“Big Changes Call for Wise Advice”

John 15:1-8

Preached by Dr. Robert F. Browning

For

Calvary Baptist Church

Lexington, Kentucky

May 17, 2020

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This morning I want to speak to our high school graduates. I am proud of them and the good work they have done in and out of the classroom. They are already making our church and community better, and I can hardly wait to see what the future holds for them as they continue to chase their dreams.

            The advice I have for them is similar to what Jesus shared with his disciples as they were heading in new directions. Like our graduates, they were entering a time of transition. Life as they had known it for some time was coming to an end.

            Jesus would soon be arrested and crucified. No longer would he be the companion, teacher, leader and mentor they depended on to guide and to encourage them, at least in the flesh.

The familiar would quickly fade as they faced new opportunities and challenges. Their responsibilities and demands would greatly increase as they continued the work Jesus began.

It was not a time to be timid. Neither was it time to be fearful and faint of heart.

They needed to be strong, courageous, confident and hopeful. They needed to move boldly into the future with a clear sense of direction, mission and purpose.

How could they do this, though? As they would discover soon after the crucifixion, they would not be without Jesus. Death would not have the final word in Jesus’ life.

God would raise him from the dead, and Jesus would continue to be with them on this journey of faith through the Holy Spirit. Jesus would live in their hearts providing everything he did when he walked alongside them on those dusty Palestinian roads.

So, to prepare them for what lay ahead, Jesus challenged his disciples to stay as close to him in the coming years as a branch does a vine. They would need him then more than ever, and he could be counted on to be wherever they were, offering what they needed to remain faithful.

Listen to the way this conversation is recorded in John’s gospel.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:4-8)

You know what intrigues me most about this passage? It is the number of times Jesus used the word abide or remain. Eight.

What do you think was on his mind? What was the most important point Jesus wished to relay in that moment?

The success of their mission was dependent upon how close they remained to him. If they let Jesus and his words influence their decisions and shape their future, they would be highly productive.

They would bear much fruit. They would offer an alternative voice and vision that would change the way people think, believe, adopt their values, arrange their priorities, relate to one another, tackle their problems, resolve their differences and live their lives.

I have no better advice for the Class of 2020 than to accept Jesus’ invitation to follow him and to stay close to him throughout the rest of your lives. What Jesus offered his disciples, he offers each of you.

I cannot stress enough the importance of staying close to Jesus as you transition into this new phase of your life. Whether you are going on to higher education, entering the job market or enlisting in the military, you need to remain as close to Jesus as a branch is to a vine.

You will encounter opportunities, challenges, temptations and obstacles that will overwhelm you if you face them alone. Trust me when I say, they are bigger than you are.

They are not, however, bigger than you and Jesus are. Together, you will make a great team as you pursue your dreams and chart this new course.

I assure you Jesus will bring out the best in you. He will help you to be a person of noble character who strives to be honest, trustworthy, reliable, dependable, responsible, mature, compassionate, thoughtful, respectful, generous, gracious, forgiving and humble.

He will help you to be industrious and disciplined so you can achieve your potential and attain your goals.

He will give you the confidence you need to accept intimidating challenges and to walk through doors of opportunity that lead to a better life for you and all around you.

He will show you the pitfalls lurking in the shadows and keep you from stepping on land mines that will blow your hopes and dreams to pieces.

He will give you the fortitude and discipline you need to say no to anything harmful and yes to all things good.

He will help you to let go of those things that are dragging you down and keeping you from soaring with the eagles.

He will warn you when you become cocky, overconfident, indifferent and complacent and show you the danger of continuing down this path.

He will provide wisdom when you are searching for understanding, clarity when you are confused, guidance when you have lost your way and peace of mind when you are restless.

He will forgive you when you make mistakes and help you to pick up the broken pieces of your shattered life.

He will give you back your future when you have sabotaged yours and make it possible for you to start over when you thought all hope was gone.

There is something else Jesus will do that I feel is absolutely necessary to your wellbeing and productivity. He will bring others into your life that will make your journey more meaningful, fulfilling and rewarding.

You see, faith is relational. We are born into a family who nurtures and nourishes us. Along our way, we meet other people who provide what we need to continue growing and becoming the person we want to be and others need us to be.

Jesus has an uncanny way of connecting us to the very people we need when we need them most. Teachers, coaches, ministers, youth leaders, family members, special friends, interested neighbors and even strangers—all play a role in influencing our decisions and shaping our future.

They make hope visible in a variety of ways. They offer wise counsel with their keen insights. They inspire us, motivate us, encourage us, push us, hold us accountable, and when necessary, reprimand us.

At times, they expect more of us than we expect of ourselves. Thank God they do. They will not let us settle for less than our best, waste our potential and throw away our future.

They demand to be heard, and we are at our best when we put down our defenses and listen.

How do I know Jesus will do all of this for us? How do I know other people will cross our paths that have much to offer us?

I am living proof of everything I have said today. I have shared from my own experiences.

I can think of nothing I could have said to you this morning that would have been more important than encouraging you to remain close to Jesus and those he brings into your path. I am confident your future will be brighter if you hear and heed the words of our text.

May the good Lord bless and keep you as you and Jesus embrace the opportunities that come your way and meet the challenges that will accompany them.