DNA Reminded, Radical
John 15 / Acts
We are revisiting our mission and the DNA of our mission for the purpose of driving that DNA deep into the fabric and practice of our lives as the community of the kingdom of God, the church.
For the glory of God we will build the church both local and global by being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ.
Gospel / Church / Glocal / Radical
We know the gospel as the message of the kingdom of God. The gospel of the glory of the blessed God is powerful and will transform the hardest rebel into an adopted child of God. Those children of God are the church, the community of the kingdom of God. This community of the kingdom of God is glocal. This community is globally relevant in the domains of society making disciples as equippers and senders and goers to all nations.
What is life like inside this community of the kingdom that is glocal in its nature?
Life inside the community of the kingdom is radical, and I’d like to make two items clear on the front end.
First, “radical” is not just some word with shock value that describes the mere external window dressing of some type of different look with no real internal, spiritual, genetic difference. Not like a pig with lipstick and a dress. Regular, post-Christian, name only, Christian t-shirt wearing, cross necklace wearing, cross tattoo having, pierced, green Mohawk/cross hair style, sometimes churchgoers with no power or experiential connection to the risen Christ is not radical. That is having a form of godliness but denying its power. That is not what we mean.
Second, “radical” is not a ripped off title from David Platt’s book entitled “Radical”. We’ve been using this language that was birthed from John 15 and the book of Acts for a long time. We’ve been talking about this long before Platt’s book. Dude just beat us to writing the book. I love Platt, and to be truthful I’ve not read his book. When people ask if I’ve read it, I just say yes because I’ve given up on people actually believing we were talking that language 11 years ago. So, if you have asked me about reading Platt’s book in the past and I said yes, I lied. Sorry. Confession time. I hear its good. I have people come up and tell me they think its cool we are using Platt’s stuff. That makes me want to head butt a brick wall. I truthfully don’t know what is in the book, and because of such things I’ll probably never read it, also because of some slight bitterness that I didn’t write the book myself, but enough about my sin.
Let’s talk about Radical!
Radical means, “of a root source, arising or going to a root source; fundamental; existing inherently in a person or thing”.
When Jesus talks about our relationship to him in John 15 he uses the analogy of a vine and branches. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Jesus’ word and his Spirit in us is the source of our life and gospel fruit. We grow in him and out of him. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. Jesus’ life in us is inherent to life. Jesus not in us is inherent to being dead spiritually.
The radical life is lived out in Acts. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to indwell, empower and gift/equip his people for his mission and we learn in Acts 2:42-47 that these Spirit filled people get into community in the gathered church. We learn real quick that this community of Jesus filled people is having favor with the people (2:47), healing lame dudes (Acts 3:1-10), being threatened by the rulers, elders and council (4:1-22), sharing everything as needed as opposed to seeking their own gain (4:32-5:11), arrested and beaten for preaching (5:17-42), stoned to death (7), scattered in persecution and preaching the gospel as they go (8:1-4), preaching in providential encounters with foreigners come to Jerusalem to worship (8:26-40), defending the gospel’s transformation of “outsiders” like Cornelius to the mostly Jewish church (10) and so goes the whole book of Acts.
Radical life. People in communion with God through the powerful transformative work of the gospel. Gospel transformed people now in the community of the kingdom with each other from diverse backgrounds in unity. Finally we see this community of people in communion with God colliding with culture.
Radical life. Communion. Community. Collision.
Lets take these one at a time.
Communion with God
In John 15:1-11 Jesus describes the glorious reality of communion with him in the illustration of a vine and branches.
First lets be clear, due to being decedents of Adam we are all born dead in our sin and completely incapable of knowing God and are not in communion with God. As a matter of fact, we are even at war with God as his enemies. This is why Paul uses the language of reconciliation when describing our salvation.
When the gospel is preached the Father draws all of those he has given the Son as a love gift so that the Spirit will gloriously regenerate them, and give them faith that they may believe (see John 3, 6, 10 and 17 along with Ephesians 1 and 2). “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)
When God does this wonderful and unmerited free gift of salvation, we learn in Romans 8 and Galatians 4 that former rebels are adopted into the family of God and given full rights and access to Father who is truly a Father. “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (see Phil. 1:6).” (Romans 8:30)
Along with this glorious work we learn that Jesus has sent his Spirit to live inside of / indwell his people as individuals and his people as a gathered church to be our counselor, helper, one who convicts about sin, righteousness and judgment, reminder of all that Jesus has said, and constant presence of Christ as a friend.
How does Jesus illustrate this magnificent truth? Jesus illustrates this using a vine and branches.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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 have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:1-11 ESV)
First, communion with God is being fully dependent on the Vine to supply all that is needed
Second, communion with God is bearing fruit v. 2a; 5, 8
Lets be clear. Fruit is in line with the kind of tree that is growing. Peach trees don’t produce oranges etc. Our great Creator Jesus wires each of us differently on purpose. Therefore, the large and major production of fruit in our lives vocationally will be different for each of us. How we engage the glocal with our created purpose is unique to each of us, and we must hear and obey the Lord regarding that. Don’t compare my fruit to your fruit. Don’t compare your fruit to someone else’s fruit. Don’t ever look at your fruit and say that someone else’s fruit needs to be just like yours. But there are a few pieces of fruit that may look similar among us. Such as:
1. Love of God and love of neighbor
2. Joy in God and joy in his work
3. Peace within and peace without
4. Patiently leaning on the providential grace of God in all things (Prov. 16:33)
5. Kindness toward others for the sake of the gospel
6. Goodness as displaying what is truly good and holy
7. Faithfulness to God and other branches in the vine
8. Gentleness with others and those who are outside
9. Self-control displayed in fighting sin and subduing the flesh
10. Those who do not bear fruit are not branches and they are removed from the vine.
The truth is that they were never branches in the first place. The flow of the gospel of John makes this clear. In chapter two there were many who believed in his name (John 2:22-25) because he made them wine, but when it came down to receiving the hard teachings they turn to leave (John 6:35-71). They looked like branches, but the fruit of following Jesus, which Peter displays in verse 68, is not present so they leave. The Father removes them. Those the Father had given the Son remain. Judas looks like a branch. Heck, Judas was not just a distant follower. Judas was on the inside. Yet, Judas’ fruit looked like stealing from the moneybag and betraying Jesus. The Father removed Judas. If you don’t bear fruit you are not in the vine. Don’t be deceived. If you are in communion with God you will remain and you will obey the word and repentance will be the flavor of your life. Look at Peter. Peter denied the Lord, yet Peter repented and was never cast out.
Third, communion with God is receiving the Vinedresser’s pruning v. 2b
Fourth, communion with God is abiding in Christ and holding his words in you v. 4
1. Knowing the voice of the Lord and learning discernment
2. Devouring Scripture and doing whatever is necessary to keep the word entrenched
3. Obeying the Lord
4. Living in the power of the Spirit and the providential life of his mission
Fifth, communion with God is asking for renewed desires that God puts into new creations v. 7; Psalm 37:4
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4
Sixth, communion with God is abiding in Jesus’ love v. 9
1. Obeying Jesus and staying in his love because his people obey him
2. Not forgetting Jesus’ love for his people. Remember, Jesus loves you and will keep you and never cast you out.
Seventh, communion with God is being full of joy v. 11
1. This is joy/happiness that is not dependent on circumstances.
In a very abbreviated way, this can help us begin to learn what communion with God is like.
But people in communion with God inevitably come together into community.
Community, without re-preaching 1 John all over again, is doing communion with God together. We called it Life together Under the Word.
Notice that vines or trunks of trees don’t have single branches. Vines or trunks have many branches that feed on the life giving nutrients that are surging from the vine. Likewise, Jesus has not saved one person. Jesus, from the beginning, has his sights set on all nations; therefore, branches are to dwell together in the vine.
Jesus saves a people and we see them together in community in Acts 2:42-47:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Notice those in communion with God devoted themselves to the teaching of the bible. Community can never be had properly without opening the Manual and understanding what God says to his people abiding in the Vine.
Next, notice those in communion with God devoted themselves to fellowship. Community can never be had in isolation. We have to be together to have community.
Next, notice that those in communion with God devoted themselves to “the breaking of bread.” These guys were committed to the covenant renewal of the Lord’s Supper. The fact that breaking bread is defined with the definite article implies this is more than eating a meal together, but that this meal was in fact the bread and the cup of the Passover meal in which Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Stated simply, these branches celebrated the Lord’s death for their sin and his resurrection together over the meal as often as they gathered.
Finally, for the sake of time, note that these branches prayed. The people in communion with God pray because by prayer those who are abiding in Christ get to witness the glory of God in answering prayer.
But these braches in communion with God and in community with each other also collide with culture.
Why do we say, “collide” as opposed to using another word? The reason I like the world collide is because Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12)
Jesus makes this sobering statement after messengers come to Jesus from John the Baptist as he is in prison doubting whether Jesus truly is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and Jesus sends back word to note the works he is doing and for John to be careful to not be offended if Jesus does not do for John what he was doing for others.
In other words, we are at war and there are going to be casualties, and faithful followers of Jesus are not immune, but that Jesus is in charge of the casualties and has not forgotten or dropped the ball.
Ever since the fall, the domain of darkness has been opposed to the Kingdom of God and this opposition has resulted in death and destruction. Disease ravages humanity. War and violence propagated on innocent people ravage entire people groups. Dark human hearts devise ways to be brutal to other image bearers for fun.
When the Kingdom strikes back (must read the article carrying that title by Ralph Winters) there is always a collision of values and practices. The Kingdom values life, so we would rather go to prison than allow the murder of unborn children for the sake of convenience. The Kingdom values life so we take it and shape it rather than handing over to the state to do.
We would willingly die of the disease ravaging the masses around us to help heal and preach the gospel than safely die in our comfy chair of old age.
We would engage in dangerous missions to rescue those in the slave trade than continue to turn a blind eye to the rot of the fall. Don’t be fooled, awareness is not the same thing as actually doing something about it. Awareness must lead to action or it’s a waste. When light invades darkness a collision is the result.
Make no mistake, the evil one is not peaceful and he will not go quietly. The bible tells us, “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12), but go the evil one must and the means of his going is the war made on him and his domain of darkness with the gospel of Jesus Christ preached and lived out by his people. If we would do his mission we must be willing to collide with the domain of darkness.
How do we collide?
First, collision with culture begins with loving each other.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Jesus commands us in 15:12 to love one another. Jesus has already told us that all people will know we are his disciples if we love each other.
The example Jesus gives in 15:12-17 is that we are to love as he has loved us. Jesus said to the disciples that he had loved them as friends. Jesus willingly gives up his life for his friends. Jesus, although God, becomes a friend to his people. Jesus fights for his people. Jesus meets with his people. Jesus has the back of his people. Jesus always seeks the good of his people. Jesus never ambushes his people. Jesus treats us as friends.
Loving each other is a collision with the fallen nature of the world. Among may ways the fall affects relationships, one particular way the fall affects relationships is by people using people for their own benefit not because the other person is intrinsically valuable. Jesus said we were his friends so he dies for us. Sin says that the other person has or brings something I want or need, so I’ll get to know them so that I can get what I want.
To love each other the way Jesus did is to collide with the fall and its relational rottenness.
Then Jesus says this amazing truth, which leads to a second thought on collision with culture.
A second way we collide with culture is engaging in Jesus’ mission and glory in Jesus’ doing of the mission. Listen to John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
The purpose clause in verse 16 is revolutionary and completely shifts why we do the mission. We don’t pray because we have a mission. We have been given a mission and we pray to glory in watching Father give us the mission. This makes God central and man secondary. God’s magnificence is the end and all else is means.
Jesus’ mission is the restoration of all things. We briefly talked about the full coming of the Kingdom of God in the new heaven and the new earth as we studied “glocal”. Part of the work of salvation is the restoration of all things through Christians living as salt and light in all of the domains of society. This should lead to the community of people in communion with God engaging their domains together.
This can be the entire community. This can be the individual who may be the only person in their domain but leaning on the support in prayer and in relationships of the community as they engage.
This is bigger than a bible study group finding work to do in the community. It is that, but it’s each person engaging in his or her individual domain in the larger society together. It’s both. In other words, it’s a total life lived on God’s mission.
Finally, collision with culture inevitably requires a people to be in constant communion with God through which we taste the power of God.
In Acts 16:16-40 Records the after effects of Paul and Silas communing with the Lord in a dream in which the Lord gives direction on next steps. This communing community of Paul, Silas and Timothy go to Macedonia, preach the gospel, plant a church then get thrown into prison for disrupting the income of some fortune tellers by being instruments of deliverance for a slave girl who had a demon of telling fortunes.
Paul and Silas are beaten and tossed into prison for the work of the gospel. This sounds like a collision to me. As these two followers of Jesus are in prison they begin to worship (men in communion with God, having community in worship, we may add) what happens? The Lord shakes off their chains, they prevent the guard from killing himself, get their wounds taken care of by the guard, the guard and his family get saved, Paul and Silas plant another church in Philippi and they get released to go on colliding with culture.
Radical Life: People in communion with God, naturally doing community with each other and colliding with the fallen culture to bring the Kingdom of God to bear on the domain of darkness. Communion, Community, Collision.
That is Radical Life. That is life worth living. That is glocal living together in the church with the powerful gospel fueling it all.