There are singular incidents in a person’s life that can change the course of what they believed was the directive of it. These are items that have usually been pondered over for a length of time, but never truly acted upon. Many times years will pass before they return to the forefront of our minds and then when that thought becomes reality, when an action ensues from it, it seems as if an epiphany occurs within us, it is both surprising and simple at the same time, and makes us wonder why we did not act upon it sooner.
I would like to speak to you on several of these events that have occurred in my life over just the past few years, but one in particular that has its reference in the Book of John, Chapter 15: 1-14, which we will look at shortly.
One of these first events was a section in A.W. Tozer’s book “The Crucified Life.” Without quoting all of the subject matter, he states that when God starts a revival in a man’s heart, that man should not expect that revival to spill over into the lives of those he loves, those he meets, or even unto the fellowship of believers that he associates with. It is a personal revival, it sets the heart on fire for God and places him directly on the path of contemplation, every thought, every action begins to revolve around the will and Word of God. The soul seeks only the face of God and the mind of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is all enveloping and brings with it a sense of great humility. The man who begins to experience this great revival in his heart stops almost immediately his search for the things and pleasures that this world has to offer, he begins to become completely enraptured by the infinite power and majesty of Almighty God and the incomprehensible love that his Lord Jesus Christ has for him. He is beginning to be shown in all its truth exactly what the title of Mr. Tozer’s book infers, what a crucified life means according to the Word of God. These truths are shown only in the Scriptures but are imbued in us by diligent study of the Word of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit. These truths have shown me that it is a terrible and fearful responsibility to be called a child of God.
Another instance that I would like to point out is one that had been in my mind many years, words that were in my heart before I spoke them with my lips, before they were released from the depth of my very soul, my spirit to the Holy Spirit, to the face of our Lord Himself and truly meant them, words that I was afraid to speak aloud. “Use me.” In these two simple words, produced of my own free will, was the offer of my life in its entirety in submissive service to the will of God. These were the most frightening words that I have ever spoken, for in them I began to tread the path of death to self, in fact, I gave permission to the Lord Jesus Christ to kill those parts of me that were of no value to Him, without question, without regret. It was the most difficult thing that I have ever done.
The old man in me (Rom. 6:6) screams at me almost daily to rescind those words, the battle within me is nearly constant and there are days when it is an incredible burden, but He is faithful who has promised, and in His abiding love and protective hands I find comfort and peace in my decision. I am being changed from the normal vernacular of a nominal Christian, as it were, into a willing and obedient servant of Almighty God. Say them and mean them my friends, pray first diligently, count the cost and find the price worth paying, say “Use me” to our Lord and mean it.
The next example I would like to show you is relative to these two words. At the top of the page at the beginning of the Book of Proverbs in my Bible I have written these words, “No matter the Cost.” They are similar to those heartfelt words of use me, and must be given the same amount of weight, but they stand apart on their own merits. They speak of complete submission, total obedience no matter the circumstances, no matter the consequences. They are the words of a soldier to his high commander, obeying without question, for his leader has been judged within him as worthy to follow. Where He leads, I will follow, never questioning, for He is faithful and true and has proven trustworthy in every area of my life. I need no more proof of His love and compassion towards me, He is all that I need, and whatever the cost He asks me to pay, it is worth it.
There is one more before we move on to the Book of John, and the knowledge of this word by the power of the Holy Spirit has modified my thinking more than I can explain. The word is sovereign, and it is a word in all its meanings that belongs to Almighty God and to Him alone. Complete and total authority over everything and everyone, no exceptions. This is a known fact to every single creature, to every part of His creation, and it is the one above all that man and fallen angel’s rebel against.
To recognize that it really does not matter what I think, what I do, that my plans do not really matter in Gods plans is a sobering thought indeed. One cannot fully comprehend this incredible word unless they have willingly understood that their value in God’s eyes is the value that He places in His Son Jesus Christ. The knowledge that I am in no way in charge of anything in my life, that the faith by grace that brought me to my knees at the cross was even given to me, the ability to breath the air that he has provided. The knowledge that God alone is eternal and self-sustaining, that is was for His pleasure that I was created. It was He who called me, it was He who chose me, He alone is sovereign. I will delve no deeper into this subject matter here but to say this, if indeed we have free will, which we do, then it is reserved to only two choices, to serve God in heaven or to serve His will in hell, these alone are your two choices. There is no third option.
Finally, now I would like to show you how these passages in the Book of John chapter fifteen have altered my walk with and for our Lord in a dramatic way, in fact they have in a sense been the subject matter of many of the letters to you and the three main purposes of them, to exalt the Name of God above the heavens, to encourage and to convict our hearts to be submissive to His will. The subject that our Lord is speaking of here is in the context of the vine and the branches, and in them I was shown something that told my heart that there is much, much more to being a Christian than just repeating the words of repentance, that not only are we to say, but we are to do. These verses and others like them tell us that we are to be obedient beyond church attendance and all the attributes of it, that there is more than what is being preached in many of the churches around the world today, that we are servants, not the master, and that servants are to obey.
In all actuality there is only one word in these verses that changed my entire way of thinking when it comes to the issue of my obedience to Christ, but that word has profoundly altered my perception of who our Lord says are His children. It has shown me that some who profess to be Christians are not, or at best are remaining weaker brothers because the cost is so high, and they are not yet willing to submit in humility to the one who gave all. There is a problem within us called sin, it says “I will” or it says “I won’t,” and its voice is loud and penetrating, it desires to choose its own path instead of the path that we are commanded to take. This word “if” is not a word in the Scriptures that a lot of believers like to look at, it requires action or there are consequences, this word “if” lets us know if we are truly His children or not.
John 15:6; “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered;”
John 15:7; “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you,”
John 15:10; “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love;”
John 15:14; “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
Do I need to point out the word again to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, the word is “if,” and it changes a vast majority of what is being taught in some of the churches all around this planet today. This word is known as a conditional clause, providing you do this, then that will happen. If you do not abide in Christ, you will be cast forth as a branch into the fire: if you do not abide in Him and His words in you, what you ask will not be done unto you: if you do not keep His commandments, you will not abide in His love: you are not His friend if you do not do what He commands you to do.
When I was first shown the importance of that word, when the Holy Spirit in wisdom and knowledge blessed me with the ability to see the inverse of these commandments, it changed me more that I can tell you. I was shown the truth that it takes more than the “ prayer of salvation,” no matter the form of it, to be allowed entrance into the kingdom of heaven, it requires much more than church attendance, an occasional mid-week Bible study, it is way beyond tithing and giving of time to only church functions. It is a life that is completely and totally given over to the sovereign will of God, that has died to self, that no longer counts the cost, that is willing at all times to be used in whatever fashion that Christ desires. It is the life of a servant, a loved servant, but a servant, nonetheless.
These “ifs, and, and then words” scattered throughout the Scriptures have shown me that there is a price that must be willingly paid, that “many are called, but few are chosen,” (Matt. 22:14) and the reason why so many of the invited are not chosen is because they will not obey, they do not and will not take into consideration the truth of these “if” words. They seem to them as harsh directives that a loving Savior would not place on anyone, that we should not have to do, that following without completely obeying should be enough. He has made known to me that there is a dramatic difference between those who profess Christ and those who are obedient, willing servants of our Lord.
It is perhaps why some of these letters to you seem blunt and even severe at times, perhaps make you feel as if you should do more, you must submit to His will and Word more, you should be working, seeking, searching, doing more all the time, fully understanding when it is time to rest, and when it is time to work. A servant never does what he has not been told to do, and he always does that which he has been commanded to do, without question. I did not put these conditional clauses in the Word of God my friends, our heavenly Father did, they are set down as the truths that they are, and in His infinite wisdom and mercy, He has allowed us all the free will to choose to obey them or not.
I am an adamant man in the areas of the truths of Scripture, and it is in love, tough love sometimes yes, but nevertheless love that I am compelled to write these types of letters to you. I sense an ever -growing, almost overwhelming urgency within me to write these letters every day, I do not know why, and I will not question the Lord as to the meaning of it, He knows the reason and that is enough for me.
If, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if, and I dare not say what the consequences of your actions will be if you follow the path of “if not.” Our Lords love for me is real, and has been proven many times, His care and compassion upon me is undeniable, His work in my life is unquestionable, He is faithful and true who has promised.
He is the sovereign Lord of all creation, and we are to be His willing and obedient servants. He has blessed us with the unimaginable gift of free will, and we are to use that free will to serve Him willingly and without question in never ending love, for our Lord is Holy, righteous, merciful and alone is worthy of all blessings and honor, for He loves you and gave Himself for you. “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: (Rev. 15:4)
There are no “ifs” in that statement.