August 8, 2021
You can’t do this! That’s a negative statement that rubs us the wrong way. You tell me that I can’t do something, my immediate reaction is to want to prove that I can. You can’t do this on your own. Now that’s a bit different, isn’t it? That statement implies that you need the help and support of others to succeed. We get that. And if you’ve been watching any of the Olympics the last two weeks, that’s been a common thread in the success of every Olympic athlete. When interviewed after their competition most willingly confess, that they couldn’t have done this without the love and support from their mom and dad, their friends and family, their coaches, their husband and in some cases, they couldn’t have done this without the help of God.
Well, the same can be said for living the Christian life. You can’t live the Christian life on your own. How do I know that? Because Jesus said it. He said so in our memory verse for this month, when he said, If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 In other words, you can’t bear the kind of fruit God wants to see in your life on your own. You can’t become the blessing God wants you to be in the world on your own. You can’t live like Jesus by trying harder, gaining more knowledge, believing the right doctrines, or becoming more religious. And the reason you can’t do this on your own; the reason you can’t live like Jesus out of your own strength, wisdom or determination, is that God never meant for you to do this on your own.
So, if Jesus says we can’t do this on our own; if Jesus says, apart from me you can do nothing; how are we to live this new life He gives us? Well, that’s what we want to look at today from God’s Word in John 15:1-11. For in these verses Jesus shows us how He’s made it possible for any Christ follower to live like Him. It’s this amazing way of living called “abiding.” It’s this new reality of living in Jesus that allows the life of Jesus to live through us. So, if you’ve found John 15, let’s look now at the life God wants for us in Jesus. And the first thing we hear from Jesus’ teaching is this:
The Father want us to live like Jesus
That’s the truth implied in the Father’s pruning work in our lives. But first to truly understand the purpose behind the Father’s pruning work, and why we need to abide in Jesus, Jesus reveals two truths for us. One about himself and the other about His Father. So he says, I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:1-2
Jesus is teaching his disciples in the upper room. His mission is about to end, but his disciple’s mission is about to begin. So, when Jesus calls himself “the true vine” this is meant to recall a powerful truth embedded in the hearts and minds of his disciples. By calling himself “the true vine” Jesus is making a significant contrast between himself and the nation of Israel.
The vine was the supreme symbol of Israel. God chose Israel to be the vine through whom His promise of blessing to the nations would come. Israel, however, failed over and over again to live out their mission to bless the nations. They wanted to be too much like the other nations. They wanted their own Kings. They wanted to worship their own gods. They failed to be the blessing God called them to be to the nations. Israel had failed in God’s purpose.
But now in revealing Himself as the true vine, Jesus identifies Himself as the true source for God’s blessing to the nations. Why is this important for us to grasp? Here’s why. Now, anyone who is connected to the true vine has been given the same purpose as Jesus: to be a blessing to the nations. To have the same mission as Jesus.
If we don’t get this, we will miss the whole point of abiding in Jesus. For abiding in Jesus is how God has designed it for you and I to fulfill our mission as disciples of Jesus. We fulfill our mission as His followers when we are connected to the true vine who brings blessing to the world. Apart from Him, we can’t do it. With Him we can. That’s why we are called to abide in Jesus.
So, the first truth is this: Jesus is the true vine and when we are connected to Him, He will produce fruit in us that will make us a blessing to the world.
Here’s the second truth: The Father wants us to bear much fruit. HE doesn’t want us to be content with resting in His grace to us, He wants His grace to flow through us to bless everyone. He wants us to bear much fruit. He wants your life to bless your family, your neighbors, the people at the checkout counter, the gal you just lost to in pickle ball, the waitress bringing your meal, the homeless guy in Ocean Beach, the persecuted Church is Nigeria, Syria and China. He wants our lives to bear much fruit in Robson Ranch, in Eloy, at Ocean Beach and wherever the world needs the blessing found in Jesus.
So in order to make that happen, the Father prunes his people. That’s the emphasis here in this text. The Father prunes work us so we will bear much fruit. After all, this is the reason for growing a vine. Fruitfulness is the whole point of growing a vineyard. And pruning is done to ensure this takes place. Left to itself a vine will produce a good deal of unproductive growth. And the only way to ensure maximum fruitfulness is to cut away, not just the bad growth, but the unproductive growth.
Now to grasp how the Father does this is to understand this word, “prune.” Here to prune literally means: ”to cleanse, to purge or to purify.” So how does the Father prune us to make us more fruitful? He does spiritual surgery in our hearts through His Word. His Word purges wrong thinking. His Word cuts away bad habits. His Word even works to remove good things so God can replace them with what is better. His Word cleanses us, purges us, and purifies us so we will bear much fruit.
Now you might think that the Father’s pruning could be painful. Well, sometimes truth hurts. To be corrected by God’s Word can wound your pride. To be admonished by God’s Word can make you feel foolish. But to have my pride wounded is okay if God is in the process of making me more like Jesus, making me more fruitful. After all, God’s Word says, faithful are the wounds of a friend. And sometimes God needs to remove the things in us that will allow Him to heal us. So, yes, sometimes His pruning will hurt. But that only means He is stripping away the weeds of our old life that keep us from bearing the fruit of Jesus’ life. He prunes us because He wants to make something beautiful out of us, and yes, to help us bear much fruit.
The bottom line is this: The Father wants us to bear fruit like Jesus – to live like Jesus: He wants us to love like Jesus. He wants us to think like Jesus. He wants us to serve like Jesus. But most importantly, He wants us to fulfill the mission of Jesus – by making disciples of Jesus. For when we help people trust in and follow Jesus, that’s the fruit that brings God glory. That’s the best way we can bring blessing to the world.
You see, God didn’t connect you with the vine, just to make you a nice person who gets along with others. No God connected you to the true vine, so you might reproduce the fruit of the vine! And what is that fruit? It’s the abundant life of Jesus in you. The greatest blessing we can be is to introduce someone to Jesus, so that when they believe they can have the life of Jesus in them, the hope of Jesus in them, the peace of Jesus in them! That’s the fruit. That’s the blessing we are to be to the nations. That’s why the Father wants us to bear fruit like Jesus and live like Jesus – so others can find life in Jesus… That’s what pruning is all about, and that’s what abiding is all about:
We need to live in Jesus if we’re going to live like Jesus In other words, we need to live in Jesus if we are going to bear the fruit of Jesus! We need to live in Jesus if we are going to bless others with Jesus. And we can’t do this apart from Jesus. Listen to how Jesus says it: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:3-5
Here is where Jesus says, “You can’t do this on your own. You need me in order to bear the fruit of my mission. So remain in me.” Abide in me. Live in me.”
If you, being a branch of the vine, are NOT connected to the vine, you CANNOT bear the fruit of the vine… You CANNOT REPRODUCE in yourself or in anyone else. It’s as simple as that. If you live separate from Jesus, you can do nothing for Jesus. It’s like trying to produce apples from an orange tree. You can’t. It’s impossible.
So then, the fruit God wants us to bear is NOT a human possibility; it is Christ’s work through us. So, if we want to bear much fruit as Christ’s branches, then we must learn what it means to abide in Christ. Or in other words, what it means to live “In Christ.”
So, let’s look now at how Jesus answers the question: How then are we to live in Jesus? How are we to remain in Him and bear much fruit?
And the first thing Jesus teaches us about abiding in Him is found in verse 7, If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7
You see, the word “abide” here implies having an intimate knowledge of what a person has said. But it also implies that those words become a vital part of who you are and how you live. So then, Jesus’ words abide in us when we know His Words and allow His words to change how we live. That’s why in our Journey Groups, we spend the majority of our time learning to apply the teachings of Christ with one another. If we learn the words of Jesus, if we learn the ways of Jesus, and then let them shape how we live, how we relate with one another, then we will begin to live and love like Jesus. We will begin to bear the fruit of Jesus in our lives.
You see, if you are learning to live according to His Word, every time you put His Word into practice, you are allowing Christ to live through you. And every time you do that, you are not just abiding in Christ, you are producing the fruit the Father wants to produce in your life. The Father wants to produce much fruit in you. Let me say it another way: The Father wants to produce much Jesus in you!
So then, having Christ’s words remain in you, is the first way we can abide in Christ. And with this there is a clear connection with the second way we abide in Christ. And Jesus says it this way; he says, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. John 15:9-10
So, the key to abiding in Jesus is found in knowing Jesus Word and putting His word into practice in our lives. This then, is how we are to abide in Christ: We remain in His Word and Obey His Commands. When we do this, we will live in Christ and Christ will live in us. That’s how the Father has designed for us to bear much fruit. That’s how the Father has designed for us to do what we could not do on our own. When we obey God’s Word, Jesus comes alive through us! You see, the world doesn’t need you and I nearly as much as it needs the Jesus in you.
And here’s the cool thing about obeying His Word. When we obey God’s Word, we show Jesus that we love Him. As Jesus said, “The one who loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love him. We will come to him and live with him.” John 14:23 That’s what it means to abide in Christ. We learn His Word. His Word becomes a part of us. Then we live His Word.
And what is the result of all this? What will be the result of knowing Christ’s Word and putting Christ’s Word into practice? Well, Jesus tells us what will happen as we abide in Him:
We will experience answered prayer The more your life is filled with the Word of God the more He will open the floodgates of grace in prayer: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7
We will love one another as Jesus loved us The fruit of our obedience will be the love of our neighbor. Look at the first command he gives us at the conclusion of this passage: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you John 15:12 This is the fruit of abiding in Christ: love! And the more we love one another, the more we will bless one another, and the more we will fulfill Jesus mission of being a blessing to the world.
We will experience the joy of Christ This is the byproduct of abiding in Christ. Joy is the byproduct of obeying Jesus. This is His promise to us: I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11 And finally,
We will bring glory to the Father When we live in Jesus and Jesus lives in us, we will bear much fruit. And the fruit we will produce is the life of Jesus. And what does Jesus say about that? This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:8
Do you see now why we are not to do this on our own? Do you see now why we need to live in Jesus if we’re going to live like Jesus? You see, what Jesus is teaching us today is radically different than the way of the world. The way of the world says, “You can do it.” The way of the world says, “And when you do it, you will get the glory.”
But that’s not the way of Jesus. Everything He did was for the Father’s glory. And now he’s given his mission to us. And when we abide in Him, our lives bring Him glory.
Perhaps the words of the 400 meter hurdles champion Sydney McLaughlin puts this in perspective for us. After she set a world record in her gold medal run this past week this is what she said: “Let me start off by saying, what an honor it is to be able to represent not only my country but also the kingdom of God. What I have in Christ is far greater than what I have or don’t have in life. I pray my journey may be a clear depiction of submission and obedience to God. Even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it doesn’t seem possible, He will make a way out of no way. Not for my own gratification, but for His glory. I have never seen God fail in my life, or in anyone’s life for that matter. Just because I may not win every race, or receive every one of my heart’s desires, does not mean God had failed. His will is perfect. And He has prepared me for a moment such as this. That I may use the gifts He has given me to point all the attention back to Him.”
That’s why we don’t live this life on our own. And that’s why we want to live on mission with Jesus to be the blessing He calls us to be. For as we do, not only will we bear much fruit – but we’ll bring glory to the Father, who loved us enough to give us Jesus.
If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5