The Soul Garden

Pastor Jerry Gillis - February 23, 2020

Community Group Study Notes

  • Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.  When finished, give others an opportunity in the group to add their own thoughts as to what the message was about. 

  • Read John 15:1-17 together as a group.  What is the key word that tells us how to bear fruit?  (Did you come up with the word “remain” or “abide”?)  Discuss as a group what it means to remain or abide in the vine – using the analogy Pastor Jerry gave of how the grape-producing process works?  Why is so necessary to abide in the Vine (that is Jesus?) to bear fruit? And how does a believer abide in Jesus? 

  • Pay attention, as a group, to the mention of fruit in the John 15 passage.  How does Jesus define this fruit and what would it look like if a believer is producing it? 

  • Now, turn your attention to Galatians 5:22-26.  How does Paul define fruit and how does a believer produce it? 

  • God wants to prune anything in our life that gets in the way of producing fruit.  What are some things that might be considered good that get in the way of you producing fruit ?  What are some things that are not good that God wants to prune in your life so that you produce fruit? 

  • What has God taught you in this Soul Garden series – weeding, seeding, watering, and pruning – and what steps will you take to internalize what He has taught you? 


Sermon Transcript

So our Niagara region that we live in that covers a portion a bit kind of north and west of us, just a little bit up into Southern Ontario, in this whole Niagara region, it's both a famous place and a historical place. Famous because there's a little bit of water that falls over a cliff that you guys have probably heard of. Niagara Falls, one of the wonders of the world that everybody comes to see right here kind of in our area, which is super cool.

But it's also historical. I'm not claiming to be a historical expert, but there are some things that maybe we're all reasonably familiar with that is historical to our Niagara region. For instance, being settled by native American people so many, many years ago and thus all of the names of many of the towns and the rivers and the highways and all of that come from native American language. In fact, the word Niagara actually comes from a native American tribe. It's not that exact word, it's a word that I had trouble pronouncing, so I'm not going to do it here, but it's where we get the word actually Niagara.

Of course Fort Erie that's right there in the Niagara region also had a significant place in the war of 1812 when the British and the US were fighting. The US held off the British there at Fort Erie, so it has a piece of historical significance. And then here in the latter days of us celebrating black history month here in the United States, I'm reminded of how the underground railroad operated coming through the Niagara region with people like Harriet Tubman for instance, who was one of the conductors on the railroad.

By the way, if you're not familiar with this language that I'm using, not a real railroad. Okay, not a [inaudible 00:03:13]. This was an opportunity for people like Harriet Tubman to be able to lead slaves to freedom, many of them into Canada and did so through the Niagara region. In fact, crossing over on suspension bridges across the Niagara Gorge to be able to get into St. Catharines where Harriet Tubman actually made a residence for some time and transferred hundreds and I think even thousands of people out of slavery into freedom.

And so, there's a whole lot that we can ascribe to the Niagara region in terms of both history and what it's famous for. But maybe more recently, I would say in the last hundred years or so, one of the things that the Niagara region has become very famous for is grapes. Some of you are familiar with this, right? Grapes. These really look really good. I mean, I like grapes personally. In fact, more specifically, I like purple ones. They're not really called purple, they're called red but they're purple, which is why I call them purple. You can have the green ones like you can... that's all you.

If you ever want to share them with me, I will decline in Jesus' name. I don't want the green ones, I want the purple ones. I like the taste of them. I'm a great guy. In fact, that's what I eat on Sunday mornings generally. I have just a few grapes on Sunday morning because it's just not good to eat a breakfast burrito before you get up here and do what I do. It's like, open your Bible to a... right? So I just have a few grapes and drink a little bit of water and that's good enough for me. You didn't need that full dramatization, did you really? I understand.

The good thing is those grapes you don't have far to go because we have in the neighborhood, I think it's just under, but in the neighborhood in the Niagara region of like a hundred vineyards that are in the Niagara region. We have tons and tons of them. Some of you have done the tours of those vineyards. Some of you met somebody in the last worship gathering who has a vineyard themselves. Their family's had it for five generations. So, I realized that when we get to this, I'm a fan of grapes, I like the produce of grapes. I like to eat them. But you can also drink them, grape juice or wine or whatever, right?

The grapes have a whole lot of stuff to commend to us and when I was in France and Spain and Finland recently doing work there, I realized in France, in Spain, they grow a whole lot of grapes there as well. They all take a backseat to Italy. Italy is the mother of grapes, right? That's where pretty much they rule the world of grapes. But France and Spain, they love the produce of the grape as well, just like I do. I like to eat them. Some of you like grape juice or wine or whatever, but the grape product is something that we generally speaking really like.

But the interesting thing is that many of us, and really I should say me, maybe you do, but many of us don't recognize the process of what it takes to get to this. These are beautiful grapes, man. They're purple. I know they're red, but they're purple and they taste awesome and they're supple and they're really, really good. What does it take to get to that? It's actually a process that we may not completely know a whole lot about, including me by the way, but sometimes we're not so interested in process, we're just interested in produce.

Now, the last number of weeks we've been talking in this series called the Soul Garden and we've been exploring ideas around our soul, how our soul can grow in kind of Christ likeness really, and we talked about the need for weeding and for seeding and for watering. We're using the metaphors that the scripture itself actually uses to describe these very things. In these messages we have either taught directly from the words of Jesus or we have referenced the words of Jesus because Jesus had a tendency to speak from an agricultural metaphorical picture when he would teach, whether that's about seeds or weeds or birds or when he talked about even fruit and trees and roots and all of those things, right?

And so, today's not going to be any different. I'm going to be using the metaphor that Jesus uses to help us see some things about the Soul Garden and we're going to be in John chapter number 15. Now, let me set up for you what's going on in John chapter 15 so that you have some idea of what's happening. This is a time that's getting near to the time of Jesus' resurrection. He has already had his last Passover meal with his disciples. Judas has checked out and we'll be revisiting shortly where he's going to betray Jesus with a kiss. Jesus has a conversation with Peter and describes to Peter that he's going to deny Jesus and Peter just can't seem to process that that's ever going to be the case even though we know it actually does happen.

And so, now Jesus is actually starting to talk to his disciples in some really loving and comforting and instructive ways in this conversation that he has either just after the meal on the way to the garden or maybe even there in. And in that conversation where he teaches them about how the role of the Holy Spirit is going to come and be with them, then Jesus begins to describe some things about their own spiritual development and their own spiritual growth and what that actually is going to look like. He uses a metaphor from agriculture that I think we should pay attention to in our time together today.

Look at what it says. Beginning in verse number one of John chapter 15 it says. These are Jesus' words. "I am the true vine and my father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." You see, what we learn right out of the gate when we begin to read this passage and hear the words of Jesus being spoken to us is we learn that the father is the gardener, Jesus is the true vine, and the disciples are the branches of that vine. He gives us this metaphorical picture.

Now, Jesus says, "I am the vine. I am the true vine." I won't go into the detail of the Old Testament talking about Israel as a vine and how Jesus is actually the true vine. He's everything that Israel was destined to be but failed to be, but he as a true Israelite has fulfilled now. So Jesus is the true vine, the father is the gardener and then we, the disciples, particularly them that he's speaking to there, but by extension us, those of us who put our faith in Jesus, we are the branches of that vine. This is the picture that he sets up right in the very beginning.

Now, this probably should go without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway. One rule of speaking; if you have to say, it goes without saying, then you don't need to say it. Nonetheless, I am breaking that rule because I think it's important for us to establish something very, very important in this text and it's this. The gardener desires fruit. Why does it seemingly kind of be, okay, that's no surprise. That should go without saying, Jerry, that the gardener desires fruit. I mean, think about it, right? The whole point of having a vineyard is fruit, right? You don't just have it for no reason. It's just not on occupied land doing nothing. You have a vineyard because you desire fruit. And so, what we learn quickly is that the gardener actually desires fruit. He wants us to be even more fruitful. He desires an abundance of fruit.

Now, if the gardener, the father, has gone to such pains to give us a vine that is a source for us, if he's gone to such pains to give us this vine so that now when we put our faith in Jesus, this true vine, and we become branches, don't you think that his expectation is that there will be fruit coming from the branches of the vine? Well, of course. He's gone to great trouble. I mean, the word was with God and was God and the word became flesh and dwelt among us. If God put skin on and came to be with us as a true vine, a true source for us to find our sustenance and our life, then his expectation is that there will be fruit born out from the vine.

Now, here's what we know. The gardener, the father, loves the vine, the son. He loves the vine. We know that from John as we read John's Gospel. All through it you figure that out real quickly. In fact, when you read all of the Gospels, you figure that out real quickly that the gardener loves the vine. The father loves the son. But here's the great news that when we put our faith in Jesus who is the true vine and we become a branch of that vine, that the father, through the son, loves us.

That's really good news for us by the way, that the father actually loves us and that the father glorifies the son and, listen to this, the branches that are in the vine can also glorify the father just like the son does. This is what God's desire is. In fact, if you look in John 15 down at verse number eight, you'll see it say this. Jesus says, "This is to my father's glory that you bear much fruit showing yourselves to be my disciples." This is to my father's glory that you bear much fruit. So just as the son glorifies the father, so those of us who are in the son can also glorify the father by being fruitful people. So the gardener wants, desires fruit. That's really good news and here's why. Listen to this. Because that means that he is for us.

You see, the gardener who has given us the vine and now the branches that are in the vine, those who believe in Jesus, the vine, because he loves the son, he now loves us through the son, and now he desires for our lives to be fruitful. So he's committed to us in love and he's also, listen to this, he's for us because he desires fruit. Now there's a reason that I tell you that, and here's what I want you to do. I want us to make sure that we get that. That you are loved by the father and that the father is for you. So I want you to say this after me. The father loves me. Say it.

(The father loves me.)

The father is for me. Say it.

(The father is for me.)

Try it again. The father loves me.

(The father loves me.)

The father is for me.

(The father is for me.)

Do you believe that?


You should because that's the essence of the teaching of the New Testament for those who've put their faith in Jesus Christ, that because of the son, the father lavishes his love upon us and he is for us. If God is for us, who can be against us? The scripture says, right? The father is... he loves us and he's for us and there's a reason that I'm telling you all of that from the beginning, is because the father, the gardener, he desires fruit and there's a way that he gets at fruitfulness; and if you're not careful and you don't understand that the gardener loves the vine and loves the branches of the vine and is for it and desires its fruitfulness, if you don't understand that, then this might shake you a little bit as to how the father actually gets fruitfulness from the branches.

You do know how that occurs, right? We just read it a moment ago, but let's look at it again in verse number two. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. He prunes. I'm not referring now, listen, I'm not referring to the fruit that you eat that's really good for your digestion, not what I'm talking about. Prunes in the Greek language can also be translated cleans, and so the idea of pruning means cutting away or removal of that which hinders fruitfulness, whether it's a bad thing or whether it's even a reasonably okay thing but it's still hindering maximum fruitfulness. That's the idea of pruning. Pruning sometimes may not be the best feeling in the whole world. I get it. But what it does is it actually gets us to a place of fruit bearing.

Now, if I can take this out of the gardening and the vineyard world, because I know absolutely nothing about gardening and I know absolutely less about vineyards and vines, let's take it out of that. Some of you could maybe think about this in a different way. If you've been a writer or you've had to write, you know what it's like to be edited. I wrote a doctoral dissertation and when I turned it in and got it back, I called the police because I thought there had been a murder. There was so much red on my doctoral dissertation that I thought, you have absolutely murdered this thing. It is bleeding. I had to take it to the hospital.

I'm walking in with my dissertation going, "You got to do something." "What's the problem?" "My dissertation, this is bleeding. It's bleeding." And they're like, "Well, what type of blood?" I'm like, "Times New Roman, do something!" Right? So we all know that feeling, but the idea of editing is to cut away that which doesn't need to be there to be able to get at what you really are trying to do. Good editors know how to do that.

Or maybe you've been an athlete. Men, women, you've been an athlete and you understand what training actually looks like. That to really get to the place that you're trying to go, whether that's speed or strength or whatever that might be, that you've got a lot of things in your life that through training have to be removed, have to be cut away. Even some things that you viewed as pretty good things that you realized weren't the best thing to get me where I'm trying to go. Or maybe you've been in the military and you understand a thing or two about discipline. That they cut it out of you or beat it out of you or ran it out of you or push-uped it out of you, whatever. You understand a little bit about what discipline is because there's things in your life that have to be removed so that you can get to the highest level of efficiency in what you were doing.

So whether that's gardening or whether that's writing or whether that's being in the military or being an athlete, we kind of understand the idea that through pruning or discipline or training or editing, that there are things that have to be cut away so that we can find our highest degree of fruitfulness. That's what you need to understand pruning to be, because that gives us our second truth today and it's this, that pruning is to free us for fruitfulness. That's the point of it. You see, when you look at it upside down, it looks like punishment to some people, that pruning is punishment. Pruning is not punishment. Pruning is for the purpose of freeing us for greatest fruitfulness. And this is something that we need to be able to grab hold of and understand that the gardener loves us and that the gardener is for us and because of that, he's not going to leave us alone.

Let me explain. As I mentioned, I know literally nothing about gardening. I know nothing. I am just the agent of death everywhere I go when it comes to being in a yard, okay? If you want things to die, call me. I'm your guy. I need to just develop a business where I've just got the angel of death on the side of a big trailer that I haul. I'll kill all your plants. That's kind of me. So, I'm no good at that. I have zero understanding of vines and vineyards, okay? Just know that from the outset.

But while I was in Spain, I was there with a kingdom-cum-partner of ours named Alex Belmar, Alejandro Belmar, and he's a king-cum-partner of our church. And so, some of you have prayed for him; as you've opened the on mission magazine and you've prayed through that, you've seen him. And so, Alex speaks pretty good English. He speaks actually quite good English. It's not perfect and I hope he's watching. It's pretty good. I actually understand and speak a little bit of Spanish, not near as good as his English but I do sometimes. So, when he's translating for me, I know if he's saying things that I didn't say. And he knows that I know that. You know that I know that.

And so, after a very long day of ministry we were catching up a little bit. I know his family, I know his wife and I've met his kids. I know one of them, Joshua in particular. He just got married. So I was asking him about that and we were talking. He was telling me about Joshua's wife and how much he loves her and how great she is. And then he told me about her parents and specifically he said, "Yeah, her dad is actually a pastor and he owned a farm with grapes." And I went, "What? What!" And he's like, "Yeah, he owned a farm with grapes." And I went, "Could you text him and see if he would be willing to have a conversation with me because I'm going to be preaching on fruitfulness and pruning and stuff and I need to be schooled here. Can you do that for me?" He's like, "Sure."

So his name's Randall Anderson. I had a conversation with him by phone this past week and I said, "Randall, you are Mr Miyagi, I'm Danielson. I am just going to stand here. I'm going to be on the other line. I'm going to let you talk and I'm going to write everything down because I just want to learn." He's like, "Well, okay." He said, "The truth is that I was a novice at this when we first got this land." And he said, "I tended to the soil for months. I wanted the soil to be perfect. I mean, I did it for months." And I was like, "Okay, cool. That makes sense to me."

He said, "And then I got the root stock of the grapevine basically and I planted it. Then I watered it and did what I'm supposed to do and all of that." He said, "But I realized pretty quickly, I don't really know exactly what should be happening. Now it's growing and there's stuff coming out and it's starting to grow and flower and fruit and stuff. I didn't really know what was going on. So I called a consultant, and this is what she does. I brought her in and I wanted to make sure she knew what was going on. And so she came."

It's interesting what he said to me. He said the first thing that she did when she came is she looked at the beginning of his vine and branches and all that stuff, and she started pulling that thing almost out of the ground. And he's like, "Hey, hey, hey, hey. I've been tending the soil for awhile. I've meticulously planted this thing as it's supposed," and she's jumping on it, [inaudible] doing all this stuff. He's like, "What is happening?" And she said, "I'm stressing it because I want it to fight for its life because if it doesn't, it will produce anemic, diseased, superficial fruit. And it only has so much energy to be dispelled within the branches and I want the energy focus to be pushed back into the roots because the roots need to drive down way further."

I'm just writing all this down and I'm just going, "Dude, man. This guy is making my sermon for me. It's incredible." Then he tells me this vine and branches, that it gets pruned three or four times a year, cleared out. And by the way, year one, flowering, grapes coming out, all of that stuff. And you know what she did? She just took them all off. She wouldn't let it. She said, "Superficial. It's not what you want. It's not going to give you the quality that you need. We got to stress it a little bit more for three to five years."

Pruned three to four times a year over the course of three to five years, stressing this vine, stressing these branches so that they fight for their life and drive the roots down even further. Because she said, "When that finally happens and those roots get down where they're supposed to be and they're locked in as they're supposed to be, this vine, these branches will be fruitful for decades, giving you a beautiful, beautiful fruit." I'm just writing all of this down. I'm like, "This is remarkable stuff."

Now, there's a whole lot we can grab from this, right? There's tons that we could pull from this, but what I want to remind you of is this, is that the gardener desires fruit and he's going to engage in pruning so that you can maximize your fruitfulness. But you need to understand something. He's not going to leave you alone. In our spiritual lives, when we are grafted into this vine, when we become a branch of the vine by putting our faith and trust in Jesus, the true vine, there will come times in our lives where, listen, the gardener is going to have to shake us. He's going to shake us and you're going to feel like, man, he's pulling the roots out on me. What's going on?

No, no, no, no, no. He's shaking you because he longs and desires for your fruitfulness, not for some superficial flowering that happens way too early, but instead, the long process of obedience of being conformed into the image of the son of God. He won't leave us alone. He wants fruit. What does fruit look like? When we talk spiritually, what are we talking about? We're not just talking about grapes here like we're talking about here. What are we really talking about? Well, the New Testament talks about fruit in a number of different ways. It talks about the fruit of our lips that praise his name, the fruits of righteousness.

Generally speaking, when the New Testament talks about fruit, it's talking about the character of Christ being formed in us that leads to actions consistent with the way and life of Jesus. That's generally kind of the New Testament picture when we talk about the idea of fruit. In fact, when Paul was talking about that idea and writing to the church of Galicia, notice what he said in Galatians 5. He said, "But the fruit of the spirit that lives in us, the life of Jesus in us is love, joy, peace, forbearance or patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Paul's actually talking about the character of Christ is being born in us, is being formed in us. And when the father is pruning us, what he's doing is he's removing those things which would hinder our maximal fruitfulness. Why? Because he loves us. Because he's for us. That's why he's doing this. Maybe I can put it in some different terms so that you could see this even more clearly. Some of you are familiar with the 16th century Italian renaissance sculptor, and he did qualify himself as a sculptor first, but he's also a very famous painter named Michelangelo. You might remember him from the Sistine Chapel ceiling which he painted, which is probably one of the most famous paintings in the world, kind of tells the story of creation and those kinds of things.

He also sculpted David, which is one of the most famous sculptures in the world, and the Pietà, which is another one of the most famous sculptures in the world. But when he was really young, he actually did a sculpture that was called The Angel, and he was a prodigy, right? He was asked, and this is reasonably documented, he was asked, "How did you do this? You looked at this marble, you looked at what you were sculpting with, and you got this incredible," it's in Italy still, "This incredible sculpture of this Angel. How did you do this?" Here's what he said. "I saw the Angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free."

Legend has it... By the way, when somebody says legend has it, that means it can't be corroborated. But legend has it that he was also asked about how he carved David and this was purportedly his response. "I just chipped away everything that didn't look like David." You see, this is the picture of what we're seeing here when we look at the idea of pruning, that what God is doing as the gardener is he is chipping away everything that doesn't look like Jesus in your life because he is fitting you for eternity, because our destiny is that we are going to be made like him, that we will see him as he is and we will be like him. The scripture says that actually we are destined for this kind of living, that the father is so committed to this outcome, listen to this, that he actually predestined this outcome in our lives.

Listen to how Paul said it in Romans 8. "For those God foreknew he also predestined to what? To be conformed to the image of his son." That God said, when people come to faith in my son, what I am predestining to happen in their life is that they are being in an increasing way conformed into the image of the son until such a time as the son of God returns and we are made like him. We are being fit for eternity. That's what pruning is doing in our lives. Listen to this. Pruning isn't punishment. Pruning is the father freeing us to be fruitful. Why? Because he loves us and because he's for us and he desires fruit. Listen to that again. Pruning isn't punishment. Pruning is the father freeing us to fruitfulness.

Let me give you a third kind of truth that rises out of this, but I want you to see it in the text itself in verses four and five. Jesus says, "Remain in me as I also 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. I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit." Listen to this, "But apart from me you can do," say it with me,


"Nothing." You said it before me. Say it with me. "Nothing." Yeah, there you go. Learn to follow instructions people, what's the problem? Apart from me, you can do nothing. Jesus says, "I'm the vine. You are the branches and apart from me you can do nothing." That leads me to the third truth that I want to share with you and it's this. The quality is in the vine, not in the fruit. This statement actually is a statement that Randall, the guy I was talking to on the phone, he made this exact statement and I wrote it down verbatim. I was like, "Point 3 in my message right here." The quality is in the vine, not in the fruit.

Then he started telling me stories. He said, "Let's say, for instance, you eat some grapes and you love them. You're like, these are the best grapes I've ever tasted in my life. These are from the heavens. I am eating these grapes. They're incredible. I want more of them. I am going to take the seed out of one of these grapes and I am going to plant the seeds of these grapes and then I'm going to grow grapes that taste like that grape right there." He went, "No, you're not. No you're not." He said, "You can grow grapes from the seeds." He said, "You could plant them and tend to them and they would grow and they would flower and you would get grapes, but they wouldn't be remotely close to what you had. You know why? Because the quality is in the vine, not in the fruit."

We do well to remember that; because what happens in our lives from time to time is that we see the power of Jesus to transform our lives and now he's maybe shaken us some and now we've begun to bear some fruit and it's a wonderful thing and we bear fruit and then we kind of admire that fruit and go, "Man, that's pretty good. Look at what I've done. I am now going to try in my own strength to reproduce this." You won't, because the quality is in the vine. Jesus said, "Abide in me and I in you and you will bear much fruit, but apart from me you can do nothing. Apart from me you can do nothing."

Now, here's the interesting thing is that looks can be deceiving because what can happen is you could take the seeds out of that grape and you could plant other grapes and you could say, "These are going to be the best grapes you've ever tasted in your whole entire life because I took them from the seeds of the best tasting grapes ever and I planted them and then I grew them and they're the grapes." And then you bite into them and you go, "Nope, not the same." You know why, quality was in in the vine.

Same is true spiritually ladies and gentlemen. Listen carefully. Same is true spiritually because sometimes appearances can be deceiving. We may, by the power of the spirit of God, be able to do some things that bring fruitfulness and it's because of him, not because of us, right? They bring fruitfulness and we have borne fruit in our lives because of our connection to Jesus. But then we try to capture that in our own flesh and we do some other things by our own effort. Here's the thing, it looks like the same fruit until someone bites into it and they're like, "I mean, the fruit that I experienced from their life earlier was really sweet, man. I mean, it was just... it was beautiful. This doesn't taste the same." It's because the quality is in the vine, not the fruit.

"Apart from me," Jesus says, "You can do nothing." Effort will produce results, but fruit only comes by relationship. That's it. Fruit only comes from relationship that we have with the Lord Jesus Christ and what he's doing and has done in our lives. So this picture of the father as the gardener and the son as the vine and we as the branches is really helpful for us as we begin to think about and continue to think about the idea of the Soul Garden and how we cultivate Christ likeness in our hearts. What we have to remember is this, is that the gardener, he desires fruit.

The good news is, he loves the vine and he loves every branch attached to it. But his expectation is, if I've got a vineyard, there's going to be fruit because this is what ultimately glorifies the father. Why does it glorify the father? Because when he prunes us, remember he loves us and he's for us and his pruning is to free us to fruitfulness that when he does this, we now look more like the image of Jesus, that he's cutting away in our lives everything that doesn't look like Jesus. And do you know why that's super important for our mission? Because the world doesn't need more of me, it needs more of him.

And when Jesus, listen, when Jesus can be seen in my life and in your life, people can now taste and see that the Lord is good. People can now smell the aroma of Christ that is this fragrant thing to them that attracts them to the beauty and the glory of who he is as opposed to something bitter. So this picture is a rich picture for us to embrace. Now, the truth is there's a bunch of people that are getting baptized today and that they are in this process of having their own lives spiritually formed, right?

In coming to faith in Jesus Christ, they've had to experience weeding, this repentance of pulling out things that don't belong. They've had to experience seeding the word, watering by the spirit of God inside of us and even the pruning that comes as a result of that. And even though there are many of them that are getting baptized on all of our campuses, including here, we can't hear from every single one of them in terms of their whole story but I'll tell you how we're going to do that in just a little bit. But we at least wanted to give you some sense of one of their stories and even hear how even the metaphor of this story in terms of the Garden of the Soul has transpired in their lives. Take a look at Pam's story.


Hi. My name is Pam and I've been following Christ since May of 2018. I know on reflection there have been people that have come in and out of my life trying to help me turn towards him. But there was always something that I put first that kept me from turning. Every day was dread. I'd open my eyes in the morning and it was like, I have to face all this again because the shame and the guilt, it was just right there in my face and it would be with me. I'd carry it through the day. I could be driving and it would hit me on my face.

Shame and guilt and anger; I was feeding those and I realized that I needed to cut those from my life. After I let him in and I turned it all over to him, my mornings are peaceful. I don't wake up thinking. And it was amazing when I first realized that, I had gone a few days and thought, I haven't thought about that or I haven't let that bother me. And by working through counseling and identifying scripture that spoke to shame and guilt and fear and anger, that I was able to work through those and actually cut those out of my life.

I had to change what I'd prioritized as important. And I think the I, what I prioritized as important was what I needed to do and change the priority to him. I was always one to, in the morning, unload the dishwasher and take care of the laundry. There were a hundred other things I needed to do, but I committed to making reading and praying first thing. And now it's to the point where if I don't do it, my whole day is thrown off. When I used to drink in, the guilt and shame and fear, it just left me dry and hollow inside. Now his word quenches that thirst in ways sometimes I can't even explain to people. But there's a fullness now where there was one's emptiness and that is through his word, the ways I've grown through his word and learned through his word and now I pray on how to share his word so that other people can feel that same fullness.

The reason that baptism is so important is because I can't move from that tree with rotten roots to that tree with good roots. I realized that I needed to sever that anchor root of fear and wash those roots of guilt and shame and anger in baptism waters so that I was ready to be planted in the soil of his word. I mean, that's literally how I see it. And that I would have now that firm foundation and that ability to connect to that anchor root of insurance and grow.

Jerry Gillis

Great story, huh? It's beautiful. And you can hear the language of weeding and seeding and watering and pruning that was all through the course of that story. And we're going to give you an opportunity to see these folks that are getting baptized. I'm going to ask, if they would, to go ahead and join me up on the platform. And as they're doing that, I want to remind those of you who are here, maybe you came as a friend of theirs or a family member to support them. Or maybe you're just here and this is all a bit new to you.

Let me explain real quickly what baptism is. It's us following in the way of Jesus. Jesus himself demonstrated that we were to be a people who are baptized. And here's why. Not because baptism itself saves us. We are only saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ because of what he did through his death and his resurrection. That he's the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the father except through him. So it's by faith in him that we are transformed and that we are made new, a new creation. The old is gone and all things become new. Sins are forgiven and our life has been made right before God because of what Jesus has done on our behalf, dying in our place for our sins.

So when we're being baptized, it's almost like a picture similar to a wedding ring where when I said yes to Edie and she said yes to me 26 years ago, that we exchanged rings as an outward symbol of a commitment that we had made before God and in our hearts. Now, if I could wear a full body ring, I would do that. This is just a one little ring that goes on my finger, right? But if I could just have a full body ring so that everybody would know like that dude is married. "Hey, you can't get more married than that guy. He's wearing a full body ring," right? I wear this, here's why. Because I'm so proud of being married to my wife. I'm so thankful. It's an outward symbol of something that's happened in my heart.

What baptism is, it's an outward symbol of recognizing that when we are plunged under the water, we are identifying with what Jesus has done through his death and burial. That's the idea of what baptism signifies; his death, burial, and then coming out of the grave in resurrection. So, this is what baptism actually signifies. And though we can't hear from every single one of them in terms of their stories, when they are going through the waters of baptism, we're going to hear one line from their own story that they wrote out because they've all shared their stories.

We understand where they are in the process of sharing their story and sharing their grace testimony. And you're going to hear when each one of them is baptized, one line that's been pulled out from their story in their own words so that you can have kind of a personal glimpse into things that God has done in their lives. So, in just a moment, they're going to be heading backstage to get ready and we're going to worship together as they're getting ready. But as we're doing that, I wanted to give you the opportunity to be able to say to them how excited you are about their new life in Jesus and this step of obedience. So why don't you take a moment and let them know that, huh? Incredible, huh? Incredible.

I love seeing life change in people. This is what I get out of bed in the morning to see, is life change in people. And we are blessed as a congregation to continue to see lives transformed and people following Jesus in obedience. And if you're here and you've never maybe come to that place, you've heard a lot about what we were talking about today, about the love that God has for the world, so much so that he sent his one and only son that whoever would believe in him would not perish, but would have eternal life.

That God loved us in the midst of our sin and in the midst of straying away from him, yet he still came in the person of Jesus to die on the cross to satisfy the justice of God by taking our sin upon him, dying and rising from the dead that we now can be justified through his sacrifice. That when we put our faith in Jesus, God now sees us through his son. You see, this is what it means to have our sins forgiven, our lives to be made new, that the old is gone and the new has come; just like you've seen demonstrated in so many of the lives today.

If you've never come to that place of having received Jesus, then we would love to talk to you about that. When we dismiss in just a few moments, if you're in this room or in the East Worship Center, if you'll just come straight across the atrium, there's a room called the fireside room. It's not scary. It's not a dungeon. You're not locked in there. There's some pastors and some prayer partners in there who would love to take a moment and talk to you about what it looks like to begin this journey of faith in Jesus Christ. It is the most important decision that any human being makes in their entire lives because it has eternal consequences.

And so I would encourage you, if you sense that God is speaking to you about that, about surrendering your life to him, then I want to encourage you to come by and speak to someone in there. They would love, they're there for you. They're there for you. They would love to speak to you. Maybe though you're here and you're a believer in Jesus, you've been following Jesus, but let me ask you this. When's the last time that you let God, by his spirit, prune your life? To lay everything about your life in front of him and let his word, used by the spirit, to cascade over us to prune us so that we could actually be more fruitful for the sake of the kingdom of God.

That we lay everything in front of him: relationally, emotionally, financially, mentally, habitually, whatever habits we have, and just say, "Here it is, Lord, what would you like to do?" And just cooperate with him because, listen to this, the gardener loves you. The gardener is for you but he needs to prune, maybe it's to shake, maybe it's to cut away so that you will look more and more like Jesus. And there's a reason for that, because the world needs to see Jesus in you and me.

So I want to encourage you to do what the spirit of God says do and allow him to do his work in your life because pruning isn't punishment for the child of God. Discipline isn't punishment. Training isn't punishment. Editing isn't punishment. Pruning is to free you to greater fruitfulness. This is God's desire for you and I hope that you'll take him up on it.

Father, I'm so grateful for the ways in which you speak and I'm so grateful to be a part of a church where we see consistently people coming to faith in Jesus Christ and following you in obedience, walking out their lives through our discipleship pathway, learning what it means to be a follower of Jesus. God I pray that you would in every soul that is under the sound of my voice, whether this place or watching in some other venue somewhere or listening in some place without watching, God, would you by your spirit work in ways that they didn't even see coming.

And if that requires some shaking in our lives then shake us. If that requires cutting away some things, then please do it because we want to look more like Jesus. It's your desire for us and we know that you love us and that you are for us and you desire to be glorified through our fruitfulness as we take on more and more the character and the life and the actions of Jesus. So, would you do your good pleasure in our lives that you may be glorified. We ask now in Jesus name and all God's people said, amen.

More From This Series


Pastor Wes Aarum Part 1 - Feb 2, 2020


Pastor Deone Drake Part 2 - Feb 9, 2020


Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 3 - Feb 16, 2020
Watching Now


Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 4 - Feb 23, 2020

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