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DECEMBER 11, 2016 ABIDING IN THE VINE PART TWO

Abiding in the Vine

Part Two

 

 

Our Scripture reading is John 15:4-14.

 

Last time together we saw that, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we still have a choice. We may abide in Christ or we may not abide in Christ. If we choose not to abide in him then we will neither bear fruit, be victorious, nor experience much joy. Abiding in Christ is the way to bear fruit. It is the way to experience victory over the vicissitudes of life. It is the way to have enjoyment in our daily living instead of living as faultfinders and complainers.

 

We also saw there is a mutual abiding. He abides in us and we abide in him.

The Lord Jesus reveals three means by which we may abide in him.  The first one is by having his words abide in us. There are his written words, the logos, which are the words of the Bible. These are his objective words. These need to abide in us and they cannot abide in us unless we read them and meditate upon them. Solomon writes in Proverbs:

 

For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life. (Proverbs 6:23, KJV)

 

The commandments of Jesus are a lamp to our feet; they are the way of life; and, they are the means by which he abides in us.

 

His spoken words, his rhema, must also abide in us. These are his subjective words. These can also be called his instant words – the words that we hear (not audibly, but in our spirit) in times of need. Many times the instant words that we get are the written words that we have read. If we have memorized them they come easily. But, even if we have not, they come and it is more than just a recollection of our memory. The Spirit brings them into our consciousness just when we need them.

 

He also communicates to us in our conscience. We “hear” simple words like “no” and “go.” We must heed those words is we want to keep that line of fellowship with the Lord flowing.

 

[I.] The second means by which we abide in Christ is by abiding in his love. In verse 9 of John chapter 15 we read:

 

            As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (ESV)

 

First Jesus says to abide in him. Then he says to abide in his love. The means by which we abide in him is by abiding in his love.

 

You have heard me say on numerous occasions that love is more than a feeling. That is absolutely correct. Real love is desiring and seeking what is best for another. This is true with respect to one another and it is also true with respect to our love for the Lord. Although this is the biblical meaning of love, love does have an emotional component. We usually call this aspect of love “affection.” Affection is part of loving.

 

When Jesus says to abide in his love he means a mutual abiding. We experience the Lord’s love for us and we love him in return.

 

In the same way that his words abide in us – both objectively (the written words of Scripture) and subjectively (his instant words in time of need) – so must his love abide in us.

 

[A.] For us to abide in the vine, in Christ, we must know his subjective love. This means we must have a sense of his sweet presence and just love him! Simply give him your heart moment by moment.

 

This past week I was up one morning and I was sitting in a chair in the living room reading my Bible. Genevieve woke up and meandered into the living room. She came to the chair and crawled into my lap and just embraced me. I put my Bible down and just held her. That was the high point of my whole week. We sat there together for about five minutes. I wish it could have been longer.

 

We can love the Lord in this same way. Of course, we cannot physically embrace him but we can tell him we love him. “O Lord Jesus, I love you. I have nothing to say right now except to tell you I love you.” It would be a good thing to say it more than once. It would be a good thing to say it many times, to say it for five minutes straight. The Lord has not forbidden repetition in our prayers. He has only forbidden vain repetition. (Matthew 6:7)

 

For us to abide in the vine we must subjectively experience this kind of sweet love. If your days are crowded, still take the time to be alone with the Lord and tell him you love him.

 

[B.] For us to abide in him we must love him objectively. I mean that we must not just have affection, but we must show our love as well. Jesus says this in verse 10:

 

            If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. (John 15:10, ESV)

 

What is the way we show our love for the Lord? By keeping his commandments! Many think that they love the Lord because they have affection for him. But the reality is not found in feelings but in actions. If you think that you love the Lord but you disobey him then you are simply fooling yourself.

 

We will fail the Lord in times of weakness. We will fall down at times. What do the Scriptures say?

 

            for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,

                        but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

(Proverbs 24:16 ESV)

 

We will stumble. But those who love the Lord, the righteous, will rise again because they confess their sin and turn away from it. There is a difference between failing to keep the Lord’s commandments and temporarily succumbing to temptation in a time of weakness. Failing to keep the Lord’s commandments is when we know what a command of the Lord is and we purposely plan to disobey it. We know it is wrong and we do it anyway. A brother or sister may even warn us and we ignore their warnings. (This is one reason why being a member of a local church is so important! We need to hold one another accountable because sin is so deceptive.) In other words, our intent is to disobey the Lord. According to Jesus, if we do not keep his commandments then we do not love him. That is not Craig Rogers’ opinion. Those are the words of Jesus!

 

In John 15:10 the keeping of the commandments comes first then we know that we abide in his love. But in the previous chapter Jesus reverses the order. He says:

 

            “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

(John 14:15 ESV)

 

This is called a conditional statement. It is the form of “If p then q.” Conditional statements of this sort tell us something if the second part is denied. If the “q” part is not true then neither is the “p” part. (Modus Tollens for any logic buffs.) Therefore, Jesus is saying in John 14:15 that if you do not keep his commandments then you do not love him.

 

Do you know that Jesus does not expect us to be schooled in logic in order to understand his words? (Although, you would understand them better if you were!) The Bible was written not for scholars but for everyday folk like most of us. So, Jesus says it plainly in John 14:24:

 

            Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.

 

Is that not straightforward? In order for us to abide in his love we must obey his commandments! If any of you are disobeying any of his commandments now I implore you to forsake the path that you are on and get back on the path of obedience! This is the only path that is the path of love.

 

For us to abide in him we must abide in his love. This means that we love him with affection and we love him in obedience. Both are needed. When we express both of these aspects of love – Oh! – How sweet the abiding is! He is so near and so dear!

 

Thus far we have seen that, in order to abide in Christ, his words must abide in us and we must abide in his love. There is one more essential thing.

 

[II.] For us to abide in the vine we must love one another.

 

            “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

(John 15:12 ESV)

 

We are to keep all of his commandments. And they are not burdensome. They are for our good. But Jesus only speaks one here. It is one of the great commandments.

We are to love one another. Why this one? I think it is because it is the easiest one to violate. As soon as someone does something that we do not agree with or that we think is wrong we are tempted to stop loving.

 

Is that the way the Lord has loved us? Does he stop loving us when we do something wrong? No, he does not. He loves us still.  Yet, this is the way we are to love one another… as he has loved us!

 

I tell you, not only is your objective love for others under the control of your will – what you do for them – but so is your affection. If this were not true then it would be futile for Jesus and the apostles to command us to have affection. But they do.

 

            Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

(Romans 12:10 ESV)

 

Jesus thought that loving one another was so important that he repeated himself in this short passage.

 

            These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

(John 15:17 ESV)

 

If loving one another, in the way that he loves us – in all our weaknesses and failings, was so very important to Jesus, ought it to be important to us? Yes! Oh yes!

 

For us to abide in the vine we must love one another.

 

Do you wish to know what that love looks like? It is like King David’s love. David had a son named Amnon. Amnon loved his half-sister Tamar.  (They both had David as their father but different mothers.) But he could not control himself. When they were alone together he forced himself upon her. Tamar’s full brother, Absalom (who was also Amnon’s half-brother) murdered Amnon because of what he had done. When David heard of it the Bible says that he “wept bitterly.” David loved Amnon. He was David’s firstborn son and he was unjustly taken from him.

 

Then Absalom overthrew David as king. David had to flee for his life. Absalom became king and defiled David’s concubines. Think about what Absalom had done! He murdered David’s son. He dethroned David and even sought his life. He then, as a great insult, defiled David’s women. What would you do if one of your own children murdered his half-brother, your son, then got you fired from your job so that you ended up homeless and took the job that you had. Then he slept with your current wife. For you ladies, imagine that it was your daughter who murdered one of your other daughters, her half-sister. Then she got you fired from your job. You became homeless and she slept with your current husband. How would you feel toward her?

 

How did David feel toward Absalom after he did all these wicked things? Absalom was killed by David’s General, Joab, because of his treason even though David had given orders for Absalom not to be harmed. When David learned about his death this is what happened:

 

             And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

(2 Samuel 18:33 ESV)

 

David loved Absalom even though he sinned against him greatly! Love keeps no record of wrongs! Maybe some of us have not learned love yet. Some may be thinking, “Oh, but that was his son. It’s different if it’s your own child.”

 

What about David himself? You know David did some pretty despicable things. He committed adultery with another man’s wife, Bathsheba. Then, to cover up his adultery, he had her husband, Uriah murdered. He repented of both these sins. But then he had seven innocent grandchildren of Saul murdered at the request of pagans. The Bible is not clear of whether he even repented of this sin. Despite these wicked acts Abishai and two other of David’s men risked their lives, going into the enemy camp at night, just to get him a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem. They loved David despite his failures and sins. That is the kind of love we speak of – a love that does not allow failure to poison your spirit.

 

For us to abide in the vine we must love one another.

 

[III.] We have seen what it takes to abide in the vine.

 

  • We must have his words abide in us.
  • We must love the Lord in our hearts and in our obedience.
  • And, we must love one another.

 

When we do these things, and we can, then marvelous things happen.

 

First, we will bear fruit. We see this in John 15, verses 4 and 5. We saw last week that “bearing fruit” primarily has to do with winning souls. However, having his words abide in us, loving Him, and loving one another will bring fruit only if we are intentional about sharing the gospel. One can live a holy life, an abiding life, in other respects and still keep your faith all to yourself.

 

I tell you, if we abide in the vine and we will open our mouths to speak forth then Jesus says we will bear fruit.

 

Second, we will experience answered prayer. When I say “answered prayer,” I mean we see come to reality that for which we have prayed.

 

            If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

(John 15:7 ESV)

 

It is a promise of Jesus! One reason why we do not receive what we have asked in prayer is because we are not abiding in Christ. When his words abide in us and we are loving Him and our fellow believers then we discover that our prayers are answered.

 

Some time ago, when I kept a prayer journal, I looked back and saw that only about one fourth of my prayers were answered. We will not always receive the things that we ask for because there are other reasons why prayers are not answered. But, it seems as if one-fourth is too few! Abide in him and see if his promise is true!

 

Lastly, we will experience joy. The Lord knows that we are creatures of self-interest. Fruit bearing is for the Lord. Then he holds out to us the receiving of the things we pray for and joy so that we will abide in him.

 

Do we not all wish to be happy? Yes, we do.  (I am not differentiating between happiness and joy. Maybe, one could say that joy is a deeper kind of happiness, but even that is dubious.) The great man of God Blaise Pascal has a famous quote:

 

“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”

 

It is true. We all seek it, but some of us do not have it. Why is that? Because some of us are not abiding in Christ! We desire either certain things or we desire circumstances in our life to be a certain way and they are not. So we lose our joy.

 

Our joy, our happiness, was never intended to depend on our possessions nor our circumstances. If this is our condition then we are not abiding.

 

The prophet Habakkuk knew joy. In chapter three of his book we read:

            Though the fig tree should not blossom,

                        nor fruit be on the vines,

            the produce of the olive fail

                        and the fields yield no food,

            the flock be cut off from the fold

                        and there be no herd in the stalls,

            yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

                        I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

(Habakkuk 3:17-18 ESV)

 

He could rejoice even when things were bad because his joy was in God. If he were a contemporary of ours he might write something like:

 

Though I never get a raise,

    and my boss thinks I’m “dead weight;”

though I can’t find a better job;

though I don’t have enough money to buy fruit at the grocery store,

    Nor pay my rent;

though my car is so old it keep breaking down,

   and I don’t have enough money to fix it.

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

                        I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

 

Jesus promised joy if we abide in Him.

 

            These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

(John 15:11 ESV)

 

[IV. Conclusion] Do you desire happiness? Do you want your prayers answered? Do you want to bear fruit or remain barren? The fulfillment of all these things is by abiding in Christ!

 

Let us have his words in us. Let us love him. And let us love one another. Then see the promises of God realized in your life.