The Gospel of John XXIX:
Abiding in His Word
August 23, 2009
Main Point(s) of sermon:
· To remain in Jesus, we must remain in his words, which refers to the entire Bible.
· “If you keep my commands you will remain in my love” is not a threat, but a simple truth, for his commands are a manifestation of his love for us and lead to God’s glory and our joy.
· The Gathering seeks to exult Scripture and train the congregation to study, understand, and apply it for themselves.
Objectives of sermon:
· To move us all to delve further into the Bible, that the Spirit might renew us in mind and actions.
· 044, 051, 083, 075, 079
· Sproul, describing limits of inerrancy.
· Leftovers, esp. Piper on remaining, Resurgence on preaching
Scripture reading: John 15:7-12
Last week’s sermon was the importance of remaining (abiding) in Jesus, that without him we can do nothing. This looks at the first of two ways he told us to do that: Remaining in his words.
· Open your Bibles: so you can follow if I jump around, look at context, take notes, and be more familiar with your Bible.
Help us be a church that honors your words as the words of life, vital instruction and revelations of you.
What are his words?
Verse 7 says “If you remain in me...” There is a direct correlation between remaining in him and not getting cut off, and remaining in his words, so there are two very important questions: What are his words and how do we remain in them?
First question first: In this immediate passage his command is very simple and straightforward: V. 12.
This together with the “Greatest Command” (love God) is the sum of all that is required of us. They are the summary of the entire Bible, but we need to have that spelled out for us.
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.”
Hillel (30 BC – 10 AD)
· We know Jesus means more than this command, because he talks about his logos (v. 3), rhemata (v. 7), command and commands.
Jesus is being intentionally vague because he is not only speaking of he had spoken, but also what the NT will say (from his perspective) and the OT has said:
· He said the OT was inspired (written) by the Holy Spirit, who is called the Spirit of Jesus (therefore written by him).
· In 14:26 he says the Spirit will both teach and remind, the teaching being the words spoken through the apostles.
Accordingly, I am talking about the importance of all of Jesus words, the entire Bible, and “remaining in them.”
What does “remain in my words” mean?
Q Which leads to the next question: What does that mean?
He means something similar to “abide in me.” It has two parts:
1) We must be connected to his words. They must flow through us and be a part of us.
If we’re not filling ourselves with the Bible, we cannot remain in them, and we hence cannot remain in Christ. We may mean well, and do good stuff, but we need constant instruction to keep us from straying away from Jesus and into our own way.
Abiding in Scripture...
· ...fills us with the truth about who God is and who we are.
· ...contradict the lies we hear about ourselves and about God.
· ...helps us resist temptation, because God’s warnings and promises contradict sin’s deceitful promises.
· ...shapes how I view the world by conforming my mind to God’s viewpoint and makes it easier to detect the world’s errors.
The Bible at TG
Recently the Elders concluded that we need to make a greater emphasis on the Bible at The Gathering.
Our mission statement is that “We are a Christian community that strives to glorify God and engage culture.” The Bible is wrapped around every piece of that:
· Christian: It’s how our faith is revealed to us.
· Community: How we know what Biblical community looks like.
· Strives: It gives us the message of grace.
· Glorify God: It tell us how he wants to be glorified (so different that other religions).
· Engage culture: It’s the standard by which we evaluate culture and the substance of what we engage them with.
The Bible is the cornerstone of this church: Our first doctrinal statement is about the Bible, not because the Bible is more important than God (which is its own error and legalism), but because it is only through it that we know God.
We believe that the sixty-six books Old and New Testament to be the inspired Word of God, having authority over all matters of faith and conduct, inerrant in the original copies and reliably preserved throughout the ages by God's sovereign power. [fill on website]
· There are supporting references, but that only works if you believe the Bible (see “Can we trust it” sermon 8/24/08).
Sixty-six books Old and New Testament: No more, no less. The OT is fully Jesus’ words, though they require the NT to understand them. There are none added to it (contra Da Vinci Code)
Inspired Word of God: Paul describes it as “God breathed.” God spoke through and directed the ancient authors in such a way as to preserve individual personalities while making their words his, bearing his full authority.
Accordingly, it has authority over all matters of faith and conduct: This does not mean that the Bible is the only form of truth. Many others (Christians and pagans) have spoken truth, but it is the authority against which they are judged.
Inerrant: When read in its context, and properly understood, it is without error. Sometimes we read it through 21st century eyes and think it untrue, and sometimes we misunderstand.
· God has given us two forms of revelation: His Word and nature. If they seem to contradict, we are misinterpreting something.
The original copies: This is true of the original copies (autographs) written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
But they have been reliably preserved throughout the ages by God's sovereign power: Even though we no longer the autographs, they have been accurately preserved (textual criticism) and RELIABLY translated.
· I study in Greek not for “hidden knowledge,” but because I don’t want to be so dependent on other’s interpretations.
The supremacy of Scripture
As the words of God and the standard for evaluating “belief and conduct,” it must be honored highly and kept as our cornerstone.
We are a people of the Book. We know God through the Book. We meet Christ in the Book. We see the cross in the Book. Our faith and love are kindled by the glorious truths of the Book.
We have tasted the divine majesty of the Word and are persuaded that the Book is God's inspired and infallible written revelation. Therefore, what the Book teaches matters.
John Piper, sermon 3/5/00
\ In order to remain in Christ’s words, they must be in us, attached as a branch to a vine, because they matter.
2) Secondly, His words must bear fruit in us.
Universities are filled with scholars who know that Bible backwards and forwards. The Pharisees had it memorized. But it did not bear fruit in them, it did not change them.
His Word must bear fruit of holiness, of greater love for God and each other. It must bear the fruit of the Sprit.
· If the Bible hasn’t changed you, you haven’t studied it.
The primary goal: Glorify God
As we see in V. 8, the goal of bearing fruit is that we bring glory to God. To bear fruit means to act more and more like Jesus. This in turn means to greater reflect God’s character and glory, making it clearer to the world around us.
· When we bear fruit, we bear the glory of God.
The secondary goal: Joy
· V. 10-11: 2nd goal of bearing fruit and abiding in his words.
I don’t think “If you keep my commands you will remain in my love” is a threat, “If you disobey me, I will take my love away.” Rather, it is simple cause/effect relationship, as clear as “if you touch water you will get wet.”
Obeying Jesus commands is not a payment for love, rather they are an embodiment of his love, just as “don’t play in the street” is an embodiment of my love for my daughters.
The primary purpose for bearing fruit is God’s glory, but the second is joy. These are ultimately the same. The closer we get to God’s glory, the more we find it is what we truly want.
The essence of the Gospel
The essence of the Gospel is not giving up but gaining. True, pruning (as I talked about last week) is painful, but it is good, like having cavities filled or splinters pulled out.
· In the end, keeping Jesus commands gives us everything we really want and takes away nothing we will truly miss.
Do I repeat this point a lot? It’s because it’s one of the most important truths we need to internalize. When we choose sin, it is because we believe God’s way is less joy-filled than ours.
How to live this out
So if we need to remain in the Bible to remain in Christ and bear fruit, and if bearing fruit glorifies God and brings us joy, how do we make that happen?
On a personal and practical level, see to my sermon on reading the Bible (on website), but I’m talking about as a church.
· It requires a two-prong attack, one involving you as individuals and the other us as the elders.
On one hand, we need to model for you, exhort and train you to read the Bible regularly, study and understand it, and apply it.
On the other, we have to bring clear, Biblical preaching.
· Both are vital and I’ve seen problems if either are neglected.
error one: Reading alone
If you only read for yourself, not sitting under a trained pastor, without training and outside of community, you will be prone to error and self-righteousness.
Training is vital because studying the Bible requires skill. You can approach it at any level, but the deeper you go, the more training you need, lest you run into dangerous error.
· The Catholic Church didn't allow laity to Bible for fear of them distorting it.
And they had a point – since the Protestant movement, many wild errors have taken hold from the untrained. But rather than make you rely on a false certainty (whether the Catholic church, the KJV, or me), we need to train you.
And just as important, and often disregarded by “emerging churches,” is strong Biblical preaching. Cecil and I have our degrees in Biblical Studies, Micah and Peter have learned (and continue to learn) by “time in the saddle.”
· There is no substitute for sound Biblical preaching.
Furthermore, it is vital to “read in community,” surrounded by pastors and friends who can guide you when you get off.
NIV Proverbs 19:27 Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
This goes for me too – I listen to the elders and read far and wide and listen to and read respected pastors.
· Some of the kookiest people read outside of community.
Error two: Relying on the church
On the other hand, it is vital that you be reading for yourself:
1) You will be accountable before God for what you believe – you can’t blame it on me.
2) I don’t want a cult – I want you to think for yourself and know the Word well enough to (respectfully) question me if I make a mistake.
3) I speak to entire congregation, through the Bible, the Spirit may speak directly to you. The truth has a greater impact when you discover it yourself.
Where do we go from here?
We are the eldership are really looking into how to exult the Word at TG. While I am passionate about “rightly dividing the Word of truth,” I fear I’ve not done enough to inspire you.
· As I said last week, God is pruning and directing me as we go.
Be praying for us as we explore our next steps. We have an idea for the next sermon series that’d help us emphasis Scripture.
Q & A
· Ask God how you are doing “remaining in Christ’s Words.”
· Examine your attitude towards Jesus commands: Are they a joy or a burden?
· Pray that God guide the Eldership.