Text: John 15:6-11
If I were a Public Relations person for God, and He gave me permission to do what I wanted and make any changes I felt that could help us win more people over to Christianity and faith in Christ, I might be tempted to erase Hell. I might do away with Hell and remove that ugly PR nightmare for Christianity.
But I'm not the PR director for God. He, in fact, has not given me free reign to make changes. Nor do I personally believe I am wiser than God to make such changes to what He has decreed and revealed to us. I dare not call God to account about the reality of Hell when I can barely manage my emotions, thoughts, and heart each day.
But that is not the case with some people who profess to be Christians, even those who are in positions of leadership and prominence. Rob Bell wrote a book several years ago where he redefines Hell and ultimately paints a picture of universalism. Why? Because it is more palatable in his mind than what the Bible actually teaches. He is embarrassed by the reality of Hell and so he wants to soften it for public consumption.
But friends, here is the reality: if Hell is a real place, awaiting real sinners, and there is only one way for them to be rescued, we would be the most unloving and unjust people in the world to redefine Hell or minimize it just so people liked us and what we believe more.
As we celebrate the sending of Brady and Julie to a hard place to reach unbelievers with the gospel, why are we doing that? What is at stake? What is on the line? If there is no eternal consequence for dying apart from Christ, why go? If everyone gets there in the end, why the urgency? It would be pointless. But the Bible tells us that we have good cause to give a rip. We have just reason to go into all the world with the good news of Christ.
Exegesis of John 15:6-11
This is the continuation of teaching from the first 5 verses of the chapter. Jesus is teaching his disciples to abide. They must abide in him. He is the true vine. They are the branches. Only in Him can they bear fruit. Apart from Him they can do nothing.
vs 6 -- If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Here is the consequence of not abiding in Him. If we do not abide in Him, if we are not found in Him, then we are thrown away. Thrown away. Cast into outer darkness. Discarded. Trampled under foot. Guys, this is sweet Jesus, meek and mild, the one our culture couldn't imagine saying something hard or troublesome. But he says those who don't abide in him will be thrown away like a branch and wither. The branches thrown out will be gathered on the last judgment and thrown into the fire and burned. The lake of fire is reserved for those not in Christ.
"In me" or "in Christ" is the most common phrasing in the New Testament to describe what a Christian is. We are "in Christ" or "in Him." That is what Jesus is saying here. We must abide in Him. If we are not in Him, and we perish that way, we will be thrown away.
Friends, let it prick your heart about the state of your own soul and for the state of the souls of people all around us. This is real life. Millions upon millions around our communities and around the world are going to die and face a Christless eternity.
Hell is real. Jesus spoke about Hell constantly in His teachings. He could have dismissed it. He could have softened it. Instead, there is nobody in all the Scriptures who speaks about Hell more than Jesus does. That is significant.
Hell is eternal.
Hell is punishment.
Hell is just.
Our liking this doctrine or accepting this doctrine does nothing to change the reality. Jesus says it is the truth. If you claim to hate the idea of gravity and struggle to accept it as reality, and decide to step off the side of your porch, thinking your foot will continue on and instead of you falling, gravity doesn't care about whether you accept it. It's just a fact. And you'll learn quickly that your feelings toward it do not determine its actuality.
vs 7 -- If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
We've talked about verses like this before. This text has less to do with asking for new cars, houses, or private jets, and has to do with praying in alignment with God's will because we abide in Him.
vs 8 -- By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
The Father is glorified in us when we abide, and He answers our prayers, and we bear fruit as a result.
vs 9 -- As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
Abiding in Christ opens our lives to experience the particular love of God. This love is the love shared between the Father and the Son. This is saving love. This is a deep and abiding love.
vs 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.
We emphasized this in a previous message, but obeying God's commands is one way we abide. If we want to be close to the Lord, and know deeper fellowship with Him, we keep His commandments.
vs 11 -- These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
The outcome of these things, and the purpose for sharing them? So that Jesus' joy will be in us and our joy will be full. He promises a joy that satisfies the soul, both now and eternally. We are forgiven of our sins, brought near to God, and experience joy. Christians are supposed to be the most joyful people in the world. Not fake. Not superficial. Not costume or exterior facade. Real joy, even in the midst of real pain. Joy that is only explainable because it comes from Christ. He is the supplier. We are hooked to the vine.
Notice the conditional language in throughout the verses, "if, if, if." If you don't abide, you're thrown away. If you abide, your prayers will be answered. If you abide, you bear fruit that glorifies God. If you abide, you receive the special love of God shared between the Father and the Son. If you keep His commandments, you'll abide in His love. If you stay the source, joy is yours. Now and forever. The "if" is meant to drive us toward obeying what we hear. The conditional language spurs us on.
1. All people are dead in their sins. Everyone begins detached from the vine. We are all dead branches.
2. All who perish in their sinful condition perish eternally. Hell is the destiny of sinners who do not repent.
3. Christ is the Savior sent to save and rescue sinners. Christ alone can restore. He is the true vine. We must abide in Him. We must seek His mercies. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" is the cry of every sinner that finds salvation.
4. Those in Christ will live in His joy both now and forever. Heaven is the forever home of those who call upon the name of the Lord.
5. We must both "go and send" to tell this Good News. The gospel is good news in light of very bad news.