What would happen if you believed, as a believer and follower of Jesus, that He actually lives in you, that He is not down on you, that He is the best friend that you would ever have, that He knows what is going to happen next week, next year, that He has a plan for you, that the unlimited resources of all of heaven, the One who created and spoke everything into existence would like to make you holy and whole and every single day direct you about that decision, help you work out that issue in your marriage, bring you peace as you wrestle with, Are you going to be single? Is God going to bring someone into your life?, give you discernment about what role and what job, what to do with one of your kids that’s having a struggle, that He would be a Father and a friend and a lover of your soul? And you would never have to get in line. God, I know there are almost seven billion people, oh wow. It doesn’t work that way!
In fact, Jesus was explaining this to His disciples. And for some of us, you have been a Christian for a while and you have read the New Testament and, Oh yeah, yeah. Well, it wasn’t, Oh yeah, yeah, for them. Now, imagine this itinerant preacher. He comes and starts speaking and all the religious people say He is a wacko. And He is a liar and a blasphemer.
But once you see a handful of people raised from the dead and He walks on water and He fulfills all these Old Testament passages and pretty soon you’re realizing, I think this is the real deal.
And so, unlike a lot of people, you follow Him wholeheartedly. You are in. And the kingdom is coming and He is the Messiah. And you see things that people have never seen and maybe you’re Peter, John, or James and, literally, the cloud came down, you heard God’s actual voice and you’re thinking, This is awesome!
And then He gets near the end and He goes, “You know what? The plan is a little different than you guys. See, you guys only want to read half of that Old Testament. Yes, I am the Messiah, but the Messiah is a suffering servant and I am going to die for the sins of people. And then in three days I’ll be risen from the dead and I will come back a second time, but there is a little delay here.”
And if you are these guys, you are thinking, I don’t really think this is a great plan. And He goes, “No, no, it’s really better for you.” Well, how is that? And they are trembling and they are realizing, you know, public opinion is going south. Religious leaders and rumors about an assassination are everywhere.
And He gets them in this room and they take the Lord’s Supper and He washes their feet and they sing a hymn. And then He takes them out to this place where they have been hanging out and praying – the Mount of Olives.
And He says, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Don’t be uptight. You believe in God, believe also in Me.” And then He goes on, “If it weren’t true, I wouldn’t have said it.” And He goes, “You understand that I am going to the Father,” and I love it. I can just picture Thomas raising his hand and goes, “You know what? I don’t really get this, okay? If these other guys do, fine. I don’t get it. What do You mean, ‘If we have seen You we have seen Your Father?’ None of this makes sense! Would you talk English? Or Aramaic or Hebrew or whatever you’re talking. But shoot it straight, because this makes no sense to me.”
And He says, “Thomas, if you have seen Me, You have seen the Father. It is better that I go.” And then He begins to explain. He goes, “In fact, there is another One,” it’s a very interesting word, “another of the same kind like Me, and He is not going to come until I leave. And He is the Spirit of truth. And when I leave, the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit is going to come and dwell inside of you and you will have access, 24/7. And He will bring to your remembrance the things that I taught and He will direct you, He will convict you, He will empower you. Whatever you need. My Father and I, as you trust and remain and abide in Me, We will be with you, We will never forsake you, and you have access and you’ll have intimate relationship with the Creator and the Savior of the world, 24/7, 365.”
And I think at that point they are starting to get it. But then in John chapter 15, because this is the way God works, He always speaks in a way we can understand. It’s an agricultural world. They understand about grapes and pruning and vinedressers.
And so on that very last night, He goes, “Look, My Father is the vinedresser. I am the true vine. You are the branches.” And then He gives them this parallel about how the life comes through the vine, into the branches, and the supervision of the Vinedresser, who is the Father.
And in John 15 He says to them, “This is how the intimacy will go on.” He says, “Abide,” or, “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.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man, if a woman, if a student remains, abides, stays in, connected to Me and I in him, you will bear much fruit, because apart from Me you can’t do anything. And if anyone doesn’t abide in Me as a branch, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers and such branches are picked up and thrown into the fire. But if you remain and abide and stay connected to Me, you can ask whatever you wish. If my words are in you and you are in Me, you can ask whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.”
That is what God wants. And so He says you need to make room for Him every day. That’s the response. I meet Christians all the time and we all have struggles. But I meet Christians all the time and I get it. I’m busy. You’re busy. There are demands. But I will tell you what, if you would remain and be connected to Jesus the vine, in this next year, your whole world would change.
If you began and just said, “You know something? Twenty minutes that will change not only my life, but probably my eternity.” If you said, “The first twenty minutes of every day, I am going to abide or remain.” And then, If You’re really a friend, I don’t know about this religious stuff, I am just going to talk to You like a friend. No “thees,” no “thous,” no jargon. Hey! This is me. I’m really angry about this, I’m really struggling about this and this marriage isn’t going the way I think it should. Will You help me? One of my kids is going through a really tough time in school and I don’t know what to do. Would You help me? And by the way, thanks for what You did yesterday. And here are some dreams I have on my heart.
And you just begin to talk to a friend. And, By the way, I don’t get it all. If You show me something to do, I’ll do it. Okay? I can’t do it on my own, but I’ll do it. You spend the first twenty minutes and then each time you pull out your phone, make that just a little memory of, Oh, I’m going to check in. I’m going to check in. Some of you would be praying a lot.
You know what will happen? You’ll abide. You’ll be connected. The Spirit will flow. The truth will flow. Temptations will lessen. Marriages will improve. Your perspective changes. All of a sudden, some things that you loved to do that were a little questionable, you’ll go, Yeah, yeah, I don’t get it. You won’t have the desire. It won’t be about external things. It’ll be God changing you from the inside out.
He wants you to receive His pardon, He wants you to become whole and holy, He wants you to be certain. You can be certain of heaven if Christ lives in you.
And fourth, Jesus wants you to be spiritually mature. He wants you to be a grown up. Look at verse 28 and 29. The apostle Paul writing says, for him and Timothy, “We proclaim Him,” Jesus. In other words, they tell people, they are bold. “We want you to know about Jesus, the Savior of the world. He has come. Emmanuel! And we don’t just proclaim and tell people the story. We are admonishing everyone and we are teaching everyone that we, on a certain day at a certain time, could present them before God as complete or mature.”
And, by the way, he says, “You know what? This is my passion. For this purpose I labor, struggling, according to His power that mightily works within me.” In other words, I am pressing out. I am working hard. I am energized. I am focused. Because here’s what I want to do. I don’t want you all just to come and make a decision and have Christ live in you. That process of becoming mature, that’s God’s dream. I want to be a part of you becoming all God made you to be.” The truth is, God wants you to be spiritually mature.
Notice the truth. God uses His Word, His people, and every circumstance to make you like His Son.
He is actually working, every moment of every day, a lot of us it’s, have you ever had like you go to 3D movies and you’re watching the movie and it’s kind of like this and it’s real weird and someone gives you glasses, you put ‘em on, and all of a sudden, whoa!
He is saying, “I want you to get new glasses, so that you see life in a completely different way.” You start listening and learning and applying.
In fact, that’s the application. We must habitually listen, learn, and apply God’s Word, and notice it’s in the context of community. You do it with people.
Some of you maybe have been like me. I have coached little league and I have coached high school and coached various sports, and some of you are supervisors in your work, or you’re a boss, or you’re a parent.
And have you ever had someone come to work or a kid on one of your teams, I have had this happen multiple times, and you just want to go to someone you really trust and say, “This is unbelievable. This kid or this worker. I mean, they have got gift oozing out of their ears. Like, in the workplace, it’s like, man, she is smart, she is quick, she’s got people skills. It’s just unbelievable. She could run this place in five or ten years!”
Or, like in my world, it was like, “My lands, are you kidding me? You’re in eighth grade, you’ve got a thirty-eight vertical jump, you can do a cross over dribble, you’ve got great hands, you understand the game.” This kid is going to be in the NBA!
And there is all this gift, and yet, if you have been around very long, you have seen people with all this gift and all this potential and they kind of ride their gift. And they get promoted because of their gift. But they don’t discipline themselves, they don’t structure, they don’t work hard like other people. And then they crest early.
And what you knew was their potential was here and they landed here in work. There are a lot of marriages like that. There are a lot of kids, this was their potential, this is where they landed.
And as a boss or a coach, as a parent, is there anything that makes you more sad than when you see the potential that could be and then you just see, Wow. That’s how God feels. He wants you to be spiritually mature.
That word mature is teleos. We get our word telescope. A telescope is something that looks far into the distance. It’s the idea of: God wants you to personally fulfill His ultimate design, that what He made you to do, who He made you to become, that you would have the kind of character and the kind of love, the kind of skills, that you would discover the plan, and that you would just mature.
That’s what He wants for Christmas. He wants to pardon you, He wants to make you holy, He wants to remove all fear so that you would know, every day, I am on my way to heaven. Not because of what I have done. But I am tasting it because I am abiding and I am walking.
In fact, I love the last portion of John when He is talking with these disciples and He is trying to help them. He is really trying to help them get it. Because this was very foreign to them.
We have a couple thousand years to look back to say, “Hey, this really works.” But they didn’t. And so when He sums it up, He says to them in John 15, beginning at verse 8, “This is My Father’s glory,” and that’s one of those Bible words. But this is what enhances the Father’s reputation. This is what lights it up. This is what brings Him joy. This is what helps people see Him for who He really is.
“This is My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing,” or, “demonstrating,” or, “proving yourselves to be My disciples.” That’s what it means to be mature, you bear much fruit.
And in the Bible there are two kinds of fruit. One kind of fruit is love and joy and peace and patience and goodness and kindness and gentleness and self-control. It’s character. And the other kind of fruit is that you accomplish things for the living God and they used to be like this but now they are like this, because of you. And you bear much fruit.
And then He gives the motivation. He says, “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now,” here is our word again, “abide,” or, “remain,” or, “stay connected in my love.” And then He tells you how. It’s really simple. “If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed the Father’s commands, and remain in His love.”
And then verse 11 is one of my favorite in all the Bible. It’s His motives. “These things,” think of that early first day, “I say to you disciples, and I know you are scared to death, these things I am saying to you about the Father and the vine and the branches and abiding, that My joy could be inside of you and that your joy could be full to the brim.”
God wants to be your friend! He wants to make you whole. He wants you to taste heaven every single day. And He wants you to grow up and be who He made and designed and deep in your heart and spirit you long to become.
That’s what He wants! It’s a pretty cool Christmas present to give to Him. When we talk about Christmas and what God wants, that is all what He wants for you. And I just want to touch on what He wants from you, because as you know, sometimes receiving things is really, really, really, really awesome. But there is something about, at times, when you can give some things that it is equally awesome and sometimes even more powerful.
So let me just highlight and I have given you some passages to check out. Here are four things He wants from you. One, Jesus wants you to share in His suffering for His body, the Church.
Paul said he rejoiced.
See, we’ve got a whole world that suffer, suffer, suffer, anything that is painful, I don’t want it, I don’t want it, I don’t want it. And we have missed the point. You are going to suffer! It’s a fallen world. There is pain. There is difficulty. People mess up! They will betray you. There is injustice. There is corruption, right? You are going to suffer.
Jesus says, “Why don’t you suffer for Me and for what really counts? Why don’t you join in My suffering? Why don’t you get your expectations out of, Is everything going right for me all the time? And why don’t you take the difficulty of life and why don’t you turn it around and leverage it and do it for Me?”
I built a relationship with a lady. I didn’t know much about her. And she began to write me. She listened on the radio probably fifteen, sixteen years ago. And we began to write back and forth and she had this beautiful handwriting and was an artist who would send me a picture and, over time, I learned that she was a nun.
And she was a nun up in San Francisco and she would get up at four thirty in the morning and copy the message on these little cassettes and then give it to Mother Superior and to other nuns. And apparently Living on the Edge was going hot in the, I think it’s called a cloister. It was a special group of nuns that never left this place. One day a year they went out of this place.
And she shared her life story. She went in as a woman in her early twenties and she was in her eighties by the time we finally met. And she was in her eighties and we didn’t agree on everything. But she was as born again and loved God and she had a spirit about her that was sweet. I mean, super sweet.
And I got where I could call her on the phone and they would bring her to this phone and we would talk. And then she had some sort of bone deterioration, had extraordinary pain and had real problems. And so Theresa and I drove up to see her.
And they had these bars, and she could be on one side and we were [on the other], it was sort of like prison. It was a little weird to tell you the truth. But, you know, I don’t always get, it’s amazing, God does a lot of amazing things in lots of different groups.
But she had spent her whole life praying and worshipping and loving God and praying for people. And she was in excruciating pain and I said, her name was, “Sister Mary of the Holy Spirit,” and I accidentally, early in our relationship, I called her and I said, “Well, Sister Mary,” and she just stopped me. “My name is not ‘Sister Mary.’ My name is, ‘Sister Mary of the Holy Spirit.’” I said, “Okay.”
I guess you get to choose your name in there. But she was precious. And I remember asking her about it and it was excruciating and they have tried this, they have tried that. And she said something I don’t think I have ever heard the most famous Christian leader in the world say. She said, “Every time I have sharp pains that shoot up the back of my neck and then it goes down my leg and many nights I can’t sleep, I just lay there and I think of how much Jesus has suffered for me. And I think of, even in my physical body, that I could, at any way identify with the fellowship of His suffering. And if I could take any of these things and allow these suffering moments to be prayers that I offer up for other people, I think, Oh that I would be worthy to suffer and experience a small portion of what He suffered so that I could understand how much He loves me.”
And I thought, I never preached that one before. And I learned a lot from Sister Mary of the Holy Spirit. Would you be willing to sign up for some suffering for the right reason in the right way and leverage your difficulty, instead of running from it, avoiding it, or complaining to God that everything isn’t just the way you want it? That would be a nice gift to give Him this year.
The second thing He wants from you is He wants you to be a servant, to present God’s Word to your world. Paul said, “I became a servant to present His Word in all of its fullness.”
There are two types of Christians. Some are fans and some are followers. Fans are like a 49er game. I can be a fan. I go to the store, I get a jersey, I put this number on it, I get a baseball hat, I put it on backwards, I buy season tickets, I go to the game, they play the game, Yeah! Go! Yeah! I go to the tailgating party. Oh man, I’m a 49er! This is awesome! You are a fan.
When you’re on the team, you go to two-a-days. You go to the weight room. You come back from injuries. You prioritize your life around, What does it take for this team to be all that it is supposed to be? And what is my role on this team? How do I make my teammates better? And I will pay the price, whatever it takes, for this team to win.
And Paul said, “That’s what I was. A servant.” I’m not asking God, How can You make my life work out for me? I am asking God, as Your servant, What would You like to do in me and through me to fulfill Your purposes on this little ball that spins around in space called ‘Planet Earth’ until all things are reconciled unto You?” That would be a good gift to give to Jesus.
The third thing He wants, is Jesus wants you to help others become spiritually mature. In other words, He wants you to be a disciple maker. So often you hear, “Join a small group,” or, “For your own benefit it would be really good to get into the Bible or talk with God and here’s how we, if you have been through this, we have a program for that. And if you have been through that, we have something to help you here.”
Here’s what I can tell you. All those things are wonderful. But He wants every single person in whom the Spirit of God lives, that your vocation is to make disciples. Helping other people come to know Christ and then once they come to know Christ, you admonish them. It just means you coach them.
You help them figure out, What do they do in the difficult relationship? And, What do they do with all their debt? And, What do they do with the thoughts and issues and pains from the past, their dysfunctional family? And then you instruct them. And you spend time with them and you mentor them. And you go through thick and thin.
And you know what happens? They become more and more and more and more like Jesus. And you do too as you make disciples. Didn’t Jesus say, did Jesus say, “Go, therefore, into all the world and build big churches”? “Go, therefore, into all the world and pray a prayer. Go into all the world and be nice, moral people.” What did Jesus say? “Go into all the world and make disciples.” Followers.
And then He says there is a special time where they will actually go public, “Baptizing them,” and there is certainly water there for sure, but the idea was identification, “from their old life to a new life, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
And then just don’t leave it, “And then teach them everything I taught you.” Well, what did Jesus teach us about time? What did He teach us about money? What did He teach us about marriage? What did He teach us about our enemies? “You teach them everything I taught you.”
So that we have these little Christs, these little mirrors, in a fallen world. And they meet moms and dads and workers and businesspeople and students who are very imperfect, but just keep reflecting, progressively, more and more, what Jesus is like. And then people start thinking, You know what? There may be something to this. Not religion but to the person of Jesus and who they are talking about.
Finally, what you could give Him for Christmas is He wants you to exert energy and work hard, in His power, to help Christians live like Christians.
Sometimes we just so want everything easy. The greatest disciple maker I have ever known is a bricklayer who helped me when I went to college. He had a high school education. His job was laying brick. His vocation was making disciples. And I went into his living room with three or four other guys. Three years later there were two hundred and fifty college students.
He then moved his family, not for a job, but to start it on another campus as he laid brick during the day, asked me to join him. I ate with his family. I stayed in the garage apartment in the back. I worked for him and learned what work looks like. We did Bible studies together. He gave me books to read. I watched him raise his kids.
He was, I think it was for me, I really needed this because I was so intent on wanting to be cool. He was very uncool. He didn’t dress cool, he didn’t talk cool, he wasn’t dynamic. In fact, some of the Bible studies were just downright boring and biblical.
And after about three or four years around him, I didn’t know whether God wanted me to be a lawyer or a basketball coach or a scientist, because I changed my major; tried them all.
But I knew one thing. It really wouldn’t matter much. What I want to be is I want to be a man of God like Dave. I want to have a marriage like Dave. I want to be a dad like Dave. And I want to be a Christian like Dave.
And I want you to know that your job description is to make disciples. And you can do that as a stay-at-home mom, a CEO, a construction worker. You can do that as a student. But that reorientation is what we give to Him in response to all He has given us.