Abiding In Christ For The Glory Of Christ – John 15:6-11

Abiding In Christ For The Glory Of Christ

Nick Esch, 4/8/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Introduction

John Wesley was an instrument of God used to bring about the Great Awakening in the 1700s; a great revival, that’s still impacting us today… He boldly preached the gospel and the necessity of being born again. You may recall me mentioning him and George Whitefield preaching a sermon called The Almost Christian that got them pushed out of the Church of England. They preached that merely being a member of a church or going through the motions doesn’t save you, but that you must be born again to be a true Christian…

This message was especially important to Wesley because he had lived it… He had went through the motions for years; he was a good rule follower, he studied the Bible, and he even went on mission trips to America from England… But on one of those trips to America he began to realize that he wasn’t truly a Christian… What showed him this was being around true Christians, and seeing how radically different their nature and character was compared to his, and seeing how strong their faith was even in the midst of a chaotic storm…

He wrote in his journal, “At seven I went to the Germans (The Moravian missionaries from Germany). I had long before observed the great seriousness of their behavior. Of their humility they had given a continual proof, by [serving] other passengers [in ways] which none of the English would undertake; [and they did these tasks desiring to] receive no pay, saying, ‘it was good for their proud hearts,’ and ‘their loving Savior had done more for them.’ And every day [gave] them [an] occasion of showing a meekness which no injury could move. If they were pushed, struck, or thrown down, they rose again and went away; but no complaint was found in their mouth. [Then he goes on and writes about a day when there was some] trying whether [but he noticed that the Moravians] were delivered from the Spirit of fear, as well as from that of pride, anger, and revenge. {He writes] In the midst of the psalm wherewith their [worship] service began, the sea broke over, split the main-sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. [But] [t]he Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterward, ‘Were you not afraid?’ He answered, ‘I thank God, no.’ I asked, ‘But were not your women and children afraid?’ He replied, mildly, ‘No; our women and children are not afraid to die.’”

Wesley couldn’t grasp this… The life and spirit of the Moravians was amazing to him… Well, eventually one of the Moravian leaders talked with him about this. Wesley records the conversation in his journal, saying the man came to him and asked, “‘Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit, that you are a child of God?’ [Wesley writes] I was surprised, and knew not what to answer. [The man] observed it and asked, ‘Do you know Jesus Christ?’ I paused, and said, ‘I know he is Savoir of the world.’ ‘True,’ replied [the man]; ‘but do you know he has saved you?’”

And you see, that’s the key… The Moravians were so different than Wesley because they had been so gripped by God’s grace… They had been born again, and they were so amazed that Jesus saved them that it transformed their life… They now gave their life over to Jesus completely… They leveraged their life for the glory of God in whatever way they could… I couldn’t find the exact numbers, but it was something like 3 out of every 5 Moravians became missionaries… Some even sold themselves into slavery so that they could take the gospel to slaves in unreachable places… God’s grace literally turned their lives upside down, and then he used their lives of obedience to do the same thing for others; for others such as John Wesley… The Moravians had peace and joy even in the midst of danger and hardship, because they found that true joy was in Christ and living for Him. And that’s what I want us to see today in our text… So turn with me to John 15:6-11…

John 15:6-11

Last time we were in John we looked at John 15:5, where Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” There Jesus tells us who He is: that He is God the Son, that He’s the Lord of all of creation—without whom we can do nothing; and He also tells us what we are to do, which is abide in Him and therefore bear much fruit…

Bearing fruit and abiding in Jesus go together… You can’t do one without the other… If we abide in Jesus we will bear fruit; if we don’t we wont… Without Him we can do nothing… To abide simply means to remain… And only those who have already been brought into Christ can remain that way… So Jesus isn’t saying that we need to save ourselves, or bring ourselves to Him or even keep ourselves in Him in our strength… He said, “Whoever abides in me and I in him…” He remains in us as we are to remain in Him… And it’s He who sovereignly makes all of this happen… Again, He says, “apart from me you can do nothing…” If Jesus did not first save us and keep us, we would never be able to abide… But we hold fast to Christ because He holds fast to us… Therefore, those who are true Christians will abide in Christ; those who have Jesus, who have been saved by Jesus, who know Him, who love Him, they are the ones who abide… That’s the mark of a true Christian: abiding in Christ…

Given that this is true, verse 6 makes sense. “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” Apart from Jesus we can do nothing; and apart from Jesus no one will be saved… The language here of being thrown into the fire and burned, is the language of eternal judgment, of eternal punishment… Like a branch that does not bear fruit is cut off and thrown into the burn pile, counted worthless and condemned to perish, so likewise will all people who do not abide in Christ perish… This is the same truth that one of the most well known Bible verses communicates: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)… Sure it doesn’t say abide there, but if you believe, you will abide, and if you abide now you will remain with Christ for all eternity—you will have eternal life… But if you don’t believe, if you don’t abide, you will perish…

These are two striking promises from God: He promises eternal life to those in Christ and eternal punishment for those outside of Christ… There is no middle ground… You are either with Christ or apart from Him… You can’t ride the fence… Jesus is clearly saying here that if we don’t abide in Him and bear fruit—in other words be faithful—then we are not really Christians… Biblically there is no such thing as fire insurance… Trusting in Christ as your Savior also means surrendering to Him as your Lord… Keep in mind, Jesus says all of this right after Judas left to betray Him… Judas had been walking with Christ for roughly three years, but that whole time he still had one foot in the world… He had never really surrendered to Christ… Sure, he went through the motions, but his heart was far from Him… That’s why He didn’t abide… Instead of abiding in Christ, he sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver… And many today are guilty of the very same thing…

Many proclaim things like, “God bless America,” or, “In God we trust,” and they may even go to church on Sunday, but their hearts are far from Christ. Like Judas, their heart is committed to themselves and selfish gain… They don’t really want Christ, they just want enough of Jesus to get their selfish desires… But God is not a genie or a means to an end… He is the end… We were created to serve and to glorify Him, not the other way around… So to be a Christian is to be devoted to those two things: to serving Jesus, and living for His glory.

This is important to note, given what Jesus says next. In verse 7 He says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Again, God is not our genie… Yes, Jesus says, “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you,” but He says that after the prerequisite of, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you.” This promise is true for those who are remaining in Christ; and not just for those who are in Christ, but for those who have the Word of God abiding within them…

So first, understand, as Jesus has already said, apart from Him we can do nothing… And that’s because He is the Lord of creation, He’s God in the flesh. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). He’s ruling and reigning over all, and literally upholds the universe by His mighty Word… “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). He created, sustains, and rules all… So though He is not a genie, He is a BIG GOD capable of answering BIG prayers… But He is God… He is Lord… Not us… He doesn’t bow to our will, but we bow to His…

         When Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,” the idea is that we are in line with His will… If we are abiding in Christ that means we truly know Him, love Him, and are seeking to live for Him; and this happens as His Word abides in us, as His Word takes root in us, transforms us, and remains in us working on us and renewing us day by day… As I just read, His Word is power… I mean after all, God created the universe through His Word. He spoke and it came into being… He is all-powerful, and He reveals that power in and through His Word. And disobeying His powerful Word is what has gotten us into such trouble, and messed up the entire universe that He created…

All of mankind has been created in the image of God, to display His glory to the world; but all of mankind has rebelled against God, going against His Word… And our rebellion brought sin and death and all of their effects into the world, and brought us under condemnation… But then the living Word, Jesus Christ, became flesh and lived, died, and rose again to save all who would turn from their sin and trust in Him… The Word—Jesus—came to save sinners; and now, by God’s grace, when sinners hear this gospel Word—which is the power of God for salvation—God recreates us, and brings us back to our intended purpose: to glorify Him… And not only that, but when we read, study, meditate, and memorize this same Word, God’s powerful Word, that power transforms us… As Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” That renewal happens through the power of God working through His Word… The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to renew and transform the people of God, bringing us more inline with the will of God… His Word is power…

Most if not all of you have a Bible in your hands right now… If not, there’s one around you… The Bible is God’s Word… We have access to it… Yet, so many of us have neglected it… So many of us seem to have no desire to know God’s Word to be transformed by God’s Word, and therefore we have no desire to really know God… Sure, we say we love Jesus, we say we know Jesus, yet we completely ignore His Word… Oh friends, could it be that despite what we say, our hearts are actually far from Him? Could it be that we are no better than Judas? Judas had no genuine love for Jesus; if He did He would’ve abided in Christ… Again, sure he went through some motions, he did some ministry, but he never let himself get to close, he never really took Jesus’ Word seriously… Again I ask, are we any better?…

In verse 7 I think we see a clear charge from Jesus Himself to memorize God’s Word, yet so many wont even take the time to read it, or if they read it, they don’t take the time to study it and understand it… It’s an old book; you have to do some work to grasp it; but if you’re a Christian you have God’s Spirit living within you empowering you to know and to understand God’s Word… But we must not only study it, but seek to write it on our hearts… And as we do, by God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be transformed and renewed more and more, which will line up our hearts, our minds, our wills with the will of God… Our affections, our desires, our wants will change; our hearts will begin to cry out, “Take the world, but give me Jesus…” So beloved, give yourself to reading God’s Word, studying God’s Word, sitting under the preaching of God’s Word, and memorizing God’s Word… We must not be hearers or studiers only, but it’s when God’s Word abides in us that we really become doers of God’s Word; it’s what aligns us with God’s will…

And for those who are aligned with God’s will, Jesus says, “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Now none of us are perfectly in line with God’s will, because we’re all sinners… We all sin and fall short of God’s glory… But as Christians we know that God’s glory is indeed God’s will… Whatever magnifies His glory, whatever makes much of Jesus, that’s the will of God… Have you ever asked yourself, “What’s God’s will for my life?” Well, God’s Word has the answer (another reason why it’s so important to know it). In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 we’re told, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” In other words, God’s will is that we’d be more like Jesus, that we’d live more for His glory, that we’d know Him, love Him, and live for Him all the more… That’s why Jesus says in verse 8, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” The Father is glorified as we live as faithful disciples of Christ: those who follow Jesus, who love Jesus, and love like Jesus…

Remember, at the beginning of the Upper Room Discourse (this talk He’s giving His disciples) Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35)… And here, in verse 8, He says that we glorify God by bearing much fruit and thereby proving to be His disciples… Primarily the fruit Jesus is speaking of is abiding in Him, loving Him, and loving like Him, and living for Him…

No doubt, God uses different Christians in different ways to bear different fruit, but the fruit that is manifested in all Christians is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… But notice the fruit of the Spirit begins with love… And as we abide in Jesus, and love Jesus and love like Jesus, that’s what proves that we are His disciples, and thus magnifies God’s glory… And this is what Jesus is getting at when He says, “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you…” In other words, ask whatever you wish that’s going to glorify God this way, that’s going to help you and others know Jesus, love Jesus, love like Jesus, and live for Jesus… God delights to answer prayers like that; and He’s a BIG GOD, so be bold in your prayers… Ask God to save, ask God to transform, ask God to do what only He can do, and then wait for it with expectation…

I’ve heard preachers say that if you want God to answer your prayers then tell Him you want what you want for His glory… Beloved, we cannot manipulate God… You cannot fool God into answering your prayers… But God is a good Father who delights to answer the prayers of His children… So sometimes He gives us good gifts just because He can; but there’s no guarantee that He’ll do that… But when we pray in line with His will, for His glory, He promises us that He will answer our prayers, He will do what we ask of Him… We must not be like Judas, claiming to be a follower of Christ merely for selfish gain… We must die to self and follow Christ, leveraging our lives for His glory alone… We must abide in Christ… And if we abide in Him, and His Words abide in us, then we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be done for us…

In the last few verses Jesus explains further what it means to abide in Him, and shows us the great result of abiding in Him… In verses 9-10 He says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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.” This points back to Jesus’ words in John 14:15, where He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” According to Jesus, love and obedience go hand in hand. And here Jesus is saying that abiding in Him goes hand in hand with love and obedience… Just as the Father’s love for Jesus and His love for the Father fueled His obedience, so likewise should Jesus’ love for us and our love for Him fuel our obedience.

What Jesus is showing us here is that to abide in Him is to delight in Him… If we are to truly abide in Christ then there has to be a massive shift in who we are and how we live… And this is what happens when He causes us to be born again… In our sin the posture of our heart is me, myself, and I… It’s like Judas… Sure, we may have a group of people who think we are their friends, we may have some personal relationships, but ultimately our aim in all of life—especially in our relationships is simply to fulfill our own selfish desires… Everything and everyone is a means to our ends… And living like that always leads to misery… No one wants to be used; so it wont be long before we push people away; and no one will ever live up to our expectations, and actually give us all we desire, so we’ll grow weary, lonely, and all around disappointed…

But when God causes us to be born again, when He grabs a hold of our lives, and of our hearts, He opens our eyes to who Jesus is, and we see that the satisfaction that we have been pursuing in our sin is actually found in Him alone… And so He becomes our great desire, because in saving us and causing us to be born again He rewires our hearts to delight in Him above all else… He enables us to love Him, and in loving Him we can’t help but live for Him… So abiding in Christ is knowing Him, loving Him, and living for Him… And we abide this way because He is what our hearts delight in… Who He is and how He’s loved us fuel our abiding, and our abiding plays out in loving Him and living for Him. It’s like what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

The key issue in this passage, the key issue in abiding in Christ is the glory of God, is living for Him who for our sake died and was raised. Just as God answers prayer for His glory, and the Spirit bears fruit in our lives for His glory, so likewise everything about our abiding in Christ is about God’s glory… God created us for His glory and He recreates us for His glory… This is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about… As Jesus said in verse 8, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” So what Jesus is calling us to here is to give ourselves to living for the glory of God…

Now in all honesty, outside of the grace of God, dying to self and living for God does not sound all that appealing… I mean no one wants to go to hell, no one wants to be thrown into the fire, as Jesus said… But, we don’t want to deny ourselves either… We want to indulge ourselves… I mean, perhaps it’s just me, but it seems as though we’re hedonists by nature… We’re constantly chasing after happiness… Judas thought thirty pieces of silver would satisfy him; he thought it would bring him joy…. But all he found was misery, and in his misery he ended his life… He didn’t realize it, but what his heart yearned for, and the joy he was looking for had been right in front of him for three years… And that’s what Jesus points out in the closing of our passage.

In verse 11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Essentially, what Jesus has been saying is that if we are true followers of Jesus we will abide in Him; and here He says if we are true followers of Jesus following Him will bring us great joy… He says His joy will be in us… Well, Jesus’ joy came from living in obedience to God, living for the glory of the Father. “[F]or the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2)… The joy of magnifying God’s glory and saving God’s people and enabling them to magnify God’s glory… This is the joy that He puts in His people… He changes our delights, He changes our desires, He rewires our hearts and shows us that true joy is found in Him and living for Him… Notice He says, He gives us this joy that our joy may be full… In other words, living for the glory of God is where true full joy is found; glory and joy go hand in hand… Abiding in Christ, loving and obeying Jesus, leveraging our lives for the glory of God… this is where joy is found… Abiding leads to joy… Obedience leads to joy… Jesus leads to joy… Jesus is our joy… if we are truly His disciples…

Conclusion

So, are we abiding in Jesus, or are we worthless branches that are fit for the fire? Are we bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Are we pouring out our lives for the fame of Christ, for God’s glory? Jesus sums up abiding in Him with love and obedience; loving Him and loving like Him… And basically what He means by that is living for the glory of God… And He says that only in living this way, only by abiding in Him is true joy, is full joy found…

Abiding is a lot harder than just saying a prayer, or getting baptized, or going to church every once and a while; it’s living for the glory of God out of love for Jesus… And again, it’s hard… But we serve a BIG GOD who answers big prayers, who will help us, who will enable us to live for His glory… Apart from Jesus we can do nothing, but if we are really Jesus’ disciples, if we truly love Him, we aren’t apart from Him… That’s why the call is to abide, to remain… It’s a call only for those whom Jesus has already brought to Himself… We don’t work for this; we benefit from and strive from Christ’s finished work on the cross… He has already lived, died, and rose again; and He promises all who turn from their sin and trust in Him that He will be with us always, to the very end of the age… We will never be apart from Him… So though it’s true that apart from Him we can do nothing, beloved, He will never leave us nor forsake us… And if He is with us, and promises answer to prayer, then there is no limit to what we can do… Apart from Him we can do nothing, but, oh, what might we be able to do with Him?… Oh, how God might use us if we would cry out to Him, and beg Him to use our lives for the glory of Christ?… That’s the call here… That’s what the Moravians did that John Wesley encountered… They leveraged their lives for the glory of Christ… That’s what true Christianity is… That’s why we exist…