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Dec 31 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 29, 2019


Intro: One of our neighbors has several fruit trees in their backyard

They also have a grapevine that is not trellised and grows in all directions
– several times a year I have to trim the branches that encroach into our yard
• I cut the small branch pictured above from our neighbor’s vine
• in cutting the branch from the vine, I killed it
– it still has some life in it, but that won’t last long,
• because there is no new life is flowing into it to nourish it
• cut off from the vine it can’t survive and will never produce grapes
Jesus said:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. 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 be in you, and that your joy may be full.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
John 15:1-12, 16

This passage seemed fitting at this time
– there are only a couple of days left in this year, and then, 2020
• no one can say what will happen in the next twelve months,
• but we can be sure it will not be boring
– we spent the past four weeks of Advent preparing for Jesus
• now that Christmas has come, and Jesus is here,
◦ let’s use this year to deepen our relationship with him
◦ to love him more, trust him more, and render better service to him and others

I have heard all kinds of stories of how people came to faith in Jesus

No two stories are the same
– you could not build an evangelism strategy that fits the stories
• God has led us each by our own winding road to Jesus
◦ he has given us life – a specific kind of life
◦ that life is constantly flowing into us
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 Jn. 5:11-12)
– if I were to cut myself off from Jesus,
• that life would no longer be flowing into me
◦ that part of me would wither and eventually die
• would I know that it had died?
◦ our would I be religious enough to think to think I was still alive?

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it (Heb. 2:1)

This is the most common way that people disconnect
– it’s a gradual process that goes undetected at first
• we don’t notice the distance slowly growing between us and the Lord
• busyness gets in the way and we get caught up in other things
– the gradual drift works the way Jesus described a seed planted among thorns
They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful (Mk. 4:18-19)
• so, like the branch cut from the vine, that life is choked out of us
• we either abide in him or live apart from him
◦ and apart from him, we can do nothing

On occasion, Jesus said things that were mean to wake people up

For example:
The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him (Jn. 4:23)
– “here” can be a location in time and in geographical space
• now/here — time/space — this moment/this place
◦ these words locate his presence with us in this moment
• when we sleep, we are not conscious of time
Anthony de Mellow said, “Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. . . . most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep.” “Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It’s irritating to be woken up.”
– listen again to Jesus’ message to the church of Sardis,
I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you (Rev. 3:2-3)
• to be not only alive, but also awake, is to be aware of this present moment
• what is this moment? What does it look like? sound like? feel like?
◦ you have to be alive and awake to know
◦ and you have to abide in Jesus to be alive

We do not want to come to the hour of our death
and only then realize that we have never lived

Death is not the destiny of Jesus’ followers

Life is our destiny
– abundant life – a fruitful life
• Jesus chose and appointed us for this kind of life
• and because this kind of life glorifies and pleases God,
◦ Jesus sponsors us
– what do you need to stay connected to Jesus this year?
• what do you need to be awake, alive and productive?
◦ if you know, ask the Father and he will supply it
◦ if you don’t know, ask the Father and he will show you

To prepare ourselves for the new year

We are going to renew our connection with Jesus – here, now
– Communion is a ritual of re-connection
• it is a worshipful moment of receiving new life
• the life that flows into us from Jesus

Conclusion: Earlier I said most common way people disconnect is gradual

But sometimes people turn and stomp away from God
– years ago I was speaking at a church in Sacramento
• I mentioned a realtor I met while living in Yuba City
◦ he had a grown son who loved God and was in Christian service
• his son was diagnosed with cancer, and many people were praying for his healing
◦ but after several hard months, he lost the battle
◦ the father, angry at God turned his back on religion
he rejected church, prayer, the Bible–anything to do with God
– he lived with this resentment for years
• but one day he bumped into a preacher to whom he told his story
◦ the preacher said,
“You know, God lost a son too. His was also a painful death. And for what? For people like you and me”
• the realtor told me, it was like he woke up in that moment
◦ he let go of his anger and allowed God to share his grief
◦ by the time I met him, he was a devoted man of God

Like I said, I told his story in Sacramento
– afterward a few people wanted to talk with me
• one old man approached me and with a firm grip took my hand
• and for awhile looked down and did not speak
◦ tears puddled in his eyes
◦ then he said,
“I lost my son. He was the Campus Crusade director for this district. Hundreds of people loved him and prayed for him, but he died. Since then, I have hated God–until today.”

It is time for us to come home
from darkness to light
from death to life
It is time to wake up and be here — now
Where Jesus again and again
pours himself into us

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