It has been big blessing for us to have you as brothers and sisters, and friends in Jesus Christ. I hope our presence also is blessing to you. I understand we have many differences and barriers between the English congregation and Korean congregation, but we have something in common: that we have one Father God, and one big brother, Jesus. That fact might help us to overcome some barriers between us. Whenever we have joint service I think of the Kingdom of God and of the heavenly banquet that all nations come together before God and celebrate the Father’s grace and love. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable because of the language barrier, but I find that it is true blessing for me to worship with those who speak different language because I feel God is here with us.
Today’s Scripture passage, we know very well. So I won’t give you new things but remind you of what Jesus expects from us. As I meditate on these passages, I’d like to share three ways we abide (persons-Jesus, one another, and neighbor) so that we can expand the good news of Jesus to the world.
First we should remain in Jesus, second, we must remain in each other in the faith community, and third, we must remain in our neighbors as the light of the world. These three areas are not independent of each but connect to each other as a whole.
First, we have to abide in Jesus
Acts 13-14, Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the good news about Jesus and many people believed and followed them. Paul and Barnabas urged them to remain in the grace of God. No matter who we are, we have to remain in God. No matter how many years we have believed God, we should abide in Jesus. Before sending the people, Paul and Barnabas encouraged them to continue in grace of God.
Then we ask: what is the grace of God? We can say many things about the grace of God. The greatest grace is God, himself. God given to us. This means we have to remain in God always. We have to remain in the intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ, our savior.
As we read, in the Gospel of John chapter 15, Jesus told his disciples that relationship between Jesus and them is not to be separated. There is no way to separate between Jesus and his disciples.
Jesus said, “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.”
The encouragement that Paul gave, “remain in the grace of God” means that we must remain in Jesus Christ. Before Jesus left his disciples, he demanded a new relationship with his disciples. For the new relationship, they should remain in Jesus.
The greatest purpose that Jesus calls us to is for us to remain in him and for him to remains in us. It is important to remember before we do something for God. Our nature is to hurry to do something for God. But Jesus encouraged his disciples, “Remain in Me”. First, Jesus invites us into himself, not into his ministry. Jesus’ whole desire is to live in us.
So I can say, “Remaining in Jesus is discipleship and the mission for us.”.
The question, then, is this. How do we ‘remain in Jesus and how does Jesus remain in us? What does it look like in practice?
The Simple answer to this question is that our value needs to be changed to Jesus’ value. Our lives need to be changed to be like Jesus. Many parts of our value are affected by the values of world, of capitalism and individualism. My own desire is not to have control over myself, but to give over control to Jesus.
We are educated that you must have big ambitions and set big goals for life in order to succeed in the world. Yes, it is true. We have to set a goal for life. But we must remember what is the most valuable, what is most important purpose of our lives. We are not to allow the goal to control us. As Christians our lives are not led by our own purpose, but they are led by Jesus and by his love. If we are driven by our own purpose, we might make a mistake and lose Jesus. We might forget what Jesus has taught and what Jesus’ life looks like. We are the people who commit our life to Jesus and who confess that Jesus is our Lord, the one who controls our lives.
We confess Jesus is our savior. We confess Jesus is Messiah. But we don’t want to give Jesus control over us because it is not convenient for us to follow his life and his teachings. If Jesus became our Lord,” we think, “he would restrict our life in many ways.” So many Christians say, Jesus, you are my savior, right, you died for me, right. I can go to the heaven because of you, that is enough for me, but don’t touch my life, don’t interfere with my lifestyle, leave me alone to decide how I live.
It is not convenient for Jesus to live in me. Jesus is love. His command is to love one another, even to love our enemies. Those who persecute me. Those whom I don’t like. Jesus tells us to forgive one another. Even those whom I don’t want to forgive, even those whom I don’t want to see again. But Jesus who lives in me keeps saying, “forgive one another, reconcile with others”.
Is it easy for you? No, it is not easy at all. It is very hard for our nature, but Jesus keeps telling us to obey him. That’s why we don’t want him to reign over us. We don’t want to remain in Him.
It is true. It is a discomfort that Jesus lives in me and I live in him. It is true. I want to prosper in the world, I want to have more and more, but Jesus who lives in me says, share with others, be friends with the poor. I want to ignore him. I want to compete with others and win. I want to get more political power, more economic power. I want to rule over others, but Jesus who lives in me tells me, be the servant, be the least. It is not easy for us.
Sometimes it is really annoying that Jesus lives in me. Very often I am tempted to live as a person who doesn’t know Jesus. But Jesus continues to come to me, and says, “Remain in me and remain in my love.” Jesus wants to live in me. Jesus’ love is one-side love toward us, but very often we don’t answer for his love. I hope that I open my heart widely toward Jesus’ unrequited love.
Brothers and sisters, open your hearts toward Jesus who really wants to live in you and commit your lives to live under his authority. Constantly Jesus invites us into intimate relationship with him. Every moment, open your heart to Jesus and enjoy him in your prayers, in your work and, in your home.
Why does Jesus keep saying to us, “you must remain in me”? Does he want to restrict our lives? Does he want to limit our happiness?
No, not at all. Jesus told to his disciples, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Jesus has come to give us freedom and joy, not slavery. He wants to share his joy and freedom with his friends.
So we should remain in him as the branches remain in the vine. When the others see our joy and freedom in Jesus, they will find Jesus through our life. It is a missional life. Missional life is not just doing something but our life in Jesus. Our life can bear more fruit if we remain in Jesus in our everyday life, not just in Church, but at work, in school, at home, and in our neighborhood.
If we want to live missional life, to be missional church and to reach out to our neighbors, first we have to remain in Jesus, constantly. We should keep intimate relationship with Jesus. Paradoxically if we want to expand our relationship with others, we should abide in Jesus.
To have a fruitful life and be a fruitful church, we must remain in Jesus. We should submit our life under Jesus’ control. Remain in Jesus, for without him we can do nothing.
Stop doing something without Jesus. Remain in Jesus and his love.
SECONDLY, In order to remain in Jesus, we should abide in one another. In other words, we have to remain in Koinonia, the church community that knows and loves him and celebrates him as Lord. We can not do this alone. The Western culture is influenced by individualism so individual lifestyle is more important than Koinonia.
Many Christians are interested in individual spirituality, not Koinonia. Of course, we must remain as people of prayer and worship in our own private lives. But without others we cannot have an intimate relationship with Jesus. If a branch thinks, I don’t like other branches because of complicated relationship, and departs from the vine, can the branch live by itself? We know the answer. But very often we forget this truth. Remember without the body, a branch can not live. Like this, we can not live without the body of Christ.
We need each other. I need you to be faithful, you need me too. I hope we can see Jesus through each other.
Can you say to a person sitting beside you, “I need you.” Once more say, “Thank you for being with me.”
As we remain in Jesus, we must remain in the body of Christ. We must remain in our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The culture keeps saying, your individual life is the most important. But the Bible keeps saying, we are being built together in Jesus to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. I know that it is difficult being together with those who are different from me. So we often think that Church is a place where we provide some good resources, like good worship, good songs, good programs. But not a place where Koinonia of the brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Many Christians, if they are unsatisfied with Sunday morning, move to another church: church shopping.
Many prefer to be in the crowded churches where we don’t need to interact with others. because it is inconvenient to be with others, because it is uncomfortable to know each other more deeply in Christ, because it is uncomfortable to open my life to others in the Spirit. So we prefer to be in the crowd. Where Nobody asks me about my life.
But remember, the branches connect to each other through the vine. So us also. We connect to each other through the body of Christ.
We are often tempted to love only God in the church, and ignore the others because we know that it is complicated remaining in one another. It is inconvenient to look to the interests of others. We feel that it is shameful to confess our weakness to one another. We feel uncomfortable carrying other’s burdens.
But the apostle Paul encouraged us, “carry each other’s burdens and in this way we can fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? “Love each other as I have loved you.” In this way, we can remain in Jesus love. Remember, we are called to build together in Christ. we can not complete Jesus law of love by ourselves. We need each other.
The Apostle Paul emphasized life together, to remain in one another throughout his Letters. Christian faith is not only about private spirituality, but also about being built together in Christ. Christian’s faith is more collective than individual. Because our faith origin is from our confession in the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in one being.
So apostle Paul used the Greek word, “all-eh-lone” which means, “One another/each other” over 50 times in his Letters. Romans 12:5, “in Christ we form one body, each member belongs to all the others.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,” We need others. We need our brothers and sisters to grow up into Jesus who is the head of church.
We need to remain in each others. We need to confess that we belong to all the others. We have to remain in the church which confesses Jesus as our Lord and savior.
Remaining in Jesus means that we commit ourselves to others and accept others our brothers and sisters.
Jesus said that we belong to him and that we belong to each other through telling the story of vine. As we depart from Jesus we can do nothing, when we depart from faith community we are tempted very easily, and eventually we depart from Jesus. Remain in a faith community which worships God and loves one another.
Life in church community is important. It does not just mean participating in worship or other church programs. It is more than that. It means that we need to take care of each other, to confess our weakness to each other, and to accept advice from one another. Seriously, we adopt the brothers and sisters in the faith as our true family, sharing our one Father, and a common blood.
We can’t stand by ourselves. We can’t stand on one foot. Even though we can stand on one foot, we can’t stand very long on one foot. But when we stand on both feet, we are more comfortable and secure. Standing together is like that. It helps us to stand more firmly in our difficult times. We need to remain in one another.
It is not easy. It is uncomfortable. But the Holy Spirit can help us to remain in one another in relationship when we obey the Holy Spirit. We know, Jesus came to take away our burdens from us, he even accepted the cross for us. In Jesus love, we need to practice opening our life to others, and taking their burdens. Jesus’ commandment, “love each other as I have loved you,” is not just abstract law, but very practical.
In the church, we can practice love toward each other in small groups. Small groups are a good and safe place to open our life story to each other and carry each other’s burdens.
Remaining in one another in love can help us to remain in Jesus. When we remain in Jesus and remain in one another in the faith community, we also can be the light and salt for our neighbors. As Jesus said, you are the light of the world. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
When we remain in Jesus and in one another in love, we can be the light of the neighborhood and others can see Jesus who lives in us through our life. When we remain in Jesus and in each other in love we can bring the kingdom of God into our neighborhood community and they can receive the kingdom of God through us and enter into the kingdom of God. We can celebrate with them in God’s banquet.
Our church is a drive-in church. we ask “how we can be the light of our neighbors. we need to find some way to connect to our neighborhood community. the fall community Festival is a way of reaching out to our neighbors. In the Festival they can see our joy in Jesus through our serving them, and I hope we can see their joy which they find in our love. Someday I would like to see them in the faith community and their joy in Jesus made complete.
In order to be the light of our neighbor, we need to abide in Jesus. We must abide in each other in love.
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and your joy made complete."
May you experience the joy of Jesus. Amen.