John 15:1-11 | Abiding in Christ Part 4 | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 15:1–11
I’d ask you to turn in your Bibles to John 15. We have taken the first eleven verses of John 15 in four parts to try to say as much as we could about them, so that we would know exactly what our Lord is teaching. John 15:1-11. We entitled this series “Abiding in Christ,” this series of eleven verses; and today we come to part four and the final message, most likely. Lord willing, but we’ll see. John 15:1-11, please follow along as I read. Jesus, speaking to his disciples, says this:
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.
I’ve been mentioning in each of the previous three messages that this is Jesus teaching on how to bear fruit to the glory of the Father. You bear fruit by abiding in Christ, remaining with him, trusting in his word, doing what he says out of love to him. So that’s really the definition we have given to abide. You stay in Christ by receiving his word, obeying it, not out of rote duty, but obeying it out of love to him. When you do that, you are in him, close to him, enjoying fellowship with him. And that, as we learn in verse 8, brings glory to the Father.
And so we’ve been looking at this whole teaching on what it means to abide in Christ, what it means to bear fruit for Christ. And Jesus, as we’ve said, is going to a vineyard, to give us the word picture; and it’s as if we’re looking out over the vineyard and he’s teaching us different things about different aspects of abiding in Christ.
We’ve said this before. It’s as if Jesus our Lord is showing us different aspects of what it means to abide; and he shows us first the true vine, Jesus himself, the one with the power, the source of energy, the source of life. And he shows us the Father, the vinedresser, looking over his field, looking for fruit in all the vines, which we are.
And then you notice some vines that don’t actually bear fruit, or I should say the branches that don’t bear fruit. You notice some branches that don’t bear fruit; and they’re kind of gathered on the ground not doing anything. They’re actually taking up space. They’re worthless, and those are professors of Christ who have no actual abiding in him, no relation to him. They do not bear fruit, so the Father takes those away and burns those, the passage says.
The Lord teaches us about prayer. If he wants us to abide in him, stay in him, and produce fruit, a big part of that fruit production will be in how we pray for fruit, how we ask him for fruit. He doesn’t just say, I’m the source of strength. I give you my word, but then you’re on your own. No, I give you my word. Ask me for spiritual strength. Ask me to obey, and I will answer it. So the Lord’s teaching us a lot as we look over this vineyard.
I remember going to Oakdale, California when I was a young boy. Anybody heard of Oakdale, California? Okay, some of you. I don’t know how, but some of you have heard of it. Oakdale, California used to be the home of a Hershey plant. Hershey chocolate. And you would actually drive in to Oakdale; and after you went past the dairies and smelled the smell, you would come near to the Hershey factory and smell a much more pleasant smell of chocolate. You actually smelled it before you got there.
We went there on a field trip one day, and I’ll never forget them taking us to a room on the second floor and these huge windows. We looked out and we saw how a Hershey bar was made from beginning to end. Well, not truly the beginning. Not with the cow and everything. But once the materials got to the factory, Hershey bar from beginning to end. You could see all different parts of the production process. Different people involved, different buttons, different machines. And I don’t remember much about that trip other than that one room.
I’m a big picture guy. I like to see things start to finish, know the whole scope of something. Well, Jesus is giving us the whole scope of what it means to abide in him. That’s why we’ve taken it very slowly, and we’re walking through it in a methodical fashion in order to get all that he’s saying.
So this morning we come to the final three of our nine points in our series. The final three of our nine points, and here’s point number one for today, but really seven in the whole series. We’ll look at points seven, eight, and nine.
7. The Father is Glorified When We Follow the Son in Fruit Bearing
Number seven, the Father is glorified when we follow the Son in fruit bearing. You see that in verse 8. The Father is made much of when we live like the Son and make much of him, when we follow him, when we are like him. God the Father has an interest in that. It’s not that God the Father saves us and then he kind of hangs out in heaven on a recliner, and we just kind of follow Jesus.
No, the Father is paying very careful attention to what we are doing as we follow Christ, obey him, be like him; and the Father is glorified when we follow him and are like his Son. So verse 8, Jesus says this: “By this [our fruit bearing] my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” A person who bears much fruit shows that they’re actually his disciple.
What’s the opposite of that reality? A person who does not bear fruit shows that he is not a disciple. We’ve seen that earlier on in the text. So Jesus is saying, my Father is glorified that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
Now, the word glorified means that God is made much of. He is seen as glorious. He is made famous. He is shown to be valuable. That’s the idea. So the Father is shown and seen by the world and those who know his disciples (us)—the Father is seen to be glorious. Why would that be the case? Because they knew us before we were in Christ. They knew how selfish we were, impatient, prideful, angry, whatever it may be.
And when the Father and the Son and the Spirit work in the heart of a believer to bring them to Christ and to regenerate their heart, they actually become different people, not better people than they once were—different people. The old man has died, the new man has come. Different people. So the only explanation for that isn’t, oh, man, Hank, you must have read a good self-help book. No, the only explanation is God changed my heart. He can raise a dead heart to life.
So that’s why the Father is glorified when we look like Christ because we didn’t come out looking like Christ. The Father is glorified, made much of, when we bear fruit. It shows him off. He says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” Why would this really matter? I mean, Jesus is there to bear fruit. Jesus is there to save the world. Jesus is there to heal people, to do good works. I mean, why isn’t the Father just glorified in that and kind of okay with that?
Well, because remember Jesus is saying that he’s physically leaving and going back to heaven. So in a sense there’s no more Jesus that people can see other than in us. That’s why Jesus says I’ll leave my Spirit, the helper. I’ll leave another teacher for you, another of the same kind, another member of the Trinity. I’ll leave my Spirit in you, and you will be my witnesses. You will be the ones who are Christlike. We are the expression of Jesus in the world today. That’s a lot of responsibility, isn’t it?
And the Father is glorified when we bear much fruit and look like his Son. That’s what he’s saying here. The Father is to receive glory from our fruit bearing, and the more we bear fruit, the more glory he receives. Now don’t buy this crazy idea that once you’re saved, it doesn’t really matter what you do; you’re forgiven. Well, in a salvation sense that’s true. We’re saved not by our own good works, not by our own merit, but by the merit of Jesus Christ. We’re saved, we’re secure, we’re going to heaven. But that doesn’t mean you don’t care about how you live.
This verse is the reason why. “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” If a Christian has their heart changed and once they went their own way, in the words of Isaiah 53, once they as a sheep went their own way, but now are seeking to walk in the way of Christ and to glorify him. A Christian by nature wants God to be glorified. A Christian wants God to be glorified with their life.
We’ll sing the song at the end of the service this morning, “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee. Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.” A true Christian sings that because they want their life to please the Lord, to glorify the Lord. Do you resonate with what I’m saying anybody? Yes! Okay, good. We’re not just saved from hell, and okay, it doesn’t matter now. I can kind of do whatever I want. No, a Christian has been changed from the inside out. We want to glorify the Lord, and Jesus is teaching us just that. The Father is glorified when we bear much fruit.
I’ve said this—I think a couple years ago I used this illustration in a message. I teach this message to students a lot. When you wake up in the morning, you think about you have the goal of ascribing glory to God. Now, there are two aspects of God’s glory. One aspect is his intrinsic glory—just who he is. You can’t add to him. You can’t make him more loving, more holy, more unchangeable. You can’t add to who he is—his intrinsic glory.
But the Bible calls us, on the other hand, to ascribe glory to God, to make more and more of him, to show him off more and more. And so the believer is concerned with ascribing glory to God. I want to make him famous in my life, make much of him, show him off to people. So I tell people, give people kind of this word picture. When you wake up in the morning, you’ve got thousands of opportunities to ascribe glory to God; and let’s just say they’re in little containers, little Tupperware.
So you wake up in the morning and you walk out in the kitchen and you’re not a morning person; but your wife says, good morning, honey, how are you? And you [grunt]. Okay, you’ve just taken an opportunity to die to yourself, morning person—not morning person, to die to yourself and to be kind to your wife. But you’ve taken that opportunity to be selfish and to let her know, don’t talk to me because I exist for me right now. You’ve taken that opportunity to ascribe glory to God and to sacrifice to make much of her, to make much of God, to care for her, and you’ve taken it for yourself. One opportunity missed. Ascribing glory to self.
You get on the road and you go to work or wherever it may be, and you slander someone as you’re on the phone driving to work. You’ve just made much of yourself by showing that you are better than that person you’re slandering, and you’ve put them in a negative light to the person that you’re talking to. You’ve just taken glory and ascribed it to yourself.
But then you’re in the car and you’re convicted by that and you call your friend back. Listen, I shouldn’t have said that about him. Forgive me for that. There’s so much more in that person’s life to be grateful for. You’ve just ascribed glory to God. Only God can make you think like that. Only God can cause you to repent and confess and make little of yourself, humble yourself, confess your sin and show how good this other person actually might be or how thoughtful they might be. I was criticizing this about them, but look at what the Lord has done in their life. You’re ascribing glory to God in that moment.
So my point is, in all of life we have—every moment is an opportunity to ascribe glory to ourselves, make much of us, or to ascribe glory to him. And the believer wants to ascribe glory to God. You want as many Tupperwares at the end of your day going to God as an offering. A believer’s concerned with that, wants to live for him. “Lover of my soul, I want to live for you.” We just sang that. Our Lord tells us the Father is glorified when we bear much fruit for him.
Oftentimes the message of Christianity, the message of the Christian life seems to be God exists for you, when in reality the message of the Christian life is, the banner over our Christian life is, I exist for him. I exist for him. The Father is glorified when we bear much fruit and show him off.
I want you to turn to Philippians 2, if you will, to see this from somewhere else. Philippians 2, famous passage on Jesus’ incarnation and the work that he came to do. Philippians 2:1-2, Paul writes this to the Philippian Christians: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
And then Paul gives the church this command because evidently there was strife in this church. There were conflicts among people in the church, and Paul tells the Philippian Christians this: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (verse 3). That’s only a few words, but those are pretty big commands. He goes on: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (verses 4-5).
Now I want to show you what’s going to happen. Paul has just given us commands. Philippian Christians, who are at conflict with one another, who are at odds, who are maybe gossiping, who are maybe slandering, you view the other person as more important than you are. Don’t be conceited. Don’t be selfishly ambitious. Look out for the needs of others. Paul’s just told them that, and he doesn’t say, good day, off to write a letter to the Colossians. He doesn’t end it there. He connects it to the life of Jesus. Why?
Because as a Christian you are saying I am a little Christ. I’m a follower of Christ. What he looks like, I want to look like. “By this, my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” The Father is glorified when we actually look like Jesus. We respond to conflict like Jesus responded to conflict. We respond to all of our sin—our response is righteousness. We want to eradicate the sin and be righteous. We want to look like Christ.
And so Paul goes on to say, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus [we can be like this; we can be like Christ because we have it; we’re in him], who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (verses 5-8).
So just pause here. Paul is showing us, Philippian Christians, Christians at Canyon Prescott, I’m telling you not to be selfishly ambitious, not to be conceited, to look out for people’s interests more than your own. I’m telling you this, and I’m showing you how Jesus himself did it. That’s what he’s teaching here.
Verse 9: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth [and notice this], and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (verses 9-11). It’s not just that God the Father receives glory because Jesus lived the life he did, died the death he did, and saved us. The Father receives great glory from that. But the Father also receives glory when we live like his Son as Christians.
I would say based on this section of John 15, this should drive us, cause us, cause our hearts to want to obey for the glory of God. Now please do not gloss over that in your mind. Oh, yeah, I got it—obey for the glory of God. Let me ask you this, and I ask my own heart this: Why do you want to normally obey? Why do you normally want to obey in certain areas in the Christian life? Is it always honestly to glorify God?
Why do you want to stop overspending and to get out of debt? Well, so I can improve my credit and buy that house. That’s not a bad reason. It’s just not an ultimate reason. Well, I want to stop overspending so I have more money to buy gifts for my family. Not a bad reason, just not an ultimate reason. Well, I want to stop overspending because my spouse keeps telling me I’m overspending, and it’ll just get them off my back. Not a bad reason, but not an ultimate reason.
Let me ask you this: Where is God in all that? Nowhere. I just want to obey for me. Obey because it benefits me. New home, less nagging, whatever it may be. I want to obey because it helps me. By this my Father is glorified, when you bear much fruit and prove to be my disciples. We should want to obey to bring glory to God. Why would we want to stop overspending, stop spending money that we don’t actually have, going into debt for things that we don’t need to go into debt for. Why would we want to stop overspending?
What would that look like to stop overspending for the glory of God? Well, getting out of debt and ending the overspending cycle would show I might not have the latest this, that or the other that I normally used to buy on my credit card, but I have enough. I have all that God’s given me, and I’m satisfied in him. Yeah, but your home’s not as big as the other friends you went to high school with. But I’ve got Christ. I’ve got everything I need.
That is the context, by the way, of Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.” It’s talking about the financial provision you either have or don’t have. I can live with this amount of money a year or that amount of money. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Desire to get out of debt and to stop overspending should be desire aimed at the glory of God, to make much of God, not just make our lives easier.
When we control our spending, it shows that our treasure is in heaven. It shows that we’re satisfied in him. How often do we complain about not having enough for this thing, that vacation, that this, or whatever it may be? But how about the Christian who says, I have all I need, and if the Lord gives me more, he gives me more. If he takes more away, he takes more away. I have all I need. Make much of him.
And you know who we look like when we do that? Jesus. Jesus was not wealthy. He had enough. His food was to do the will of the Father. That’s what fired him up. Not in having a second home on the Sea of Galilee.
So why do you want to obey? Whether it’s spending habits, the time that you use or waste, what you do with your computer, what you do with relationships. Why want to obey? For the glory of the Father. Think about every act of obedience and try to say, what does this look like to do this for the glory of God? Not just my own ease. The Father is glorified when we look like his Son because the Son had his heart set on glorifying the Father.
8. Christians Abide in Christ’s Love by Obedience
Point number eight: Christians abide in Christ’s love by obedience. You see this in verses 9 and 10. Jesus is showing us how he wants us to abide in him, remain in him, be with him, be connected to him. And it’s the same way, by the way, that he abides in the Father. The same way that we connect with Jesus is the same way Jesus connected in a sense to the Father. What is that way? By lovingly obeying.
Verse 9: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” So you see what Jesus is doing here? He’s telling the disciples, he’s telling all of us, Jesus is speaking to all of us saying, just as the Father has loved me, and we know that was an amazing love, right? Just as the Father has loved me, I love you. And that is very, very comforting to the believer. And then he says this: remain in my love, stay near my love, stay in my love, abide in my love. And we logically ask the question, how do we stay in his love? How?
By going to church? By just thinking warm, fuzzy thoughts? How do we stay in the love of Jesus? I’m glad you asked. He answers. Verse 10: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide [or remain or stay] in my love.” You see the answer here? How do we stay in the love of Jesus? The same love that the Father has for the Son, the Son has for us; and he tells us stay in that love. How do we stay in that love?
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. Just as, and then he gives another trinitarian example, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. So, get the picture? Jesus is saying just as the Father has loved me. He’s cared for me every step of the way, even when he’s brought me through trials, he gives me strength, and he sees me through. That’s the same way I love you, disciples. Same way. Stay in my love. You’ll stay in my love if you obey what I tell you.
And then he says this: just like obey what my Father tells me. Jesus is telling us that our obedience should look like his obedience to the Father. Is our attitude the same attitude in obeying Jesus as his was in obeying his Father? Do you think God the Father ever gave Jesus a command and he went like this: [heavy sigh] okay. No. So, should we ever come across a passage and go [heavy sigh]? No. Not because the preacher’s telling you that today, but because the Preacher is telling you that today—capital P.
Jesus is saying your obedience should look like my obedience to the Father. Your obedience to me should look like my obedience to the Father. That’s a tall order but it’s what Jesus commands. If you keep my commandments, you abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
Now, listen, Jesus is prizing, prizing obedience. Obedience is kind of like 1980s fashion. It’s just not really in style today. Obedience isn’t really in style today. Next Easter look at the ads in the newspaper trying to get people to come to church, including our own, admittedly. How are we trying to draw people in? Comfortable, relaxing, non-threatening, coffee bar, whatever it may be. What if you open your paper next—sorry, kids, it’s a black and white thing that used to have news stories in it. It’s actually a tangible thing you could read, take the rubber band off. What if you open your newspaper next Easter and you read this from a church? We desire to help you obey the Lord better.
I’d guess that was probably the only church that had that type of ad. My point is, it’s not a common thing to prize obedience. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa … legalism. No, no, no … the Christian life. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. I would say this: The Christian that’s not obeying or not prizing obedience isn’t finding him or herself in the love of Christ like they should. They’re losing out on some relationship there.
You remember what Matthew 28 said? Jesus—we did this series the first—our first series in our church. Jesus is launching his disciples out into the world as he’s going to leave, and he gives them commands for what to do. And we started our church off with that series because we said we just want to know what he wants us to do as we’re out in the world representing him. Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and once they’re Christians, okay? This is where this comes in. Once they’re Christians, after you’ve baptized them, Jesus says this: And teach them to obey all I’ve commanded you.
You could say in a sense that the last message for the church of God was to obey all that Jesus has told them. Obedience is important to Jesus for the Christian. Jesus prizes obedience; and he not only prizes it, he says if you obey, you’re staying in my love. Consequently, if you’re not obeying, you’re not staying in my love. Jesus tells us that just like he obeyed the Father, he wants us to obey him. Same attitude Jesus had in obeying the Father is the same attitude Jesus wants us to have in obeying him. Same heart attitude.
Listen to Psalm 119:97. This is the heart attitude we want. “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Consider Christ’s obedience. We do know that it was difficult. We’re not saying it’s easy. Just go out there and be happy about obeying. It’s a piece of cake. We’re not saying that. Jesus’ obedience wasn’t easy. He didn’t roll his eyes. He didn’t do it with a bad attitude. He didn’t argue with the Father, and he obeyed to the point of death. That’s what our obedience to the word of God, to the word of Christ, should look like. Just like the Son’s to the Father.
I would encourage you to see obedience, see your Christlike obedience as your chief expression of love to Christ. See your Christlike obedience as your chief expression of love to Christ. I don’t know what you think of when you think of your chief expression of love to Christ is. It could be when you sing. When I sing, it’s the chief way I express love to him. When I memorize a Bible passage, it’s my chief expression of love to him. When I go to church, it’s my chief expression of love to him.
I would encourage you to think biblically about that and to make your obedience, your obedience because you love him, your chief expression of love to him. If you tell your kids make your bed, clean your room, and they say, you know what, I’m just going to draw you a little picture on this gum wrapper instead. Well, that’s sweet, but I actually want you to make your bed and clean your room. Make your obedience, what Christ has commanded, your chief expression of love to him.
Remember John 14:15? If you love me, you’ll obey my commandments. Very simple. Very simple. Now just to be pastoral here. What if there’s a difficult command to obey? What if I’m not all that jazzed about obeying all of Jesus’ commands? That’s a great question. Here’s some advice. First of all, know that this is a heart matter. This is a heart matter. Admit that to God. Don’t make it a matter of something outside of you.
Here’s my point. When the Lord gives us a command and you say I can’t obey that because of someone outside of me or something outside of me. Don’t view obedience that way. Just admit to the Lord, I’m not wanting to obey this because my heart isn’t in the right place. Start with just admitting that to him. And in that confession there is great forgiveness and also power to change.
I can’t forgive them because what they did to me was so bad. I’m not going to ask for a raise of hands for anyone who’s ever thought that because my hand would go up. I can’t forgive them because of what they’ve done against me. So, you’re choosing to take a passage like Ephesians 4:32 and to lay it aside, and in that sense reject what Christ has told you because someone’s really hurt you. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
And by the way, what we have done to Christ is far more than what she did to you. We can’t make excuses and get out from under obedience because we point to something outside of us saying, see, I can’t obey because of that. The Lord’s given us all we need in Christ Jesus to do all that he says.
Young people—I can’t obey my parents. They don’t know what I’m going through. I can’t obey my parents. They don’t know what it’s like to go to school under these conditions. They don’t know what my friends are like. I can’t obey my parents because X, Y, and Z. No, Colossians 3:20 simply says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
So what we often do is take our lack of obedience and point to a reason outside of us that we can’t obey. The real thing to do is take our lack of desired obedience and to say, Lord, change my heart. Change my heart. We often excuse our lack of obedience because of circumstances or because of our personality. Well, I’m just not wired that way. I have a discipler who used to say, then repent of your personality.
And when I say that, I wonder if some of you are thinking, well, your personality is what God has made you to be. He gave you that personality. Yes, and I’ll also remind you that every single thing in this world is corrupted by the fall. Everything. So we take our personality that is quiet and thoughtful and not loud and boisterous—that’s good—and then we turn it into a reason to not engage people and to be selfish and to not reach out and love people because we’re just a private person. You can take something good and turn it into something bad is my point.
Or you can be a people person, very kind to people, very outgoing and warm and friendly and kind. And you can just talk a lot and make people comfortable, and you can use that same mouth that talks a lot to talk a lot about things you shouldn’t be talking about. Repent of your personality. We oftentimes make excuses for obedience because, well, I’m just not wired that way. Well, let me say this, if the Lord’s given us a command, we should ask him to wire our hearts to obey it. He can change us.
We’re all in process. So, please, I say this as one of five elders who loves our church. We can’t be a church that gives reasons we don’t obey certain parts of the Scripture. We’ve got to be humble before him. Keep changing us, Lord. Keep changing us. Keep changing us. Make us like your Son.
This is pretty convicting, isn’t it? Aren’t you grateful that Jesus forgets sin? If you’ve been pierced by anything that our Lord has been saying or as I’ve taught and flushed out what he’s saying, if you’ve been pierced by that, (1) welcome to the club; (2) thank you, Jesus, for forgiving us when we don’t look like you. Thank you.
We have sure standing before God the Father, and we haven’t obeyed these verses even this week, but we are justified in his Son. We have the righteousness of his Son. Another reason to thank Jesus, by the way, is because he gives us new hearts. He doesn’t just forgive us and say, yeah, you’ve been really dodging those commands, but I forgive you. He gives us new hearts to want to obey him as we grow in Christ.
I just think—as I was going through these notes thinking, man, this is heavy. There’s a lot of conviction here to my own heart. Lord, thank you for dying for me. It’s a great comfort to know that we are secure in the love of Jesus as we seek to obey him and follow him.
9. Christians Who Abide Experience the Fullness of Joy
Number nine, finally, Christians who abide experience the fullness of joy. Christians who abide experience the fullness of joy. Verse 11: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Christ intends for his commands to produce the same fullness of joy that he had on earth as he obeyed the Father. Christ intends for the commands that he gives us to produce … grumpy obedience? No. Christ intends for his commands to produce in us the same joy that he had when he was on earth obeying the Father. That’s what he intends.
Now, I want to show in this one verse three realities of a Christian’s joy. So just some sub-points here. Three realities of a Christian’s joy. First, notice this, our joy comes from obeying Christ’s commands. He says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you.” So these things I’ve spoken are for your joy. So I’m showing that our joy comes from obeying Christ’s commands.
“These things” are the commands he’s been giving us. Bear fruit, ask me for anything, glorify my Father by bearing much fruit. All these commands that the Lord’s been giving his disciples, he’s saying these commands are going to be what gives you joy. And obviously he means the obedience to these commands is what gives you joy. Our joy comes from obeying Christ’s commands.
Number two, our joy is Jesus’ joy. These things I’ve spoken to you that my joy may be in you. I’m so glad that little tiny word “my” is in there. He doesn’t say, these things I’ve spoken to you that joy may be in you. Because I would be tempted to say back to him, yeah, I don’t feel very joyful. I can’t do this like you did it. You were perfect, perfectly submitted to the will of the Father. I can’t have the joy that you had, so you’re promising me joy, but it’s probably some lesser joy coming from somewhere else.
These things I’ve spoken to you that my joy may be in you. The same joy I had when I was going to the cross and knew why I was going, and that’s why I kept going, for the joy set before me. That same joy can be yours when you take up your little daily crosses. That’s what Jesus is saying. The same joy he has he’s giving to us.
Jesus had joy in the face of trials. Listen to Hebrews 12. Again, Hebrews 12 written as an exhortation to Christians to obey. But listen to what it says. Hebrews 12:1-3:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us [notice], looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy [there’s our word] that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
This is an example of the Bible assuming that the same joy Jesus had in going through trials is the same exact joy we can have when we go through trials. This said that Jesus pursued the cross with joy. Now, there’s a problem here. We know Jesus was burdened by going to the cross. Yes, he was burdened. The cross is right in front of his face. He’s burdened going to the cross, but there’s a greater joy beyond the cross.
That’s how we go through our trials. Well, I know I’ve gotta have this tough conversation. This person’s going to really give it to me, but I’m going to expect that, as I respond faithfully, the Lord is going to give me joy in this because I’m going to be like his Son. We see a trial and we see the joy that’s behind it and it makes the trial kind of look smaller because we see the backdrop of joy.
That’s how Jesus lived and Jesus is expecting that we would experience that same type of joy in our trials. Notice, joy is not given to the believer by an absence of trials, right? Man, if you go to the doctor and you get a clean bill of health, and no one in your family yells at you this week, and you aren’t persecuted for your faith, and all the tires stay perfectly, you know, inflated, and all of that, then you will have joy this week.
Well, then is there ever a week when we’re going to have joy? Joy is not based on circumstances. Joy is based on promises in the future, and we can go through trials just like Christ, knowing there’s a backdrop or a coming joy.
So Jesus is saying, these things I’ve spoken to you that my joy may be in you. My joy may be in you. Listen to Ephesians 1:3. This is the part of Ephesians we kind of read through pretty quickly in our daily Bible reading. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ [notice those two words “in Christ”] with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
God the Father has blessed us to be in Christ. What does that mean? Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is ours. What is one spiritual blessing that God the Father gives to the Son? Joy. And when we are in Christ, God the Father gives it to us as well. We receive joy. We have everything we need.
Everything that Christ had to obey, we have. We have it. We have instruction from the Lord. We have the Holy Spirit. We have joy. We have endurance. We have support, strength. That’s what Jesus is teaching us. You are in me. Respond to trials and temptation and sin and everything like I did, and you can because you’re in me. Our joy is Jesus’ joy.
Third, finally, this sub-point: Our joy is intended to be full. These things I’ve spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. I don’t know if you’ve got cross-references in your Bible. You can cross-reference this term. The Lord oftentimes shows his people that he wants their joy to be full.
Christianity is a faith that teaches that God wants us to be exceedingly happy in him—more happy in him than we could ever be apart from him. Do you think your friends and neighbors know that? Or do they see what you do as just kind of a drudge. Look at them. I’m sleeping in and enjoying my coffee on a Sunday morning. They’re getting up and going to a 9:00 meeting somewhere. Do they think that you’re living in fullness of joy? Because that’s what our Lord intends.
My joy may be in you and that your joy may be full. Nothing else in this world will give us fullness of joy like Christ will. Listen to Psalm 4:7. This is one of my favorite passages. Psalm 4:7: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” You know what that’s saying? You’ve put more joy in my heart than when their stock portfolio is amazing. You’ve put more joy in my heart than when they have five cars. You’ve put more joy in my heart than when they have three vacation homes. You’ve put more joy in my heart than when their grain and wine abound.
That’s what the Father gives to his children—fullness of joy. Now, just to be clear, we can lose our joy as believers, can’t we? Some reasons for losing our joy: Our focus is not on his will. We’re kind of trying to live this life in our own way with our own preferences and we’re disconnected from what he desires.
We can lose our joy because of our own sin. Remember David’s famous psalm of confession, Psalm 51:12? “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” The implication is, Lord, I don’t have it right now. My sin has kept me from fullness of joy. That’s where when we—and Josh did it this morning—when we confess our sins corporately together in prayer, Scripture reading, whatever it may be, when we confess our sins … You could come in thinking, man, confession of sin, that’s kind of a downer. Confession of sin leads to joy because we’re saying, I’ve done this and you know it; and he says, and I’ve forgiven it all.
That’s joyful! Luke 15—the son comes home and repents, acknowledges his sin, and what does the Father do? I’m going to give you a lecture. Sit down. He throws a party. Slaughter the fattened calf, put on the finest robe, and give him the ring. Confession, admission of guilt, admission of sin leads to joy. Jesus wants us to be full of joy. My joy I give to you so that your joy may be full.
Christ intends for his commands to produce the same fullness of joy that he had on earth as he obeyed the Father. I would encourage you to pursue obedience to Christ out of love and to enjoy the subsequent joy. I know that’s redundant. It’s intentional. Enjoy the subsequent joy. Pursue obedience to the Son because you love the Son and watch for the joy to come.
Now, just a note: Sometimes it doesn’t always come as fast as we want it to come. Here’s what I mean. You’re in a difficult marriage. He won’t change. She won’t change. You’ve talked to people. You’ve done all that you could. You’ve tried to make them change. Nothing’s changing. So you think, I’m just really going to try Ephesians 5. I’m just really going to try 1 Peter 3. I’m just really going to try Colossians 3. I’m just going to do what he says and see how that works out.
So you grit your teeth, and you do what the Bible says and nothing changes. So then you think, check that; and you go another route. Leave the marriage, think about leaving the marriage, slander him, slander her.
Keep obeying, but add something to your obedience: love for Christ. You’ve saved my soul from hell. You’ve changed me. You’ve allowed me to be able to obey. I’m going to trust you because I love you. You deal with what happens from there. I trust you. I have no idea how this is going to turn out. I’m going to do your will because I love you, and you do what you will do.
That’s different. That’s a different kind of obedience. That’s the obedience that leads to joy. It’s not, I’ve obeyed, but you’re not doing anything. It’s I will obey you because I love you and trust that you will lead me only into a place where you will be with me. I will obey because I love you and I trust you. And when I’m abandoned to you and your will, I believe your promise that I’ll find my greatest joy. Joy comes when we obey Christ out of love for him and we’re surrendered to him.
So we’ve looked at this whole vineyard for four weeks. What does it look like to abide in Christ? What does it look like to bear fruit? To glorify the Father? We’ve seen a lot and I hope that we would look more and more like Christ in the days and weeks to come. I want to finish by giving you an example of someone who did this well, and maybe you can follow his example as he follows Christ.
Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China in the 1800s. He would often bring more and more missionaries to China to bring the gospel to them. He lived a difficult life. This is a man who shows us what it’s like to abide in Christ, to be like Christ. His son noticed what his father was like. His son noticed his father’s Christlikeness. His son noticed that his father was one who would abide in Christ.
Listen to what his son writes. He writes about his father receiving mail, and Hudson Taylor was just like us. He received mail, and he was like, I don’t even want to open these things. Sometimes there’s bad news in mail. Bills and things like that. Hudson Taylor would get letters of people letting go of their support of him, people dying that he loved. Opening the mail was a chore for this missionary. And his son Frederick says this:
Here was a man almost 60 years of age bearing tremendous burdens yet absolutely calm and untroubled. Oh, the pile of letters, any one of which might contain news of death, lack of funds, of riots or serious trouble. Yet all were opened, read and answered with the same tranquility. Christ—his reason for peace, his power for calm. Dwelling in Christ, he drew upon his very being and resources, and this he did by an attitude of faith as simple as it was continuous. Yet he was delightfully free and natural.
And then his son writes this:
I can find no words to describe it save the Scriptural expression “in God.” He [his father] was “in God” all the time. God in him. It was that true abiding of John 15.
May the Lord make that true of us. “In Christ” all the time and Christ in us. Let’s pray.
Lord, we love you because you first loved us. You have forgiven us. You’ve changed our hearts. And Father as one part of this church I say on behalf of all of us, would you allow us to bear much fruit and so prove to be your Son’s disciples, that it brings you much glory. Lord, we have one life to live. May we exhaust it for the fame of your Son, for your Spirit, and for you, Father. We pray this in your Son’s name. Amen.
More in The Vine, The Branches, and the Vinedresser
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