Read before service:
John 15:1-8 (NIV)
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Life is full of decisions. Some decisions are important ones, others not so important ? but one of the inescapable facts of life is that we must make decisions. We start in the morning with deciding whether we?re going to hit that snooze button and catch a few more winks of sleep and finish at night with the decision whether we?re going to crawl off to bed or catch a few more minutes of being awake!
Some decisions we make are really easy ? like taking a breath of air, like accepting a gift from a loved one, like whether or not you are going to open mail that?s addressed to you. Like deciding what you want to eat from a menu at a restaurant (or at least it should be!) But then again the latter sometimes falls into the hard decision category!
Some decisions are not so easy ? like what your career path will be in life, like who you are going to marry, whether or not you are going to have children and how many!!
One of the most crucial decisions everyone makes in life however is who they are going to follow! Some people consciously make this decision and then, some people unconsciously make this decision. Who is it or what is it that shapes your life, influences the way you live, how you live? Who or what is it that influences every other decision in your life?
There is another important factor to consider when looking at the crucial decision of who or what you follow in life. Although some decisions are easily made and some are more difficult to make, the fulfillment of the decision is realized to your commitment to it! Do you follow through? Do you stick to it? Do you persevere?
For the last three weeks I?ve been talking about Pursuing Christ: Walking the Jesus Walk ? about following Christ. I?ve talked about hearing his call in your life and realizing that Jesus is calling out to every man, woman and child, “Come, Follow Me!” I?ve talked about learning to recognize the steps Jesus is taking for your life and get in the way with Him rather than in the way OF Him and what He wants to do with your life. Then last week I talked about actually Taking the Steps that Jesus lays out for you and realizing where He will take you, who He will take you to and why He takes you there. Intertwined through all these messages has been the voice of Jesus calling out to you, “Come, Follow Me!” I?ve ended each message with the invitation for you to make that decision to make Jesus the leader of your life and to get behind Him and follow Him. But today we come to the Important Step. It?s one thing to make a decision to follow Christ and it?s another thing to commit to follow Him! To persevere ? to stick it out ? to follow through! Commitment is the bridge between your decision and your position! It is commitment that enables you to hold to your decision no matter what the cost of that decision is! It is commitment that enables you to stick to your decision when following Jesus means going to some uncomfortable places, some uncomfortable people for some uncomfortable reasons. And it is commitment that enables you to experience the joys, the wonders, and the everlasting peace of breaking through the tough spots in life! This kind of commitment only comes from faith and belief in Jesus Christ as the Lord of Your life and in His leadership ? no matter what!
James makes an interesting observation in the letter by his name,
James 1:4-8 (NIV)
4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
I think those last two lines describe the state of many people in our world today ? sadly even, some who are Christians. But when he asks, he must believe and NOT doubt (stay committed, persevere) because he who who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded (uncommitted, not following through, not persevering) unstable in all he does. Folks, we live in an unstable world, because we live in a world that is not committed to Christ! Can you imagine the difference there would be in our community if people who called themselves followers of Christ would be committed to their decision to follow Him!
And so we come to our text this morning,
1 John 2:3-6 (NIV)
3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (Other versions ? abide)
Commitment comes from Abiding In Jesus
Abide = to remain, dwell, stay
One of the keys to staying committed to our decision to follow Jesus is found in the word “abide”. John says that those who claim to abide in him MUST walk as Jesus did ? in other words those who abide in Christ are compelled to walk the Jesus walk ? they can?t help it!! THAT is commitment.
The abiding presence of Christ in our lives speaks of the “relationship” we are to have with Him. The apostle Paul tells us that in Christ we live, breathe, and move about (Acts 17:28). He is to be our life.
This relationship defines us as one who has believed in Jesus Christ. But it also defines the substance of our existence. We exist in Him and for Him.
John was echoing what he had heard from Christ Himself,
John 15:4-5 (NIV)
4 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. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Abide in the Word of Christ to be set free – John 8:31
John 8:31-32 (NIV)
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Abide in the Light of Christ to be released from darkness – John 12:46
John 12:46 (NIV)
46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
Abide in the Spirit of Christ find peace – John 14:16
John 14:26-27 (NIV)
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Abide in the Love of Christ to be loved – John 15:9
John 15:9 (NIV)
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
I dare say that many of us have strong beliefs in Jesus.
We believe Jesus. . .
Is the Son of God born in the flesh.
Paid the price for our sins by dying on the cross.
Extends salvation to all people who will confess and believe in Him.
Raised from the dead to give us life, abundant and eternal.
Is preparing a place called heaven for those who believe in Him.
Will one day return in the Eastern sky to take His bride home.
But will our beliefs cause us to unconditionally follow Him? Is our relationship with Jesus drawing us closer to Him so as to follow Him regardless of where we are and what we are doing?
Looking at your life can you say this is all there is to following Jesus? Can you honestly say that what you are presently doing with your life is a reflection of a relationship with Jesus?
Al Kaline, the brilliant outfielder for the Detroit Tigers and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, was honored at a dinner attended by twenty-five hundred people. After he was introduced with a long litany of his achievements in baseball, he came to the podium to a standing ovation. During the course of his remarks he said, “There must be something more to life than this — chasing a lot of fly balls, getting a lot of base hits, making more money than you can spend.”
(Illustration Source: Following Christ, Joseph Stowell pg. 28)
Is your heart asking, “There must be something more to my life relationship with Jesus than this. Attending church service after church service and going home the same way as I came in. There must be something more to following Jesus.”
What has happened? Is your relationship with Jesus a burden rather than a blessing? Are you involved with a project called church rather than a Person called Jesus? Have you worked up a neat belief system rather than entering into a relationship with the Savior?
There has to be something more than this and you know what? There is. You find the something more when you not only make the decision to follow Christ but also follow through, persevere, commit to that decision by abiding in Him.
The next logical question at this point is how do I abide in Christ?
Keys to abiding in Christ
To walk just as Jesus walked involves being occupied with the walk of Jesus. He becomes your teacher, your mentor, your rabbi.
Jesus said in John 13:15 “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
It starts with your decision to follow Christ. It starts when you place yourself on the path of Christ and say, “Yes, Lord I WILL follow” However it is when you begin to abide in Christ that you gain the commitment and perseverance to move from simply being a traveler with Jesus into a transformed follower of Jesus.
You are abiding with Christ when?
you open the door of your heart
Revelation 3:20 (NIV)
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
We associate this verse with the lost when in reality John is writing to the church, you and I. Have we long ago shut the door so as to keep Jesus out of our lives, keeping Him at a comfortable distance? Open the door let Jesus in!
you pursue Christ with everything you?ve got!
Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
John 17:24 (NIV)
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
Is Jesus the single passionate pursuit that defines all other aspects of our lives? Pursue Him in a manner that you might find Him.
you put Jesus first above everything else
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
“First Place” says He is a head above all the others things seeking our attention and affections.
you see Jesus in people
Mother Teresa was once asked how she could go into the streets of Calcutta day after day and touch the lives of hurting humanity. Her answer was, “I see Jesus in the man who lays in the cutter. I see Jesus in the one who is dying with leprosy. I minister to Jesus.” And then she quoted . . .
Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Joseph Stowell says, “Jesus Christ is, and was, passionately addicted to people.”
The radical reformation we need in heart and life happens when we make the decision to not only follow Christ but also to abide in Him and find the commitment that will enable us to follow through on following Him.
Helen Rosavere is an English woman who had interests in becoming a doctor and serving Do. Upon completion of her medical training at Cambridge University, Helen began to ask God where he would want her to serve. Before long, God directed Helen to an area in the Congo (Africa) which had a population of over 200,000 people and not one doctor in the whole area. This meant that she would be working seven days a week, always on call, no time off, and when a medical emergency arose, she would have to take care of it.
Soon a hospital and training center was needed. It was a great need and there was just no way Helen could build it. Helen then cried out to God, “Surely, Lord, there is at least one man in England who could come and build a hospital!” But Helen heard nothing. Later, Helen wrote a letter to her parents and asked them to send her a book on how to build a hospital!” But Helen heard nothing. Later, Helen wrote a letter to her parents and asked them to send her a book on how to build a hospital. Her parents couldn?t find a book on how to build a hospital, but they did send a book on how to build bricks. When Helen received the book, she cried out to God again, “Surely, Lord, there is at least one man from England who could come and build bricks for the hospital.”
No man arrived. So, in the midst of Helen?s busy schedule, she followed the instructions. She made the bricks to be put in the kiln to be fired. After the bricks were dried, the rough edges had to be sanded down. One day, as she was sanding, she noticed a wet substance on the brick and realized it was her own blood. “Surely, Lord, there is a man somewhere in England who could come and make these bricks.” At that time a man came running up to Helen and told her of an emergency at the dispensary. With her fingers still bleeding, Helen went to take care of the man. When she entered the scrub room, she began to take a wire brush and scrub her raw fingers. The pain made her more irate. She began to yell at God in her spirit, “Surely, Lord, there is at least one man in all of England who could come and make bricks for the hospital.”
The attendant began to pour alcohol over her fingers. The pain was excruciating. The Helen put on her gloves and did what she had to do. Following the surgery, Helen went back out to begin working on the bricks. While out there, one of the nationals approached her and began to talk to her. He said, “Doc, we no know that you love and care for us. When you enter the operating room wearing your mask and gown, and use your ability to heal the sick, you frighten us. But when you come out here and work with the rest of us and bleed the same as we do, we realize that you are one of us.”
Helen, for the first time, realized why there was no man from England who could come to help. God said to her, “I didn?t have you come here just to heal the sick, Helen. I brought you here to befriend these people in order that they may see me through you.” Helen thanked the Lord. She then realized that God didn?t call her to be a medical missionary, but he called her to himself.