James Meehan - Staying Connected to Jesus
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Well, welcome to this week of "Switch". My name is James Meehan and I'm just really excited that you're choosing to spend some time here with us. Whether you're joining in real-life or online, either way, our goal is to help you become the person that God has created you to be, to become the kind of person that can truly make a difference. That's why we're in a series titled, "What difference do I make"? Because every single one of us as human beings, we have been created by God with a purpose to fulfill. There is something in our lives that God wants to use to make the world different, to make the world better.
Last week, we got to hear from our friend Vince Parker about how the Father, God the Father has invited us to trust in Him. And that when we trust Him, He can use us to make a difference. This week we're continuing on with that theme of being invited, but this time we're talking about God the Son, Jesus. Because the big idea for this week is that the Son has invited you to remain. The Son has invited you to remain. Now, the rest of this message is going to be exploring that statement. The Son inviting us to remain. But before we talk about God's Son, I wanna show you a picture of my son for a couple reasons. Number one, because he's adorable. And number two, just to get you into the right mindset of what we're about to discover, because look at that kid. My goodness, he's adorable. And I feel like it's the appropriate amount of time since I've shown you a picture of him, it was like a couple months ago. So I wanna space it out because I don't wanna be that person who's constantly showing pictures of their kids that other people don't want to see.
So I try to space it out. So just get ready, 'cause in a couple months, I'll show you another picture of him just being absolutely adorable. Now, without being said, jumping back into the content for this week, we're talking about how God the Son, Jesus, has invited us to remain. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God. He became a human being. He lived on this earth 2,000 years ago. He lived a perfect life. He never made a mistake. He never sinned. And because of that, He was able to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins so that our relationship with God could be fixed, our brokenness could be put back together. And the cool thing about Jesus is He never forces us to follow Him, but He does invite us, right? We are not robots that He programs in to do certain things and to avoid other things. Instead, we are human beings with dignity, with freedom, with the ability to choose and God honors that, and He invites us to remain. But what does that mean? Well, that's what this message is all about. Discovering how we can remain in the Son.
So what we're gonna do is we're gonna look at some of the scripture that we read last week, but if you weren't here, that's okay, this is a recap for you. And I just wanna offer a little bit of encouragement and also a challenge because the truth is that this life of following Jesus is not always easy. Sometimes it can be really difficult. And I think if we're not careful, we can expect it to be easy. And then when it does get difficult, instead of pressing in, we check out. And what I wanna do is I wanna encourage you to not check out, but to lean in. I wanna challenge you to not throw your hands up in the air when you come to a place in the Bible where you're like, I just don't get this. But instead to see that as an invitation to better discover who God is and what that might mean for you.
And so as we're walking through this message today, I'm gonna do the best I can to make it simple and accessible for you. But there's gonna be things that are difficult to wrap our minds around. Like I spend my entire life studying the Bible and there are still places where I'm like, I just don't think I get it. And when I find myself in one of those places, I just try to make a note and I try to write down what that question is so that I can talk to other people, so that I can look for answers. And as I do, I start to discover more and more, of just how brilliant the Bible is. And just how loving our Heavenly Father can be. And so I wanna encourage you to do the same.
As you go through this message and there's things that you just don't get, there's things that challenge you, maybe there's things that you don't even agree with, write those down and bring those to your small group, because that's why we do small groups. Because we know that a life with Jesus is never meant to be one we do alone, but actually when we do it in community with other people, then we can bounce ideas off of each other. We can learn from each other's perspectives to have a more full understanding of what it looks like for us to live as disciples of Jesus in our modern world. So John 15:4, there is going to be a word, remain. I want you to count, as I read this, how many times this one word shows up in a single verse. John 15:4. This is Jesus speaking. He says, "Remain 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".
Hopefully you're counting. We're gonna jump a little bit ahead to the next verse, verse five, and we'll read through verse seven and I want you to keep counting that same word. And then I'm gonna tell you how many times there are, and we'll see if you kept track. So starting in verse five, Jesus continues and says, "I am the vine, 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. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you".
Were you keeping track? Were you counting? If you were, I want you to whisper to the person next to you how many times you read the word remain? Okay. I can't hear you 'cause I'm on the other side of a screen, but hopefully what you said was eight because in those four verses, Jesus repeats the same word eight times. So that's an average of two times per verse because you know, in case you didn't know, sometimes we do math here at church, but the whole idea is that's a really big deal to Jesus. And that's why He keeps repeating it over and over and over again because the context of this chapter of scripture is actually a conversation that Jesus is having with His disciples, His closest followers. Just hours before He's going to be arrested and eventually executed as an enemy of the Roman state for crimes that He didn't commit.
And so what Jesus is doing in these last moments with His followers, is He's trying to remind them of what matters most. It's almost like if you're like studying for the finals and, you know, it's like the night before, and I am just cramming, trying to make sure I have everything I need to pass the test. Jesus knows that a test is coming and He wants His disciples to pass it. So He's like, "Hey, here's the deal. I need you to pay attention. Remain, remain, remain, remain, remain, remain, remain, remain," eight times in four verses. And that's really cool, but that then begs the question, what does that mean? Right? Like how do we actually remain in Jesus? How do I remain in another person? And the cool thing about the Bible is that oftentimes when we find ourselves not understanding what the Bible is saying, if we keep reading, the Bible will give us hints, it'll give us clues. It will give us a little bit more, so that we can better discover what it is that God wants us to know.
And so if we continue in verse nine, Jesus changes His language slightly. In John 15:9 He says, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love". At first, Jesus said to remain in me. Now He's saying to remain in His love. Now I wanna pause here because I think unfortunately we can lose sight of what it is Jesus is trying to tell us because the way that we think about love in our modern world is not the same way that Jesus and His disciples would've thought about love in their world. Because like the modern definition of love is not the same thing that Jesus meant when He said it. So what is love? In our modern definition, I would say that love is often defined as strong feelings of attraction or desire. Strong feelings of attraction or desire. It's like, man, I love cheeseburgers.
What do I mean? I mean, I desire. I want, I would really like to have some cheeseburgers. And oftentimes when it comes to relationships, when we talk about loving someone else, what we really mean is we really like the way they make us feel. We really like the things that they can do for us. In our modern world, love is often really selfish and it's about what we can get from someone else. But the biblical understanding of love is pretty different. Biblically speaking, love is being committed to the good of another person. And so when Jesus is talking about love and remaining in His love, it's not about desires and attraction. It's about His commitment to our good. And because Jesus is committed to our good, if we are to remain in Him, He's asking us to be committed to His good. Another way to say it would be that love is not just what you think or how you feel, love is what you do and it's how you live.
It's not just thoughts and feelings and ideas. Love is a way of life. If you really want to know if you love somebody, it's not about how you feel in the moment, it's about how much you're willing to sacrifice for them. And that's why if you ever wonder, if God loves you, just remember what Jesus did for you. He gave up His life so that you could have a relationship with your Heavenly Father. That's what love really looks like. Continue on, verse 10 Jesus 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". So there's that word, remain, again. But this time, Jesus is saying, this is how you remain in His love. You keep His commands. You do what He says. You respond to His ask. Whatever He ask you to do, you do it. That's how you remain in the love of Jesus. We could say it this way, that remaining in Jesus means obeying His commands.
Now again, we gotta pause because for a lot of people in our world today, the idea of obedience to a person of authority is just kind of icky. Like we don't really wanna talk about that because for so many of us, we have been kind of raised with this idea that true happiness comes from following your heart. That a meaningful life comes from doing what you think is best; chasing after your dreams, achieving your goals. But Jesus is saying something very different. He's confronting those assumptions by saying, actually, if you wanna remain in my love, it's not about following your heart or obeying your desires, it's about following me and obeying my commands.
Now for some people, like this is why they're not fans of Jesus. This is why they're not fans of Christianity because they think that all Jesus cares about is bossing people around, but that is so not the case. Because in verse 11, Jesus tells us why He wants us to obey His commands. Here's what He says, verse 11. "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete". Why does Jesus want us to obey His commands? Because Jesus actually knows what's best for us and Jesus wants to bring the best out of us. What He is saying is that, if you obey my commands, if you really follow me, if you truly love me, then here's what's gonna happen, my joy is gonna be in you and your joy will be complete.
Now here's what that doesn't mean. That doesn't mean that following Jesus will always be easy. That is not at all the case because Jesus invites us to literally deny ourselves to take up our cross and follow Him. It is a life defined by sacrifice, by giving up our way so that we can take up His way. It is anything but easy, but it is always good because it's a life that we're not doing on our own. It's a life that we're doing with Him. And so if your way of following Jesus isn't bringing you more joy, then maybe, just maybe, you're doing it wrong. And again, joy is not the same thing as happiness, right? Like we can be happy when good things happen to us, but joy is what we experience when even in the middle of difficult times, there is this sense of fulfillment, this sense of peace that no circumstance can take from us. And that's what Jesus is inviting us into; a life of true meaning and purpose.
Then in verse 12 and 13, Jesus wants us to know what His commands are. So He says, "My command is this," if there's any question about what I want you to do, here's what it is, "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". This is the overarching command of Jesus. Everything He says comes back to this idea for us to love one another. Not just the way that we want to be loved, not just the way that they would like to be loved, but the way that Jesus has loved us and how has Jesus loved us? Well, that's what verse 13 is all about. It is Him laying down His life for us, His friends. So what is Jesus' command? Jesus's command is to love each other the same way that He has loved us. And if we do this, in verse 14 He says, "You are my friends, if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know His master's business. Instead, I've called you friends for everything that I learned from my Father, I have made known to you".
What's the difference between a friend and a servant? A servant obeys because they have to, a friend obeys because they want to. And this is why it's so beautiful that the Son, Jesus, God in human form has invited us to remain. He's not forcing us, but He's inviting us. And I think that's really good news. And then in verse 16, Jesus says, "You didn't choose me, but I chose you and 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 you". And then verse 17, Jesus kind of puts this cherry on top, this period at the end of this paragraph stating, "This is my command, love each other". It's almost like Jesus wants to get a really important idea into our minds. It's almost like Jesus knows that as human beings, we often over complicate things.
So He's trying to make it simple. He's telling us that if you forget everything else, I just want you to remember this, to remain in me. Well, what does that mean? Well, He told us that remaining in Him means remaining in His love, but what does that mean? It means doing what He says, well, what does Jesus say? He says it right here, "His command is to love each other". And I think the reason that Jesus is hammering away, again and again at this command to love one another, is because in less than 24 hours, Roman soldiers will be hammering away at Jesus' hands and feet as they prepare to hang Him on a cross where He will die for the sins of the world. As the ultimate picture of God's love for you and me, Jesus, the Son of God who came full of grace and truth dying in our place so that we could have life with our Heavenly Father. This is what you've been invited into, to be part of making a difference that is so much bigger than yourself, being a part of God's mission, to rescue others from sin and restore the world.
So to summarize what we've talked about so far, the Son has invited us to remain. What does that mean? Well, I would suggest that remaining in Jesus means loving others the same way that He has loved us. Remaining in Jesus means loving others the same way that He has loved us. Now, I just gave you a whole lot of truth from scripture, and you might feel yourself a little bit overwhelmed because you're like, okay cool, all of that sounds really good, but what do I do now? So I'm gonna give you two really practical suggestions. Suggestion number one is that you make prayer a practice. And suggestion number two is that you make obedience a habit. This entire series we have been talking about the spiritual discipline of prayer, which is simply talking to God. It's us going to Him, having a conversation, thanking Him for what He's done, for who He is, and asking Him to give us what we need. And if you're new the whole idea of prayer that's okay, we created a Bible plan called becoming like Jesus prayer.
That is a great resource for you to get started learning how to pray. We walk through the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew Chapter Six. And we just take it step by step, line by line, to break down what prayer looks like, to help us become people of prayer. The second suggestion is to make obedience a habit. Again, I know that some of you are kind of squirming as you hear that word obedience, but this isn't a really big deal. Because if we really trust that God is good, if we really believe that Jesus loves us and wants what's best for us, then the evidence of that will be our obedience. I think of it this way, if you really trust your friend, then you'll probably take their advice. If you don't, then you probably won't. And so when Jesus offers a command, when Jesus asks us to do something, how do we respond? Do we come up with excuses and reasons not to do it, or do we respond in faith? Do we choose to be obedient?
Now, obeying what Jesus asks us to do starts with actually learning what it is that Jesus asks us to do. And so, maybe for you, you're new to this whole thing and you don't have a clue what He's asked you to do, other than what we've already talked about, which is loving each other the same way He's loved us. That is a great place to start. And so maybe the question you ask yourself is, you know, my siblings are really annoying, but I think if I'm gonna obey Jesus I probably need to love them well, so how can I love my little brother? Or maybe for you starting to make obedience a habit actually means obeying your parents and doing what they ask you to, without complaining.
Now I know that seems wild and crazy, but I'm telling you, if you can do your chores without complaint, that will build your character and it will set you up to be a great employee later in life. Because if you can do what you're asked without complaining, I'm telling you something, that will get you hired into a good job. But if you complain, anytime you're asked to do something you don't wanna do, then that probably will prevent you from getting a great job later in life. So develop the skills today that will set you up for success tomorrow. And guess what? Every step of the way you'll be growing and becoming more of who God's created you to be, the kind of person that truly loves Him with every part of who you are. And the kind of person who loves others, the same way that Jesus has loved you, because that's why we're here. We're on our journey to become fully devoted followers of Christ, to become the kind of people who truly make a difference. So that when we look back on our lives we can say, "God, I did what you asked. And I'm so grateful that you invited me into this journey because the Son, Jesus, has invited you to remain".
Heavenly Father we thank you so much that we get to be a part of this movement of students from around the country and across the globe, and gotta ask that you would help every single one of the students and leaders and pastors alike, become the kind of people who go to you with all that we are. That ask you to give us the strength to do what you've called us to, without complaining. That we would be people who make prayer a practice, an obedience, a habit. We pray all these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
Now maybe you're hearing this message and you realize that all of this talk about remaining in Jesus seems really far off, because you don't really know who He is, but I just need you to know that in the same way that Jesus has invited you to remain, He's inviting you first into a relationship with Him. This is the good news of the gospel, is that as human beings, all of us were created by God with a purpose. We were created to live in relationship with our creator. But because of this thing called sin, it is our disobedience, it's the things we do that ourselves, others and break the law of God. Sin entered the world, it infected us, and separated us from our Heavenly Father. But that's not how the story ends.
Now, God became a human being named Jesus. He walked on this earth 2,000 years ago. He died on the cross for your sins and for mine. And He did not stay, that He rose from the grave on the third day, conquering sin, death, and the devil, so that anybody who puts their trust in Him could have their sins forgiven. Their relationship with God could be fixed so that we could once a give, live in perfect harmony with our Heavenly Father. And maybe that's why you're here today to say yes to a relationship with Jesus. Because before you remain in Him, He's inviting you to start a relationship with Him. And it all comes through faith. And so if that is you and you're saying, "Yeah, I want a relationship with Jesus, I'm done trying to do life on my own, I want something to change." Then in just a moment, you're gonna get a chance to say yes to that relationship, to put your trust in Him, to have your life made new.
And so if that is you and you're saying, "Yes, Jesus, I want to know you, I want to live for you, I want my life to be different, I put my trust in you". If that's you, simply lift your hand right now. All over the place of you're saying yes to a relationship with Jesus, if you're watching online, type it in the chat, say, Jesus, I give you my life. As people are making that choice all over the world, in real life, and online as a "Switch" family, we're gonna pray and celebrate together because even though you had to make that choice on your own, you don't have to pray alone, because we are a family. So altogether out loud, repeat after me:
Heavenly Father, forgive me. I'm turning from my sin. I'm turning towards you. I need your love. I need your grace. I need your mercy. Today, I give you my life. In Jesus name. Amen, and amen, and amen.