Sunday Gathering – Jesus Masterclass – The Way
September 24, 2023

Sunday Gathering – Jesus Masterclass – The Way


This week we continue our Jesus Masterclass series with Karen Dunning speaking on The Way


In this sermon delivered by Karen, the main topic is "The Way" centered around the verses from John 15, particularly focusing on the metaphor of Jesus being the vine and believers being the branches. The sermon emphasizes the importance of an intimate, organic, and relational relationship with Jesus and allowing Him to prune and shape our lives to bear spiritual fruit.

Key Points:

  1. Jesus is the vine, and believers are the branches. A strong and intimate relationship with Jesus is vital for spiritual fruitfulness. (John 15:1-8)
  2. The concept of bearing fruit is discussed in terms of both what believers do and who they are. Actions such as serving, grace, obedience, sharing the gospel, and helping others represent bearing fruit through actions. Character traits like patience, repentance, kindness, love, self-control, and being more like Jesus symbolize bearing fruit in who believers are.
  3. Pruning is an essential process in the believer's life, facilitated by Jesus, to remove unproductive or harmful elements and allow for increased spiritual fruitfulness. This process requires trust in Jesus and an understanding of His individual work in each person's life. (John 15:2)
  4. Separation from Jesus results in an inability to produce fruit. Believers need to maintain a close, abiding relationship with Jesus to bear fruit in their lives. (John 15:5)
  5. Making ourselves at home with Jesus and allowing His words to dwell in us is crucial for a fruitful Christian life. Trusting in Jesus and earnestly seeking His guidance and help is emphasized. (John 15:7-8)
  6. A challenge is presented to believers regarding their expectations of God. Believers are encouraged to have high expectations of God's involvement and to avoid living as functional atheists, relying solely on their own resources and abilities.
  7. The ultimate message revolves around surrendering to Jesus, allowing Him to work in believers' lives, and seeking an authentic and intimate relationship with Him.

Overall, the sermon stresses the importance of an intimate and organic relationship with Jesus, allowing Him to shape our lives through pruning, and the necessity of aligning our expectations with God's ability and willingness to act in our lives.


Okay, shall we try again, that way, okay.
So, a little bit of confusion because I think today's title is the way, but the verses
are from, I'm the vine and you are the branches. So, 15. So, it will all come together in the
end, I'm sure. Do you know what, normally, I'm working on a talk all week and I'm thinking
about it, and I said to Jonathan yesterday morning, I'm really struggling with this one.
It's not often these words come out of my mouth, I need your help.
So, last night I, a friend, we're having a little get together for a 40th birthday and she'd
invited me and I said, Jonathan, I'll be back about seven, loads of time. So, what time
did you film me about nine o'clock? Where are you? I said, I'm just waiting for the cake and then
I'm coming home. So, I explained to the girls that I was doing the talk the next day and Jonathan
was going to help me and that Jonathan was doing the singing and one of the girls said, well,
why don't you swap? I said, yeah, there's just one problem with that. I am absolutely tone
deaf and the building would be cleared before anything else happened. In fact, I remember, I don't
know if you remember this one, we're at Bible College in the chapel service and I, Chris Simpson
and I never sit next to each other because we are equally tone deaf and it really does sound quite
special. So, I tend to either sing very quietly or not at all, I just mine. So, Jonathan said, why aren't
you singing that? I said, well, I don't want to put people off. And he said, oh, no, you singers,
how did you like? I'll drown you out, it's not a problem. And that must be, I don't know, 42
years ago, and it's still been driving me out. So, do you want to do your stuff, Steve?
Okay. So, because I'm a teacher, it's got to be interactive, okay? So, to start with,
whilst we're on holiday, Nick sends me an email saying, Karin, would you mind speaking and doing
the conclusion to the Jesus Master Class? Fine, yeah, no problem, okay? Then I think, oh, it's
not as easy as I thought it was going to be. So, we've got a few scriptures here that I'm going to
be using and obviously, I'm going to need your help. Karin's interaction is always good and it's
stopped shuffling asleep. But first of all, the thing I want to say is, this is for a lot of people,
it's a very familiar passage. Is that okay? Are you all right with that one?
So, I've chosen the message to read it from just because it's slightly says it in a different way,
and sometimes it brings things to life in a different way. So, you'll excuse me for using it,
but I do have a reason, if you see what I mean. So, we're going to start with John 15128.
If you've got a Bible and it's a different version, please feel free to read it in your version.
So, Jesus said, I am the real vine and my father is the farmer. He cuts off every branch of me
that doesn't bear grapes and every branch that is grape-bearing, he prunes back so it will bear
even more. You're already pruned back by the message I have spoken. Living me, make your home
in me just as I do in you. In the same way that branch cannot bear grapes by itself,
but only being joined to the vine. You can't bear fruit unless you're joined with me.
I am the vine and you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you,
the relation is intimate and organic. The harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce
a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the ban on fire,
but if you make yourselves at home in me and my words are at home in you,
you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.
And we're going to start with that. So I bought a visual aid.
Recognise it? This is out by garden. We don't have a good relationship me in this vine.
I planted it in the shade. I planted it in the shade. Yes, what? No grapes at all.
So I fell out with it a couple of years ago. And yeah, it just grows and it grows and it grows.
I mean, it's quite prolific really. This is just one little bit of it.
And I thought, you know what, whilst I go and cut some, I'm just going to have a little look,
see if I can see anything that resembles fruit. Nothing. I'm going to talk a little bit about what I'm
going to do with it later. So what Jesus says here, when he uses this illustration, he's talking about
us and whether we bear fruit or not. So the first thing I want to draw attention to, really,
is this idea of bearing fruit. Because I thought, well, okay, we know that a grapevine bears fruit
and that fruit is a grape. But when he's talking about us, what does that mean?
Okay. Does it mean what we do? Does it mean who we are? Or does it mean both? What do you think?
You think both? Okay. So when we talk about fruit in terms of what we do, what does that actually
look like? What does that mean? Serving? Okay. What else? Great. Okay. So we've got
grace. I think what you were saying there is obedience. Anybody else wants to chuck anything in
the mix? Action. Action. Listen. Yeah, at the back. Helping others.
Okay. Praise. You see, you're all ready to begin in what we talked about.
Pardon? Okay. Sorry, Dylan. Following.
If angelizing is just sharing, go with evangelizing sort of thing. Okay. We'll put sharing.
And if I put it, then the gospel. Stuart ship. I ran out of room here, people. Right. We'll stop
there. I'm sure you've got loads. Okay. Put your hand up if you do all that all the time.
Oh, that's good to know. I thought I was the only one. Okay. Next one. We're talking about fruit.
If we're talking about that beer, about who we are. I don't know whether this one's a bit harder.
What does that look like for us? Okay. So we're going with patience again.
Holy repentance. Kindness. Kindness. Loving. Joy. So controlled.
Caring. You found in this one easier. Self-control, forgiveness, thankfulness.
More like Jesus transformation. Oh, that's a long word. Transformation.
And like Jesus and a child of God. Can't spell that once. I'm not putting it on.
But I'll give it you. Keep going. Thank you. Okay. Same question. Put your hand up if you like
that all the time. Okay. So what Jesus is saying is this is where he would
with him together. This is where we end towards. Would that be fair enough? Okay.
I'm just going to think about one. When Jesus started talking about this,
some of the words that really struck me from this particular message version.
I'm the vine. You are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you,
the relation is intimate and organic. So that intimate relationship supports all of this,
doesn't it? And I like that word organic because it's almost an individual word because although
Jesus love for each of us is the same because it's enormous. His relationship with us is an
individual relationship because he's created us as individuals. So how he might need to work in
the life of one person won't be the same as how he might need to work in the life of another person.
So it's organic. And you know what? For that to work, there has to be a trust that Jesus knows
what he's doing. And that's again, easier said than done, isn't it? Okay. This pruning bit.
Okay. So I remember, Dylan, you probably don't remember this. I remember coming to your house and
I'm assuming you've still got the vine on the, and you said you need to cut it back every year.
Yeah. So I enjoyed doing that. I cut it back and every year it grows profusely without the fruit.
So this idea of pruning is too full because you've got this, the absolutely cutting out of
everything that's infected or of no use. But also, and this is true of a lot of plants, including
fig trees, that if you cut back enough, then you get more fruit. So we've also, no, Jonathan's got
a fig tree in our garden. And there are lots of little figs. And sometimes it's about cutting
back so that you get more fruit. More branches does not necessarily mean more fruit. So I'm thinking,
I'm not getting any fruit out of that. He's looking at me. I'm thinking it's time to go.
I'll give it another year and I'll try to be nicer to it. But pruning happens in our lives.
Jesus is very, very clear on that. It's not my relationship with that, whereas sometimes I'll
look at it and think I need to do something with it and then I'll look at it and think, I give up.
Jesus' relationship with us is that bit needs pruning. I need to develop that bit so I'm going to prune
a little bit here so that it grows more fruit. But I get my second tours out and I can chop that back.
But for Jesus to be able to do that in our lives, that vine doesn't need to do anything.
But where it comes to him pruning in our lives, that's organic and relational, isn't it?
It doesn't just happen because Jesus looks at us and thinks, I just need, we need to work on
that bit together. It's that relational thing together. Does that make sense? Okay.
So it's that intimate organic relational aspect of pruning that can have most impact on our lives.
And that's where, when I said I found this one really hard, that's where I began to feel a bit,
wow, dear, this is hard. Because the problem with when you give a talk is it makes you look at yourself
because you can't be a hypocrite and stand at the front and tell everybody else how they need to be.
You've got to look at yourself first. So I found that quite difficult.
Okay. And then, this is the next bit that I found difficult. Moving on from that, it says,
separated, you can't produce a thing. Separated, you can't produce a thing. So if you haven't got
that relationship, that intimate organic relationship, you're not going to produce anything,
like that. Couldn't care too hoots about that line all summer. Didn't do the right things at all,
nothing. Intimate organic relational. Okay. And then it says, but if you make yourselves at home with
me, do you know when you're at home with somebody, when you feel comfortable with them,
you open yourself up a bit, don't you? You share things that you might not share with a stranger,
and what Jesus is saying is, when you make yourselves at home with him and his words are at home
with you, listen to this bit, you can be sure whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon,
listened to and acted upon. And this is where Jonathan and I had a conversation in terms of
level of expectation. And then I'm going to read something that Jonathan posted on Facebook.
You've probably already, I don't really look at his Facebook, I have a quick look.
And I'm just going to read it so that it makes sense. Many people profess to follow Christ yet,
they live as though they are atheists. I thought that's a bit harsh.
They are functional atheists. When they pray, they do not expect or need God to answer.
Usually they do not have needs to pray for. They are Christians yet they are so self-sufficient
that they do not need help from God. They live out their faith as though everything depends
on them. Their intelligence, their credit cards, their work ethic, technology, etc. Many do not have
space to receive from God even if God forces a gift on them. Wow. And actually, again,
do you know what? There's some truth to that, isn't there? You know, we live in a society where
I have a job, I have a home. I could be fairly self-sufficient from God.
So, therefore, it has to be a choice that we are not self-sufficient from God.
And things like the NHS, social care, lots of things that we have in this country make it
easy to be supported by other things than God. Whereas if you go to a third world country,
the only thing many of those people have is God.
God, that's a challenge. Do I want all those things taken away?
Real challenge. You can see why I found this a tad difficult. Okay.
I said, Steve, I'm not going to be long because this isn't about me telling you how you should
live your life. That's between you making yourself at home with God and His Word being at home with
you. All I'm going to do now is share where I went with this for me, but it's up to you to work
out your own salvation. I'm not here to tell you how to do it. I'm just here to share
how I felt this scripture spoke to me and pull out some things for you. So, for me,
our relationship with God should be intimate and organic. He should be at home with us,
we should be at home with Him. His Word should very much be a part of our lives and I'm going to
put my hand up and say, in mine it's not. You know how some people say, I let my head rule my heart
or I let my heart rule my head. As a Christian, it gives us intelligence, but he also gives us love.
So, I think our head and our heart should work together. We work things out with God.
If we open ourselves up to that pruning, it's a conversation. You know, as God in Isaiah says,
let us argue the case together. You know, tell me what you think. There's a member of the congregation
who over the last few weeks came to me and said, I'm sick of God speaking to me. I'm finding this
really hard and I can't do it. I can't do what God is asking me of me. I can't do it and getting
really upset. I don't want to come to church anymore because I'm sick of God speaking to me to ask
him to do something I can't do. Honestly, I said, just tell God that. Ask him to help you. That's
what the Holy Spirit's for. And as you do that, you'll get to the point where you can. But be
honest with God, don't hide. Be at home with him. Let his Holy Spirit work with you to get you to
that point. Head and heart work together. Okay, so God's interested in who we are and what we do.
Okay, so there's both and we've got this wonderful project, but it's also about who we are as well.
What we do in all of the different buildings, how we are socially with other people,
but it's who we are as well as what we do. We are relational. And God has made us relational beings.
And then my, I'm sorry, God challenged me with this. I'm chicken out because I like to share.
So my role in school is under special needs coordinator. And I meet with teachers to set
goals for the special needs children on an individual basis. And what I say about those goals
is, are they realistic and achievable? Because they're set for a term. And you know, it's
a mantra, are those goals realistic and achievable? And you know what I've worked out came as a
bit of a light bulb moment. I think I've almost transferred that into my expectations of what God
can do. Am I realistic in asking that of God? Do I really believe that that's achievable?
Because if not, I'm not going to ask. So what is our expectations? High expectations of God
as opposed to of us and of our own resources. And it's that. Which camp are we in?
So all of the master classes that we've had over a number of weeks have given us lots of information.
But in the end, what Jesus is saying to us is, I am the vine. You are the branches. How much are
you going to allow me to work with your branches, so to speak? To do that pruning that needs to be
done. And how much are you going to allow me to be at home with you and my words to be at home with
you? Let's pray. And I think sometimes, you know, we go away and we we've heard a talk and all
that kind of stuff. But all of this is about our relational stuff, isn't it? It's about who we
are in Jesus and how much we allow him to be part of us. So it's about asking, it's about you in
your relationship, asking God to do what you need him to do, that personal pruning in your life.
Okay, let's pray together.
Jesus, I want to thank you because you're a much better gardener than I am,
that you love every single one of us in a way that actually we have no idea how much that is
because it's immeasurable. You love us in a way that says, do you know what I want to help?
I want to help you. Father, please allow us to let Jesus in to let his holy spirit come alongside us
and work in us. Stop as being self-sufficient Christians. Help us to believe that you listen to us
and that you want to act upon what we say and what we ask for.
Father, speak to us individually and stirers where you need to stirers,
comforters where we need that comfort, challenges where we need that challenge.
But most of all help us to recognise that you are a good, good father and Jesus that you are
a gardener that only wants us to bear the best fruit we can in your name, Jesus. Amen.

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