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Abide in the Vine

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

Gospel of John: Life in Jesus’ Name
John 15 – Abide in the Vine

In the classic 1939 movie, the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wants to return to Kansas, and at the end of the movie, she keeps repeating to herself, “There’s no place like home.”
In July my wife and I went to Colorado to visit my family for several days. And we had a wonderful time. But we drove the 720 miles to get home, and as we were two blocks from home, both of us said to each other, “There’s no place like home.” I think we say it every time we’re gone for a while and return. We really enjoy being back home. Why? It’s our dwelling place. Our abode.

We are going through a book in the Bible called the Gospel of Jesus according to John. In that book, we are told that we will find our Home…our Abode…our Dwelling Place… is not a building but a person. And his name is Jesus.
We are to ABIDE in him. It’s a rather strange expression, I think. But it is a powerful one that can and must shape our lives.
And life is meaningless without abiding in him.

John 15

We’ll read John 15 today.
As you are turning there, I will introduce myself. My name is Brad Barrett, one of the pastors here. I became a Christian 40 years ago at the start of my sophomore year at Iowa State. I am also a lifelong Iowan, and I love being here. I spent my first 18 years in Sioux City, and ever since then I’ve been in Ames.

We are in Chapter 15. This is right in the middle of a long conversation Jesus is having with his 12 disciples. In just a few hours he is going to be arrested and crucified. He is going to die.

So he is giving his disciples their marching orders for the rest of their lives. For he has a mission for them. A clear purpose.
In chapter 15 today, he is going to tell them some things that are absolutely essential for their lives. His whole purpose on earth these few short years is about done. And they are going to carry that purpose from here forward.

John 15 (ESV)
Vs. 1-3
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

This is the last of seven names that Jesus gives of himself. Every name carries enormous significance, and helps us understand who Jesus is.
The Living Water. The Bread of Life.
The Good Shepherd. The Gate to the sheepfold.
The Resurrection and the Life The Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Now, the True Vine.
And God the Father is the Vinedresser. A vinedresser is the Master Gardener. He is the one who attends to the vineyard. His task is to get massive quantities of good, delicious grapes.

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.

People are the branches. And there are two types of branches: those who do not bear fruit, and those who do.
He has in mind those who do not belong to him and those who do. Those who have not believed in him and those who do. Those who have not been born of God and those who are born again.
He surely had in mind Judas Iscariot for the one type. And Peter and the disciples for the other.

Those branches who do not bear fruit he cuts them off and casts them away. Those branches that do bear fruit he carefully and wisely prunes so that they will bear even more fruit.
The first time I remember learning about pruning was as a teenager. A man went up to a tree with a saw and began cutting off low branches. I thought he was crazy. Why cut off all those branches? Well, obviously, I was no gardener, for that’s one of the most basic and crucial rules for gardeners: pruning certain branches off plants. What looks like stupidity is actually great wisdom. The final growth and fruit will be much, much greater.

That is what the Father, the Vinedresser, does to his disciples. The goal is fruit.

But we are people, not grapevines. What is our fruit? Let’s get back to that important question in a minute.

VS. 3 “Already you are clean.” The word clean is the same Greek word as “prune.” One is an adjective, the other is a verb. To prune means to clean. The disciples are already pruned….the Father, the Vinedresser…has already pruned them to bear much fruit.

Vs. 4-8
Two key words here: ABIDE and FRUIT
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.

These verses are crucial to the Christian life. Whatever this “fruit” is, it comes only to those who are attached to Jesus, the Vine. Jesus is the key. Not a religion or a simple moral code, but a Person. Jesus is the ultimate source of the fruit.
And we—the branches—are to abide in Jesus, the Vine. This word “abide” is key. The word Jesus used here can be translated into English in several ways: to abide. Remain. Continue. Dwell. We get the idea of staying in the same place. Like “making our home” in him.

How do we do this? We listen to the Scriptures….The Bible….which is called “The Word of God.” We talk to him. Prayer. We worship him. We obey him. We have a constant awareness of him. And a trust in him. Our lives are wrapped up in his life and his will.

Really, without getting too complicated, to abide in the Vine is simply the life of faith. A life of dependence on him. The life of believing in Jesus and walking with Jesus every day. Not just on Sunday for an hour or two. Why? Because the branch knows that it’s very purpose in life is to stay attached to the Vine and bear the fruit of the Vine. Otherwise, life is meaningless. And we are lifeless. Fruitless.

In verse 5, we are to stay in him. And he will stay in us. This is important. Jesus is promising to abide in his disciples, the branches. In Chapter 14, Jesus told them he was going away. Going to heaven. But they were not to be troubled by that, for he was going to send another Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would be with them forever.

That is how Jesus will remain in them even though he will be physically absent upon his ascension into heaven. This is a remarkable promise to the disciples and to us.

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.

This is a repeat of vs. 2, that the Father, the Vinedresser, will cut off unfruitful branches. Here we catch a glimpse of the wrathful judgment of God. Those who reject him he will cast away to be 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.

When we abide in Christ, staying close to him, and we let his words….his commands….abide in our hearts and minds, we will offer up our prayers to the Vine, and he will answer us.

Our prayers are inspired by Jesus’ words. By what the Bible says. These prayers are not about simply making life easier or more comfortable or fun. These prayers are about bearing more fruit. These prayers are about honoring and loving Jesus more.

Let me give you an example. These past 3-1/2 years, my wife and I have faced some health challenges. We do pray for a miracle. We pray for improved health. We’re always working towards that. But let me tell you my most frequent prayer. It is from the Apostle Paul. Paul was a man who abided in Christ more than anyone. What did he pray?
Colossians 1:11 (ESV) “… being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…”
Our heart has been to find strength from heaven to persevere in faith in our trials, and to have joy in the midst of it all. In short, we want to walk by faith every day and have joy. Are we always successful at it? No, of course not. But our heart is to abide in Jesus, and our prayers are centered around bearing fruit. Growing in Christlikeness.

What is the fruit we are to bear? From the entire passage, we get some hints, and the conclusion may be that the fruit is quite broad: the fruit of Jesus the Vine coming out of us.
I think it is both an internal and external fruit. Internal such as love (vs. 9) and joy (vs. 11), a Christlikeness in character. External such as making disciples (vs. 16), since we are to “go” (vs. 16), being sent as Jesus was sent (John 17:18), bearing witness of Jesus (vs 27). (More on this later.)

Vs. 9-11
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

The author of this book, John, also wrote 3 short letters in the Bible. In the first of those letters, 1 John chapter 4, John writes, “We love because he first loved us.” God’s love comes first. And in response to that, we love him.
It is not reversed: We do not love God first, and then he decides to love us. God clearly took the initiative. He died for sinners, for his enemies.

This is beautiful and relieving. God’s love is steady and unchanging. He is not fickle like we are. My love for God can vary from day to day and even hour to hour. And sometimes I live as if I don’t love God at all. But his love abides. It remains and does not leave.

As the Father has loved the Son, so the Son loves us. The relationship between the Father and the Son is frequently set forth in chapters 13–17 as the paradigm for the relationship between Jesus and his disciples.

And Jesus tells us to abide in his love. Stay in his love. Dwell and remain in the beautiful place of his love. May it surround us and envelope us. Paul said in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can ever separate us from the Lord’s love, so as we obey him, we will dwell in that. Believe this and do not doubt. Focus your heart and mind on his love, letting that truth wash over your soul and course through your veins. Abide in Jesus’ love for us.

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.

Multiple times in these 5 chapters Jesus calls on us to obey his commands. Love in the Bible is more than emotion or sentiment. Love always expresses itself in terms of obedience.

Nowhere in this passage is Jesus saying that perfect obedience is required lest you miss out on his love. Again, Jesus is contrasting two sorts of people: those who do believe in him and follow him, like Peter and John and Martha and Mary, contrasted with those who do not believe in him, like those in John 6 who heard some hard teachings and left Jesus, and like Judas and the Pharisees.

Then in vs. 11, Jesus tells us the outcome of all he is calling the disciples to: He wants them to have JOY in life. A life full of joy. The life of abiding in Jesus….the life of faith….dependence upon him… is not to be dull and lifeless. It is to have fullness of joy.

Vs. 12-17
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Perhaps so that the disciples wouldn’t grow proud and think they saved themselves….Perhaps so they wouldn’t feel the unnecessary worry about somehow UN-CHOOSING Jesus…He tells them, “I chose you, not vice versa.”

And he chose them for a purpose and a cause: to go…to go out into the world and bear witness (to testify) about Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the True Vine, the Living Water who has come to bring life to the world….if only they would believe. And he chose them to be very, very fruitful in this great cause. To influence souls for eternity. That is glorious fruit. This is what Jesus was after while he was on earth. And since he is the Vine and we are attached to him, this is the fruit that should pop out of us.

17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Again, he repeats himself. He’s not being a nag. He is simply emphasizing what is absolutely crucial for them to know and do.

Vs. 15:18-16:4
Now we are going to read a rather remarkable passage. Very unpleasant. But very necessary. We must know and understand this. If we do not understand and believe it, our faith can easily be severely shaken.

One word that can summarize this section is hatred.
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

Jesus is not being a pessimist. He is being a realist. He is giving them the truth. He is warning the disciples: As I have been hated, my followers….Christ followers all over the world… will be hated.

Even today, Christians in many, many, many parts of the world are under great pressure. Some of them are risking their lives by reading their Bibles and going to meet with other Christians for a worship service. And Jesus says, “It’s all because they hate me.” This map shows varying levels of persecution in the world. Nations in black have severe restrictions against Christians. Nations in gray have significant hostility towards Christians. A number of you in this room this morning are from some of those nations.

Let’s keep reading.

19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also.
24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.
25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

This is such an amazing truth. God has given men and women life. But there is something in us that wants to defy him. Ignore him. Contradict him. Question him. Doubt him. This has been going on since Genesis 3, for thousands of years. People hate their Maker and Savior without cause.

Now here is some good and glorious news:
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
Lest the disciples despair at such grim news, he tells them he is going to send the Holy Spirit. They will not be alone. The Lord will be with them constantly. The Lord will abide with them through the Spirit.
And the Spirit’s work is to go into the world to testify about Jesus. To speak to hearts about Jesus.

And then in vs. 27, Jesus tells them thy too will bear witness about him. He is giving them their mission. To go into the world and testify about Jesus. And this mission has been passed on to us. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a crystal clear, over-arching purpose for your life: To testify of Jesus. To declare Jesus to a world that hates him but desperately needs him.

1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.

He is prophesying of such suffering so that when it happens, his disciples are not surprised and they are not discouraged. They realize, “We are simply following in our Savior’s footsteps. They hate us with cause.”

2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.
4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.

What Now?

We’ve read this important and glorious and amazing passage. Now what do we do with it? How can it….how should it….shape our thinking about God and life and eternity?

Let me offer three things.

ABIDE in his love
From vs. 10 Jesus says his disciples will abide in his love. There are two senses to what he means. One is that those who believe in him are ALREADY in his love. They are at Home.

The second sense is what I am thinking of now. It’s the sense of placing ourselves in a position to bask in the love of Christ. We immerse ourselves in his love. We don’t let go. We sing about it. We memorize Scripture about it. We thank our heavenly Father for it. We set ourselves on a course every day to dwell right in the middle of his love.

Our mission as Jesus followers is founded upon that love. We go out into the world to make disciples because we are loved. We need to abide in that.

Rejoice in the nearness of God through his Holy Spirit. I find so much comfort and amazement in this promise. I can only imagine how frightened the disciples were to think that Jesus was going to leave them. But he didn’t leave them alone. He sent his Helper, the Counselor and Advocate, the Holy Spirit to dwell….abide….in the believer in Jesus.

The nearness of God is shocking.

And what the Spirit is for us in our mission in this world is stunning.
In a prophecy about the Spirit of God to come upon the Messiah, Isaiah describes the Holy Spirit like this:
Isaiah 11:2 (ESV) “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”
This is the same Holy Spirit who dwells in us. The power and wisdom and understanding that is ours from the Holy Spirit is stunning. And we should REJOICE! God is near. We are sent out on mission into this world, and we are to bear much fruit. But we are not alone. Jesus is ABIDING in us through his Spirit. When we feel weak and alone and afraid, REJOICE. God is very, very, very near.

LEARN to pray
We all know how to pray. Sort of. We need to learn WHAT to pray for. In these five chapters, Jesus is leaving. The disciples are afraid. They have a mission. But Jesus is going to be with them through his Spirit. And they have access to the Father through the Son ANY TIME they ask.

So what should they pray for? What should we pray for?

Jesus gave specific instruction on prayer. We call it the Lord’s prayer. It’s a framework for prayer. We pray for our daily bread. Our basic provision. We pray not to be led into temptation. We pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is done in heaven.

And then what else should we pray?? Well, I would answer this: why are we here? What does Jesus want us to DO and BE? He wants us to abide in him. To daily walk by faith. He wants us to care about what he cares about. He wants us to bear fruit in our lives. Inward fruit. Outward fruit.

This is the disciples’ calling. Whatever they need for this mission is theirs….whatever they need to bear much fruit is theirs….if only they will ask.

We need to learn what to pray for. Whatever is important to Jesus ought to be important to us. We ought to pray for those things. And then we can have confidence he will answer our prayers.