Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Secrets of a Productive Christian (Part 3)

In this sermon, Pastor Babij finishes his time in John 15 by looking at two more secrets from Jesus important for being a productive Christian. Pastor Babij focuses on prayer, explaining the necessary qualifications Jesus gives for such a generous expectation of answered prayer.

3. Liberty in Prayer (vv. 7-8)
a. Must abide in Jesus
b. Must have his words abide in you
4. Abiding in Christ Produces Real Results (vv. 9-12)

Full Transcript:

Okay let’s take our Bibles this morning and turn to the gospel of John 15. I conclude this third part of the Secrets of a Productive Christian today. I want to remind you that the Lord is talking to His disciples in a private way, not as a public discourse. This was only for the ears of His disciples and so if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ today, then it is for your ears too. Everyone of us needs to know what is being taught in John 15 concerning how to be a productive Christian and what that means.

In this context we know that a relationship with Christ is very important. We have a union which leads to communion with other believers as well as our disunion with the world. The more we grow in Christ, the more we’re going to be disconnected from the world and its thinking and trends. In this passage also, there is a visual picture of the vine which is Jesus Christ, the vinedresser which is the Father, and the branches which are the Christians.

The main subject is abiding which means becoming an effective and productive Christian. The result of abiding is fruit bearing. The three degrees of fruit bearing include bearing fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. That’s the progression of sanctification. If there is no fruit whatever, the Father takes away the branch and says He desires that the disciples bear much fruit.

I’ve been saying that there is an element of secrecy in our passage because He is definitely taking intimately to His disciples. Jesus tells the secret of productive Christians. Just to bring you up to speed from where I was to where I am going, the first secret is the pruning of the Father, who is the vinedresser. We see this in John 15:1-3. There are two actions of the vinedresser, who does something to the branch that isn’t bearing fruit. And then the vinedresser does something with the branch that isn’t bearing enough fruit. It says in John 15:2:

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

God the Father comes in and cleans away anything that is unwanted growth. The branches connected to the true vine produce as much fruit as possible. In John 15:3 it is implied that the Word of God is the means by which the Father is performing the pruning on His disciples. It says:

You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

There are two kinds of branches mentioned. Those who produce fruit and those who lack the production of fruit. If you are a Christian today, then the sharp knife of the Father’s pruning will be applied to you in some way at some time in your Christian walk. As a matter of fact, maybe you already have stories of how God has pruned you or disciplined you in some way to bring you into more maturity. So the Christian has this inside knowledge that he and she are branches that are connected to the vine, Jesus Christ. It is the will of God that His disciples bear more and much fruit.

So if you want to be a productive Christian, the first point is that you must be pruned. The second secret is to remain or abide in the Son. You cannot bear fruit on your own, it’s not humanly possibly for that to happen. It is Christ’s work in you. In John 15:4:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

“Abide in me” is a command to those who are already branches. When we are abiding, fruit comes quite naturally. The passive response of fruit bearing is that the command is to abide in Him. The one who produces fruit has the Spirit of God living in them. Christ is the One who produces the fruit so in John 15:5 it says:

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

So if we don’t abide in Christ, disciples cannot even produce even a bud of any kind of fruit. The consequences of not bearing fruit is barrenness. When this happens, when the Father comes and has to prune you or clean you by some disciplinary way, He does it in order to sanctify you. It could be through circumstances or trials and bringing something in your life that is going to remove you away from worldly thinking and besetting sins that you need to put off.

He draws you to Christ and the Word of God again, so it can sanctify you. He draws you to the fellowship of believers and prayer to depend upon Him more. While He is doing that, He shows you your own heart and what’s in it. He humbles you under His mighty hand. The Father chastens us not to harm us, because He is good to us, but to make us more fruitful that we may be partakers of His holiness.

So the second secret is that it is not possible to bear fruit on your own, but Christ’s work in us. So our responsibility is to remain or abide in Christ because it is Christ who produces the fruit. This Lord’s Day, let’s move on to the third and fourth secrets of a productive Christian.

First let’s have a word of prayer. Father this morning as we have a look at Your Word, I pray that Your Word would illuminate us and convict us where we need to be convicted. But also I pray that it would build us up and show us where we’re at in our Christian walks. Especially in the area of being productive because we want to see fruit in our lives. Show us those things further that you are going to produce in our lives. And I pray this in Christ’s Name, Amen.

So the third secret of a productive Christian is found in John 15:7-8, which is liberty in prayer. Look at what it says:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

I must admit that when I read a passage of Scripture like this, I am immediately astonished at what it says here. First, because of the element of the mystery surrounding prayer. It is beyond our understanding and the difficulty really lies in the fact that I simply cannot reconcile God’s omniscience, His foreknowledge, and His sovereignty with the discipline of prayer that we find taught all over Scripture.

Yes, there is an element of mystery but nothing is so plainly taught in Scripture that we are exhorted to pray and come before the Lord. A second thing that comes to my mind is that Jesus is the Son of God. In the gospel of John 10, it says in verse 30 it says:

I and the Father are one.

The question is why did Jesus have any need to pray? He was the Son of God and yet He prayed much while on the earth. If you follow Jesus around in the gospels, you will find that He spent a lot of time with the Father in prayer. If we look down in Luke 5:16, He prayed for more healing the next day. In Luke 6:12, He had a major decision that was to pick His disciples. The Word of God says He spent the whole night in prayer. Luke 19:16 is where He prayed for food to be multiplied. In Luke 9:28, Jesus prayed earnestly before facing the Christ. And in Luke 11:1, Jesus prayed on a normal day and nothing real expedient was happening that day.

So why did Jesus pray? Well here is a simple answer, for union and fellowship with the Father. That is what Jesus enjoyed in eternity when He was the Father before He came to this earth. So why should we pray? For the same thing: union and fellowship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If we see the very Son of God at prayer, we should also be at prayer. In other words, the Scriptures teach that prayer is essential and vital to us. We really can’t get away from it because every where we are exhorted in Scripture to do it. When we consider abiding in Christ and His disciples being connected to Him, prayer naturally flows.

The fruit of abiding in Christ is the exercise of prayer and the sense of the necessity of prayer. In other words, the nearer people are to God, the more they pray to Him. In another way, as we abide in Christ and the more we abide in Christ, the nearer we come to God and the more we will see the necessity and want to exercise prayer. So the fruit of abiding in Christ is not only the exercise of prayer and the sense of the necessity of prayer, but in our text it is liberty in prayer.

Just look at John 15:7:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

That is freedom and liberty that I have never heard of! When I read a passage of Scripture like that, some people ask how that works out. Just imagine telling your children to ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. Now if you are a parent you know very well there is an apparent danger in a statement like that.

The reason why is because there are many factors to consider before you would even say anything or come close to saying that. You consider the age of the child, the maturity, the responsibility, also the ability physically and mentally, their character, whether or not you can trust them and if you have a good relationship with the child. Another factor is certainty that you would be able to perform whatever they did ask for. Only God has that ability.

That’s what we see here in this passage of Scripture that Jesus is making a statement and a liberty that only His abiding disciples have. If you notice in the text, there’s two qualifications. The first qualification is found in verse 7 about abiding in Jesus. We abide in Him by way of salvation and sanctification or pruning by the Father. So we follow to ultimately bear fruit as a disciple in Christ.

The second qualification is having the words of Christ abide in you. Now we cannot separate Christ from His Word. It says in Psalm 138:2:

I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame.

The Word and His Name are equal and are the same thing. You and I have to consider that He is the Word of God and if we call Jesus Master and say we abide in Him, then we must do the things He says or we will reject the truth which He teaches. Christ’s words must abide in believers both in their belief and their convictions and in their practice because we will practice what we actually believe. If you do not, then you are not in Christ because this will lead to a desire to obey Christ and a desire to please Christ when we abide in Him and will ultimately lead to an increased understanding of God’s will.

Now just for your information, did you know that a spirit-filled Christian and a Word-filled Christian produce the same visible manifestations? In Ephesians 5:19, there is an outward expression of joy where it says this:

Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

In the same verse it also says:

Singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.

So here is a Spirit-filled Christian and we find the same thing in Colossians 3:16 which says:

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

That is a Word-filled Christian. So a spirit-filled and Word-filled Christian will pray with an increasing understanding of God’s will. They go together because the Spirit of God works with and is the Author of the Word of God. He always speaks and sanctifies by the Word of God. You can’t separate those two things. And as we grow in the Word, we will grow in the understanding of His will. And when we pray, we will pray in God’s will.

Now take your Bibles and turn to 1 John 5:14-15 because in this passage, we see the same exact teaching from the Apostle but he is expanding it a bit and giving more information. Here is what it says:

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

It’s pointing us to the fact that when we’re growing in the Lord and when we’re being led by the Holy Spirit of God, we are going to be praying more in the Word. Now let’s just take for example a passage of Scripture that you probably know well. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 it says:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.

If you pray for sanctification and to be more holy and godly, you can be sure that God will hear your prayer and sanctify your. That is a legitimate prayer. If you pray that God would reveal His love to you by His Holy Spirit, you can be certain that He will do it because it is God’s will that we may know His love.

Are you worried about anything today in your life? I am. What to do you about that? Bring your wheelbarrow full of your cares and cast them on Him and He will lift your burden by giving you His peace in their place. That is what it says in Philippians 4:5-7:

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Are you concerned that you do not love as you ought to love? Tell the Lord about it! Ask Him to shed His love abroad in your heart and He will do it. Are you struggling with some sin that entangles you and brings you down? Bring it before the Lord and tell Him your sin and your struggle and be confident that it is His will that you should be delivered from your sin. He will answer you and the blood of Christ will cleanse you from all sin and unrighteousness as it says in 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

All of this is based on the Word of God and the character of God. Even if someone who abides in Christ is not quite sure what he or she is asking, we’ll also pray that God would not give as we would, but as He would. Deep down in our hearts, we will only want what the Lord Himself wills. The abider in Christ will be mastered by Holy, Heavenly, and God life-like aspirations. He has been a partaker of the divine nature as it says in 1 Peter. That is part of the growth that we experience as believers.

Also, that means that we will not pray things that violate God’s Word and what He has clearly already said. No sense in asking God something that He said He won’t answer. So the two qualifications are you should be abiding in Jesus and His Word is abiding in you. Not just anyone can ask and bear the fruit of answered prayer. It is when we are linked to Christ’s fullness that we feel the necessity of drawing from it in constant prayer. This liberty in prayer is only for abiders. It is not for those who have to beg to pray or those who absence themselves from prayer or offer every excuse why they can’t pray.

Nobody needs to prove to an abider in Christ the doctrine of prayer because they already know it and knows it is as necessary to spiritual life as breath is to one’s natural life. It is only the person who abides in conscious union with the Lord who has freedom of access in prayer. I’m not saying that they don’t pray, but that they don’t have this kind of freedom that they can ask anything. This liberty is not the privilege of the abiding person who has the success in prayer.

Now anyone who prays has that time when they’re on their knees knowing and wondering whether they’re reaching heaven at all. I’ve been there. Have you ever felt like you couldn’t plead what you really desired? You want to pray but the waters were frozen up and would not flow. If you desire liberty in prayer, in that you would speak with God like a person speaks with a friend: candidly, clearly, and holding nothing back, here’s the way to do it. It says in John 15:7:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

It is the person who abides in conscience union with his Lord who has freedom of access in prayer. Now this should create a desire in your heart to begin the practice and habit of prayer until it is your joyful habit every day and it becomes as regular as breathing. Let’s make sure the Church doesn’t catch a spiritual coronavirus that attacks the spiritual breath of prayer that suffocates its victims.

Without prayer there is no power, not only in your Christian lives but also in the assembly of believers. Now here are some things that I believe develops in someone who is abiding in Christ and who is being sanctified. The first thing is that an abider develops a Biblical, mature, and realistic view of prayer. The abider in Christ will never conclude that prayer is unproductive or that it will not work. Abiders understand that if God was to pledge to give whatever we asked when we ask it in exactly the terms we ask it, how can we bear that particular burden and how can God be God if He were subject to our whimsical prayers. We couldn’t bear it and He wouldn’t be God.

A second thing that abiders develop are true motives in prayer which play a large part in the things we ask. According to James we do everything but pray. It says in James 4:3:

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Prayers like asking God to make you rich, famous, to have a good life and have your dreams come true and be satisfied smells of selfish heart desires and worldliness. This is what it says in James 4:1:

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

In other words, a person prays like a worldly person who doesn’t even know His Word. An abider in Christ love Christ and follow Him and have the Word of God growing in them. They have a greater understanding of what prayer is all about. Sometimes people pray and offer prayers to change other people like spouses, bosses, friends, neighbors, etc. Instead, we should be praying to know how to pray for others who persecute us. We should be sharing the gospel with them. Or we may pray that we win the lottery instead of praying to work so that we can eat and handle finances so that we can give and trust God with the rest. We should be praying to be hard workers and disciplined students in study so that when we take a test we know how we will do.

So sometimes motives and reasons for our requests are not wrong but in the infinite mystery of things the outcome sometimes seems to be no. There are several examples in Scripture of inadequate or inappropriate requests offered by the disciples themselves. They were offered up in an immature state and not developed in what prayer actually accomplishes when prayed correctly. For example when James and John asked the Lord to be seated at His left and right hand in Matthew 20, He answered them this way in verse 23:

He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

James and John and their mother had a wrong request and the Lord would not grant it. Another motive they had in Luke 9 was that James and John had the motive of anger and revenge. It is when the disciples were denied travel permit through a Samaritan village and they got angry about it. This is what they said in Luke 9:53-56:

But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village.

In each of those cases, God was answering a prayer that they weren’t asking. He was answering the prayer of sanctification; you haven’t grown to the place yet where you understand what you’re asking for. But God says that you will when you abide in Him and continue in His ways. We see here that their request was wrong and Jesus said no. Just imagine if Jesus did grant that request. People would be using prayer as a means of revenge.

From time to time you would hope that prayer could be used in that way. In fact there are such things as imprecatory prayers in the psalms. This means you’re praying God’s vengeance or judgment upon your enemy. They’re rare but real and you have to be careful when you use a prayer like that. The answer that God gave in each of these situations shows that God is too loving a Father to grant a request that is totally self-serving, patently materialistic, short-sighted, and misinformed. When we understand that, we are growing to be abiders in Christ in the realm of prayer.

There is a third thing that abiders develop and it is trust in God’s wisdom. Whatever the answer is from God, we should be satisfied with. I read a book years ago by a pastor whose name I forget. After many counseling sessions with individuals who were troubled because their prayers weren’t being answered, the pastor came up with a formula to help them. “If the request is wrong God says no, if the timing is wrong God says slow, if you are wrong God says grow. If you are right, the timing is right, and you are right, God often says go.”

When we pray the answer is not always yes or no, but could be somewhere in between. We have to say whatever God wants in our lives and however He wants to answer this prayer, we will be waiting. We should be anticipating an answer from God. From this day forward, brethren, there must be a radical change in what we believe about the Father in prayer and what we ought to pray for. God will only give what is good to His children.

Physically, He will give daily food, clothing, shelter, work, and resources to supply your needs. Spiritually though, He will want to conform you to Christ. So that means prayers for the restraint of evil words, or the cleansing of corrupt wishes, or the removal of impure desires or vengeful thoughts. It may be a prayer to help you love your neighbor and enemies and despite those who use and persecute you.

There is another development that happens with abiders because they can’t wait to pray. As a matter of fact, prayer to them is like a festival and they can’t wait to come. It’s like in Psalm 37:4:

Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Now you have to delight in the Lord first and when you do, He will give you the desires of your heart. It’s going to be the will of God and will lean that way for sure. Cheerfulness and delight is our part. Joy has a way of turning the soul to the Lord. The Lord doesn’t want us to come to prayer with dullness or lumpishness; those are both unacceptable before God and we have to be careful that we don’t come that way. Dullness has really no force to carry the prayer to Heaven. It could be like shooting arrows and instead of hitting the target, it drops right in front of you.

Lumpishness speaks of an unwillingness that God should hear us because prayer are often offered in unbelief about not believing what we’re even praying. That is unacceptable. Are we more skillful in making excuses than skillful in the duty of prayer? That is definitely something we have to be careful about. There is no excuse when sin calls us but when prayer calls us there are all these reasons why we can’t.

Does or delight in prayer and spiritual things outdo our delight in outward things? God loves a cheerful giver, so if we’re going to give God prayer let’s do it with a cheerful heart. There is great familiarity with God, especially those who are abiding in Christ. There will be great delight in prayer is the way to gain assurance. We ought to be coming to the Lord with delight. So you have to ask yourself, what is the character of your prayer life and what place does it have in your daily routine?

What does the public, corporate prayer have in your weekly schedule? Now we’re doing a lot of things on Zoom, one good thing that has come out of this COVID stuff. You don’t have to drive anywhere and fight traffic! You can just turn on your computer in your bedroom or living room and see people face to face through prayer. We are broken up into rooms to pray, which everybody should be coming to Zoom to pray. We do it on Wednesday twice a month and on Friday twice a month. Come and pray through the list that we email out. Where there is prayer, there is power!

This third secret of disciples who remain and abide in Christ is liberty in prayer. Don’t you want to have that kind of freedom in prayer? I pray that this section of Scripture would at least whet your appetite for liberty and success in prayer. It leads me to the last point: the fourth secret of a productive Christian is that abiding in Christ produces real results.

There’s some pragmatism going on here because we want to know we are growing and walking with the Lord. To abide in Christ is to remain in constant union and fellowship with Him. That definitely produces results. In John 15:7 the first result is effective prayer:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Your prayers are all offered in God’s will. A second thing in John 15:8:

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

There is something that is tangible that you can bring glory to God and know it. Spiritual fruit-bearing includes bringing glory to God by our lives and God being glorified by answered prayer. The Father is also glorified in those who live lives who produce obedience. Remaining in Christ is conditional upon obeying. It says in John 15:10:

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

Third thing is a life motivated by love; it says in John 15:9:

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.

This is a life motivated by God’s love and a person who can express love to others because of what God has done. In John 15:16 there is continual fruitfulness:

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

This is continual, ongoing fruitfulness that is being sent ahead of you into eternity. Notice that in John 15:11 it shows continual joy that will be yours in abundance:

These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

When the Spirit of God dwells in the heart, love and joy are the first fruits. What greater joy can come to one that knows that he is loved by the Son of God, even as the Son is loved by the Father. Joy is not a mere comfortable emotion but a gift of God. Everybody is looking for this kind of joy but the only ones who can have it and maintain it are those who abide in Christ. Your world can be falling apart, and God allows you to maintain a joy that no one can take away.

The grace of our Lord is displayed in calling us friends in John 15:15:

No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

Jesus is telling us everything we need to know on this side of eternity to make it through with peace and joy, and we know that when we close our eyes in death we enter in His presence. Jesus lays down His life for you and me in death and bears our condemnation and judgment for sin so we can be made right with God and be at peace with Him. There is no greater peace than through Christ Jesus.

This fourth secret of disciples who remain and abide in Christ is to look for more fruit. We are to yield to Christ and no longer to sinful desires and habits of unrighteousness. We are to walk in the Spirit and to be filled with the Word of God. This joy that we receive is supernatural joy. On God’s side this joy is sourced by God and mediated to us through Christ by the Holy Spirit where it says in John 17:13:

But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.

On the man’s side of joy, it comes by the Word of God. 1 John 1:4 says:

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

God’s concerned about our joy and He wants us to be joyful and delighted in Him. When we are, you can rest assured those are proofs that you are a disciple and abiding in Christ. When you are there, you don’t want to leave because there’s no better place to be. Joy supports and aids our physical well-being. Christians are to have a joyful heart and that is beneficial to our physical health and our spiritual health. It says in Proverbs 17:22:

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.

Joy is beneficial for every single part of your life, relationships, health, spirituality, and everything. One person gave a definition of Christian joy and it is this: an emotion springing from a deep down confidence that God is in control of everything. In fact, there is no event or circumstance that can occur in the life of a Christian that should diminish that person’s joy except for sin. If you have no joy, look for sin. If you have no peace, look for sin. Satan wants to rob it from us.

By way of application, we must keep constant contact with Jesus. We cannot walk even for a second. We cannot do this unless we deliberately take steps in our life to do it. In other words, arrange your day around abiding in Christ. Don’t do your prayer time around falling asleep but when you’re awake. Do your Bible reading along with your prayer because it informs it so you know what to pray for. Meditate upon what you are hearing. Don’t listen to 20-30 sermons a week! You don’t sit at a table and gorge yourself until it’s coming out of your ears. You sit at a the table until you are full and then you get up.

It’s the same thing spiritually because your mind cannot synthesize and digest that stuff. Listen to a sermon, let it grab your souls. As the old preachers say, let it grab your gizzard and squeeze until you get it. That’s we ought to plan in our lives with fellowship and good deeds. There’s never a chance to forget Christ because it’s in our daily routine.

Let’s pray. Lord, thank You again, because You are good to us. You answer us according to Your will and I pray that we would learn to pray according to Your will. Let us be those people who have liberty in prayer and know that whatever we ask, You will answer us because it is in the will of God. Give us the ability to plan our day so that we would not forget You, but so that we would meditate on it until it gets into our minds and souls and changes us and transforms us and sanctifies us into the image of Jesus Christ. I pray this in the blessed Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.