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John 15:1-18

No Sprinkler System

Dr. Howard Hendricks tells of a small town in Texas where one year the school burned to the ground with the loss of more than 200 lives, because they didn’t have a sprinkler system. They began to rebuild after the initial shock had passed and called in the foremost company in fire prevention equipment to install a sprinkler system. When the new school was opened for public inspection, guides pointed out the new sprinklers in each room, to alleviate fears of another disaster. The school operated without incident for a number of years, then they needed to add on to the existing structure. As work progressed, they made a startling discovery. The new fire extinguishing equipment had never been connected to the water supply! They had the latest in technology and equipment, yet it was entirely useless!

New Rules created quite a stir in the early ’80s. In the book, professor Daniel Yankelovich of New York University documented a shift in social values in the ’70s, a shift more massive and more rapid than any of the recent past.

The book was subtitled, “Searching for Self-Fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down.” The old rules, Yankelovich said, stressed duty to others, particularly to one’s family. If someone were selfish and got caught, it was embarrassing and looked ugly. But no longer. In what Yankelovich calls “the duty to self ethic,” our primary responsibility is for our own needs and interests. All other relationships and values must fit into that order of priority.

Yankelovich feels that the movement may be liberating, but he is an honest scientist. After tracking 3,000 people in personal, in-depth interviews, and analyzing hundreds of thousands of questionnaires, he admits that so far the search for self-fulfillment has been futile. It has resulted in insecurity and confusion. “What is self-fulfillment?” he asks. And “When you find yourself, what will you do with yourself.?”

The frightening thing is that 83 percent of Americans buy into the “new rules,” either in whole or in part. But those foolish people are not evangelical Christians, right? Wrong! James Davison Hunter, in his examination of students and faculty in 16 leading evangelical colleges and seminaries, used Yankelovich’s earlier questionnaire and concluded that evangelicals are more committed to self-fulfillment than their secular counterparts.

“The percentage of evangelical students agreeing with these statements far exceeded the corresponding percentage of the general population,” Hunter wrote. “Self-fulfillment is no longer a natural by-product of a life committed to higher ideals, but rather is a goal, pursued rationally and with calculation as an end in itself. The quest for emotional psychological and social maturity, therefore, becomes normative. Self-expression and self-realization compete for self-sacrifice as a guiding life ethic.”

Moody, May, 1993, p. 34


1-11 Our relationship to God

1-3 Two prerequisites for abiding

1. We bear fruit if we are in Christ (2), i.e. are saved.

2. We bear fruit if we are being pruned; cleansed by the Word.

4-5 The nature of abiding in Christ

The nature of the relationship between the branch and the vine is one of dependence.

The branch relies on the vine, the believer continually must rely, trust in Christ.

6-11 Results of abiding

Much fruit

Answers to prayer

God is glorified

God’s love is displayed (8)

Fullness of joy (11)

Interpretive options for “cast into the fire:”

1. An unbeliever, but context argues against this

2. Armenian position: lose your salvation

3. 1 Cor 3; works are burned. But here the branch is burned

4. Sin unto death; i.e. Moses, Aaron, Ananias & Saphira, cf. 1 Jn. 5:16-17, 1 Cor 11.

Failure to abide in Christ may result in God’s taking a Christian home.

12-17 Our relationship to one another

18ff Our relationship to the lost

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