Memphis Belle

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 John 15:1-17


“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.  Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches:  He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.  If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.  As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love: even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.  These things I command you, that ye love one another.”


“Good morning.  As you get seated, you can get out your Bibles.  If you don’t have a Bible, there should be a Bible in one of the chairs somewhere around in front of you.  They’re there for you if you don’t have one, but you can grab your Bibles, borrow a Bible, and turn to John chapter 15.  I’d like to again welcome the new folks here, visitors, and just heartily welcome you.  It’s a blessing having you here with us.  Of course, our church…..but the truth is, the name of itself doesn’t mean a whole lot.  And there are churches throughout this community with different names, and the names aren’t so really important.  What’s important is what’s in the heart.  And there are names Baptist names, and Pentecostal names, and names like our church.  Look through the New Testament you don’t really see those, what you see is the word Christian [actually, you see the name “Church of God”, mentioned over 11 times in the Epistles], and that’s what’s important, is if Christ is in my heart, if Christ is the Lord of my life.  Of course here in this church, most of the folks, I pray that for all of the folks that it is true, and it’s true of course of other churches…what’s important is Christ in the heart, and not so much the name of the church.  And I say that to you, maybe you’re visiting, and I know some folks visit and come from a different background and are a little nervous.  But I just say to you, if Christ is in your heart, praise the Lord, man, some day we’re going be at the banquet table together in heaven [for some, ‘in the kingdom of heaven’] and all this other stuff isn’t going to make any difference.  It’s Jesus Christ, and it’s all about him.  And if you’re here this morning, and Christ isn’t in your heart, I’d like to say to you it’s of vital importance that he is.  And we’ll see that even depicted in the Scriptures here as we go through it.  But to have Christ in my heart, as the Lord of my life, first a relationship with him, is absolutely vital for us, it’s all about our salvation and eternity.  Well, John chapter 15.  Of course we’re in a couple chapters here that are often quoted, this part in John referred to, and are tremendous chapters, John chapter 15.  And we’re going to go through this morning, through verses 1 to 17.  You know, we rent part of a duplex, in a nearby town, and that’s where we live.  We have a really neat yard around this place our landlord takes care of.  In the yard is a peach tree and there’s some blueberry bushes and some raspberry bushes, so some good fruit out there to pick and to eat.  My landlord does a great job taking care of these bushes and things and the trees, and so there’s often some great fruit that we can go out and partake in, and maybe even use for a meal.  And it’s clear, he puts in a certain amount of time to prepare them.  As he does, it’s very fruitful.   But I remember one particular year, I think it was last summer, the summer before last, he didn’t have time to do much, he didn’t prepare the things.  A few of us, me and my kids went out to get some of those juicy blueberries which were always abundant the year before, we went out to pick some and there wasn’t any.  And that’s because he didn’t prepare the bush.  He didn’t put the screen that he normally puts over it to protect it from the birds, and evidently the birds had a pretty good meal.  But we didn’t.  And they devoured all of that.  But also the peaches that year weren’t as good as they could be, because the work wasn’t put in, the effort wasn’t put in to prepare the plant for producing fruit.  And I say that, I start with that as just a story, because we’re going to see the very same principle here in John chapter 15, that this principle of producing fruit when given the right conditions, the right preparatory work, that is when it comes to those fruit-bearing plants, there is going to be a delicious harvest.  But when you lack the right conditions and you lack the right preparatory work, there’s often just a meager harvest, if any harvest at all.  And that’s what we’ll see here in John chapter 15.  Given the right conditions, when they exist also in our lives, these right conditions for bearing fruit and for being fruitful, given the right conditions, we’re going to see certain things, and that’s what we’re going to note hear in John chapter 15.  First of all, when the right conditions exist there is 1) fruitfulness, 2) there’s also an effective prayer-life, 3) there’s God being glorified, 4) a growing love for Christ, 5) a fullness of joy, 6) and a growing love for others.  So let’s say a word of prayer, and we’ll get started.  ‘Lord, I just thank you Lord for this time to study your Word. And I thank you Lord for eager hearts, even with thoughts and questions as we get started, and I pray all of us would have open hearts to you Lord.  Open hearts to hear your voice, and to receive from you the things that you desire for us to hear.  So help us now to focus, and I pray that there wouldn’t be anything to make our minds wander or our hearts to get distracted, but Lord that you’d just bless this time and focus us and speak to us.  And I ask Holy Spirit that you’d be upon all of us, and upon even myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name, Amen.’ 


When you abide in the vine, when you abide in Christ, there is fruitfulness


Chapter 15, verses 1-8, Jesus says “‘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 bears fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in me and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered.  And they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be my disciples.’”  So, he refers here to abiding and the right conditions for you and I to bear much fruit.  The right conditions is this term “abiding”, “abiding in Christ.”  Abiding means literally to be at home in, to be at home in Christ.  That’s what the Greek word means literally.  And when you and I are at home in Christ, abiding in Christ, as you see here, there’s abounding fruit.  I remember when I was in high school, I went with a youth group to Belize, and we worked outside a community called Belmopan out in the jungle with this discipleship training school, and we were helping build some of the facility there.  And as we did it, we spent time with these folks that were part of the Y-WHAM ministry, “Youth-With-A-Mission”.  We were just learning from them, and were blessed by them.  But they also taught us a number of their songs.  And at night some of the worship services, we’d sing these choruses, and one of the choruses was simply the words from 1st John chapter 2, verse 28.  And when I read this Scripture, I think of these words, in 1st John, John writes to the Church, he says “And now little children, abide in him, that when he appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming.”  He says, ‘Now little children, abide in him, that we won’t be ashamed when he returns, that you would be confident.’  So that abiding, being at home.  That is what constitutes these conditions for fruitfulness.  So let’s work verse by verse through the text here.  So, you remember from the last chapter, verse 31 of chapter 14, after Jesus had the conversation that we read in chapter 14 with the disciples, it says there, it says “Arise, let us go from here.”  So it appears that as he discussed the things that we studied last week, when he was done, they got up and began to make their way to the Garden of Gethsemane.  And so at this point in time, in chapter 15, we assume then, what he’s sharing here, is being shared as they’re walking somewhere along the way, en-route from this upper room, now to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Now again, he’s on his way to the Garden of Gethsemane, he understands too, that he’s going there and he’s going to be betrayed into the hands of the religious leaders.  And that in a very short time, just hours from now, he is going to be hung on a cross.  By the end of the next day he will be dead and in a tomb.  So he understands that, as he’s going to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Now, in chapter 18, when we get there, we will see that along the journey they go through the Brook Kidron, they cross that brook there in the Kidron Valley.  And they make their way up the side of the Mount of Olives up to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Now when we’ve been to Israel on our Israel trips, it’s a beautiful view, we go to a garden that’s there in the Garden of Gethsemane there on the Mount of Olives, and we stand there, and it’s not a long distance at all to the Eastern Wall there, around the Old City, and the Eastern Gate.  And the Temple Mount sits right up there.  So as they walk, just a short distance from that side of the Mount of Olives is the Temple Mount and the Temple.  So it’s very probable, very possible that as they journeyed, they also walked beyond past the Temple.  Now it’s the Passover season, so the gates of the Temple were left open during that season.  So as they passed through, and many commentators note this, that there on the gates were these images, these engravings of vines and vineyards of grape-clusters.  So it’s very possible as they were making this little walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, they walked past the Temple gates, and Jesus notes that, and then begins to say the things that he says here, about the vine, about the vineyard.  Now, these vines that were engraved on the Temple gates, to the Jew at that time, generally it would symbolize to them the nation of Israel, and that’s because of the Old Testament prophecies.  Prophecies and Scriptures like Psalm chapter 80 verse 8, referring to Israel as a vine, or vineyard.  “You have brought a vine out of Egypt, you have cast out the nations and planted it.”  And there’s other Scriptures too.  Isaiah chapter 5 was another one, there in verse 7 in that chapter “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the House of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant plants.”  So, Israel, the nation of Israel, the people of Israel would understand that the vine, the vineyard there engraved on those Temple gates, would be referring to the House of Israel, the people of Israel.  But now Jesus here in verse 1, he says “I am the true vine”, he is the true vine, himself.  “I am the true vine.”  Now, just a side note, that’s the seventh time he uses that phrase “I am”, then, ‘I am something.’  As you remember, ‘I am the door, I am the good shepherd, I am,’ basically reminding us again that he is all that we need.  And now he says “I am the true vine.”  But not only does he say that he’s the true vine, he also says that God the Father, his Father, is the vinedresser, or the husbandman, or the gardener.  Furthermore, as you see there as we go on in the verse, he explains that we the Church, Christians [and Messianic Jewish believers in Yeshua] are the branches of the vine.  Therefore constituting the vineyard.  He is the vine, but now we’re the branches, that adds all that bulk and things to the vineyard.  Now I start this way, and it’s interesting to note at this point as we get started, Matthew chapter 21, verses 33 to 41, you might remember the parable.  But there Jesus shares, and he addresses the religious leaders, he deals with their hard hearts, their prideful hearts, this religious hypocritical heart.  And he tells them this parable about a certain landowner that planted a vineyard, set a hedge around it, dug a winepress, and built a tower.  And then he leased that property to some other people to take care of it, some vinedressers, and then he went off to a far country.  Well some time passed, and as Jesus shares the parable in Matthew 21, vintage time had come, so he sent his servants, this owner of the vineyard sent his servants to the vinedressers that he might receive some of his fruits.  But surprisingly, as Jesus shares the parable, he sends these servants, but surprisingly the vinedressers take the servants, they beat one of them, they kill another one, and they stone another.  So he hears reports of that, and he sends even more servants that he might partake of some of his fruit.  And we’re told they do the same to these other servants.  And then finally he decides, ‘Well, I’ll send my son.  If I send my son, at least they’ll listen to my son, I mean, he’s my son.  They’re going to respect him.’  Well when the vinedressers saw his son coming, they said among themselves, ‘Look, here comes the heir, come let us kill him, and then we can take the inheritance, we can take over this land and own it ourselves.’  So they took his son, they threw him out, they killed him, they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  Then in the parable, Jesus said this, he asked this question, he says “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”  Now, the religious leaders, he’s dealing with their hearts, and they reply, they reply with this answer, in fact it’s the correct answer, they say “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their season.”  So we see now, essentially Jesus, I mean, that’s what he said in the parable, now we see that reflected here too in John chapter 15.  And initially the vineyard, the engravings on the Temple gate, associated with the House, the nation of Israel.  But now he’s saying that the vineyard is associated with the Church, thus fulfilling that parable exactly that he shared there with the religious leaders.  This vineyard, initially, God had his people, the nation of Israel.  But we’re told that God looked there in Isaiah chapter 5, verse 7, he looked for fruit, but there was no fruit. In fact, they were unfaithful.  We’re told exactly in the end of that verse, ‘he looked for justice, but behold oppression, for righteousness, but behold a cry for help.’  He looked to them, I mean, they were his vine, his vineyard, he took them out of Egypt, he planted them, he looked for fruit, but there wasn’t any fruit.  In fact, it was a wild vine he says at another point, and it was not in a state that it should have been.  In fact, in Isaiah he talks about how he took care of it, and invested all this effort into that vine.  Yet it was fruitless.  Well, now Jesus says “I am the true vine.”  But also now, this vineyard is associated with the Church, because the Church, the Christians [and Messianic believers] are the branches.  But being a vineyard, as you see in these verses in John chapter 15, God still intends to glean fruit.  That’s very clearly conveyed here in these verses.  A vineyard, vines, the vineyard, the branches are to be fruitful, and God still intends to glean fruit.


As branches, as believers in Jesus, it is absolutely vital that you and I are connected to the Vine


So as he shares, as branches, as believers in Jesus, it is absolutely vital that you and I are connected to the vine.  He is the true vine, it is absolutely vital that we are connected to the vine, that we are remaining, that we are abiding in the vine.  You know, rarely does a branch, disconnected from the vine, rarely does a branch that is in that state, fare very well.  In fact (with grape vines), in all instances, it withers, as we see in these verses, it withers in verse 6, and eventually it dies.  My father-in-law in San Diego, you know, he has one of these little California back yards, it’s little, expensive.  Property’s expensive, but he’s got a tiny little piece of property, not like New England where we’ve got the big yards.  And in his little back yard, he has one tree, and it’s an orange tree.  And my father-in-law takes care of that orange tree, you know, he just, I’ve seen the little goofy stuff around the base of that tree, where he keeps off the ants and the bugs and things, he puts this stuff around the base.  And I’ve seen him prune it, I’ve seen in years where he makes this big tree look like a little shrub, he’s pruned it back so much.  But he works on it, and he tends to it.  And at the right season, at the right time, I’m not sure if it’s multiple times a year or just one time a year, but that tree is loaded with just beautiful oranges.  Well, he’s a grandfather, so he’s got grandkids of course, that kind of goes with being a grandfather, and so my kids and my nephews, they come over, and they like to play in the back yard.  Of course, I like to go out there and wrestle with them and play with them, we play baseball and soccer and football.  But the only deal is there’s this one tree in the back yard.  And when you’re playing baseball or football in a little yard with a tree, it’s a little bit of a challenge.  What happens is, I’m chasing the kiddo’s around the tree, we’re kicking soccer balls and they go into the tree, and what happens on an occasion, I’m not sure if he knows about it, he’s been very kind [laughter], but what happens is a branch will actually get broken on this tree.  Well, I know he takes care of this tree, it’s clear, and a branch will get broken.  Maybe somebody will run into it, maybe somebody will get tackled, maybe a ball will get kicked into it.  And of course, when it’s broken, what is the first thought you’re gonna have, there’s no way of hiding this.  Right?  Because it’s broken, I can set it up, and we can make it look like it’s in the right position, but just give it a little bit of time, right?  It’s going to wither, it’s going to die, because it isn’t connected anymore in the way it needs to be to the life-source.  And that is the principle, that is the picture that Jesus is depicting here.  And he’s using it to describe what it means as a Christian with Christ, this incredibly important aspect of abiding, abiding.  It is essential that a branch remain connected to the fruit-bearing plant in order for it to survive, for it to produce fruit.  And that is the first point.  The result of abiding, my first point, is this point of fruitfulness.  When you abide in the vine, when you abide in Christ, there is fruitfulness.  Just as it is essential for a branch to abide, in order for it to become fruitful, it is vital for me to abide in Christ, for me to be fruitful.  And if I don’t abide, I will not be fruitful.  And an unfruitful Christian, as we see in these verses, is in a real challenging place.  He makes some real strong statements.  For just as a gardener comes and uses certain procedures, and takes certain measures to make sure that this thing is going to be fruitful, and part of that is he’ll remove things that are hindering it from being fruitful.  He will remove portions of the vine if necessary, in order to insure that it is fruitful.  God, as Jesus notes here, will take away any branch that does not bear fruit, he’ll take away any branch that does not bear fruit.  In other words, I’m going to quote to you Charles Spurgeon, this great preacher of the 19th century.  “The dead wood, of mere profession, being worthless and pernicious, must be pruned out.”  The dead wood, of mere profession, that is somebody that just says they’re a Christian, but don’t abide in Christ.  It’s dead wood, man.  It must be pruned out.  It must be taken away.  It’s of no use.  No doubt, that’s what Jesus says here too in verse 6, ‘A branch that does not abide in the vine is worthless, if it’s not bearing fruit, it has little value.  It only hinders the rest of the plant, and it needs to be dealt with by the vinedresser, by the husbandman.’  And so it’s removed, and then he says in verse 6, it’s actually burnt, burnt in fire.  And that’s because, you know, you take the wood of a vine, it has no value, it’s very soft, you can’t build with it…it has very little value.  So what do you do?  You take it off and you burn it.  So a fruitless branch in a vine, in a vineyard, has no value.  And that’s what he’s saying here.  So Jesus is saying then to you and I as a church, a person, a believer in Jesus that is not fruitful, is certainly in a challenging place.  Now, what he says here, maybe you’re thinking in your mind, is he saying here that you can be in the vine, you can be a Christian in the vine, that is, in Christ, and then later not be in the vine, or in Christ?  Is he saying when he says that, you can lose your salvation?---meaning he takes you off and throws you into the fire and you’re burned?  Is that hell he’s referring to?  Is he saying you could lose your salvation in these verses?  I’ll quote to you Chuck Smith.  What he says here I think says it really well.  “Rather than getting into the theological aspect or debate, just abide in Christ and there’s no problem.  You don’t have to worry about the issue.”   I mean, the truth is, what’s the issue?  It’s a theological problem.  The truth is, is I can rest in Christ fully for my eternal salvation, as the Scriptures declare, I’m in his hand.  And who can take me out of his hand?  But at the same time the Scriptures declare, man, if you’re not bearing fruit and you call yourself a Christian, you’re in a dangerous place.  That is the truth.  And that’s regardless of your theological position.  All theological positions say ‘Yes, if you’re not bearing fruit, you’re in a dangerous place.’  Jesus is very practical in what he says, so abide in Christ.  As Christians [and Messianic believers] we must abide in Christ.  If we’re not, we’re in a scary position.  So how about you this morning?  To abide means to be fruitful.  [Or stated another way, If you’re abiding in Christ, you will be fruitful.]


  So if somebody says ‘I’m a Christian, yet they’re not bearing fruit of Christ, the life of Christ, then are they really in Christ?  That’s what Jesus is also depicting here. 


Well, how does he prune anyway---to make us grow and bear more fruit?


With the process of bearing fruit, Jesus also notes, that with that process, the gardener comes at times and he prunes, he prunes in order to increase the production.  And he says here, as Jesus says it in verse 2, God does the same in our lives.  He prunes, and he purges, he cleans things up.  And he just makes it, as my father comes in, he’ll take off even good branches at times, he’ll take off good stuff at times, in order to make it really fruitful later.  God does the same thing in our lives.  And the truth is, the more I abide in Christ, the closer I am to the Lord, the more I’m maturing in the Lord, the more fruit I am bearing.  And the more fruit that I bear, the more that the Father then comes and does some pruning in my life, so that the quality of the fruit, though there’s a greater quantity, so the quality of the fruit is also the quality it needs to be.  So the more you grow man, you have that process in your life, as God comes and he prunes, and he prunes and he prunes, and he deals with more and more things, the more fruit you’ll bear.  Well how does he prune anyway?  Now in verse 2 when he says prune and purge, the Greek word that is used there means “clean” also.  It also means “clean”.  And you follow the logic, because when he talks about pruning and purging, “every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit”, and then he says “you are already clean.”  So you see right there that connection, purging and pruning.  And the Greek word even gives that meaning of cleaning.  So how does he prune, how does he purge, he does it by cleaning.  And you see there, he says “you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you”---‘the Word of God, the things that I have taught you, the things that I have said to you---I’ve impacted your life in such a way that it’s purged you, it’s pruned you, it’s cleaned you up.’  And that’s true, as I study and meditate on the Word of God, and we’re going to find, as we go on, meditating on the Word of God, abiding in the Word is the same as abiding in Christ.  I mean, the two are vitally connected.  But as I meditate on his Word, God convicts my heart of sin, and then as I confess my sin, repent of my sin, the Bible says he forgives me and cleanses me of my sin.  He cleans my life up, he prunes my life, he purges my life.  So that’s mainly, that’s predominantly how this pruning and purging takes place.  And it’s a continual process in our lives as believers.  And it’s part of abiding in the vine, abiding in Christ.  So, you know we’re so often reminded, the need for you and I to be in the Word, abiding in the Word, studying in the Word, meditating on the Word.  I think of Psalm 1, that of meditating on the Word.  And in Psalm 1, the Psalmist says ‘The man that abides in the Word is fruitful.  The man that meditates on the Word day and night, is like you planted a tree right next to a river, and it had all the nourishment it could ever want.  It will be abundantly fruitful.’  So he says ‘You’re clean, and at times I have to purge and prune, and that cleaning takes place especially through the Word of God.  And it happens especially for you and I as we meditate on the Word of God, as we are in the Word of God.  So we’re reminded again about being in the Word.  So, he says “abide in Christ.”  As we go on, he’ll say also “abide in my Word.”  He links the two.  Now if I am walking with Jesus Christ, if I am a Christian [or Messianic Jewish believer in Yeshua], if I profess to be a Christian, then you should be able to look at my life and say, ‘Yeah, he abides in the Word.  He’s in the Word, he meditates on it, he chews on it.  And then he seeks to obey it.’  Obeying it is also part of abiding in the Word.  I can’t say I abide in the Word if I disobey the Word.  But to abide is to listen, to meditate, and then to follow and obey.  That’s abiding in the Word.  {cf. James 1:22-25, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it---he will be blessed in what he does.”]  And as it happens, there’s also this pruning and this purging and this cleaning.  So, this morning, you’re in Christ, and do you abide in the Word, in the Bible?  Do you regularly study the Word of God?  Man, we’re reminded, and it’s so vital we’re reminded over and over.  We in the back of our bulletin, have placed in the back of our bulletin, it’s a reading plan, a little Bible reading plan, and we just got started with the new year.  And we do that, and this is why we do it.  Because I realize that most of us are hardly ever in the Word, which is a sad deal.  [Those of us that were in the old Worldwide Church of God were told that we ought to have a healthy prayer and Bible study life by studying the Bible an hour a day, and praying an hour a day.]  I say I am a Christian, but I’m hardly ever in the Word.  Maybe now and then, studying the Bible, maybe now and then, reading a Scripture or two.  But we put that on the back of the bulletin really as an encouragement to you, to help you.  I find it helps me.  If I’ve got a plan, if I go ‘Well this is what I’m going to read today, and that’s what I’m going to read tomorrow, I know two days later I’m behind, it helps me stick to it.  So we do that.  And if you’ve never read through the entire Bible, I tell you, you are missing out on such a blessing.  You’re missing out on growth in your life because you haven’t read through the Bible.  I strongly exhort you to read through the entire Bible, by yourself, get alone.  And one way you can do it, if you’ve never done it, is you can follow that little Bible reading plan on the back of the bulletin.  [I just get up early, and started reading from Genesis 1:1 onward, day in, day out, for an hour, first thing, in an NIV, for story flow.  Some parts I have to slow down in, like in Joshua studying his campaigns and tracing them on a photocopy of a Bible map of Palestine, and then the division of the tribes.  It gave me such a real feel for Bible geography such as I never had before.  Who inherited what, which cities.  Then as I read through other parts faster, I know what’s happening where, almost to the exact spot.  Other parts I can read through faster.  When I get to Psalms and Proverbs I slow down and meditate about what I’m reading.  It’s like driving, some roads you can go fast, others you need to slow down.  I expect to be through the entire Word in a year’s time, just going verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book---and then start over again.]  Now if you’re a guy or gal who reads a little slower, that likes to meditate a little bit longer, we’ve kind of divided it up a little bit, you can either read through the New Testament, 25 percent of the Bible in just a year, or you can read the Old Testament passage if you’ve never read through that before.  Or you could read through both and read through the entire Bible in a year.  But he says this thing of “cleaning”, “purging”, “pruning”, “maturing”, it happens as we’re abiding in his Word, which is part of abiding in Christ.  Now remember, to abide in Christ is to be fruitful.  And if you’ve ever watched a tree bear fruit, if you’ve ever done it, I’m sure you’ve never done it.  I mean, you’ve looked at a tree, maybe taken snap-shots over time, but man, it isn’t a very exciting process if you’re out in your yard looking at a tree.  It isn’t doing a whole lot.  What happens is a very natural process.  You know, it isn’t exciting as the tree isn’t wrestling to produce fruit, the tree isn’t striving or struggling to produce fruit, it’s a natural process, and it is natural too for us.  I’m just connected to Jesus, man.  Just in the Word, open in my heart to him, and praying, just not making it a big deal.  Just knowing Jesus, man, you grow.  You grow, it’s natural.  You don’t have to struggle, I don’t have to struggle to get right, I just look to him, draw close to him, and I begin to bear fruit. 


What exactly is fruit?


Now when he says bearing fruit, I guess we could ask the question, ‘What exactly is fruit?  What is fruit?’  If you look at the New Testament, some of the times the phrases fruit comes up associated with a believer, 1) Romans chapter 1, verses 13-16, fruit there is winning lost souls.  So winning lost souls is fruit.  So then is that in my life?  Evangelism…Am I sharing Christ?  [The major 1st Commission Jesus gave the Church, in Matthew 28:19-20, lists two fruits as part of the Great Commission.  One is preaching the Gospel of salvation, and then baptizing all who respond favorably.  The other fruit is to nourish all  those who respond, i.e. the greater body of Christ.  This would be discipling, preaching to the saved.]  You know, Doug just shared that he led somebody to the Lord this week.  Winning souls is fruit.  So at times, in some degree or another, that ought to exist in all our lives, to some degree, just sharing the love of the Lord.  2) Romans chapter 6, verse 22, tells us that fruit is holiness, we talked about this last week.  [“But now being made free from sin, and become servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”]  Holiness.  So if I’m abiding in the vine, of course God is set apart, he is holy, he defines holy.  As I draw near to him I become more holy.  So holiness, holiness, abiding in the vine necessitates that I grow in holiness.  3) Thirdly, in Romans chapter 15, fruit there is that of giving of our fruit, giving financially, giving to a work [of God], giving to this church, giving to another ministry [see for some good international evangelistic organizations we can give to.]  Giving to others financially, just giving what God gives to me and blesses my life with.  That’s fruit.  4) Also in Colossians chapter 1, verse 10, fruit there is defined as good works in service, the things that I do that are truly in the right heart and spirit unto the Lord.  [“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”]   Those good works in service are fruit.  5) And then in Hebrews 13, my fruit also includes praise, the fruit of praise, the fruit of my lips…[tape switchover, some text lost]


You can’t bear fruit on your own


And all of this fruit comes from abiding in Christ.  We can do nothing, we can do absolutely nothing disconnected from the vine.  That’s what he says, “You can do nothing”, it isn’t that you just have some kind of hindrance that’s keeping you, you can’t do it all, in any way, apart from Christ.  But you tap into him, you draw near to him, it just starts to happen.  And we don’t even understand how it happens.  Well, abiding in Christ means fruitfulness for you and I.  So God speaks to our hearts, is there abounding fruit, is there growing fruit.  And if he’s again reminding you, ‘Abide in me, tap into me, you desperately need me.  I am the true vine, I’m all you need.’  My we respond to his overtures this morning to us.


2. Abiding in Christ will give you an effective prayer-life


Now the next thing we can note too about abiding in Christ, it’s fruitful, but also with that fruit, it results in effective prayer, an effective prayer-life.  Verse 7, he says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”  It’ll really impact your prayer-life, if you are tapped into the vine and abiding in Christ.             It means for effective prayer, if you and I want to see power in our prayer, if we want to see prayer that works, it starts with this union, this constant fellowship with the Lord.  And why is that so?  Why does it start with that?  Again, that sap comes from the vine into the branch.  So the life of Christ comes from him, as I’m tapped into him it comes into me.  And with that comes his heart, comes his desires, my desire more and more is consistent with who he is.  So you can be sure, man, that’ll effect your prayer-life.  So Psalm 37, verse 4 will hold true indeed.  “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in him and he shall bring it to pass.”  So as I’m just abiding in him, I see then that my prayers start to get answered.  My prayer-life becomes very effective.  You know, the challenge with a lot of Christians, as we’re growing, we’re not tapped in very often, we’re not abiding, and therefore, James says “you don’t have because when you ask, you ask for the wrong things”, your heart is wrong.  You’re asking for things that are only going to hurt you or hurt others.  They’re going to keep you from God.  But draw near to the Lord, and as he infuses himself into you, all the more, man, you find that your heart is consistent with his, and you can pray.  And what happens is, it’s wild, he gives you different desires.  And I don’t know about you, but I like to get what I want.  I learned it when I was little.  If I didn’t get what I wanted, I was upset.  I like getting what I want.  What’s happened is, as I drew near to the Lord, he changed my wants to be consistent with his wants.  Now I have these passions, and I pray, and I see God work.  So if you’ve not been having much success in prayer, some of us are just dispirited about prayer, ‘I tried it, I gave up, I guess it works a little bit, I try other routes to really get things done in my life.’  I tell you, prayer is powerful, and it’s powerful when we’re tapped into the vine, and we have the same heart and mind as Christ.  You know, we have experiences, I’m sure all of us I hope, I have had little ones, but I can remember California, San Diego.  Man I’m a mechanical engineer, I’m thinking one way about my life, I began to teach this Bible study, I began to spend more and more time in the Word and in prayer, and God just began to create all these desires, and he began to change my way of thinking.  And after awhile I, you know, you’ve heard the story if you’ve around here long enough, I start praying about ministry, I start to have a desire to come back to New England, which because of the snow, I was glad to leave New England.  Back in 1991 I was glad.  And he starts giving me a desire for the people of New England, and sharing the Word of God and all these things.  But in that, also I suddenly get this desire for radio.  And radio?  I had absolutely no interest in radio.  And then I have this desire, I began to pray about radio.  ‘God, send us back to New England, my wife and I.  God, use us in sharing the Word, God use us to effect Christian radio in the Boston area.’  And God has a radio station donated, before we move here, and he says “Here”.  Now that’s wild!  That’s trippy!  You know what I mean?  I mean, to pray for something that I---a radio?  A nerd?  And God says “Here!”  And God says “Here!  You’re asking for the right stuff.  Dude, watch.”  I hope we have those experiences all the more in our lives.  But it happens as you draw near to the Lord.  And he begins to effect your desires, he gives you desires you never even had---You’re made for certain things.  He’s created you.  As you draw near to the Lord, God will begin to show you why he’s ordained your life, and what he wants to do in and through you, and it’s a trip what the Lord will do.


3. We bring God glory by bearing much fruit


Well, abiding in the Lord leads to fruitfulness, it leads to an effective prayer-life, which naturally then in verse 8, results in God being glorified.  I mean, if I’m being fruitful, bearing fruit and winning souls to the Lord, and giving and serving others, and abounding in love, I mean, that’s just bringing glory to the Lord.  And then as I’m praying, he’s working and using me as an instrument.  Man, that’s just giving glory to God.  And that’s what he says in verse 8, “by this my father is glorified…”, God is glorified, something we all as Christians desire to do is bring glory to God.  “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, so will you be my disciples.”  So, this mark of being a disciple, being a disciple, showing that I am a disciple, is also the fruit of Christ in my life.  I’m a follower of Jesus, you can look, look at me, you’ll see the fruit of Christ coming through my life.  Now there’s a progression that you can note in these verses.  It is just an interesting progression to note.  Verse 2, he talks about “no fruit”, then in verse 2 he talks about “fruit [and] bearing fruit”, then later in verse 2, he talks about “more fruit”.   And then in verse 5 and verse 8 he talks about “much fruit.”  From none, to a little, to a little bit more, to much.  And that’s the work of God in my life.  Man, I wasn’t fruitful before, but as I began to walk with Christ and abide in him and his Word, and just fellowship with him, fruit began to grow in my life.  And that’s how it works in the life of a Christian.  The key to much fruit is being at home in Jesus, it’s abiding in Jesus.  Now back to what John says, 1st John, do I want to be ashamed at his coming, Jesus is coming back and the hour is soon.  He says ‘Abide in him, little children.’  “Now little children, abide in him, that when he does appear, we may not be ashamed.”  So, abide, abide, and I won’t be ashamed.  And that says to me then, if I’m not abiding, I’m going to rejoice in Jesus either way as a Christian, but I might go ‘Oh, man, you came now?’  ‘You came now, I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready.  Oh man, I’ve lost out on all the time.  No more opportunity to glorify you in my life.  No opportunity to be used by you.  Time is up.’  ‘You’re here, and this is all I’ve done, Lord.  This is what I did with all you gave to me.’   [Now that’s not entirely true.  When Jesus returns we’ll serve with him as kings and priests in his glorious Millennial Kingdom of God, cf. Revelation 5:9-10, 20:3,6; Daniel 12:1-3; but if you’ve had no fruit in your life at all, the parable of the talents and pounds may apply to you.]   John says “abide” and you won’t be ashamed at his coming.  “And now little children” he says “abide in the Lord.” 


Abiding in Christ produces joy and a growing love for the Lord and all others---and these are all more fruits that come from abiding


Verses 9-17,“‘As the Father loved me, I also have 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 remain in you, and that your joy may be full.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You  are my friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing.  But I have called you friends, for all things I heard from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and have appointed [ordained] you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give you.  These things I command you, that you love one another.’”  Well verse 9, really neat thought, he says ‘As the Father loved me I also loved you, abide in my love.’  Just consider that this morning, he says ‘As the Father loved me’, God’s love for the Son, God’s love for the Son, without beginning, it’s eternal love.  God’s love for the Son is without change, it’s without measure, it’s infinite, it’s without end.  He says ‘As the Father has loved me, I also love you’, that’s an encouragement for you this morning, the love of God without end, without measure, no ending to it, nothing to hinder it or restrict it.  As far as his heart to me, he loves me tremendously, as the Father loved the Lord.  As the Father loved Jesus, so also Jesus says “I have loved you.”  And, then he says with that “Abide in my love”, is the exhortation “abide in my love.”  He’s saying same heart all along, “Abide in me, now abide in my love.”  The point is, the love is there, it’s there, it exists, you’ve just got to get into it, you’ve got to tap into it.  You’ve got to abide in it.  So, this morning, are you confident in the love of Christ toward you today?  Do you have that experience, man, the love of the Lord in your life?---‘Ah, he’s so good to me’, as even Doug said, ‘the grace, the love of God towards me, the things that he shows me…oh, the love of the Lord is so sweet, if you have that in your life.’  Well, he says ‘abide in my love.  It’s there, it’s toward you, if you want it.  Turn your heart and your life towards me.  Abide in my love.’  Stay in tune, stay connected to the vine.’  And that, again, is part of being in the Word and in prayer and close fellowship, that abiding, that communion.


4. Abiding in Christ results in a growing love for the Lord


Well the next point, abiding in his love, the next point then that we can say is, the result of abiding in Christ results in a growing love for the Lord.  It results in a growing love for the Lord.  A basking and a bathing in his love, a deepening love relationship with the Lord.  Man, as I’m in his love, there’s just a love affair.  Salvation is a love affair, man, it’s not a thing of religion or works, it’s a love affair with God, it’s a love affair with Jesus Christ.  He has this love for me, and as I abide in it, there’s this growing love relationship that I now have towards him, a deepening love relationship, and as we note too in verse 10, again he says, ‘If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.’  It absolutely entails, it involves abiding in his Word and obeying his Word.  If I’m doing that, I’m abiding in his love.  If I’m not, if I’m disobedient to his Word, God says certain things and I don’t respond to that, then there’s no doubt it hinders my relationship with God.  It hinders that experience of the love of Christ in my life, that passionate relationship is tremendously effected by sin that’s not repented of in my life.  So, he says ‘Abide in my love, if you keep my commandments, you’ll abide in my love, if you keep them in your heart and respond to them and honor them, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.’  So, a growing love for Christ is part of abiding in Christ.  So the question, is there that passion in my life?---a passion for Jesus?  There should be a passion, there should be a growing passion.  It happens, it’s a natural result of abiding in Christ, a passion, a passionate love for the Lord, as we see here in these verses.  And then naturally what comes with that, as you’re walking in and experiencing his love, the next one is: 


5. As I’m abiding in Christ, I will also experience fullness of joy


Verse 11, “‘These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.’”  It’s interesting to remind ourselves again where they are.  They are walking to the Garden of Gethsemane.  And he’s talking about love, his love, but also he’s talking about his joy. ‘These things’ he says ‘I’ve said to you, if you apply these things to your life, my joy will be in you.’  It’s interesting, he’s talking about his joy.  He’s on his way to the Garden, in hours he’s going to be betrayed, and in hours, a short time, he’s going to be slapped around, his beard is going to be plucked, he’s going to be scourged, and he’s going to be nailed to a cross---and he’s talking about his joy.  And there’s just again a picture of joy.  Joy is, it’s independent of circumstances.  Joy is something that is Christ, it is God, it is the Spirit.  And it’s in me, and when it’s in me, man, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life.  Some of the hardest things can be happening in my life, yet there can be this joy, this joy in the midst of it.  It isn’t some giddy happiness.  You could be joyful and yet be going through a difficult time, and in prayer and broken.  But a joy, the fullness of joy, it’s even unexplainable, and it’s independent of circumstances.  But if you are abiding in him and abiding in his love, and if you’re following him and obeying his words, he says ‘I’ve spoken to you, that my joy, my joy, may be in you, and that your joy may be full.’  Man, I tell you, who on this planet doesn’t want to have fullness of joy?  Who doesn’t want to have fullness of joy?  It’s only found in one place, it’s found in Jesus Christ and walking with him. 


6. Abiding in Christ produces a growing, unconditional love for others


Verses 12-17, “‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth much fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.  These things I command you, that ye love one another.’”  Well finally, Jesus shares in these verses, the result of abiding in him leads to this incredible fruit of a love, it’s an agape’ love, it’s a love that’s an unconditional love, agape’ love.  Abiding in Christ produces in me, verses 12 to 17---a growing love for others, a growing love for the Lord, a joy in my heart, but as you see here in the rest of the verses, a love for others.  He says in verse 12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  And he goes on and talks about love.  As I walk with the Lord and I’m in his love, and his love is in me, and the fruit of the Spirit is love in my life, there will be love abounding, love growing in my life.  It’s interesting, you know, the way he says it here.   Any church that’s in Christ in this world should take note, he said “This is my commandment”.  Now he doesn’t say ‘This is an option for you’, he doesn’t say ‘This would be a good idea, this would be reasonable for you to do’, ‘this is something to do when you feel like it.’  He says, ‘No, this is my commandment.’  I don’t know about you, when he commands, seems to me it’s pretty important that we do it.  And he says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  It’s a command.  That tells me then, it’s not so much an issue of emotion, it’s a decision.  If he says “Do it”, I go and do it, whether or not I feel like it.  What happens often is that I do it, even if I don’t feel like it, I find that then the feeling comes, the emotion comes, often right in the very act of reaching out in love towards someone, or expressing love, being forgiving, being gracious, laying my life down for another---that all the more the love of the Lord just flows in me.  Well he says, this is a commandment, it’s not an option, it’s not necessarily an emotional thing.  Of course there’s an emotion that often goes with love.  But it starts as a decision of the heart, a decision of will.  He says ‘that you love one another as I have loved you, and this is how I have loved you’, verse 13, he says, ‘Greater love has no one than to lay ones life down for his friends’, and he’s saying that being hours away from doing that, laying his life down for his friends, laying his life down for others.  Paul says to the church in Rome “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, demonstrating the love of God”, demonstrating on the cross that he laid down his life for me.  All of us this morning, we can know that God loves us more than we can ever imagine.  And he’s proven it to us through the cross. 


We are friends of Jesus, friends of God---what does that mean?


Verse 14, he says, this is a sweet thing, “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.”  ‘You are my friends.  I mean, they’ve called him “Master”, “Teacher”, “Rabbi”.  There’s a certain relationship.  Later, all the writers, Paul, James and Peter, they’ll all say a “bond-slave, a slave of Christ.”  But he says they are his friends.  We’re his friends, if we do whatever we’re commanded by him.  You know, when you have a friend, I mean, who do you call when you’re in trouble, you call a friend.  And when you’re with a friend, there’s this freedom.  I mean, I’m with my friend, I can hang out with my friend, I can be who I am, my friend loves me as I am, there’s just that sense of freedom and openness with your friends.  And he says “You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you.”  Now, the Greek word helps us here, the Greek word is a little bit more too than what we think of “friend”, it means literally “a friend at a Court.”  It describes the friend of a king.  The friends of an Emperor, that inner circle.  Now they’re friends with the King, but at the same time, he’s still a King, you know.  We’re friends, but it’s  like ‘Hey buddy, you’re the king, you talk to me, we have an open relationship, you reveal your heart, and we fellowship, but I understand, you’re still the King.’  And it’s true with Jesus too, we’re friends, and there’s this openness, but he’s still my Master.  Yet like Paul, I say I’m a bond-slave of Christ.  Friends, but yet he’s my Lord, he’s the King of kings.  Charles Spurgeon, again, I’ll quote him.  He says “Here is love’s life, and love’s reward.  Obedience to Jesus leads to the sense of the love of Jesus.  If we walk after his rule, he will walk with us.”  Friend, man, if I walk with him and abide in him, he walks with me.  ‘Friend, you are my friends’, Jesus is our friend as we walk with him.  Then he says in verse 15, “But I have called you friends, for all things I have heard from my Father I’ve made known to you.”  So it’s again that King and his friends, that inner circle.  He makes known, he reveals secrets of the King, thoughts, the heart of the King.  You think then of Abraham in Genesis chapter 18, James will say of Abraham in James chapter 2, we studied this awhile back, James chapter 2, verse 23 it says about Abraham that “He was called the friend of God.”  Abraham, the friend of God.  If you remember there in Genesis 18, Abraham sitting in front of his tent, he sees these three people walking towards him, turns out to be two angels and the Lord.  And Abraham was just a servant, he gets up and he runs to them, tells Sarah ‘let’s prepare for them, let’s give them a meal’, she prepares a meal and he just hangs out with these two angels and the Lord.  The angels then leave, as you remember, and they head towards Sodom.  And God says, the Lord says as he’s standing there with Abraham, Genesis 18, verse 17, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?”, ‘Shall I tell Abraham what I’m about to do?’  The secrets of God.  [cf. Amos 3:7, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”]  And God goes on and shares with Abraham that he’s going to destroy Sodom.  And then you remember Abraham begins to plead for Sodom, because his family, Lot and his family are there, so he begins to just plead for Sodom.  He says ‘Shall I tell him?’  And he tells him, the heart of God, the secrets of the Lord.  That goes with being a friend, a friend of the King.  And he says ‘You are my friends, if you do what I command, if you abide in me, if you abide in my word, you are my friends.  And all the things I’ve heard from the Father I’ve made known, and I will make known to you.’  Psalm chapter 25, verse 14, “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him, and he will show them his covenant.”  Well finally, verse 16, he says “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and also I have ordained and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit…”  I chose you, and the reason I chose you, “that you should bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain,” and that you would have an effective prayer-life, “that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.”  Now, the question then, if that’s what I have been chosen for, if that’s what I’ve been ordained for, is it happening in my life?  That’s why I was chosen, that’s why I was saved.  We won’t talk about predestination, we’ll wait for another study.  But it’s true, I have free choice, I chose the Lord, whosoever will, come follow me.  But at the same time, man, those he foreknew, those he predestined, those he’s chosen, and we’re chosen, but chosen for a reason.  We’re saved for a reason, that we would go and bear fruit.  And how do I know, how do I know really if I’m chosen, how do I know if I’m really elected by God, if there isn’t any fruit in my life?  Because if I’m chosen to bear fruit, and if abiding in Christ, and obeying his Word bears fruit in my life, how else will I know, other than bearing fruit?  Of course the Holy Spirit works in my life, and as I’m drawing near to the Lord he gives me that assurance.  But there’s this holiness, there’s this change.  Doug says “I used to be this way”, Doug told you, he used to be addicted to everything.  But not anymore.  He’s addicted to Jesus, as Pete mentioned to us.  And these others, the fruit.  You can say ‘Man, I’m different, because Christ is in me.  It’s changed my life, he’s changed my life.’  And that’s what he says here. 


7. Brethren, members of the body of Christ, are commanded to love one another


But verse 17, “These things I command you, that you love one another.”  Now, he says that to his disciples, who are in the process of learning that very night, we’re told, Luke chapter 22 in this whole process, this whole time, they’re arguing about who’s the greatest.  I mean, there’s jealously, there’s rivalry.  He says “I command you, that you love one another.”  And no doubt he says the same to this congregation. Let’s close in prayer…[transcript of a sermon given somewhere in New England on John 15:1-17.]


Comment:  And let’s take this a little bit further, Jesus, Yeshua, is saying the same thing to all the different denominations that truly are of the Lord.  There are some denominations that are slamming and slandering other denominations---Gentile Christian denominations against Sabbatarian Christian denominations---and this ought not to be so, slandering others as cults when most are not.  This amounts to sowing division and discord within the body of Christ.  Jesus will not sit still and let this occur for too long.  The pastor above also said the disciples at the moment Jesus commanded them to love one another were in the midst of arguing about who was the greatest.  There’s rivalry, there’s jealousy amongst them.  We find rivalry and jealousy often between the various denominations and their missionary organizations even right now.  And now of all times, there ought to be extreme love and cooperation between these groups.  The spirit of rivalry and jealousy is not the Spirit of the Lord, it comes from a different spirit.  Jesus himself will start to side-line those groups and people that function with that “other” spirit, and especially those that attack other parts of the body of Christ.  “I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17).



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