Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Today on The Daily Platform, we're continuing a study series from Seminary Chapel called Abiding in Christ, a study from John 15. Today's speaker is Seminary Professor Dr. Timothy Hughes. The title of his message is Abiding in Christ for Prevailing Prayer.
We have a glorious text to look at today. And so as we turn to John 15 today, and want to go ahead and invite you to do that, I want to suggest that we find ourselves in the same position that in this farewell discourse, the Lord was preparing His disciples to occupy. The entire discourse, John 15 is just a part of it, is often called the farewell discourse, because this is the night of Jesus' arrest. And here are some final instructions He's giving His disciples. And what you pick up on very quickly as you read this discourse is that our Lord is preparing His disciples for a very soon coming time when He's not going to be physically with them anymore. And as He goes to prepare a place for them and promises them that, He leaves them here to glorify His Father. He, the one who's the way, the one who's the truth, the one who's the life, He leaves them here with the promise of His Spirit, the coming comforter. And He leaves them with special promises, special encouragement, special instructions, special assurances. And here in John 15, Jesus, if you look at the last verse of 14, you might glance down if you've got it open before you. It seems like Jesus, as He goes through this vine metaphor, that He's actually walking along with His disciples. Can you imagine Him walking perhaps through some of the vineyards that would have been there on the hillsides around Jerusalem?
And He gives them this great object lesson. Abide in Me. I'm the true vine and you're the branches. You've been talking about that metaphor in Seminary Chapel already, a couple of excellent messages that I enjoyed listening to. And this morning we're going to drop right into the middle of the discourse, right into verse 7. We're going to pick up that verse and together, can we do this?
Let's sort of hold it up to the light and let's sort of examine its glories one by one to the extent that we can in the time that we have here. Let's really try to examine the glories of this verse. As we do that, let's be sure to keep in mind the greater farewell discourse of which this is a part, what the Lord's really trying to do with His disciples and preparing them for what's coming, how He wants to prepare them for faithfulness and how He wants to prepare them for fruitfulness as He gives them this gargantuan task and all of His promises to go with it.
John 15 verse 7 is our text for today, if ye abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you. And that first line begins with an if. There's something of a condition here, isn't it?
What is that condition? If ye abide in Me. And I'm not intending to labor long on this line, you've had two wonderful messages on this theme already, but this line really goes right to our union with Christ, doesn't it? And at least the way I read the passage, and there's more than one way to read the passage, but at least as I read the passage, this idea of a branch that remains vitally connected to the vine and source of life, that's something that would be true of any true believer. But our union with Christ, even as a true believer, is something that we can be more or less aware of, something that we can be more or less appreciative of, something we can be more or less living out experientially. And if we're not, by the way, then Jesus' words stand as an incredibly strong warning to us, because that's a clue we may not be in the vine.
We don't want to be burned and withered. But the way I read the passage, a true believer is a vine that's connected with the branch. But it's possible to begin to lose sight of what you've been promised in your union with Christ.
It's possible to disengage a little bit with Him, even as He pursues you. It's possible to not live daily in the reality of your union with Christ and all the promises that go with that. And if you want to pick up some of those, just read the book of Ephesians. Read this passage here. And our communion with Christ, what should be a daily, vital, ongoing communion with Christ, can be something we're more or less engaged in, can't it? So Jesus comes and He says, abide in me, remain in me, feed on the life that's coming to me, coming through me, then that's coming through the life-giving Holy Spirit. Feed on that every day. And in Scripture, so often, an assurance given to true believers is this desire to strengthen our appreciation for, our pursuit of, our engagement with, our love for spiritual realities, not to give us an assurance that we can take that reality for granted.
To devalue it or fail to really take up the gift offered to us and to live every day in its reality. So the call comes to you, true believer. Abide in Him.
Really. And don't be satisfied with anything less than a full measure of His life-giving presence and power in your life. Take stock of the rich blessings of your union with Him and consciously walk through all your days with Him in total dependence, in total realance, believing His words, without me, you can do absolutely nothing.
And now let's look at the second part of the condition. Because Jesus is going to fill this out a little more and in a way that He actually hasn't done, at least in this way or to this degree in the passage so far, He says, and my words abide in you. Brothers and sisters, let the word of Christ dwell richly in you. And to let His word really abide in you, I want to challenge you, it's not just to read it, not just to hear it, not just to, you know, possess a copy of it, but really to cherish it. Let His words abide in you in reading, in memorization, in prayer, in meditation, in obedience.
Let it dwell not just in your brain but in your heart and let it get to your feet and live it out in your daily walk. Let it get into your heart, let it get onto your tongues. And so I want to talk with you a little bit on this line about something I am convinced, Scripture teaches, is absolutely vital to your doing this. About a spiritual discipline that binds together Bible reading and Bible memorization and Bible-based prayer and Bible-based obedience, a spiritual discipline that will strengthen your faith and strengthen your experience of your union with Christ. I want to talk to you, as we look at this line, I want to talk to you about a discipline called Christian or Biblical meditation. To meditate is to focus on a part of the word, to pray over it, to ponder words, phrases, paragraphs, chapters, narratives. Meditation is not disinterested examination. How easily we can slip into disinterested examination, can't we?
Maybe Dr. Henkins has used one of his favorite big words in here, disdensitiation. We can become so professionalized as we read the word all the time or read about the word, watch out for that word about by the way, that we fail to really practice Biblical meditation. It's not disinterested examination, it's passionate exploration. It's an active treasuring of and searching out and seeking for the meaning of God's word in order to help me love God more, in order to help me experience the riches of His word more and to embrace its implications for my life more thoroughly and more genuinely.
It involves dependence on the Holy Spirit and it involves an intent to take the word and make it my own. This is what my words abiding in you is going to look like in your life. You've got to be meditating for that to happen.
I'm convinced of it. Meditation is a God-given gift that helps me take scripture from my head and get it in my heart and into my feet as it works its way through my life. And so if I can get really practical here for just a second, there's many scriptural topics for meditation.
But as Joel Beakey pointed out in his little pamphlet, How Can I Practice Christian Meditation? By the way, I can't recommend that book highly enough. It's a little pamphlet. It's like 40 pages long. It cost me $2.25 in my church bookstore.
It's worth its weight in gold. How Can I Practice Christian Meditation? And he points out that there's two basic kinds of meditation or venues for meditation.
And one of those is occasional meditation, occasional meditation. This is where you're going through the day. Maybe you wrote a verse on a little card. You carry it around with you.
You look at it. You try to think about it or you stored up words in your heart. You've memorized these verses and you try to live in a spirit of communion with the Lord so that when a situation comes up, you think about it in Bible terms. When you see that beautiful sunrise, your heart wells up with the passage of scripture praising him.
The heavens declare the glory of God. Lord, your heavens are declaring your glory today and meditate on that. That's occasional meditation. And there's also something called, you could call it deliberate or focused, intentional, set aside, planned times of meditation where I hope that you could incorporate this.
I hope you are incorporating this as part of your daily personal worship. You take God's words. You think about them. Maybe you even journal about them.
There's somebody sitting in the audience, Ethan Hamilton. He really challenged me about this. He said, you know, one of the three things that will really rob your spiritual growth is lazy Bible meditation. It would come to you with a quick because I tried to meditate, but I had gotten extremely lazy about it. There is such a great blessing in getting intentional about Bible meditation. So if you're looking for a way to do that, can I make a really practical suggestion? Start by asking questions for occasional meditation.
Learn to, for occasional meditation, going back the first time, learn to just prompt yourself with questions. You can ask yourself, what does the Bible say about this situation I'm facing? Or what about this glorious scene out here? What's a Bible verse that I can think about that will help me express my praise to the Lord about that? Or does God have anything to say that would limit the choices I'm making here?
Or is I'm so overwhelmed. Is there a Bible verse that I could even just cry out to the Lord is my prayer in this situation. That's occasional meditation for, for those deliberate plan times of meditation. You might ask questions like this.
Start easy. What does this verse mean? How quickly we can read over a verse without stopping to ask that basic question, or how does this verse connect with the previous verse or what's God saying to me through this verse today? What's one way I can live this verse or this passage or this chapter today? Well, why does he use that word and then pray, Lord, show me why you use that word and what it means for me.
What is the antidote that this, you know, what sin does this verse give me the antidote for? There's so many questions that you can ask like that. And as you prompt yourself with those questions, the Lord will use his spirit to open your eyes and make the word real for you. And can I just challenge you take five minutes, try five minutes. You can start with three minutes. If you have to try every day and just take a three by five car or a journal or something, three by five car to work and just whatever he shows you, write it down, stick it in your pocket and go.
That'd just be one way to do it. I am sure that as you ask God for wisdom and illumination, you think about how the past applies to your life. And as you engage with your heart and not just your head, you will have a rich experience of his words abiding in you. Don't you want that?
I mean, don't you really want that for yourself? These moments of meditation could be some of the richest in your Christian experience as you let his words abide in you. So let's commit or recommit ourselves to the practice of spiritual Christian biblical meditation.
Well, I said we'd go line through line, so let's look at the next line. Ye shall ask what you will. Okay, here's the promise that comes.
Ye shall ask what you will. And let's not gloss over that because I think it'd be very easy. I'm just going to be frank. It could be very easy for us to sort of bob our heads and go through these two lines and in the background have some unanswered questions we don't deal with. Like the little rodent that chews in the back of our minds so many times when we read scripture that says, yeah, that doesn't really actually work half the time. I know we can almost be, you know, Kantian in the way we approach some of these.
There's this, I hope I got the right philosopher, it's been a while. You know, we've got this faith realm where the Bible is true and then we've got this real life realm where maybe it's not. So we read a promise like this and that little bad voice in our mind can start talking a little bit. We can bob our heads, we're up here in the faith realm and then down here in the numeral realm we're kind of like, eh.
So what does it really mean? I mean I really want to address that voice head on a little bit today. Because we do, don't we? We have prayers that God doesn't answer with a yes.
Right? I mean I think so unless you're going to really come up with a really convoluted way to say that He does answer every prayer with a yes. But at least in the way I approach real life every day it seems like He doesn't answer every single prayer with a yes. And we actually, the Bible reveals some of that complexity to us, doesn't it? It teaches us to anticipate that, doesn't it?
And it gives us reasons, some reasons why that might happen. And here's one, sometimes you can look at the ifs and then also think about that passage in James that talks about you ask and you have not because you're asking a mess so that you can consume it upon your lust. You're really not asking with spiritual motivation. You're praying selfish prayers based on your lust. That's not a prayer born out of abiding. It's not a prayer born out of our union with Christ and submission to His will and through His Word working in us.
But that's not the case. I really, I don't know, somebody may disagree with me but I don't think that's the case for every unanswered prayer. You've prayed I'm sure for things out of right motives. Things that seemed like God might be pleased to grant. Things that seem to accord with the general tenor of Scripture and it doesn't always work out the way we pray, does it? I mean does it for you? Because for me I'm nodding my head no.
It doesn't, it hasn't. Not every time. Even when sometimes I've prayed for something that seemed like it would be a really good thing, I find out as Scripture teaches me to anticipate that sometimes God has a much bigger plan. Sometimes His answer is a long time in coming.
Sometimes it's weight. Sometimes it's yes but in a totally different way and I can't help but think that sometimes He just says no. Sometimes I think He answers in an unexpected way and this is one that comes up so much for us, isn't it? We're praying for healing for a friend or a loved one and actually the way He answers the prayer is He says I'm going to take them home and they're never going to suffer again. That's how I'm going to answer that prayer and I know it's not exactly what you asked for but it's part of my wonderful plan for them and I know it hurts but that's the way I've got to answer your prayer today. And a God so infinitely wise, so infinitely loving, He has to be able to do that, doesn't He?
I mean this is just one example but it's a real one, these kinds of situations. And I don't mean this tritely at all, I really don't, but if left to our own devices and if the logical ends of our prayers were carried out right to the end, aren't we sometimes, and it's not wrong, these are good prayers, they're godly prayers, keep praying, pray in faith for healing. But sometimes, stop and think, would the logical end of some of those prayers sometimes be, Lord please let my loved one live forever? And can't you hear Him gently bending down and saying, I've already made that possible? But in a much bigger way than you could have dreamed of.
And at a much greater cost than you can still fathom. And sometimes, isn't it true as we really try to track with God's mind through a situation, you know the Lord Jesus had to do this too, He prayed in the garden, the very night He gave this promise, He's praying in a garden and He's saying, let this cup pass from me, but nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done. There are prayers like that. And isn't it true as you really try to track with God through a situation, as you pray and as you prevail in prayer and you keep praying and you do what some people have called praying until you pray, that God over the course of a day, over the course of weeks, over the course of months, over the course of years, starts to align your understanding of His will, starts to reveal to you more of what He might be doing.
And I'm going to mention a situation that is very, very real to some of the people in this room. And some of the people in this room may have been much closer to this situation than I was, but my church family was praying for months for a young lady in our church, she was younger than me, who was diagnosed with a very deadly cancer. And we really engaged in prayer for that family and for that young lady. And we were just really earnestly entreating the Lord for her for months. And throughout that process, it was so evident the Lord was doing things through her situation, that the Lord was answering so many of the prayers for fruitfulness or lasting spiritual fruit. She had an incredible testimony.
I mean, even for those of us that weren't very close to the situation or didn't know her very well, her situation bore fruit in our lives. But I do remember, two days before she passed into glory, there was a group that was praying. And some of us, this was two days before, some of us were really still clinging to these prayers for healing.
And again, I think those are God-glorifying prayers that show a real faith in the Lord and His willingness to do amazing things. But there was a very spiritual-minded person in that group who prayed a little bit differently than a couple of the rest of us did on that day. And I can't help but think he might have been tracking with the Lord. He said, Lord, would you grant her an abundant entrance into your kingdom? And I can't help but think that he was really tracking with what the Lord intended to do.
And two days after that, March 6th, 2017, last year to this day, he took her to where she will not experience pain ever again. There are really, there are complexities to these things, and they are very real to us, and they come very close to home to us. And we read a passage like this, and we start thinking about those things. And we understand that the Lord, as we abide in Him, He takes our will, and He shapes it, and He gives us an opportunity to track with Him, and our prayers can grow and change.
But nevertheless, it's a reality that some of the prayers that we pray won't ever quite be answered the way that we prayed them. So let's go back to this text. Let's look at this last line. What does it mean? And with all of those realities, other realities in play, and with all of that understanding, and with all of the scripture passages, your minds, I think, are probably going to right now to bring to bear on the situation.
Keep that all in mind. But I want to go to what I feel may be an incredible, a stunning absoluteness and specificity that comes in this passage. Look at the context.
What is this context all about? Is there really a prayer that you can pray and have some assurance that it's going to be answered with a resounding yes? And even the title of this series, I think, draws out of that scriptural context, the hint that maybe we need here, abiding in Him, the way to fruitful ministry for Christ. And I think, I want to suggest to you that in this farewell address, these close followers of His, and remember, we're walking along behind them here, right? On those GDN hillsides, we hear the Lord's promise coming to us today.
He's about to leave them behind to do His work, His Father's work. And Jesus in this whole discourse seems so concerned regarding their fruitfulness for Him. And these prayers that they're going to pray for fruitfulness, and that fruitfulness are going to be transformed through their abiding in Him and through His word abiding in them. And if you doubt where I'm going with all this, look at your Bible in verse eight, the verse that comes right after our text today, the verse that will be preached on next seminary chapel, here in, look at that, here in, go to verse seven, first word of verse eight, here in, do you see it there? Here in is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit. So shall you be my disciples. Verse seven, then the next word is here in, is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit.
And you're going to be my followers as you do that. Yes, abide in Him, abiding in Him, spend time soaking yourself in His holy presence. Let His words have a rich dwelling in your heart.
Don't just let them pass through in one ear and out the other. Let them remain in you, remain hidden in your heart so you won't sin against God. Let them remain in you until they shape the way you think, until they shape the way you feel, until they shape the way you speak, until they shape the way you act, until they shape the way you pray. And praying for fruit isn't the same as praying for success, is it?
No, let these words remain. That can be a huge temptation for people like us. The Lord's called us. He's given us spiritual ambitions. He's gifted you, but don't pray for success.
Pray for fruit. Let His words remain in you until they bring light to the darkest corners of your heart. Let His words remain in you until they retrain you in how to think like the mind of Christ, until they teach you to consider others better than yourself, until they teach you to be pure, until they teach you to have unshakable faith in God's promises, until you see God's ways as best, until they hammer out the hard stubbornness of your heart and melt it down into something the Master can shape and use. Let them remain in you until you can really say like Jesus did this very night, not my will be done, but yours.
Let them so totally shape and mold and change you, and yes, sometimes hurt you, until you in total surrender and peace can bow your head and know you're praying what you really want when you pray, not to be somebody, but to learn to love other people, not to gain a following, but to learn to be a follower, not to earn praise, but to bear fruit, much fruit, lasting fruit. And that, verse eight, is how the Father is going to be glorified in you. You want to bear much fruit.
You really do, don't you? You're here in seminary. Your heart, I trust, is one full of hope for the future. That's one of the things that makes it so exciting to be here with you. This is a group of people that I trust is smiling at the future, full of good desires and spiritual ambitions.
There's so much potential in this room. Now, as you learn about God's Word, don't neglect to learn God's Word and let it get deep inside. Don't keep it out of any part of your heart. And I'm just going to say I need your prayers about all of this too, big time.
We all do. As you improve in your ministry skills, don't think for one moment about what you're doing as resume building. Please, please don't look for glory. Don't look for a ladder to climb.
If you do, decades later you'll get to the top and you'll realize you had it leaning against the wrong wall the whole time. And that will be so empty for you, so incredibly empty. No, don't pray for success. Pray for fruit. And keep praying. Keep bringing large petitions for the Lord.
You're coming before a king. Don't hold back any request from Him. But don't forget to make a cornerstone of your praying, one that you can have utter confidence in, praying that above all things, the Lord Jesus Christ, through union with you, would enable you for fruit bearing for His glory. Don't pray for success. Pray for fruit, much fruit, enduring fruit. Pray that He will help you follow on as a disciple. These are the spiritual ambitions. And these are the spirit-filled, word-saturated prayers of a spirit-directed, word-filled believer. And those prayers, here's a promise from Scripture today, those prayers will be answered with a resounding yes for God's glory. You've been listening to a message preached in Seminary Chapel by Dr. Timothy Hughes, which was part of the series Abiding in Christ. Join us again tomorrow as we continue the series on The Daily Platform.
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