing life together. They are, at opportunities, as God opens the doors, they are sharing their faith. And their life is falling apart and it’s like, Hey, God, what’s the deal? Is this what you get for obeying You? Are You kidding?
I sat with a young man earlier this week who really walks with God. A passionate follower of Christ. He goes, “I feel like every area in my life is just like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. You know? There are family issues I can’t control, I’ve got a big job issue over here, I feel discouraged about this over here, this happened over here.”
And I remember sitting down and sharing with him. I said, “When God is really going to use someone, He said He prunes them.” And I don’t know if you know much about pruning, but I have a neighbor who has a long, long, long row of beautiful roses. And there are different seasons and I actually took pictures of them. And somehow, I honestly do not know how to transfer pictures from my iPhone to my computer.
But I had these pictures of these scraggly things and then she went out there for three days and they were like this. And she cut them down to here. And I’m going, What are you doing? And she was doing it like a surgeon.
And she goes, “You just wait.” And so I took pictures of those. And then, as a number of weeks, months later, and it was just unbelievable, all these roses. So I took a picture of that. And I was going to show you guys. But you’ll have to imagine.
All I can tell you, if I was a rose bush, when she got done, I would think she didn’t like me, because there was just a bunch of stubs. But what she knew was the life and the energy needs to go into what is going to produce the flowers, not what is going to produce more foliage. And that’s where some of you are at.
I have had two major prunings in my life. I’ve had a lot of little ones, but two major ones. One, I was a Christian about three, three and a half years; I was really growing. I was a slow, getting-with-the-program Christian. Getting up and reading the Bible was hard for me. I was not a morning person. Going to church was like, Man, are you kidding me? When you stay out until three in the morning, it’s really hard to get up.
I’m memorizing a few verses and little, by little, by little – I got in a small group, I started getting in God’s Word, and the change really began to happen. And I was really excited about God, I was sharing my faith with guys on the basketball team.
And then it was my junior year, I had dated this girl, I thought she would be the one, we dated for two and a half years or so. Our coach got fired, you go six and twenty-six, you get fired.
And in about three weeks, the coach gets fired, new coach goes, “This is a mess. I am canceling all scholarships. I’m going to have try-outs in sixty days.” I’ve got one more year; I need my school paid for.
My girlfriend and I, not some big thing, but her life is going this way, my life is going this way. And I realize it’s a lordship issue, so we break up. My spiritual leader, the bricklayer who helped me so much, he decides, “You know something? This ministry is going well. I’m moving to another campus. I am going to start it, lay bricks over there.”
So my spiritual leader is gone, my girlfriend is gone, my scholarship is at least temporarily gone and maybe for good. And so I think, At least my mom and dad…and my dad’s alcoholism had sort of blown up. And they were having a really bad time after twenty-five years. I’m not sure they are going to make it in their marriage.
And if you have ever, all I can remember was, it was like, if my life was a little house and there were four pillars, it’s like God went ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! And it went whoo.
And I didn’t know anything and I just thought, Are you kidding me? If this is what you get for obeying God, what do you get when you’re disobedient? I’m serious! I was just like, God, hey, I’m not sure, I don’t know if I can trust You!
And all I can tell you is you either turn to God or turn away from God, and you know what? I couldn’t rely on my girlfriend and my identity couldn’t be basketball anymore and I couldn’t go to my parents for security. And He ripped everything away because He loved me so much and had such a great plan for my life, He wanted me to draw near to Him in ways like never before so He became my security and my identity.
And I was so heartbroken over this girl, if you can imagine this, I didn’t date anyone for about fourteen months, because I didn’t want to. And all the distractions of that moved away. And it was like God, it’s Jesus plus nothing. He wants to satisfy. And He does that to people who are growing and He will prune you.
There’s another window of time. Those of you who are in your fifties, late forties, early sixties, beware. This is for growing Christians. You have made progress, you have led Bible studies, you read the Bible on a regular basis, you have almost raised your kids or they are out of the house. Life is going really, pretty well. Finances aren’t a big problem. You give off the top; you’re making great progress.
And somehow, down deep in the back of your mind, the McDonalds commercial has been embedded at such a level, you think you deserve a break today. And so you have this picture of what either retirement or God is going to reward you and things are going to be great.
And you’re in your fifties and He takes the pillars of your life. And the economy goes or you have a big struggle in your marriage or one of your kids goes south or you find yourself, you never dreamed it could be you and you either have an alcohol addiction or you had back surgery and now you have a prescription pill addiction.
And it’s all like, pretty soon, bam! Bam! Bam! And the pillars of your life go out. Because, see, His agenda is to get you back at a fresh, desperately dependent level on His agenda.
And when I went in my fifties, that was my second big time. I left the security of a church, took over leading a non-profit. I did not want to go there, but felt it was God’s will; I am going to obey You.
Within three weeks, my wife’s mother died; my son decided he would get married; my wife had oral surgery that didn’t work; my car, in transfer, was messed up in a wreck; the economy bubble burst and all the commitments to this ministry faded away. And I was in my basement with, What in the world am I doing here? The job is not working, my wife is crying herself to sleep, I’ve got issues here, I’ve got issues here. And everything that made my life and identity and security solid went, whoo.
You know why? Because God doesn’t want you to produce more fruit. He wants you to produce much fruit. And in your late forties and fifties, the sin that is so subtle is the sin of self-dependency. Your brains, your work, you making it happen, the verses you know, the group that you’re in, I’ve been in this small group for years! Well, maybe you ought to try a new one. When was the last time you started one?
You know verses. Have you memorized any new ones lately? But this passion that you desperately need Him, He will knock the props out, because His agenda is so much greater and so much bigger. I look back and I think it’s the kindest thing God ever did in my life in my early fifties.
Going through them, my prayers were, You know what? Here’s the deal. This was my great faith. I’m not going to quit. Okay? That’s all I can tell You. Out of obedience, I came here and if You want me to shut down this ministry, if You want my wife to have health issues, if You want this to happen or this to happen or this – the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, but You’re all I got.
And unapologetically, I cried out, I cried in my basement. And I remember thinking, Is this how Thou treatest Thy servants? When I start praying in King James, man, I’m really in trouble.
Can I ask you, where are you? Where are you at?
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.