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How can God use a nobody to do something great? Responsibilities and reminders are outlined throughout John 15, emphasizing our continuous need for Him, to abide in Him, to love him, to prepare and proclaim Him. "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." John 15:4-5 (ESV)
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Love: Our Sign and its Source
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The Lifeless Lunacy of Love Without Labor
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Take Heart: The Difference Between Jesus' Trouble and Ours
Well, good morning! Welcome back to John and welcome, Fort Worth. We're glad that you guys are with us. Amen to that? Yeah. We are connected together as we've been with folks all over the world for a while through the web. As you guys know, we now have one church with two campuses that are synced up and always together.
Today we're syncing up in John 15. It's a great place for all of us to start studying because we are in the middle of this little message where Christ is communicating to his disciples, "Hey, I am leaving, not because I'm losing but because it's all part of the plan. I want you to know that in my leaving, I am leaving you here to do something, and I won't leave you alone." He is telling them the means through which they can continue the work that he has been doing. Let me just remind you where we were when we left John, chapter 14.
I want to read to you just verses 27 through 31 of John 14. I'll tell you right where we were. Then we're going to dive in to what I think if I could do a decent job at this passage this morning, it is going to bless you and help you tremendously in terms of getting a real sense of where the abundant life comes from, how you can know that you are a believer, how you can experience the fullness of life that God intended for you, and what the secret, if you will, to the Christian life is. That's all here waiting for us this morning. I'd better pray. Y'all ready?
Father, would you help me? Get me out of the way. Help me be a steward of the mystery of God, a servant of Christ, so in some way we could never understand this broken, fallible man could be a means through which infallible, perfect truth could be communicated to people who you love, who you care about, who you want, Lord, to experience the blessing of unity and communion and relationship with you.
So would you just use this next little bit of time that we have together to recapture our hearts, to remind us of things that are true, or maybe to introduce us to those truths for the very first time? We thank you, Lord, that in your kindness you have done what you said you would do in John 14, 15, and 16. You preserved for us your Word that we might know your will and way and we could walk with you. Teach us now in Christ's name, amen.
All right, John 14:27 through 31, there is this great little section where Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you…" Listen, when you're fixing to die, when you're fixing to go get the sap beat out of you, when you have been eternally connected with eternal perfection and glory and goodness and even in your incarnation, even in coming here and living as a man and laying aside your own ability to experience the glory which is eternally yours, you stayed connected to the Father and you know you're about to have that severed and you're about to become sin, it is going to be a really bad day.
John 14, 15, and 16 are about 24 hours from the cross. From eternity past, Jesus has never been separated from the unity and the oneness that he had with the Father and the Spirit. He knew that was coming.
Now if you knew that was coming, that you were about to become sin, that you were about to be forsaken by everybody who knew you, the world was going to laugh at you, they were going to think that you were a liar or a lunatic, and the Father himself was going to turn from you in a way that would cause you to say, "Where are you Father? Why have you forsaken me in this moment?" who would you be concerned about? Probably not those who aren't really clear in what's going on, but that's not the way it was with Jesus.
We have such a tender, loving God. He is beyond description. What we have right here is Jesus focused on his sheep. Because they're about to be scattered because the Shepherd is going to look like he is being defeated. But he is saying, "I'm not being defeated. This is all a part of my plan." And he is concerned about them. He is going to say, "Look, I'm going to give you my peace."
"Do not let your heart be troubled…""Take heart!" "…nor let it be fearful." Then he says this. "You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because…""Really I'm about to go to the cross, but I'm going to go back to where I'm from."
Then he says in verse 29, "Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.""This is going to be a really tough weekend for you, but I want you to know this story is going to play out the way the Father and I want it to play out for your benefit." "I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me…""He has nothing he can do. I am sovereign. I am in control."
Verse 31: "…but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.""Even though it's going to be painful to me, it's going to be glorifying to him, and that's always good for me." Then he says at the very end of John 14, "Let's get it on." If you will, this is his moment where he says, "Get up, let us go from here." He is saying, "Let's roll."
Then we move to John 15. This is where we are. I love this text. First of all, I love serving this God who is not weak, who is strong, who even in the midst of the chaos all around him is concerned about me, and he who even in the midst of what looks like a plan gone awry is telling me it's all his plan. This is always a great comfort to me.
This is why, no matter what befalls me, I just always say, "God is up to good in this. I am sure of it." Because isn't he always up to good? So I don't know what you guys have going on in your life, but I'm just telling you I sleep well, I live well, I rest well because I am sure he is always up to good.
I have said this before. If Jesus would've consulted me and said to me, "Hey, I'm going to go to the cross," I would've done what Peter did. I would've said, "I know you're God. I just identified you as the visible image, that you are the Messiah, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, but that is the craziest thing I ever heard. You are not going to go to the cross, and you have to go through me to do it."
I would've said something stupid like that. Luckily, I have the benefit of watching him walk through history a few times. So when your story is not working out the way that maybe you want, you can just sit there and go, "Look, I am his boy, he loves me, and it is good. I have nothing to fear. Take heart. I don't care if it involves death. I don't care if it involves loss. It's all good because he is all God." Amen?
Look, if you know him, you're like, "Okay, let's bring it. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow." Isn't that stinking corny? Say, "Yeah, that's really corny." If that's true, you sleep differently, you live differently, you sing differently, and you bury people with song. You cry and you laugh and you wait and you remain faithful.
Jesus says in John 14, "Let's roll." Now I think they got up probably at this point and they're starting to walk toward Gethsemane, the winepress. As they're walking, he continues to teach. What he is going to give them right now are three reminders of things that they have to be about and three responsibilities. That's where we're going to spend the next three weeks on. Are you ready?
Let me just put it up for you as simple as I can. I'm going to channel my inner Blake Holmes and give you an outline. That ought to bless you. Can everybody say, "Thank you. Finally." All right? So here we go.
Verses 1 through 11, "I want to remind you. You need me." You're like, "Hey, that seems like a rather simple thing to be going back over when we're narrowing to the end." What I would tell you is, "That's something we probably all need to be reminded of all the time, because how many of us think that we're going to do great things for God?" We even have somebody who has done some great things named Mother Teresa. That's become her catch phrase when she was alive. "Do great things for God."
I reject that. I'm begging you not to do great things for God. What I would tell you to do is live in relationship with the God who has done something great for you. When you do that, you will bear much fruit. I have 11 verses to prove that to you this morning. You don't do anything. Part of the problem that so many of us have is that we have this sense that we're going to say, "Okay, God. You're a good God. I'm going to go show you how good you are. I'm going to do something for you."
This little section, 10 different times says, "Don't do that." This is not a mission if you wish to accept it that you'll leave the little recording of church or God's Word and you'll go and accomplish the mission. This is all about hanging with him. So he is reviewing with them. Right now this week we're going to remind you of this one thing that he was talking about in this short, maybe less than a mile, walk from the upper room down to this little garden in the Kidron valley. He says, "You need me."
Secondly, " _Y'all love each other_." All right? That's next week. Verses 12 through 17. "Y'all, I want to remind you. If you guys don't love each other, then something is terribly wrong, because I am calling you back into relationship with me. I am love and if I am in you, love will be in you. It will reflect itself in the way that you do relationship, the way that you do marriage."
Then I'm going to remind you of this. Verses 18-27. "You have a responsibility to this world and it is not to be its friend; it is to be faithful in it." You tell them, you serve them, and you suffer before them. That is it. This is Jesus.
If you have to go, "Hey, I only get eight minutes with Jesus," John 15 is the eight minutes you want, because he has taken all the teaching that he has been up to and he has gone, "Okay boys, follow me. Let me review. You need me. Without me you have nothing. You have me. Don't forget me. Remain in me. Continue with me. I'm leaving, but I'm not going. The Spirit of God, which has been with you in me while I'm here, is going to be in you by me when I'm gone."
One guy taught the book of Acts. He titled it this way, "Going, but Not Gone: The Story of Jesus." In other words, we think of the book of Acts, like the Acts of the Apostles. It's not. It's the acts of the Holy Spirit through the apostles. So many times I hear people say this. They're praying for some celebrity or somebody they know who is a man or a woman of great influence, and they say something like this, "Aw, would it not be great if so-and-so trusted Christ? Can you imagine what that person would do for God if they just trusted Christ?"
I just want to look at them and go, "Listen, God does not need Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow needs God. God does not need Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods needs God." God loves Tim Tebow, and God loves Tiger Woods, and God loves you. He doesn't need anybody to do anything.
That's why he said to Moses, "I'm going to deliver you from the greatest power on the face of the earth." "You're going to use me? I'm a stutterer. I've been out here hanging out with sheep for 40 years." God says, "Well, what do you have?" He says, "I have a stuttering tongue and a stick." He goes, "Perfect. Take your stick and your stuttering tongue and let's go." All right? I'm like, all right!
This week, gang, I want to encourage you with this because don't we all sometimes just go, "Man, I'm just a nobody. How can God use me to do something great?" I love what Joni Eareckson Tada said to me, who has been paralyzed, a quadriplegic since she was a teenager. When Russia fell, if you will, when the Iron Curtain and 70 years of atheism and rejection of God and suppression of man was obliterated and the gospel enters into Russia…
Now you think about this. Who would you send into Russia to preach the gospel after 70 years of darkness and oppression? I'll tell you who God used. He used Billy Graham, Joni Eareckson Tada, and an interpreter over there who was blind. So let me review. Who God chose to use was an old man with Parkinson's disease, a quadriplegic woman, and a blind man.
That was the first major evangelical effort in that land. We didn't send over our biggest celebrities, our most famous people. We sent over people who knew Jesus and who abided with him. God always loves little things because it makes him look great. See David, see spit, see a stick, see me.
This week we were at our little staff time of talking and encouraging one another. We had a friend there and his wife who have been serving in Hungary with Campus Crusade for Christ. Many of our members of our body are encouraged and are part of his ministry and mission and are going over there to help teach them and encourage them and to talk on leadership like we do in many places when we're asked.
We were talking a lot about what's going on in Hungary. He said, "Oh, I want to tell you a great story. I know you're friends with Nick Vujicic." Now if you don't know my friend Nick, I'll tell you about him in just a moment. "Nick was invited over here by some secular organization to Hungary. We've been praying for the youth in our country."
Youth in most countries is not 0-18. It is 18-30. He said, "We've been praying for the youth of our country and for somebody to capture their heart and communicate to them. Really we've been making some inroads, but the secular organization brought Nick over and the translator he was using, he could tell as he was very boldly talking about the source of hope and joy in his life that this translator was not doing a good job.
So he asked for somebody else." He said, "Our national director, Campus Crusade's national director was asked to come and translate for Nick. As a result of what happened, he had an audience with the president of Hungary who said, 'Nick, you can come back here anytime you want. We'll put you on TV. I'll give you full access to universities, to schools, public assemblies, whatever you want, because our country needs a man like you speaking to it.'"
If you've ever heard Nick, you would say the same thing that my friends did. Nick was born over three decades ago in Australia. Through no fault of any abuse of drugs or anything like that of his mother or father, he was born without arms and without legs. It's his head and his trunk. Nick has been here with us. I've heard a number of you say, "I never thought that I would envy a man with no arms and no legs, but I want what that guy has."
I just sat there and I marveled at the grace of God. In fact, three decades before godly men and women in Hungary ever started praying for their country, God brought somebody forth in Australia who hated his life for a while. He tried to commit suicide as a young man because he couldn't see how God could use just his head and his trunk for his glory.
Then by the grace of God, Christ showed up in Nick's life, and Nick has a powerful story of hope and redemption. God got Nick ready, and then all of a sudden this man shows up in Hungry who God had brought forth before they ever started praying to communicate hope to people who think hope is going to be found in the things of this world. There's Nick who has none of the things this world values and they go, "We want more of what that young man has, because he abides with Jesus."
Let me just say this to you. I don't know who you think you are. I don't know what you see when you look at a mirror, but I can tell you what God sees when he looks at you: Somebody who he wants to glorify himself in. Somebody who he wants to increase in fullness and joy. Somebody who he wants to use greatly. Whether or not you're going to be used greatly is going to come down to whether or not you abide with him. I'm going to say this one last thing.
My buddy Tommy Nelson was up here three weeks ago. Tommy, he talked about being a quarterback, right? Wasn't that great when he stood up here and he talked about what a stud he was when he stepped back and he took the hit and he passed and did all that different stuff? Let me just tell you something.
I've been with Tommy when he is introduced some places. They make him out to be some Heisman trophy-winning quarterback. When you listen to him, you go, "Man, that guy just has an incredible life, a great life story. He has these great illustrations. He was this great stud, college quarterback."
Tommy Nelson started two games in four years at North Texas. You thought Tim Tebow had a career that almost ascended to his level when you heard him talk up here. Maybe you projected it on him. Tommy would be the first guy to tell you God hasn't used him because he was a quarterback in D1 football.
God has used Tommy Nelson because he does what I'm going to tell you that you need to do this morning. I don't know who you think you are, or better said who you think you're not, but this message this morning is to remind you that if you'll just stay connected to God, abide with him, I don't care if you're a stutterer, a stump, or a stick, he will use you.
He wants to use you. I'm thinking to myself. I'll just say this to my friends in Fort Worth. Okay? You go, "We don't have the facility Dallas does." Good. This facility sometimes gets in the way because people think we are a big box church who wants to do whatever we have to do to get more people to come. Nuh-uh. You don't have that problem.
Fort Worth thinks, "We don't have all the energy. We don't have the core that Dallas has." Well Dallas had less core than you when we got started. What Dallas had was a vision to abide with Jesus. Has it done something in the city where this campus meets? Man, just a little bit. We're praying that Fort Worth and those who abide with Jesus over there will do the exact same thing. You lack nothing if you have Christ. You have everything.
Three reminders: you need me; if you have me, you're going to love each other; and the world is not going to like it, but you will tell and serve and suffer in the world. Then he says basically this, "You have three responsibilities." I'll say it to you this way. Verses 1 through 11: abide. Verses 12 thorough 17: love. Verses 18-27: prepare and proclaim. Prepare yourself for persecution, for rejection, and you keep telling them.
You all ready for John 15? Come on. Let's go. Let's read this thing. All right? John 15, verses 1 through 11. I'm going to read it. "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser." I'm going to stop right there. Because what you need to know is what's happening in verses 1 and 2. He is going to explain the roles in the parable that he is using as he is going to Gethsemane.
He says, "I am the vine." You might go, "That doesn't do a lot for me." That's because you're not Jewish and because you're not into agrarian science. What he is going to basically go through and do, and he says this, "I am the true vine…""You need to be connected to me. Some of the guys who have been listening to me think that they don't need me because they're connected to Israel." God wanted to use Israel to be a means through which others could learn of him.
They were to be a kingdom of priests, a nation that had the Word of God, the counsel of God, and walked with God. Through that walking and abiding with God as God protected them and blessed them and nurtured them and dwelt among them and brought forth fruits from them, he was going to be glorified and more people were going to come and not want to become part of Israel but get to know Israel's God.
That vine, which was Israel… By the way, the psalmist uses this imagery. Jeremiah uses this imagery. Hosea uses this imagery. Ezekiel uses this imagery. I'll let you read with me a little bit from Isaiah, chapter 5. Jesus is making an incredibly radical claim. That is that Israel is not the true vine of God. It has been rejected. He says, "I am the true vine…" If you don't know how radical this is, I'm going to show you how radical it is.
Imagine if somebody stood up and said, "Hey, this is the true church. There is no other way to know God, grow with God, or be connected to God except through me and my revelation. I am the true church." See Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Scientism. See Joseph Smith Jr., Mormonism. See Charles Taze Russell, Jehovah's Witnesses. See David Koresh, Waco. See Jim Jones, Guyana. See, a lot of folks have been making these same claims. When Jesus made it, it was just as radical and scandalous, in fact more so. More so.
This is Isaiah, chapter 5. Watch this. "Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine." Who is he? He is the vinedresser. That's the second character in John 15. "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser."
What's the vinedresser do? He takes a vine. He transplants it or he plants it. He protects it. He cares for it. He builds a wall around it. He watches over it. He fertilizes it. He chases away enemies. Then he brings forth fruit from it for his glory and the good of the world. That's what God intended to do with the nation, but watch what happened with the nation. Even though God did everything he was supposed to do…
"…He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress."
He looked for fruitfulness and he got fruitlessness so he put them in a season of judgment. Now God in his Old Testament promises said, "I'm going to do with Israel what I said I'm going to do with Israel, but you need to know something. Israel is not doing what it's supposed to do and so I'm going to send myself. I will be the source of salvation for Israel, the source of salvation for the whole world, and the true Israel will come. You need to be connected to him."
That was always, by the way, the expectation of Israel. Israel is still looking for the Messiah, the blessed one who will come who will bring peace. Jesus, "I'm bringing peace. I'm going to bring blessing. The light, joy, celebration, all this fruitfulness. That's what I bring to you." Jesus said, "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 bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit."
All right. We have a tough problem here. I'm going to let you read verse 6 with me. Watch this. "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." You want to go, "All right, Todd. In this little parable, what is going on here? Who are the branches that are pruned and thrown into the fire?"
There's a lot of discussion here. Let me tell you what I know it is not. What we know is not going on here is the branches that are thrown in the fire are not true believers who have a relationship with him who have fallen away from relationship with him and, therefore, are cast out into fire and judgment. You go, "Todd, how do you know that? You said that pretty emphatically."
Here's why. Because this is a parable. It is a metaphor. It is a story. There are a lot of ways to interpret it. When you want to understand your Bible, the first rule of every verse is you take the verse in context. The second rule is you want to make sure that you interpret unclear passages with clear passages.
So what we have to do is go, "Are there any passages that are explicit and clear about people who have had a relationship with Jesus by faith that suggest that if you have a relationship with him, that you can lose your salvation?" The answer is, "Not only is there not a verse that states that, there are dozens, hundreds of verses that state the exact opposite." Whatever this verse means, what we can say is we know it doesn't mean real believers can really lose their salvation.
Now you need to know this. It is a real possibility that you are not a real believer and that you are deluded. You're going to go, "Okay, well Todd. How do I know I'm not deluded?" Stay tuned. I'm going to show you today. You're going to go, "Good. That would give me peace." I'm going to say, "Awesome. I want you to have peace. I want you to have assurance, but I don't want you to have a said faith, because that is not a saving faith. I don't want you to have a profession about your relationship and trust in Jesus. I want you to possess a relationship with Jesus."
People are going to say, "Todd, at the end of the day, how do you know?" I'm going to say, "I don't know. He knows. He tells me, in fact, not to say, 'You're in. You're out.' He tells me that the Lord of the harvest, the one who knows the difference between the wheat and the tares, he is going to go through at the end and he will take care of that."
If I go through and try and pull out the tares in the midst of the wheat… Tares are weeds that grow in the midst of wheat that you can't always tell are tares and not wheat. If you tear out the tares, you might tear up the wheat. What I tell people all the time, "It's not my job to see through you. It's my job to see you through to greater faithfulness, fruitfulness, which is the evidence that you're connected to Jesus, a source of glory to him, of peace to you, and good to others."
What's going on in verse 2 is he is saying, "Hey listen, if you haven't already noticed, there was somebody who was hanging around who had a said faith. I even used him, and I talked about Judas." I talk about how sometimes God will even use people who are around him and communicate his Word and sometimes do things that he wants to advance his kingdom and his glory and those people themselves are not even saved. See Matthew 27. We taught on this when we looked at the betrayal of Judas.
What Jesus is saying right here is, "Hey, listen. Judas is no longer with us. He is gone. He was never with us, and I knew that. That's why I told you that in John 6. That's why I told you that a couple of other places in John. In the very beginning, John 2. But now he is gone." Let me just say this.
There are really two possibilities. We know what it's not. It's not real believers who are losing their salvation, but we might have a sin. I think verse 2 is probably alluding to Judas. Verse 6 is either a deluded believer who is genuinely going to be cut off later or it's a believer who is disobedient and it's, if you will, a sin that leads unto death.
In fact, God tells the church to even do this. If you have a brother in Christ who sins, go to him. If he repents, you've won your brother back. That's awesome. If he doesn't, get somebody else, go to him. If he doesn't listen to that, get a broader community. If he doesn't listen to that, tell it to the church, everybody who knows him.
Don't let him sit in your room and take Communion. Don't call him a member. Don't act like he is walking with Christ with you. Because it's going to be confusing to the world. You have to prune it out and you have to call him to repentance. He could be grafted back in by faith and by repentance and by confession.
So you might say to yourself, "Todd, what if he never comes back?" I'm going to say that he either was a deluded believer who had a said faith and not a saving faith or it was a sin that leads unto death. I will tell people this all the time. The longer you go living a fruitless life without severe discipline in your life, the more I'm concerned about you, because if you are in fact a part of his vine, he will prune you and discipline you.
If you're living in sin and you continue to live in sin and there's never a really sharp, severe consequence, it's probably because you don't have the Daddy you think you have. Because a daddy always disciplines his boy. If you say, "I know this. There's no consequence because I'm not doing what I know I'm supposed to do." I'm going to say, "That might be because you don't have the daddy you think you have because he would stir you up from the inside and he will reprove you, admonish you on the outside."
So here we go. Verse 2. We're going to leave it right here. He is saying that he prunes it so that it might bear more fruit. I'm taking away the dead wood. I'll say this about pruning. Pruning is really used for two things. It's used to train or correct. All right? You remove dead wood. You eliminate dead weight so that you can force the plant to use what's there more effectively.
Sometimes it eliminates disease that is there. It's Matthew 18. It's also to train. Sometimes he is not doing anything wrong and pruning comes into your life. Because what happens is that it establishes a central leader, if you will, that all the life of the plant will go through. It focuses the energy to one desired direction. In a nursery sometimes you will prune a plant very delicately.
Let me ask you this. Whenever you're being pruned, if a plant… Like, there's a verse in the Scripture that says this, "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." If iron had nerves, what do you think it would do when they're clashing up against each other? Sparks are coming off. Iron would go, "Hey! Ow! Cut it out!" Eventually it's a useful tool, isn't it?
Same thing if you are a plant and you could communicate. "Hey, what are you doing? Ow! Why are you cutting that? There's no disease there. What's going on?" In that moment, you're going to go, "Hey, I thought you loved me!" What he is doing is he is training. Let me just share this with you. I can remember when I was in high school I grew really late. I was a Heisman trophy stud until I was about 10. I'm not kidding you.
I could dominate the 7-8 Kirkwood Cardinals football lights. All right? Played halfback. I was Doak Walker. It continued until about 10. Then my athletic career went on a sharp decline. I hit puberty at… About age 27, 28 is when I… Everybody kept growing. I was skinny, but I wanted to be an athlete.
So it happened in my little community along about junior high everybody just started using dope and other drugs escalated seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth grade. I thought, "Man, I have to do everything I can to be an athlete," so didn't have a relationship with Christ, but I decided, "I'm not going to do that. I'm still your buddies. I'm in your group. I'm in the huddle. I'm the guy."
Then as my athletic prominence waned and my partying willingness never existed, I went from being the kid who was at the center of everything all the kids in our community did to being incredibly lonely. I have to tell you, my seventh and my eighth and the first half of my ninth grade year, my parents would come to me and they would go, "What is wrong with you? Why don't you have friends?"
I would look at them and I would say, "What is wrong with you that you are that clueless that your older son, who is still Mr. Popularity, is doing things in your basement that you can't even imagine. All your little friends and all their little boys who are having their parties that they're taking money out of their account, trafficking in drugs, and selling them in this great little suburb we live in. What is wrong with you? How clueless are you?"
I wasn't going to turn the world in, but I'm not kidding you. Thank God for The Love Boat and Fantasy Island because I saw every one of them. That's all I had. I had Mr. Roarke and Tattoo, saying, "Da plane, da plane." He was my best friend. If you're ever watching on some late night show some re-run of The Love Boat or Fantasy Island and you have to leave and you don't know how it ends, call me because I can tell you. I've seen them. That was all I had.
What's going on. I thought to myself, "God, why in the world are you blessing these guys who are doing this?" I fought back. I participated in athletics for a little bit. I remember my junior year, I began starting as a junior. Then I broke my ankle. I'm like, "Are you kidding me?" What God was doing, I had just trusted Christ.
What God was doing was saying, "Hey Todd. I have something better for you. Tommy Nelson started two games in college. You don't need to start any. What is it to you if I use Tim Tebow to be a Heisman trophy winner? That may not be your story, bro. But guess what? What Tim Tebow needs is what you need. What Tim Tebow has access to, you have access to."
What he started to do, he pruned me. I didn't know he was pruning me. If you think it was easy and fun, it wasn't. That happened to me several times. I'd start to make my way back, my freshman year in college. There it goes again. I just thought to myself, "What in the world?" Do you know what God was doing?
He was saying, "That's not going not be the direction I'm going to use you. That's not where you're going to grow, but I'm going to teach you where life should be. It is 100 percent me." You know what? I want to tell you something awful about me. I think had I had the athletic success that as I hit puberty at 28 I could've had. It wasn't 28. It was 25. I don't know when it was, but it was late. All right?
I would have not fallen as in love with Jesus or studied his Word or leaned on him as much as I did because he cared enough for me to say, "I'm going to teach you I'm enough." It was the greatest blessing in my life. No amount of experience at whatever college you want to go to or business success or relational success that can be a distraction…
God loved me enough to come up and say, "Todd, look. This thing here. It's not necessarily bad, but I'm just going to channel this thing. I'm going to come right here, and I'm just going to get rid of it. I don't want to put any more energy in this thing." Again by the way, listen, if we're talking about sports or success or relationships, those things are fine in the right way, but for me he said, "I'm going to channel all your energy toward me at a young age, and I'm going to teach you that I'm enough. Friends… You're going to find out when you're alone, I'm enough. We're not going to spend any more energy with that stuff for you." And, boy, has it blessed me.
I want to tell you something. That vinedresser and you, his branch? He knows what he is doing. See, he didn't cut my buddy Nick's arms and legs off when he was 32. He just said, "We're going to prune you from the womb, bro. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. This is no mistake. You're coming out it this way." For some of you he might turn on diabetes when you're 11. He is going to prune you with that or he might turn on an abusive daddy when you're 2. I'm just telling you, trust him. Love him. He is enough.
Verse 3 says, "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.""Look, I don't need to clean you all because (this is what he did back in John 13) I just have to wash your feet. You're already completely reconciled." This is interesting because the word word here is the word logos. It is the word for this overarching teaching about who he is and what he came to do.
"You are clean because of the logos that I am, and I've taught to you this truth message that you've embraced about me, about salvation, and so I don't need to do this so that you will be saved. I'm just going to wash your feet. This ongoing cleansing, this confession, this daily reconciliation to me, this moment by moment pruning gone forward to keep you fruitful for me.
I'm not doing this so you can be saved. I'm not prettying you up so that you're acceptable to me. You're acceptable to me because you've understood what it takes to be accepted by me, that apart from me you can't have salvation." Verse 4. Now I'm just going to teach you really quickly five truths about abiding.
The word abide (you need to know this) means to remain, to continue, to dwell. All right? It's the same idea: be filled with the Spirit. It is a continual abiding. You don't need some next special thing that leads to all kinds of craziness. There is no second blessing. "There is me, the vine, the blessed one. I'm all you need. Don't look for more. That is heresy and confusion and will frustrate you and confuse the world. I am enough. Stay right here with me in relationship with me."
So here we go. What does abiding do? Verse 4: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me." Ten times that word abide shows up. Forty times in the gospel. First, abiding is the key to Jesus' work continuing.
Remember this? John 14:12: "…he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do…" If he abides in me, basically. "This is how you're going to do it. I'm leaving, but I'm going to continue your work through you. I will do my work through you. If you ask me I will do it."
People ask me all the time. "Man, Todd, are you ever surprised at what's going on at Watermark?" I say, "No, why would I be surprised at what God is doing at Watermark? Have you not paid attention to what God has always done when people try and cling to him?" What I do is I get on my knees and repent that he is not doing more because I'm not abiding as much as I should. Not me, but all of us.
Gang, if we did what Christ wants us to do in terms of clinging to him, abiding with him, telling others about him, loving each other, proclaiming to the world the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, I'm going to tell you what. Fort Worth and Dallas and Arlington and everything in between everything on the north, south, east, and west would pay attention to the greatness of our God.
God would be doing so much more if it wasn't for my lack of abiding. No, I'm not surprised at what he is doing. Verse 5 is the same idea. You need to know this Watermark. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
First, abiding is the key to Jesus' work continuing like he said it would. Apart from him, we can do nothing. Branches share life. Branches express life. Branches don't snap off and go, "I'm going to go produce fruit for you." That is crazy! So when people say something to me, "What does Sunday have to do with Monday?"
I go, "Bro, you must not know what this is all about. Because there is no spiritual/secular divide. I'm going to say, what does anything not have to do with Jesus? You want to have a significant work week? You'd better drag 'Sunday into your Monday' because anytime you sever Jesus from what you're doing it's nothing. It is less than nothing. It is meaningless."
This is why so many kids despise the church, because Daddy will go and sing songs, but he doesn't abide when he walks out of here. By the way, that doesn't mean you're not going to be sometimes you're not going to bear some fruit of the flesh, but when you do, acknowledge it. I am always confessing before my kids, repenting and acknowledging, "Hey, what you just saw in your dad? That was not Jesus."
We have this little phrase. I've shared this with you many times. My kids love a patient dad, an understanding dad, a loving dad. There are times I'm just not going to be that. Around Mother's Day this year, we were at home with my wife. We have a golden retriever. That thing sheds a lot. My wife goes, "I've always wanted to shave the dog."
In a fit of Mother's Day stupidity, I said, "Well it's Mother's Day. You can do whatever you want!" It was a Sunday. I said that about 2 o'clock. I took off to come back up here for the evening service. So, "Kirby, go to Walmart and buy some dog shears." So I'm leaving here about 7:30 that night and I get a text. "Dad, is he in you?" Meaning, "Is Jesus dwelling in you right now? Are you abiding with him? Will patience and kindness and goodness be there when you get home?"
I knew it. Basically, I went home to a naked mole rat. That's what I have. I left a golden retriever. Actually, they just… Yeah. She was that far, and we go, "Okay, let's redeem it. Let's make him a lion for at least six weeks." So go back. Show that picture. Yeah, we made him a lion. Now people don't call animal control, they call the zoo and we can find him when he breaks out.
It was bad, all right? They were saying, "Hey, when you get home, are you going to freak out that we've done this to your dog, or are is kindness going to be with you? Are you abiding?" I went home. We got a big laugh out of it, except Crockett. He has been walking around with his tail between his legs for a while.
Secondly, abiding is the key to not being useless. Not being deluded and discarded, because this is one of the things. If you're not producing fruit, even if you're saved, you're useless to the vine and you're sucking energy. People look at you and go, "I don't think that's a good tree because the tree is not producing fruit."
You might really be there, but eventually this is 1 Corinthians 3. We're going to snap that branch off and it will be saved and yet as one that passes through fire. You're going to stand before the Lord and he is going to say to you, "Listen, you were my servant, but you were not a good one. You were my son, but you were a lousy servant."
There's going to be no, "Well done, good and faithful servant." I think that's John 15:6. You don't want to be that. Worse it's, "You're like Judas. You were around me on Sunday, but you never really abided with me. You never really knew me. There wasn't even a moment where you had this deep belief that was a faith that was transformative. The reason you never bore fruit is you never knew me."
I will tell you there is this thing called eternal security in Scripture, but there is not this thing called eternal assurance. I think our assurance is ultimately rooted in the Word of God, in the Spirit of God, but I can't see what you've done with the Word of God. I talk to people sometimes who are living very disobedient lives.
Pick your favorite sin that some people say, "I can be a Christian and do this and not really struggle with it." From materialism to a loose tongue, self-infatuation, to any sexual perversion you want to throw in there. When people just say, "Hey, this is just what I am. This is the way I'm going to be and this is what I'm going to continue to do."
I go, "Hey, let me just tell you something, man. The Scriptures talk about this." "Todd, the Word says, "…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." I've done that." I will tell them, "Hey, the Scripture also says if you know him, the Spirit of God dwells inside of you."
"Hey, Todd, I know that. The Spirit of God dwells inside of me just like he dwells inside of you." So they're two for two. I can't tell if they've really done that with the Word. I can't tell if the Spirit really dwells inside of them, but what I can do is do what Jesus said, which is, "Todd, all you have is what you see. You're going to know a tree by its fruit."
So all I have to do is look at you and say, "Hey bro, you say you're this kind of tree, but you're producing this kind of fruit." So look, he isn't going to call me, but he does tell me I am to call you out in a loving, gentle way. That thing hanging from your life that you have no problem with that's not being pruned?
That tells me you don't have the vinedresser who wants to get rid of that. It tells me that you're not yourself confessing and breaking it off by leaving it in the way that you should if that life runs through you. So don't ask me to give you assurance. Your assurance, by the way, is not going to be conditional upon what I say.
It's on who you are, but the Bible says that that is who you are. So sleep well, I guess, but if you're asking me, I think you might be deluded. I'm just telling you, it doesn't mean we don't sin. It just means that we're constantly repenting and confessing and in community and study of his Word and prayer, confessing our sins to one another, encouraging each other, admonishing the unruly, receiving the admonishment.
Thirdly, abiding is the key to assurance of answered prayer. This is very important. "If you abide in me, if you remain, continue to dwell in me, and my words abide in you…?" Now this is interesting. Because the word for words there is not the word that was back up there when it talked about, "Hey, you don't need to be cleansed again because you've already received my word, my logos."
This is a different word. This is really important. This is the word rhēma. It's where we get the English word rhetoric from. What he is saying is, "You want to assurance of answered prayer that your life would be in concert with me and the thing that you want to do, you can do? Here's how you can do it. Listen to my rhetoric, listen to my speaking, listen to what my word tells you should do and the way that you live."
Remember, we're to pray without ceasing. We're to pray continually in the Spirit. Metaphors for abide. "If you abide with me, then you can know that you're always going to produce in your life what I want to see produced. You can be sure that your life is going to turn out the way I want it to turn out if you continue to abide with me." Do you see what this verse is saying? What this verse is saying is, "Listen to my Word." "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…" Not the big idea, but the day-by-day cleansing of the Word of God, teaching of the Word of God.
You're going to be assured that what you long for will happen. The greatest assurance that we have that we can do something is God has asked us to do it. It doesn't always happen in the timing and the way we want, but we can know it's going to happen. "…He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." So just hang in there. Hang in there. How about this? Verse 8.
Fourthly, abiding is the key to your glorifying God. "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." If you abide with him, you're going to bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. The world is going to look at you and go, "We need more people like you. Who is your God? Who is your vinedresser? Who produces this in your life?"
We say, "It is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Word of God. It is our Father in heaven." Are you a fatherless person? Are you angry? He is the Father of the fatherless. Did you have parents who failed you? My Father won't fail you. When you love, lead, give, serve, abide, prepare, and proclaim, guess what? People go, "There ought to be more like you."
I meet people in this town every now and then. They find I'm from Watermark, and they don't know who I am, and they go, "I want to tell you something. That place blesses me, and I don't even like church." I get a chance to tell them, I say, "Well, bless you. Let me tell you why that place is a blessing to you. Because there are people connected to God who loves you. How has it been a blessing? That's what God exponentially wants you to have. That kindness, that love, that service, that giving, that others-centeredness. That's Jesus in us." Amen? How about this. Last one. Verses 9-11.
Fifthly, abiding is the key to the more love God offers to those who know him. You go, "Wait. Whoa, what was that?" Do you remember John 14:21? "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." I'll give you more of me.
The way that you know that God is as good as he says he is, is you trust him and you walk with him. The longer you trust him and walk with him, the more you're going to go, "He is as good as he says he is." I tell folks this all the time. I've been walking with Jesus now 30-some-odd years. He has never let me down.
Every time I have abided, every time I've listened, he has just come through. I can tell you the way of God is good, it is acceptable, and it is perfect. The way of Todd is sometimes not so good. It is compromise. It is very imperfect. It's not acceptable to me or those around me. It fractures relationships and it hurts my own heart. It's a scourge on society and deception and self‑pleasuring and glorifying.
Man, when you begin to walk with God for a long time, abiding is the key to receiving the more-ness of God's love that he says, "I'll give you more if you'll just love me." This is the truth. I taught this when I was in John 14:21. God loves us more… Not in a salvific way. God already loves us all enough to die for us all, but God loves us more when we respond to the love that he offers to us when we love him.
This is 1 John 5:3. First John 5:3 has this incredible little idea. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." You just go, "Oh man, that's good." When you start to walk with God, you're going to find out this isn't near as hard as trying to find significance through money, satisfaction through sex, a life that's worth living because I'm a selfish, self-consumed person who is just using everybody around me. That's hard. That's Proverbs, chapter 13.
Proverbs, chapter 13 says, "The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death. Good understanding produces favor, but the way of the treacherous is hard." Can I get an amen? Some of you all come out of that way? You're a bunch of liars. You've all come out of that way.
The way of the treacherous is hard, but man, when you start to walk with God, you start to say, "I'm telling you man, he is good." Abiding is the key to knowing more of that. The reason some of you guys are like, "Todd, I don't know what you're talking about," is because you're not in the Word daily. You're not in community. You're not being admonished. You don't consider a rebuke as oil upon the head. You're not confessing, praying, meditating, journaling. You're not ministering. You're discovering, developing, and deploying your gifts.
You're like, "What's the big deal?" I'm like, "That's dead religion." Let me just sum up this entire message this way. Christianity is not an accumulation of a bunch of tasks. In other words, we don't do a bunch of fruit so we can turn it in. That is dead religion. Fruit does not make God love us.
God loves us, we receive that love, we love him back, and we produce fruit. Christianity is not a collection of ideas. We're not a religion. We're not a philosophy. We are a relationship with the living King, who though he is not here, is here. Though he is gone, he is not gone. Do you know him?
Father, I pray we know you. I pray we abide with you. I pray we listen to you. I pray we dwell with you, continue in your Word. There are some people in this body who have never, Lord, been connected to the provision of your church. They don't live in relationship with other believers. They are severed from the vine which is the body of Christ, which is nothing more than a branch from the Vine himself.
Lord, they wonder why when they're not involved with regular confession, discipleship, and study, evangelism, stewardship of life, why their life is not good and acceptable and perfect to their soul. It's because they're severed from the source of life. I pray today that they would go, "You know I might be deluded that I believe that that's where life is, because I'm not connected to it."
I pray also today they would be one who would come back and that through the pruning of repentance that will happen today as they hear this message that life would begin to run in the right direction through their veins and fruitfulness would come. I pray if there is one here today, Lord, who has never ever seen Jesus as the vine that they would repent, they would run to him and find out that he is willing to graft them in by grace through faith.
I pray for all of us who are here today that we would look through our lives and we would see if there is the deceitfulness of riches, the worries of this world, or the concern for many things, and we would repent of it that we might follow you. For the glory of our Father, who not just this day, but every day we delight in and want to continue in and remain in, I pray for all of this community in Dallas and Fort Worth that we would abide with you, amen.
All right, gang. Let's go walk with your Daddy. This has everything to do with your week. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.