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"Are You IN - or OUT? Avoiding the Disconnect"

Jn.14:19-24; 15:1-12 - Sept.20/15


"Are you IN - or OUT?" Few things this past week symbolize the separation and disconnectedness we find sometimes amongst people as does the standoff between migrant refugees and Hungarian police at its closed border crossing from Serbia. In view of the flood of migrants fleeing from Syria, Iraq, and other troubled countries, Hungary had hastily constructed a 13-foot-high razor-wire fence along 110 miles of its border. At one point, as a crowd of migrants pressed up against the gate at a border crossing, they pelted police on the other side with empty water bottles. Hungarian forces responded by using water cannon and tear gas...Seems a bit of an over-reaction!

One news article I read, though, mentioned Croatia (the neighbouring country to Hungary) was prepared to open up an alternate route for the migrants to head on into Europe. Caring overcomes cruelty.

Another story captured a Hungarian camerawoman who tripped a father carrying his 7-year-old son when he was trying to run away from police after migrants burst through a line to flee a holding camp. The camerawoman was also seen kicking a young girl who was trying to run away. The woman lost her job and has since apologized. However a director of a soccer school in a suburb of Madrid saw the story and noticed the man had coached soccer when in Syria. They have sinced offered him a job and helped him and his sons re-settle in Madrid. Again, caring overcame cruelty.

But there is no wall so high as the wall of sin that separated fallen humans from a perfect, omnipotent, holy God. We were clearly "OUT" from the point of view of eternal judgment, not deserving heaven. Yet God's Son Jesus made reconciliation possible for all who believe in Him. Romans 5:10 "...When we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son..."

Not only did Jesus make it possible for us to approach God, He won for us access through the Holy Spirit, who even indwells believers. Romans 5:5 "...God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

This month we've been tracing this theme of "Christ IN you..." A couple of weeks ago we saw Paul write in 2Cor 4:6 that the light that shines in a believer is "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." Last week to the Colossians Paul said God was making known "the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

Today let's turn to the words of Jesus Himself at the Last Supper to try to understand better how HE foresaw the spiritual transformation that would take place when people believed in Him following His resurrection. For those who are IN Him by faith - what's it feel like? How do we foster it? And what fruit flows from this mystery?


For the disciples at Pentecost in Acts 2, the filling of the Holy Spirit seemed like "tongues of fire" coming down and resting on each one (Acts 2:3). When Ananias prayed for Saul, "something like scales fell from Saul's eyes" (Ac 9:18). When Peter preached at Cornelius' house and the Holy Spirit came on his audience, Acts 10:46 "they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God." It can be a bit different for everybody. But Jesus teaches there are some common blessings or feelings when we are "in" Him.

First, there's the blessing of AWARENESS, seeing Jesus. John 14:19-21 "Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me...On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you...He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." Jesus becomes 'present' to us, communicating to us by the Holy Spirit.

Second, those who believe in Christ come to feel they are LOVED by God. 14:21 "He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him..." 15:9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.Now remain in my love." Abide in that love, stay in it, soak in it. HEY - GOD LOVES YOU! Feel that. You may or may not get an associated emotion with it, but the fact is written solid in history: Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus adds in John 15:12 "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." His loving us precedes any expectation of us loving others, His love empowers love for others.

Another 'feeling' that accompanies connectedness with Christ is JOY. 15:11 "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." Paul could write from prison to the church at Philippi (4:4), "Rejoice in the Lord always.I will say it again: Rejoice!" What's the second in Paul's list of the 'fruit of the Spirit' in Galatians 5(22f)? "Love, JOY, peace, patience, etc." Yes Christians have troubles, our vehicles and bodies break down and disappoint, our funds get exhausted, but the joy of knowing Jesus nothing can take from us. His prayer and deep desire for us the night He died was: Jn 17:13 "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them."

And a fourth blessed feeling that comes through faith in Christ is COMPANIONSHIP. Jesus may be going away the night of His betrayal, but repeatedly He tells the disciples it's actually good He's going away, because He's sending a Counselor / Helper / Paraclete to be with them always. 14:23 "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." How cool does THAT sound? God's going to "make Himself right at home" in your life when you invite Him in! 16:13 "...When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." Romans 8:15f "...you received the Spirit of sonship.And by him we cry, <"Abba,> Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Another ONE is present to you as you pray, assuring you God has in fact adopted you into His eternal family and is walking with you through all life's circumstances. Companionship.


"But, Pastor," you may say, "I don't always FEEL that close to God.Sometimes He seems pretty distant." What can we do to FOSTER a closer connection, to preserve the feeling of spiritual intimacy with our Creator / Redeemer / Sustainer? There are some things implied here in what Jesus says.

One way to foster the feeling is by keeping your life framed by Jesus' word, His teaching. Notice especially the first half of 14:21 "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." Who's this apply to? The person who HAS JESUS' COMMANDS. To have them, you've got to read them, hear them, think about them, meditate on them. Invest some time in the quiet of each day - for some morning works best, not for others, you may have to experiment - invest some time when you can focus on that Spirit-given book the Bible. Let it shape the categories of your thinking - not what's trending on social media! Or Elton John, or some other big name.

John 15:3 "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you." Jesus' truth has its cleansing / pruning / disciplining effect. 14:10 "These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." Biblical instruction is ultimately authoritative, coming from God Himself, it's the "Manufacturer's Handbook".

And notice the subtle progression in Jn 15:4,5,7: "Remain in me, and I will remain in you...If a man remains in me and I in him...[but v7] If you remain in me and MY WORDS remain in you..." Do we have His words remaining / abiding / sticking in us?

A second way to 'foster the feeling' is to accept God's discipline, His pruning. 15:2 "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." The verb is to have a "catharsis", to be cleansed / purged / pruned. Accept the Holy Spirit's rebuke when you've messed up; confess your guilt, ask for and receive the Father's forgiveness purchased for you in such a costly manner by Christ. Respond to His direction when there's a change of course. He knows the way best for your development and future. Claim the promise in Hebrews 9:14 "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" 'Tide' for the soul - no whiter whites!

A clean slate is a wonderful feeling. Jay Leno was the popular "Tonight" show host who preceded the current Jimmy Fallon. Leno's high school principal didn't think speeding was a laughing matter thirty years ago. However, all has been forgiven. Leno committed his misdeed when he was a student at Andover High School and was suspended for three days after "burning rubber" in the parking lot. Recently the former Tonight show host made amends by donating $250,000 worth of Microsoft computer software in exchange for having the black mark expunged from his school record.

Jesus bought a clean slate for you at a much higher price - His own life! Keep confessed up when you've messed up.

A third way we FOSTER THE CONNECTION is by KEEPING HIS COMMANDS. All through this section, there's a repeated link drawn between love and obedience. 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command." 14:21 "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." 14:23 "If anyone loves Me, he wil obey my teaching." [conversely] V24 "He who does not love Me will not obey My teaching." To foster the feeling of being connected to God, keep His commands - just as Jesus obeyed His Father's commands and remained in His love (15:10).

Obedience is sometimes seen as a "dirty word" in our individualistic, ego-centred culture. FEMEN protesters recently disrupted a Muslim conference on the role of women in Islam by storming the stage with "Nobody makes me submit" written across their bare chests. Jesus not only associates love with obedience, He models obedience by giving His life in submission to the Heavenly Father's loving plan to draw sinners to Himself.


Jesus' point in this passage is not just that we enjoy warm fuzzies from having a connection to the Father through being "IN" Him. Yes He wants us to FEEL the connection and FOSTER the connection, but heading into chapter 15 the focus is on FRUIT FLOWING from the connection. He's not like some heavenly 'glow stick' we swallow without further effect. He comes inside and transforms us so there's a difference in the way we act, that others will notice.

There's an expectation of FRUIT - MUCH FRUIT. 15:2 "...every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." V4 "Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me." V5 "If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear MUCH FRUIT." V8 "this is to my Father's glory, that you bear MUCH FRUIT..." What fruit? Jesus doesn't really specify. But of course to New Testament readers, Paul's passage on the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5(22f) comes to mind: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

It does seem that one form "fruit" may take is - ASKING! God has blessed us with rich provision for our needs, our daily bread (according to the Lord's Prayer), and for everything necessary for the accomplishment of His will. Php 4:19 "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Rom 8:32 "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"

So Jesus seems keen to encourage us to ASK so God may be glorified by responding in a way that's clearly beyond our own ability to accomplish. 15:7,16 "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you...the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." 16:23f "I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete."

Catch the drift? Of course, in order to ask for something, that puts us in a vulnerable position - we have to admit we can't do it all on our own, it's a challenge to our pride and self-sufficiency. But when the request is in Jesus' name - for His purposes, something He'd be delighted to authorize or "sign off" on - the Father is quick to respond. If your son or daughter comes to you and asks for some gasoline because the mower's empty and they were going to cut the grass, as a parent you don't hesitate for a nanosecond to supply the need - because it's in accord with your plans, too! Quite possibly you're delighted they're even just doing it of their own accord.

And a third and final FRUIT FLOWING FROM THE CONNECTION as Jesus prepares to leave that Upper Room and head toward His coming trial and painful crucifixion - a final fruit is that we LOVE ONE ANOTHER. He's been emphasizing if we love Him we'll keep His commands; and when we get to His command in 15:12, what is it? "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."

Just a few verses earlier, in 15:8 He said, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." And how are other people supposed to know we're Jesus disciples? Any bells going off? Earlier on that same occasion, back in 13:34f He'd said: "A new command I give you: Love one another.As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Tie that back in to 15:8 - how might we show ourselves to be His disciples and so glorify the Father? What is "much fruit"? Loving one another.

The disciple John, who was sitting there watching all this, who just hours later found himself standing with Jesus' mother at the foot of the cross, later wrote: 1Jn 3:11,16-17 "This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another...This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?"

Suddenly, 'loving one another' is no longer airy-fairy: it just got very practical. Love GIVES to those in need, laying down our lives for others as Jesus did for us. That's how HE spelled "L-O-V-E" - and we should, too.


Church growth consultant and expert Thom Rainer recalls a church member who had a profound impact on his life in an unassuming but caring way...

"His name was Bob. He died a few years ago, but, if he influenced just a few people like he influenced me, this relatively unknown and quiet man changed the world.

"Bob always seemed to be at the church. I understand that some people show up at church every time the doors are open out of guilt or legalistic obligation. Not Bob. He was always joyous, always serving, always kind. You could just tell he loved serving the church.

"The same could be said about Bob's wife and two sons. They too seemed to love the church and to find joy in serving. The whole family was, well, different. But different in a good kind of way, if you know what I mean.

"I was a young businessman in my early twenties. I had been married for three years and had just become a dad. Fatherhood hit me like a ton of bricks I wanted to be a good husband and a good dad. And that meant getting involved at church. Really involved.

"I didn't know it at the time, but Bob was watching me. He was concerned for me. He loved my youthful enthusiasm, but he knew what was coming. The more I got involved, the more I would see the imperfections of the church, the pastor, the staff, and other church members. Bob had seen the pattern repeatedly. Get excited about church. Get more involved. Discover the imperfections of the church. Get discouraged about the church. Leave the church.

"Bob took me under his wing. When I would begin to get angry, frustrated, or discouraged about something at the church, he would talk to me. He would explain that no church is perfect. No pastor is perfect. No church member is perfect. And he would gently remind me that I was not close to perfect either.

"He told me that we were to find joy in serving the church and those in the church. We were not a part of the church to see what we could get out of it. We were a part of the church to serve and care for others. Our perspective should always be on giving, not receiving. And if someone did something that disappointed or frustrated us, that was God's way of telling us to pray for that person.

"Bob told me that we could never have the perfection of Christ but that we could strive to be more like Him. He reminded me that Christ died on the cross for people who rebelled against Him. We should be able, therefore, to love the seemingly unlovable at our church.

"Through Bob's patient Biblical teaching, I learned to love the local church. I learned to love the people despite their imperfections. Bob would teach me to look at the "log" in my eye (my own imperfections) before I judged the "speck" in other's eyes (Matt. 7:3-5).

"I wish my own parents had taught me how to love the local church. But Bob was a good spiritual father to me.

"By the way, Bob's two sons are grown men now. And it's no surprise. They are serving and loving their local churches just like their dad.

"After all, he taught them well."

Let's pray.