The ONLY Way to Bear Fruit in Christ
In the Name of Jesus,
In the Name of Jesus,
Have you ever embarked on a project or personal improvement goal only to realize that in order to complete the project or goal you were going to need to focus hard on learning and applying yourself to attaining knowledge that you currently do not possess are spend a lot of hours perfecting your technique.
Maybe you decided to improve the garden and landscaping at your home or maybe you decided that it was finally time to improve your short game out on the golf course. Either way, we intuitively know that when it comes to getting results in this life that means we have to apply ourselves and focus our attention on achieving those desired results.
All of that being said, would you believe me if I told you that when it comes to producing the good works that Christ is discussing in last week’s and this week’s gospel texts, that focusing on producing good works will NOT result in you bearing more fruit. I know that sounds crazy but that is exactly what Jesus is saying in John 15.
Now, last week we focused our attention on the fact that scripture does not pit doctrine against good works and that the Holy Spirit through the Word explicitly says that BOTH Doctrine and life are vital for the believer.
How ironic is that this week, Andy Stanley, and extremely well known mega-church leader contradicted what we learned from last week’s scripture readings. Here is how the Christian Post covered this news story:
Church unity is more important than "theological correctness," according to North Point Community Church Senior Pastor Andy Stanley at a conference with approximately 8,000 attendees.
At the Orange Conference, which focuses on issues of church leadership, Stanley spoke on Thursday about the importance of Christians of different denominations being "one" in their mission.
Stanley centered on John 17, in which Jesus prayed that His followers "may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
The influential author and speaker said that he found it significant that Jesus prayed for the disciples to be one, rather than for other things, including good health and being theologically accurate.
"He prayed for our oneness, that we'd be on the same page," said Stanley. "This is mission critical. If they are not one, we will not win ... unity is mission critical and disunity disrupts the mission."
Stanley spoke of how he came to believe that believing in Jesus Christ was more important than theological arguments like how communion should be served or if babies should be baptized....
Stanley argued that oneness in the faith was "more important than being theologically correct," adding that he believed when Christians of various denominations get to Heaven "we will discover that when it comes to theology, we were all wrong about something."
Could you imagine the controversy I would create if I told you from this pulpit that loving your neighbor and good works were not important and that the only thing that mattered is that your doctrine is correct?
1John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
1John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
BOTH not one or the other is vital.
But knowing this does not tell you HOW does a Christian succeed in Loving his neighbor. Have you noticed just how difficult that is and how awful you are at it?
My prayer is that this sermon will help you.
“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.” (John 15:5–6)
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)
Jesus is the vine you are the branches. Abide in HIS LOVE.
The LOVE of Jesus is the sap that flows from Jesus to us and it is that sap, which flowing through us produces the fruit of the Spirit in us.
What is the SAP?
Scripture reveals 4 tangible things that comprise the sap of the Love of Christ:
The Word of God...“man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
The Lord’s Supper...“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.” (John 6:47–57)
The Absolution...“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”” (John 20:23)
Your Baptism....“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1–4)
The rite of individual confession and absolution helps us “get this”
I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. My Lord’s name I have not honored as I should; my worship and prayers have faltered. I have not let His love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed.
In other words, the thing that blocks the SAP of the love of Christ is the stubborn refusal to receive these precious gifts because you refuse to believe that you’re that evil and sinful and in need of them or worse…you don’t believe that the Love of Christ is delivered through these means.
Luke 7:36–50 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1–5)
The one who denies, like the pharisee, that they are ungodly and sinful, loves little. So believe God’s Law and its condemnation of YOU, your self-righteousness and unbelief and instead say that the same thing about yourself that God’s Law says about you. That you are an ungodly wretch of a sinner. And when you truly see your MANY, not few, sins then you are ready to be forgiven much and this will begin to produce much love in you.
Truly seeing yourself as the sinner that you are causes you to cling, in faith to the love of Christ given to you in the words of the absolution, “I forgive you all your sins.” - The one who is forgiven much, loves much.
Truly seeing yourself as the sinner that you are causes you to hunger and thirst for the Lord’s Supper and makes you realize that the thing that makes the Lord’s Supper special is NOT that you have it only once a month, but what makes it special are the words of Jesus’ love “Given and Shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of YOUR SINS - - The one who is forgiven much, loves much.
Truly seeing yourself as the sinner that you are causes you to daily take up the precious gift of your baptism. Listen to how beautiful the love of Christ is toward you in your baptism:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25–27)
In other words bearing fruit in good works for your neighbor only happens when your focus is on the love of Christ for you and you tenaciously and thankfully receiving and abide in HIS love. And His love for you is delivered through the means that He has instituted. You despise them and reject them to the detriment of your soul because they are the sap that flows from the vine into the branches and through that sap produces the fruit of Spirit in you.
To help illustrate this, let us again consider the words of 1 Corinthians 13 which the famous “love” chapter of scripture. But let me change one word and read it through that way and then re-read it as it is written. I think that it will make the point.
1 Corinthians 13:3–8 EDITED
Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; Jesus is not arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on its own way; Jesus is not irritable or resentful; Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Jesus never ends.
And now we can see it. This passage was always a reflection of the Love of Christ.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:3–8)
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
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.
Abide in His Love.
In the Name of Jesus