Sermon Notes and Audio
Scripture Focus- John 15
When Jesus began His public ministry, He called His first disciples to come and follow Him. A disciple in the New Testament is more than just a student. . .a disciple is a follower. A disciple is someone who has put their faith in Jesus, and is committed to following Him with their life. Life as a disciple, is what it means to be a Christian. Jesus calls us to follow Him, and commands us to go and make disciples of others. So a disciple is someone who follows Jesus, and leads others to follow Jesus.
In many ways, we have complicated the faith. There are so many activities, and different things a person could be involved in, that it is particularly difficult for those new to the faith to understand what it is all about. My prayer for today is that as we consider John 15, you will be able to see with clarity the way of a disciple. Some of you are not followers of Jesus, so you are not disciples yet. I hope you will consider following Jesus today. For everyone who is already a disciple, I hope this challenges you to consider whether or not you are a faithful disciple.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Without Jesus the way there is no going. Without Jesus the truth there is no knowing. Without Jesus the life there is no living. Jesus was on His way to the cross. The last conversation Jesus had with His disciples before the cross, was not about strategy, or organization. . .it was about remaining in Him. The mood has changed. There is tenderness in the communication of Jesus and a deep sense of peace. Jesus’ life was not measured at that point by months or by weeks but by hours. He chose to spend the last hours on earth with His own. To His own, and to you and me, Jesus explains how to practice the presence of, and to know intimate fellowship with God.
Jesus the Son is the True Vine. This is the last of the seven great “I am” statements in John. There are three vines found in Scripture. The past vine was the nation of Israel. Israel was God’s choice vine in the OT, on which He gave care and attention, and this anticipated Jesus as the True Vine, the Authentic Vine. There is also the future vine, the vine of the earth described in Revelation 14:14-20. This is the Gentile world system ripening for God’s coming judgment.
God the Father is the Vineyard Keeper. He is the One who cultivates and protects the Vine.
The Disciples’ part as the branches, is to Remain in the Vine. The word Remain is also translated as Abide- John uses it 11 times in this chapter, 40 times in the entire Gospel, and 27 times in his Epistles. To remain is to know Jesus. To remain is to depend on Jesus. To remain is to live for Jesus. To remain is total dependence. The result of remaining, is your life will bear fruit for God, fruit. . .then much fruit. Who you are in Jesus, is more important than what you do for Jesus. Remaining is more important than doing, yet doing results from remaining as evidence that you remain.
Those who remain will bear fruit and experience pruning from God, so they can bear even more fruit. In regions of the world where there are vineyards, in the winter all you can see are bare trunks from the vines. In the summer there are lush green grapevines expanding their branches and leaves. Their health is dependent on being pruned and tended to. Grape growers practice several stages of pruning. God’s hand is never closer than when He prunes the vine. Those who do not remain and bear fruit are unproductive branches of a vine. They are thrown away, withered, and collected as firewood. The unproductive branches are symbolic of those who are not genuinely in Jesus. John was likely thinking of Judas and others who would demonstrate with their lives they didn’t belong to God. Disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit, and bear the fruit of the Spirit- Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith, Gentleness, and Self-Control- all of which result in the Fruit of Good Works for the Glory of God.
Let’s consider three characteristics, that mark out the way of a disciple.
The way of a disciple is to believe.
V7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.
We take root in Jesus by faith. He is in us, and we are in Him. The words of Jesus are to be cherished. Take Jesus by His Word, and go to God in prayer believing. Fervent, believing prayer is connected to fruit bearing. Believe by remaining. When your life is yielded to Jesus and His Word is remaining in you, it is an expression of faith.
Believe by trusting. Trust the words of Jesus. There should be a desire in our hearts to follow the will and purpose of Jesus. 1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
Believe by asking. You can ask what you want because your will is to do His will. In the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus said, “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
Without faith it is impossible to please God. However, God does not expect us to have great faith. At issue is not the size of our faith. At issue is our understanding of the size of God, how great and glorious He is.
There are two references to “mustard seed faith” in the Bible. The first is in Matthew 17:14-20. The disciples were unable to exorcise a demon from a young boy, even though Jesus had given them authority to do so. When they inquired of Jesus why they couldn’t, Jesus told them because they had so little faith. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there and it will move, nothing will be impossible. In Luke 17:6 Jesus told the disciples if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea and it will obey you. He is making reference to the immeasurable power of God when believed in, even with the faith the size of a mustard seed. The smallest faith, when it is faith in a great God, will grow greatly.
The way of a disciple is to love.
V9-10 As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. V12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. v13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. V17 This is what I command you: Love one another.
Agape is the word used to describe love that is of and from God. God is love (I John 4:8). Everything God does is from love. God’s love is expressed through the sacrifice of Jesus. Romans 5:8 God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Jesus says As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. The love of Jesus is pure, wholehearted, deep, and personal.
Love by keeping the commands of Jesus. There is a mutual relationship between love and obedience. If we love Jesus, we will keep His commands. The union between the believer and Jesus is a close relationship, similar to the one that exists between God the Father and God the Son.
Love by loving one another. Genuine, deep seated, constant love is a distinguishing mark of a Christian. John 13:34-35 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Tertullian (200 AD) But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. ‘See’ they say, ‘how they love one another’ for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred; ‘see how they are ready even to die for one another’ for they themselves will rather be put to death.”
Love by sacrificing for others. Disciples are to continue to love others with the same love Jesus showed when He layed down His life for us. 1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
In September of 1940, Witold Pilecki, a Polish army captain, did the unthinkable—he snuck into Auschwitz. That’s right, into Auschwitz. Pilecki knew that something was terribly wrong with the concentration camp and as a committed (Roman Catholic) Christian and a Polish patriot he couldn’t sit by and watch. He wanted to get information on the horrors of Auschwitz, but he knew he could only do that from the inside.
So his superiors approved a daring plan. They provided a false identity card with a Jewish name, and then Pilecki allowed the Germans to arrest him during a routine Warsaw street roundup. Pilecki was sent to Auschwitz and assigned inmate number 4859. Pilecki, a husband and father of two, later said, “I bade farewell to everything I had known on this earth.” He became just like any other prisoner—despised, beaten, and threatened with death. From inside the camp he wrote, “The game I was now playing at Auschwitz was dangerous …. In fact, I had gone far beyond what people in the real world would consider dangerous.”
But beginning in 1941, prisoner number 4859 started working on his dangerous mission. He organized the inmates into resistance units, boosting morale and documenting the war crimes. Pilecki used couriers to smuggle out detailed reports on the atrocities. By 1942, he had also helped organize a secret radio station using scrap parts. The information he supplied from inside the camp provided Western allies with key intelligence information about Auschwitz. In the spring of 1943, Pilecki joined the camp bakery where he was able to overpower a guard and escape. Once free, he finished his report, estimating that around 2 million souls had been killed at Auschwitz. When the reports reached London, officials thought he was exaggerating. Of course today we know he was right.
Here’s how a contemporary Jewish journal summarized Pilecki’s life: “Once he set his mind to the good, he never wavered, never stopped. He crossed the great human divide that separates knowing the right thing from doing the right thing.” In his report Pilecki said, “There is always a difference between saying you will do something and actually doing it. A long time before, many years before, I had worked on myself in order to be able to fuse the two.” The current Polish Ambassador to the U.S. described Pilecki as a “diamond among Poland’s heroes.”
Matt Woodley, managing editor, PreachingToday.com; sources: Rob Eshman, “The man who snuck into Auschwitz,” JewishJournal.com (12-5-12); Captain Witold Pileck, The Auschwitz Volunteer (Aquila Polonica, 2012)
The way of a disciple is to endure.
V16 I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain. V18 If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. V19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.
The hatred from the world is a fact, to be expected. Jesus sends His disciples into a world of darkness. The world here, represents the realm of evil, the society of darkness that is opposed to God and His Kingdom.
Jesus said, if the world hates you, you are in good company! The world hated Jesus before it hated us. As servants, we are not greater than our Master. If you think the message of Jesus will be generally well received by the world, you have another thing coming. Love is not the usual way in a social order where power is dominant and culture runs counter to the holiness of God. The world is a hostile place. The reason you will be hated by the world is that you have been separated from it.
Matthew 5:11-12 You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Persecution comes in many forms. Many times it is in the form of an attitude and not an action. At other times it is in the form of indifference or antagonism. Sometimes it is violent. A.T. Robertson said ‘persecuted’ in verse 20 means to chase like a wild beast. The martyrdom of the 20th century has accelerated into the 21st century. The persecution of the early church is being lived out every day around the world.
2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Voice of the Martyrs- www.persecution.com February was a deadly month for Christians living in Egypt’s North Sinai, as seven Christians were martyred in about a three-week period. While no one has claimed responsibility for the killings, many believe the attacks were carried out by an Egyptian affiliate of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) called Wilayat Sinai. Nearly 120 families have fled the Sinai city of El-Arish as a result of the recent attacks, and many are now living in a refugee camp in Ismailia, 125 miles southwest of El-Arish.
It is interesting that when we pray, one of the first things we pray for is safety. Smooth sailing safety, is not necessarily a sign of God’s work in our lives. The absence of persecution can actually mean something is wrong. A life pleasing to God is a life that by example, word, and deed demonstrates the righteousness of Jesus in opposition to the world.
V26 When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father- the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father- He will testify about Me. V27 You also will testify, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
During His life, Jesus bore testimony to the world. When He went back to Heaven, the Spirit of truth began to testify about Jesus. Now, He empowers us to testify about Jesus. The word testify means to bear witness, it is “martureo,” the same word from which we get martyr.
The way of a disciple is to believe, love, and endure, all the while testifying to the good news about Jesus!