Fruitful Love: May 6, 2018

Message Fruitful Love
John 15:9-17
We continue our reading in John chapter 15 with Jesus’ focus on love
John chapter 15
9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
God loves Jesus…Jesus loves us…we are to stay in that love.
This is one of the places in scripture when we get a bit of a picture of what it is to be a “trinity God”. Over and over in this chapter in John we read “the Father abides in me and I abide in the Father as you abide in Christ’s love.” And this presence of Father and Son and us is rooted and lives in love.
10 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.
Out of context, this verse seems to say that our focus should be on all of the laws and the commandments.  But if we put this verse in context and remember what Jesus says when he is asked about “the law”.  He boils it down to Love God, love your neighbor as yourself. This happens in more than one place in the Gospels. The law we are to focus on is always based in and all about love…love God, love your neighbor and love yourself.
Then Jesus goes on in several other passages and explains our neighbors are everyone in the world.  We hear it in the Great Commission, “Go out from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria. We hear it in the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus even calls the untouchables our neighbors. Then he makes sure we understand those we consider enemies are our neighbors too. We are to love every one on the earth.
So loving is the essence of abiding. And there is no route to life with God without having a life of love.
11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
This love is the relationship with God and it is complete JOY! God’s goal for each of us in Christ Jesus is joy. God’s desire and promise isn’t that we’ll live in drudgery and struggle. But that we’ll know lives of abiding love and joy.
But joy isn’t happiness. Joy abides. Joy is present even in sorrow or loss.
Do you remember being hurt or upset and running home. That feeling of safety and deep peace when you found yourself finally in your mother’s arms? That is ever present joy. That safety, that presence, that certainty you’re ok is always present if we look to God.
You can choose joy even in the midst of sorrow. It’s all about what you are focusing on. Focus on the moment and who knows what you’ll come away with but it will be momentary and fleeting. Focus on God and what you have is abiding love, joy and every present comfort and hope.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Loving isn’t about receiving, loving is about giving. Loving isn’t about focusing on ourselves but about focusing on other, focusing on God.
Loving is about giving of one’s whole life for the love of another. It’s pretty easy to let this verse become theoretical and meaningless. If we leave it with dying for another then it means nothing in our day to day. If we change that understanding and make giving of our lives to mean giving time and presence to another. Suddenly, we have what it really takes to make a friendship. Time.
Did we have time to talk? To visit? To share a meal? To listen to another?
Do we have time to talk to or listen to God.
Do we have time to really listen to and get to know our children? Our siblings?
Not just death…but giving of yourself. That’s what this verse is really getting at.
Turning our focus from self to the needs and feelings of others.
Jesus came, died and was resurrected with his eyes on our needs. Not on his own. He knew that the end effect would be good for him and his Father because they cared so much about us. But he wasn’t thinking of himself when he went to Calvary. He was thinking of you. Jesus was all about humanity. About another. About his neighbors.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[d] any longer, because the servant[e] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.
We are in the loop, friends of Jesus. Being a friend takes some effort. Calls, visits, time together, sharing goals and purposes…back to that giving your life thing. If Jesus is our friend and we want in the loop, we have to spend time listening for Jesus’ voice.
16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last,
Bearing fruit…the fruit of the spirit and the sharing of the gospel.
You are each one, called of God to share the gospel. To be ministers in the world.
so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
This tight relationship with God means what we ask for is within that relationship. It’s not a genie in a lamp. As we live in relationship with God and with others our prayers grow and change and become what will be. Now, I’m not saying this to mean that our prayers have to be esoteric and have nothing real in them. After all, we prayed for the funds and provision of the Alexander’s home and those prayers were answered with $102,000. But the prayers were shaped in the hands of God. They grew out of hearing God’s voice and calling.
What we ask for in the name of Jesus…it happens. This we can count on. Asking in Jesus’ name exists within a close relationship with God. A relationship in which God is allowed to shape you. GOD IS DOING THE SHAPING. This prayer and relationship isn’t me telling God who I want to be or who I want you to be. This is praying for God to form each of us into what God intends. We don’t control it.
And God’s goal…
17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
So all of this is about loving one another. The intention at every turn.
Love one another…abide in God…your joy will be complete…Jesus calls you friends…commands so that we can love one another
It’s easy to lose sight isn’t it? To try really hard without our eyes being turned to Jesus.
When we turn our eyes from God to ourselves, from heaven to earth, from Christ’s power to our responsibility…we end up focused on failure and struggle and fear. Focus on Christ, is uplifting. Focus on Christ brings and grows faith and fills our hearts with complete joy.
When our eyes shift from Christ to earth we lose focus on all that is good, right here, in this place. Enon is an amazing church but it forgets that.  We have ministries that need attention. We have lots of places where we need people willing to serve. It’s not that there aren’t flaws but this is an amazing creation of God.
Look at what happens here! Children are welcomed and loved. We worship God! In this place we are able to turn our hearts toward only God. The Bible is read, hymns sung and our friends greet us. But Enon is more than that. It’s been here since 1837. It was here before you were born and it will be here when you are gone. Imagine the people who have come to know Jesus, right here in this sanctuary? Think of the people who have been helped? The residents of the Ashland Heart Havens Home. All those who have benefited from Heifer animals and that Ark from a few years ago. What about the kids who play on the playground? The Bible School kids. And you know, inside all the “doing” things there are people who experience love. Abiding love that witnesses to Christ.
If we let our eyes drop from God and our focus become the things of earth then we find ourselves wallowing in negative thoughts, criticism, divisiveness…those aren’t the fruit of Jesus and they aren’t attractive to the world. In just a moment it feels like our church isn’t worth much. But when that happens, we are wrong. This church, like all the others is the bride of Christ. We are holy before the Lord.
When the church gets close to doing great things for God, Satan always shows up and turns our focus inward and downward. Satan is real and at work, destroying the love and hope and joy that is the presence of Christ. Satan is at work when all we are is negative, the same is true for hopelessness, despair, apathy, indifference…just the work of Satan. God is love and hope and purpose.
As a church we need to focus on our good, on the positive, on the mission and how it is being fulfilled by God.
We need to define ourselves by what we are, what we are for, rather than what we are not and what we stand against.
We need to return our eyes to a pure focus on Christ and trust in Christ’s willingness and ability to answer our prayers, grant us purpose and give us hope.
Our District Superintendent, Pete Moon, shared these words,
“Let us remember that what we are for is much more powerful than just what we are against. We are for the gospel, we are for the kingdom, we are for the love that has conquered all, we are for the life abundant and eternal that we are promised.”
We are for the church!
The beautiful one that the gates of hell shall not overcome.
We are for forgiveness, and we are for hope.
The list could go on but you get the point.
We are saved by the blood of Jesus and that is reason for great JOY!
It’s time to lift our eyes unto the heavens. We have to start with focus on God. And then as we love God, we love our neighbors. That’s how the joy is made complete. That’s what bears fruit. That’s what witnesses to the world and shares the gospel.

Address: 6156 Studley Rd., Mechanicsville, VA 23116