John 15:1-11 | Abiding In Christ Part 3 | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 15:1–15:11
Please open to John 15. This is one of those catchy titles to a sermon, “Abiding in Christ Part 3.” So, we’re gonna be going through this probably in four parts, just to give you a heads-up. We’ll probably cover two more verses this morning.
Let me read John 15:1-11 to get it into our minds.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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. 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
This is now the third time, the third week we’ve gone through verses 1 through 11. This morning we’ll cover verses 6 and 7. But what we’ve been doing is trying to show a panorama of fruit bearing, and if you’re new to us or haven’t been here in the last couple weeks, we’ve basically identified the fact that God the Father, God the Son desire followers of Christ to bear fruit, to be righteous, to make disciples, to be holy.
And not only do they desire it, but they’ll also work to that end. You see that in verse 1. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” Verse 2: “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
The Father and Son are active in the life of the New Testament Christian. We know that the Holy Spirit is as well from other passages. But there is a desire from the Godhead, from all three members of the Trinity, that his disciples, Christ’s disciples, would bear fruit.
And in this exhortation of bearing fruit and abiding in Christ in order to bear fruit, Jesus teaches a lot of things about different people. He teaches about the false professor, the one who says they’re in Christ and then ultimately they turn away and walk away from him. He teaches and warns of what happens to those people. He teaches about those of us who are bearing fruit and what will happen in our lives. He’ll prune us.
He’s giving us this panorama, and I’ve said it before: It’s as if you’re looking out over a vineyard, and you’re gonna get a tour from the owner of the vineyard or one of his associates, and you’re looking out over the vineyard, and he says, look over there. There’s the vinedresser. See what he’s doing with those shears? He’s pruning. Look over there. There are some branches that fell off. You know what those represent. Look, there’s fruit over here.
And he’s giving you this whole panorama of what’s going on here, and that’s what Jesus is doing in this chapter, John 15, verses 1 through 11. He’s showing us this panorama of fruit bearing.
And so we’ve just gone one point after another based on what Jesus has said, and so here are some of the things that we’ve covered:
The Father and Son are both active in fruit bearing. You see that in verse 1.
Verse 2: The father takes away and prunes branches. He takes away some branches and prunes other branches.
Christians, number three, are presently clean branches with new life. Jesus is actually giving some encouragement to his remaining disciples. Judas has already left the room at this point in the conversation.
Point four, found in verses 4 and 5: Christians are to abide in Christ in order to bear fruit.
And point number five, which is one of the points we’ll get to today (verse 6): False professors do not bear fruit and are judged.
We’ll also get to verse 7: Christians indwelt by the word will experience answered prayer.
You know, at the beginning of this section, one of the things you want to do as a Bible teacher is show people the main point by showing the flow of the argument that the Lord is making. And John 15:1-11 is not an easy passage to outline. There’s not like Jesus saying this, and then he moves on to a related truth, and then to a related truth. It’s not as easy. You look in commentaries, and they’ve got all different types of outlines.
Jesus is basically going from one statement to the next. Sometimes they don’t seem to fit together as well other than the fact that he’s talking about fruit bearing and abiding in Christ, but he just goes boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, one kind of topic to the next. And so we’re just taking it in the way he does it. Just nine points as he goes through this section.
5. False Professors Do Not Bear Fruit and are Judged
And the next point we come to, the next thing to understand in this panorama of fruit bearing, is that false professors do not bear fruit and are judged (verse 6). People who do not abide in Christ are not actually in Christ. Consequently, they bear no fruit. God judges people who do not bear the fruit that he desires.
Now, you may be thinking, well, isn’t this works salvation so that you’ve got to bear fruit in order to be commended by God? No, that’s not what we’re saying at all. What we are saying is that when we place our trust in Christ, when we come to Christ, one of the things he does in addition to forgiving sins is he gives a new heart, creates a new heart, creates a new life.
So the Bible teaches when you come to Christ, you are a new creation. Have you heard that term before? I didn’t make that one up. It’s actually in the Bible. We are new creations—new desires, new affections.
The psalmist exhorts people, “[T]aste and see that the Lord is good!” And Christians are people who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. We have new desires, new hopes, new dreams, new loves, new wants. And so when we place our trust in Christ, God unites us to Christ, gives us a new heart, and fruit comes. You become a Christian, and you’re different.
You were once known for anger; now you’re no longer known for your anger. Zacchaeus was once known for swindling people out of money. What does he do when he comes to Christ? Lord, I’m giving it back, and I’m giving money to the poor. There’s an actual conversion of the heart that takes place when you come to Christ.
So this is saying, the false professors do not bear that fruit, and they’re judged because they’re not in Christ. Fruit will be the result for all true believers. People are judged for not bearing fruit because they’ve rejected Christ in the first place. That’s the idea.
Verse 6: “If anyone does not abide in me”—and remember, that word literally means, stay, remain, dwell. It’s a term of constancy. If anyone does not stay with me for the long haul, in the long run. “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” (John 15:6).
Now John does a lot of teaching about this theme in his whole gospel. You saw it earlier in chapter 2 when people were coming to Christ, and it says that Christ did not entrust himself to them, because he knew what was in the heart of all men. That’s an interesting verse, isn’t it?
Sometimes we think that if someone just says a formula, that they’re automatically destined for heaven. Some people say that they want to commit to Christ but don’t actually mean it or don’t actually come on his terms. He says, repent of your sins, lay down your life, take up your cross; and they might think, well I just want him for the good stuff; I don’t want the hard stuff.
So in chapter 2, people are coming, and he knows not all of them are actually coming to him. Chapter 6—his disciples are starting to walk away. In chapter 6 it says his disciples were starting to turn and walk away. And John points out one in particular—Judas, who John says did not believe in him. Judas did not believe.
So Jesus looks at those disciples and sees them going away, and he turns to the ones actually staying with him and says, do you want to stay? Who do you say that I am? So there’s this falling away of people who were not truly united to him, who did not abide in him, who did not stay with him, remain with him.
And yes, our Christian life is covered and cared for and secure in Christ. We sing songs around here like “He Will Hold Me Fast.” And we preach about the security of the believer. But Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit does not reveal that you are secure in salvation so that you can just do whatever you want. He expects that believers would persevere. He exhorts us to persevere, obey, abide, remain, stay, dwell.
So both are true. The believer has security, and the believer perseveres. Some people have called that doctrine actually not the perseverance of the saints, but the perseverance of the Holy Spirit in the saints.
So this is saying that people who do not bear fruit are actually the ones who do not abide, and if they do not abide they’re not connected to Christ, and so therefore they are judged.
Now I gave you a spiritual definition of abide, and if this is your first time kind of jumping into this series here, it’s important to know what abide means. So the literal term is stay, remain, dwell. The spiritual idea of that is this: We abide in Christ when his word abides in us and we obey it out of love to him, and you see that played out all throughout verses 1 through 11. We’ll get to the others next week, Lord willing, but the idea is we abide in Christ when his word abides in us and when we obey it out of love to him.
Now notice, “If anyone does not abide in me,” so this person is not taking in the word, does not want to obey it out of love for Christ, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch.” That’s not a positive thing. That’s not a commendation. That’s a warning.
He’s thrown away like a branch and withers. There’s no life in something that withers, right? They’re dying. They’re doing the opposite of producing fruit. “[H]e is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered [these worthless, withering branches are gathered], thrown into the fire, and burned.”
This is divine judgment for people who maybe once said they were in Christ but were never truly connected to him and no longer bear fruit. In fact, even the fruit that looked like something at the beginning was not truly acceptable to Christ. This is the teaching of the whole gospel of John as you follow this theme throughout.
And as you’re going through this difficult teaching, there’s one person that comes to mind whenever these passages are read. Who is it? Judas. This was Judas. Started looking like a follower, might have actually followed with his feet but not with his heart. That’s why, again, back in John 6 it says he didn’t believe. It doesn’t say in John 13 when he went out, he now no longer believes. It says in John 6 that he didn’t believe. So Judas is the picture here.
Now notice these branches. They’re gathered together, thrown away. They’re branches that wither. William Barclay, the Bible teacher, talks about how in the Jewish culture you know they had a number of sacrifices. Well what do you need for a burnt offering? Well, you actually need wood sometimes, don’t you? Think of all the sacrifices they had to bring to the temple, festival after festival after festival. At some point, the priests are gonna say, we need more wood.
So they would have the people bring wood occasionally at different points of the year, as a sacrifice in itself, bring wood for the offerings. And if people brought little branches, little worthless things, they would gather them together right away and be done with them. They weren’t helpful. We need substantial wood.
And so he’s talking about this idea. People would have known what Jesus was saying when he says, “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.” They knew those branches.
Have you ever been camping with little kids? Okay, we’re gonna go collect firewood, and you’ve got a view of what firewood means in your mind. I mean, logs and…big. And they come, bless their hearts, with pine needles. That’s not gonna do anything. Maybe serve as kindling to maybe get the larger pieces of wood lit, but you’re not gonna cook on a fire that is being maintained by pine branches, and if you are, I’m not eating your food.
But this is the idea. These worthless, not worth anything branches are thrown away into the fire. Branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. Notice what the branch is a word picture for. The branch is a word picture of a person. “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers.” Jesus is talking about people.
Now in our culture of everybody is valuable and perfect—and by the way that is true, not the fact that they’re perfect, but that they’re valuable. Everyone’s created in the image of God. Everyone’s valuable in that sense. But as far as pleasing the Lord, there are many people who are not valuable to the Lord in that sense. They don’t do the things he wants to be done. They live a life for their own desires, for their own good as opposed to for his will.
This is talking about fruitless people. Now, the Bible regularly speaks of the worthlessness of fruitless branches. Remember when Jesus walked by a fig tree that wasn’t producing figs? He didn’t say, hang in there buddy; you’re still beautiful. He cursed it! No, a tree is there to produce something, and if it’s not producing something, it’s judged. Jesus tells parables of worthless servants who don’t work for the master being thrown into outer darkness.
Listen to Titus 1:16 talking about professing believers who actually are not in Christ. Speaking of false professors, Titus 1:16 says this: “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (NASB).
Trace the word worthless through the Bible. Trace it through the New Testament. This is not a sermon you typically will hear on a Sunday morning, that there are people worthless in the eyes of God. This is a biblical term.
Let me tell you why this is true from a historic standpoint. God created men and women to worship him. Adam and Eve—you know them. Genesis 1, Genesis 2, Genesis 3. The Creator of the world is creating, and the pinnacle of his creation is man and woman. And he tells them, be fruitful and multiple. This is before the curse. So he tells them to do things for him, manage his creation, work his creation, do things, produce. What did Adam and Eve do? They sinned.
Remember the Westminster Catechism? What is the chief end of man? That’s a good question, right? What are we all doing here? What should be important to us? Now, if you go ask anyone on the street, what’s your chief goal, they might give you a business they want to run or a number of houses they want to have by the time they die or whatever it may be. But what is the chief end of man according to the Bible? Glorify God and enjoy him forever.
You know where people glorified God and enjoyed him forever? In the garden of Eden before the curse. Doing what he said to do and enjoying him. The sweet relationship where they’re producing and naming the animals and ruling his creation like he said. Well, they were doing that, and then they sinned. And when they sinned, they gave all of us, all of their children, a gift. Sin natures. Born with sin.
That’s why the Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We come out imperfect. Look at a little toddler. Pinch and hit and bite. And you scratch your head going, I never taught him that. It’s inside. It’s inside.
So man and woman sinned, passed on sin to their children, but God is such a gracious God, is he not? God is a savior by nature. And God saves, and he didn’t just send a plan down. He didn’t send a ladder down saying, climb up to me. If you get to me, then maybe I’ll rethink this whole judging you thing.
He sent his only beloved Son to earth to be the substitute, to be the second Adam, the second Adam who would live a perfectly righteous life and give that righteousness to people who had faith in him. We don’t deserve that. God graciously gave his Son as a gift of righteousness to us.
We have sin. That exchange—he gave us righteousness, took our sin—that’s what he did on the cross. He rose again showing that he actually can do that; he has the power over sin and death. And he calls all men everywhere, Acts says, to repent and believe. Turn from your sin; believe in that message, believe in that Christ, and you’ll be right with God.
So now, what does this have to do with bearing fruit? Remember what Adam and Eve were supposed to do. Live for the glory of God. Do what he said. Bear fruit. Rule this creation. Be righteous.
We are not righteous in and of ourselves. We sin. We go our own way. All we like sheep have gone away; each of us has gone his own separate way. We all want to do what we want to do. We don’t want the cords of God, in the words of Psalm 2. We don’t want the cords of Jesus. We don’t want the cords of the Bible around us. We break free from this and go my own way.
Well now, we’ve been changed as believers. No, I recognize that I didn’t want to go God’s way. I recognize my sin. I repent and I trust in him, and what does he do? Remember I said this earlier. What does he do in the heart of someone that comes to him? Changes it. Changes it. That’s why Jesus said in John 3, he told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). You need a new heart.
So he changes the heart. Now what do you think is going to happen in the life of a person with a new heart? Do you think they’re gonna live the way they once lived and not care? No! They’ve got a new heart—I want to live for him. I want to live for his glory. I want to obey him because I love him.
This is what God expects of someone who says they’re a believer. You say you’re a believer; that means you say you’ve got a new heart, so we should see the results of that new heart. That’s why someone who doesn’t bear fruit is judged, because they don’t have a new heart. They’re not united to Christ.
So that’s why it’s so important to bear fruit. Christians exist—listen to this—Christians exist to bear fruit, not just to escape hell. I think sometimes in our evangelism we teach people, just come to Christ so that you won’t suffer eternity in hell. End of story. No, beginning of story. You won’t suffer eternity in hell, and you’ll be given a new heart to produce for him, to glorify him, to obey for him, to love for him, to have joy for him, to show him off to the world.
That’s what Christians are consumed with—not just, oh, I came to Christ; I’m not going to hell. Phew! I’m just waiting for heaven. I’ll just be sitting over here watching baseball until I go to heaven. No, produce! Bear fruit for him! Glorify him, because we can now! That’s what he’s teaching. He wants fruit from the people whom he’s changed from the inside out to bear fruit.
Merrill Tenney, another commentator, said this: “An absolutely fruitless life is evidence that one is not a believer.” Jesus left no place among his followers for fruitless disciples. No place.
The fruitless one that looked like a disciple has left the building at this point in John 15. He’s gone. He didn’t bear fruit. He’s left. Now he’s telling his disciples, bear fruit.
Matthew 13. You’ve heard of the parable of the soils, right? Parable of the soils—the word is spread out among people, and the word falls on different kinds of soils. Those soils are people’s hearts. Jesus explains the parable in Matthew 13:18-23. I want you to listen to these words:
Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy [these people look like Christians immediately; they receive the word], yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
This is Judas. Hears the word, appears to be in Christ, but what happens? The cares of this world come into Judas. The deceitfulness of riches—we actually know that Judas was deceived by riches—they “choke out the word, and it proves unfruitful.”
“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one hears the word”—remember abide, right? Take in the word. Think abide here. “[T]his is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed”—this is a different gospel writer, different disciple. Listen to what he says. “He indeed [he definitely] bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” We’ll bear fruit at different levels.
But Matthew is saying, the one who hears the word and takes it in and is not deceived by riches, is not deceived by the cares of the world, that one indeed bears fruit. John says, bears much fruit. Production of fruit is the evidence of one who is abiding in Christ, and this abiding is lasting, enduring, and persevering.
Now John 15. As John goes through this—now remember, at this point in John 15 the disciples didn’t know that Judas was the betrayer. They thought Judas was going to buy something for the poor, to buy something that they needed. They didn’t know why Judas left. But the reader of the gospel of John knows Judas’ fate, don’t we? We know Judas. And so even as John’s writing to us about this, we understand he’s talking about Judas here.
Now the question I ask is, I’ve begun in Christ; I’ve repented of sin and trusted in Christ; Judas was so close to Christ; how do I not become a Judas? Isn’t that the question?
Well, the Lord’s telling us in this passage how not to become a Judas. Abide. Stay connected to him. How? We’ve said it. Take in the word. As soon as you start to be less than enthused about this, be careful. Be careful.
If you’re visiting, go to a church that preaches the word. Go to Bible studies that proclaim the word. Read the word yourself. Pray the word. Know the word. Study the word. Why? Because you’re gonna be quizzed one day? No. Because you want to know who God is and what he teaches because you love him.
How do you not become a Judas? Take in the word. And, what we said earlier, not just for information, but take in the word so that you’ll obey it. See the disciples. Were the disciples perfect? Noooo. No way. But they wanted to please Christ, didn’t they?
Peter had weak moments. We’ll see one later on in John’s gospel. But then at the end of John’s gospel, he’s so emotional over the fact that Christ keeps asking, do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? Lord, you know I love you! That’s the heart of a believer who sins, which is every believer. We’re pained over our sin. Judas, deceived by the riches—gone. Believers are pained over their sin, so we take in the word, seek to obey it, seek to obey it because we love Christ. There’s affection here.
Remember what Matthew 13 said about that third soil? Listen to Matthew 13:22: “As for what was sown among the thorns [this is the Judas soil], this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”
This is one, as Edwards would say, who has no affection for Christ. They might outwardly look like something, but there’s no affection for Christ. Affection for Christ is so important. That is what defines a Christian, someone who loves to please Christ, wants him glorified, not just someone who goes through the church motions. There’s a huge difference there.
Judas went through the motions. Peter had affection for Christ. Both of them sinned. Peter had affection for Christ which brought him back to Christ. He wanted Christ above all things. Judas wanted money above all things, comfort above all things.
People who appear to be in Christ and then leave don’t just leave. They leave him for something else that they prefer over him. People who appear to be in Christ and then leave don’t just leave. They leave Christ for something or someone that they treasure over him.
In our panorama of fruit bearing, we’ve learned what happens to non-fruit-bearing branches, and it’s painful. We were praying even just this morning that if there are some of you wavering in your affection for Christ or not caring about the word, that the Lord would grip your heart and you would see the warning to the disciples about a Judas.
And maybe the best prayer if you feel your heart not caring about his word, not caring about his glory, caring about you more than him, maybe the prayer is, Lord, change my heart. As the psalmist says, “Tune my heart to sing your praise.” Do something to my heart. I want to receive the word. I want to be the fourth soil. I want to respond to you because I love you, and I want to obey you because I love you. I want to take in your word because I love you. I want to know you because I love you. That’s the prayer.
6. Christians Indwelt by the Word Will Experience Answered Prayer
Well, we’ve been given a difficult warning, a difficult reality. In point number six, Jesus gives encouragement to the disciples. We see this in verse 7: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
If I asked for a show of hands, how many of you believe that verse, I think every hand would go up. But if I asked, how many of you actually in your heart believe that all the time, maybe some of our hands would go down sometimes.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Wow. “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” He sounds like a genie, almost. “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Whatever? Whatever. It will be done? It will be done.
Now he gives the conditions in the verse, doesn’t he? He gives the two conditions. The verse doesn’t say, ask whatever you wish and it’ll be done for you. There are some words before that, aren’t there? “If you abide in me”—there’s the first condition—“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you.”
The first condition—you’ve got to be a Christian. God does answer the prayers of unbelievers sometimes, especially the prayer that cries out to him for mercy and comes to him in the gospel, but God does sometimes answer the prayers of unbelievers. But he’s not obligated to. He tells believers he will answer their prayer. The psalmist says that he bends his ear to hear. He wants to hear.
I remember coming home from college on a break and my dad asking if I needed anything, needed any money, and I was like, no, I’m fine. And he told me, I want you to ask me when you need it. Now my dad’s not a man of great means. But it’s interesting. He wanted me to ask him. He wanted me to ask him so that he would give because he loves me.
This is the same idea for the New Testament believer. God wants his children to ask him for things. Ask me; I’ll give it. Ask me; I’ll give it. James—you don’t have because you don’t ask. The first condition—you’ve got to be a Christian.
Second condition: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish.” Even the immature Christian who may not know much of the word still has a relationship where the Lord wants to answer prayer, but the more you know the word, understand the heart of God, the more you pray for the heart of God. You pray for what God wants. And when you do that, that’s when he answers.
I think sometimes we have unanswered prayer because we’re praying what our heart wants that might not always be what his heart desires. And so we have a hard time maybe believing this. Well, I prayed for that Lamborghini, but no Lamborghini; I’m having a hard time with this verse.
If you abide in me and my words in you. And my words in you. And my words in you. If you abide in me, and you have my word coming into you, what will come into your mind when the word of Christ comes into your mind? Well, what will come into your mind is what he wants, what he wants for the world, what he wants for you, what he wants for your family. Those things will come into your mind. You’ll know his view of things, not just your view of things. That’s when you pray for his will to be done, and he answers.
Let me give you a real practical example. Have you ever had issues with your insurance company and you’ve had to be on the phone for a while? Okay, got it. You know what I’m talking about. Yes. Maybe you’ve moved here or somewhere else, and you prefer one primary care physician, but you’re assigned another one. Maybe you’ve been through that before.
You can say, well based on this, I’m gonna pray that I get Dr. Jones, the one I want, and God’s going to answer; I know I’m going to have Dr. Jones. And the insurance company calls back and says, no, you’ve got Dr. Richardson. The Bible is wrong. Is that your conclusion? No.
The Bible has never revealed to you that you will have Dr. Jones. Jesus has never promised that to you. And so I think sometimes people are over confident in what the Bible has not revealed. I know he’s gonna answer this prayer. Well, how do you know? That’s not revealed.
If you pray this: Lord, I prefer Dr. Jones over Dr. Richardson, but I know this, you care for your own. I know this, you don’t want me to be anxious. I know this, you’ve told me to look at the flowers and see how beautiful they are, and you ask me to look at the flowers and see how beautiful they are because you tell me that you will clothe me because you care about me more than the flowers. You’ve told me to look at the birds and to see that they have food and that I am more valuable than the birds of the air to you. I know that you will give me what’s best for me, and if I get Dr. Richardson and he blows it and puts a needle in the wrong place and I go home to be with you, I am with you and I am cared for.
That’s kind of a facetious way of saying it. But listen, brothers and sisters, that’s reality. The prayer is, Lord, here’s what I prefer. It’s not revealed that I’ll get Dr. Jones, but I am asking that you would care for me. You know what he’s gonna do? Care for you.
He tells believers over and over again that they are cared for by the Father, secured in the Son. You need food? Pray for food. He promises it.
The problem is when we start praying for the things that we want beyond what he’s told us that he’ll give us. Lord, I need food today. A nice lobster bisque would be good with some sourdough bread. And he doesn’t provide the lobster bisque or sourdough bread, and you think, see, the Bible’s not true. He promised food.
Remember the Israelites in the wilderness? They needed food. They got manna for a long time. Was God caring for them? Yes. Did they appreciate it? No.
Pray the Bible. Pray for what he’s promised, and he will give it. Be careful of praying beyond what he’s promised. You can certainly pray that. Lord, I’m praying that I get Dr. Jones. No problem with that prayer. But you can’t be as confident in that prayer as, Lord, would you care for me here? Lord would you keep my heart from anxiety as I think through maybe not getting Dr. Jones? Would you help me, Lord? If tomorrow I get the call and it’s Dr. Richardson, would you help me be at peace with that? Would you give me patience? Would you give me trust in you? Pray those prayers. Those are the ones where he reveals truth, his will.
Got two examples here. A positive example. Matthew 6:9-13. Jesus teaching his disciples to pray, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: [now notice this prayer] ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’” (Matthew 6:7-10).
The beginning of the believer’s prayer that the Lord wants us to pray is, Lord, this is about you. How many of our prayers start like that? Lord, I need me some Dr. Jones. And that’s where we start. Lord, do whatever makes your name great. That’s the start of the Lord’s prayer that he commends for us, his disciples.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread [give me what I need], and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
How many of our prayers actually look like that? A lot of times we just bring the wish list. And the wish list is for our wishes, not his. Let’s pray his wishes and what he wants and he desires, and line our hearts up with his, and see a bunch of answered prayer. Based on the word of God, I promise you that.
That’s a positive example. Pray the word. Pray what he wants. Pray in his name according to his will. How do you know that? Pray the Bible. Pray what’s revealed. I think a lot of times it would be good for us in small group and even individual prayers to simply pray the Scriptures back to God. If you do that more than just give your wish list, I promise you more answered prayer than when we just start with our own desires as opposed to his.
Here’s a negative example of this. James 4:3. I quoted earlier, you have not because you ask not, but then James goes on and says, “You ask and do not receive”—why? Doesn’t that seem to contradict John 15:7? He says, ask anything and you’ll receive it! Well, ask anything as my word abides in you. Earlier on, John 14, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14).
So there’s these confident promises in 14 and 15, but then James says, you ask and you don’t get. Why? What’s the disconnection? Well, John 14, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 15:7: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
We’ve got to know the mind of Christ, but guess what? Good news for you. The believer has the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16. We pray with the mind of Christ what he wants. When we start to ask and don’t receive, maybe it’s because we ask for what we want and not what he wants.
James 4:3: “You ask and do not receive”—why? Here’s the answer: “[B]ecause you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” There it is. A reason for unanswered prayer. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Maybe your passions are more money. Maybe your passions are comfort in this life that the Lord doesn’t promise. He promises it in the next. Maybe your passions are things that would keep you from asking what actually God would want you to ask.
So Jesus is leaving a promise here, but there are some conditions to that promise. But once those conditions are met—you’re in Christ; you want what he wants—ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. As you have the mind of God and you desire what God desires, you will express those desires in prayer.
Let me say it this way: The more you grow in your knowledge of the word of God and your desire to obey it for his glory, the more you will experience answered prayer. The more mature you become in knowing who God is and what he desires and the more you pray about those things, the more answered prayer.
When you just pray your own desires, your own will, the Lord’s not obligated to answer any of those things. Lord, give me Dr. Jones, a second car, a third home, a fifth yacht, and based on your word. Well, that’s not what his word says. Ask according to his heart, his desires, what he desires, what he wants, what he promises. Ask that way.
If he saves us from his wrath, gives us a new heart, and is concerned about our fruit bearing—and those things are all true—doesn’t it make sense that as we desire what he desires, that he would answer us? Think about that. He has saved us from wrath, given us a new heart, said, go bear fruit, and then said, go pray and I’ll give. He doesn’t just say, I’ve saved you from hell, I’ve given you a new heart, and now you’re on your own. He doesn’t do that. He gives his believers the power of answered prayer when we pray in his name according to his will.
He wants us to understand this promise because of what’s coming. Now he’s telling his disciples these things about answered prayer because of what’s coming. You know what he’s gonna say in just a few more breaths to them? These words: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Go get ‘em, guys.
This is at the end of Jesus’ discourse right before he’s going to leave them. And he says, guys, if you were of the world, they’d love you. You’re not of the world because I chose you out of the world. They’re gonna hate you. Isn’t it good to know that when the world opposes us, we can ask our Father for what we need and for what he promises, and he’ll answer? That’s the context of this. Prayer in the context of being in a battle. This is bigger than just, give me Dr. Jones. This is bigger than that. They were about to take on the world, and they better have confidence in answered prayer.
Some of you have heard of Bloody Mary—not the drink, the person. Bloody Mary ruled for 5 years, Roman Catholic ruler of England, who killed 280 religious dissenters from Roman Catholicism, had them burned to the stake—280 people she executed in 5 years. You know what Bloody Mary said about John Knox, the Scottish reformer, the Scottish protestant? She said this about John Knox: She feared the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of England.
Of course she did. The armies of England are human armies. The Lord of hosts, the Lord of armies, is the God of John Knox. She feared his… leadership? She feared his… preaching? She feared his good works more than all the armies of England? No. She feared his prayers more than all the armies of England. At least in that sense she was thinking rightly.
What if we prayed the will of God? What if Canyon Bible Church of Prescott prayed the will of God? What if we prayed the will of God? What if we prayed the mind of God? What if we prayed what God wants? What if? I suggest we try it. What if?
Let the Scriptures govern your prayers in order to pray the will of God. Pray according to the mind of Christ; pray according to what he desires. And pray with confidence as you grow in understanding of who God is and what he desires.
We’re plugging our way along here. It’s important for us to know deeply what Jesus is teaching as he calls us to bear fruit and abide in him. This morning we’ve learned false professors do not bear fruit and are judged. We’ve also learned that Christians indwelt by the word will experience answered prayer.
So what I want to do in closing is I’m going to ask you to look down at your Bibles, and I’m gonna pray. Yes, you can keep your eyes open when you pray. It’s okay. The kids in the room are thinking that’s too good to be true.
I want to simply pray for us verse 6 and 7. I think that would be appropriate. I’ll read each verse and then pray it.
“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.”
Father, we’re coming to you as a body, and we’re asking, keep us from walking away. Keep us from maybe starting out without a heart affection for you and not continuing. Lord, cause us to abide in you. Let us love your word. Let us love to obey it. Let us love it and to obey it because we love you.
Lord, we want to look more like Peter than Judas. When we sin, we want to be broken over it and hear what you have to say. We want to come back to you. We want to stay in your love. Remind us of your love, Father.
Lord, allow us to persevere, to remain through trials. There’s persecution, trials, temptations, deceitfulness of riches. Lord, show us the emptiness of all of those things and keep us desiring you.
And Lord, we also pray verse 7. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Father, as we hear your word, take it in, seek to obey it out of love for you, Lord, give us more answered prayer. Let us pray—maybe some of us, Father, let us pray differently, pray for things that we don’t normally pray for that reflect your heart. Maybe some of our prayers and many of our prayers are all for our own comfort and ease. Father, make Canyon Bible Church of Prescott a church that prays the Bible, prays for your heart and your will. Make what you want—and this is a bold one, Father—make what you want exactly what we want. And I think we’ll be a lot different, Lord. I know I will. Make what you want what we want.
And then Father, give us the joy of answered prayer. I’m asking, Father, in days and weeks and months and years to come, that we would be amazed by the amount of answered prayer that we have because we’re focusing it on what you desire.
Lord, we come together as a local body, a humble group, asking you that as we go out into the world, that you would be near us, that we would abide in you, that you would hear us as we pray, and receive glory from our lives. It’s in your Son’s name that we pray. Amen.
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