Intro: Can we seek God in order to get saved? Is it in man to be able to know God and choose to be saved? Is man capable of understanding and finding the way to heaven? The answer to all these questions is No. Here’s why?
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one.” Rom. 3:10-12
Last Sunday we heard stories from the Bible of the lost son who returned home, the lost sheep sought by the shepherd and the lost coin found by the owner and how the father, the shepherd and the owner of the coin rejoiced after those who were lost returned and were found. It was a day of rejoicing and celebration . We also celebrated God’s faithfulness to bless the church of His Son these five years. The prodigal son who squandered his inheritance in wild living returned, the sheep who got separated from the flock and can’t find his way back was sought out by the shepherd and the coin that was in the wrong place was found. These illustrated to us that the prodigal son already belonged to his father, the sheep had a shepherd and the coin belonged to the owner. But what about those who do not yet belong to God and are saved? Today we will focus on who does the seeking and the saving?
“Jesus came to Seek and to Save the Lost”
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:1-10
When Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming, he went outside his office to see. Of course everyone knew him and I believe the people lining the street did not want to share what they expected of Jesus to this man. I can imagine what they are saying in their hearts that this tax collector does not deserve to know Jesus. News was spreading that Jesus is their Messiah. Tax collectors were considered the scum of the earth for taking advantage of their own people? Rome had appointed Jews to collect taxes for them and they abused their position by overcharging the people and pocketing money for themselves. When John was baptizing in the Jordan,
“Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what must we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.” Luke 3:12-13
Zacchaeus was not one of those who got baptized. He was the chief tax collector and that made him wealthy. That day there was something that moved him to see who this Jesus was and so he went. And the people who saw him coming blocked him from seeing Jesus. He was short and cannot see yet it did not stop him to find a way to see Jesus. He figured that Jesus would pass this way and finding a sycamore-fig tree he climbed to get a full view of Jesus. He persevered to see Jesus because God had a plan for his life. Here’s the most amazing thing that happened.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5
I want us to take note of this truth, “When Jesus reached the spot.” What spot was that? Directly below where He can see and speak to Zacchaeus. Did Jesus know that he was up on the tree? Yes and how? Let’s not forget when Jesus started His ministry, the Holy Spirit came down to be upon Him at His baptism. After that this is how the Holy Spirit worked in the life and ministry of Jesus,
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Luke 4:1
And on one occasion Jesus said this to those who were starting to persecute him after He told them that God was His Father.
“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” John 5:19-20
So in whose life was God working in Jericho? How did Jesus know whom the Father was drawing to Him? Did Zacchaeus come out to see Jesus out of his own desire to seek Him? No. Here’s why he went to see Jesus.
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away… No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:37, 44
Another truth we see here is when Jesus looked up, He knew who was up the tree. I am sure that this was the first time Jesus saw him and yet He knew his name, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” This is the work of the Holy Spirit revealing to Jesus whom God His Father was drawing to Him. Jesus totally relied and was dependent on His Father to do His will. Just as when He was to choose the twelve apostles this is what Jesus had to do,
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” Luke 6:12-13
As the Son of Man, Jesus had to pray seeking who His Father was giving to be His apostles. In the same way Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to go through Jericho to seek and save this one man by the name of Zacchaeus. Jesus did not ask to be invited but told him that He must stay in his house. Did Zacchaeus have a choice? Was it possible for him to resist the will of God? If that was you, would you have refused? He immediately obeyed Jesus and welcomed Him gladly. I cannot imagine how he must have felt knowing the rejection and hatred the people had towards him even preventing him from seeing Jesus but now he was singled out and given the privilege to have Jesus stay in his house? Did he know that he was a sinner? Here’s what the people said, “All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” They were right. Zacchaeus knew he was a sinner but what about them? This is what happens when people see others who are really bad, that they think of themselves to be good. And the bad news for them is they disqualified themselves for salvation.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” 1 Tim. 1:15
So then if anyone thinks that he is good enough to go to heaven because he has done good things and is not as bad as the others he is deceived and has disqualified himself. What qualifies a person to be acceptable to God is the one who sees himself as a sinner, for the truth of the matter is “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Because of sin God will judge every sinner with death in everlasting hell, except when God is pleased and wills to show mercy and grace on the person He chooses to give to His Son and given the gift of eternal life.
“For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23
How did Zacchaeus qualify to be saved? Here is his confession to Jesus.
“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Luke 19:8
Before anything, he acknowledged Jesus as “Lord.” Jesus did not have to tell him to repent, he already saw himself as a sinner and confessed it in the presence of his family and probably relatives. No doubt he has heard from the other tax collectors what John the Baptist told them before they were baptized. He did not only admit his sins but also pledged to make restitution and return what he overcharged with 400 % interest. That’s not just being sorry but willing to lose everything to make up for what he did wrong. It’s like a criminal who turns himself to the authorities and confess all he had done. Do you think he will overcharge taxing his people again? Never. This is what repentance is all about. Turning away from sin and do what is right and correcting the wrong whatever the cost may be. The same thing happened when Gentiles were saved and born again in Ephesus.
“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. “ Acts 19:18-19
And what did Zacchaeus hear from Jesus after he confessed his sins?
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:9-10
Surely that must have been the greatest thing that has ever happen to Zacchaeus. He was a full blooded Jew and knew God has chosen the descendants of Abraham as His people. But being a Jew does not automatically save anyone. One time Jesus was telling the Jews about setting them free from the slavery of sin and who are His true disciples. Here’s their reply,
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we can be set free?” John 8:33
No doubt the Jews are Abraham’s descendant but that does not make them sons.
“Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” Jesus said, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own but he sent me.” John 8:39-42
The same is true with children of parents who are Christians. They cannot inherit salvation from their parents nor parents pass them on to them. We read last Friday from our Everyday with Jesus Bible this truth from the Old Testament.
“Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes – his own teeth will be set on edge.” Jer. 31:30
And this is affirmed to us in the New Testament how one is saved.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13
Who was and is Jesus seeking today and finding and saving?
“She will give birth to son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:21
Who then are His people? Those whom the Father has chosen to give to His Son. Would Zacchaeus have come to Jesus if He were not chosen and drawn by God? No. From the account that we read, Jesus passed by Jericho to save the one God has chosen out of the whole crowd. I believe God may have saved his household because everyone will see the saving power and the grace of God to save this big sinner Zacchaeus. Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
You may be here today and have not yet repented just as Zacchaeus did and surrendered your life to Jesus as Lord. This is your day of salvation. Just as Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” That house is your body where Jesus wants to come in as your Lord to save you. But first this is the good news you must believe.
“By this gospel you are saved…For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:2a-4
Come to Jesus…Invite Him into your heart.
“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Rom. 10:9-10
Intro: Has there been a time in your life that you doubted the love of God when the circumstances were unpleasant and painful? This experience can either be before you were saved or after. Probably if this happened before you would question why God has allowed this to happen to you. Now that you are a Christian you can accept it as a trial and according to Paul we ought to be thankful because it is the will of God. Yet when things are going well we tend to take God for granted, especially in obeying His commands. In the study of “Experiencing God” I learned that “A love relationship with God is more important than any other single factor in your life.” This has made a radical and drastic change in my values but most of all in my relationship with God. Our Scripture of meditation for the week comes from the attitude of Paul regarding the love of Christ that compels him, meaning he had a strong interest in sharing the gospel and giving it his full attention.
“The Compelling Love of Christ”
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I obeyed my Father’s command and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love
has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:9-17
We are now on our third passage from John 15. I want us to notice that there is no more reference to “if a man” or “if anyone.” It is now limited to “if you”, addressing it only to the eleven disciples and to true believers today. The first very important truth from our text is this. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” When I was a young Christian the most important thing I knew happened to me was all my sins have been forgiven and I have eternal life. This is normal and the first response after one has been born again. And most probably it will take some time for him to reach this truth in John 15. This is no longer “For God so loved the world” it has become personal. Christ loves me with the same love that God the Father loved Him. Have I really grasped how much I am loved? Do I appreciate this fully when in fact the Scriptures say that God also hate some people in the world and more people are going to hell? God loves the world in general but He also hates sin and sinners. Shocking as it may, here’s what Paul wrote.
“Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls – she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Rom. 9:10-13
The gospel truth is that God is love and God is just. The only way to reconcile both these truths is that justice had to be satisfied. The love of God stops at the cross. For the love of God to reach us it has to go through His Son. Jesus Christ the Son of Man and the Son of God who left heaven to be punished for sins He did not commit. This is what God made him to be.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21
But have you considered, how can God do this to His Son and punish Him for sins He did not commit much less deserve? This is the only way God can love us. There is no doubt God loved His Son. And yet if Jesus did not sacrifice His life to pay for our sins, we will all be in hell. And the greatest thing that can happen to anyone is to be loved by Jesus with the same love that His Father had for Him while He was in the flesh, just as we are.
“Now remain in my love.” When one has fully grasped how much being loved by Christ mean, would he consider this is an option? And why shouldn’t we want to remain in His love. When a love relationship between husband and wife grow cold one could say, “You don’t love me anymore.” Will Christ’s love ever grow cold? Never, but it is our love that does. Last Sunday, I gave an illustration where Jesus is the head and we are the cars in a train. When we are asleep there is no movement for the train. But when we wake up and start our day, what do we need to do? Connect with the head by faith. We already looked at dying to self so Christ lives in us represented by the Holy Spirit to take full control. Even though we are connected we still need to be willing to obey every command that the Holy Spirit reminds us to do. We apply this by doing our routine like having our quiet time with the Lord, reading His Word and prayer. Then we prepare to go to work because this is His will. We get there on time just as we come on time for our appointment with God on Sundays to worship. When we work we will do everything without complaining and thankful for every circumstance that we may go through good or bad. We do a good job working as unto the Lord.
Remaining in His love means and requires this as a mind set. “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s command and remain in his love.” How did Jesus obey His Father’s command?
“But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” John 14:31
Jesus was driven to obedience by His love for His Father. In the same way our obedience and willingness to do what Christ commands should be driven the same way by our love for Christ. The Holy Spirit is the one who supplies and produces that love for Christ. Our part is only to decide to be willing to obey after surrendering ourselves to Christ daily. When we have died to self the Holy Spirit takes over to empower us to do the will of God. Even Jesus while He was human needed the Holy Spirit and yielded to His leading.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Luke 4:1-2a
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” There is a joy that is produced by the Holy Spirit but I believe there is another joy that Jesus wants us to experience that He gives. When Jesus was about to be crucified, this was what He went through.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2
Jesus did not have this joy while He hung on the cross. In fact when God His Father abandoned Him, He was alone and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was when God made Him to be sin for us. God turned His back on sin and Jesus lost His fellowship with His Father. Did He have joy at this time? Certainly not for joy and sin cannot come together. That joy came to Him after the cross. This is now the joy that He shares with us when we face persecutions, hardships and difficulties just as Paul also went through. Are we exempted from this? No. For Jesus said,
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first… If they persecuted me they will persecute you also.” John 15:18, 20b
This is what Jesus meant when He said, “that your joy may be complete.” Regardless of the circumstance you are in good or bad you have the joy of Christ and that is complete. But that joy comes to us after we have also died with Him. “I have been crucified with Christ.” This is the joy of the Lord.
Jesus highlighted a command that should be obeyed by everyone He loved. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” This is not the love you have for your neighbor or those who hate you. This is the love for another believer. He gave them this command earlier and said it again.
“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.” John 13:34-35
This is new and special command to believers for believers. This is the evidence to the world that we belong and identified with Christ that brings glory to Him bringing us to a higher relationship with Him. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Who are these friends Jesus is referring to? “You are my friends if you do what I command.” He is not here referring to being saved but to a new relationship with Christ. It is true that Jesus is our friend and there is a hymn for that. “What a friend we have in Jesus?” Because Jesus is our friend we can trust Him to come to our help and He is a faithful. What about us? There is a difference to be a friend of Jesus. Can He trust us when He sends us to tell someone the good news that we will obey? Are we willing to take risks to stand for Christ and do the right thing? A pastor in Iran was sentenced to die because he will not recant for being a Christian. In the Muslim faith when one converts to Christianity this is punishable by death. There is one man in the Old Testament that stands out that God calls His friend,
“But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend.” Isa. 41:8
Why did God call Abraham His friend? I believe that when God commanded him to sacrifice his only son whom he loved, he obeyed without hesitation. He was willing to give up his only son out of obedience to God.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said, “do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”…The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.” Gen. 22:12, 15-17a
Abraham feared God and for us we obey because we love God. Can you imagine if we become friends of Jesus, just like Abraham we have God’s promise of blessings to be a channel of blessing to who God will call. We now have a new relationship with our Master. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.” Jesus here is not minimizing those who serve the Lord. This should be what everyone who is saved ought to do serving the Lord and most are already doing. In addition to being a servant He wants us to be His friends. “Instead I have called you friends for everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Becoming a friend of Jesus is the greatest blessing next to being loved by Him. Jesus already made known to His disciples what they needed to know. Every good thing and every blessing that is already theirs. Knowing God from the beginning. Yet what was lacking at that time was power to do the commands that Jesus has given them. That power came after the Holy Spirit came to reside in them, just as everyone who has received Christ as Lord is given the Holy Spirit. This is what they were to make known those they will disciple later on.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20
Paul affirms this to us when he prayed for a friend and fellow worker,
“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Philemon 6
How do we become active? When we hear the call and obey the call to go. “You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” We are all called to be witnesses for Christ. Then as we grow in grace and knowledge of Christ and remain in His love He gives us the privilege to be used by Him to seek and save the lost. The fruit that we bear is when we reproduce an offspring for Christ. We simply share the faith and Jesus saves those whom His Father gives Him. We are His messengers and channel of the blessing of salvation. This is the fruit that will last forever, the souls saved and reproducing disciples in order to disciple others.
How does God the Father view all these? “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” Earlier by remaining in Him, Jesus promised to give them whatever they wish. The more they got answers to their prayers the more they became obedient to Christ. When we are bearing fruit, the Father gives us whatever we ask in the name of Jesus for His sake.
At the end of our text, Jesus again gave this command a second time, “This is my command: Love each other.” Why was this very important to Jesus? Loving each other is a testimony to those around us, in the community and even to the world that we are his disciples. If there is quarrelling and backbiting among the members of Christ body, what impression will those who are witnessing His church have? How can Christ be with us when there is no love for each other? Judge for yourselves the religion where we came from, did you find the followers loving each other? Even among Muslims they are even killing now each other and dethroning their leaders. So what should stand out as different about us Christians? I thank the Lord that I see this among you and I trust that what is happening inside is spreading outside our walls. This is the greatest testimony that will make the message of the gospel glorious and attractive giving glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is God’s message to the world for us to bring outside our walls.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
This is God’s message to us, His body inside our walls.
“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.” 1 John 3:16
Intro: Very early in my Christian life and was very excited to share my faith, I got hold of this tract that showed what faith does in the salvation plan of God. The picture was about the head of a train and rows of cars behind. But unless there is a connection, the head can move but the trains of cars remains. Faith is what connects the head with the rows of cars behind. Only then will the trains of cars move as the head moves. The engine is in the head. This became very clear to me the place of faith in my life.
Last Sunday we read that Jesus is the true vine and the branches that were genuinely connected with Him will bear fruit. It should because that’s the purpose God has chosen them for that very purpose. Many Christians think that they are saved only to populate heaven and be blessed with wealth and good health while here on earth. After I got saved I was joyful beyond description that my sins are all forgiven and I have eternal life. That’s the start of ones spiritual growth. But are we to remain there? No, because that is not all the will of God for us. One does not mature one week after getting saved. That’s why there is discipleship and nurturing that is done through the church. That’s why God combines them with a church family to be cared for and nurtured. Usually God connects them with the church body that brought the gospel to them. This is also the pattern copied by religions that is not the “true vine.” If one gets converted to become a Mormon it is normal that he will be invited to attend and join a Mormon church and taught their doctrines
But for those who have been saved by the true vine, they need to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am sure that the eleven disciples Jesus was addressing from last Sunday’s message already have grown in knowledge of who Jesus was. He was with them three years and taught them everything that they needed to know. We can safely say that they are young men about to become fathers. But one thing was still lacking the Holy Spirit was not yet in them. No wonder Peter denied Jesus when confronted if he was one of His followers. He did not have the courage and the power of God. At this point I will conclude that they lacked the faith to connect with the Head of the train in everything, but they were already on the right track. They already belonged to the vine. So the message continues.
“The Key to Fruit Bearing”
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does notremain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:5-8
I have already used this passage in the past but I believe the Lord wants us to hear this again to remind us what we are saved for. But will we all be fruitful as God expects us to be? From our text there are three “ifs”. It is there because God gives everyone who claims to be a Christian a choice. We are to will, either to respond to God’s commands to obey or disobey, to remain in Christ or go our own way. This is every believers struggle, obedience to God’s every command. The struggle comes from lack of trust, giving up what we want and enjoy, giving up our independence and love for God that has not grown to love Him with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind. Children have a relationship with their earthly fathers but are they always obedient? The sinful nature in them wants to disobey just as adults who are spiritually young and still controlled by their sinful nature.
Perhaps here is one issue that is still confusing and giving doubts to genuine believers of Christ. The evil one is always making Christians doubt his faith.
Even the message last Sunday and today will make one’s faith doubt whether he or she is a Christian. Especially if you have not been fruitful, not having led anyone to Christ. Some Christians may not have experienced leading anyone to Christ, but just plant the seed. I have seen at airports young men standing in the middle of the walkway as passengers come out from a flight passing out tracts. I have witnessed some take and others don’t. That’s sowing the seed to prepare hearts that one day someone will harvest. What about teachers in Sunday school telling children about Jesus? Perhaps too young to respond but their hearts are being prepared for the harvest when they grow older. Leading a youth and adult Bible study. What about gossiping Jesus for what he has done in ones life among his peers or in the workplace of his changed life produced by the Holy Spirit. This makes unbelievers aware that they too can have the joy and peace of being forgiven. Who knows God may be gracious to them in His time. Inviting unbelievers to church especially at our Anniversary. That’s already bearing fruit when working with God preparing hearts for salvation. On our first worship service five years ago, Richel who got saved earlier in one of our Bible studies, invited Marcy to come to worship. During the week she invited us to her house on that Saturday to meet her husband to share the gospel. They also invited another couple and the Lord opened the hearts of Orly and Macrina and both prayed to receive Christ. If Richel did not invite her co-worker Marcy, we would have not met Orly and Macrina. And thank God they are still here. Our brother Severino wrote his friend Willie to testify what God has done through him and I quote, “I organized a Bible study (3 hours) for 7 Saturdays at our school – Rosario Institute with forty friends and relatives. They all accepted the Lord as their Savior and repented of all their sins” end of quote. Now the Lord is opening a door for Grace to minister to Korean children in a school on Saturdays, her day off. Let’s pray that many of these children will be saved through her sharing the gospel. Peter would not have been saved if his brother Andrew did not tell him about the Messiah.
“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus…Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.” John 1:35-37, 40-41
There are three ifs in our text. No doubt the first if is for those who will faithfully follow Christ, connected and remaining with Him by faith. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” When this truth is believed and acted upon by faith, this now is the key to fruit bearing
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20
Just like the train we connect the train car to the head by faith. This is how we remain in him. This is a daily decision of commitment.
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Cross means death. I first deny my rights to myself and then identify with the death of Christ and consider myself dead to sin and self. Then we bear fruit because it is now Jesus who works in us and through us. Those that will be drawn to Him by the Father He will save through us. This is the same way God worked out His redemptive plan through His Son.
“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:10-14
This is what will happen to us when we are dead to self so that Christ has full control of us. I am in Christ and He is in me, just as Jesus was in the Father and the Father was in him. Can you imagine what Jesus can do through us if we remain in Him. He will bear much fruit through us.
But “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are thrown into the fire and burned.” These are those who claim to be Christians but are not. They follow for a while but then stop and return to where they were.
“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them. “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” John 6:60-65
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” John 6:66
The Jews who believed they belong to God because they are Abraham’s children, Jesus threw this question about the Galileans killed by Pilate.
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them – do you think they were “more guilty” than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:2-5
How many people are dying today that are innocently killed by terrorist, casualties of calamities, innocent victims of drunken drivers, casualties of war and many other causes. As Jesus said, are they worse sinners and more guilty than others? Unbelievers and believers are dying everyday. But the issue is not when one dies he or she is worse sinner than the rest. I don’t know how many Christians died in the tower on 9/11 and how many were not. But here’s what matters, one of the seals that died in Afghanistan was a Christian and his testimony to his grandmother was that he was ready to die anytime because he belongs to Jesus. I don’t know about the rest but God knows who are His. Then Jesus told them this parable
“A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.” Luke 13:6-9
What is the object lesson of this parable? I believe the main truth that we see here is God withholding judgment by the pleading of his servant, that’s mercy. Did the tree deserve to stay alive? No. But God withheld His judgment and was gracious to give him another year. If you are not yet a Christian how should this parable affect you? What about if you claim to be a Christian? Are you bearing fruit as you should?
The third if is for “you” who remain connected with Christ and obedient to His word. You have the privilege of asking whatever you wish with a promise that it will given to you. Does this mean I can ask anything? When Christ is the one living in you, you will have His mind, His desires and by His Spirit you will ask what the Spirit will reveal to you as the will of God.
“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with the will of God.” Rom. 8:27
What you pray for is the will of God and because it is the will of God, He certainly will answer them. Here’s a sample of what to pray for,
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matt. 9:38
The prophet Isaiah in his encounter with God, heard from God.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go and tell the people.” Isa. 6:8-9
The result of all these is, “This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” God is glorified and we grow more and more confident in the assurance of our salvation that we are His.
Jesus had this as His purpose when He was sent down to us.
“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” John 17:4-5
Jesus was hours before His death yet He said He completed His work.
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believe that you sent me.” John 17:6-8
You would not have known Christ if someone did not reveal Christ and the gospel to you? Those whom God gave to His Son got saved after Jesus revealed Himself and the gospel to them. At that time Christ Jesus did the revealing. Who will now carry the message to those whom God will give to His Son? This is how Paul understood his purpose and God’s will for his life by special revelation from Christ.
“I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ…But when God, who set me apart from birth and called my by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.” Gal. 1:11-12, 15-17
What was the gospel revealed to him by Christ that he was to preach?
“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:2-4
Intro: The Bible and even our Lord Jesus used metaphors to illustrate Biblical truths. It could be in the animal kingdom or plant kingdom. Today we will see how Jesus used the plant kingdom to point out certain truths. In the gospel of Mark, he reported this account of the last week before Jesus went to the cross. The day after the triumphant entry…
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree. “May no one eat fruit from you again” … In the morning as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” Mark 11:12-14, 20-21
Notice that Peter remembered and was quick to relate what happened to the fig tree cursed by Jesus. What lesson did Jesus show His disciples? Two Sundays ago we read the warning by Jesus about false prophets from Matt. 7. He said that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Jesus used this tree to represent man and his spiritual condition. But who is a good and a bad tree? This tree in question represents those who are religious but spiritually dead. They look good on the outside but the spirit inside is dead. When a baby is born it doesn’t take long before he sins and become bad. Who can make him good? Here’s what Jesus said,
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” Matt. 12:33
The Bible says no one is good because all have sinned. One sin makes us bad. The only one who is good is our Lord Jesus Christ who never sinned and He is the only one who can make anyone good. It is very important to know this truth because what we will look into today is about fruit bearing and who can bear this good fruit? The title of our message is,
“Genuine Christians Bear Good Fruit”
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4
When Jesus was teaching this to his disciples, there were only eleven left. This was on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion as they were observing the Passover meal. This whole event is reported in chapters 13-17. In chapter 13, Jesus washed his disciples feet, then had the Passover meal. Then Jesus revealed to all His disciples that one of them was going to betray him.
“His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him”…. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.”John 13:22-27,30
Jesus revealed and exposed the one who would betray Him. This represented the tree that He cursed. Our text shows us another metaphor that Jesus used to point to Himself. ‘I am the true vine.” When He referred to Himself as the true vine it is to compare and differentiate Him from all other religions claiming also to be the vine that they have the way to heaven. But said Jesus,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
This is the sixth “I am” and the “True vine” is the seventh and the last.
In addition to His claim, He now identifies God His Father as the gardener. In some versions it is translated as the vinedresser. So what does the gardener do? He cares and sees to it that the plant and in this case the vine that produces grapes are rid of dead branches. A dead branch cannot bear fruit. So He cuts them. The ones who bear fruit He prunes to be more fruitful. The ones He cuts like Judas are not genuine believers of Christ. Jesus warned His disciples that there are false prophets as there will also be fake Christians. Fake Christians can look like one, talk like one and even uses the same language as Christians use and goes to church. They can be religious but spiritually dead. How does the gardener know who they are? He knows because He has chosen those He gave to His Son. How do we know that the gardener has cut them off? Here’s how John explained this.
“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belong to us they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” 1 John 2:18-19
This is not to mean that when a member leaves to go to another place they are the antichrist. Grace left for Korea and Severino moved back to the Philippines by God’s purpose. We have members here who joined us from another church here in Reno. Are they the antichrist John is talking about because they left their former church? The reason they went out from another church was because of doctrinal differences. Gina and I used to go to the Catholic Church but after we got saved we saw the errors in doctrine especially in the way of salvation plus the fact that it caused us to sin by their idols. I believe the only valid reason for a believer to leave the church where he is a member of is when God moves him and combines him with another church for His purpose. A personal conflict with any member is not a reasonable and valid reason. We already looked at Scripture that it is God who combines the members of the body of Christ. Furthermore, John wrote.
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but tests the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3
John is not referring to the antichrist in Revelation but those whose spirits are against Christ. They believe in the wrong Jesus Christ. But the ones who are from God acknowledge that Jesus is God the Son, the Word who left His throne in heaven to become a human being in order to die for our sins. This is the heart of the gospel that Christ died on that cruel cross for our sins. If He did not come in the flesh He could not die. The Muslims believe that Jesus is only a human being but not God. The Jehovah’s Witness believe that Jesus is only “a god” but not equal with God. On the other hand some do not fully accept the fact that He became 100% human but believe Jesus was able to bear the suffering he went through because he was at the same time God. They make light of His death as a human being. But those who acknowledge and believe God the Son left His throne in heaven to come down to earth in the flesh took a human name Jesus is from God. These are the ones who have been born of God and given the Spirit of God to dwell in them. And once the Holy Spirit is in them, He produces the fruit of the Spirit that changes them from the inside out. Only the Holy Spirit does this.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Gal. 5:22
What then is the evidence of a genuine Christian? They are made good by God and changed by the Holy Spirit. Once they are saved they are excited of being saved from hell after receiving forgiveness of all their sins and eternal life now while still alive. They cannot help but share Christ with others. They are witnesses of Jesus to loved-ones, relatives and friends telling what Jesus had done for them. The fruit is when another sinner is born again. The fruit is the harvest by God after a sinner has heard the gospel through them. The fruit is also the disciple who after having grown in Christ is making other disciple and is reproducing more and more followers of Christ.
Once a follower of Christ is becoming fruitful, the gardener is going to prune the branch to make it even more fruitful. These are characters and behaviors that are still worldly and ungodly. We have to remember that God has chosen to save us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. The pruning can be painful because it cuts anything that comes between our love-relationship with God. Leaves in the vine have no use by the vine to produce grapes. They take away nutrients from the vine but have nothing to do with bearing fruit. Anything that distracts us from God’s purpose to reproduce God will prune. It could be works and activities that do not draw unbelievers to Christ or behavior and conduct of the old life that is a poor testimony of Christ. A rough diamond is polished to show its brilliance. A musical instrument is fine tuned to produce excellent melody.
“You are already clean”. A genuine Christian is already clean. Clean in the sense that all his sins are already forgiven. What is the word that made a Christian clean? Christ’s forgiveness and promise of eternal life by His blood. This truth was already written through the prophet Isaiah.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isa. 1:18b
Here now is Christ’s command. “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” Does this come automatically once one becomes a Christian? Remaining in Christ means remaining in fellowship with Jesus by walking and following Him daily. We can understand this by this picture of Him being the Shepherd and we His sheep. This is now what is true to His followers.
“My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me.” John 10:27
This has become the life of a branch connected to the true vine. He listens to Jesus as he reads his Bible daily and then follows by obedience every command that Jesus reveals and gives him. By doing this we can experience His presence in everything that we do that He is with us.
“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.” John 14:21
God has not designed us to do anything on our own. God’s work and fruit bearing needs the supernatural power of God. On our own we can convince people of the gospel and they can even believe but if it is not done through Christ there is no genuine conversion. Why? Because “No branch can bear fruit by itself.” Jesus rebuked those who did the work without Christ.
“Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” Matt. 23:15
To do God’s work of spreading the good news is a must to be connected to the vine. A life that is fully surrendered and dedicated to Christ is the life that will bear much fruit. When one is fully connected to the vine without anything that hinders the power of God, it is the life of Christ that is now at work through us. This now becomes the reality of this branch.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in this body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20
But do we believe this? A belief that takes no action and commitment will not do us any good. I can believe the reality of this truth but if it stays in the head and does not go down to the heart it will not result into action. This is a decision that the branch must make to let the vine have full control that the lifeblood of the vine flows unhindered to produce the fruit and multiply the offspring of Christ. Since faith is what connects us with Christ we must decide by considering ourselves dead to sin so Christ will live His life in us. That faith is not even produced by us but by the Holy Spirit.
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Rom. 10:17
When you read your Bible are you listening? And whatever you hear do not just let it be knowledge in the head but let it sink down to the heart and the Holy Spirit will produce the love for Christ to do what He says. Here’s the problem and the belief of Judas.
“You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” James 2:17
Who did Judas love more? He loved money and sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
“It must remain in the vine.” Remaining in Christ is a must and not an option. Either He has His way or our way to serve Him. Every one of us here is the fruit of someone who bore fruit for Christ as His instrument to bring the good news to you and me. Thank God that they were faithful to remain in Christ. And because it was Christ living and working through them the gospel we heard brought life to our dead spirits because it had the power.
The last statement from our text that Jesus said is, “Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” When Jesus called His disciples that He will make them fishers of men, what happened? They did. We are still called the same way to follow Him because that is what Jesus came to do. He was the first fisherman to fish souls for God and His disciples followed Him. At first they were weak and Jesus knew that. Peter denied Jesus three times and had no power. God knew what was lacking. They were simply humans without the power of God in them. But when the Holy Spirit came…
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Do you have this testimony? Can you say this as your testimony?
“Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his son. And this is the testimony that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:10-12
Are you testifying this to your family, friends and all acquaintances?