Isaiah 5:1-7; John 15:1-8
I cannot believe we’ve already come to the end of our summer sermon series, “The Seven I am Statements of Jesus.” Last Sunday, we looked briefly at the last statement found in the gospel of John chapter 15 “I am the True Vine … You’re the branches.” We talked about the setting of the last “I am” statement and I said that the setting of John chapter 15 goes back to John chapter 13. Jesus is in Jerusalem with His disciples; it’s Thursday night, the day before Jesus will be crucified; and Jesus and His disciples are having the last dinner together — so everything we read from John chapter 13, verse 4 all the way through John chapter 17 is a long conversation that took at the dinner table, after dinner, on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, and at Gethsemane.
I can imagine Jesus and the disciples going through the darkened streets of the city and then passing beyond the walls into the surrounding countryside. During this time of year, mid-April, the grape vines would be beginning to blossom with the promise of a fresh harvest. As Jesus walked with His disciples, perhaps He reached out and took a vine in His hands and used it to teach as an object lesson to His followers. He wanted to teach them about the most important and vital relationship they will have in their lives ~ their relationship with Him. Three observations as we wrap up our study of John 15.
First: Abide in Jesus and Stay Connected
John chapter 15 is an amazingly Christo-centric chapter. Jesus uses the pronouns “I”, “me” and “my” ...71 times in this chapter. What you and I need to know is that we are nothing without Christ. He is our Alpha and Omega, our beginning and our end. Therefore, what we need the most today is to abide in Christ. “Abide in me as I abide in you”, says Jesus in John 15:4. In the following verse, John 15:5, Jesus also says “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
Abiding in Christ, remaining in Him, and staying connected to our source of power is crucial. It also implies some sort of response from our part. The vine is always there for the branches. Our responsibility is to abide in Christ, to sojourn with Him, to follow where He leads. In The Message, a simple and modern translation of the Bible, Theologian Eugene Peterson translates John 15:4 this way “Live in me. Make your home in me, just as I do in you.”
In the past, God visited with His people. He visited Abraham, Moses, and Elijah, but in Christ, God dwelt among us. John 1:14 states, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Psalm 84:4 “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” Lots of people today do not mind “visiting” but they do not “dwell.”
At this point, you may ask yourself, how can we abide in the Lord? In responding to a question from Judas, not Judas Iscariot, Jesus said in John 15:23, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” When our Lord says, “Abide in me”, He is talking about the will, about the choices, and the decisions we make. We must decide to do things which expose ourselves to Him and keep ourselves in contact with Him. Let me ask you, what choices do you make that enable you to remain in Him? What decisions do we make to abide in Christ, to stay connected to the vine? As any other relationship, our walk with the Lord requires attention and maintenance.
The message of John 15 is simple. Abiding in Christ is not an option. Spiritual vitality does not come from us. It comes from Christ. C. S. Lewis illustrated what this means: “A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. God cannot give us joy and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” Stay connected!
Second: Be Ready for Pruning
John 15:2 states that God will remove every branch from the vine that bears no fruit, but every branch that bears fruit God prunes to make it bear more fruit. God got a pruning shears in His hand. He is in the business of cutting off any branch that bears no fruit and pruning any fruit-bearing branch so that it bears more fruit. While this image may be scary to some of us, I want you to remember that gardeners prune their vines with extreme care. There is no threat here in the picture of God as the gardener who prunes His vines. There is no warning of “produce or else!” Instead we are assured that God, the gardener, actively tending His vineyard, is fully committed to bring us to maximum fruitfulness. God’s pruning work benefits us; it doesn’t threaten us.
At a certain time of the year, gardeners cut off certain “sucker shoots” from vines. Those shoots will never bear fruit. They will grow leaves abundantly, but they will never produce fruit. If allowed to remain, these shoots will actually sap the life of the vine and greatly reduce the quantity of fruit it will bear. God does the same thing with us.
Third: Those Who Receive Must Give
Those who’ve received the life of God must live it. We have to let it flow through us or the God-life in us dies. If you’ve ever been to Israel, you know there’s a real contrast between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is full of water and full of life. There are trees and vegetation. There is commercial fishing in there. But the Dead Sea is just dead. There are no fish in it and no life around it. The Sea of Galilee is at the top of Israel and receives waters from the mountains of Lebanon. They all come into the top of it and then it gives out at the bottom. That water flows down through the Jordan River and enters into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea takes in, but it never gives out. That’s why it’s stagnant. The point is, there must be a balance in our lives. We receive and we give. There must be a balance between the input and output. There must be a balance between the inflow and the outflow. The problem is: some believers are like the Dead Sea, always taking in but never giving out. Let’s not be another dead sea.
Friends, in this series, I wanted us to know that all we need is found in the GREAT I AM. Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48); He is the Light of the World (8:12, 9:5); He is the Gate for the Sheep (10:7); He is the Good Shepherd (10:11); He is the Resurrection and the Life (11:25); He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6); and He is the True Vine (15:1). He is the Great I am. He is our need today and every day. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, September 8, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor