Abiding in Christ

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John 15:9-17   
6th Sunday of Easter
SMAS 10.30am All Age Worship
(13.5.2012 )

John 15 9-17 shows us Jesus telling His disciples how to live out their lives of faith, how to stay abiding in Him, showing His fruit by being filled with joy and showing true love to others AND to pray to the Father in His name, confident that our prayers will be answered. An excellent reading for us as we seek to become a church that is ‘energised by faith’ and ‘listens to what God wants’.

Verses 9-11 talks about remaining in God’s love and obeying His commands. It immediately stresses the importance of keeping in a strong relationship with Him. I have been doing a lot of Mariage Preparation with couples recently. Obviously we look at how we maintain relationships – it’s so easy for the buzz that comes with ‘falling in love’ to become something we take for granted. And it can easily happen too with our relationship with God.

When was the last time that you gave any attention to your relationship with God? We all need to maintain or regain a sense of God's presence in our lives. Let’s look at some ways of doing this. Of course it helps if we can unclutter our lives and live more simply. Build times of quiet and reflection into our lives so that we can learn to listen to and for God. Jesus
makes no bones about saying that being close to God involves obeying His commands. Obviously we need to know what they are and we do only get this from being in a close relationship and listening to what He teaches us.

And it is not about just acknowledging His teaching and instruction it’s about living it out. Our world doesn’t need more ‘religious’ people, but people who will follow Christ in their lives. It’s not enough to read about forgiveness, holiness, justice, mercy, love etc we are called to live these things out.

An interesting study was done of playground behaviour in young children. The children came from several different schools, but each school had the same size play area and ratio of teachers/children. There was one major difference between the two types of schools being studied: one group offered children a fenced playground; the others had a play area with no fence.

One group of children showed more cooperative play, had fewer playground fights and lower levels of anxiety. It was the same group that used more space on the playground and had better attitudes toward school-work after play.
It wasn't the children who played in the wide-open spaces!

Children playing behind the protective boundaries of a fence were far happier at play and better adjusted because they felt a security that others do not. When it comes to grown-ups living in the fast lane, having "Fences" around our behaviour is equally important.God gave us the ten commandments to keep us inside fences of his love and blessing. They are designed to:

Challenge yourself to read God's Word thinking about how to apply it your life. If you find that difficult to do then join a Home Group. We are this very coming Tuesday going to begin looking at the Ten Commandments. We can’t become a church that is energised by faith if we don’t know what that faith is all about!

A Pharisee once asked Jesus to tell him what was the most important of God’s laws. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Jesus said: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself.' All the law and the writings of the prophets depend on these two commands."

One more thing we learn from our reading today is that God actually wants us to enjoy life. He’s not just concerned that we "keep in line" and "don't do anything wrong". Jesus’ concern is our joy may be full and that happens when we walk with Him.

Verses 12-15: Jesus now says that we must love one another. Love is mentioned a lot nowadays – mostly in songs and films. But this is not the sort of love that Jesus is talking about. The Greek language that the New Testament is written in, uses four different words for love and the one that Jesus uses here is the word AGAPE which means the deepest and most extreme form of love, self-giving to the point of our being willing to die for someone, as He did on the cross for us. BUT it also a word that describes love, not as a feeling, but as an action. Love is something we DO. Something that Jesus commands that we do. This is not the same as the feelings of love so popular in our modern day culture.

At the end of each day we should ask ouselves not ‘what have I done today’ but rather ‘have I extended love to someone today’? It is very easy to get wrapped up in the jobs we have to do but it is more important to think about people. And Jesus tells us that of the enormous privilege that comes with our obeying His command to love one another, He calls us His friend.

I wonder who you might think it a privilege to be ableto call a friend? A sports star, footballer, TV personality? Someone famous who you could go to visit, swim in their pool, eat dinner with sit and have a chat with? However wonderful or fantastic that might be it’s nothing compared to what Jesus offers us. Jesus tells us that "we are his friends if we do what he commands us". This means being a friend to the creator and ruler of the world! So look for a chance to show love to someone before this day ends!

Verses 16-17 speaks about our being chosen to do God’s work, to do love, toobey commands, remain in a close relationship with God (as in the Vine) and so produce fruit. If we do this Jesus tells us that the Father will give us anything we ask in His name.

You might wonder about that. How many times have you asked for something and not got it? How many times have you asked for someone to be made well, freed from pain or some other suffering? And it hasn’t been given?

It comes back to our ‘remaining in Him’. Being in such a close relationship with Him that we become one with His thinking. If we listen to Him because we really want to hear Him, what He wants instead of what we want then we will hear. Our thoughts will be aligned to His in such a way that our prayers will be affected by our Godly insight. We will know what to pray. What He wants and it will be answered.

It’s essential to make time for prayer. Prayer is vital, a valuable tool in the lives of those who remain in Him. Times of prayer bring perspective to our lives and helps us make decisions. It is where we tap into God's supernatural strength and guidance and also it brings God's provision and care into our lives.

If we are honest most of us struggle with prayer. We have trouble finding time (something else always seems to be more urgent); we have trouble finding a quiet place; we don't know what to say. But we must find time that belongs to God alone and where we can be uninterrupted in our quiet time of prayer.

Another difficulty can be that we see prayer as mostly being about asking for things, not just ourselves, but for others. This is a good thing but it’s not the only thing. We must make time to be in a relationship with God and that involves talking to Him about how we are doing. About our fears, frustrations, struggles, our lack of contentment, the anger and bitterness that wells up inside us, the anxiety that keeps us awake at night. Most of all we need to leave some space and quiet for Him to speak into.

I find the easiest way to do this is by keeping a Prayer Journal. Its a bit like keeping a diary except instead of listing what happened that day you write down what’s going on in your soul. The process of addressing your life with God like this helps you see things in a Godly perspective and will help you get closer to God. An empty space on a page entitled LISTENING encourages me to sit and be still with God. He rarely speaks into that moment – but its like charging a mobile phone, the power is there later when it is needed. A true ‘quiet time’ is not about how much you read or say to God but about how tuned in you become to God and then your prayers will be in accordance with His will.