"The Best Connection"
Jesus is speaking to the eleven on the night he is betrayed. His passion is deep and his teaching is straight forward. One of the truths taught that night is the need to “abide.” How does a disciple remain connected to Jesus?
The Best Connection
A. John’s life had been a mess. From early on he was involved in drugs. First, just selling, then using, then doing both. He tried to quit many times, but he kept getting drawn back into that life. He got religious and really wanted God to help him, but now it just became a life that was secret. He tried to look good on the outside, but he knew what he was doing and it was killing him – literally. He married, had twins, and believed he could stop for them. But even though he was clean for a while, he went back into his secret life.
B. Eight months ago John took something that he doesn’t even know. His heart raced, he poured sweat, he believed he was going to die. He had to call his wife and was taken to the E.R. He told me, “As I lay in that room I felt God ask me one question, ‘Are you ready for me?’” He wasn’t sure if it was ready for God to help him leave this life or ready to meet God because this life was ending. All he knew was he wanted to live, wanted to change, but mostly he wanted God.
C. Obviously he lived. For the last eight months he has been clean. He has become intentional about where he goes, who his friends are, but most important to him, was his connection to God. He knew that without God he couldn’t, but unless he lived in connection to God, God wouldn’t.
D. It was just the two of us up in the balcony of that large auditorium. He was there to run the lights, I just wanted see it from above. I don’t know why I introduced myself to him and asked him how long he had been attending there, but his story hit me. How much of my life is a secret life so that I can look good to you, but inside keep my demons that I secretly want to spend time with?
E. The only way this man believed he could be free is to live in constant connection to God. He had to abide in Jesus. He had to have a real connection, not just a church experience or a religious life for his wife and kids. He needs to be a branch connected to the vine that is Jesus.
I. The Passion of Jesus
A. I want you to keep our passage of John 15 in its context. Remember, this was the last few hours before Jesus would be betrayed and the whole crucifixion timeline would begin. That night Jesus began by washing the feet of all 12 disciples (including Judas). Jesus wants them to see love right up to the last moment.
B. He told them how he was going to leave, but his reason for leaving was get a place ready for them and when it was the right time he would come back and take them home with him.. He wanted them to know that in the meantime they were not alone. Even though they had experienced the power of Holy Spirit in their lives doing miracle, Jesus wanted them to know the Spirit was about to come as another helper for them while Jesus was not in the flesh. God’s Spirit that was there to form the earth, to breathe life into Adam, was coming to reside in them.
C. It is then, that we come to these words that John records for us. It is important to understand that John wrote these words many years after Jesus rose and ascended into heaven. He wrote to people who never saw Jesus walking on the earth. He tells these people his story, his encounter with Jesus that night. That’s what disciples do, they tell their story to others so that they can see what it means to be a disciple.
D. So Jesus speaks with passion, depth of emotion, a great desire that these 11 (Judas had already left the group) would abide “in him.” I want you to hear the calling of Jesus to them and to us. Listen as I read John 15:1-11.
E. There is so much in these verses. God loves me, but he doesn’t leave me where I am. He prunes me to help me grow and bear more fruit. In the context, the fruit seems to be everything that God desires to do in and through me. It is me keeping in step with the Spirit, it is me hearing the voice of God and obeying the commands, it is me living as disciple of Jesus in a way that constantly reflects that fact that Jesus is alive and I am but a visual of what Jesus can do with a life that remains connected to grace he gives.
II. Abide, Remain In Jesus
A. There is a word that is used several times in the passage depending upon your translation. It’s generally the word “abide” or “remain.” We can spend time with the language, but I want you to sit with message. Jesus is speaking about a relationship, a union, that connection that exists where we are nourished, pruned, and produce fruit because we remain constantly connected to Jesus.
B. Listen to me, don’t come to church. I won’t argue the phrase except to say we say it, because deep within many of us, church is a place in which you come to and leave from. I want you remain connected to Jesus and this worship is simply a part of the feeding and pruning portion of your connection. Re-read John 15:4-6.
C. The illustration Jesus gives is the branch on a grapevine. We have a grapevine between my house and our neighbors. One vine that is 40 years old. Every grape that grows on that vine is really attached to branches. If I choose to cut off one of the branches that has grapes on it, and bring to my kitchen table and leave it there, you know what will happen. It will die, the grapes will look like raisins and eventually I will have no choice but to throw the branch into the trash. That branch, when separated from the vine can do nothing to produce any more fruit. In fact, by itself, it dies.
D. How many of you saw or read about the brother of Botham that wanted to hug the woman who killed him? We see that type of forgiveness extended to a convicted killer and it makes national news. Let me tell you why 18 year old Brandt could do what he did – he didn’t let the murder of his brother cut him from the vine of Jesus. He was not offering himself to that woman, he invited her to know the same Jesus he knew. You want to see lasting fruit? Don’t let the evil of this world cut you off of the vine of Jesus.
E. Being connected to Jesus is more than what happens in this worship. In fact, this is a small amount of what it means to remain connected to Jesus. My prayer is worship encourages the connection you maintain the rest of the week.
A. While we didn’t explore one of the things Jesus said, I want to leave you with his teaching. “Abide in my love.” Jesus centered upon love as a key element in how we abide in him and he in us. It is the same love he as a human had with the Father. His commandment in this passage, and other places, is to love each other.
B. The truth is, I cannot remain connected to Jesus without producing what Jesus produced – a sacrificial love. A love that is rooted in obedience to God.
C. My prayer is that you are so connected to Jesus, that you can’t help but desire to be here in worship with other disciples. My prayer is that you are so connected to Jesus, that showing love has become your first response, not a forced response. My prayer is joy is experienced because Jesus lives in and through each of us. If we can encourage you to stay connected to Jesus, then come as we stand and sing.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister