Sunday, January 21, 2018
Winter/Spring Series: Experiencing God at Such a Time as This
“Abiding in Jesus”
2018 Theme Question: “What is the unique thing that God has for our church to accomplish at this time, at this place, for His glory?”
Jesus often used every day examples in His teachings and today we study the last of the “I AM” sayings of Jesus in John’s gospel, using the imagery of a vine.
I. The Image of the True Vine
Let’s look at the PARTS of the PICTURE for a moment.
1. The TRUE VINE is Jesus himself
In the Old Testament, Israel was referred to as the vine of vineyard of God, but it had come under God’s judgment for its disobedience and sin and failure to produce good fruit. Here in this context, Jesus proclaims that He is the TRUE (the faithful and fruitful) vine. Jesus comes to fulfill the temple and the ceremonial rituals, to fulfill the revelation of God as the very center of God’s people. Jesus comes to replace the degenerate vine of Jeremiah 2:21: “Yet I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before Me into the degenerate plant of an alien vine?”
The vine is the picture of the exclusive source of life- it’s how the branches and the fruit obtain nourishment. On the imminent basis of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would fulfill the imagery of the Life-giving Vine, being the sole source of life for His people through Himself, and so TRUE LIFE can only be gained through the TRUE VINE.
2. The VINEDRESSER is God the Father
The Father is the planter and the cultivator of the vine, always being close to the Son, the Lord Jesus, the two being intricately connected. His job is to intricately prune the vine, caring for it as He deems absolutely necessary. If you don’t prune a vine, it actually ends up not producing any quality fruit. Cutting away some of the stray branches or tying them up will actually cause the vine to produce more and better fruit. The goal is the bearing of fruit, the Father is the “mover” toward fruitfulness and the Son is the source of fruitful life.
3. God’s People are the branches
The branches are necessary in order for the vine to be productive, but in order for them to bear fruit, they need to stay attached to the vine. They will be worth nothing if they are cut off, and if they do not bear fruit, THEY WILL BE CUT OFF.
II. The Purpose of the Vine
Jesus does not give us a complex picture…the only other part of the picture is the fruit…The main point of the analogy reveals the Purpose of the God-Glorifying True Vine, which is to bring God-glorifying spiritual life which will naturally bear spiritual fruit. To live a fruitful life of Christ-likeness, a branch HAS TO ABIDE in the vine. Jesus is clear in explaining this fruit producing principle when he said: “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
ABIDING to produce fruit is just common sense, and I don’t think the disciples were surprised with this statement at all: If you lop off a branch from a tree or a vine it is going to cease to exist on its own. You don’t have to be an arborist, botanist, or horticulturalist to understand that principle. The branch is dead if it is cut off, and so naturally, the branch is not going to bear fruit. Fruit-bearing is the result of abiding in Christ and Christ abiding in me.
But even if you are staying attached, you may need to be pruned, especially if you are not bearing fruit. Pruning is necessary for abiding! It says that every branch that doesn’t bear fruit is “cut away” or “taken away”. But another very possible translation is “picked up, or raised up”, and that is what vinedressers would do: a branch sometimes has to be tied up and taken off the ground. It then has the opportunity to bear fruit. The other option is that if it is not bearing fruit it can be cut off and destroyed.
The two options are really totally up to the vinedresser, aren’t they? The branch is totally at the mercy of the vinedresser. And so is the pruning… that is cutting off useless shoots that are just sapping up the strength from the vine but not producing any fruit… these are at the mercy and discretion of the vinedresser too. But purging is good: it says that as a result of cutting off the branches that are not producing fruit, the branches that remain will produce MORE fruit.
2. Provide permanent dwelling place to stay in His love, and obey God’s commandments.
I believe this is the most important part of the entire example. Abiding means permanence NOT performance. Abiding in Christ, staying in His love, obeying God’s commandments, feeding off of the sap and nourishment of the vine (the Lord Jesus Himself!), that’s what a branch does. As long as the branch is attached to the vine, the branch is totally reliant on the nourishment provided. A branch does what a branch does when it is attached to the vine. A branch doesn’t perform better by trying to be a better branch, or trying to suck out more and more nourishment from the vine. A branch doesn’t say, “I’m going to be a better producer of fruit, I want more fruit than that branch over there.”
You produce if you have been born out of the true vine, Jesus. It wasn’t your will to push out from the vine. His word abides in you because you’re attached to Him. Your life is in the vine and you fit there because the vine produced you and now you abide in the vine. It’s BECAUSE you are an attached branch that you function as you should! It’s because of your ATTACHED position that you produce fruit. It’s on account of God’s grace, the grace of the vinedresser that you are a fruit producing branch.
III. Results of Abiding in the Vine
So what are the results of abiding, staying in the vine. Let’s look at four things that demonstrate the power of Abiding in Christ, staying attached to the vine:
1. We become fruitful
Abiding will cause you to grow in holiness. You become, not just a branch, but a fruit-producing branch. That isn’t your intention, it is a result of being IN CHRIST. Galatians 5:22-23 says: " But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."
The fruit of the Spirit produces the character of Jesus Christ in the life of a believer. If you're abiding in Him, if you are vitally connected to Him, then His character, His fundamental nature by way of His Spirit is going to become evident in your life, evident in your thoughts, feelings, in your words and in your actions. The point is this: The heart of your life in Jesus Christ is not your character reformed, renewed or restored in some way; The heart of your life in Jesus Christ is divine character, the character of Jesus Christ, Himself, alive in you, working, having an impact, and becoming evident and observable. Your life takes on the character of the vine.
A fruitful life belongs to any one of God’s people regardless of his or her age, education, background, or circumstances. You can live a fruitful life if you are six years old or if you are sixty! Man or woman, rich or poor, there is no distinction. Bearing fruit is for all God’s branches. Ps 92: 13-15 says: “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
2. We love like Christ loves
The second result of abiding in an unbroken relationship with Jesus Christ is loving (verse 9). It means that you are remaining, staying totally connected, you are trusting implicitly to the divine love of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn't reject you as a branch that’s attached to Him. He knows all about you and still chooses to love you. He calls you His prized possession and He commits Himself to care and to provide for and to protect you. Why? Because you belong to Him, you’re part of His vine. He pours his love into you and don’t YOU JUST LOVE IT! You get all the heavenly love you need in order to produce the fruit of love; people are drawn to the fruit that you are producing because it is GOD FRUIT. It’s the fruit of the love that has been poured into you.
We experience the love that has existed within the Trinity with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from all eternity. Is there a greater love than that love, the love within the Godhead, love without beginning or end? It is love that is immeasurable; it is love that does not change. That is the love that we enjoy, the love we abide in as we abide in the true vine, Jesus Christ. What a blessing His love is in our lives! And people are drawn to that succulent fruit of the vine.
3. We become more obedient
The third result of maintaining an ongoing, dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, of abiding in Christ, is obedience (verse 10). Obedience is the natural outcome, the result of love. Abiding in, experiencing, enjoying this love that Jesus has for us is not some mystical feeling or some emotional high. This love is very concrete, active, this love obeys the object of our love and faith. As you keep Christ's commands you abide in His love. Notice how Jesus ties the two together in these verses: John 14:15: "If you love me, obey my commands." John 14:21: "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." John 14:23: "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teachings." The point is obvious, love results in obedience.
Obedience isn’t trying to perform. Obedience is a fruit that just comes as a result of abiding in Christ. We don’t have to worry about producing a certain amount of fruit. In the same way that Grapes are to the grapevine, obedience to God is to the one who is one of the branches of the vine. Obedience is a result of being attached forever to Christ and His love.
4. We are filled with JOY.
The last result of abiding in the true vine, Jesus Christ, is joy. Verse 11 says, "I have told you this that my joy (chara) may be in you and that your joy may be complete (to the brim)." Everything Jesus teaches you is to reveal the joy Jesus has for you. Abiding in Christ, bearing fruit, loving, and obeying produces the joy of the Lord. Joy is full of God’s Grace. It is not a cheerless, barren existence that Jesus Christ came into the world to give those who follow Him. He came into the world for a purpose: that was to bring good news and exceedingly great joy.
What is joy? How do you describe it? In the dictionary, joy is a feeling of gladness, of happiness, of pleasure but we know that feelings come and they go: Feelings can be here one minute and gone the next. Is that what Jesus offers to us, a fleeting experience? Of course not! True joy is living in Jesus Christ; joy is being in His will and knowing it! That is, experiencing and feeling the reality that you're living in Him and in His will for your life, existing constantly in His love. That's a joy which cannot be deterred or undercut by any circumstances, any difficulty, or any hardship and it’s way more than a feeling. It’s your position in Christ and doesn’t have to do with your performance. It’s a result of trusting in Jesus and in His Word. Complete contentment.
Does it ever get hampered or temporarily go away? Sometimes, “bugs” can attack, sin can hamper, but His joy never goes AWAY. Listen: The Greek word for joy is “chara” and it shares its root in the Greek word for grace, “charis”. The Joy of the Lord is a forever joy because it is grounded in His amazing grace. I may not FEEL joy sometimes but I have it, I own it, joy is mine.
The obvious question at this point is simply this: Is God producing fruit in your life? Is there fruit in your life that you can only explain by saying, "God is at work in me." Do you know the pruning work of God in your life? If you don't see the refining work of God, you may well question whether God is in your life or not. I think that's the reason why Jesus said in verse 3 to His disciples, "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you." Jesus is here seeking to encourage His disciples that they are true branches, connected to the true vine. They have been cleansed of their sins, because they have heard the words of Jesus and believed in the Lord Jesus alone for cleansing. That’s what he wants us to know too.
1 John 2: 24-25 says: “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. (Make sure that this is the case) If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.”
Salvation is all of God’s Grace, and your condition or position of STAYING has nothing to do with you performing, but you being totally dependent on Him and that you are trusting in Him alone to complete what He has promised to do. The Lord tells us in verses 9-11 : 9 "As the Father loved Me, I also have 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 remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Stay connected to Jesus – Abide in Him
Allow Him to shape you – Let Him prune you
Be kingdom minded – Bear good fruit