I spent thirty-nine years in a non-reformed church and was not exposed to the joyous knowledge that expository preaching brings. So much meaty truth about our Glorious God was never taught to me, making my walk joyless and hopeless. In Love That Abides, Part Two, Pastor Wilson takes a well-read foundational text for Christians (John 15:1-11) from the pages and presents understanding of the abiding love of our Father. This sermon exposes many of the reasons why Christians like me found Christianity boring and worthless.
Before I go any further, I’d like to share with you…
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
It is not my intention (or Pastor Wilson’s) to lord theological knowledge over the heads of unbelievers or chastise those early on in their sanctification. On the contrary, I am determined to refute the soft-Christianity peddled to me and you in the American church today. It has eroded our reason and security. It has made us partial to our temporal lives at the expense of our witness and ultimately our cosmic purpose of increasing the Kingdom. So please read on knowing that my heart is for God’s ultimate blessing, knowing your joy to be full in Him.
Myth #1 – Christians Are Cool
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church attempted to educate them on the notion that Christianity was not suppose to be cool. He even went so far as to tell them that it was a dangerous and despised life. The church at Corinth was acting out the part of cool mega church of the day with great status and popularity.
1 Corinthians 4:8-12
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure.
Paul’s instructional use of sarcasm (verse 10) with them served to expose their arrogance, worldly-mindedness and boastfulness. It was his divinely appointed job to get them to understand being a suffering saint and why that was important.
To be a Christian is to be like men and women sentenced to death. To be a Christian is to be a spectacle to a fallen world. To be a Christian is to not be held in honor. …There should be a marked distinction between genuine believers and those who pretend to be; those who actually possess Christ and those who only profess Christ. – Pastor Steve Wilson
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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. 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. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
This passage dramatically contrasts those with a genuine love for Christ and pretenders. A genuine believer will stay in the faith and be obedient to Christ’s instruction, guided and supported by the Holy Spirit¹
Myth #2 – I have no fruit because ‘nothing good is in me’.
Okay, I know what the Bible says in Romans 7:18 (“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”), but we tend not to finish the thought. He specifically says there is nothing good “in my flesh.” We are not just fallen flesh. Believers are also a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. God-ordained purposes that our flesh cannot/will not do, can be accomplished by the Holy Spirit living in us (Romans 8:9-11). You will indeed bear fruit if indeed you are saved. He promises to give life to a believer’s dead flesh causing spiritual growth that bears fruit. Excuses are just evidence that you are the branches that will get “burned up.”²
Myth #3 – Ask and Ye Shall Receive!
I heard this a million times as a preacher’s kid growing up in the Bible belt and I knew it was total baloney! I asked God for stuff all the time and got squat. Were these mothball smelling preachers just trying to make me get angry at God? I knew God had done an amazing job putting the whole earth together. Why would He waste time trying to frustrate or confuse me over some genie-lamp-rubbing wishes? These preachers must be wrong somehow [file in brain for future enlightenment.]
This is where context is really important and clarity in delivery is even more important. God wasn’t talking to everyone when He said “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). He says “If you abide in me and my words abide in you.” That means you have to be justified (saved) with the Holy Spirit living inside you (as promised) and instructing you as to what God wants for you and your life. You have to truly love and want God’s will above all else. Then you can ask whatever you wish and it really will be given to you. Never has the saying rung more true, “You gotta be in it to win it!”
The believer has to learn to pray with the revealed purposes of God in view. His word must abide in you and guide you and direct you; and become your passion and your desire³. Prayer is not about lining God up with our intentions. Prayer is about lining us up with God’s intentions. – Pastor Steve Wilson
Myth #4 – You can’t know for sure you’re going to Heaven.
Listen to Pastor Wilson’s sermon series from January on being certain or assured in your eternal position from 2 Peter. It will teach you how to take those rogue thoughts in hand and to be assured in the knowledge of your salvation.
John 15:8 says we can prove our salvation to ourselves because we will do good works (bear much fruit.) Again clarity is everything. What He meant by this, as is clarified in 1 Corinthians 15:10 and Galatians 2:20 , is that these “good works” will come without human explanation. They will be supernatural works of the Lord through us. Any good works through only our own human efforts cannot be counted as fruit. Here again these “good works” have to line up with what God wants. It might be awesome in human terms to give to a mission fund but if that mission isn’t God’s mission, then it doesn’t count as fruit. Fruit is meant to feed and multiply for God’s kingdom.
1 Peter 1:6-7
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Myth #5 – I can love God but decide what is wrong and right for myself.
John 15:9-10 makes it clear that you have to keep His commandments and not make up new rules to suit yourself. This is called moralism and it just doesn’t work for God. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us that Christians delight in the law of the Lord. They don’t try to redefine it or work around it. Obedience leads to the inexpressible joy that Peter talks about and the saving of our souls “to the uttermost” as the author of Hebrews (7:25) tells us.
I hope you will subscribe to this blog and keep learning all God has to teach through these lessons taught by Pastor Steve Wilson of Grace Community Church.
¹John 14:23, 1 John 4:13, 1 John 4:15-16, 1 John 4:4
³John 15:7, John 14:13