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Running on Empty

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Sermon: Running on Empty

Sermon #4 in Series - the “I am” Statements of Jesus

John 15:1-11; James 3:13-18; Ephesians 3:14-21

Rev. Aaron B. Kesson

Emmanuel United Methodist Church

February 22, 2009


One of the fundamental differences between men and women, I have observed, is the difference in how we view our resources. 

Think about a trip you have had with your spouse.  Ladies, how many of you, worried you might run out of gas, have looked over to the driver’s side and nudged your husband, encouraging him ever so gently to stop for gas because you notice that the gas meter is getting lower?

And men, how many of you, having received that nudge, just kept driving, knowing that in your infinite wisdom of being a man and master of all things metal; that you will not run out of gas?  “Honey, the owner’s manual says I can get 30 miles after that light goes on”

I can recall a few trips like that, including one where Maria had mentioned the gas situation immediately after hearing the “ding” of the warning system, and of course, thinking my wisdom was far beyond that of my wife when it comes to the great automobile, I made an executive decision to keep on driving

This is sort of a confession… I don’t know if Maria noticed or not, but just as we were pulling into the gas station, about 15 miles (not the 30 miles I had proclaimed earlier) later, the car just coasted into position in front of the pump

We had been running on fumes for about 2-3 miles

How many of us feel like we have been coasting in our lives, running on fumes?  Just “getting by”?

Essentially, when we allow ourselves to coast through life, we are really running on empty, and we are not doing ourselves or others any favors by doing so


Even more important, we disobey God when we don’t seek restoration from Him

We read in Proverbs 28:26, from the Amplified Bible:

He who leans on, trusts in, and is confident of his own mind and heart is a [self-confident] fool, but he who walks in skillful and godly Wisdom shall be delivered.”

You see, I was relying on my own intuition and puffed-up knowledge rather than the source of truth in the situation, which was the gas light and alarm.

Unfortunately in our lives, there is no “warning light” that flashes when we begin to run on fumes.  But, we have the Counselor, the Comforter, the Healer, God’s own Spirit present in our lives to gently guide us toward much needed restoration found only in Him.

But, we need to listen for that guidance and be ready to act when we hear that still-small voice

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3: 17(NKJV)”

Our action is to yield to God’s Wisdom


Context Surrounding John 15 – The Disciples are Afraid, Jesus Gives Them Comfort


In our gospel text for today, Jesus is teaching His disciples about their relationship to Himself and the Father.  You’ll notice that throughout the text, Jesus mentions the word ‘abide’ several times (10 to be exact).  Now, as in any study of the Bible, we know that context is everything.  So, let’s look at the surrounding context of John 15, specifically how that context relates to Jesus’ words to the disciples:

In chapters 13-14, Jesus has supper with the disciples (the Last Supper), and shares with them that He is going to suffer and be crucified (13:1-4).  Jesus then washes the disciples’ feet (13:5-20), and if we recall this segment of Scripture, it is where Peter refuses to have his master, the Lord wash his feet and it is Jesus who says “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (13:8).  We can see the fear in Peter’s response, even as we continue to the end of chapter 13 where Peter is told that he will deny Christ three times (13:38).

Then, in chapter 14 we read a recount of Jesus’ comforting of the disciples.  This is where Jesus tells of the Helper, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit who will come and be with them forever (14:16). 

Why would the disciples need this comfort?


The disciples were scared, and did not fully understand what Jesus had to do.

Jesus did not want the disciples to think they were going to be left stranded and without hope


Jesus promises the disciples that He will not leave them as orphans (14:18), in fact He promises that He will come to them again!

Now, as we return to our text in John 15, we have a better understanding of what Jesus may have meant by saying “abide in me”.  The word ‘abide’ is translated from the Greek word meno, which has several meanings, including to “remain”, “abide”, and “continue”.  One lexicon defines meno as meaning “of someone who does not leave a certain realm or sphere”.  Your translation may actually state v. 4 as “remain in me…”.  If we use the word “continue” in place of “abide” or “remain”, we see that to “abide” in Jesus is to continue in His love, not leaving that sphere of His love.  Basically, we are putting Christ in the center of all we do.

In our passage from Ephesians, we see Paul’s exhortation to the church, encouraging them to allow the Spirit of Christ to dwell in their hearts (Eph. 3:17).  Furthermore, Paul encourages them to be “rooted and grounded in love” so that they may “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which  surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”[1]

Basically, Paul is saying that in order for us to experience the fullness of God, we must be rooted in the love of Christ and allow Him to dwell in our hearts

This seems to be the essence of what it means to abide in Christ.

No Growth without Abiding in Christ

So, what happens when we do not abide in Christ?  Look with me, if you will, at John 15:6 "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, ESV)[2]

Now, some have attributed this verse to the loss of salvation.  However, this does not seem to be the case here, especially as we again look at the surrounding context.  Some commentators have said that the text carefully deals with the subject of unfruitfulness by saying He is like a branch that is thrown away”

As we all know, the function of a branch in any living vine is to do what? Bear fruit.  But, the branch cannot fulfill its purpose unless it remains in intimate contact with the vine.  The Teacher’s Commentary says this about v. 16: “Without that intimate “remaining in Me” relationship, it will never accomplish what it was designed for. How empty will the life of a Christian who fails to remain in Jesus be? As empty as that of a branch torn from the vine; it has no potential for fruit bearing. Its only use would be to serve as fuel to provide momentary warmth; then it must disintegrate into ash.”[3]

You see, Jesus was not only providing comfort to the disciples by telling them to remain in Him, but:

He was warning them, and us, that without having a close relationship with Him, we cannot become what we are intended to be

So many times, I see good Christian people who, for whatever reason, complain about their situation or circumstances.  They don’t know how they got there, they don’t know what to do about it, but they complain about it.  Some of the best encouragement I can give them is to abide in the presence of God. 

There is no substitute for genuine fellowship with the Father

There really is great encouragement in this passage, especially as we look now to verses 10-11 "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." (John 15:10-11, ESV)[4]

How wonderful it is to know that when we abide in Christ, we don’t have to get everything right. 

Because we are branches, we can draw life from Jesus, the vine!

Essentially, we do not have to go through life running on empty!

Friends, you see what we can’t accomplish ourselves, Jesus can accomplish in us!  But we will never know the beauty of this if we do not allow ourselves to be changed and transformed by His love for us.

Do we want to be fruitful?  We must abide in Christ… Do we want to experience the fullness of joy that God has promised us?  Then we must abide in Christ… Do we want to be the kind of people to bring about the Kingdom of God here on earth, that is to “love one another”?  Then we must abide in Christ!

Conclusion - The Hatred of the World

In closing, let’s look at one final piece of context surrounding Jesus’ words in 15:1-11.  In the remainder of chapter 15, Jesus speaks of the hatred of the world.  You see, as Christians, we are called… we are commanded to be ambassadors of Christ.  In doing so, simply in our “job” description we go against the grain of this world.  Jesus’ radical teachings go completely against anything the world would say.  So, naturally the world is going to hate Christ.

Jesus said it Himself “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." (John 15:18, ESV)[5] You see, not only is Jesus preparing the disciples for what is to come, and promising them the Helper, the Holy Spirit.  We also are being taught that in order for us to endure persecution, we must remain in the love of Christ.

If we want to continue in the unity of the Spirit of God, we must remain in the love of Christ!

There is nothing too great, or too powerful for our God. 

Let me leave you with this verse from Romans 8:37 “Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.” (Romans 8:37, AMP)[6]



[1] New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, S. Eph 3:18-19

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]Richards, Larry ; Richards, Lawrence O.: The Teacher's Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1987, S. 743

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[6]  The Amplified Bible, Containing the Amplified Old Testament and the Amplified New Testament. La Habra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1987

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