Sermon:Abiding in Christ John 15:1–17

Abiding in Christ

John 15:1–17

Abiding in Christ means being connected to Him by the Word and the Holy Spirit

Introduction

Last week we ended our sermon as John ended his text with these words of Jesus, lets leave this place. They were in the upper room, which John had used for his chapters 13 and 14. Now Jesus and His disciples are on the move across the great city known as Jerusalem.

They leave, cutting across the city going east. They pass through the interior Valley Gate and Huldah Gate before exiting through the main wall at the Golden Gate. With the temple rising over the walls of Jerusalem directly behind them, they made their way northeast, stopping shy of the Mount of Olives as they arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane. Along the way, they come across a grape arbor and Jesus, being a masterful teacher, uses the opportunity to teach. Remember that this was an agricultural society and all around the Mediterranean, grapes were a very common crop. All through the ancient world, the grape vine was a common literary symbol. Almost all the ancient Mediterranean cultures frequently used vine imagery in their literature. However, the imagery strikes modern ears as kind of odd and it leaves us with some questions: What is this fruit? What is this about cutting off branches? What is this about pruning? Let us view our text for the day, John 15:1-17.[1]

One important theological note is that Jesus will identify Himself as the true vine. Israel throughout the OT is referred to as a vine, God’s vine. Israel is the vine that produced wild grapes no real edible fruit at all. God planted them in choice dirt and pruned them, fertilized them and yet there was no real fruit produced. So, when Jesus calls Himself the true vine His is saying that He is the true Israel, the Israel that God desired.

Isaiah 5:1–7 (ESV)

Let me sing for my beloved

my love song concerning his vineyard:

       My beloved had a vineyard

on a very fertile hill.

   He dug it and cleared it of stones,

and planted it with choice vines;

      he built a watchtower in the midst of it,

and hewed out a wine vat in it;

       and he looked for it to yield grapes,

but it yielded wild grapes.

   And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem

and men of Judah,

       judge between me and my vineyard.

   What more was there to do for my vineyard,

that I have not done in it?

       When I looked for it to yield grapes,

why did it yield wild grapes?

   And now I will tell you

what I will do to my vineyard.

       I will remove its hedge,

and it shall be devoured;

       I will break down its wall,

and it shall be trampled down.

   I will make it a waste;

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

and briers and thorns shall grow up;

       I will also command the clouds

that they rain no rain upon it.

   For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts

is the house of Israel,

       and the men of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

       and he looked for justice,

but behold, bloodshed;

       for righteousness,

but behold, an outcry!

What made Israel unfruitful was the fact that she did not abide within God. Israel did not obey God’s commands. Israel was a vine not connected to God and so did not produce godly fruit.

Jesus proves to be the true Israel and abides in the Father permanently. Jesus obeys all God says and so is loved by the Father and produces the crop God desires.

The Greek word Alethinos, which is translated as true has the idea of being real. Jesus is the real Israel.

Human Need

Are you abiding in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit as you partake of His life giving Word? Our need today is to understand where spiritual life comes from and the fruit a life connected to Jesus produces. We must have that connection. Jesus tells us if we don’t we will not do anything of value and will be gathered and cast out.

John 15:1–17 (ESV)

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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. 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 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.

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

  1. Abide in Christ Through the Word and the Holy Spirit

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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. 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

As we begin Jesus is explaining to His disciples and to us what great benefits accompany abiding in Christ.

Jesus uses the example of a grape vine when He explains what it means to abide. The grapes are produced from the branches which are connected to the vine which gets nourishment water and nutrients from the ground which then flows up the vine and out into the branches which then in time produce grapes.

Jesus knows that this is an excellent picture of what happens when we are connected to Him as the vine.

So what nutrients do we get from being connected to Jesus? Where does our nourishment come from? He tells us…
Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Remember that the Holy Spirit has already been highlighted in the last chapter as the One who will bring in to remembrance the things Jesus has spoken. No our Lord carries this thought on by way of illustration. Abiding in Jesus is abiding in His Word.

The Greek NT’s meaning is to Remain with, Wait for, Do not Depart From.

So, how were His disciples to remain with Jesus after He was gone? Better yet, how are we to remain with Jesus who we have never seen?

So, let’s picture that connection of the branch to the vine in our minds and that connection is God’s Word being made available to us through the Holy Spirit. He is feeding us godly nutrients through the Word. He is causing us to make sense of it and to remember it.

His Word is the nutrients we need to produce a God honoring life and God honoring fruit.

God’s Word is life to the believer. It is what will cause us to be strong in Christ.

Proverbs 4:1–9 (ESV)

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,

and be attentive, that you may gain insight,

   for I give you good precepts;

do not forsake my teaching.

   When I was a son with my father,

tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,

   he taught me and said to me,

       “Let your heart hold fast my words;

keep my commandments, and live.

   Get wisdom; get insight;

do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.

   Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;

love her, and she will guard you.

   The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,

and whatever you get, get insight.

   Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;

she will honor you if you embrace her.

   She will place on your head a graceful garland;

she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

As we remain connected to Christ through His Word we become strong and healthy Christians.

All one needs to do today is take a cursory look around the churches in America at the average attender to see that in most cases, churches are weak and church goers are weak. Jesus tells us why that’s the case. A branch is weak when it is not connected to Christ. The way we are connected to Christ is not through attendance, watching TV preachers, programs, hard work, or any other aspect of church life. The only connection Jesus gives us is the connection that His Word supplies. So a person not in the Word is not connected to Jesus. The scary part is that He tells us that those branches are…

Taken away…Thrown away- or we could understand this to mean cast into hell.

In gardening you cut off branches that do not bear fruit. They are using up certain things that the other branches need. They are blocking the Sunlight etc. Fruit is healthier when the worthless branches are removed.

Abiding in Christ is being connected to Him by the Word and the Holy Spirit.

So, we see here that the true or real branches have three characteristics: They Abide, They Bear Fruit, and they Obey His Commands.

We must realize that not all the branches are real and true. Some are not abiding, obeying, bearing. These branches are the opposite of true branches. They are false converts false churchgoers, false Christians.

How are you staking up? Are you a real branch?

  1. Being Connected to Christ by the Word and the Holy Spirit Causes us to Keep His Commandments

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 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.

The preceding paragraph ends like this (John 14:31): “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.” In other words, Jesus puts his entire ministry, especially these final saving hours, under the command of his Father. “I do as the Father has commanded me.” The Father is overseeing the whole thing. Jesus will give his life. Jesus will become the bread of life, and the water of life, and the door of life. But the Father himself is tending to every detail so that this work will accomplish exactly what has been planned.[2]

I pray we see that in the same way Jesus kept His Father’s commandments and bore much fruit we must keep Jesus’ commandments. We are powerless to do so if we are not abiding in Him through His Word.

Apart from Me…

We learned last week that regular Bible intake fueled by the Holy Spirit is creating godliness within us. God’s Word is God breathed. Remember that when God speaks life takes place. He spoke the universe into existence; He breathed into Adam the breath of life. His Word will create life within a person. It will birth us into godliness as we read, mediate, memorize, and apply His Word.

We learn through experience that keeping our Lord’s commandments brings us Joy. I pray you’ve all experienced the utter misery disregarding His Word brings. Misery is good when it drives us to our knees in prayer and repentance.

Sin promises joy but never delivers true joy. Jesus tells us that keeping His commandments will bring us full and lasting joy.

We are to abide in Christ through the Word and the Holy Spirit

As we abide in His Word through the power of the Spirit we will keep His commandments.

  1. His Commandment is: Love One Another

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

Notice what Jesus is telling us. We are to keep or do what He commands. On the surface or if that’s all there was to it we could conclude that we are basically servants or slaves. Do what I tell you to do. A slave has a list of chores to do and his concern is not why or for what purpose but just do it. A slave does not share in the wealth of the house. He just does what he’s told.

That’s not how it is with Jesus. He did all His Father commanded Him not because He was a slave but because He is God’s Son and loves the Father. As the Son Jesus shares in the wealth of the house. Because we are brought into the family as adopted children we too share in the family wealth.

Our Lord’s commandment here in this passage is that we…
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Application

I want to offer a warning and an encouragement when it comes to being a fruit producing Christian.

Abiding in Christ through His Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit is the mark of a genuine or real disciple. However, there are those who are not abiding in Christ. There are folks who do certain Christian things but are not marked by true conversion. Judas looked like the real thing. He traveled with Christ and the disciples for three years. Even when Jesus said that Judas would betray Him the disciples had a hard time initially believing it. Judas had no fruit, did not obey and did not abide. Notice what Jesus said about Judas…and all those who are false disciples…

Matthew 26:24 (ESV)

24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Now an encouragement for true believers…
Our main concern is that we are connected to Christ through the Holy Spirit and His Word. As we remain committed to reading and studying the Bible we are abiding in Him.
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

So, our focus first and foremost needs to be abiding or being connected to Christ through the Holy Spirit and the Word. Focus on that. As we do, the fruit will come. We will obey His commandments and bear fruit just like the branch is connected to the vine bears fruit. Our focus must be on the connection to Christ.

Then, we are to live lives that promote the gospel and Christian character, and as Jesus tells us love for each other. This is what real fruit looks like.

Are you developing godly character, are you promoting the Gospel, and are you loving each other? By these things God is glorified.

[1] http://thirdmill.org/newfiles/rus_smith/NT.Smith.John.15.1.17.pdf

[2] John Piper

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