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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Positioned and Primed

Craig Smith - Positioned and Primed


Craig Smith - Positioned and Primed
TOPICS: When Everything Falls Apart

Good morning. Mission Hills, all of our campuses, including Church Online, so glad you are with us today for what I really think is going to be a powerful message from God’s Word. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel a little bit like this lamp right now, meaning, like I know what I exist for. I know what I’m supposed to do, but sometimes I don’t feel I have it in me. As a father, as a husband, as a pastor, as a preacher, I kind of know what I’m supposed to do, but I just feel a little depleted, a little dry. Anyone else ever feel like that? Yeah. Yeah, well, God has really powerful things to say to us today because here’s the thing that I have realized over several years. There are a lot of causes for feeling dry and depleted, a lot of causes, but there is only one cure for it, and that’s Jesus. I only got one amen out of that.

How many of you know the truth of that, that there is a lot of causes for feeling dry and depleted, but there is only one cure, and his name is Jesus. Can we just celebrate that fact? Can we just do that? Yes. Because whether you are feeling dry this morning, or just know there may be other periods of feeling dry, there is a cure, and a cure that is available to us in actually remarkable easy ways to connect to, and so why don’t you go ahead and grab your Bible and make your way to the Gospel of John 15 where Jesus is going to tell us right off of the bat the one all important thing we need to know so we don’t fall apart when everything around us is falling apart, that we can still continue to function in the way God’s called us to function even when we are feeling dry and depleted because this is what he says, verse 1, chapter 15 of John he says this, I am the True Vine. I am the True Vine. That is such an important truth.

He says, I am the True Vine. Now I don’t know what you think of when you think of vines. Sometimes we have a tendency, I think, to picture like pumpkin vines or squiggly things on the ground, but he’s talking about grapevines. Grapevines actually look a lot more like a tree. I think we have a picture. Can we pop that picture up? This is a grapevine. What he’s talking about is really what we call the trunk of that tree. His point is pretty simple. He’s just saying that, you know, all of the life that you see in the branches and ultimately in the grapes that are produced, they all depend upon their connection to that vine, that trunk, right? The fruit, it’s a consequence of their connection to the vine. Nobody’s ever gone — you can drop that off now. Nobody’s ever gone to the grocery store and bought a bunch of grapes and taken them home and laid them on the counter and forgotten about them for a couple of weeks and came back and find that you have bigger grapes, right?

Has that ever happened to anybody? Because if so, that’s what we call a miracle. We would like to know about it, but that’s not normally the way it goes, because the moment you disconnect a bunch of grapes from the vine they stop growing, and in fact we would say they start what? Start dying, although that’s not technically true. The truth is once you disconnect a bunch of grapes from the vine they are dead. It’s just a question of how long it’s going to take for the appearance to catch up with the reality, and sometimes people are like that, right? Sometimes people do pretty good. Sometimes you and I do pretty good at put up the appearance of getting disconnect, we don’t have life flowing into us as we should, but we have managed to perfect the appearance of life even though we don’t have the substance of it, but inevitably what is going to happen, appearance will catch up with reality eventually.

The reality is that the moment you disconnect a bunch of grapes from the vine, they are on their way, inevitably to becoming raisins, and raisins are worse. They are. I know, some of you like raisins. I just need to speak a pastoral word into your life today and tell you, you’re wrong, okay? You are wrong. Raisins are not better, and I know that because I have never ever bitten into a grape and immediately spit it back out, but I have spewed cookies that I have bit into thinking I had a chocolate chip cookie only to discover that it was a raisin cookie and my brain is like, get it out, get it out, get it out. I have spewed cookies all over tables for years because raisins are not as good. They are not. They are just not. I want you to look at the person next to you and say, I don’t want to be a raisin. Go ahead. Right?

So how do we not be raisins, right? The answer is, we stay connected to the vine. I love it. He’s the True Vine and I think that’s significant. Because what he is clueing us in that there is a lot of false vines out there. They claim to give life but in reality, rather than giving life, they are sucking life out of us. Sometimes they are good things, but they are not able to live up to their hype. There are a lot of things we connect to that we think, this is going to give me life. It might be a career. It might be money. It might be possession. It might be experiences. There are a whole lot of things that we connect to thinking if we get connected to this, life is going to flow into me, but in reality what happens is those things don’t give us life. They end up pulling life out of us. They are drying us out. They are depleting us constantly, so one of the questions we need to wrestle with on a regular basis is this, what false vines have I gotten tangled up in? It’s an important question and we have to do it on a regular basis because we are constantly in the process of getting tangled up in false vines, so we need to go, what false vines have I gotten tangled up?

We have to ask the Lord to show those things to us so we can begin to deal with them because Jesus says he is the True Vine. He is the only one who is actually giving life instead of taking it out of us, and he says this. He says this, I am the True Vine and my Father is the gardener. We should say right now, I don’t know what you think about when you think of gardeners, my temptation is to think of someone who is obsessed with pretty, right? That’s what gardeners do, they make sure everything is prim and proper and pretty, right? So I think of people that are obsessed with pretty, but that is not what he’s actually saying here. His Father is not obsessed with pretty. His Father is actually obsessed with something very different. It’s kind of interesting. What he’s going to go on to say is that he is not obsessed with pretty. He is obsessed with fruit.

He says this, he says, he cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that he will — what is that word? Fruitful. God the Father is obsessed with fruit. He is not obsessed with pretty. He’s obsessed with production producing fruit. That’s God’s obsession, and he has a couple of tools in his arsenal. The first one he says he looks at a branch and says, hey, does this produce fruit? If the answer is no, there’s no fruit coming from that branch, he cuts it off. This is big picture work, by the way. This is chain saw work. So he looks at us. We have all of these branches in our lives. We have got our career, we have certain kinds of relationships, and some of these big things he looks at he says I don’t see the fruit coming out of that thing. It never is. We have to get rid of that thing, so — all right. That’s fine from his perspective. From our perspective, that’s what we call painful, right?

It’s done because he is good. He longs to see good things in our lives, better things in our lives. So sometimes, he brings an end to relationships. Relationships can be a big branch. Sometimes he brings it into jobs. Sometimes he brings it into whole careers or dreams and aspirations because they are the wrong dreams. They are the wrong aspirations. These are big-picture branches that he says, there is no fruit that is going to come out of that good enough for my child, so this thing has to go, and he cuts it off. He also says he prunes. And that’s more like little work, like snippy snip work. I don’t know what the technical gardening term for that is, but he has these little tools where he looks at a branch and he go, yeah, there’s fruit coming out of that. That’s great, but I want better fruit because God’s obsessed with fruit. He never looks at some fruit and says, well, that’s good enough. He’s like, we can make better fruit there, so he trims off these little branches.

By the way, these little things that come off of a branch that is producing fruit that a gardener snips off, they are technically called “suckers.” I kid you not. Suckers. They are sucker branches because they are sucking resources up that could be going to fruit, and they are never going to be producing fruit, so it’s a focus issue and comes, and he’s like, we have to get rid of this. We have to snip this off, and he cleans the branch off so all of the resources are flowing so he can produce the most fruit, okay? So the point is that God is obsessed with fruit. Now fruit is an interesting thing. It’s an interesting metaphor for Jesus to use. I love that he used fruit. When we go, what fruit is he talking about, if you go to church, if you have been going to church for a while, you might immediately think, there’s a verse in the Bible, it’s in the Book of Galatians. Chapter 5. Some of you are nodding. You have been in Sunday School. You know exactly what I’m going to say. There is a verse in the Bible and it says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, forgiveness, self-control. I think I got all of those right. I might have missed one or two, but you get the point.

There are signs of godliness that we are becoming like Jesus, and he says the fruit of the Spirit is the production of those things, and that’s absolutely true, and I think that’s partly what Jesus is getting at here, but what’s interesting is that fruit is a sign of life, but it’s also a source of life, right? Fruit is both the sign of life and the source of life. It’s not just a sign that there is life coming to that branch that it’s connected to the vine, but fruit is what continues the work of the vine, right? Because fruit is what allows the vine to spread further and farther and to start new vines and those kinds of thing, right? It’s not just a sign of life. It’s also the source of life. I love that because at Mission Hills we recognize that we exist for the purpose of helping people become like Jesus and join him on what? On mission because we think they are two sides of the same coin. Becoming like Jesus always means also means joining him on mission. Because what Jesus is, as he molds us into his image, he’s on mission. So as molds us, we join him on mission. So I love this fruit thing. Fruit is the sign of life and also the source of life.

He says that’s what God is committed to producing in you, the signs of life but also that you would be a source of life to others. That God would not only be working in you, he would also be working through you. He would be making a difference in the world through you. That’s what God’s committed to. He says to his disciples, his followers, verse 3, you are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. I love that. He says you are already clean. And there is a little bit of a play on words because in the Greek the word for pruning and the word for cleaning are the same word, so he says your Father prunes, and you are already clean, you are already pruned because he says because of my word, in other words, because of who I have told you that I am and because of your choice to trust in my word of who I am, you have begun a connection to me. You have plugged into the vine, and now, he says, you are positioned and you are primed to begin producing fruit.

That’s both the sign of life but also the source of life. He says, that’s already been done because you have this faith in me. He says in verse 4, he says, remain in me as I also remain in you. He says, you are plugged in. You have faith in me. Now all you really have to do is you have to remain. You have to stay plugged in. He says no branch can bear fruit by itself. It doesn’t work that way. It must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. He says, I am the vine. You are the branches. He shifts the metaphor a bit here. I think that before he was talking about the branches being part of our lives, he will cut off or prune so they produce the most fruit, the most good things for us. Now he shifts the metaphor and says, I’m the vine and each individual Christian is the branch. He says, if you remain in me you will bear much fruit.

I love that. He doesn’t say it’s a possibility. He doesn’t say if you remain in me you might someday. He says if you remain in me you will bear — not just fruit, you will bear much fruit. He’s got big things he wants to do in you, big signs of life in you, big sources of life through you. He says you will bear much fruit if you just remain in me. Verse 6, he says if you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that’s thrown away and withers. Such branches are picked up and thrown into the fire and burned. Immediately people say, is that a reference to hell? You know, is he saying if I don’t produce fruit I’m going to be thrown into hell, get kicked out of the family, going to lose my salvation?

That’s not really what he’s trying to get at. He’s just kind of making a practical, very common-sense statement. You know how it work, right? A branch is connected to the vine with a gardener working on it, it’s going to produce fruit. But a branch that’s not isn’t going to produce fruit, and that branch isn’t good for anything. It’s not providing a sign of life or a source of life, and it’s not good for anything. It’s not really a threat as much as an invitation to what; to stay connected to the vine. He says, you don’t want to be like that. You want to be somebody who is actually producing signs of life and being a source of life. He says, stay connected to me. The question becomes then, how do we do that? He says it several times here.

He says remain in me. If you don’t remain in me, these will be true. If you do remain in me, this will be true, so remain in me — he says it a bunch of times here. Remain in me, so how do we do that? The good news to recognize, is, he’s kind of simplifying it. We saw this last week. We don’t have to follow 613 commandments, we just have to follow two which is to love God and love what? Love others. That reduces the number of commands, but it raises the standards. Now he boils it down even further. All of this is possible if you just do this one thing which is to remain in me. How do we do that? Well, the Bible is pretty clear. There are basically three categories of things the Bible teaches us to do to remain in Christ.

I think it’s important to recognize that we are not doing these things to connect to Christ. We are doing these things to maintain the relationship. I think that’s a fundamental shift in the way we think about it sometimes. Sometimes we think, I have to do this, this, and this, and I have to not do this, this and this so that God will love me, so that I can connect to him, but really, it’s about a relationship. There are certain things we do in a relationship. I’m married. So, I communicate with my wife, right? We spend time together. We sacrifice for each other. These aren’t what make me married. These are what I do to nurture the relationship. I don’t get to the end of the day and go, let’s see, was I married today? Let’s see, did I do that? Yeah, I think I was. That’s not how it works.

You wake up in the morning, because I’m married today, I’m going to do these things to nurture that relationship, so the Bible teaches basically three things to do to nurture that relationship that we have to remain in him. The first one is this. How do we remain in Christ? We consistently take the next step of obedience. Consistently taking the next step of obedience. Now, I’m going to use the word “consistently” in all three of these. There is a very simple reason, and it’s this. Craig Groeschel says, and I think he’s absolutely right, he says that successful people do consistently what others do occasionally. That’s good wisdom. Consistent people — successful people do consistently what others do occasionally. Everybody can do the right thing every now and then. But people who really see progress in life actually are consistently doing the things that others do occasionally.

What God calls us to do is take steps of obedience. One of the ways we remain connected to Christ is we consistently take the next step of obedience. I think this is really important. Sometimes we have this tendency to think about Christian faith in term of perfection, and we always think we fall short. Anyone else think you fall short? Like Jesus says, you know, the fruit of the Spirit is patience, and then I have kids, and I’m not as patient as I should be. We go like, this is patience. My day was like this. We just feel like a failure, right? There are so many ways that if we think about perfection, we are always going to feel like we are falling short, like we are failing, but I think God, he celebrates progress even when it doesn’t immediately produce perfection. Did you know that?

Did you know that God celebrates progress in your life? That every time you take the next step of obedience, when you are in a conversation or you are dealing with your kids, and you take one step of patience, God goes, yes! And he celebrates that. When we find ourselves in a situation, and we go, I kind of know what God wants me to do here. It’s this thing. It’s this next step. God celebrates those next steps. The reality is this, small steps in the right direction will take us to places we never would have thought possible, do you hear me? We look at distant, distant destinations, perfection and kindness and all of these things and think, I don’t know that I can ever get there? All you have to do is go God, what’s my next step of faithfulness? What is my next step of obedience? In this relationship, in that relationship, in this situation, what is my next step? When we are consistently taking the next step of obedience, whatever that is, we are remaining connected to Christ.

The second thing we do to remain connected to Christ is we consistently choose to worship. Consistently choosing to worship keeps us connected to Christ. Worship is a big word and we tend to make it really small. Worship is the songs we sing. That was a great song, but I didn’t know the words, so I really couldn’t sing it, so I really couldn’t worship, and you know, I really wasn’t in a good mood, plus the people around me were really loud today, and the woman behind me wasn’t singing on key, so that really threw me off, so I guess I didn’t worship today. But see what’s happening, we are taking a big concept and making it really, really narrow in its definition, but worship, listen to me, worship is — it’s a submission to God. That’s really the heart of it.

Worship is a submission to God. It’s basically saying to God, you are God, and I’m not, and I’m going to live accordingly. There is a lot of different ways we do that. Singing can certainly be that way. In fact honestly, one of the most powerful moments of worship for me is when I don’t feel like singing. I know that’s a shocker to hear. Like I’m the pastor. You always want to worship, right? No, I don’t. Sometimes, just the choice I’m going to sing this song because I know that these words are true, and these words say to God, I know who you are, and I know that I’m not. I’m going to submit to that, and I’m going to sing. Sometimes just that choice to sing is an act of worship. Sometimes just the choice to come to church is an act of worship.

I hope you all came here today because you couldn’t wait to see what God is going to do. Some of you are like, I guess I should go. Maybe you come and feel, I’m not really worshiping, but honestly, the very choice that you made to come even though you didn’t feel like it, that’s an act of worship. It’s saying you are God, and I’m not, and I’m going to live accordingly. There are a lot of different ways we do that, but when we are consistently choosing to submit to God whether that is in song or church attendance or step of obedience, there are a lot of different ways it works, but that’s worship. Gratefulness is an act of worship. Thanking God for what he’s done, even when we have things around us that we wish he would do, gratefulness is an act of worship. That’s how we stay connected to Christ.

The third one, we stay connected to Christ by consistently participating in Christian community. Let me ask you this, how many of you have ever seen grapes growing? Even just pictures of grapes growing? Come on? Okay, here’s the real question. Have you ever seen at the end of a grapevine or a grape branch, have you ever seen one big fat juicy grape? No, it doesn’t work that way. They all come in what? They all come in bunches. The Christian life is supposed to be like that too. The Christian life is best lived in a community with other believers. It’s one of the reasons we push groups so hard at Mission Hills. What you really want is for everybody who participates in Mission Hills, we want everybody to be connected to a smaller group where they can have three things happen.

Number one, that’s the group that is going to love you. That sets the foundation for helping you become like Jesus in practical ways and helping you join Jesus on mission. In groups, we challenge each other. We encourage each other. We love each other so that we can become like Jesus and join him on mission. We have Life Groups. We have men’s only groups. We have women’s only groups. We have hope groups. We have a lot of different groups, but all of them are designed to create a Christian community where real growth and fruit is produced because we believe that, that is the way that God often works. We think what we do in worship is really powerful, but really, unpacking that power in lives and beginning to see difference, that often takes place in a much smaller group.

We often push hard on groups because we want people participating in Christian community because that’s one of the ways we stay connected to Jesus, and it’s so important to stay connected to Jesus because incredible things happen. Look what he says, he says, if you remain in me — this is verse 7, if you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you can ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Like does that feel too good to be true? Yeah? It probably is, actually, in the sense that we fixate on the you can ask whatever you want. I really want a Maserati. I really — you know? But there is a really more important part. He says if you remain in me and my word remains — if you stay connected to me, you can ask whatever you want because here’s the thing. Have you ever seen a grapevine and a grape branch and an apple hanging off the end?

No, it doesn’t work that way because grapevines connected to grape branches, they produce grapes. Like I know, this is deep theology right here, but that’s the way it works. What happens is, when we are connected to Christ, an important thing begins to transform in us. Remaining in Christ transforms our desires. You hear me? Remaining in Christ transforms our desires. As we are connected to Christ in the ways we have talked about, what we begin to long for, what we begin to wish for, what we begin to hope for and dream for, becomes more in line with who Christ is, so we begin to long for the things he longs for. We begin to hope for the things he hopes for. We begin to wish for the things that he wishes to see, and so as our desires come in line with his, he says, yes, the lid is off. Sky is the limit now. Whatever you wish for is done, but sometimes there has to be a transformation of the wishes first — because he’s good, and often times, when we are not experiencing that transformation, we are wishing for things that are really not healthy for us.

I would like a Maserati, I mean if anyone is looking to get rid of one? Donation to the church — or whatever, you know — I’m kidding. That would be fun, but it wouldn’t be healthy for me. He says, I’m connected to Christ. What I’m beginning to wish for, I wish more and more these days, I wish for the church to be unleashed. I wish more and more that Mission Hills would become a place that people are becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission in the world. As I find the transformation of my wishes and my desires, more and more I see God answering that. It’s done, I hear stories everyday of crazy things you guys are doing to be on mission with Jesus and what God’s doing through it, and it’s just awesome, and I can go back to yeah, it’s what I have been praying for it. Now I see it. That’s awesome.

But as we are connected to Christ, as we remain in him, there a transformation of our desires, so it’s so important that we be connected to him. And he says in verse 8, this is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit. Not just a little bit of fruit, but much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples. As my Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now, remain in my love. It’s not just a technical connection. It’s a love connection. He says, I have loved you, and I want you to remain in my love. I want you to experience my love more and more, and that’s what feeds this fruit. Verse 10, if you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and I remain in his love.

We just saw this last week. What commands is he talking about, two big ones. Love God, and love others. If you do that, if you set your sails to loving God and loving others, we talked about it last week, the Holy Spirit will fill you and move you in ways you never would be able to accomplish on your own, fruit will begin to come out of you. He says and I have modeled it for you. Just as I have kept my Father’s command, and I have loved him and honored him, and I have loved you, loved others, and he’s going to the cross now to make all of this possible. He says, verse 14, I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete, and be I love that because last week we said he was telling us about loving God and loving others and trusting him to do the rest so that we would have peace, that’s what he said. I want you to have peace. Not peace as the world gives it. Not an absence of conflict, but the ability to face that conflict with confidence.

He says I want you to have peace. Just because things are falling apart around you, you don’t have to fall apart. Your waters don’t have to be troubled because you know that I am with you, and you know what’s going to happen on the other side of this, but now he kind of ups it. He says it’s not just peace, he says, I actually want you to have joy. I want you to have joy. I actually want you to have the ability to face difficult circumstances with happiness, with a sense of not only confidence but with a sense of pleasure that God, as the Bible says, God works in the midst of all things bringing what? Good. Bringing good for those that love him and are called according to his purposes. That whatever you face, it’s not just something you will get through with his help, but it’s something you will get through on the other side and there will be good things accomplished that wouldn’t have been accomplished otherwise. And so we can begin to look at difficult circumstances and go, God’s going to do a great thing here, and I can’t wait to see what it is.

I’m anxious. I’m excited to see what good thing God brings through this. Yes, this is hard. I don’t want to do this, but, at least I know that good things are going to come out of this. He’s going to bring good. He says, I don’t just want you to have peace. He says, I want you to have joy. I have told you all of this is possible. He says in verse 12, he says my command is this, love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this but to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friend if you do what I command. He says, I’m asking you to remain in my love, but understand, that I am loving you first. I am giving you the greatest possible love. Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Jesus is saying this probably just days before he goes to the cross, before he dies in our place, before the man who had no sin became sin so that we could have eternal life, so that the wages of win as we all get as a natural consequence of our sin, death, is something we don’t have to pay for. Jesus will pay for. That’s his demonstration of love is that he lays down his life. He says all I’m asking you to do is to just love one another.

He says, you are my friend if you do what I command that you love one another. Verse 15, I no longer call you servants because a servant doesn’t 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. He says, I’m not going to call you servants anymore. Yes, he’s still the master, but he says the word “servant” is no longer an appropriate term for our relationship because the thing is, a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. He doesn’t know what the point is, so if the master tells the servant, jump, the servant’s only question is? How high. Yeah, it’s how high. He doesn’t ask why. He says, how high? But a friend, think about this. Try this. Do this today. Go up to a friend of yours and say, give me your wallet.

My guess is there is going to be a hesitation. They are going to want a little more information. They are going to want to know, why do you want my wallet? See because friends want to know what you are about. They want to know what the purpose of this is. He says, I’m not going to call you servants because I’m bringing you into my circle of confidence. I’m going to tell you what the game plan is. I’m going to tell you what this is about. I’m going to tell you what God’s plan is. God’s plan is to bring fruit in you that’s both a sign of life, but also a source of it. He says, I’m going to make it so you not only receive life, but that you radiate it out. I’m asking you to love God and love others as part of the plan for God to literally change the world. He said, and we have seen it throughout the goodbye speech so far. He says, I’m going away, but the work I’m doing is nowhere near done. I’m going to keep showing myself to the world, but I’m going to do it through you. He says, I’m letting you in on what you are doing. In that sense, you are not just servants, you are now friends.

He says this, he says you did not choose me, but I chose you, and I appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. This is a verse that has become a little bit of a battle ground for Christians over the years. There is this long-standing debate in Christianity between Calvinists and Arminianists, and Calvinists love this verse because they are like, it says we don’t choose God. He chooses us. Arminians are like, yeah, can we read another verse because I don’t think like that. Arminians don’t like that. Calvinists do, and I feel like in that conflict we have missed the core because Jesus is not really saying anything theological here, at least not directly. There may be some implications, but what he’s saying here really isn’t so much theological as it is very practical. He’s looking at a group of disciples that he chose, and he says, you understand that I chose you to be my disciples, not the other way around.

What’s interesting about that is the way that Jesus chose his disciples was wrong. Do you know that? Like he didn’t do it right. Because that’s not how masters chose disciples in those days. See what happened in those days, a Jewish teacher would get a little bit of fame and notoriety, and people would begin to seek him out. People would begin to come to him and say, can I be your disciple? Another would say, how about me? I would like to be your disciple, and what the guy would eventually do, was he would go, I’ll let you be my disciple, an yeah, I’ll let you, and I’ll let you, and he would usually pick the best and the brightest, the ones that had significant influence in the world, those kinds of things, but they would come to him.

They would choose the master, and then he would kind of allow them to be his disciples. Does that make sense? That’s not what Jesus did. Jesus went to other people. And they weren’t the best and the brightest. Like there is no way you can read the Gospels and think these guys are the sharpest tool in the shed. They just weren’t, okay? Which is great news for the rest of us, right? Jesus doesn’t choose great people. People become great when he has chosen them, and we remain in him, okay? He went to them. He said, come follow me. Why don’t you just leave all that stuff, drop it where you are. He chose them. Now he reminds them. He says, listen, you didn’t choose me. I chose you. The reason he’s doing that. The reason he’s telling them, it’s supposed to inspire confidence.

It’s supposed to inspire confidence because here’s the thing. If you chose the master, there is no way for you to be confident in that master’s commitment to you. Does that make sense? Let me say it again, if you choose the master, there is no way for you to be confident in the master’s commitment to you. But if the master chose you, you can be confident that he’s committed to you, right? That’s what Jesus is saying. He says, that’s what I did. If he has chosen us, listen, if he has chosen us, then he is committed to us. If he chose you, he is committed to you. You can be confident in that. You go, okay, can I really? If he’s talking, if he’s talking to those guys that he chose, how do I know that’s true for me? I chose to come to church, right? I chose to put my faith in Jesus. I did choose him, and my question to you is going to be, did ya?

Are you sure that’s how it worked? Because listen to me, the Bible is pretty clear. The Bible says this, no one seeks God not even one. In other words, our natural state is not to desire God, so in reality, if you find yourself longing to know God, if there is something in you that’s like, I know there’s a God. I feel this need to connect, to know him. If there is something in you that longs to know God, if there is something in you that keeps circling the Christian faith, you know, and maybe you have never put your faith in Jesus. Maybe you have never said, enough is enough. Maybe you have never actually trusted in him, or maybe you have, but you feel like you keep backsliding, you keep struggling. I’m not seeing the fruit I’m supposed to. I’m not a great Christian. I’m struggle, but if there is something in you that longs to know God, something that keeps you circling around the Christian faith, you know what that means?

It means you have been chosen. Do you hear me? Because we don’t get that desire for God naturally. No one seeks God, not even one. If you have a desire to know God, if there is something in you that keeps circling the Christian faith, that is evidence that Jesus has chosen you, and I don’t care if you are a Calvinist or Arminianist, that’s good teaching. There’s something in you that longs to know God, you didn’t come by that naturally. You came by that because God has chosen you. If you are struggling in faith, or struggling your way to faith, if you are here today going, yeah, there’s something to that. There’s something in me that just wants to connect, just wants to know him. That’s because God has chosen you. If he has chosen us, he is what? He’s committed to us. If he has chosen you, he has demonstrated his commitment to you.

He says that he’s done this so you will go and bear fruit, fruit that will last and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. There’s that promise again, right. You can ask anything in my name and it will be done, but understand, in my name means as a representative of me. It means continuing my work. It means somebody who has committed not just to receiving from, but also radiating life. Anything you ask that really represents me, anything that is born from that connection to me and that fruit I want to see born out that my Father is committed, obsessed with bringing out, anything you ask that really does demonstrate that life, it comes from that intimate connection, he says, that’s done. The sky’s the limit.

He says this is my command, love each other. And that’s so interesting to me because he kind of boils down everything to one thing now. It was love God and love others. Now it’s this is my command, guys. It’s like two is not simple enough for you guys. How about this? How about this right here? Love each other. You understand loving each other is impossible unless we are connected to him. We can’t radiate light if we are not receiving it from him. It’s really, just focus on this because everything else will come together. This is my command. Love each other. This lamp has been sitting here this whole morning, and it’s been kind of useless, hasn’t it?

It’s not doing what lamps are supposed to do. It’s not radiating light. You are like, well, yeah — it ain’t plugged in. All right. Anybody disappointed? Thought it would be a bigger deal than that, right? Let me ask you a question. Is this lamp now receiving or radiating? That was fun? Both. Okay. There is really no way to divide the two is there? It can’t radiate without receiving, but it can’t receive without radiating. It’s two sides of the same coin. That’s what Jesus is getting at here. He says God wants us to receive and radiate life. He wants to receive and radiate life. That’s his plan for us. That’s the fruit he wants us to bear. It’s the sign of life, but it’s also the what? It’s the source of it.

He wants us to experience life and extend life and grace and hope to others. He wants us to — receive light and radiate light, and all we have to do is to remain in him, stay connected to him. Let me ask you this question. What false vines have you gotten tangled up in? I have already asked this question, but I think it’s important to leave this place with reflection on that. Like we said, there are a lot of false vines claiming to give us life when in reality, they are sucking it out of us. We need to do that work of recognizing where we are plugging into things that aren’t giving us the life that they promised. What false vines have I gotten tangled up in? The second question is this, what area of my life can I sense God wanting to prune? Because we can be plugged into him, but we are allowing a lot of that to go to a lot of different places, a lot of these things that are literally sucking the resources, the light, the life that God’s giving us, and they are not, therefore, allowed to produce the real fruit that God wants, so this is a little bit of a scary thing because sometimes we really like those suckers, right?

Sometimes we really like those branches, and we can get overly attached to them. When we sense God wanting to prune those to create more fruit, you are like, I don’t think so. Why don’t you go work on him? Have you seen my husband, God? Come on. Just go and leave this. God in his mercy and his grace often goes, I’m not going to take a chain saw to you, so if you are going to wrap yourself around that branch, or protect that little sucker — okay. I’ll let that stand for a while. If we sense God wanting to prune something, we have to take an act of faith and say, I’m going to trust you. If that’s what you need to do, then I’m going to trust you to do it. I’m going to stop fighting you on it. Where do you sense God needing to prune, and what do you need to do to get your hands away from it so he can do his work?

And the third question is just this, where is God calling me to radiate? I would love for you to wrestle with that this week. Where is God calling you to radiate, to shine light? Sometimes you know, in my house, I go around and I sit down with a book. I’m like, I’m going to read this book, and it’s a little dark, and I pull the cord, and nothing happens. And then I realize, well, it’s not plugged in, but it’s interesting sometimes I don’t know that the lamp’s not plugged in until I ask it to radiate. I think the same thing happens in my life. I think it happens in your life. We don’t know that we are not remaining in Christ. We don’t know that we are not plugged into him the way we should. We don’t know that the connection is kind of shaky and jittery and the flow is not being the way that it should until we start to radiate, and then we realize, oh, I need to allow this work here. I need to do what I need to do to remain in him until we start to radiate.

Sometimes we can think everything is going great because we are not trying to radiate. The moment we try to radiate, we realize we are not quite receiving, so then we can go, okay, I need to do this work, so I think it’s an important thing that we ask the question, where do I need to radiate? Not only is God going to use that, he’s not only going to speak through you, but he’s always going to demonstrate the places you need to allow him to do his work, those things you need to push into so you are really connected to him. Let’s pray about this. Will you join me?

God, I just thank you for your commitment in our lives to bearing much fruit, and Lord, I thank you that you are not committed to pretty. You are committed to productivity. You are committed to producing fruit that is a sign of life, the sign that we are connected to you, but it’s also a source of light to others, that you have chosen to work in us and through us. We thank you for that. Lord, I am praying on behalf of my friends here on all of our campuses, including Church Online that you would do a work in us this week, a powerful work in us this week. Show us those places we are not connected to a true vine, to the True Vine. We are connected to false ones that are taking life from us. Lord, show us those places we need to take our hands away so that you can produce in us, you can prune and produce in us the fruit that you designed us for.

Lord, show us this week through the power of your Holy Spirit places we are called to radiate, not just to receive light, but to radiate it. Use us in a powerful way. I want to ask, if you are a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying for people around you, people watching online right now that may not have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, because I believe that in all of our campuses, right now there are people that are realizing they are not plugged into the True Vine, that it’s not a question of remaining in Christ so that all of these they thinks can happen to them because they have never been connected to him. And so this work of God is not something that they have experienced, and it’s not something that they feel like can take place. But if that’s you, I want you to recognize that the fact that you are listening, the fact that you are here. The fact that something in you brought you to this place, the fact that you are listening to this message says that God has chosen you.

It says that God loves you. He’s working in your life, and he’s asking you to take a step of faith. Not a blind leap of faith, but a step of faith in response to his love. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you, to pay for every wrong you have ever done. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, and now he offers new life, forgiveness, hope, peace, joy and a connection to God that will produce much fruit in your life, and if you don’t have that relationship, but you would like to begin that relationship today, if you would like to connect with the True Vine would you just slip your hand up right now, if you would like to give your life to Jesus and make that connection. That’s awesome. If you are watching online just click the button right below me. Wherever you are, just say this to God. Say:

God, I have done wrong, and I’m sorry. I know I don’t deserve your love. I don’t deserve life with you. I believe Jesus went to the cross to pay for my sin. I believe he rose from the dead three days later. I understand that he’s offering me forgiveness, and new life in a relationship with you, God. I want that relationship. So right now, I put my trust in Jesus. Jesus, I am plugging into you. I’m yours, now and forever. Amen.

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