Posts Tagged ‘ Paul ’

Sermon: Growing into Friends of God – John 15:7-17

I preached again!

Once again, I was back in Paulden covering for Brother Paul. We both have been retreading ground. In my last sermon, I preached verses 1-11, and last week Paul did the same (covering things from a slightly different angle.)

This week, I started in verse 7, so only a little retreading.

As usual, these are rough notes, and I added quite a bit.

Unfortunately, the recording had a major error, so there is no video or audio. At least you can read my notes, I guess.

Growing into Friends of God – John 15:7-17

Intro – The Day I “Became a Man”

Our society today rebels against true manhood and womanhood, against all the things God calls good: family, traditional roles, childhood and parenthood.

Frankly, it is all stupid, especially as they wonder why our society is going to hell in a hand basket, even as studies keep coming out showing the importance of fathers and two-parent homes, the rise in depression especially among younger generations and even those who “find their true selves” through gender-swapping and transgenderism, and the yearning for justice that no one can find.

Yet, growing up I wanted to be like my dad.

I remember the day I knew he saw me as a man. It was a summer day in 2002. We were taking our almost annual road trip from Illinois to Upstate New York to see family and friends. I was 18-going-on-19, and I was ready for the regular 12-14 hour day of riding in the back seat, reading, playing some games with my siblings, maybe pretending to nap. (I don’t nap well while traveling.) My dad usually drove, though sometimes he would have my mom drive for a couple of hours to let himself rest a little.

We made our stop near the border of Indiana and Ohio, did the usual rest stop stuff and got some lunch, and then headed back to the car.

Dad stops me a few feet from the car, dangles the keys in front of me, and says, “Ready for your turn?”

It was huge. I knew I was a man that day.

But he also went through a quick list of “remember this and that” for safe driving and such, as well as a reminder that he would be next to me if I got worried or needed to pull over.

In other words, “You’re not a kid anymore. Remember the rules, and remember I am here to help.”

______________

Before we resume John 15, let’s remember what we’ve talked about.

The past two weeks, Pastor Paul and I covered abiding in Christ.

We discussed much about obeying God, showing we love Jesus by obeying His commands.

What are God’s commands?

  1. Love God with everything you are;
  2. Love other people;
  3. Love each other, the Church.

There are different ways of doing this, yes, but there are some specific ways of doing this.

As Pastor Paul reminded us last week, the people of Israel were supposed to be the light to world drawing other people to God. They were God’s vine that consistently did not grow good fruit, so He had to cut them off.

Not just prune the vine. He had to cut them off. First through exile, and then, after Christ’s ministry and resurrection, the destruction of the nation of Israel (until 1948).

He gave a new Vine, Himself, to make a new people, the Church.

In other words, if we want to do truly good works and find eternal life, we must be found in the Vine of Christ. Only in Christ do we find life and fulfillment. Only in Christ, the faithful Son, can we be faithful to obey.

We must be a people who desire Christ more than anything, only finding our fulfillment in Him.

This leads us back to John 15, starting in verse 7.

​Reading

John 15:7–17, ESV

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Growing Up

Just like my Old Man showed his love by letting me drive, we see here that Christ is showing God’s love for us.

We are being elevated from mere servants of God to friends.

I don’t know if I ever would have asked to drive on a road trip. That was Pop’s job. He did the hard work of driving, even if I really, really wanted to drive.

I don’t think we realize what we fail to ask God for in this life.

Many teachers, preachers, and theologians today like to teach “See! We can ask for whatever we want!” To the point that some famous preachers say they had to ask God for a new luxury car, a bigger house, and a faster private jet. Verses 7 and 16 say so!

Is this what Jesus is saying we should be doing?

“If you abide in me … whatever you ask the Father in my name …”

We should be asking according to Jesus’ will.

Am I saying we should never ask for things or to drive our dad’s car? No. God loves when we talk to Him, even over seemingly trivial things.

However, this passage and others show that we ask according to His will.

The Mega Millions was just at $1.3 Billion (a winning ticket was sold in Chicago). It got me thinking about all of those people who win and suddenly find out about family and friends they weren’t aware of. People who come asking for money and/or gifts.

That’s annoying, having people only come to you when they want something, a free handout.

Or if I had started asking random people if I could drive their car. Also annoying and silly.

But Jesus tells us that He is not inviting anyone to come ask Him and His Father for stuff.

Like my dad, He demands faithfulness to His commands, regular obedience.

He wants us to grow up.

My dad didn’t hand me keys to the car when I was five or even 16 years old (though there was practice driving from the age of 15). He waited until I had faithfully shown him that I could be trusted with a vehicle.

Likewise, Jesus says we are His friends if we obey Him. He has shown us we are friends by revealing what His will is.

He says, v. 16, that He chose us to bear fruit, so we know we can bear the fruit He wants.

He says, v. 8, that His will is to glorify the Father.

He says, v. 17, that His will is to glorify God by loving others.

He says, v. 13, that we are to love sacrificially. Even to the point of giving up our lives.

We get over our selfish desires and seek to glorify God by serving others. We are to grow up and start caring for others.

Back in the Garden of Eden, our super-great grandparents chose personal rewards over obedience, and nothing has changed since.

But now we have the Holy Spirit of God who changes our way of thinking and acting to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, to seek the will of God, to love the same way He has loved us.

Some examples

Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.​
Exodus 33:11, ESV

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”
Isaiah 41:8-9, ESV

Moses and Abraham were murderers and liars, yet they were called friends of God because of their obedience and sacrificial love, both giving up children for God.

And through these men, God called people to Himself, not to be selfish but to seek the will of God.

In chapter 4 of his letter, James, the brother of Jesus, told us as much:​

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:1-10, ESV

So, the message?

Grow up. Be a friend of God, one who seeks His will and glory above your own, who loves God by loving others.

Be humble and realize your dependence on Him, drawing near to abide in His everlasting love.

We live in a world that says we should be seeking our own comfort and glory, but God demands obedience to His will. And He helps us be faithful if we draw near.

My dad didn’t give me the keys to the car because I was the greatest driver in the world.

He gave me the keys of the car because he loved me enough to train me to drive and rewarded my faithfulness to growing. (Even though I still had a ways to go!)

Likewise, Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to go into the world and bring glory to God.

He promised (in the last chapter, 14:18) that He would not leave us as orphaned children, rather that He would help train us up and empower us by His Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to whole world, loving them as He has loved us.

[Hebrews 6:1] “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,” [2 Peter 3:17-18] “beloved, knowing this beforehand, taking care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

The Acts of the Doctor (Who)

Get some of that old-fashioned wisdom at Proverbial Thought!

I am a fan of Doctor Who. That means I am a Whovian.

I enjoy the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre, and Doctor Who covers that in spades (and probably has or will literally).Doctor Who Matt Smith

I have found several devotionals based on Doctor Who, with a common theme of the Doctor as a Christ-like figure and his companions as disciples. There are a few which put the Doctor in a different role, biblically speaking, and within all of these there are times when our circumstances are compared to his and with the Bible.

This is one of those odd-ducks in which I deviate from the Christ-likeness.

Apostle to the World

If I were to compare the Doctor to anyone, it would be the Apostle Paul. Here is why:

The Doctor is a Time Lord who comes from the planet Gallifrey, so he is an alien to Earth. He is not the one who controls time. He is often used by Time to help good win.

He has two hearts, is very clever, and he travels around in a T.A.R.D.I.S. – Time And Relative Dimensions In Space – through all of time and space and occasionally outside. He usually has one, two, or several companions who travel with him (usually from Earth, but not always), whom it is very clear (at least if you pay attention, sometimes) he loves dearly. And he has a sonic screwdriver which helps him get out of and into sticky situations.

The Doctor has a knack for showing people the truth behind circumstances, and he saves the world (and the universe) on a regular basis.

One of the more amazing things about the Doctor is the way he and the Time Lords can escape death: regeneration into a new body.

Now consider Paul:

He was a Jew who was called to preach the Gospel (the truth of Jesus Christ) to the Gentile world (Acts 9:15, Romans 15:15-16).

He had many disciples which he left in cities to lead the church, some of them Jews and some Gentiles. With the help of the Holy Spirit he was saved or revived from sticky situations and helped many people or the glory of God.

All of this was possible because his heart was regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:22-24) (you could argue he, and we as Christians, have two hearts as evidenced by our sinful desires and a new desire for God). We also have the promise of regenerated bodies at the end of the age (2 Corinthians 5).

Paul is not God, but he was used by God to help win over hearts and minds.

I say all this just to say …

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “test everything. Hold onto what is good.” (Technically speaking about prophecy, but it is so applicable in our world.)

It is just as Paul used the pagan god statues in Rome to witness for Christ, or God using secular (non-Christian) songs to pull someone closer to Himself (such as Backstreet Boys’ “As Long As You Love Me” helping me realize my deep need for unconditional, perfect love).

I also really like G. K. Chesterton’s quote:

“Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

I enjoy Doctor Who, and other works of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, because they remind us of who we are, who are meant to be, and that we can and should be more than we are.

What is your inspiration? What is your passion in life that moves you?

Mine is God and the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, but Doctor Who reminds me of that!

The Core Facts: Converted Conspirator

For some words of wisdom, head over to Proverbial Thought!

To keep up to date, do not forget to go back and read the first two Core Facts that show why Christianity is based on truth and reason: Jesus’ death on the cross, the despair of the Disciples, and the change in the Disciples. I give my usual reminder that this is not meant to be an exhaustive study of the arguments, but these posts are primers to get you thinking. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at these points, look up my wonderful youth pastor, Jesse Bollinger, at Fervent Youth.

Now for the third of The Four Core Facts:

The Conversion of Saul/Paul

All of the facts build on each other, building to the point that none work without the others, especially and most importantly because of #1.

Without the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ there is no despair in the Disciples. Either there was never a Jesus of Nazareth to have followed and have taken away, or Jesus was just a good leader and the Disciples could have found another great leader.

Without the Resurrection after the Crucifixion there is no reason for the Disciples to change. The could have easily gone back to their old lives. The Disciples would have had every reason to abandon the mission, especially if a body could have been presented.

There would have been no reason for Saul to hunt down blasphemers, and he would not have been able to see the Resurrected Jesus.

The Apostle Paul is one other person whom should not be doubted as having existed. I can understand people who think Paul was the creator of Christianity. He covered a lot of land in a relatively short span of time, and he impacted countless lives.

However, before he was Paul the Apostle, he was Saul the Pharisee. I will let his own words explain:

“The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.”
Acts 26:4-5, NIV

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
Philippians 3:4-6, NIV

This man did his best to be a really good Jew. He even went so far as to literally hunt down people who defied his fellow religious leaders.

This man was allowed to study under Gamaliel, one of the greatest Rabbis in history. He is renowned within Judaism for his strict adherence to and reverence of the Law of Moses. This is not just the 10 Commandments, but all of the 613 laws found in the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible known as the Books of Moses.

Our man says “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God” (Acts 22:3) (Emphasis added, and, yes, I admit to shortening the verse by a few words.).

There should be no doubt that Saul was a man seeking to work his way into God’s good graces, who was passionate about God’s Law and the teachings and holiness.

Saul was a man who was so devout that he did his best to never be defiled in any way and went as far as to hunt down, arrest, torture, and even kill (at the very least through other people while he approved, as stated in Acts 8:1) those who claimed God became a man.

But then it all changed.

Why would a man so devout to following every letter of the Law to the point of feeling a need to persecute others to protect it suddenly join those he was hunting?

This Saul of Tarsus would have had to have had a truly life-altering event take place.

What would send Saul (meaning “prayed for”) into synagogues to preach the Gospel and the desert wilderness for some time to study to eventually come back as Paul (meaning “small”)?

Other than brain-washing, the only possible explanation is that he saw a vision of the Resurrected Jesus.

It is possible to claim he hallucinated, however when taken with the other three Core Facts that seems unlikely.

In fact, the conversion of Saul the Pharisee in to Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ and one of the greatest missionaries and church-planters ever also falls under the third Core Fact.

Next month I move on to our youth group‘s Four Core Values:

  1. Desperate pursuit of God
  2. Diligent prayer
  3. Consecrated heart
  4. Focused life

Thoughts?