Mar 24, 2019
John 15:9-16:4

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John 13 begins with an amazing scene. Jesus and the disciples have gathered around a table to celebrate the Passover Seder together. Since later this very evening Jesus will be betrayed by Judas, arrested in the Garden, tried in a kangaroo court, and then crucified — we find Him pouring out His heart to these men knowing His time with them was short.

While John 13 and 14 record the dialogue that occurs around this upper room table during the Seder itself, chapter 14 closes with Jesus saying, “Arise, let us go from here.” What’s interesting is that the next movement isn’t presented until the opening of chapter 18 when John writes that “when Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.”

In setting the scene for where we are in the activities of this evening, please note Jesus and the disciples have left the upper room and made their way along the winding streets of Jerusalem. The city is calm as the hour late and Passover in full swing. As the entourage approaches the Western Gate of the Temple Jesus stops to continue their conversation. 

With the backdrop being this massive door adorned with a golden vine hanging across the expanse with clusters of golden grapes as tall as a man, Jesus turns to them and says…

John 15:1-8, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Jesus continues… John 15:9-10, “As the Father loved Me, I also have 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.”

Again, if you go back to the beginning of chapter 13, as John remanences on this final night with Jesus — even more than His words — John couldn’t shake His love! In John 13:1 we read that “when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”

There is no mistaking the fact Jesus’ incredible love for these men had become a central and repeated theme throughout their conversation. Now, in the context of abiding, Jesus makes one of the most incredible statements in His entire ministry… He says, “As the Father loved Me, I have also loved you!” Don’t miss the astounding implications of what Jesus is saying!

In describing the essence of His love for His disciples (and this includes you and I) Jesus compares it to the love His Father had for Him! In a way Jesus is saying, “My love for you is the same as the Father’s love for Me!” And to what degree has the Father loved the Son?

The Father loved Jesus with a perfect love. It was a lasting love — a love that never changed nor was ever deterred. God’s love for His Son was not predicated upon anything He did or didn’t do. In fact, the Father declared in Matthew 3 at His baptism, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” before Jesus had even begun His earthly ministry.

I should also add that as much as “the Father loved Jesus” it didn’t immunize Him from pain or disappointment. The truth is that God’s love still allowed hardship into His life. In fact, it was God’s love for His Son that established a cross as an unavoidable part of His journey.

Friend, just because you find yourself going through a trying situation or circumstance — whether it be a betrayal, a heartache, a disappointment, a health concern, a conflict, a difficulty, or for that matter a cross you have to bear — never ever question God’s love for you! Jesus’ promise to you this morning, “As the Father loved Me, I have also loved you!” 

It’s with the implications of this reality in mind that Jesus invites us to “abide in His love!” Please understand, the very fact this is presented as an invitation implies there is a choice involved. Jesus’ love is not forced upon us nor is it coerced from us. Unlike this world, His love isn’t conditional in any way. Instead, it’s a love that must be received to be enjoyed.

The exhortation is clear… While Jesus’ great love for you exists independent of you, you still have to make a choice whether or not you’re going to abide in it. Again, this idea of “abiding” signifies continuance. Jesus is inviting you to immerse yourself in His incredible love!

We’ve repeated this same lesson now for a third time — which lets you know it’s important, but Jesus continues by explaining how you actually “abide in His love.” He says you’ll keep His commandments. Jesus isn’t saying you have to earn His love any more than He had to earn the love of His Father. The essence of our love is a reciprocation of His love!

John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” 

“These things I have spoken to you” indicates a transition of sorts within the very specific context of the ideas of “abiding in His love” and obeying or “keeping His commands.” 

So what results from abiding and obeying? Jesus says, “That My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” In the Greek this word “full” implies furnishing liberally to the point of utter completion. It can be translated, “That your joy may be filled to the brim!”

In this lengthy discourse Jesus has already promised to demonstrate His love to these men as well as bestow to them His peace. Now the subject matter turns to joy! The truth is that while the world seeks happiness, the longing of every human heart is to find joy! 

Whereas happiness is an emotion tethered to circumstance, joy is a permanent state of being. Jesus is saying the way to experience and continually delight in “His joy” regardless of the situation you’re presently facing is to “abide in Him” and “obey His commands.” His incredible joy is the manifestation of these two thing happening in your life.

It’s a shame that the world has popularized the notion that Jesus is in some way a great kill-joy and what’s worse is that many Christians do nothing more than substantiate this false belief and perspective by being lame and not enjoying life. I can’t stress this point enough, but Jesus did not come to this earth to rob the world of joy! 

Instead, Jesus came to provide a joy alien in this world! Back in John 10:10 Jesus boldly declared that He “came that we may have life, and that we may have it more abundantly.” Friend, Jesus does not restrict your ability to get the most out of this life. Quite the contrary. In truth — apart from Him and His joy you’ve never really started living at all!

I’ll tell you what is the saddest thing in this world — a joyless Christian! Such a person loves Jesus enough to find sin unenjoyable, but hasn’t committed to the point they’re able to experience His joy. Never forget “His joy” manifests only through an abiding and an obeying.

Knowing He’s about to leave them, Jesus again returns to how these men were to treat one another… John 15:12-13, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (After repeating this command Jesus then qualifies what such a love looks like…) Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” 

There is no debating the reality Jesus genuinely cared that these men loved one another! Again and again on His final night with them He repeats this same command so that they wouldn’t forget it. I wonder how this statement “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” impacted these men following the crucifixion? 

In light of what He’s saying it’s evident Jesus’ love is so great, so deep, so real that He was willing to give everything for you! Jesus modeled the very truth He articulated!

And while this reality is amazing in and of itself, the challenge is that this is the same type of selfless and sacrificial love Jesus has commanded you and I to demonstrate towards one another. What might the church look like if we took this command seriously?

Pivoting on this idea of friendship Jesus then tells these men… John 15:14-15, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” 

In James 2:23 we read that “the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” Up until this very night only one human being — Abraham — had been referred to as God’s friend. Now Jesus is extending this distinction not only to these men, but to all of us!

Jesus declares, “You are My friends!” In the Greek this word “you” was emphatic. While up until this point these men had considered themselves disciples of a Rabbi and therefore within that context “servants,” Jesus wants them to know His love ran much deeper than that.

In Roman culture a “servant” was nothing more than a human tool used by the master to accomplish a specific aim or task. There was no relationship or love between a servant and his master. And yet, the title of “friend” implied relationship, partnership, and equality. In contrast to a servant, a friend was viewed as a partner with the master in the work itself. 

What really strikes me about this statement is the context in which Jesus makes it. Jesus calls these men “friends” knowing in that a few short hours they’d all betray Him! How incredible that Jesus’ heavenly Father would allow Him to have friends like you and I.

In light of them being His friends Jesus adds… John 15:16-17, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.”

In case any of these men somehow believed they deserved or merited such a status as “friend” Jesus made it clear that they had not chosen Him, but “He chose and appointed them!” In the Greek this word “chose” means to pick out. The word “appointed” or “ordained” as it’s translated in the KJV meant to set aside for a specific purpose.

For these eleven men what Jesus is articulating made total sense and had nothing to do with election… In each of their specific interactions with Jesus there had indeed been a point in time whereby Jesus formally called them to “follow Him” as was the traditional custom of a Rabbinical order. You see only a Rabbi could choose who would become His disciple.

And yet, while they literally “did not choose Him” and “He chose them” it would be wrong to remove the free-will component from this dynamic. The Biblical narrative is clear that once Jesus extended the invitation for each of these men to become one of His a disciples, each man had to count the cost and make a decision to forsake all else and come follow Him.

This line “that you should go and bear fruit” is interesting with this in mind. Because “fruit” was tied to the act of “going” it would appear the context was souls. This particular exhortation would likely make more sense when in the moments before His ascension (Matthew 28:19) Jesus would command them to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

So with the frame of reference being the fact Jesus has “chosen and appointed” them as His “friends” to “go” into the world with the Gospel in order to “bear fruit” (making disciples) — He transitions to a new section… As Christians we need to “love one another” because…

John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” 

I’ve mentioned this before, but in the Greek this word “if” came with three specific class conditions: (1) If and it does, (2) If and it doesn’t, and (3) If and it might be. When Jesus says, “If the world hates you” we have this first condition. “If the world hates you and it does!”

The fact is that our comfortable, American, Christian culture has completely lost sight of this reality. Because “the world hates Jesus” as His disciples we should expect to be hated as well. Jesus adds, “If you were of the world (if and you aren’t), the world would love you.” And yet, “because you are not of the world” Jesus is honest that you’ll be hated in contrast.

As you know the United States of America was originally founded by a persecuted class of Protestant Christians who fled England seeking religious freedom in a new world. 

Not only was their wish ultimately attained through a revolt against tyranny, but within the very framework of our independence it was constituted that America would always preserve this core right — the freedom of religious belief, assembly, and expression.

It really is an amazing fact that such a foundational concept has stood the test of time. As a result not only has this particular freedom appealed to many other religious minorities around the world who also desire such protections, but the Freedom of Religion has preserved the environment whereby Christianity has flourished seemingly without opposition. 

For some 250 years the Church in America has been largely insulated from the experience of virtually every other generation of Christian as well as the experience of Christians living around the globe today. Most amazingly, while we’ve been largely immune from persecution, more Christians were martyred in the 20th-century than all other centuries combined.

In many ways over the last two decades American Christians have experienced severe consternation because the protections we’ve enjoyed have begun to erode. As our country becomes more secular and Christian influence continues to be minimized — as we transition from being the majority to the minority, our religious freedoms are being attacked. 

The truth is that the church isn’t ready for what’s coming. In a very real fear that our religious liberties would continue to be taken away if Hillary won office, in 2016 Evangelical Christians overwhelming decided to align themselves with and vote in mass to elect Donald Trump. 

And let’s be completely honest… Aside from his pledge to defend the right of the unborn to life, Christians willingly laid aside the moral litmus test we’ve always used for our elected leaders because Trump promised to insure religious protections.

If you’ve been around Calvary316 for any length of time, I rarely talk politics from the pulpit. That said, in an act of pure transparency, I will be honest that the increased militancy of the LGBTQ lobby, the weaponization of the courts by progressives imposing a liberal agenda, and the demonization of fundamental Christian beliefs concerning marriage and gender under the Obama administration were some of the main reasons I supported Trump. 

With these cultural changes afoot and the fact I saw Christian persecution on the horizon I held my nose and voted for the President really as a measure of last resort. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say this was likely the same justification many of you had as well.

And yet, Jesus is saying something to these men we as Christians living in an America that is rapidly changing need to very quickly wrap our minds around… The secular world that rejects Jesus hates us, because we are not of this world and they hate Him! 

I’m not going to bore you will all the data, but the undeniable truth is that every poll on our changing cultural landscape validates the fact that the America we once knew and the one that allowed the Christian Church to operate freely is quickly changing for the worse.

Sure, I think the case can be made that President Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence have to a large extent subdued the tsunami that was heading our direction. As just one of many examples the two constitutional originalist he’s placed on the Supreme Court actually appear interested in protecting religious liberties as well as preserving religious beliefs. 

That said… Regardless of who’s President, my point is that the Christian community needs to prepare ourselves for what’s inevitable. As this secular tide continues to rise creating what will largely be a post-Christian America so will the hatred and persecution. Our Christian experience has not been normal and will likely normalize sooner than later.

Christ-follower, without question in the years ahead your boldness to stand on Biblical principles will come at a serious cost to you and your family. As your Biblical beliefs become more and more relegated to a minority opinion they will be attacked and frowned upon. 

It’s simply a reality in today’s political environment publicly speaking the truth about sin is being classified as hate speech and is not tolerated. The day is coming when Christians will be removed from the marketplace of commerce and ideas as a result.

And it’s with this in mind Jesus says… John 15:20-21, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” 

John 15:22-25, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’”

Believer, in the presence of hate it’s silly for you to expect harmony. Because the world hates you for what you believe and Who you follow, it’s only logical they will also persecute you! Jesus even points out how “they hated Him without cause.” The frank reality is hate doesn’t even need a reason to lash out — hate doesn’t need justification for its vitriol. 

As Christians living in America we’ve had it good for too long. And yet, times are a changing and we need to expect to be rejected. And yet, while we should expect persecution, Jesus says there will be some who will respond to our words and accept Christ as their Savior.

In the context of what was coming Jesus’ direction that very evening, He speaks candidly to these men citing two motivations for the persecution He was about to experience. The first reason centered upon the fact they did not know God. Jesus says, “They do not know Him who sent Me.” How ironic it was the religious establishment ignorant of these things.

The second reason for their hatred and subsequent persecution was the fact the very presence of Jesus removed any “excuse for their sin.” Not only did Jesus uproot their religious system by doing “among them the works which no one else did,” He redefined what righteousness really looked like. As the standard bearer their sin was on display!

John 15:26-27, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”

Earlier in this discourse Jesus said He would pray for the “Father to send the Helper.” Now He declared, “I shall send to you from the Father the Spirit of truth.” The point is that the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all working together in this divine plan.

Notice the future tense of this promise… Jesus said, When the Helper comes…” With the benefits of hindsight we understand this would occur in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. In light of this promise of persecution Jesus again reminds them they’d would have help. Not only would the Spirit “testify” of Jesus, but the Spirit would help them “bear witness” as well.

John 16:1-4, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”

Jesus pulls no punches with these men as to what was coming. He’s brutally honest with them so “that they should not be made to stumble” when persecution inevitably came their way. Because they would “bear witness” of Jesus the consequences would be severe. 

Jesus says that initially “they will put you out of the synagogues.” For a group of loyal Jewish men this was a difficult thing to hear. The implications of being “put out of the synagogue” was akin to be excommunicated from Judaism and removed from Jewish society. Because they stood with Jesus these men would become outcasts in their own communities.

Aside from this Jesus affirms “the time was coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” Not only is Jesus telling them that martyrdom was inevitable — and indeed everyone of these men would face death for the sake of Christ, but what’s worse is the men doing this evil deed would believe they were acting in the “service” of God!

While there is no doubt Jesus is foretelling what would happen at the hands of a man named Saul who would persecute the early church believing himself to be acting in the name of God, but in the last few years we’ve witness the full-blown slaughter of Christians living in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic radicles convinced they’re doing the will of Allah.

In closing, I don’t mean to paint an ominous picture. Jesus does that all on His own! Jesus warns His disciples that our interactions with an unbelieving world would not be easy. Following Jesus is one of the most dangerous decisions a person can make. It’s complete folly for us to assume or seek friendship with a culture that fundamentally hates us!

I repeat… Historically, our Christian experience has been an outlier. The majority of Christians have never enjoyed a culture that wasn’t completely hostile to their faith in Jesus.

Sure, I will concede that it’s not a forgone conclusion America stays on its present trajectory. But I must say that it will only be via a Great Awaking brought forth by the Spirit working through the church and not favorable politicians that this growing tide will be stemmed! 

My point this morning is to remind you what is true regardless — something we’ve all forgotten… “Because you are not of the world” since Jesus has “chose you out of the world,” never forget “the world hates you” and will “persecute you” for His sake! Our job is not to befriend this world, but “bear witness” of the King and Kingdom beyond.


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