RELATIVE – Three Key Relationships
The last verse in chapter 14 tells us that Jesus and the disciples are about to leave the upper room, John 14:31 says, “Arise, let us go from here.” This small band of brothers is headed to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus will pray his great High Priestly prayer and will later be arrested by the mob led by Judas. Apparently, Jesus speaks the words which make up chapters 15 and 16 in route to the garden.
In this chapter, Jesus is pictured for us as the True Vine. I can imagine Jesus and his men going through the darkened streets of the city, and then passing beyond the city 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 an object lesson to his men. It was this night that his desire was to teach them about the most vital relationship they have in their lives, their connection with Jesus and the Father, each other, also the world.
We might ask ourselves, “Why did Jesus give them this teaching NOW?” The answer is simple: They needed it! Jesus had just told these guys that he is going away, but that his work is going to continue… through them and their lives, John 14:12. If they were to carry on the work of the Lord, then they needed to know how to produce fruit in their lives.
This morning, we are 2,000 years removed from that night, but we know the work of Jesus continues. Our vision is to extend the love of Christ and his kingdom in Virginia Beach and to the world. That is a God-sized task. We know that God is still working through his followers to accomplish his work and his will in the world today.
Many of us may sit here and wonder HOW we are supposed to do the work of the Lord and HOW we can produce the proper kind of fruit in our own lives. Well, the answer is found in these verses. THIS passage is all about being becoming a genuine disciple and about how to bear fruit that Jesus expects. Let’s dive into this passage on the True Vine and see how we can become more like Jesus.
The BRANCHES – WE MUST ABIDE – John 15:1-8 – the believer relates to the Son.
The SYMBOLS – John 15:1, 5a-5b
- The Son is the true vine – John 15:1a, 5a – First notice that Jesus alone possesses life within Himself, John 14:6. All other vines are counterfeit. He alone is the true source of everlasting, abundant life.
- The Father is the gardener – John 15:1b – The word “vinedresser” refers to the the gardener, the one who has the responsibility of caring for the vineyard. Jesus is saying our Heavenly Father is the Gardener.
- The believer is the branch – John 15:5b — Some things just jump out at me, notice the phrase in John 15:2, every branch “in me” or every branch “of mine.” This tells me that we are dealing with genuine believers, not just people who claim the name of Christian, but actual followers of Jesus.
The STEPS – John 15:2-4, 5c-6
1. We must submit to pruning by the Father – John 15:2-3 – pruning is the Gardner’s method of protecting and purifying the vineyard. He does this in one of two ways:
- He Challenges the Branch – Several years ago we had several sermons on “The Secrets of the Vine” so you may remember that the phrase, “takes away” means to lift up or to raise higher. The Gardener will take the unfruitful branch and lift it from to dirt, giving it a better chance to be productive. On a personal level, this means that when we get to a place in our Christian lives where we are barren and unfruitful, the Lord will have to reach into our lives, disturb our casual carelessness and lift us up to challenge us and shock us toward growth. There are times when the Lord can only accomplish this through discipline. He’s got to get our attention. So, if we respond with repentance, this process will help us to be fruitful for his glory. If, however, we choose to go on in our sinfulness, God may deal with us more severely. Has God been challenging you lately? If so, don’t run from his challenge. Instead of running FROM God, turn around, and run TOWARD him. After all, his discipline has always been proof of his love (Revelation 3:19, and of your relationship to Him, Hebrews 12:8).
- He Cleanses the Branch – The Gardener removes things from the branch that sap it vitality and strength. Things like sucker branches, useless buds, misdirected shoots, spots, discolored leaves, stuff like that. Anything that consumes life but produces no fruit has to go! This is so true in the life of the believer. When we allow things into our lives that hinder our following after Jesus, then we are in danger of a divine pruning. “Pruning,” by its very name sounds painful, and it isn’t always easy to cut the junk from our lives, but if WE don’t do it on our own, the Lord will deal with it through pruning! So, has the God been speaking to you through His Word? If so, have you been listening? Are there areas in your life that need to be pruned: a habit you are unwilling to give up? An attitude that you will not change? A relationship you will not forgive? A lifestyle you will not forsake? If not, I challenge you to deal with it before the Lord prunes your life. If you don’t deal with it, God may very well take further and far more drastic measures.
2. We must abide in the Son – John 15:4, 5c-6
- John 15:2 The Branch Must be Attached to the Vine – If you are not in the Vine, then there is no way for you to share in the Vine’s life. This is all about that vital connection between the believer and the Lord Jesus Christ, the True Vine.
- John 15:4-5 The Branch Must Abide in the Vine – That means, we must maintain close fellowship with the Vine if Jesus is to live through us and produce fruit in our lives. This happens only by “abiding” in Jesus! How do we abide in him? Prayer, Studying the Bible, Deny yourself, Drawing near to God! The closer we abide to the Vine, the more his life can flow through us to produce the fruit that he desires. Could THIS be the reason that many church members aren’t bearing fruit? They are near the Vine but not actually connected to it. Sound familiar? Is God speaking to YOU right now? So, perhaps you feel that you ARE attached to the Vine, and you are abiding in the Vine, there is a third possibility…
- John 15:5 The Branch Must be Available to the Vine – Look at the concept of fruit bearing. It is a passive activity on the part of the branch. If the branch will simply abide in the Vine, then the Vine will produce the fruit on the branch. I don’t know about you, but I find that truth liberating! I am not required to grow my own fruit. It is the Vine’s responsibility to produce his fruit in my life. That frees us from having to work and labor to get his approval. If we will yield, submit, and surrender to Jesus, he will live through his followers!
So, as a believer who is not bearing fruit, you have to ask yourself this question, “Am I available to Jesus, so he can bear fruit in me?” Have I truly yielded to him? Have I surrendered to Jesus? Have I denied myself, taken up my cross, and really following him? You may be thinking, “When I speak of fruit, what do I mean?” What will be produced in our lives when we surrender to Jesus? How will we know if fruit is being produced through us? There are three basic fruits the Lord bears in the lives of His children. They are:
- Sanctification – That is, we become more like Him – Romans 6:22; Phil. 1:11; Col. 1:10.
- Spirituality – That is, we behave more like Him – Gal. 5:22-23.
- Souls – That is, we are burdened for others like Him – Rom. 1:13.
Ok, before I leave this section, What about John 15:6? I Have a Question about Unfruitfulness – Not every branch abides in the Vine as it should. It is still attached, but it has ceased to draw life from the Vine. As a result, the branch is fruitless and withered. When this happens, the passage tells us there will be a certain results. GET THIS: Cast out why? – For Not Abiding. Is this loss of relationship or fellowship? The withered branch still possesses the same nature as the Vine, but it is no longer attached to draw life from the Vine. For those who are HIS, they are secure in Christ. We don’t wake each morning wondering if we are saved. It is called “security of the believer. The Bible challenges us to test and examine ourselves to see if we are of the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are we still saved even if we don’t bear fruit? I’ve heard it said, “The faith that fizzles at the finish was faulty at the first.”
The SUCCESS – John 15:7-8 – what are the results in bearing fruit?
- 1. It results in our bearing fruit – Ask whatever you will and it will be done for you. John 15:7 refers to An Unhindered Prayer Life – (John 14:13-14) Why? When we are abiding as we should be, and when we are drawing our life from Jesus, then HIS will becomes OUR will. That is, every time we pray and everything we pray for will fit perfectly with God’s will and he will grant our requests. This leaves no room for selfish or shallow prayers; only prayers that align with his will. How do we know his will? We can discover it right here in this book.
- 2. It results in glorifying the Father – John 15:8a – We recognize that this life is all about Jesus; which brings glory to the Father. Always remember that the Christian life is not all about US and OUR salvation; it is about embracing GOD’S mission for the world, it’s about THEIR salvation.
- 3. It results in proving we are disciples of Jesus – John 15:8b. Others will see connection with God, which will become evident in the way we love one another, treat one another, and as we carry on the mission that Christ has given to the church.
The BELIEVER – WE MUST OBEY – John 15:9-17 – the believer relates to others
The PRIORITY – John 15:9-12
- The Father loves the Son – John 15:9b, 10b
- The Son loves the believer – John 15:9a, 10a, 11
- The believer is commanded to love others – John 15:12-17 – Can love be commanded? Remember that love is not a feeling but an act of the will, which results in actions that demonstrate that love.
The PROOF – John 15:13-15 – proof of his love for us.
- What Jesus will do for his disciples – John 15:13 (lay down his life for his friends)
- What Jesus does for his disciples – John 15:14-15 (he calls Them friends, not servants) “Friends” here means one of the inner circle, one who knows the king’s secrets. Maybe even the best man at a wedding. That is a very close relationship. He is not talking about acquaintances on the fringe, but people who “get it” – the things that Jesus taught us about the Father (John 15:15).
The PROMISES – John 15:16-17
- That HE chose US – John 15:16a – I think that is a pretty good promise even though it may not look like one at first.
That branches will bear permanent fruit – John 15:16b – he appointed us that we would go and bear fruit, fruit that would remain.
- That prayers will be answered – John 15:16b – again, the key is not just asking in the Father’s name, but also asking according to the Father’s will.
The BATTLE – WE MUST ENDURE – John 15:18-27 – the believer related to the world
LIFE will be hard – John 15:18-21 – All those who desire to live godly lives will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).
- If the world hates you, it hated Jesus first – John 15:18 – Get this: not all hatred and strife comes from the enemy, sadly, some hatred and persecution comes from friendly fire; from religious people, from people inside the church. Those who are part of the fellowship. It is a sad day when people actually leave the church because they see “church people” acting in an unlovely manner, and causing strife and division in the body.
- What about if the world loves you? – John 15:19 – Ask yourself, “Where do you stand with Christ?” Have I compromised my faith to be successful in the world?
- Jesus tells us not to expect better treatment from the world, than the way it treated him. John 15:20
- The reason for the world’s behavior – they don’t know Christ. The reason for a fellow church member to mistreat others and stir up dissension… (John 15:21 – they do not know the One who sent me) they don’t KNOW and ABIDE in Christ.
LOVE has come – John 15:22-25 – and they hated him without a cause, so the world will hate us for the same reason.
- “If I had not come and spoken to them…” (John 15:22) refers to the incarnation, that fact that LOVE has come into the world to save people from their sin. Jesus tells us that people have no excuse for their sin since he has come into the world, because he has come and spoken to them.
- One cannot love God and not love Jesus – John 15:23 – How often to people what to come to God on their own terms, and reject the plan of salvation that the Father has offered through Jesus? Those who reject Jesus are rejecting the Father as well.
- All this was done to fulfill the prophecy, written in the Law, “They hated me without a cause” (Psalm 69:4) – Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; Those who would destroy me are powerful, being wrongfully my enemies;
LEAVING a Helper – John 15:26-27 – Remember that the Holy Spirit is a HE rather than an IT. He is God and has a mind, will, and emotions. He is the Helper, the Paraclete, the One who comes along side. This Helper will come, sent from the Father. I see three things in these two verses:
- Truth – he is the Spirit of truth
- Testify – he will testify of Jesus
- Testimony – we, who know him, will testify of Jesus as well.
ENDING: Jesus is the True Vine. His desire is to live through your life so that you might bear fruit for the glory of God.
As we close, there are a couple of questions that need to be asked right now.
- Are you “in the Vine”? Have you ever been saved and grafted into the Vine? Are you connected to Jesus?
- Are you “abiding in the Vine”? Are you drawing your strength from him so that he is able to produce his fruit through your life?
- Are you bearing fruit today? Where do you stand with Jesus? If God has revealed areas in your life that need to be pruned back or other wise dealt with today, then I challenge you to come to Jesus and let him take care of your need. If you have never been saved, please come and let me show you how you can be connected to the Vine and become a child of God.
This entire message has focused on relationships: with Jesus, with others, with the world around us. I pray that we will walk in the light as HE is in the light, and allow the sacrifice of Jesus to cleanse us and guide us in the way we relate to God and others.