Tom continues our series preaching on Jesus statement; "I am the vine" in John 15: 1-11. In this passage Jesus shows that the most important thing for christians is that they are in Christ.
This is the penultimate sermon on the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus.
If I ask the question ‘Where are you now?’ there are lots of possible answers.
For example, one could answer from a location perspective e.g. ‘I’m in my lounge’, or ‘I’m in Kingston’. Or one could focus on an age bracket and define oneself from an age perspective. E.g.’ I’m in my teens’. Or, it could be to do with health e.g. ‘I’m in good shape’. Or one could answer it from a mental health perspective: e.g. ‘I’m in a good place at the moment’.
However, if you ask a Christian ‘Where are you now?’ the first and foremost answer must be ‘I am in Christ.’
This is the most common way of describing a Christian in the New Testament, and it is the most significant thing about a Christian. A Christian’s life is hidden with Christ in God. No matter what age bracket we are in, or where we might be physically, or emotionally, or spiritually.
But this isn’t only found in the letters of the New Testament. This ‘in-ness’ is central to the entire teaching of Christ.
In Chapter 14 we read in verse 10 that the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son. Verse 17 tells us that the Father sends the Spirit who will be in us. Verse 20 says the son is in the Father, and we are in the Son and the Son is in us. And in verse 23 it tells us that the Father and the Son will make their home in those who love Christ.
This is mind-blowing stuff. To be a Christian is to be united to the Son who is in the Father; to the Father who is in the Son; to the Father who sends the Spirit. There is only one God but there are three persons, and Christians are ‘In Him’
This is a big concept, but the ‘vine and the branches’ illustration is helpful in explaining it.
Just as the Son abides in the Father [John 14], we must abide in the Son [John 15].
That is the big idea and to help us unpack it we have 3 simple questions
What does it mean to abide in the vine?
In the Old Testament, Israel was called ‘the vine’, but they failed to bear fruit for the glory of God, so God promised that one day a true vine would come, a vine who would be truly fruitful, faithful, a ‘true Israel’. Of course, Jesus Christ is that vine.
In order to be fruitful for God, disciples must abide in ‘the fruitful one’, the ‘true vine’.
In the context of this message, I think the word ‘abide’ [as the ESV translation puts it] is better than the word remain [NIV]. You can remain somewhere without it being your home. But to abide somewhere means it is your home. The branches abide in the vine. This is their home.
Even if you don’t garden much, you can understand what Jesus means. If you look at a flower, or fruit tree, and trace it from the branch into the stem down into the ground you will see that there is a network of life in every part of the plant, a network that is supplied by the root drawing up nutrients into the stem and feeding out to the tip of every branch.
Or, to use the analogy of an iPad. In order to work, it needs regular charging. It needs to be plugged into the power source and the power will flow along the cable to animate the device. Without that power supply you will have a dead device. The Christian must be plugged into Christ in order to live.
In verse 9 we are told: “As the father has loved me, so have I loved you; now abide in my love.”
This is a helpful verse. To abide in Christ is to remain in His love. Verse 3 tells us, “Already you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” Jesus has spoken a word of love to us which makes us clean.
We may be familiar with John 3 verse 16: “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
That verse is ‘a word that makes us clean’.
By Christ’s life, and death, and resurrection, and by the gift of faith, we are made clean. Jesus says: to abide in Him is to remain in His love.
Imagine a house. One room in that house tells us, ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life.’ In another room it says: ‘God demonstrates his love in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us’; Yet another room says the words of John 3:16.
This is the house where Jesus wants us to make our home. To abide in Jesus means keeping close to the gospel of the love of God in you. In verse 10 we read:
“If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love. Just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love”. One writer has put it this way:
‘Abiding in Christ must not be reduced to a mystical inner state. It must not just be a warm feeling inside’. To remain in the love of Christ we must obey his commands.
We know we can’t earn His love in this way, yet we cannot separate the two ideas. If we love Jesus, we will want to obey Him, and if we obey Him, we will remain in His love. This is not a burden.
Verse 11 tells us: “These things I have spoken that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”
It is a delightful thing to obey the living Christ. His law is not burdensome.
What happens when we do abide?
See verse 7. “If you abide in me and my word abides in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.”
It is tempting to separate up the sentence and focus on the asking part: ‘Ask for whatever you wish, and it will be given you’. That sounds great!
But we must consider the first part of the verse: ‘If my words abide in you’ ask for whatever you wish.
In our homegroup we are trying to encourage this kind of asking. What things did Paul prioritise in his prayer life? Are these the things that are important in our prayer life?
Jesus is saying: “When my words are truly in you, they will shape what you ask for. You will find yourself praying for a fruitful life, that you will persevere with Christ and that you will bring glory to the Father. If my words are in you and you bounce them back to me in prayer, then I will hear and answer because they are the things, I want for you as well.”
What a privilege to have prayer that is heard and answered for the glory of God.
Verses 5 and 8 emphasise how vital it is to be rooted in Christ, if we are to bear fruit for the Lord.
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;” [v5]
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” [v8]
In the same way that we can recognise an apple tree by its fruit, we can recognise those believers who are united to Jesus, because their lives will bloom with faith and hope and love. Apart from Christ we can do nothing, but in Him we are fruitful. All to the glory of God.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should bear fruit.” [v16]
And this is all God’s work.
In the allotments behind my house, there are some people who spend all their time working the land. They clear bugs away, they turn over the soil, they check for diseases, they protect their plants with nets. They are working tirelessly to make the plants as fruitful as possible. It’s a wonderful truth that my Father God spends his days in the allotment of my heart, making me as fruitful as I can be. He never tires. He is there 24/7, 365 days a year, in order to make me fruitful.
Sometimes, however, this can be a painful process. When we must submit to the pruning scissors it is painful. The times we are currently experiencing are painful in many ways. But if we are in Jesus, the Lord’s pruning is always to make us fruitful. If we are in His Son, we remain in His love, we obey His commands and we have this never-sleeping gardener, working to bring forth fruit for His own glory.
What happens if we don’t abide?
I have a strong childhood memory of playing with my friend in a park. We climbed a tree and were sitting on a horizontal branch when suddenly we heard a mighty crack, and the branch fell to the ground. When we had been looking up at the branch from the ground, it had looked alive and connected to the tree, but in reality, it was a dead branch. It was a kind of sham. According to Jesus, no matter how alive the branches of our life might look, if we don’t bear fruit then we are not in Him, and if we’re not in Him, judgment will follow.
In John 6:65-66 Jesus said to the disciples:” This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them. From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Who were the ones who ‘turned back’? It wasn’t ordinary members of the crowd. It was the ones who were meant to be His disciples. Think of Judas. There were many people in the life of Christ who looked like they were connected to him, but they were more like hotel guests who stayed only one night and did not make their home with Christ. They didn’t prove themselves to be disciples, because there was no fruitfulness.
Anyone who does not abide in Christ is like a branch which withers and is thrown into the fire and burnt.
When a Christian hears this warning, they must take care not to go away from Christ. We need to hear and obey the warning if we are to abide in Him. It is He who chose us and made us alive in Him, and He will bring us home if we remain in Jesus to the end. If we don’t, then there will be judgment.
We can compare this situation to that of a parent saying to a child:
“My son, I love you. You are my son. When we cross the road together, I’m going to be with you. However, if you leave my side and run into the road, bad things will happen to you.” Both are from a loving father, who wants his son to stick close to Him.
Jesus’ words are warnings and encouragements, so that we will remain in Christ. The important point to take from this is that the Christian life is not something that you can manufacture. If there is no union with Christ, there is no fruit and no life. The disciple is powered by connection to Christ and there is a ‘living within-ness’.
If we measure teaching by how many things we can tell someone to do, we miss the point. The only way to produce fruit is to be powered by that connection to Christ. If you want to grow in patience: abide in Christ. If you want to become more loving: abide in Christ. If you want to become purer: abide in Christ. That is where we draw the power to give life.
Are you abiding in Him? Have you been made clean by His love? and if so, are you living closely to Him?
By God’s grace we need to safeguard this daily personal walk with Jesus, because when we do, we will bear much fruit.
“If you abide in me and my word abides in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
I encourage you to pray these words for yourself.
John 15:1 - 15:11
15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.