How many of you had your swine flu shot? There are some who think that if you could be vaccinated you would never ever get this or get that. It would be nice if we could be vaccinated for sin. Wouldn't that be great. Then we'd be immune to sin. A wife could take her husband or the husband could take his wife and be vaccinated for adultery or divorce. You could be vaccinated for anything. Wouldn't that be neat?
There are some people who think that once you're baptized you are vaccinated against the deadly disease of falling into sin. That you can never fall again. You would be fall-proof. That would be neat wouldn't it. No more temptations, no more problems. I guess that would mean that the devil would leave you alone, once you're baptized. Does he do that? He probably triples his efforts. And then some.
There is a text that a lot of people think refers to the fact that once you're saved you're always saved, and that text is in John chapter 10, and I would like to read verse 27 and refer to this. John 10. Jesus is in the midst of speaking. He says, "My sheep listen to my voice. I know them. They follow me. I give them eternal life, they will never perish, and no one can snatch them out of my hand." Now right there, a lot of people think, "Well that means you can't fall." Once you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you are done. You're basically shooed in to eternal life. There's no way you can lose it. There are millions of Christians who believe that once you are baptized, you go through the door of eternal life, you become a Christian, you can't back out. Salvation is like a one-way turnstile.
I went to visit a state prison, and they took me in through a turnstile. A very strong turnstile, clear up to the ceiling, clear down to the floor. No way to get through it and it only moves one direction. And I must say that I felt a little bit funny going in there. But about an hour later, the tour guide showed us the back door. And fortunately it was unlocked and it was a strong door too. There are back doors in churches. New converts enter the front door and I will tell you that some of them find the back door. There is a back door. And too many find it. They make their exit, not just from the church, but they make their exit from Jesus Christ, and they lose their salvation.
I want to have you look a few pages over in John 15. This is the main focus of our sermon this morning. John 15, beginning with verse one. Jesus again is speaking and He refers to Himself as a 'Vine'. Now, I think if I were to choose something I would choose a mighty oak tree or something big, but He says, "I am the Vine." John 15 verse one. "I am the true Vine. My Father is the gardener and He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful and you are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Remain in Me." Now here's the focus of these verses. "Remain in me." King James says "Abide in Me." That's what Jesus wants us to do. "Remain in Me and I will 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."
Now I know how things like that work. I wish that I could have brought up here to the platform this morning a leaf just picked off of a certain plant and just put it in a little container and let you watch it during the progress of the sermon. You would watch a withering leaf because as soon as you pick something they began to die. In fact, they are basically dead the moment that you pick them. They are severed from the source of life. That would mean they are not alive anymore. It is a fact that the living branch dies when you cut it off of the vine. And the vine is the source of continued life. The branch is alive when it's connected, but it's dead when it's disconnected. You can be disconnected. That is a possibility. One little sentence can create a backslider.
A good friend of mine faithfully attended church for years. Loved the Lord. Loved the church, and then one day at church, somebody said something that hurt his feelings and he never entered the door again. And that's a crime. And some of you know people like that. They used to attend here. That used to be their pew and they don't come any more because somebody hurt their feelings. That can happen. You can have a Christian experience and you can lose it. It is possible. Another friend of mine named Tony was not contacted by the nominating committee. He was not put back into the office that he had. They put somebody else in there. Never spoke with him about it and he stopped attending church that next Sabbath. Things like that happen. I knew of a happily married couple who were involved with the Lord. Faithful in Bible study. They attended prayer meeting. But trouble came into their marriage, and they were divorced, and because they were divorced they were ashamed and so neither of them attended church anymore and now they have dropped out. They no longer pray. They no longer study their Bibles. They have backslidden and the life that the man lived was a hardened life. It's too bad.
You know, Jesus says abide in Me. You need to stay connected. Without that connection, you don't have anything.
One time there was a native in the jungles of Africa who was taken to Johannesburg and shown the big city. Never seen a city in his life. And the thing that really impressed him were all the lights. And so on his way home he had a little bit of money that somebody had given him and he went to the store and purchased several lightbulbs, and he said, "Now what do I need to do to make these work? What do you put that in?" So they sold him a socket and they said, "You'll need a switch." They assumed he was going to install it at home, so they sold him the switch, the socket, the lightbulbs and so he took them back. He guarded that package so carefully and he took it back to the heart of Africa where he lived, and on his hut there were bushes out front, and he put these lightbulbs in the bushes and he screwed them into the sockets and he even hooked up the wires like they had shown him at the store and different people said, "What are you doing?" "You just wait till it gets dark, you'll find out." Well it got dark and he threw the switch and nothing happened. They hadn't told him about electricity.
What good is a light bulb with no electricity? What good is a Christian? If you are a Christian and you are not connected to Jesus Christ, is there any hope for you until you are connected with Christ? No. You are dead. Lifeless. Lightless. Dark. Lost.
Look at Luke, chapter 8. This records a famous story that Jesus told. Luke eight, verse five and onward. Jesus told the story of the sower. The sower went out to sow. He sowed some seed and the first seed fell where? On the path by the wayside and was trodden down. Some seed fell where? Where was the next place it fell? On rocky soil, and it sprung up, but it didn't have much root, so it died. And then other seed fell among what? Among the thorns. And what happened to it? It was choked out. But still other seed fell on good soil, and it produced, some a hundred fold and Jesus explains the story in verse 12 and this is where I want you to focus on. Those along the path are the ones who hear. Now the devil comes and does what? What does the devil do? He takes away the what? The word from their hearts so that they may not believe and not be saved. You can lose your salvation. Don't ever think, "Well, I can't lose it." Yes, you can. It can be taken away. The devil, through nefarious methodology, removes the Word. What is the word a symbol of? It's the symbol of Jesus. The devil can, through various temptations, remove Jesus from your heart. You don't want that. You can be in church this year and not next year. You can lose Jesus.
Luke eight verse 13. It says those on the rock are some who receive the word with joy when they hear it but they have no root, and they believe for a while. They do believe. They are saved for a while, but in the time of testing, the Bible says, they fall away. They did believe. They did have life. But they fell away. Maybe the husband loses a job. They're out of money. Can't pay the bills. The bills are coming. You're using up your savings. The house payment is due, and what are you going to do? There's a problem here. And so you think, "Well, we pray and pray and there's no answer. God doesn't seem to even know our address," and so you begin to skip out on your prayer life. Your Bible study suffers. You stop attending church, and you drift away from Jesus. That happens. Don't think, "Once I'm saved, I'm always saved." You need to stay saved. You really do. You know that verse 12 shows that the ones who believed for a while were saved for awhile.
There was a Christian who used hitchhiking as a means of witnessing and he finally got a ride one day. He got in the car. The man was driving and the hitchhiker said, "Let me share with you a belief that we have in our church. We believe that once we're saved, we're always saved." And the man who was driving said, "I don't believe that. You mean to tell me that you will remain saved even if you go out and you steal something, you'll be saved?" And the hitchhiker said, "Let me tell you something. I could take a machine gun, and I could go into the shopping mall and I could mow down as many people as I wanted and kill them all and I would still be saved in heaven." Now it's true that salvation does not depend on our works, does it? But if that branch is connected to the vine, it won't bear machine gun type fruit. Right? It will bear good fruit. Good works will come. Bad works will dry up and die and wither and fade away. Your life will be changed when you're connected to Jesus. Paul says it in First Corinthians 6 verse nine. "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of heaven." We don't earn our righteousness. But we don't remain wicked, do we? We become more like Jesus as the years go by. And so you want to examine your own life. Are you becoming more like Jesus in your life.
When I was a boy, we used to go out and buy a live Christmas tree. And you could look at them and they put it on the back of your car and tie it on and you come home. So sometime after Thanksgiving, we would put this live tree in a stand and the stand had a little nail sticking up, and it would hold water. You could pour water in there and you had to keep water in there because that tree needed that. And so we would put that in there. The tree was cut off, put on the nail, water in the basin. But toward Christmas time, despite the water, the tree was drying out. The needles were falling off. You'd touch the tree for some reason and the presents down below would be covered with needles like snowflakes. And after Christmas, you wanted that tree out of there. We would take all the ornaments off and all the popcorn strings and the various things that we decorated the tree with them and drag the tree out the door and leave behind a trail of dead pine needles. And then we had to vacuum and sweep and get them all cleaned up. That tree, disconnected from its stump, died. You can not be a viable, live, thriving Christian cut off from Jesus. It won't happen.
First John chapter 5 verse 12 says that he who has the Son has life and if you don't have the Son, you don't have life. Your connection with Jesus Christ is what keeps you alive. Are you connected?
I was giving a Bible study on this topic one day, once saved always saved, and I was in the home of a lady in Bangor, Michigan, and she said, "I don't believe the way that you Adventists believe." She said, "For instance, my child right there. My child was born into my family and my little child will always be my child regardless of whether he ends up a bad, evil person. He will always be my child. I will always love him and he will never be removed from our family. It doesn't matter how bad he's going to be, he can't be unborn. He's always a part of this family." And I said, "Well, the question is not whether the child can be unborn, but whether the child could get sick and die." There's no doctor that I know of that warns young parents, "You need to be careful now, your child might get unborn." Nobody ever says that. But a doctor does give a lot of wisdom. "Be sure you get the shots for your child. Do this and do that and so forth." Otherwise your baby will get sick and die. You can die as a Christian.
Look at Ezekiel chapter 33 in your Bible and I want you to mark one verse. It is possible that an absolutely godly person could lose his connection and die. Ezekiel 33:18. "If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it." Is it possible for a righteous man to turn from his righteousness? Yes it is. Absolutely it is. That's what the Bible says. Once you are saved, you are always saved. That is true as long as you stay saved. It's similar to manage. Once the two of you get married, you will always be married as long as you stay married. But you always have the opportunity to not be married.t-autospace:none'>
So the bottom line is this. How do you stay saved?
I want to list for you several points on how to stay saved. And the first point, you possibly could disagree with. Number one. I think you need to attend church. That's just my opinion. You need to attend church. You need to be around other people who can help you on the road to life. It's like these people that were doing a three high here this morning. You need a team. It's not just the base. It's not just this person or that person. You need to be surrounded by people who think like you think. Who have the same objectives that you have. Who are headed to the same destination that you are. That's where you need to be. Don't begin skipping church. I've seen people do that. They say, "Well, it's not as important to me as it used to be." They're losing hold. They're going out.
We have a wood stove and the other day I lit the stove and it has a beautiful window in the front where you can see the fire. You fill it full of wood, and two or three hours later you look in through that window, and it's all red and warm and the place is warm and you can see, if you look carefully, that some wood is still burning. Most of it is still burning, but there is some wood that is already burned. The wood that is already burned, it doesn't have any wood left in it, it's reduced to a piece of charcoal or whatever, is still red hot. Why? You would think it would be black, but it's still glowing red. Why would that be? Because it's rubbing shoulders with other coals that are red and that are hot.
And it's just like church. You leave the people who are warm and are trying to get to heaven, just like you are, and you go out on your own, you are going to drop out. And if you drop out, you will cool down and soon you will be among the frozen-chosen. You won't be red hot anymore. But if you stay there with those people, you'll remain ignited. So come to church. Rub shoulders with warm saints who have a glow about them, and if you see somebody who's cooling-off get over there and warm them up. That's the purpose of being in church. Hebrews 10:25. "Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is." Don't do that. "But let us encourage one another and so much the more as you see the day approaching."
Number two. Take on food. You know, I get hungry real easy. My wife often hears this phrase. "You know, if you don't eat you die." And that is true, right? If you don't eat, you're going to die. So we need to eat. You've got to eat and spiritually it is so true. You must eat, and may I suggest sister, may I suggest brother, that you need to eat every day. Is this wrong? You need to eat every day. So please do that. Load up on holy delectables that you find in God's Word. The Bible will help you stay saved.
And number three. You can't be strong without breathing, and prayer is the breath of the soul. If your prayer life is like a flat tire than you are losing Jesus. You are becoming too cold. And I think as Americans, even as Seventh-day Adventists living in Collegedale, we are too tolerant of sin. We tolerate too much sin. We go to Wal-Mart, we go to Blockbuster and we think, "Well, yeah, I'll rent that movie. It only has a few swear words in it. Maybe it won't be too bad," and we rent the thing. We are becoming too tolerant of sin. Evil poisons the soul and stifles our Christianity and you'll die of spiritual suffocation.
Number four. We need to witness. If you want to stay as a vibrant Christian, you need to help somebody else. You help them, you've helped yourself.
And number five. You need to take on water. You can't live without drinking and Jesus is the Water of Life. Peter said in First Corinthians 9:27, "I keep my body under subjection, lest after preaching to others I myself would become a castaway." It is possible to be a castaway.
And the last point. You need to hold fast to Jesus. Hold on to Jesus.
Let's suppose Bill is out fishing. He's straight east of Fort Lauderdale. He's out about 20 miles. He's had a good day of fishing. It's time to go back. Something happens to the boat. The boat sinks and Bill is out there in the water with his life vest on, and he thinks, "Well I'll just swim to the shore." Well, which way is the shore? You can't see anything when you're down there in the water. You can't see the buildings, you can't see where the shore is. He's out too far. He's going to die. But all of a sudden another boat comes along. A boat loaded with people and they pull up, and they slow down and they say, "You know, we don't even have room for one more person. We are as full as we can be. There's no room on here, but I'll tell you what. We'll throw you a rope and we'll even tie a loop in the rope, and you hold on to that loop and we'll go slow back in to Fort Lauderdale, and we can do this." And Bill says, "Well yes, I can do this and I'm saved." He's saved as long as he holds on, correct? As long as he holds on he's saved. Hang in there. Hang in there with Jesus. You've got to do this. Don't give up. Maybe you've lost a spouse. You've lost a job. Hang in there. Hold on to Jesus Christ. Hold fast.
We're going to sing our closing hymn. Oh Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end. Don't let anything disrupt your service to God. Never, ever give up.
Dear father. We thank you for the privilege of knowing Jesus Christ. Help nothing to disconnect us from Jesus. May we be connected to our source of electricity and shine brightly. Please be with this congregation. Help none of us to drop out, but to drop in on Jesus and receive Him and bask in His warmth. Dismiss us with Jesus, we ask in His name. Amen
Hymn of Praise: #132, O Come, All Ye Faithful Scripture: Micah 6:6-8 Hymn of Response: #331, O Jesus, I Have Promised
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 1/24/10