Summary: A sermon about remaining in Christ as we come out of the pandemic.
“The Fruit We Grow is the Love We Show”
I want to ask you this morning: How did you do during the pandemic?
I realize we are still in the pandemic, but all indications are that we are coming out of it.
We can now worship indoors, in-person.
And Sunday school or Small groups will be starting up again next Sunday.
So, how did you do?
How was your spiritual life?
Did you flourish and produce much fruit or did you feel as though you were withering on the vine?
I was speaking with some other pastors the other day and they were telling me that they lost a lot folks during the shutdown.
Some people went so far as to lose their faith.
Others have decided that they like it better to just watch the worship service on the internet.
It’s easier and they don’t have to get dressed and leave their house.
Every pastor I have spoken with in the past month or so have told me that their church has taken a fairly sizable hit as a result of the pandemic.
Some folks just aren’t returning to worship.
Most churches are running at about 40-50 percent in attendance compared to pre-pandemic days.
And so, with this in mind, I think this morning’s Gospel Lesson is a timely one because Jesus is talking about the only way to “stay alive.”
“Remain in me,” Jesus says.
But that’s not all He says.
The entire sentence is: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.”
And that changes everything.
It’s not like we have to grab on to Jesus for dear life as He goes whizzing by.
Jesus comes to us.
His Holy Spirit takes up residence in us when we invite Him in.
And He remains in us; He abides in us.
That can be counted on.
The question left for us to ask ourselves is: “Will I…will we remain in Him?”
And that is a faith question, is it not?
It’s a question about belief; it’s a question about priorities.
Jesus will be with us; will we be with Him?
Will we trust in Him?
Will we rely on Him for our strength, our sustenance, our hope, our sanity, our peace, our lives, our ability to love?
And, if we have done so in the past, will we continue to do so?
I’m reminded of a time in the Gospels when Jesus was sharing some difficult teachings.
And we are told that many of Jesus’ disciples “turned back and no longer followed him.”
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’”
Do we believe and know?
David Brackett and I were at a meeting this past week where the speaker said, “Unbelief is the root cause of all the other sins.”
And I believe this is true.
Think about it.
Unbelief was the very first sin in the Bible when Adam and Eve ate from the tree God told them not to eat from.
Unbelief is the chief reason the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, and it is the reason many of us wander in the wilderness or the desert searching for what we once had or what we think we need.
Those who persecuted and eventually had Jesus put to death suffered from unbelief.
There can be no doubt we are living in a time of terrible and great unbelief.
And the signs of unbelief are all around.
People are lost and searching for that one thing they know they are missing, but they are looking in the wrong places.
They are looking for it in sex.
They are looking for it in drugs.
They are looking for it in politics.
They are looking for it in guns.
They are looking for it in entertainment and careers.
Some even look for it in cutting themselves and suicide.
They are looking, seeking, searching but not finding.
And as a result, they are terribly unhappy.
If we are honest with ourselves can we say that we always act out of belief?
Or do we too often act out of unbelief?
And what happens when we act out of unbelief?
We become fearful and insecure.
We fear that we are inferior to others because we are envious of their success.
We fear rejection and so we don’t reach out.
We also become insensitive and proud.
We lose sight of our sinfulness and lose touch with the pain that sin causes and the need to be humble.
We find it nearly impossible to avoid being impatient and judgmental toward others.