James Meehan - When It Gets Awkward
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So, have you ever found yourself in that really awkward moment where you couldn't tell if somebody was being serious or not? Right, like maybe you're joking around with your friends and all of a sudden, your friend makes that joke that doesn't feel like a joke anymore. Like it hits different because all of a sudden it feels like real personal and it gets real awkward and you're like, okay. I'm probably gonna have to have a conversation with that person later. One of my favorite things about my wife, her name is Mandy. She is the love of my life, the honey in my tea, the apple of my eye. But one of my favorite things about her is that she's unbelievably proud of the fact that she doesn't have a sarcasm voice.
So like when she's being sarcastic it is the exact same voice, facial expressions, and mannerisms as when she's being serious. And so on our first ever date she put me to the test. We're having a conversation. I don't remember what sparked it but she just threw out this line to see how I would respond. She said, oh yeah, yeah, like I'm trying to lose 20 pounds. And so in that moment I, wanting to give off a good impression, said to her, oh my gosh, that's a great idea. That's like so good for you. I'm like so proud of you for chasing your health. Just kidding, didn't say anything. I said nothing. I knew it was a test. I grew up with three sisters. She said that, you know what I did? Ignored it, just kept on going.
And then like months later, she says, hey, like I just want you to know that on that first date, you passed the test. And I'm like what test are you talking about? And then she brings up that moment when she said that line. And I was like, dude, I'm gonna be honest with you, I had no idea if you were serious or not. That's why I didn't touch it. Like I didn't say anything. Cause I'm like, man, this feels like a trap, like y'all, Star Wars, Admiral Ackbar. It's a trap. It was that moment on my first date with the girl of my dreams so I said nothing. And then we ended up getting engaged. I asked her to be my wife. She said, yes. So immediately afterwards I told her that, hey, just so you know, our first son, like I've already got his name picked out.
So backstory, my name is James Cyril Meehan III, not cereal, Cyril, it's like a family name, and growing up I just always felt this sense of responsibility that my first son would have to pass on, would have to carry on the legacy. Right, he would have to be James Cyril Meehan IV, but my grandpa was Jim, my dad was Jimmy, I'm James. So I'm like trying to come up with, I mean, what is our son gonna go by? And when I was in high school, my senior year, I met a dude who was also a third, but instead of going by his name, he went by Tres. Tres, and I thought that was like the coolest thing ever. So my senior year high school, I made the decision that my future son, James Cyril Meehan IV would be Quadro. And so my wife and I got engaged, I said to her, hey, just so you know, like because I'm the third our first son is gonna have to be James Cyril Meehan IV and we're gonna have to call him Quadro. And she agreed. Like she was cool with it.
And I said like, and here's the deal. You can name every other kid. I just get veto rights so you don't name 'em something dumb, right? And she was down with it. She thought it was a great idea. Well, come to find out months later, she thought I was kidding and I was not. And so now my wife, she's seven months pregnant. January 21st, that's the expected due date, where James Cyril Meehan IV, AKA Quadro, is coming into the world. Come on somebody! You better get ready, 2021 ain't got nothin' on that. But a few months ago, my wife came to me and she said, hey, like, do I have to call him Quadro? I said, listen, babe, you can call him whatever you want as long as you're okay with him being confused. Right, so like we knew that was gonna be the thing. I couldn't tell she was actually joking. She didn't know I was actually serious.
There's those awkward moments where like, man, I can't tell if that person is joking or serious and it's like super awkward, especially when you think somebody's joking and then later you find out they're serious. And you're like, oh snap, that just changed everything. Like it's those moments where I kinda just like wanna crawl out of my skin and like jump around and hide in a bush or something. I don't know. I wanna get out of that moment. Now a few months ago I was studying the Bible, prepping for a message for Switch. And as I was, I was reading through Jesus's teachings, found in the Sermon on the Mount. It's Matthew 5, 6, and 7. And this is a collection of Jesus's teachings where he's painting a picture of what it looks like to live as a citizen of heaven. And as I was reading these words, I found myself challenged, inspired, and convicted, because it's in this sermon where Jesus says some of the things that I think many of us who have been Christians for any amount of time have probably heard.
Jesus says, hey, like you've heard it said to don't commit adultery, but I'm telling you don't even lust. You've heard it said, don't be angry, sorry. You've heard it said to not murder but I'm saying don't even let there be anger in your heart. Right, you've heard people say to love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. And as I'm reading these words I'm gonna be honest with you. I kept finding myself getting so frustrated at other Christians. I kept finding myself getting so frustrated at Christian leaders who were not doing the things that Jesus said.
And I'm like reading these words and all of a sudden I felt like Jesus sucker punched me like with His words. And if you've never felt that, then you're probably not reading the Bible enough. Got 'em. And like I'm reading it and all of a sudden I realized, holy cow, these words that Jesus is saying aren't just for them. These words are for me because it's in this sermon where Jesus says, hey like you should probably stop worrying about the piece of dust in somebody else's eye and instead deal with the plank in your own eye. And as I'm reading these words I could not get this question out of my mind. And this question was scary and it was honestly sobering. The question was this, what if Jesus was serious? And then the next question, if He was, why is it that I so rarely take Him seriously?
Now over the last four weeks, we have been in a series where we've been following in the footsteps of John, one of Jesus's closest followers. We've been reading his account of what it was like to live as a disciple of Jesus. We've looked at some of the miracles Jesus has performed. We looked at some of the words He said, we looked at the movement that He has introduced to try to help us better understand how to live as His disciples in this day and this age. Now, what is discipleship? Discipleship is the process of being formed into the image of Christ for the sake of others. We've talked about this idea that discipleship, right, discipleship isn't about rules or religion. It's not something we do half heartedly. As disciples, we are called by God to know the word and to live the word. As disciples, we can never forget to add Jesus to the equation because when we do, everything changes.
And so today to close out our series on discipleship what I want us to do is look at a passage of scripture found in chapter 15 of John's gospel. And this is a passage that I absolutely love. The context of when Jesus delivers this teaching is during the last week of Jesus's life in the city of Jerusalem, where he is celebrating the Passover with his disciples. Right before Jesus delivers this teaching, he's at the last supper with his disciples, celebrating the Passover meal. Right after Jesus delivers this teaching, he is going to be in the Garden of Gethsemane where he will soon be arrested by the chief priest and then later executed by Roman soldiers. And it's on his way between the last supper and into the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus and his disciples are walking through a vineyard and Jesus, being a good Jewish rabbi, never misses out on an opportunity to teach his disciples a lesson. So he takes this time as they're walking through the garden to deliver this teaching that we're about to look at today.
Starting in John 15:1. These are the words that John records Jesus saying. Verse one, "I am the true vine". This is Jesus speaking. "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. Now in me as I also 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". Now, as I'm reading this passage of scripture there are two big questions that jump out to me. The first question, what does it mean to remain in Jesus? And then the second question I'm asking is, okay like then what does it mean to bear fruit?
Now, as far as the second question goes, let's talk about that. So bearing fruit. It doesn't mean that we're literally supposed to grow fruit. To bear fruit means to produce results. So like, if we're thinking about the fruit of studying would be getting good grades. Right, the fruit of going to the gym is getting jacked. The fruit of asking intentional questions and listening to people's answers is meaningful relationships. What Jesus is saying there is, He's saying like, hey, when you as my disciples remain in me, you will bear fruit. You will produce results. Which then brings us back to that first question. What does it mean to remain in Jesus?
Let's keep reading to find out, picking up in verse five. This is what Jesus says. He says, "I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are picked up. They're thrown into the fire and burned. But if you remain in me and if my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. And this is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples".
So Jesus right here is basically just like doubling down. Right, He's saying, hey, I'm the vine and you are the branches. Remain in me and I will remain in you. You're gonna bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing. And in these eight verses that we've read, Jesus has said the word remain eight times. Eight times in eight verses. Right, so it seems like this idea is a big deal to Jesus. And if it's a big deal to him, I think it should be a big deal to us, right? If we're actually trying to take Jesus seriously. If we're actually trying to be formed into His image for the sake of others, then we've gotta figure out, what does it mean to remain in him? So what does it mean?
We're gonna keep reading to find out because in verse nine, Jesus does something here that I think is really interesting. He actually changes the words that He uses. Here's what He says. He says that, "As the Father has loved me so have I loved you, now remain in my love." right, instead of saying, remain in me, He's saying remain in His love. And I think this change in verbiage is Jesus giving us a clue to make sure we're paying attention. Because what he's doing here is he's setting up what's gonna come in just a couple of verses to give us the answer what it means to remain in Him. But before we get there, here's what we gotta talk about. We gotta talk about love, right? Because what Jesus says, He says, hey as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you, now remain in my love.
And this is super important for us to understand, because like the way that we understand love changes everything. Right, because if we don't understand what love really is then we're gonna miss the beauty of what Jesus is saying because our modern American definition of love is something like strong feelings of attraction or affection. But the Jewish definition of love that Jesus is talking about here isn't about what you think or how you feel, it's what you do and how you live. That definition of love is actually working for the good of others and what's so important for us to understand is that the Jewish idea of love is built on a foundation of respect.
And this is so important for us to get because respect invites us to see others as people to be loved instead of objects to be used, right? Because I can talk about loving people all day long but if I say, I love you, but I don't respect you, then guess what? Instead of actually working for your good, I'm gonna manipulate you for my own good and there are way too many of us today who we say we love God and we love people, but we don't respect them and so instead of actually doing what's good for them, we only care about getting from them that's good for us.
And when we separate that idea of love from Jesus's words, we totally miss what He's doing here, because love isn't just a strong feeling of attraction or affection. It's literally putting in the effort to do good to others. And I think when we understand that, it helps us be ready for what Jesus is about to tell us next in verse 10. Because what He just said is, hey, if you remain in my love, or sorry, He said, now remain in my love. Then, in verse 10, here's what He says, are you ready? He says, "If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love".
Now, some of you are thinking, okay, hold up. I thought this wasn't about rules or religion, right? And now Jesus is saying that to remain in his love, we have to keep his commands. Like that seems totally contrary to everything I've heard about Jesus. I've heard it's all about a relationship and not religion and now you're saying, in order for me to remain in His love, I've gotta like follow all these rules. And I think because that's our natural reaction, it's an indicator that we're probably missing something because I think that's a really good question. I think it's a fair question. But instead of like throwing up our hands in frustration and giving up, I think we should actually train ourselves to get excited because I think it's questions like that that God wants to use to help us better discover who He is and how He relates to us.
And what's interesting is that verse 11, I think, starts to help us understand what Jesus is really saying because in verse 11, Jesus says, hey, "I've told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete". So like, how does that work? How is it that keeping Jesus's commands allows His joy to be in us and our joy to be complete, right? Either A, Jesus is like some crazy dictator that loves bossing people around, or B, we're missing something. And I think we're missing something here because I think that when we think about the commands of God, we've got it totally backwards. And so, as I was wrestling with this passage of scripture I ended up stumbling on this 35-minute video from a Jewish rabbi where he was talking about how Jewish people think about God's commands.
And listen to me, this video blew my freaking mind, right? Like I'm watching this video and I'm like, oh my gosh, that's so good. And I'm like taking notes and I'm excited and I'm fired up. And I'm like, man, I gotta tell y'all about this. Because the thing that most stuck out to me is that the original Jewish audience would have heard Jesus say this. And what they would have heard is not some crazy expectation placed on them, but a loving invitation offered to them. Right, when we think about God's commands we so often think about this expectation being placed on us, this unrealistic expectation that we can never live up to, but the original audience would have seen this as an invitation to become the kind of person that God can use to change the world, an invitation to partner with the God of heaven and earth, to restore humanity and to make a difference in this world.
And what's so beautiful, it was Jesus himself who said, hey my yoke is easy and my burden is light. That's why He's saying that when we keep His commands, His joy will be in us and our joy will be complete. Not because there's these list of rules that if we break them, God's gonna punish us. But because God is calling us, inviting us, to become the kind of people that he can use to bring heaven to earth. But we just get this so messed up because for so many of us, right, you're hearing what I'm saying and there's this part of you that's like, yeah, no, I don't buy it. I just don't believe it. And that breaks my heart because I think there are way too many of you. You've grown up with this idea of God or this idea of Christianity, where when you think about God, instead of seeing a loving Father, you see this overbearing taskmaster, right?
Your idea of God is this guy who's just sitting in the crowds, waiting for you to screw up so that when you do, he can punish you. But what I need you to understand is that that version of God is not God. 'Cause He was in Luke 15 where Jesus tells this beautiful story of a prodigal son. And in this story, Jesus shows us that God is not sitting around waiting for us to mess up so he can punish us. God is waiting for us to turn to him so that he can run to us, so that he can clothe us, clean us, throw a party for us and celebrate that we have returned to him. Listen to me, God loves you. And He wants a relationship with you. And He's inviting you to experience His love, His grace, right now in this moment. But for so many of us, we're running from God because we've totally misunderstood what it looks like to follow Him, to obey Him, and to be a part of His mission.
And this is why when Jesus says, hey, if you keep my commands, you'll remain in my love. Not because He's trying to place this expectation on us, but because he's offering invitation to us to be a part of his mission to bring heaven to earth. So then the question becomes, what are Jesus's commands? And I love what Jesus does here in verse 12. He says, "My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this to lay down one's life for one's friends". It's almost like Jesus saying, hey, if you forget everything else, just remember this, love each other. Because it was just a few hours ago at the Last Supper where Jesus is initiating a new covenant with his followers. And along with the new covenant, he gave one new command. He said, hey, I'm giving you a new command and that command is this, to love one another "As I have loved you, so you must love one another".
Do not miss this. What Jesus is saying is that to remain in Him means loving others the same way that He has loved us. This is the heart of what it means to be a disciple. So how has Jesus loved? Well, He loved by washing the feet of his disciples. He loved by dying on a cross for humanity. And He's sitting there over and over again, hammering away at the importance of love because He knows that in less than 24 hours, Roman soldiers will be hammering away at nails in His hands and feet as they hang Him on a cross. And Jesus in that moment will demonstrate the most perfect example of love in history as he sacrifices Himself for all of us. And that's what he said in verse 13, He says, "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends".
That's how we remain in Jesus's love. We love each other. We love one another the same way that He has loved us. And then in verse 14, He says, hey you're gonna be my friends when you do what I command. As a matter of fact, I'm not even calling you servants anymore. "Because a servant even know his master's business. Instead I have called you friends, because everything that I learned from my Father, I have made known to you". Right, you didn't even choose me. But I chose you, I appointed you. "So that you might go and bear fruit. Fruit that will last. And so that whatever you ask in my name, the Father will give to you".
As Jesus is delivering this teaching, He's not speaking as a master to servants, but as one friend to another. And what's the difference between a servant and a friend? Servants obey because they have to, friends obey because they want to. Jesus is inviting his followers to become the kind of people that God can use to change the world. And he closes out this teaching in verse 17 with one more reminder. "This is my command, love each other". So what if? What if Jesus's invitation to remain in Him was an invitation to bury hell and bring heaven by loving one another the same way that He has loved us? What if the heart of discipleship is simply choosing to love others the way that Jesus has loved us? What if Jesus was serious? And what would be different if we actually took Him seriously? What would be different if you took Jesus seriously? Let's pray:
Heavenly Father, I thank you so much for the fact that we get to understand and experience You because You showed us who You are through Your son, Jesus. And God. I pray that every single person that is a part of this experience right now, that God, they would know that You love them so much. God, I pray that they would know that You have invited them to be a part of something that is so much bigger than themselves. A part of Your mission, to rescue humanity from sin and restore creation. God, I pray that their hearts would be open to the truth that You are speaking to them.
And what I know is that there are some of you right now, who you find yourself in a place where you'd say, yeah like I'm a follower of Jesus but if I'm honest, I've been really struggling to live the life that God's called me to, but I want that to change. And if that's you, man, I just want you to raise your hand. I want you to type it in the chat, say that's me, because I wanna pray for you that God would give you the wisdom and the courage to live out the calling that He has for you.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for those students that are saying, Jesus, I wanna follow You and I wanna take You seriously. God, I pray that You would use them be a light for those who are living in darkness, that God, they would remember that what You've called them to is so special, it's meaningful, and it's impactful. That God, You would give them wisdom, You'd give them courage and that You would fill them with Your spirit to bring light to every dark place.
Still in an attitude of prayer. There are others of you who are here. And the reality is is you don't even know Jesus, right? Maybe you've heard about Him. But as this message has been going on, what you realize is that there's something missing in your life. What I need you to understand is that every single one of us, we were created to live in relationship with God because in the beginning, God created everything, the heavens and the earth, and He created you and me to live in relationship with Him, to partner with Him. But the problem is is that every single one of us, we've sinned, we've done things that hurt ourselves and others and that sin has separated us from the love of God, but God was not okay with that. So 2000 years ago, he became a human being. That person, His name was Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life. He died a blameless death on the cross so that anybody who believes in him could be forgiven of their sins.
And the good news is that Jesus did not stay dead. On the third day, God raised him from the dead so that anybody who says Jesus, I trust you, that they would be saved. They would be made new, that they would be back in a relationship with God. And that's exactly why you're here tonight, to say yes to Jesus, to turn from your sins and turn to Him. If that's you, raise your hand right now, type it in the chat, say "Jesus, I'm giving You my life". There's a link that you can click to let us know that you're making the most important decision you could ever make. And what I need you to understand is that you are not alone. As you are making that decision, as others are making the decision to put their trust in Jesus, to follow Him, that all of us together, we're gonna pray out loud in support of you. Because here at Switch, we are a family. And even though you had to make that decision on your own, you're gonna pray with us. Repeat after me:
Dear Jesus. Forgive me. I'm turning from my sins. I'm turning towards You. I need Your grace. I need Your love. I need Your mercy. I give You my life. In Jesus's name, amen, amen, and amen.