Sermon Audio

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20)

John 1:12–13 Matthew 5:11–12 Acts 17:30 Isaiah 41:10 Galatians 5:22–23

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Purpose of Parables

2 Peter 3:16 Mark 4:21–25 John 6:66 John 3:19 John 6:53

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Lucifer, Lunatic, or Lord (Mark 3:7-35)

John 3:16 James 2:19 Exodus 19:20 John 6:26 Mark 3:7–35

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-3:6)

Matthew 11:28–30 Philippians 4:6 Romans 5:1–2 Genesis 2:1–3 Colossians 2:16–17

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Jesus, Friend of Sinners (Mark 2:13-22)

John 2:11 Matthew 11:19 Mark 2:13–22 1 Peter 4:7–9 Isaiah 25:6–8

Sunday, February 9, 2020

A Deeper Healing (Mark 2:1-12)

Psalm 51:4 Isaiah 35:5–6 Matthew 11:3–5 2 Corinthians 4:16–17 John 2:19–21

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Manuscripts and Blogs
Ask Whatever You Wish (John 15:1-11)
Ask Whatever You Wish (John 15:1-11)

Marc Sims • June 30, 2020

*Video recordings of our services can be found at our Facebook page "Quinault Baptist Church"*


Sermon Manuscript:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 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. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:1-11


I wonder if you have heard the story of George Müller, the Prussian prayer warrior of the 1800’s. In the early 1800’s, there were almost no orphanages in England. Müller, who had moved to England in hopes to evangelize to Jewish communities there, was overwhelmed with plight of the orphans in Bristol. Müller was convinced that God had brought him to England to address this problem and provide care for those whom no one else in society cared for. But, he also had another motive. Müller was troubled by the coolness of many people’s faith in and outside of the church. He was frustrated that so many people functionally lived as if God did not care, did not hear, and was not real. He wanted a piece of visible proof that “our God and Father is the same faithful creator as he ever was.”


So, he pursued the goal of creating an orphan-home for the poorest and most destitute of orphans in Bristol all without ever asking for or advertising any financial support, only praying and trusting God to provide.


Müller read Psalm 81:10, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it,” and was moved to pray for a building, one thousand pounds, and a staff who would work in the orphanage. Within eighteen months, Müller had twohomes, sixty orphans, a full staff, and the full thousand pounds (equivalent to about 130,000 pounds in today’s money)—all provided without ever soliciting or asking for donations from anyone, only by praying. At the end of Müller’s life, he had received nearly one and a half million pounds (192 million in today’s economy) and had provided care for ten thousand orphans—all and exclusively by prayer. 


Do you pray? What do your prayers look like? If there was a printed transcript of your prayers for the last week printed out before you and you could read back through them, what would it tell you about your prayer life? About what you pray about most? About how much time you devote to prayer?


Would the content of that transcript, what you prayed about, be an accurate representation of what matters most to you? Would it show me what you consider to be the most important things in your life? By reading it, would I discover your greatest joys? Greatest fears? What you’re most thankful for? What your find most praise-worthy in God? If not, then why not?


If you’re like me, you would likely be fairly embarrassed for that “prayer transcript” to get into the hands of someone else. If you’re like me, you desperately want to grow in your discipline of prayer. For as long as I have been a Christian, I have never met any other Christian who felt that they could not grow in their prayer life. It is kind of like flossing, we all know we should do it more often, we all want to do it more, but, for some reason, we don’t. 


Why don’t we pray?


We think we are God.


Jesus tells His disciples, “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,” John 15:4-5. Apart from Jesus, you and I can do nothing. God alone is self-reliant; He is the Creator and we are His creation. Listen to Moses’ warning to Israel as they are about to enter the promised land, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth,” Deut 8:17-18a.  God is the one who gives everything, we are dependent, and that dependence drives us to pray. We often don’t pray because we basically believe we are the ones who are in charge, we are the ones who are competent and capable of “taking care of it.” So, like toddlers who keep yanking back at the helping hand of a parent, we burden ourselves with anxiety, stress, fear, and countless frustrations. 


We don’t believe God answers prayer.


Did you see that almost scandalous sounding promise Jesus made? He tells His disciples, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you,” John 15:7 (cf. John 14:13-14; 15:16). God doesn’t just maybe answer your prayer—ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Or listen to Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Friends, do you view prayer that way? This was precisely what Müller was wanting his entire life to testify to. As he read Psalm 81:10, “Open wide your mouths, and I will fill it,” he realized that God was eager provide for His children. John Calvin explains, “It follows, that the reason why God's blessings drop upon us in a sparing and slender manner is, because our mouth is too narrow.” The English puritan Thomas Case wrote in 1655, “You may easily over expect the creature, but you cannot over expect God…widen and dilate the desires and expectations of your souls, and God is able to fill every chink to the vastest capacity.” Or, as CS Lewis famously tells us, “It is not that our Lord finds our desires too strong, but too weak…we are far too easily pleased.” Paul prays, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” Eph 3:20. 


Friends, perhaps our prayer life is so anemic because we just honestly do not expect much from God. Prayer is a kind “discipline” that we ought to do as good Christians, or it is a baptized form of what the world calls “mindfulness”—a kind of self-therapeutic meditation to center our mind and arrive at an emotional equilibrium. Or when we say we will pray for someone, we really are just wanting them to know that we care about them, or that we feel sorry for them. Is that what the Bible describes prayer as? No—prayer is a communication with the living, personal God that brings about actual change in the world.


James plainly tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask,” James 4:2. So, that verse is saying that there are blessings in your life that you could have had but do not have because you did not ask—it does not mean that if you don’t ask, God will still give it you anyway because He is sovereign. That’s the exact opposite


Certainly, we can all think of plenty of prayers we prayed that weren’t answered. But, of course, that is where all the conditions in those verses must be paid attention to. If we abide in Christ and his word in us, then ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you! If you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart. But, of course, if we find our delight and joy in the Lord, then the desires of our heart align with the desires of God’s heart, and our requests change. So we don’t have the same desires an unregenerate person has. In face, James clarifies, “You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions,” James 4:2-3.


We are impatient. 


And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” – Luke 18:1-8


Sometimes, in the Lord’s mysterious providence, He has decided that the answer to our prayers will only come after a prolonged season of seeking Him. How many of you have prayed long for the salvation of a friend, a family member, a child? Have you felt discouraged that after six months, six years, sixty years it appears that the Lord has not answered your prayers?


Müller recounted a story of his steadfastness in prayer in a sermon towards the end of his life: “In November, 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without one single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God, and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day I continued to pray for them, and six years more passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remain unconverted. The man to whom God in the riches of His grace has given tens of thousands of answers to prayer, in the self-same day or hour in which they were offered, has been praying day by day for nearly thirty-six years for the conversion of these two individuals, and yet they remain unconverted…But I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer.”


It is our privilege as those in Christ.


Maybe we do not pray because we are unaware that this is our privilege and right as those who are united to Christ by faith. Communion with the Father is our birthright as children who have been adopted into the family of God. We were once enemies of God and the thought of coming into the presence of God made us uncomfortable, fearful, and anxious, the way a criminal would feel coming into the presence of a judge. We wanted to flee the judge, not be in his presence—let alone pester him day and night with our requests! But now, dear friends, because we have looked to Christ and trusted that his death was a sufficient payment for our sins, we now not only feel a peace while in the Father’s presence, we eagerly and actively seek Him out through our prayers. 


Not only that, but the Bible tells that upon being received into the family of God, we have been given the Holy Spirit who helps us pray in accordance with the will of God (Rom 8:26-27). And, we are told that after Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He ascended to the right hand of the Father, and now sits enthroned in heaven interceding on our behalf (Rom 8:34; 1 John 2:1). This means that our prayers, as Christians, come from the Holy Spirit at work within us, directed to the Father, through Jesus Christ our mediator. This is why we conclude our prayers “in Jesus’ name.” It is an acknowledgement that the only grounds we have for our prayers being heard in heaven is the fact that we are in Jesus and our prayers are translated through Him and presented before the Father with the same grounds that Jesus’ prayers received. Do you see the confidence this should give you as a Christian when you pray? Do you think the Father listened to Jesus’ prayers? Do you think He answered them?


Application:


Pray with your Bible open

Pray by yourself and with others

Pray longer

Pray for your church

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Black Lives Matter: 24 Biblical Considerations
Black Lives Matter: 24 Biblical Considerations

Marc Sims • June 19, 2020

Should Christians Use the Term "Black Lives Matter"?


Do black lives matter? On the face of it, it seems like a fairly straight forward question that should simply be answered with a resounding: of course. Any Christian who affirms the image of God should be quick to oppose racism in any form. In that sense, Christians should be the first ones to say: black lives matter.


But it doesn’t take long to realize the BLM movement has snowballed into something much larger, and much more complicated. When answering that question today you are now responding to a whole movement. A movement that speaks on policing in America and use of force, the presence of systemic racism, white privilege, protestors, looting, reparations, housing policies, the prison system, the war on drugs, social services, whether or not statues of confederate soldiers should be torn down, and sundry other issues.  Even more difficult, the official BLM movement has explicitly embraced ideologies that are contrary to a Christian worldview, such as LGBT perspectives, and critical race theory and intersectionality. So how can Christians partner with such an enterprise without endorsing sin or endorsing something that we really don't know enough about to take a firm stand on?


My burden in writing this is a pastoral one. I am no political nor judicial expert. I do not pretend to know everything and admittedly feel perplexed by much of it. I, along with the apostle Paul, admit that I only “know in part.” How are we to know what to believe? Who are we to listen to? I am reminded of the Father’s admonition to Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my Son, listen to him!” Luke 9:35. My aim in this is to provide Biblical categories for us to think through these complicated issues so that we may first and foremost “Listen to him!”


"Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path"


Imagine a boat trying to navigate through a rocky channel in the dead of night. There are deadly cliffs on either side that could destroy the boat, but there are also lighthouses positioned along the coastline to help ships navigate through safely. The captain may not be able to see precisely where all the rocks are, but he knows if he threads between the lighthouses on each side he will survive. That’s what I am aiming to do with each of these points: place lighthouses on each side of this issue that keep us from veering to an extreme and making a shipwreck of our faith. 


24 Biblical Beacons:


1.     All people are descended from Adam and made in the image of God and are therefore deserving of respect and protection from discrimination/abuse. Genesis 1:27, 3:20; 9:6; Malachi 2:10; Acts 17:26. Thus, Biblically speaking, there is only one “race,” but numerous ethnicities. For more on this, read here.


2.     All people of all ethnicities are sinners, capable of any sort of depravity. Gen 6:5; Rom 3:9-18, 23; Eph 2:1-3.


3.     Diverse ethnicities display the creativity of God and should be celebrated. No one ethnicity is superior to another. Rev 5:9-10; 7:9-12. God has always intended for His people to be comprised of many diverse ethnicities. Gen 12:1-3; Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 52:10; 60:3; John 8:12; Acts 13:47; 26:23; Rom 1:16.


4.     Ethnic animosity, racism, tribalism, and xenophobia are sins that have been present from the beginning and must be repented of. Numbers 12:1; Acts 6:1-7; Gal 2:11-14; Rom 15:7; Eph 2:14.


5.     The world, the flesh and the devil together can codify any sin into systemic structures, so that economies, governments, jobs, schools—any institution—can perpetuate, encourage, and ingrain sin more thoroughly in the hearts of those participating in it. Rom 1:28-32; 2 Cor 4:4; John 12:31; Titus 3:3; 1 John 2:15; 1 Cor 2:12; Gal 4:3; Acts 19:24-25. For more on this, read here.


6.     We are all morally responsible/capable creatures who will answer to God for how we lived. No one will escape this judgment because he was a certain ethnicity or a part of a majority or minority culture. Matt 25:31-32; Romans 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; Romans 2:6-11; Gal 6:7.


7.     Governmental authority is a gift given by God. Gen 9:6; Judges 21:25; 2 Sam 23:3-4; Proverbs 29:2; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14.


8.     Governmental authority has the right to use force (including lethal force) to punish evil. Gen 9:6; Rom 13:3-4; 1 Pet 2:14.


9.     Governmental authority and its use of force can be (and often is) abused. Rev 13:1-8; Daniel 7:1-8; Mark 6:14-29; Mark 15.


10.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to practice God’s “justice and righteousness” by defending and advocating for the most vulnerable, abused, and destitute in society. Genesis 18:19; 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chron 9:8; Psalms 33:5; 89:14; 97:2; 103:6; Proverbs 31:8-9; Isaiah 1:17; Jer 22:3; Amos 5:24; Matt 25:31-46; James 1:27.


11.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to not overcome evil with evil, but with good. Matt 5:43-48; Rom 12:14-21.


12.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to submit to the governing authorities as long as they are not coercing us to sin. Romans 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14; Acts 4:19-20; 5:29.


13.  It is the responsibility of God’s people—black, brown, and white—to find their primary identity in their citizenship in the kingdom of God, not in their ethnicity or culture. All cultures must submit themselves to the culture of God’s Kingdom—which is not synonymous with white, Anglo-European culture. Gal 3:28, 6:15; Rom 3:30; 1 Cor 12:12; 1 Cor 9:19-22; 1 Cor 10:32; Eph 2:11-22. For more on this, read here.


14.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to overcome racial hostilities within the church. If we do not, we compromise the gospel. Eph 2:11-22; Acts 6:1-7; Gal 2:11-14. For more on this, read here.


15.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to both weep with those who weep and mourn the lawlessness of our land. Rom 12:15; Ps 119:136. We should not speak carelessly like Job’s friends so that we sound like we are calloused to those who are suffering nor should act like our personal experience is monolithic. Prov 25:11; Col 4:5-6; Eph 4:29. We should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. James 1:19-20. For more on this, read here.


16.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to acknowledge the depths of our own sin, which may include the sin of racism, and to repent of it. 1 John 1:8-10. We who have experienced the grace of God in Jesus Christ should be more aware of our own sinfulness than anyone else’s and quickest to admit it. This means that we, more than anyone else, should be open to the idea that we may be harboring racism in our heart. Matt 7:1-5; 1 Tim 1:12-15; Luke 18:9-14.


17.  It is the responsibility of God’s people not to participate in showcasing our deeds of righteousness simply to earn the approval of men. Matt 6:1-4; Luke 6:26; Gal 1:10.


18.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to not bear false testimony, slander, or gossip, nor to rush to judgment hastily when reliable information is insufficient. Eph 4:25; Eph 4:31; Col 3:9; Prov 18:17.


19.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to not endorse or make it look like we approve of what God hates. Rom 1:28-32; 1 Cor 13:6; 1 Cor 6:9-10.


20.  While it is possible to be sinning unintentionally (Numbers 15:28), the Bible teaches that individuals are not held morally culpable or responsible for the sins of past generations. Deut. 24:16; Jer. 31:29-30; Ez 18:1-32. For more on this, read here. This, however, does not exclude the category of corporate confession of sin. Dan 9:20; Neh 1:4-6.


21.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to use our resources to love our neighbor as ourselves, which includes using our time, energy, and money. Luke 10:25-37; Matt 22:34-40.


22.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to pursue this love of neighbor first and foremost within the church, and secondarily in the wider community. John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:11-18; 1 John 4:20; Gal 6:10. This means that before we move to correct injustices “out there,” which often have little to do with our own sin and require little from us, we should first look “in here” and see if there is anyone whom we have sinned against within our community and seek repentance and restoration. Matt 5:23-26.


23.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to submit to God’s Word in all matters, whether or not it endorses our perspective, political agenda, or conveniences. 2 Tim 3:16-17.


24.  It is the responsibility of God’s people to both be angered and sorrowful over injustice, but to remain joyful and peaceful in the Lord. We do not grieve as others do who have no hope, but know that our ultimate hope resides in our coming King, so we can “Be angry, and…not sin”. Eph 4:26; 2 Cor 6:10; John 16:33; 1 Thess 5:16; Matt 6:34; James 1:20; 1 Thess 4:13.


Let Each One Be Fully Decided in His Own Mind


So, where does this all leave us? Should Christians use the term “black lives matter”? This, of course, is a different question than the question "do black lives matter?" The answer to that is obvious: of course. However, should Christians actively use the term "black lives matter" when it now comes with the attendant baggage? I think using or not using the specific term black lives matter is finally a matter of conscience where “each one should be fully decided in his own mind,” Rom 14:5. We must let God’s Word calibrate our conscience as we examine the situation. That will lead some Christians to feel that their consciences permit them to align themselves more closely with the BLM movement while other Christians do not. In this we must commit to, “not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother,” Rom 14:17. So Christians who have put a BLM logo on their profile picture should not look down on those who didn’t, and those who didn’t shouldn’t assume the worst about those who did.


What isn’t a matter of Christian liberty, however, are the 24 Biblical principles laid out above. To return to our boat analogy, the channel between the rocky shoals may be wide enough for different boats to take slightly different paths, but there are boundaries. If a boat ignores a lighthouse, it will end in the boat destroying itself. If someone is distancing themselves from the BLM movement because they are harboring racism in their heart, they are in danger of making a shipwreck of their faith. If someone is participating in the BLM movement only because they love the approval that comes from the world, they are in danger of making a shipwreck of their faith. Neither of those two are allowing God's Word to be their final authority (even if they think they are).


So...


If someone were to ask me “do black lives matter?” I would likely answer, "Of course, black lives matter. I do disagree with some perspectives the movement as a whole holds, however. Maybe you could explain to me what you mean when you use that term?" And depending how they answer, I may need to clarify my answer in line with the Biblical principles laid out above. The president of the seminary I graduated from recently released an article that does a good job of highlighting the nuance needed by Christians who want to affirm what is good in the BLM movement, while distancing ourselves from what is wrong.


If you’d like some resources to explore this issue further:

-       Here is an extremely helpful 17 minute video of Phil Vischer explaining the dilemma of systemic racism in America. It is well worth the time. 

-       Here is a more critical evaluation of recent views on race from Voddie Baucham.

-       Here is a more sympathetic evaluation of the BLM movement from Mika Edmondson.

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Pastoral Prayer: On Unity
Pastoral Prayer: On Unity

Marc Sims • June 15, 2020

The pastoral prayer from our gathering on the Lord's Day, June 14th.


May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. – Rom 15:5-7


Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Your name deserves glory, your fame deserves to be displayed throughout all of Creation, and especially here in your Church. 


Father, we lament that so many in the world do not bring you glory, do not know you. But we lament above all that many in your church do not come together with one voice to glorify your name but have robbed you of the glory you deserve by remaining fractured and divided. Father, forgive us for the way we have not pursued unity in your church. Forgive us for not welcoming one another as Christ has welcomed us but instead demanding from others what you did not demand from us. Forgive us for our cool hearts towards each other and our insistence on our own way. 


Father, forgive us for the way we make idols out of the same things the world does. Forgive us for making our political commitments primary, and our Kingdom commitments secondary. God, we know that while we are in this world we need to love our neighbor as ourselves and in our country that means being involved in the political process in some way, but oh God please deliver us from thinking we can create the kingdom of God here on earth. Keep us from thinking our primary citizenship is here in America; remind us that we are citizens of heaven, and on this world we are sojourners and strangers. And would this knowledge of our deepest identity and true home bring a profound unity in our church that the watching world simply doesn’t understand. 


Make our church a place where black, brown, and white brothers and sisters can come together as one family. Make our church a place where Democrats and Republicans can come together as brothers and sisters of Christ, people who voted for Donald Trump and people who voted for Hillary Clinton can welcome one another as Christ has welcomed them. Wound us so deeply with the beauty of Jesus that inconsequential matters of difference would erect no barriers between your people. Lift up our all our eyes to focus most on what matters most: the eternal, never-changing, full of grace, full of truth, soon-arriving, righteous King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.

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Abide in My Love (John 15)
Abide in My Love (John 15)

Marc Sims • June 15, 2020

Discussion Questions:

  1. What stuck out to you most?
  2. What does it mean to be united with Christ?
  3. How is marriage similar to union with Christ?
  4. How would you describe your relationship with Jesus? Do you tend to view Him as aloof and critical, or warm and accepting?


Service video: https://www.facebook.com/QuinaultBC/videos/261497351610364/


Sermon Manuscript:

Out of a desire to serve our parents (and our children) we have decided to try to shorten our service. Since I will be preaching a much shorter message, we thought it would be wise to take a brief break from the gospel of Mark. The elders encouraged me to focus on preaching a message that centered on contentment in difficult times, how a Christian should respond to frustration and suffering.


So I want to take some time to focus on the fountain of contentment: abiding in Christ. “Abiding in Christ” or “Union with Christ” is one of the biggest themes in the New Testament that we often totally overlook. It is found in all of those phrases “in Christ” in the New Testament—we have no condemnation because we are “in Christ” (Rom 8:1), we were predestined before the foundation of the world “in Christ” (Eph 1:4), redemption from our sins is found “in Christ” (Eph 1:7), and on and on we could go. Union with Christ is the conduit through which every blessing of the Christian life. But it is in John 15 where we see one of the most wonderful descriptions of what union with Christ looks like. Read it now with me:


1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 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. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:1-11


I want to read you something that I came across this week from the missionary Hudson Taylor. Taylor (1832-1905) was the founder of China Inland Mission, a pioneer missionary agency that was the first to penetrate the interior of China with the gospel. In a letter to a friend, Taylor recounts the many burdens he experienced by trying to start this endeavor, but above all he laments the lingering unbelief he senses in his heart. He mourns that he constantly struggles with anxiety, anger, and infrequency in prayer and devotion. Then, one day, the overwhelming reality of his union with Christ broke over him and it dramatically changes him. He writes, “As to work—mine was never so plentiful, so responsible or so difficult, but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been, perhaps, the happiest of my life.” Notice: Taylor’s work (which was considerable) didn’t go away—he comments that the work is more difficult now than it has ever been. But somehow, he is the happiest he has ever been in his life. How could that be? Taylor goes on to recount how the blessings of be united with, abiding in, Christ have given him all the resources he would ever need. Listen to this:


The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things, or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money and brings me his purchases. So, if God should place me in serious perplexity, must He not give much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will prove unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.


Friends, when I read that this week I felt like ten thousand pounds slid off my shoulders. Whatever circumstance I am in, whatever perplexity, however difficult, because He is mine and is with me and dwells in me, I can be confident that He will supply everything I need. Of course, I knew that before I read that from Taylor, but God graciously made that truth glow with a new light and heat this week. God has exposed functionally how little I actually trusted in Him and how abundantly He will provide for everything I need. 


Friends, I am jealous for you to experience this joy. 


So, I want to take some time over the next few weeks to meditate on John 15 and what abiding in Christ means and my prayer is that out of this passage, the truth’s Taylor describes would likewise glow with a new heat and a there would come over our congregation a collective sigh of rest. 


Did you notice that last verse in the passage we read? Jesus said, “I have said these things to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full,” v. 11. There is a big difference today between our world’s definition of “joy” or “happiness,” and the Bible’s definition of “joy,” and “happiness,” so much so that it can be confusing to read a passage like that because we are spring-loaded to interpret “joy” there according to the world has taught us “joy” means—that absence of difficulty and the presence of comfort. That isn’t the joy offered here. Whose joy is it? “My joy,” that’s Jesus’ joy! You can have the happiness of God in your life. The kind of joy that we see the apostles have when the religious authorities arrest them, beat them, and then grab them by the chin and say, “Don’t you dare talk about that Jesus ever again.” How would you respond to that? 


The other week while I was playing with my son at a play ground I racked my ankle against a piece of the playground, just metal to bone, and my goodness it hurt; I fell down and just sat there for a minute till the pain went away. But, I had the thought: what if that didn’t go away, what if someone kept hitting me there, over and over again and threatened that it would be worse next time? I hate pain and I would do almost anything to avoid it. And yet, after the disciples are arrested, threatened with death, and beaten, we are told: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus,” Acts 5:41-42. What kind of joy is that? That’s a joy from heaven that transcends any earthly comparison, and it is a joy available to all who abide in Christ. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be full. What things? The things he just said: abide in me. The blessing of union with Christ.


So, let’s take the rest of our time in this introductory sermon just briefly consider what Jesus means by “abiding in Christ” here in John 15. 


Full Identification:


Connection/Union

The language that is repeatedly used here is “abide,” which means to dwell in, stay in, or make your home in. We are, somehow, meant to live in Christ, and He is somehow meant to live in us. Jesus says in verse four, “Abide in me, and I in you.” Jesus clarifies this by his image of the branch and the vine: “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me,” v. 4. In the same way a branch “abides” in a vine, so too are we to abide in Christ. Thus our abiding in Christ is like a connection, a union with Him. Of course, this isn’t an isolated teaching. Paul famously tells us, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” Gal 2:20. Paul is so intertwined with Christ, so identifies with Christ that when Jesus dies on the cross, he sees himself dying; when Jesus rises from the dead, he sees himself rising. It is a full identification.


The analogy of marriage is actually very fitting. Paul tells us, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Eph 5:31 (Gen 2:24). When two people get married you take two separate lives and intertwine those two lives together so intimately—physically, emotionally, spiritually—that is as if they are now “one flesh,” one new person. Before my wife and I got married, I had a 2004 PT Cruiser with a cracked radiator, some student debt, and $50 dollar sofa with a hide-a-bed I got from Goodwill, but after we got married all of these many blessings became hers! This was now our $50 dollar sofa that smelled kind of funny. In marriage, what was once a division of two individuals and their accompanying lives, now unite together into one new life. But, what’s most shocking, Paul says that this is actually pointing to Jesus and His Bride: the Church. You. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church,” Eph 5:32. When you come to Christ, He takes all of your mess, all your problems, all your sin and says: this is mine now, I’m in this for the long haul. It is a full identification. And what does Jesus give you in this exchange? What do you get in return for handing him your junk? Here is what Ephesians 1:3 tells us: “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” So every blessing, every benefit there is to be experienced, is given to us through our union with Christ. Let’s name just a few: 

 

Full forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7)

His own righteousness (2 Cor 5:21)

Adoption into the family of God (Eph 1:5)

A new heart that loves God and wants to obey Him (Jer 31:31-34)

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5)

The joy of being a member of the body of Christ, the Church (1 Cor 12)

The promise that everything is working together for our good (Rom 8:28)

The certainty that God will never abandon or forsake me (Rom 8:31-39)

The hope of living forever with God in the glory of the new creation (Rev 21-22)


On a first date, you are putting forward the best possible version of yourself imaginable. You spend an inordinate amount of time getting ready, doing your hair, going over interesting anecdotes to make yourself sound interesting. We do all of this because we want to put the best possible foot forward so that we can convince this other person that we are interesting, attractive, and worthy of a second date. I think that’s what a lot of us do with Jesus. We put forward the best possible version of ourselves imaginable to Him. Of course, we don’t consciously think that—if we did we would laugh at ourselves at how ridiculous it is. But, in the quiet of our hearts, deep down we really believe that to keep Jesus interested and committed to us we need to present to Him the best possible versions of ourselves, because if He were to find out how messed up, how sloppy, how bent we are, He might leave us to find someone godlier, someone more committed. 


Imagine, you sit down on a first date with someone who is totally out of your league. And as they sit down they plop a manila envelope on the table. They tell you that inside this envelope is a catalogue of every shameful thing you’ve ever done. Inside is a record of web browser history, every text you ever sent, recordings of every conversation you’ve ever had, and every moment of compromise, selfishness, laziness, and anger written out. And they sit there and begin reading it all. What would you do? Date’s over! There’s not a chance anyone is going to read through that file will want to even be around me! But dear friends, don’t you see? This is but a dim parable of exactly what Jesus Christ has already done. Before you knew it, He knew all of your sin, down to the very depths, deeper than you even know. He saw your mess, He saw you sin, He saw your compromise, your lack of commitment, your divided heart, your selfishness and still said: I want you. I love you. I’m staying here and I’m not going anywhere. I will abide. 


Friends, do you see the joy that should be flowing in your hearts from this truth? Do you see the resources now made available to you? Why should we be afraid, why should we be anxious? We have the love of our Savior in which we can make our home.






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