Monday, May 20, 2024

Remain in Christ to the End: Abiding in the Vine

Jim Bright, an organizational psychologist did a survey asking people to give answers on different questions related to change, and how they react to change. The results were fascinating.

“1. One in three people would avoid change if they could.

Would you normally avoid change if you could?

If you said yes, then you'd join the 34% of respondents who agreed or completely agreed with that sentiment.

2. Over 76.51% of people said they could be fearless in a situation if they need to be.

Would you be fearless if you needed to be? Have you seen others being fearless?

5. Almost 1 in 3 people say that if they do not see immediate results for their efforts they usually give up and do something else.

32.2% say they do not persist if they do not see immediate progress, a further 21.3% are ambivalent. Less than half of people indicate they would persist in the face of a lack of immediate progress.” -Jim Bright, Jan 30th 2015, Results from an Online Survey

How does change affect you? Would you be able to persist in changes even if you didn’t see much positive progress at first?

The results from the survey that Jim Bright did are hardly scientific, just answers given by people online who decided to take the test, but the results are still interesting.

Examining the life of Jesus, at the moments before Jesus would go to the cross, we see change on a massive level. So we’re examining how the disciples respond to change. And how Jesus attempts to prepare his disciples for the change.

Jesus and his disciples had gathered in a private room to celebrate the Passover meal together. And Jesus had given his disciples many instructions about Himself, the Holy Spirit, and the future.

But then at the end of chapter 14 of John’s gospel Jesus said, “Come let us go from this place.”

He gathered the disciples and left. And I tend to think he must’ve come to a wall with a vine growing in it, or perhaps he walked through a vineyard with his disciples in the night.

And then he said this, in John chapter 15 verses 1-4, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

The Lord knows that a big change is going to take place. And all he is doing in these chapters of John is getting his disciples ready for the change.

Notice it says in verse 3 that you are "already clean" because of the word Jesus spoke to them.

We as a church, as Christians, right now, at this moment in time, are clean, branches in the vine, and all in all stable in our faith.

The question is how do we continue that journey into the future? And Jesus gives us the answer in verse 4: "Remain in me,"
 Jesus says, and he continues and says, “As I also remain in you.”

Jesus remains in us, therefore the command is "remain in Him. This is synergistic. Jesus remains in us after we have Him as savior. Most leave it there, and you get an incomplete theology. They skip where Jesus gives the command: "Remain in me." 

We cannot bear fruit apart from the vine, which is Jesus. So we must remain in the vine.

A branch generates fruit because it’s being fed by the vine it’s attached to. Could a branch ever generate fruit while it’s disconnected from the vine, sitting on the ground? No, it would certainly shrivel up and die.

First point today, you as a Christian, must, must, must remain in the vine, remain in Jesus Christ. And in all that, it must also mean remaining in the church, the body of Christ.

There are no lone wolf Christians. Stay together, stay connected, stay strong, fed by the vine, bearing fruit for Jesus.

Next, we get a warning, from John 15:5-8, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” –John 15:5-8

What happens to a Christian who does not remain in Christ? They drift off (Hebrews 2:1) They get complacent. They get caught in sins. They stop gathering with the saints. They stop praying and reading the word.

Such a branch that does not remain is thrown away and withers. Such branches are thrown into the fire and burned.

What does that mean exactly? It means that a Christian that falls away withers and fades away, they crumble.

It’s a very stark reminder of the need to remain in Christ. Abide, the word is. Which means, to remain.

It would make me so sad, if I were to visit in a few years, and I were to find you having forsaken the faith, at the bar, angry and miserable, broken, wishing you’d stuck with it. Don’t let that be you. Never leave the vine. Stick it out to the end. To the very last day, repeat it to yourself, “I’m a Christian to the very end.”

It didn’t take years of me being away for me to see church members go that route. I saw it over the last five years. They left the fellowship, for some reason, or another. Maybe it was a secret sin. Maybe they just got tired of the Christian life. And the enemy targeted them once they left. They were an easy target, all alone in the wilderness. And soon, sins took over their life again, and they found themselves deep into the world again, wishing they could get back, but they couldn’t.

A former church member called me once, and she said I wish I could get back, but I can't. Something inside her had changed. It’s like when an alcoholic in 12 step groups relapses. They may have had years of sobriety, but once you’ve relapsed again, for some reason it’s so hard to get back into the sobriety life. I experienced that myself. Similarly, when a Christian falls away, it can be so hard to get back, because something fundamental has shifted within.

Don’t let that be you. Persevere in the faith. Abide in the vine. Stay close to the shepherd. Keep gathering with the rest of the sheep. Don’t drift off.

And if you do, if you remain in Christ, it also says, if God’s word remains in us, ask whatever we wish, and it will be done for us.

Ask for God to heal someone. Ask for God to deliver someone from sin. Ask God to change our country. Ask God to save someone from addiction. And God answers our prayers.

Ultimately then, God the Father gets the glory, and our actions prove that we really are disciples of Jesus.

Next Jesus tells the disciples this in verses 9-14, “9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Love each other. And the example is, look to how Jesus loved the disciples. He said love each other as I have loved you.

Our third point today is: Real love is the evidence that we are really Christians in the vine.

That’s a beautiful moment for someone, when they realize, something really is special about you. They watch your actions. They watch how you speak. What you do. And slowly but surely, they watch it all, and one day they sit back, and say to themselves, wow, they really are Christians. And they will often then think, Jesus must be real. I see it in their lives.

Conversely, when someone watches our lives, and they see that our actions don’t really match our words… They see us mistreat someone. They see us act selfishly. They see us ignore the needs of people around us. They see us cuss, or steal, or lie. And then that same person sits back and says, well, I guess they really aren’t special or different. They are just liars. And their faith is a sham. So they think to themselves, I guess there is no Jesus after all.

I’m sure we’ve all been on both sides of that one. I know theres been times I’ve failed to represent Christ correctly. And that’s sad. But there have been times as well, when someone noticed the love of Christ in me.

Small actions done with love can make a big difference. They may change someone story forever in fact.

Next Jesus says this in verses 15-17, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”

Friends, you know the word of God. You’ve been taught the word of God. It’s running through your veins. The blood of Jesus is flowing through you.

You are not simply servants of God, though you are, you are more than that, you are friends of God.

Jesus has made known to us everything from the Father, and I as your overseer have tried to faithfully teach you the word. So you do know the word.

You are friends of God. And you must remember that God chose you. He chose you to be here, now, at this moment in time, part of The Salvation Army church. You belong here. This is your church.

God chose you. And he appointed you to bear fruit for Him. To walk in the good deeds he planned for you to do, before all time began.

Things may change. Services change. Groups change. But the fellowship of the saints continues.

Fourth point, Friend of God, you were called here. Always remember that. He may call you somewhere else in the future, but right now, you belong here, and he brought you here for a reason.

Next Jesus warns the disciples of coming persecution, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” –John 15:18-20

Fifth point today, persecutions will come, and future victories will come. You will continue to spread the gospel throughout Shiawassee county. Many will hate you for it and attempt to persecute you for it.

Jesus was persecuted, so we should expect persecution as well.

We don’t know what the future will bring. I don’t know what will happen in the coming years, as this facility changes into a 360 life center.

I do know that God will remain with you if you continue to abide in Him, wherever he leads you.

You will face persecution. Wolves will come into the sheep-fold and attempt to destroy the sheep. But cling close to the Shepherd, and he will protect you. The enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, resist him standing firm in the faith, and he will flee from you.

At the same time, Jesus also says, if many obeyed Jesus teachings, which is true, many did, then many will also obey the teachings of God you bring to them.

So there is also hope for great victories in the future.

There are people in this community who desperately need you to bring the gospel to them, to tell them about what Jesus Christ did for you, so they can believe that Jesus can save them too.

You will see women get saved from addictions and brokenness, you will see men get saved from sorrows and sins. You will see events that will prosper. You will see ministries that help meet human needs. You will see yourself rise up, and carry the gospel to the lost.

The chapter concludes this way, ““They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” –John 15:21-27

In conclusion today, we must always remember that we as Christians are led by the Holy Spirit, who lives inside of us.

As things change in this church, as things change in this community, in Michigan, in the world, as the world gets darker, as we get closer to the end times, more and more we must look to the Holy Spirit to lead us. The Holy Spirit will guide us in the right directions as we submit to His leadings. Men may lie to us, deceive us, try to lead us astray, governments may try to manipulate us, church movements may go astray, but we must steadfastly remain led by the Holy Spirit, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and engaged in the work the Holy Spirit gives us to do.

The Holy Spirit will testify to us about Jesus again and again, reminding us of all the things Jesus taught us. And therefore we must testify about Jesus to the world, because we know all about Jesus and His life. We’ve been taught by our leaders, and by ourselves, from the word, and so we must share it with others.

Let’s Review Our Main Points:
1. Remain with Christ – after salvation comes constant abiding throughout our lives

2. Branches that don’t remain wither and fade away – too many Christians allow sin or drifting to cause them to fall away

3. Real love is the evidence that we are Christians in the vine – our fruit proves that we are his disciples

4. Friend of God, You were called here – Jesus chose you to be here, and bear fruit as part of this community

5. Persecutions & victories will come – you will face persecution, you will also find new victories

And lastly, remember, the Holy Spirit will guide you, remind you of the words of Jesus, and empower you to carry the gospel to those who need it most.

Can you work against yourself? Is the final question I ask you. Remember the survey, and the results on change. Can you stop yourself from giving up? From wanting to quit? From overreacting in your sorrow?

Remember, all the disciples, aside from John, left Jesus and hid, Jesus’ top Lt. Peter denied his master three times. But Jesus helped them to come back together, and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost prepared the disciples for a mission to change the world forever.

When the transitions come, remember, abide in the vine, hold close to Jesus, and invite the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, to keep you close, even in the pain and troubles that transitions bring. Pray to Him, and He will help you in those times, when big changes rock your world. You’ll find Jesus is the rock, and you’ll come through safely in the end.