Posts Tagged ‘ Vine ’

Sermon: Growing into Friends of God – John 15:7-17

I preached again!

Once again, I was back in Paulden covering for Brother Paul. We both have been retreading ground. In my last sermon, I preached verses 1-11, and last week Paul did the same (covering things from a slightly different angle.)

This week, I started in verse 7, so only a little retreading.

As usual, these are rough notes, and I added quite a bit.

Unfortunately, the recording had a major error, so there is no video or audio. At least you can read my notes, I guess.

Growing into Friends of God – John 15:7-17

Intro – The Day I “Became a Man”

Our society today rebels against true manhood and womanhood, against all the things God calls good: family, traditional roles, childhood and parenthood.

Frankly, it is all stupid, especially as they wonder why our society is going to hell in a hand basket, even as studies keep coming out showing the importance of fathers and two-parent homes, the rise in depression especially among younger generations and even those who “find their true selves” through gender-swapping and transgenderism, and the yearning for justice that no one can find.

Yet, growing up I wanted to be like my dad.

I remember the day I knew he saw me as a man. It was a summer day in 2002. We were taking our almost annual road trip from Illinois to Upstate New York to see family and friends. I was 18-going-on-19, and I was ready for the regular 12-14 hour day of riding in the back seat, reading, playing some games with my siblings, maybe pretending to nap. (I don’t nap well while traveling.) My dad usually drove, though sometimes he would have my mom drive for a couple of hours to let himself rest a little.

We made our stop near the border of Indiana and Ohio, did the usual rest stop stuff and got some lunch, and then headed back to the car.

Dad stops me a few feet from the car, dangles the keys in front of me, and says, “Ready for your turn?”

It was huge. I knew I was a man that day.

But he also went through a quick list of “remember this and that” for safe driving and such, as well as a reminder that he would be next to me if I got worried or needed to pull over.

In other words, “You’re not a kid anymore. Remember the rules, and remember I am here to help.”

______________

Before we resume John 15, let’s remember what we’ve talked about.

The past two weeks, Pastor Paul and I covered abiding in Christ.

We discussed much about obeying God, showing we love Jesus by obeying His commands.

What are God’s commands?

  1. Love God with everything you are;
  2. Love other people;
  3. Love each other, the Church.

There are different ways of doing this, yes, but there are some specific ways of doing this.

As Pastor Paul reminded us last week, the people of Israel were supposed to be the light to world drawing other people to God. They were God’s vine that consistently did not grow good fruit, so He had to cut them off.

Not just prune the vine. He had to cut them off. First through exile, and then, after Christ’s ministry and resurrection, the destruction of the nation of Israel (until 1948).

He gave a new Vine, Himself, to make a new people, the Church.

In other words, if we want to do truly good works and find eternal life, we must be found in the Vine of Christ. Only in Christ do we find life and fulfillment. Only in Christ, the faithful Son, can we be faithful to obey.

We must be a people who desire Christ more than anything, only finding our fulfillment in Him.

This leads us back to John 15, starting in verse 7.

​Reading

John 15:7–17, ESV

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. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 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. 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. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Growing Up

Just like my Old Man showed his love by letting me drive, we see here that Christ is showing God’s love for us.

We are being elevated from mere servants of God to friends.

I don’t know if I ever would have asked to drive on a road trip. That was Pop’s job. He did the hard work of driving, even if I really, really wanted to drive.

I don’t think we realize what we fail to ask God for in this life.

Many teachers, preachers, and theologians today like to teach “See! We can ask for whatever we want!” To the point that some famous preachers say they had to ask God for a new luxury car, a bigger house, and a faster private jet. Verses 7 and 16 say so!

Is this what Jesus is saying we should be doing?

“If you abide in me … whatever you ask the Father in my name …”

We should be asking according to Jesus’ will.

Am I saying we should never ask for things or to drive our dad’s car? No. God loves when we talk to Him, even over seemingly trivial things.

However, this passage and others show that we ask according to His will.

The Mega Millions was just at $1.3 Billion (a winning ticket was sold in Chicago). It got me thinking about all of those people who win and suddenly find out about family and friends they weren’t aware of. People who come asking for money and/or gifts.

That’s annoying, having people only come to you when they want something, a free handout.

Or if I had started asking random people if I could drive their car. Also annoying and silly.

But Jesus tells us that He is not inviting anyone to come ask Him and His Father for stuff.

Like my dad, He demands faithfulness to His commands, regular obedience.

He wants us to grow up.

My dad didn’t hand me keys to the car when I was five or even 16 years old (though there was practice driving from the age of 15). He waited until I had faithfully shown him that I could be trusted with a vehicle.

Likewise, Jesus says we are His friends if we obey Him. He has shown us we are friends by revealing what His will is.

He says, v. 16, that He chose us to bear fruit, so we know we can bear the fruit He wants.

He says, v. 8, that His will is to glorify the Father.

He says, v. 17, that His will is to glorify God by loving others.

He says, v. 13, that we are to love sacrificially. Even to the point of giving up our lives.

We get over our selfish desires and seek to glorify God by serving others. We are to grow up and start caring for others.

Back in the Garden of Eden, our super-great grandparents chose personal rewards over obedience, and nothing has changed since.

But now we have the Holy Spirit of God who changes our way of thinking and acting to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, to seek the will of God, to love the same way He has loved us.

Some examples

Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.​
Exodus 33:11, ESV

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”
Isaiah 41:8-9, ESV

Moses and Abraham were murderers and liars, yet they were called friends of God because of their obedience and sacrificial love, both giving up children for God.

And through these men, God called people to Himself, not to be selfish but to seek the will of God.

In chapter 4 of his letter, James, the brother of Jesus, told us as much:​

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:1-10, ESV

So, the message?

Grow up. Be a friend of God, one who seeks His will and glory above your own, who loves God by loving others.

Be humble and realize your dependence on Him, drawing near to abide in His everlasting love.

We live in a world that says we should be seeking our own comfort and glory, but God demands obedience to His will. And He helps us be faithful if we draw near.

My dad didn’t give me the keys to the car because I was the greatest driver in the world.

He gave me the keys of the car because he loved me enough to train me to drive and rewarded my faithfulness to growing. (Even though I still had a ways to go!)

Likewise, Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to go into the world and bring glory to God.

He promised (in the last chapter, 14:18) that He would not leave us as orphaned children, rather that He would help train us up and empower us by His Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to whole world, loving them as He has loved us.

[Hebrews 6:1] “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,” [2 Peter 3:17-18] “beloved, knowing this beforehand, taking care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Sermon: Abiding in Christ – John 15:1-11

I preached again!

I once again covered for brother Paul at Paulden Christian Fellowship.

As usual, I offer the reminder that these are my rough notes. In fact, I added about double the words verbally this time!

Also, there is no video this time around.

Branching Out: Abiding in Jesus: John 15:1-11

“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. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

John 15:1-11

Intro

Here are some interesting things about grape vines:

  • The ground beneath a vine needs to be perfectly clean: no weeds, no fallen branches or fruit. It is hard work to keep the ground clean for a vine to grow strong and healthy.
  • Vines are creeping plants, so they want to spread out across an area. If they stay on the ground, they do not grow good fruit. Therefore, grape vines are usually help up off the ground on trellises (woven/netted fences) or forked stakes.
  • New vines are allowed to grow for three years before they can grow fruit, being pruned once a year to keep the ground clear and conserve growing energy.

  • In the winter (usually December-January) of the third year, the vine is extensively pruned to prepare for fruit growth.

  • There are two kinds of branches that grow on the vine: those that produce fruit and those that don’t. Again, to help those that produce fruit get the most energy and food, the fruitless branches are cut off, to help keep them from robbing the good branches of sustenance. They are not good for anything (except maybe some artwork) due to being too soft for construction and burning too quickly to be used for useful fires. They are at best kindling and even described in Ezekiel 15 as only good for being burned in a bonfire.

  • Israel was often described as a vine (Isaiah 5, Jeremiah2, Ezekiel 15-19, Hosea 10, Psalm 80), and for much of its history Israel used the vine as its national symbol.

Why talk about this? Because it has everything to do with our passage today! We will see what the fruitless branches look like, what a fruitful branch looks like, and we will look from the beginning of history all the way to the end of history.

The Vinedresser and Fruit

The first thing we must think about is our Father in heaven.

God created the heavens and the earth in six days. During that creative work, He made a Garden in which to place Man, giving the Man dominion over the Creation to tend it and cultivate it, to care for animals and plants, yet to enjoy the fruit and rest of that Garden.

There was only one rule established at the beginning: don’t eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

I find it interesting that Adam is not told to not eat the fruit of the Tree of Life. Is this because God Himself is that tree? It is possible, as Christ told us in the previous chapter of John that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

But our focus is that Adam – and via him Eve – was commanded not to eat of this fruit.

“Every branch that does not bear fruit, He takes away.”

Well, let’s discuss for a moment the nature of vines: that the bad branches need to be pruned off so that they do not take sustenance from the good fruit.

Adam and Eve took fruit that was not theirs. When we give in to temptation or blatantly sin, we join with them in taking fruit without permission.

When people in church are living in unrepentant sin, they are robbing the fellowship of God’s goodness.

They are fruitless and deprive those with good fruit of sharing in all goodness, because they must then share their good fruit without the benefit of return. (Not that we do good things expecting good in return in this life!)

Galatians 5 explains the works of the flesh – the lack of fruit, which leads to immorality, sensuality, idolatry, hatred, rage, divisions, and wild living. When people live this way, we perpetuate the curse of sin and draw away others from God’s goodness and fellowship.

So God cuts them off.

The bad branches are cast into the fire.
This sounds harsh. It may even sound like people can lose their salvation.

Let me share my understanding, based on the whole council of God’s Word and historical orthodox understanding:

The bad branches are not those who once put their faith in Christ and fell away. These are those who tried to be good on their own power. They may be those who were raised in church, and even believed much of what they were taught and maybe even taught themselves. Just like the parable of the soils (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8) explains, some believe and even immediately take root, but the cares of this world, worries, fears, and even greed get in the way and they die.  

These are people who like God’s grace, but they take issue with other teachings in the Bible. The word translated as divisions in many modern Bibles is adequately translated in the KJV as “heresies”: different or false teachings. Those who fall away often believe false teachings.

Today it is the people who love God’s grace but hate the Bible’s “homophobia and transphobia.” After all, love is love, and God is love. So stop hating.

Today it is the people who love God’s grace but hate the Bible’s teachings on slavery and how it was used to keep the US in slavery for so long.

Today it is the people who love God’s grace but hate that the Bible seems to keep women down.

In truth, God does love all people, but He does have His standard on what love looks like. We do not hate people, but there is a best way to live, according to God.

In truth, none of these teachings are in the Bible the way these people understand them (or they understand them correctly and hate it all the same.) It does not condone slavery as seen in the 19th Century and before, but it set a standard for protection (that today looks more like the employer-employee dynamic). And the Bible is the reason women were elevated as much as they were historically, to the point that women could eventually own property, run businesses, and have a say in society.

No, these are people who take the good things from God and only keep what they like. They try to steal from God and His People while claiming they have the real goodness.

So, God cuts them off of the Vine, for they were never really a part of the Vine. (As Jesus points out in Matthew 25.) They are unable to do any truly good work (v. 5), so they are cast into the fire.

And God prunes those with good fruit.

Good branches

What does it mean that He prunes us?

It means He cuts of the parts that are not helpful. And yes, it hurts. We have to give up the things that get in the way of God in our lives.

It can look like the hard circumstances in our lives (though, yes, the hard circumstances could also be a direct result of our sinfulness.)

It can look like having something lost, taken from us, or being out of reach, like a job, a car, or a dream.

It can look like being corrected, as much as we like doing what we’re doing or as much as we would rather no one knows what we did.

But we are able to endure it if we abide in Christ.

What does abiding look like?

It is regularly attending church.
It is regularly reading the Bible.
It is regularly (and often) praying.
It is regularly helping others.

It looks like seeing the fruit of the Spirit as shown in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

These are not separate fruits, rather they are attributes of the single fruit of the Spirit. If one of these nine is missing in our lives, we are out of step with the Holy Spirit, not fully abiding in Christ. We should take a moment to examine ourselves, possibly with the help of others, to see what God wants to prune from us to keep us in step with the Sprit, abiding in Christ.

And we see the patience, joy, and self-control to go through that process.
We see the love, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness to want to help bring others into that same joy and peace.

We seek to want to help till the ground of the hearts of others to be ready to accept the gospel of Christ, understanding that it is the Holy Spirit using the Word to change their hearts.

Maybe, like Jude tells us, we are able to snatch some from the fire, to help them, as Paul says, to be truly grafted into the True Vine, Jesus.

Jeremiah called out Israel for becoming a wild vine that produces bad and even rotten fruit. But Jesus is the True Israel, the True Vine, in whom we are grafted and see the good works that can flow through us to glorify God.

As Jesus said …

Glorifying God

Abiding in Christ – being grafted in to His Vine – means we seek the glory of the Father. Our will is being conformed to His will, such that we will want to ask for things that bring Him glory and draw others to Him.

As even Pastor Paul preached, we show we are abiding in Christ, loving God, when we obey His commandments.

What are the greatest commandments?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; Love your neighbor as yourself; and the new commandment from John 13, love one another (the Church).

When we love God, we obey His commands to keep Him first and foremost in our lives, to love other people sacrificially and in truth, and we love His Church.

We are born into a world that rebels against God, and that includes our thoughts. We must realize that we naturally want to rebel and believe what the world teaches us is truth.

We believe that God literally created the world in six days, but the world teaches the universe began on its own and gradually progressed to produce every better (fitter) life. That we get better as we go along. That as a people we are smarter than in the past.

We let this sink in to our understanding today: We must know more than Christians in the past. It may be true for some things, but here we are 2000 years after Christ lived, died, and rose again still disseminating meaning from what was written in this book.

We ask for God’s wisdom through His Holy Spirit to realize where our world is influencing our understanding rather than Him and His Word. We ask for the change in our hearts and minds that only He can give us to be transformed to be more like Christ.

As James reminds us, this is the kind of thing that delights God and that He wants to grant. (See Solomon, after all.)

But what else do we ask for?

That He helps us abide in Him and bring Him all glory.

We see that the vine spreads. Likewise, Christ the Vine spreads as His Church cleans the land through the spreading of the gospel.

We do the good works of pointing people to Christ that they may be drawn near to Him. It may look like feeding and clothing the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and being kind to those the world has forgotten.

Most importantly it is sharing the gospel.

Abiding Toward the Future

As we see, Christ wants us to abide in Him as He abides in the Father, and we are abiding if we are obeying His commands.

And this brings us all joy.

It is because we remember that humanity was invited to abide with God in the Garden of Eden, but through Adam (and our own sin) we rejected that.

The gospel shows us that Jesus was born to faithfully obey, and His greatest fruit was being put on a tree in the place of Adam and Eve and all of us.

The gospel shows that we can one day be with Him in Paradise, as intended.

That is the hope that we have.

If we abide in Christ, we have the hope of eternal glory in the presence of The Glory.
No more pain. No more suffering. No more want. No more tears. No more difficult labor (double meaning here).

But we are to follow in His love as Jesus followed the love of the Father.

That means that we are to live sacrificially for others for the sake of the gospel.

The Father loved Jesus, yet the love was displayed through the crucifixion.

God loves us, so we will see pain and trouble in this life for His sake.

Abiding Today

I could give a list of “this is what it looks like” to abide in Christ.

In a way, I did: attend church and small groups, read the Bible, pray, encourage each other, be a servant.

The thing is, abiding in Christ is all of this, but it also can look different for everyone.

It can be serving the hungry. (Which the food bank here does well!)
It can be listening to someone hurting: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
It can be giving money or things to help someone in need, even to the point of wondering how all the bills will be paid this month.

Without the love of God, the fruit of the Spirit guiding our every decision and action, it does not much matter.
Therefore, we keep meeting together to encourage each other in Christ, reminding each other of the hope that we have in Christ, and … how about we let the Word tell us:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrew 10:23-25, ESV

The pastor is supposed to help us understand the Scriptures, and I pray I have helped with that today. But it takes all of us working with Christ to encourage each other to abide in Christ. It is that whole living life together thing.

How do we abide?

We trust in Christ for our salvation.
We rely on the Holy Spirit and the Church to grow us and change us.
We encourage each other and ask for the wisdom God offers.
We spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout our community and the world by doing good works and sharing the gospel.

And we do it together, joining God in this great mission of love, grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

VerseD: John 15:2

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.

John 15:2 ESV

Do people see Jesus in us, or do they see the same thing as what the works looks like?

Does God see the change?

Ask God to make you like Jesus. There are consequences and rewards either way.

VerseD: John 15:4

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.

John 15:4, ESV

Anything good we do is because of Christ working in and through us.

May we lead others to be found in Him.

VerseD: John 15:5

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.
John 15:5, ESV

Any good works we donare meaningless without Christ. We cannot earn our way to heaven with good works or being good enough.
Only in Jesus are we guaranteed eternal life and do our good works have real impact.

VerseD: John 15:4

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.
John 15:4, ESV

All that we do is tainted by sin, like a plant in a planter without good water or nutrients barely growing. We need the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit to truly do good works to bring glory to God.

VerseD: John 15:4

“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.”
John 15:4, ESV

Works can never save us, nor can we do truly good works apart from Christ.

VerseD: John 15:2

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.
John 15:2, ESV

Those who refuse to change, God removes from His presence.

His faithful, He molds to be more like Christ, and it sometimes hurts but will be worth the eternal joy to come.

VerseD: John 15:4

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
John 15:4, NASB

We are commanded to love God and love people, but it is at best difficult and at worst impossible without continually being consumed by the love of God through Jesus.

VerseD: John 15:7

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
John 15:7, ESV

Jesus is not promising a “Name-It-and-Claim-It” kind of wishful thinking.

Jesus is following through on what many other parts of the Bible, including His own words, promise: When your character is becoming so in tune with His and you are living by the Holy Spirit, then you will ask for things according to His will.

And then your requests will be given.