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Skip Heitzig - The Chosen

Skip Heitzig - The Chosen
Skip Heitzig - The Chosen
TOPICS: Now Streaming

I want to set something up so you can take a look at this. Throughout this Now Streaming series, we've taken the names of popular TV shows, series, and we have illuminated with biblical truth. And we wanted to end on the highest note possible. So one of the great series that has been out the last several months, is a series called The Chosen. Any of you ever seen that, or parts of it? I highly recommend it. It's so good. It's based on the life of Jesus, of course. And I had the opportunity this week to interview the director and producer, Dallas Jenkins. It's about a 30-minute interview. It's on our YouTube channel, but I just want to give you a snippet of that. And then I'm going to give a message in John 15 on The Chosen. But let's see this little video interview.

Well Dallas, first of all, thank you so much for doing this interview and spending a few minutes with myself and Calvary Church. I want to congratulate you on the success and the impact of The Chosen around the world. I've watched Jesus movies since I was a kid, from Franco Zeffirelli's movies to, all of them. But, there is something about The Chosen that sets it apart, and it's been so well received. So just, right off the bat, congratulations on epic work.

Well, thank you so much. And I really wish I could be with you in person. I tried to make it work, but there's so much going on right now, between travel, and family, and getting season three ready, and our Christmas special. There's just so much going on. So, I really wish I could be with you. I really wanted to make it work. But I appreciate you still having me join you and speaking to the Calvary family. So I appreciate you having me.

Thank you so much. And I know that you're the writer, you're the director, you're the producer. Was it your idea to create a whole series, or to just do a movie? Definitely to do a series, although I have to say, I can't take too much credit for believing it would actually happen. I did a short film. This is why I love talking to churches, because The Chosen was actually birthed in a church. I'll make this story quick, but it goes all the way back seven or eight years, when I did a short film about the death of Christ from the perspective of the two thieves on the cross. And it was received very well, and then each year for Easter or for Christmas, I would do a short film or a vignette. That's actually where I met Jonathan Rumi, who plays Jesus.

We had all these opportunities to do these short films and vignettes together, always exploring the stories of Jesus, typically around his death or Resurrection, from different perspectives. Doing these short films and vignettes, I remember thinking when I first worked with Jonathan, this is the best portrayal of Jesus I've ever seen, even just in the few minutes. Now, that's the back story for when I did a short film about the birth of Christ for my church's Christmas Eve service a few years ago. I shot it on my friend's farm 20 minutes from my home in Illinois. That short film, while I was making it, it was called The Shepherd at the time, and I remember thinking, man, we are just able to explore so much, even in 20 minutes, that I've never seen before.

Why hasn't there ever been a multi-season show about Jesus? There's been movies and miniseries, but a multi-season show, like the shows that my wife and I love to binge watch together, allow you to go deeper into the stories they allow you to connect the characters, and from season to season, episode to episode, you really care about the people in the stories, in the shows that you watch that are multi-season. I thought, man there is so much to mine here. There's so much to dig into. And that's where the idea was birthed.

So, kind of a random question. What made you land on The Chosen as a title? Well, The Chosen has three meanings. So Jesus as the Chosen One, it's not a common term that is used for him in the Bible, but it's a term we believe applies. The Jews, as God's chosen people, this is a very Jewish show. Even though I'm a Gentile, I really wanted to accurately capture the Jewishness of the story and of Jesus, something that hasn't always been captured in many Jesus projects. And then the people that Jesus chose to follow him.

In the opening credits, when you see the gray fish all going in one direction, that represents the people at that time who are all following tradition, they were kind of stuck in this one way, and then this teal fish, the color of life, comes the other way. And one by one, twelve fish, ultimately, that's the final moment of the opening credits, there are 12 fish following the one fish. And we just thought that's a great title to represent who Jesus chose to follow him, the Jews as God's chosen people, and Jesus as the Chosen One.

Besides the music and besides the story lines, are what sets The Chosen apart? I'm going to speak to what we hear, because it happens to match what we intended. And that is: the word that is plastered along the walls of this building, of this project, is authenticity. We devoted, from day one, that we were going to embrace authenticity, humanity, raw, real, and that that was also going to apply to our communication with our audience, to you, who watch the show, to you, who we are trying to get to watch the show. We're going to be authentic. We're going to tell our story. We're going to make this human. And over and over and over again, we hear the same thing from people, saying the show feels real. It feels authentic.

Now that shouldn't be such a novel concept, but when it comes to Jesus projects, when it comes to First-Century projects, they feel staged. They feel formal. Jesus feels emotionally distant. I heard one person tell me this great quote, "Any time you see a Jesus movie, there's always three disciples. There's Simon Peter, because he's the famous one. There's Judas, because he's the bad guy. And then there's the other 10 disciples."

They all look the same, they sound the same. And I don't think you could, if you thought of all the Jesus movies you could see, I don't think you could put in your mind a visual of any of the disciples. Maybe a Simon Peter from a famous movie like Passion of the Christ, but I don't think you could have in your head a picture of any of these people. And so our operating principle is number one, is this scripturally sound? Meaning even when we're not showing scripture. Number two, is this plausible historically, culturally? But then number three, is this real? Is this human? And I think that our obsession with finding the humanity in these scenes, and taking away the formality of most period pieces, I believe, is, for better or worse, the secret sauce of the show. I think The Chosen is the highest crowd-funded media project of all time. What led you to fund it this way, rather than getting funded by a studio or a network?

Well, a couple of things. One, first of all, I want to be clear, I thought that the crowdfunding idea was ridiculous. I thought there was no way it would work. The idea was from this streaming service called Angel, and they saw my short film. They heard my idea. They said, we think this is amazing, we want to do it. And I got really excited, and then they said, we want to raise the money through crowdfunding, and I got really depressed. Crowdfunding always seems to be the thing you see on Facebook, where they're trying to raise a small amount of money for some project or for some initiative, the bar never seems to always get to the end, and I just thought, to do this right, it's going to need millions of dollars. The all-time crowdfunding record is $5.7 million from projects that had big fan bases, and we have no fan base, and I'm coming off of a career failure. I thought it was a ridiculous idea.

But I was in a place in my life, spiritually, where after my failure, God had spoken to me as clear as a bell through other people. I don't hear God's voice as well as some other people do. I try, and sometimes I do. But in this case, I needed other people to tell me this, all independently of each other. Which is, it's not your job to feed the 5,000 it's only to provide the loaves and fish. And that was an extraordinary concept for me, because I always felt responsible, not only for success, but for impact. Even when I had good motives, like I wanted to have Kingdom impact, I felt responsible to do it.

And so I was in this state, spiritually, where I was like, I don't care whether it works or not. I'm just going to do whatever God has in front of me. And so this ridiculous idea of crowdfunding, based on a short film that I did for my church, what have I got to lose? These are my loaves and fish, I'm going to see what happens, and if it doesn't, then that's not what God wanted anyway. That short film generated $10 million around the world, shattering the all-time crowdfunding record. And that was God making it clear to me, this is not your project. You are correct. Those five loaves and two fish aren't enough to feed 5,000. You're going to need something miraculous.

And final question. Is there anything you've learned about Jesus that you didn't know before, or that was rekindled in this re-enactment? Absolutely. I think there's two things. One is, I think my relationship with God has been transformed from doing the show, simply because, not necessarily because of the content, although I'll get to that in just a second, it's just what God is doing with this project has made it so clear that this is way bigger than I am. I've just had a radical change in my spiritual life in being willing to be in that place of what my wife calls a Red Sea moment. When the Egyptians are closing in on the Israelites, and there's only one way out, and that's through the Red Sea. And I'm not capable of splitting the waters. So I just have to be content to sit there and go, all right, either I die, or the show dies, or this scene that I'm filming doesn't work, or whatever it is, or you part the Red Sea.

What I've learned about Jesus, though, and I think this is reflected in the show. Any time you see a miracle in the show, any time you see something supernatural, it's intimate. Jesus was not, by and large, other than a few examples such as feeding of the 5,000, Jesus wasn't doing magic tricks from a big stage. He wasn't showing off with all these big supernatural moments for the sake of impressing thousands of people and proving he was the Son of God to thousands of people at once. He changed water to wine as a favor to his friends because his mom asked him to. He healed people on an individual basis, always in a way that spoke to their hearts. It was rarely just about fixing the leg, or healing sight.

And told people to keep it quiet. Yes! More often than not, it was like, this is not about upsetting the apple cart. Because Jesus always had a specific purpose, and it was always intimate. And so that's what the show is trying to capture. As you've seen in this show, many times, look up. Or, look at me. Don't look at him, look at me. Don't look at that, look at me. And it was always about that eye to eye, one on one intimacy that we're trying to capture in the show, and that's what I believe Jesus wants with us.

Well, job well done. And again, thank you for spending time with us. The best to you. We continue to pray and look forward to supporting and seeing more in the future. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. And I love partnering with churches. This is what this is, the body of Christ. And I'm just providing another tool in the toolbox. But ultimately, the baton gets passed to church. That's where discipleship really happens. Yes. Thank you, Dallas. Appreciate the time. God bless you. Thank you for having me. Thanks for having me. Bye-bye.

All right let's turn in our Bibles to John, Chapter 15, this morning. The Gospel of John. There really is a psychology to being chosen. Whether you're being chosen for a team, or you're chosen for an award, or you win a competition. Something goes on in the human brain, where the pleasure centers of the brain are flooded with chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, and in other words, you walk away from the experience of being chosen feeling really, really good.

And to be chosen is to be valued by somebody, it's to be appreciated, to be esteemed, to be regarded as important. But to be chosen by the living God is the most ultimate experience you could ever have. I mean, for the God of the universe just to take note of you, let alone choose you to be part of this plan and purpose, is the most epic concept. And that's what I want to talk about today.

Now, the whole idea of God making a choice has, for some reason, become a point of controversy. Believe it or not, God choosing, selecting, predetermining, we call that election, for God to choose people for salvation is upsetting to some people. I don't know why it is. Because I kind of figure it this way, why shouldn't God be able to do what He enables His creation to do? If He makes you with the ability to choose, why can't God have that same power?

You get the option to get up in the morning, or not. You can stay in bed, if you'd like. You choose what you get to eat for breakfast. You choose what you're going to do during the day. You choose who you're going to marry, where you're going to live, what occupation you're going to have the rest of your life. You get to make all those choices, why can't God choose whom He wants, what He wants, when He wants it? And He does, whether we like it or not.

Last time I checked, He's throughout the Bible making all sorts of different choices. He's choosing Abraham to leave the Ur of the Chaldeas and form a nation. The nation that is formed, He calls "my chosen people, I've chosen you out of all the people on the face of the Earth." When it comes to the supernatural world, there are fallen angels, and there are angels who did not fall, whom God refers to as "elect angels," indicating God has made a choice before all of that happened. Jesus, himself, is referred to as the Chosen One. Peter said, he is rejected by man, but he is chosen by God the Father.

And then, one of the great titles that you and I get to bear, is that we are God's chosen believers. And perhaps the one section of scripture, we're going to find it here in our text. But the other important salient section of scripture that talks about God choosing us is found in Ephesians, Chapter 1. Let me just read a few verses to you. This is Ephesians chapter 1, verses 4 through 6. "Just as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be Holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will."

Now, we're going to read in John, Chapter 15, where Jesus says to his own disciples in an upper room, and they're very disquieted at this point. They're very discouraged, because of some of the news that he has told them, that he is leaving. Jesus, I think, leans in, almost. I'm picturing him with his hand cupped over his mouth going, "Psst, let me let you in on a secret. You didn't choose me. I chose you. And I have appointed you." Now they, of course, remember the day when they did choose him, when they did leave their nets behind. When they did make a very cognizant choice to put the past behind them and follow this rabbi.

But Jesus said, actually, let me let you in on the real story. You are chosen. And what you need to understand when we talked about God choosing us, and God electing us for salvation, He doesn't do that fatalistically or mechanistically, where we're like robots and we don't have any choice at all. In fact, we do. There is a cooperation of God's choice and our choice. Not a competition between the two. They work in tandem together. In fact, in John 3:16 he said, "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."

So there is an element of human will, human volition, human choice. Or, the time Jesus stood in front of Jerusalem and he said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing." Now, what I want to show you in John Chapter 15, we're going to look at Verse 9 down to about Verse 17. I want to highlight for you three choices that God has made concerning those of us who are saved. Three choices.

We are chosen for friendship. We are chosen for fullness. And we are chosen for following. And I want to explain each of those and drill down just a little bit. We are chosen for friendship. Let me take you to Verse 13 of John 15, where Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you." Stop right there. Did you just hear how Jesus put that? You didn't choose me. I chose you.

Now, that's not normally how it works. Normally, friends choose each other, if they're going to be friends. So this is how it works. Let's say there's an encounter. If there's an encounter between two people, there's three possibilities. Scenario number one, two people meet each other. Let's say it's me and another guy. We meet, and right off the bat, we don't like each other. I don't like his personality. He doesn't like my breath, whatever it might be. We just mutually don't like each other. Probably, a friendship is not going to occur as a result of that encounter.

Scenario number two, I meet a person, I genuinely like him, and I think we could get along, but he didn't like me. Once again, a friendship is probably not going to be the result. But if two people meet each other, and there's a mutual fondness, a mutual affection, a mutual understanding, that's the basis of a friendship. It's never one-sided. But here, it is. So Jesus said, you didn't choose me. I chose you. And he mentions here, I chose you for friendship.

Now first of all, nobody could ever say that, unless he was God. I mean, I wouldn't go up to you and go, you didn't choose me, but I'm going to let you be my friend. I mean, only God could do that. And so this really speaks to us of His position. He has a greater rank, greater importance, greater influence because of his position as Jesus, as God, He can make that statement.

You know, it's like that with famous people, or political people, somebody who is highly influential. They have to be very careful who they're going to allow in their circle of friends, because people can take advantage of them. And so, typically, the way it works if somebody is like a King, or a Prince, or President, or a rock star, it's not like you can walk up to that person and say, hey, you know what I think we could really be good friends. They kind of have to let you in.

I read an article a while back about Mariah Carey, that she has in her house, or I should say in one of her houses, or actually in one of her mansions, she has a level, a floor, where she allows people who are friends, but not really close friends. Just OK friends. They're allowed at that level, but they can't go to any of the other levels where she really hangs out. God says, Jesus said, I have chosen you. So, this speaks to us of his position.

Also, this speaks to us of his election, and I want to kind of drill down on this idea of predestination, just briefly, and election. When Jesus said, I have chosen you I think he has in his mind the idea of salvation. That's how salvation works. God, sovereignty, makes a choice. And I want to take you down to Verse 19, because it elaborates just a little bit. Verse 19, "If you were of the world..." And when you see that word here, he's not talking about the globe, where continents and oceans and things exist, he's speaking about the system of this world, the values of this world that are opposed to God.

"If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." So here's Jesus saying, of all the people that live on this globe and are a part of the world system, I have picked you out of that to be on my team. And then Paul will say, later on in Ephesians 1, you were chosen before the foundations of the Earth. So before you were born, before God put planets and the biosphere, all that we know in the physical world, God had you in mind. God chose you.

Unfortunately, throughout church history this has become a talking point, a debating point, a dividing point, even. Where you have, on one side, the ardent Calvinist, who emphasizes divine election apart from human choice. That's why the ardent Calvinist rarely does true evangelism, because after all, if God is going to make the choice, it's going to happen. You can't do anything about it. They're just going to get saved.

On the other hand, you might have the Armenian who will emphasize human choice over and above divine election. I say, both are true. Why argue over that fact? You know that, right? You know the two things can be true at the same time. It's not like, well, this is true, therefore nothing else is true. No, there's a lot of things true at exactly the same time. And it's true that God makes a choice and predetermines and pre-elects, but it's also true that you must make a choice, and God will cooperate with your choice.

So instead of arguing over this, let the tension remain. It's OK that God chooses, and it's OK that you and I have to choose. It's like a suspension bridge. The reason the bridge stands is because you have two opposing forces holding it together. By the way, Jesus put both of those two realities into one single verse. Listen to what he said. This is John, Chapter 6, Verse 37. "All the Father gives Me will come to me." That's divine election. "And the one who comes to me..." that's human choice. "I will by no means cast out."

So, think of it this way. If a person is drowning, somebody on the shore throws a rope. The rope itself cannot save anybody. The presence of the rope being there won't help anyone. The person drowning must make a choice to grab a hold of the rope, but a person grabbing a hold of a rope won't necessarily save that person. There has to be somebody on the shore pulling the rope to safety. So think of it that way instead of debating over it. God, by election, draws us. We, by our own choice, grab a hold of the rope.

Now, somebody will say, well, it's just not fair that God should choose someone to be saved, implying that He chooses others not to be saved. That's just not fair. Because maybe God didn't choose me. You know, I can prove to you today that God has chosen you. Here's how. Choose Him today. Make a choice to follow Jesus. Go all in today, make that choice, and you will discover that He has already chosen you beforehand. It's really that simple. No, it's not fair, I don't know if I'm going to do that. OK, well, maybe you're not chosen. Well, it's not fair. Well then, choose Him.

The idea that God knows in advance who's going to be saved, and because He's God can make a pre-elected, predetermined choice, does not take away the fact that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord can be saved. So, it speaks of His election. Also, when Jesus said, you didn't choose me, but I chose you, it speaks to us of His affection, His love. You know, God knew all about you before he chose you, and he still chose you. He picked you anyway.

So when Jesus said to his disciples around that table that night, you didn't choose me, I chose you. Do you think He knew in advance what those disciples were going to do in letting Him down? Do you think when Jesus, for instance, picked Peter. When he said, Peter, follow me. Do you think that Jesus knew that Peter was going to deny Him, or did He not know? Did He know or not know? He knew, He knew. He knew it was going to happen.

The day He walked up to Judas and said, Judas I want you to follow me. Do you think Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him for 30 pieces of silver? He knew, He knew. When He got James and John on his team, do you think He knew that they would one day want to nuke a Samaritan village, just eliminate it, because they didn't like those Samaritans? He knew all those things, yet we're chosen anyway.

Charles Spurgeon had fun with this idea. He said, "It's a good thing God chose me before I was born, He surely would not have picked me afterwards." So we are chosen for friendship. Another choice God has made concerning us, is that we are chosen for fullness. What He has in His mind is a full life, not just existence. Not just survival, but thriving. Go to Verse 9, let's go back just a ways and dip into the paragraph there. "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My Love." "Abide" means remain, stay in, continue in. Abide in my love. "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My Love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."

That's the idea of fullness. The word is "pleroo," and it means to be filled to the brim, to the max. It is used in scripture when you fill a vessel to the very top. It is used of a human being when that person is filled, say a person is full of leprosy. It means he has the disease to the extent that he is dominated by it. So when Jesus talks about joy, and fullness of joy, it's not like a service emotion of, I'm kind of happy today. Things are going my way. It's something much deeper and more profound than that. It's the kind of reality that permeates your life, and controls your outlook. That's fullness of joy. Listen to it in the Amplified Bible: "I have told you these things that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be full measure complete and overflowing."

Now, here's what's amazing. In the upper room discourse, which is John Chapter 13, 14, 15 and 16, four chapters. Jesus gets his disciples around a table in an upper room, has the Last Supper, and says these four chapters. In that discourse, in that speech he gives over supper, he tells them the kind of news that is breaking their hearts right now. He told them, I'm leaving you. I'm leaving you and I'm going back to my Father's house.

And they were discouraged, they would be despondent and He knew it, and yet there were three emotions that Jesus speaks about in this same speech, that He said they could have, they should have, and one day they will have three emotions. The first is peace. John, Chapter 14, he said, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, I give it to you." Peace, number one.

Number two, love. In these chapters he says, "I've loved you. The Father loves you. We both love you together. I'm going to reveal my love to you. Love one another." So, peace and love. And then now, joy. "I speak these things to you that my joy might be with you, and that your joy would be full. So, peace, love, and joy.

While he says, I'm leaving and you're going to really be bummed out, you can, and you will one day have, peace, and love, and joy. And last time I checked, that's exactly what the world is craving today. If you ask a person, what do you want in life? They're going to give you the standard answer, I just want to be happy. What do you want for your kids? I just want them to be happy. You drill down on that answer, and what they really mean is, if I could only find inner peace, if I could only find true love, and if I could only find lasting joy. Jesus said, I'm promising you all three of those things. You are chosen for fullness.

Now, hold that thought for a minute. Sadly, throughout Christian history, Christianity has not been noticed, seen, regarded as a joyful experience. So much so, I told you this a few weeks ago, when I announced to my friends that I was following Jesus now, a couple of them said, oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. Because they figured that Jesus would take joy out of my life, rather than inject joy into my life.

And think of how Christianity has been represented over the years. Clergymen, traditionally, throughout history, wore black. That's like the color of mourning. Black robes. The music largely sounded like funeral dirges, not really happy things. The voices of many preachers were deep and drawling and "God bless you. Whatever you do, do not laugh." Really serious stuff.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, I don't know if you know that name, Oliver Wendell Holmes went on to become the Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. So he had a law profession. At one time, he was thinking about being a clergyman, a preacher. But he said this, "I would have entered the ministry if the clergyman I know didn't look and act so much like undertakers."

Who wrote those rules? Certainly not Jesus. Certainly not the New Testament. It is time to overturn that by joyful Christianity. That should mark us. Fullness of joy. It's my personal joy, I'm giving it to you, and you can remain in it, you can remain in it. It can be your constant experience.

I'm almost certain that you haven't heard this next name that I'm going to quote, a theologian by the name of Helmut Thielicke. You ever, did you talk about that guy yesterday, over a burger? Probably not. Yeah, so he's a German theologian and yet, for a German theologian, listen to what he said, I want to show you what he wrote. "Should we not see that lines of laughter about the eyes are just as much marks of faith as lines of care and seriousness? Is that only earnestness that is baptized? Is laughter pagan? A church is in a bad way when it banishes laughter from the sanctuary and leaves it to the nightclub." I like that quote. I agree with that quote.

You know, Billy Sunday was a preacher, I've quoted him before. Billy Sunday was a baseball player, actually. Major League, professional baseball player, became an evangelist, and whenever he preached, people said, man, there's such joy in this guy. Such enthusiasm and passion and joy, whenever he would preach. And one of the things that Billy Sunday used to say is this, "Don't look as if your Christianity hurts you." Isn't that good? I know people who are, bless God. Oh, don't do that. Don't advertise. He said, "The trouble with so many is that they have just enough religion to make them miserable."

So Jesus says to His men, you are chosen for friendship, you are chosen for fullness, and here's the third that I will close with. We are chosen for following. We are chosen to be active disciples, fruit-bearing disciples. Look at Verse 16. "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go..." please mark that. I've got an idea. I have a commission that you're to go on a mission you are to fulfill. I have chosen you, "and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you." And because in the fruit of the Spirit, love is on top. The next verse, "these things I command you, that you love one another."

So get the flow of this. I didn't just choose you to be my friends, I didn't just choose you to be joyful, I've chosen you to be fruitful, to be a fruitful growing disciple. Now fruit, this whole chapter filled with that analogy of fruit, right. That's how Chapter 15 of John begins, I'm the vine, you are the branches, if you remain connected, you're going to bear fruit. And you'll bear more fruit and you bear much fruit, he talks a lot about that all throughout the chapter. That's because fruit is a sign of growth, and growth is a normal part of life. When something is living, you expect it to be growing. And when growth doesn't happen, you're disappointed and shocked.

So here's an example, you can all relate to this. How many of you love babies? Raise your hand if you love babies. If you don't raise your hand, we should mark you. So, we love babies for a lot of reasons. We love the fact that they're cute, they're soft-skinned, their feet are so thick, I mean just so cute in so many ways. Their little words they try to say, la la la. Look, he said my name! No, he didn't, he's just making a noise, but I'm glad you enjoyed that.

And here's one of the reasons, not the only one, but one of the reasons we love babies so much is because we know they're not going to stay that way, they're going to grow. If we thought they were going to stay that way, we're not going to be as joyful. But one of the reasons we tolerate their cries, or their messes, is because we know that they're going to grow. That's normal.

Somebody once said, a baby is just a digestive apparatus with a loud noise at one end and no responsibility at the other. Pretty good description. But that's OK, we're good with that. If, however, at 25 years of age, that son or daughter of yours comes and goes, la la la, and messes, you're not OK with that. That's problematic. So, there has to be fruit, there has to be growth. So, Jesus uses the idea of fruit to depict the Christian life. And there's some obvious things about fruit. First of all, fruit is noticeable. If you walk by an apple tree, you know it's an apple tree. If you're not a botanist, you know it's an apple tree because it has apples. They don't grow signs that say, I am an Apple tree. This is a grapevine. But you know it, because you walk by it, and you see the fruit. It's noticeable.

I'll tell you why I'm bringing that up, because you really don't have to guess if a person is a believer or not. You just got to look at the fruit, pretty noticeable. So every now and then, somebody will say, is that person a believer, a Christian? Well, I think he is. I think, deep down inside somewhere in the recesses of his heart, he believes. Should be a whole lot simpler than that. Is there any fruit? Is there any evidence of that? It doesn't mean they're going to be perfect, Jesus said some beer 30, 60, 100-fold fruit, we do it in different stages, different ways. But there has to be some visible, noticeable indication that will set them apart from just a false believer, professor of faith that has no fruit.

So, it's noticeable. Also, fruit is nourishing. Grape vines have grapes. Apple trees have apples. Fruit trees bear fruit. They don't consume their own product. They do it to bless others. We get blessed by the fruit that comes from that tree, so likewise, if the life of God is in you, then the life of God will flow through you. You will become a blessing to others. You will exist and find real pleasure in that. In fact, I will say your life will take a turn for the better, and and you will start getting really excited when you begin not just to consume spiritual things, but nourish others, and bless others with spiritual things. Where you get engaged, and you get involved, and you give out.

I heard a funny story about a man driving through Florida. He's driving like from Tampa to Miami, and he noticed that there are miles and miles and miles and miles and miles of orange groves everywhere. Orange trees are everywhere, millions of oranges around him. He stops at a little roadside restaurant, orders breakfast. Bacon, eggs and a glass of orange juice. Why not, I'm in Florida. Fresh-squeezed orange juice. He orders orange juice. The waitress says, and I kid you not, "I'm sorry, we don't have any orange juice."

What? You don't have any orange juice? "No, I'm sorry. The machine broke." Machine? I can go outside right now, get two oranges and squeeze them into a cup, that's orange juice. It's not that hard. "We don't have any orange juice, the machine broke." What is the problem? They are dependent on the machine.

I think we can become dependent on the machine. It's all about what I'm going to get out of my experience at church, or my Connect group, or my women's group, or my men's group. Listen, let your life be squeezed out, to pour into the life of other people. That's when the excitement really begins. Don't just be here to get something, I'm here to get that I might pour out and give to others.

I love the description that Jacob had of his son, Joseph. He said, Joseph is a fruitful branch, or a fruitful vine, whose branches go over the wall. He's such a blessing that he is fruitful, not just here, but out to others. He blesses other people. His branches go over the wall. I had a neighbor in Huntington Beach who had a lemon tree, and I'd always pray for his lemon tree, because his branches went over my side of the wall, under California State law, I can take as many of those lemons that are over my wall as exist. So I was having free lemonade all the time. Live that kind of a life, were your branches go over the wall.

So, fruit is noticeable, and fruit is nourishing. Also, fruit is natural. The only thing a branch has to do to produce an apple? Stay connected. It doesn't have to struggle, doesn't have to work at it, doesn't have to think about it too hard, just hang in there. Hang in there, and you'll produce fruit. Ever see an apple tree sweat? Ever walked by and here it is, Apple! Whew, that was hard. No, it wasn't. It's normal. It happens naturally, as the branch is connected to the stock or the vine, it naturally produces. You stay close to Jesus, as you walk with Him, as you talk to Him, it's going to happen. It's going to happen.

But therein is the warning, because lack of fruit would indicate lack of life. That makes sense, no fruit, maybe no life. Look at Verse 14. I want you to look at it, I know you've read it, but this should astonish you. Jesus said, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." How unusual is that? I mean, think of it in another way. What if somebody walked up to you and said, hey, I'm so-and-so, and you can be my friend, but there's only one condition. You have to do everything I tell you. Yeah, right! That's the reaction! Yeah, right. Like, what, it works one way? Well, kind of, in this case, it does. Because here's Jesus, here's God, the Creator of the universe, saying, you can be my friend if you do whatever I command you.

Now, let's look at it this way. We already know Jesus is a pretty good friend to us. He's a great friend to us, right? Didn't he just say, greater love is no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend? What is he referring to? The cross, his death. I'm going to die on a cross for you to get to Heaven. So that's pretty good love, that's pretty good friendship. So we've established the fact that Jesus is a great friend to us.

The question remaining is, how good of a friend are you to Him? Well, Jesus is my friend. Cool, great, awesome. How good of a friend are you to Jesus? Not looking for perfection here. What he's looking for is obedience, submission to His will, a desire to please Him. "You are my friends if you do whatever I command you." Notice the word "whatever." Last time I checked, you know what that means? It actually means "whatever." It means anything and everything.

So, you can't pick and choose where you live your Christian life. Yeah, well it's Sunday, so I'm going to smile and be a Christian. But tomorrow is Monday, it's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and I'm going to bark loud. You can't say that I'm going to live my Christian life in my business, but not my marriage, or I'm going to live my Christian life in my marriage, but not my business. He wants it all. "If you do whatever I command you."

I want to close on part of that warning. I want you to go back two chapters. We're in John 15, go to Chapter 13. Actually turn there, John, Chapter 13, and look at Verse 17. Where he said, "if you know these things, blessed are you..." better word is "happy" are you. "If you know these things, you are happy if you do them. I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'he who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me.'" Who's he talking about there? Judas Iscariot, one of his "friends," one of the guys at dinner with him, who, after he announces this in Chapter 14, gets up, goes out, gets 30 pieces of silver, and betrays Jesus.

"I'm not speaking about all of you, I know whom I have chosen." It's not Judas. Why Didn't Jesus choose Judas? Because Judas didn't choose Jesus. God has all foreknowledge. He knows these things. "I know whom I have chosen." Now, 11 of his friends, the rest of the disciples, will remain, will be obedient, will bear fruit, will go on to live vibrant, Christian lives.

Now, Jesus is called the friend of sinners. Question is, will you let him choose you? Will you let him choose you? Because he wants you. He loves you, and He wants to choose you. Well, how do I know if he's chosen me? You can find out pretty quickly here. In fact, in the next five or 10 minutes, some of you are going to discover that. Some years ago, Rich and Patty White traveled to a third world country to adopt a young child. And as you know who have adopted, it's very time consuming, and very costly, very expensive to adopt a child. Shouldn't be, but it is. They went to a third world country, went through years of paperwork, spent the money.

Finally, the day came when the trial was set. The judge was going to adjudicate on the case to give custody to them. The little girl's name that they wanted to adopt was named Alona Morgan. So the day came, everybody's in the courtroom. The judge reads the official document in front of the people who are there, the prospective parents and the little girl. Now, the little girl had to hear these words. The judge said, "Inasmuch as Alona Morgan is orphaned and is unwanted by any family in this country, and inasmuch as no citizen of this country wishes to have Alona Morgan," and the judge conferred custody to the couple.

As soon as that was done, that couple walked over to the little girl, got on their knees, hugged that little girl, and said to her in that courtroom, "You will never have to hear the word 'unwanted' spoken of you again." They took the little girl home to the United States and changed her name from Alona Morgan to Hope White. Hope. You are not unwanted, He wants you. So much that the best friend you could ever have gave His life to make sure that you have a place in Heaven. Shed His own blood, felt the pain of Roman spikes in His hands, because he knew it would be enough before a Holy God to get you to be one of His friends, in His family, and have a place with Him forever. Greater love has no one than this. Will you choose the one who is choosing you? Let's pray:

Father, I pray that some here would. It's not about religion, it's not about church. These things, in fact, can blind people to truth sometimes. I'm praying and all of us here who have an interest in Your kingdom, are praying for those who may be with us today, who are here, but they don't belong to You. They're wanted by You, they're loved by You. I pray that they will say yes to You this morning. I pray that they will give their lives to the one who gave His life for them.

And I pray that in so doing, they would have a joy they have never experienced before in this life. It would be theirs, because of it. The joy of having their sins forgiven, the joy of knowing that the future is in Your hands. You've got it all under control. The joy of walking with You through life, after and through that forgiven state. I pray, Lord, that those who have never said yes to You before, maybe just hid behind the fact that they grew up in a church, that their parents believed in God, they've always had some kind of a nebulous belief. I pray they would push that aside, and say yes to You for the first time. For an authentic, real moment, they would say, I'm giving my life to Jesus. And I pray for those who have wandered away, have walked away. Maybe they once had a vibrant faith, but they're just not a walking with You, they're not obeying You, that they would come home to You.

If that describes you, our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed. If you are willing to choose Christ, and be chosen by Him, I want you to raise your hand up in the air. Raise it up high so I can notice it. And then you can put it down. God bless you, right in the middle, toward the back. Couple of you toward the back, right over here on my right. Over here, on my right. Yes, sir. Toward the back, anyone else? Raise those hands up. Just say yes to Him. Yes, God bless you right over here on the left. Anybody else? Please, raise it up high. On my left, toward the back. If you're outside in the amphitheater, you can raise your hand. We have a pastor who will just shout out and make the fact that he or that they see you, they'll acknowledge or answer you. Raise it up there.

Thank you, Father, for these and pray that You'd strengthen these to follow You, today and every day. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Let's all stand. We're going to close with a song, and I'm going to ask those of you who did just that, just now, raised your hand, I'm going to ask you to do something else. I'm going to ask you to get up from where you are now standing, whether it's in the back, or outside, or up in the front, or in the middle, and come and find your way right up here to the front, where I'm going to lead you in a minute, to receive Christ as your Savior. This is an important step. So, don't just bail out the door. Please, just come forward right now, and let me introduce you to the Savior. Let me pray with you, and seal the deal to receive Christ. So, you get up and come. Get up and come, as we sing. Be encouraged by this.

Oh, your name, your name is victory
And all praise will rise to Christ, our King
Oh, and your name, your name is victory
All praise will rise to Christ, our King
Oh, your name, your name is victory and all praise will rise to Christ, our King
Your name your name is victory

I saw lots of hands go up. I do think it is important that you make it public. We don't do this to embarrass anybody, we do this to encourage you. I mean, listen to the applause. This is a joyful day! This is the best decision you could ever make. So decide today, you're going to step out of the shadows and step into the light. Jesus said, if you confess me before men, I'll confess you before my Father in Heaven. So, get up here. Get up here.

Your name is victory all praise will rise to Christ our King
It's your day, your name is victory, and all praise will rise to Christ, our King
Yeah, yes, it will in Your name Victory is yours
Those of you who have come forward. Yes, come on up. Yeah, never too late!

I'm going to lead you now in a prayer. I want you to pray these words out loud, after me. I want you to say them from your heart. Mean them. Say them to God. You're giving Him your life. You're making a covenant with the God of this universe, and He allows you to do that because of Jesus. So say this:

Lord, I give you my life. I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus. That he died on the cross, that He shed His blood for me, that He rose again. I turn from my past. I repent of my sin. I turn to Jesus as my Savior. I want to follow Him as my Lord. Help me. In His name, I pray. Amen. Amen.

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