Jesus’ sacrifice is meant to fill us with irrepressible joy, hope, and to settle us in His peace. If we link ourselves to Him and accept what He has to offer us, the life ahead is far superior to the life we have here - this is the promise of Easter.
All right. What a blessing to be able to share this time together with all of you, my friends near and far, wherever you are. Hey, and some of you, not it’s just part of the Cornerstone online community. You actually may be joining us for the first time. And if you are I’m Pastor Terry, Lead Pastor here at Cornerstone Church in San Francisco, and I’m so excited,
you’re with us right now. Hey, we’re coming off of Easter. What a special time it was, not just because we were able to celebrate with people all over the world, the resurrection of Jesus, but also because we were able to do it in a way that allowed us to experience it uniquely together. And if you haven’t had a chance to see what we did, you know, I really want to encourage you to go ahead and, and check it out.
But, you know, we, we talked about how Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life. And we put the emphasis on the life. And now, days moved on from His resurrection, but not from the victory and the implications of what He did for us. No. We’re going to look at, uh, in this, our final episode of the I Am series. The seventh, I am statement of Jesus as recorded in John’s gospel.
And as we do so, I want us just to remember that, you know, our power for living for Jesus, the life that Jesus died and rose again to give us, comes from Him. I want to talk about the power of connectivity. And what it means to stay close to Jesus and why is absolutely essential to really appreciate, uh, what Jesus declared Himself to be.
And I just want us to look at that right now, real quick. And says this in John 15, when Jesus declared, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.” There it is. “I am the true vine,” the seventh of the I am statements of Jesus in John’s gospel. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away.
And every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I’ve spoken to you. Abide in me and I in you.” There it is. That’s connectivity. “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Our power for living the life that Jesus died for us to have, comes from staying connected to Him. “Abide in me.”
Now it’s important for us to remember that these words that we read at the outset of John 15, were the words that were spoken by Jesus to His disciples, prior to His, um, arrest in the garden Gethsemane, but after His time in the upper room; sharing what has become known as the Last Supper. And so there was this in-between space where Jesus was on His way, ultimately to being arrested in the garden where He shared these words with His disciples. And they must’ve been powerful and profound.
And to really appreciate what Jesus says here about himself, we have to really look at how the 14th chapter of John ends, because those are the words that lead up to it. And those words prepare us to receive this seventh I am statement. So I want us to go back actually, and look at the end of John 14,
verse–we’ll just start at verse 27. What a great promise by the way, this 27th verse is. Boy, how much we need this. Look what Jesus says to his disciples. Really, He says it to all of us. “I am leaving you with a gift. Yes. I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And listen, the peace that I give is a gift that the world cannot give.
So don’t be troubled or afraid.” Wow, is that not a word for us today? Is that not a word for us today. We are living in chaotic times. We have been living in chaotic times so much around us is shaking and unsettling. And perhaps that is creating things within us that are shaking and unsettling. Maybe that’s been anything but what we’ve been living in; peace, we’ve been troubled.
We’ve been afraid. And the Lord wants to settle us in His words. He wants to settle us in His promise. He wants to settle us in His peace and He wants to give it to us in our mind, because so much of what goes on is in our thoughts. So much of the things that, that crush us have to do with how we’re thinking. And our heart, the things that we’re loving and really the center of who we are is what He’s talking about there.
He’s basically saying, I want you to live in the promise that I’ve made available to you. And to His disciples, He was saying, I want you not to be crushed by what you’re about to see happen, but I want you to live in the fullness of what I’m about to secure for you. The promise of peace and the promise of my presence forever.
Here’s something though. Remember this–what Jesus– I’m leaving you with a gift, right. And it’s good for us to remember a gift needs to be received. So we may be given a gift, but we have to choose to receive it and, and open it and, and take it in. So the Lord has peace for us, but we have to choose to receive it,
right. And that’s why I think we have to, you know, that phrase, you know, the idea of let go and let God. I actually think though it’s simple. It actually, it’s a great way of capturing what the Lord is inviting us to do. Let go. And let God. Let go and let God. You know, the, the, the idea of you can’t let something go when we’re so tightly holding on, we got to let it go. I got to let it go. There are some things that, they get, that are going on inside of us. It could be in our mind, it could be in our heart, we just, you know, we’re so troubled. We just need to let it go, Lord. I just, I give it to You. I surrender to You. I trust You right now.
I opened my hands to You. I let this go and I receive what it is You have for me. Do you see that? You see the power of the open hand? I let it go. I’m not going to try to control this. I’m not going to fight this. Let me be patient with this process. Trust You. Open my hands to You, Lord, as a sign of surrender in my willingness to receive. And then I’m going to breathe deep
the breath of God, I’m just going to breathe deep, the gift of God and let it work inside of me because we need to do that. Lord, even now, I pray that You would help us to let go of the things that we’re holding onto too tightly. And, and to just surrender that to You and then to receive Your grace, to breathe it in, to breathe the life in that You have for us.
And then Jesus goes on to say this, and this is pretty cool, pretty amazing as well, because I really know the Lord wants us, wants to calm our troubled hearts. He wants us to have His peace. Look what He says in verse 28. Cause remember His disciples, they are troubled. Jesus is saying things to them that are very unsettling.
He’s telling them He’s going to go away. He’s telling them bad things are gonna happen. Uh, He’s telling them that their own group that they’ve come to rely upon that there’s someone in there that’s betraying them all, and Him. And it’s just, it’s just bad. And they’re having to deal with all these things that Jesus is saying.
And so Jesus is trying to calm their hearts and He’s trying to settle them in His love. And He says, “remember what I told you,” look at verse 28, “remember what I told you,” by the way, I think we should stop right there. This is another key to peace. Peace is both something we need to receive a gift that we have to choose to receive.
But it’s also important that we remember what He told us. One of the keys to having His peace reside in our heart and freeing us from our fear or our anxious thoughts or the things that would entangle and bind us, is to remember what He told us, loved ones. Remember what He told you. You know, when I get in trouble, when I start to drift, when I get sloppy, when I start to get into bad, a bad place, or I start thinking improperly.
Whether it’s anger or just foolish behavior, anything, whatever it is. It’s usually because I’m either willful, that is I’m just choosing to disobey the Lord, but a lot of times it’s because I’m forgetful. I’m not remembering. And it’s one of the reasons why the Lord reminds us to consistently hide His word in our hearts.
David said, I, Your words have I hidden in my heart, that I may not sin against You. Jesus talked about the power in His prayer, the Lord’s prayer. Of daily engaging the Lord. Give us this day, our daily bread. The idea of staying close to His word, letting His words reside in us. That’s why we have, you know, just little things like the spiritual vitamin, the Rise and Shine.
Or we talk about the value of having devotions, even small times of engaging, uh, some scripture and some thoughts or prayers that are connected to it, just as a way of planting it in our heart. So that we’re always staying close to God that we’re keeping His words near to us. We’re talking about them, thinking upon them.
That they, they freely can move through our life throughout the day at any time. And just so the idea of praying without ceasing. It’s not, it doesn’t mean that I just non-stop praying and thinking about God only, it’s an attitude. It’s a, it’s a way of being that means that, that I’m just staying in relationship with the Lord all through the day.
And, and there might be a time where His word, it comes to me really clear. And there might be times where I’m just blessed because I’m thinking about the goodness that I’m experiencing. And, or there might be times where I feel corrected. I mean, I’m just, the Lord is near. He’s part of my life. His words are near.
Remember when Jesus says, “remember what I told you?” That means we got, we, we need to receive, we need to receive it and rehearse it in our lives. Give us this day, our daily bread. Look what He says though. He says, “remember what I told you.” He tells His disciples. “I’m going away, but I’m going to come back to you again.
If you really love me, you’d actually be happy that I’m going to the Father, who’s greater than I am.” He’s speaking in His humanity right now as the Son. “I have told you these things before they happen,” because Jesus was telling them He was about to, to be taken. And He would die. And be crucified. But He would rise again.
It says, “I’ve told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe. I don’t have much more time to talk to you.” And then Jesus makes a statement that, wow, we just got to take notice of it. He says, “I don’t have much more time to talk to you because the ruler of this world approaches. The ruler of this world approaches. But, he has no power over me.”
Now this is powerful and profound. There are so many things here. Jesus has a sense of timing. He knows He’s on schedule. All things are as they should be. He knew how near He was to the end of His purpose for coming. That his hour was at hand. Whenever we say it was at hand, it means it was really near; right there.
Right here, right in front of us. He knew that the purpose of His coming, all that it had been prophesied since the beginning in the garden itself. All the way through the promise that was given to Abraham, that God would provide a lamb; all the way through Moses and the blood that was placed upon the door, everything that was anticipated; Messiah the promise that was given to Isaiah the Prophet, of the One who would come, who would bear, bear our iniquities and, and be bruised for our iniquities and bear our shame and be broken on our behalf.
The lamb of God, slain for us. All we like sheep have gone astray and the Lord has laid on Him, the iniquity of us all. Those promises, everything that had been given was now coming to a point of fulfillment, and Jesus understood that. He knew he would die. He knew he had to die to give us life. That it would only be, um, someone had to pay a price for sin. But who would be that nice to pay a debt that wasn’t his?
As the song writer poet says, well, I know someone like that. He’s your best friend. He really is. He really loves you. I think it was Keith Green who wrote those words. And the idea that Jesus paid a debt for us that we can never pay for ourselves that, that God gave us Jesus, His only begotten son, that if we would believe upon Him, we would not perish, but have the promise of life.
So everything–but the pathway to the open tomb, went through the cross. And that meant more than just physical suffering. Or the, although we shouldn’t underestimate what Jesus had to endure, nor the shame and stigma attached to it. It just, it was so much more than that. He would carry the weight of the sin of this world.
He would know for the first and only time, what it would be like to be forsaken by His Father. As He bore the sin, literally became our sin. And, and because of that, you and I are given the gift of life. That’s, that’s the message of Easter. And I don’t want to run past it cause it’s not just for a day it’s forever.
It’s amazing. But remember, Jesus knew that things were unraveling fast. He was aware that one of His own, my own familiar friend has lifted up his heel against me. Judas had betrayed Him. He also knew the temple authorities, the Pharisees and the, and the Sadducee leaders were all preparing to arrest Him.
And He knew where it was going. And He knew that in, but a few hours He would be scandalized, utterly humiliated, stripped, naked, and physically abused. Violated. Crushed. His very lifeblood spilled dripping for you and me. We never forget it when we take communion, by the way. And that’s part of what Jesus had told the disciples to do
in that last supper, before He spoke these words. But there’s other, there’s something else going on there because Jesus talked about who was coming. And He said, the ruler of this world approaches. Don’t don’t miss that. In other words, Jesus was saying He knew the power that was behind it all. He called it, the ruler of this world.
Think about that. It’s a reminder to you and me that there is something going on here at, at a spiritual level that we really don’t understand. That kingdoms fall and kingdoms rise and kingdoms come and kingdoms go. But in reality, there’s actually a shadow war in the heavenlies. That’s what we’re being told. That there is a system, a spiritual system of evil that sits behind it all.
Not that it’s controlling human events, but it is, it is affecting them. That’s what Jesus taught us. That in this world, there is a malevolent force that it, that there is such a thing as evil, that rejoices, delights, perversely delights in all the evil that human beings do. Think about that. All the, the things that, that human beings do, all the things done in darkness, all the, all of the violence, all the
ugly, awful. Abusive things that human beings do, that we see only bits and pieces of even in this age where things are captured. We only see a little. God sees it all and His heart breaks. The, the violence perpetuated on Jesus really is a representation of our world. And He entered into the worst of what we are, so that we could become the best of who He is. Wow. Oh, that’s amazing to me. But Jesus is saying not that the dethroned ruler of this world does evil, but, but that he provokes it and inflames it and takes advantage of it and exploits human frailty and brokenness and sinfulness and pride. And don’t ever forget that the one that Jesus called the liar and the murderer from the beginning, you go all the way back to the, to the book of Genesis in the fall; the first human family.
That’s so much of, of what is happening, what I, what we now can call the dethroned ruler of this world. Um, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s something that Jesus says is still rack wrecking havoc in our world; until the day that Jesus returns, but the battle’s already been won. Like the Lord did it. He, He won the victory.
That’s that’s the victory of Easter. The cross was the pathway and the resurrection was the statement, that it is done. Like it, it is accepted. Life wins, love wins. Jesus wins. That’s it. It’s already been written. The ending is secure. It’s just how we get there. And anyway, back to what Jesus said, because it reveals an even more profound truth.
He says, “I don’t have much more time to talk to you because the ruler of this world approaches.” But I want you to know something. Jesus says. It’s not going to look like it, “but he has no power over me.” He’s coming. I can feel the wolf. He’s coming, they’re coming and they’re about to circle over me, but they have no power over me.
And I remember that was part of the exchange that Jesus had with Pilot. When he, Pilot says, don’t you know I have the power to free– He said, you have no power lest it be given to you from above. I mean, Jesus was aware, but He was aware of a power far greater than anything that Pilot represented. He knew that Rome would be a byword.
They would pass like all civilizations and great powers do. Nothing, Jesus says, will last. Kingdoms rise, kingdoms fall. We’ve been witnessing this, until He returns. But in the meantime, between now and then, the Lord promises us His presence, secured by His love, on the basis of His blood spilled for us. And the resurrection that gives us life,
and secures the promise of it. But look what Jesus says in verse 31. “But I will do,” look at this. He’s coming for me, but he has no power over me. “I will do,” I just love this. “I will do what the Father requires of me.” Verse 31. It just shakes me. “So that the world will know that I love the Father.”
I will do what the Father requires of me. The evil ones coming for me, he has no power over me. I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. How do we express our love for the Father? We do it by obeying the things that He requires of us. Lord, help us to do this by the power of your spirit at work, in our lives.
And then Jesus says, knowing what awaits. “Come let’s be going.” And they’re on their way. I love that last phrase. So now it begins. And that’s what leads us to the words that were spoken of Jesus. So Jesus, as they’re leaving, He says we need to go, on their way to the garden. And these words seem to have been spoken on the way to the garden.
These are the, this last of the seven I am statements of John 15:1, Jesus then says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.” That is, He is the keeper of the vineyard. To us the phrase may feel unfamiliar and somewhat awkward. Um, although, you know, we’re in wine country. This is not actually that inaccessible to us. But the disciples for them, the figure of speech went
even further. And even more, it would have been something that was quite familiar to them. They had grown up with it. It was a symbol that was integrated into their natural well, national religious life. The vine had always been something that was connected to Israel. Uh, in Isaiah 5, there’s the song of the vineyard. In Psalm 80
the psalmist connects back to the deliverance in Egypt by saying, look at this verse, Psalm 80, just as an example. “You have brought a vine out of Egypt;” that was Israel. “You have cast out the nations and planted it.” He put them in the land of promise, and then there’s this stunning indictment by the prophet, Jeremiah.
But it, again, it connects to the idea of the vine. “But I was the one who planted you,” talking to His people, God is. “choosing a vine of the purest stock–the very best. How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine?” Like The Lord is saying, what, what got you, what turned you into this? When I created you to be this?
So when Jesus declares, I am the true vine. I am the vine, the true, He’s at least in part making a statement of how He, in contrast to Israel of old, will fulfill the purpose He was planted for, in the Father’s vineyard. In other words, there’s a connection there between Jesus saying, I will do what is required of me.
I am a faithful vine. I am the true vine, right? There’s there’s something about it. The purpose for which I was born will now be accomplished in contrast to Israel. See that sets the 15th chapter up, that sets the statement up. He’s basically saying, what they were not willing to do, I am doing. He underscores, and then He goes on and He starts talking about the principle of pruning and He talks about how fruitfulness can only be found in sometimes by cutting things back.
And it’s a great truth, but I want us to really zero in on another thing. It’s what I really want to leave us with in the time that we have left. And I really want you to be blessed in this and strengthened by it. But Jesus went on to say, because He’s talking about what I’m calling connectivity, the principle of connectedness.
Let’s look at what Jesus says. He says, “every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes it away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean by the word that I have spoken to you.” The word alone received has a purifying effect. That’s powerful. “Abide in me. Abide in me.
Come on. And I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” You snap off the branch, there’s no life flow. It’s connected. That’s where the strength is. We were created in Christ to abound loved ones. We really were; to bear fruit, to reflect Him, to have Him show up in our lives, in our real lives in our real relationships and our real choices; in the everyday-ness of our life; in a little and in the big.
But remember this, we’ve been talking about it since the beginning of the year that the key–God wants us to abound, but the key to abounding more and more is in the abiding. The abounding life; the key to the abounding life is the abiding life. We’re just, the reason is because we’re just not good enough.
We’re just not strong enough. We’re not, we’re not pure enough to do it on our own. We all have–I know I do– blind spots, areas of unique weakness that are connected to past choices I’ve made; past sins I’ve allowed to have a place in my life. Uh, experiences, my family upbringing, generational stuff.
That’s all, it’s all in there. I don’t know. It’s all woven together in some way. Just, but the bottom line is that none of us are strong enough on our own, to live a life that is pleasing God. Like we, we won’t be able to do it. Loved ones, our strength, jesus is reminding us, is in the vine. The Holy Spirit at work in us.
Oh boy. How we need you, Lord Jesus. Mercy and grace to run this race and prevail, yes, against the gates of hell. Pause, if we can just to reflect for a moment on what’s going on inside and around Jesus. Remember there are so many forces bearing down on Him. He is under stunning duress, He’s under so much pressure.
He knows that there are spiritual forces at work. That’s the biggest thing He’s aware of. But He also knows His enemies at a natural level. They’re already mobilizing, and He knows that this time they’ll be allowed to take Him. And it’s going to be a bitter cup. And He’ll drink it all the way. Remember He says “Father if it’s possible,
take this cup from me.” If it is, if there’s another way I’d like to do it. I don’t want this. “But not my will, but Yours be done.” Ooh, what an example for you and me. And He also knows that the rest of His disciples, the ones whom He has called, not just my followers, but my friends, they will abandon Him. Not, not because they wanted to just, they just won’t be strong enough.
He knows this. And yet with all of this on His mind, I see Jesus pausing for a moment. The light flickering, remember like a fire in the night, say on a, on a stick of light torch, flickering. Their faces, shadows and light. And He says to them, our hero forever, he says. My hero. Look at me. Look at me. Peter, look at me. James, look at me.
Thomas. Phillip. Matthew, you know, He goes–all of you look at me right now. The power is not in you. Strong men, you are not strong enough. You are a branch, you are a branch. And if the branch is snapped off, it will die. Don’t ever forget this. Later, it will make even more sense to you. On your own. And I know someday you will remember these words and I think Jesus understood they would be recorded.
And now we share them. I know John never forgot them, that’s for sure. But He says, but on your own, you can not do it. You will not be able to stand. None of you, none of you will. And then with clasped hands, the vitality is in the vine. It’s in me. Comes, comes through me to you. Through me to you, Jesus says. The nourishment, the life,
uh, the joy, the passion, the strength of your story will always be found in me. Don’t ever forget this. So the key will always be staying connected to the vine. The closer we stay, the stronger we will be. The closer we stay, the stronger we will be. It’s just that simple. And yet it’s, it’s also where most of us struggle,
right. Uh, I remember reading something that great preacher, George Buttrick wrote as he mused upon this passage and it just, it, I loved it. So I’m going to share it with you. He says, “may it not be that the branch has got detached from the vine and hangs loose and limp with withering.” Life in that he takes it to our life.
“Life is rushed and bustled, and in the jostle of competing interests always twitching at your sleeves and attracting our attention, spiritual things can easily get overlooked and lost. Seasons of devotion get crowded out, God’s word is not seriously or regularly studied, and the like.” And then this. “Get closer to Jesus Christ and He will do the rest in you.”
Mmm. “Faith,” CS Lewis said. “like any habit we have, must be fed.” That’s worth saying again. “Faith, like any habit we have, must be fed.” So remember life is in the vine. Life is in Him, but the choice to stay connected, that’s ours. And we determine our connectedness by the way we frame our life, loved ones. Yes. The prayers we utter, the choices we make on a daily basis.
Listen. We determine it by our priorities, by what we invest into and immerse ourselves in. We determine it by our hobbies, by what we read and watch and listen to; by the music we let fill us. Don’t underestimate its power, its force. The things that come through our senses, our eyes and ears. We, we determine it by our relationships;
the friends that we have, the social networks, the kinds of voices we allow in, to guide us. We determine it by our willingness to be still and draw close to God. Right? That’s a choice. We determine it by our willingness to trust Him with our lives in the big and in the small; how we frame our life, is a key to staying connected.
And remember, He’s the vine. We’re the branches. Without Him, we can’t do this. We need Him. For the I Am to write the story, we’ve got to stay connected to the I Am. So with that in mind, I have actually something to share with you on the backside. Uh, we have a beautiful song that talks about just abiding in Him.
And I want you to be blessed by it. I do wanna remind everybody, it’s the time that I get to do it. You’re amazing by the way, how faithful you are as a church. As a people who genuinely love God in the way in which you’ve been giving of your tithes. Remember a tithe is a tenth in your offerings, honor the Lord with that.
I always talk about the one in ten, one in seven, and the one. If you think about it, a tithe is the 10th, the one in ten. Jesus modeled it. “These things ought you to have done.” The one in seven: that’s really devoting a special day, a Sabbath day unto the Lord where His word has a special place in our lives. We take time, we carve out a space to gather with others, to hear His words in community.
The one in 10, the one in seven, and the daily. Give us this day our daily bread. The idea of a daily time with the Lord. If we do that, well, our foundations are strong, right? Remember, you can give, you can send it into our offices, you know, give it in a traditional way. If you feel more comfortable doing that, you can go online and give directly.
You can even set up a recurring giving or you can give, like I do, I give through the app. It’s what I’m used to and what I like to do. I like to pray over that giving and it’s important to me. But remember, I always say it. Before you ever give anything else, give Him your heart. Because when He has that, that’s when He has the best that you have to give. Right. Everything else follows. Alright, here we go. Come back around.
The promise of Jesus is the hope of the life to come, in which there will be no more pain, sadness or tears. But while we are still here in this life, Jesus pauses to be with us in our pain, to comfort us and gently lead us on our path to healing.
If we come to know Jesus as the Good Shepherd we soon discover that He will always go before us, laying His life down for us. He knows each one of us and calls us each by name. This is a truth we can build our identity around.