— Brother Phil Enlow: I’ve had some thoughts, as they kind of trickled into this pea-brain of mine…I’m just trusting the Lord to help me to bring out what He wants to say, and what He wants to communicate through it, because it’s so easy just to take words and put together a little sermon and convey information. But we need more than that, don’t we? When Jesus spoke, He said, the words that I…it’s not just the words but, “…the words that I speak unto you…” are what? (KJV).
( congregational response ).
Spirit and truth. And that’s what we need. We need God to actually get in it. And, I hadn’t realized…I hadn’t really thought about the connection, but Sister Peggy spoke to me briefly this morning about last week’s service. You know it’s crazy, sometimes a day or two after a service I can’t even remember what I preached. I have to stop and think. But she reminded me what the service was about, and there is more of a connection than I had thought. And so, I’m just trusting the Lord to put this together and to do what He wants to do with it.
But anyway, this is based on a familiar passage in John chapter 15. Of course, the occasion is they had just…Jesus and His disciples had just had what we call the Last Supper. Judas has gone to do his dirty deed, and while they are on the way, or perhaps they’ve even arrived at this point, at the Mount of Olives, where the Garden of Gethsemane was, Jesus is talking to them.
And a lot of this we don’t get from the other Gospels, but John fills in a lot of the blanks for us and this is one where he fills in what Jesus was talking to them about. Jesus knew what was coming and that’s why He said like in chapter 14, don’t let your…don’t be downhearted about all this, I’m with you. This all has a purpose. I’m gonna leave you but I’m gonna come back…and, all the things that He said to encourage them. I’m not gonna leave you alone, I’m coming.
But anyway, there’s a particular illustration He uses that was meant to teach them, and by extension to teach us, a whole lot of what the Christian life is about. Last week we talked about not being devil’s food. Basically, not letting the devil take control and do his…feed his evil nature through our flesh. But the reality is, what we need is just the opposite. We need God to fill these human frames and express His life through it and that’s exactly what this is talking about.
And so, Jesus uses an illustration from nature and he says, “I am the true vine, 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…” (NIV). Or, you’re already pruned. It’s really the same word in the Greek.
“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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. 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, 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. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
And so Jesus…for one thing, He portrays the Christian life, not as religion, but as an organic expression of life. A branch that’s connected to a vine does not bear fruit because it goes to vine school, or branch school, or fruit school, or whatever. It doesn’t learn the rules and follow the procedures and say, how do I do this? It’s not about all those things.
And so many people have a false idea about what it means to serve the Lord and they’re trying to do it and it has formed into religious tradition and human effort of every kind. I mean, I’m not saying anything we haven’t heard many times, but I feel like the Lord wants to put a…wants to shine a little bit of a light on this this morning, in a fresh way, I’m trusting.
But I thank God that it’s not that! I thank God that His purpose is to share Himself with us! How many of you know that the Christian life is impossible? What God has told us to do, in His Word, is completely impossible!
And of course, when I say that, I mean it’s impossible for us. There is simply no way that God could somehow inspire or command or scare human nature into being what He wants us to be. It’s purely a matter of life. The human nature…human nature became corrupted in the fall and it is irredeemable. The nature itself…your nature will never be changed. It only has to be killed. Folks, we are in the process of dying, and that is the consequence of sin.
But thank God, death is not the end! We see that in Jesus. The disciples themselves didn’t get this at this particular time, but Jesus knew what was coming. He knew that He was soon to go to a cross. He was soon to prepare a way so that you and I could be connected to Him. Not one of us, not the best among us, let alone the worst, could possibly have a real relationship with a holy God unless God did something about what was wrong with us!
You know, I grew up in a preacher’s home. I didn’t go out and live a life of sin like some people might think of it. But I’m no different than anybody else. I absolutely have a nature that drives me in the wrong direction. It’s something that I have to put down all the time. Anybody with me on that? Yeah! You know what I’m talking about! There’s a big part of us that opposes everything that God wants to do in us. Man, if I don’t have a power that’s greater than my own, I am helpless.
( congregational amens ).
But see, that’s the picture that Jesus is painting. It’s not just an outward connection. And boy, you get that right off the bat. He says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit….” Now that sounds on the surface like, oh my God, I’d better measure up, He’s gonna throw me away.
What’s the picture there? Why would a branch be sort of ‘in Him’ quote, unquote, and bear no fruit? Think about what He’s actually picturing there. What kind of a relationship is it between a branch and a vine if there is no fruit? It’s just physical, isn’t it? The bark may be connected. The wood may have some sort of a connection there. On the outside it looks like, yeah, there’s a branch. But the problem is there is no inside connection.
What a picture of religion that is! How many people in our world…I pray not here, but God knows. How many people in our world have an outward connection to Jesus? Everybody looking on would say, yeah, there they are, they’re connected. But yet, there is nothing on the inside.
The covenant that we have today is not one of laws and rules. God gave that, not to save, but to show people that we needed a Savior. That was meant to prepare people for the coming of the only One who could loose us from the power of our sins, and the guilt of our sins. Thank God!
But what happens to somebody who simply takes Christianity, and takes the teachings of Christ and builds it into a religion? It’s no different than what the Jews did with the Law of Moses. It’s a bunch of outward stuff that they do. And so, you have people that can come and sing, “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me…” and there’s no inward connection in the heart.
The New Covenant was not a bunch of better rules to live by, it was a new heart and a new spirit that God was going to put in His people. Boy, if you don’t have that, you don’t have anything! And what a warning this is, about those who would come and would be outwardly a part and yet, at times, you couldn’t even tell, perhaps.
Why do you think there will be so many people on the Day of Judgement that will show up and say, like we’ve said so many times lately, “Lord, Lord, have we not…done many wonderful works…” in your name? (KJV). And it lists off all the things…we’ve prophesied, we’ve preached!
I wonder how many preachers are going to be rejected because they never actually knew Him? They went to seminary…I was about to say cemetery. Sometimes that’s what it is. But anyway, they went to seminary. They learned how to do it.
You know, I had enough education to know that…I believe there were some people that loved the Lord and there was a degree of reality to it, but the reality is that they teach you ‘how to.’ How to be a preacher, how to construct sermons, how to…all the stuff that goes into it, from an outward standpoint, and the danger is that you can learn all that and never have the heart changed.
And so, what a clear picture this is meant to be of the difference between someone who is outwardly connected to the Lord and someone who is inwardly connected. And that’s what I sensed the Lord talking to me about, but I believe it’s for every one of us. This is what God is looking for. He’s looking for something that happens on the inside and it’s not just a Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of thing.
This is not where we visit Him and get a load of sap so we can bear fruit. It’s not like a gas station. The Lord is looking for an organic, living, day-by-day, moment-by-moment relationship with His people.
Now, it’s obvious that being a true branch is not a matter of some high level of perfection, is it? Because what happens to the rest of the branches? Everyone that bears fruit, what does He do? Ah, He prunes it! Why do you prune a branch? Because you’ve got stuff there that isn’t producing fruit and it’s getting in the way. It’s eating up the life and drawing life into itself for some other purpose than bearing fruit. And so, He says, no, that’s not what I’m after, so I’ve got to prune that off.
Anybody here had any pruning done lately? Yeah, I see a little of this going on. Yeah! You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? We need the Lord to prune us, folks! So, we’re not certainly painting a picture of some high level of perfection, but God wants us to understand how the Christian life works.
This is…and it’s not just the Christian life, because the Christian life is not just about what kind of a person I am. It’s about my call, my purpose. Every one of us, like we’ve said so many times lately, we’re unique, we have a calling, we have a place in the body of Christ, we have a place…basically, what God is looking for is people through whom He can live and walk among men.
Wow! Where have we heard about that before? We have a Savior who did exactly what He’s calling upon us to do, didn’t we, or don’t we? Yeah. This is exactly what His life was about.
And I thought about a passage over in John 5 where we read this truth with great clarity. Because Jesus has just done something that the Jews didn’t like, the leaders didn’t…anyway, the religious teachers. He healed somebody on the Sabbath, and that was a problem to them. You’re not supposed to…He told somebody to take up your bed and walk, I think. Yeah.
Well, that was against their law! And so, Jesus basically said, hey, the Father is doing His thing, I’m with Him. If He wants to heal somebody on the Sabbath, Praise God! They’re gonna get healed on the Sabbath. I don’t care about your rules. You have turned this into a religion of do’s and don’ts that have nothing to do with God’s heart and God’s purpose.
And so basically, He said, “My Father…” In verse 17, isn’t it? “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (NIV). So now they’ve got another thing to go after Him for. What, you mean God is your Father? Who do You think You are?
All right, so then He gives a real insight into His life and ministry. In verse 19, “Jesus gave them this answer: Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself.” I don’t know how that fits in with your theology. He doesn’t say the Son is fully divine and He can do anything He wants to, anytime.
When He lived on Earth, He lived as a man. His life…He was the Son of God, for sure. But His life, His ministry was 100 percent dependent upon His Father. He understood that. He had the same need for His Father to live and operate in Him as we have a need of Jesus to live and operate in us. Jesus was just as helpless as you and I are, apart from the Father.
Now the one thing that sets Him apart is He never sinned! He understood, completely, His purpose, His role, how it worked, and He cooperated with it 100 percent! Thank God we have a sinless sacrifice who could go to the Cross for us and take our sins away.
But Jesus did not say, I choose to do nothing by Myself. I’m gonna put on an example for you and act like I can’t do it. No, He says, I can do nothing. “…The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
Do you see this totally organic, living relationship where His purpose in life was not to say, okay God, give me some instructions, or give me some general idea what I’m supposed to do, and I’m gonna run do it. This was a moment by moment, Lord, live in Me. Do what You want to do. Help Me to walk with You and to be in total harmony with You, so that what I’m doing is really You in Me doing it.
He says that later, doesn’t He? He said, everything I do, it’s not…in fact, He said it back in chapter 14, where we started in 15. He said in 14, the works that I do, I don’t do by myself. “… The Father, living in me…is doing his work.” So, you see how Jesus was setting up chapter 15?
But now go back to what His testimony was about His own ministry. “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” Wouldn’t it be nice if we had such a close relationship with the Lord that He could actually talk to us, and give us wisdom and instruction and insight into what’s going on around us and what He wants from us and give us the power to do it? Yeah!
We live pretty distant, pretty disconnected lives more than I think any of us would like to admit. But do you see the picture the Lord is painting for us? What an amazing kind of life this is. All right?
“…Shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.”
You talk about Judgment Day, you know who’s gonna be sitting on that Great White Throne? Jesus! And He’s gonna be looking at the very people who crucified Him. Boy, I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. I’ll tell you what, I want to be among those who’ve bowed to Him and worshipped Him and lifted Him up for all that we were singing about this morning! Praise God, it’s the truth!
And I’ll tell you, those who come to Him…and we come just as we are! What a wonderful song to sing. We don’t have to come and somehow qualify ourselves for any of this. We just come humbly and say, Lord, I come on the ground of Your promise and Your provision and Your mercy toward me, and Your love! And He welcomes with open arms. What a wonderful promise!
And I’ll tell you, there’s gonna be a company of people who stand there on that day in white! Thank God! Thank God I can be one of those, not because there’s any virtue in me but because of Him 100 percent. I hope that applies to everyone here. All right?
He, “…has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
Have you? Have you crossed over from death to life? That’s a pretty definite kind of thing. I mean, one moment you’re dead and the next you’re alive because of Him, because He comes in and seals the heart with His Spirit. That’s what salvation is about. I mean, you can have all the outward connection to the church and to Christ that you want. It won’t do a bit of good, if you don’t have this. All right?
“…Crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” He’s talking about a resurrection there, isn’t He? But what kind of resurrection? He says it ‘now is.’ The time is coming. Well, it’s here! Dead people are gonna, “… hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
Isn’t that what Paul said? “You…were dead in trespasses and sins.” (KJV). There is a resurrection that has been happening ever since the day of Pentecost for people who have heard the voice of the Son of God, and they have believed it, and they have been raised from the dead with Jesus Christ. And there is a life implanted in the heart that can never die!
( congregational amens ).
Doesn’t Revelation say, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection.” That’s what he’s talking about. I’ll tell you, if you’ve been born of God’s Spirit, you have been raised to newness of life because of Him! You have already been raised to newness of life! Yes, the body is still what it is, but there’s gonna come a day when that will, “…be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” Thank God, I want to be part of that first…I’m glad I’m part of that first resurrection!
( congregational amens ).
That’s the one that matters, and it’s happening right now because He was raised from the dead! All right? So here’s kind of…He explains this. He talks about the fact that they hear and they live. “For as the Father…” verse 26, “…as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” (NIV).
What’s happened is this. When Jesus walked among us, as a man, He had life in Him, didn’t He? “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (KJV). And people saw that life. They experienced it. But yet, we were not fit to have that life reside in us. Didn’t He tell His disciples…talked about the coming of the Holy Spirit and said, “… he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
You see the difference of what happened because of the death, burial and resurrection and ascension of our Lord. What has happened is He who had life in Himself, as a man, was raised to a newness of life, full of the brand-new…the life of God, the new creation and ascended to a throne.
Well, what’s He doing on that throne? What does He now have the power to do? He has the power to share that life. The life that is in Him is now able…He is now able to share it with us and we can have a living connection with the Son of God. It has nothing to do with what you can see and feel, in the natural sense. But there is a literal connection where we have the same life in us that He has in Him.
( congregational amens ).