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I am the True Vine... Abide in Me

John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:53
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Today we are studying John 15:1-17. I encourage you to open your bibles to this passage, so we can read and study together.
As we saw last week in John 14, the Holy Spirit is in us to teach us. Let’s take time to ask the Lord to open our hearts and minds to hear what he wants to teach us today.
Prayer
We are going to read the passage through together, and then begin to discuss it. Pay attention for things that are repeated. That will give us a clue as to what main point Jesus is making for his disciples, and for us today.
John 15:1–17 NIV
“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. 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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “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. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
Did you see anything repeated multiple times? We will get to that in a second. First, we want to look at the metaphor Jesus is using.

The Metaphor

In the scripture, God uses Metaphors to help communicate truths to us. A metaphor is a comparison in which something is said to be something it in truth is not. However, there is a point of comparison.
In verse one, Jesus said, “I am the true vine.” In verse 5 he says it again, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” Jesus is not a vine. We are not branches. But there is a point of comparison, which is the point Jesus is making.
When studying metaphors, we should look for the point of comparison, and for the explanation in the passage. It is important to stick to the explanation when one is given, and to not try to read too many other things into the passage. Stick to what was trying to be taught by the comparison.
In this passage, Jesus is using a metaphor with which the disciples would have been familiar. Grapevines and grapes were a part of the produce which were grown around Jerusalem.
To keep vines producing good fruit, the vine-dresser, or gardener, would remove the branches from the vine that were not producing fruit. Those branches were draining valuable nutrients from the branches that were producing fruit.
Then, those branches that were producing fruit would be pruned, or trimmed so that they would put more energy into producing fruit, and not put so much energy into just growing as a branch.
An important point of background information is that this is not the first time God uses this illustration. If you look at your bibles, most will have a footnote in verse one that points back to Psalm 80:8–11, and Isaiah 5:1–7. There are other passages in Ezekiel and Hosea and other prophets. However, these two are the primary passages in which we find that God is using the illustration with Israel as a vine which he, God, took care of.
To help us understand what is going on here in this passage, let’s turn to Isaiah 5:1-7 quickly.
Isaiah 5:1–7 NIV
I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
Here, the vineyard is Israel, and the vines are the people of Judah. God cared for them, but they did not produce proper fruit. Instead of good fruit of Justice, they produced bloodshed. Instead of the fruit of righteousness, they were unrighteous, and that led to distress for all around.
Interestingly, the point of Isaiah is similar to the point Jesus is making in John 15.
What is the main point that Jesus is making? For a gardener, the point is that they want fruit growing! Good fruit.
The comparative main point Jesus is making is that he wants his followers to bear fruit! Good fruit.

The Main Point: Bear Fruit

When studying the scriptures, look for what is repeated. Did you notice what was repeated? Did you see how ‘fruit’ or ‘fruitful’ occurs 9 times in this passage. It occurs 5 times in the first four verses, alone. And there is a progression. Let’s look at this.
John 15:2 NIV
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.
In this verse, branches that bear no fruit are cut off. Then, branches that bear fruit are pruned so that they bear more fruit. The progression is fruit, to more fruit. Now look at the next occurences in verses 4 and 5.
John 15:4 NIV
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.
John 15:5 NIV
“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.
Now, we go from bearing fruit, and more fruit, to much fruit! This is seen also in verse 8.
John 15:8 NIV
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Much fruit is the Father’s desire and glory. Now in verse 16,
John 15:16 NIV
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
He wants fruit that will last!
Do you see how often Jesus repeats this concept of bearing fruit? It is important. This is the last teaching time he has with his disciples, so he is trying to emphasize that this is not the end. He wants them to bear fruit. They have a purpose! Bear fruit!
Do you wonder what your purpose is? Do you wonder why you go through difficulties in life? God wants you to bear fruit. And the difficulties of life, God’s pruning, help us to seek less of ourselves, so that we bear more fruit, and finally much fruit, fruit that will last!
But that leads us to a couple questions.
What does it mean to bear fruit? What is the fruit?
and
How do we bear fruit?

What does it mean to bear fruit? What is the fruit?

Jesus does not explicitly define bearing fruit in this passage. However, that is where the background to the passage helps. When studying the scriptures, take time to explore the related verses found in the footnotes of the bible.
What was the fruit God was looking for in Isaiah?
Isaiah 5:7 NIV
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
The fruit that God is looking for is justice and righteousness. Justice is acting right toward others. Righteousness is being and doing what is right. Justice and righteousness come as we follow God and his commands.
Another technique of bible study is to look up the word fruit, or fruitful.
John and Peter both truly understood what Jesus was getting at, and included this concept in their letters. If we compare those passages, we will see more of what it means to bear fruit.
2 Peter 1:5–9 NIV
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Here the word ‘unproductive’ is literally, ‘unfruitful’. Peter is defining what righteous living would look like in other words. How can we bear fruit, instead of being unfruitful?
Goodness - moral excellence in our actions
knowledge - of who Christ is, and what he can and will do through us
self-control - not controlled by our desires, but having self-control over our desires which want to carry us away
perseverance - bearing up under trying circumstances
godliness - devotion to God
mutual affection - loving one another
love - loving as God loves, even the undeserving
There are other passages we could look at as well. Paul wrote of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-26.
Galatians 5:22–26 NIV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
The fruit God is looking for is what is in line with him and his character. It is loving obedience to him. It is righteous living and justice, acting right toward others.
God wants us to be fruitful. He wants us to bear the fruit of righteous living. He wants us to bear more fruit of righteous living. He wants us to bear much fruit of righteous living, the fruit that will last!
How can we do that? Have you ever tried to live righteously on your own? I know I have. I do. It is hard to live righteously! It is hard to be patient when others will not live righteously!
How can we do this? In ourselves, it is impossible. Let’s look back to John 15, where Jesus gives us the answer.

How do we bear fruit?

There is another concept that is repeated a lot in these verses.
In fact, it is repeated 11 times in 6 verses in this passage.
Look at verses 4 to 10 with me.
John 15:4–10 NIV
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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “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.
Do you see the repeated word?

Remain in Jesus. What is it?

If you have the NASB, KJV, NKJV, or ESV, you will see “abide”.
This is a word that Jesus taught, and John really learned. In fact, of the 117 times this word is used in the New Testament, 68 occurrences are in John’s writings: his gospel, his 3 letters, and the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
What does this word mean? It literally means to live. Where do you live? Where to you reside? Where are you abiding? It is not just a place you go to. It is your permanent dwelling. You may visit other places, but you always return here. Where is it? Your home. Your constant. Your shelter. Your safe place. Your place of rejuvenation.
This is what Jesus was saying. He is to be all of that for us. He is our constant. He is where we find rest, rejuvenation and nourishment. He is where we need to live. He is our shelter and comfort. He is our strength.
Just as a branch needs the nourishment, the strength from the vine to bear fruit, so too, we cannot bear fruit unless Jesus is our constant abode. We cannot bear fruit unless Jesus is our source of strength and nourishment. We need him constantly, not just for a couple minutes in the morning, or for 30 seconds at each meal. We need him constantly, not just for a feeding once a week, or once every few weeks at church.
If we are not feeding from him, if we do not remain in him, we will shrivel up and die. We cannot possibly bear fruit that will last.

How do we remain in Jesus?

The disciples had lived with Jesus for a few years. Now, Jesus was going away, and yet he said ‘to remain in him’. How in the world were they going to do this? How can we?
There are a few clues in the text, and a few in other passages.
John 15:7 NIV
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
We need to have his words in us. We need to take time to read, study and meditate on Jesus’ words. We need to take real time during the week to do this. We need to remain in the word, living in it daily, throughout the day. Without the word of God, we will shrivel up. How can we bear the fruit of righteousness without knowing what it is, or how to do it, as shown in God’s Word?
There is a second thing here. Ask. As we remain in his word, and his word remains in us, we will recognize how this is beyond us. That is when we need to ask. We need to ask him to change our hearts to reflect his. We need to ask him to work in us to carry out his commands. When we ask, he will do it, so that we can bear fruit.
John 15:9–10 NIV
“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.
We need to live in Jesus’ love; both his love for us and his love for others. I need to know his great love for me, while I was a sinner. I need to know his great love for others who are sinners. Then, living in that, I can keep his command to love as he loved. Remaining in his love, and keeping his command to love is how I remain in him. Again, this has to be more than just once a week. More than just a couple minutes each day. This has to be our constant. Dwelling on, meditating on his love, and then living out his love.
If we do that, we will bear fruit, much fruit, fruit that will last.
There is so much more we could say about remaining in him, and bearing fruit. It is truly one of the great themes of the New Testament when you begin to dig into it.
For now, let’s sum up what we have been talking about, and then, this week you can study it more for yourself.
Jesus wants us to bear fruit: live righteously.
In order to bear fruit, we must remain in him.
We need to be in his word, and have his word in us.
We need to ask him to work in us and through us.
We need to dwell in his love for us and others so that we will love as he loved us.
Doing this, we will bear much fruit that will last.
That is the main point of the metaphor in John 15:1-17.
Homework
Read John 15:1-17. Make a list of the occurences of ‘fruit’, ‘fruitful’ and ‘remain/abide’. How important is our relationship to Jesus when it comes to bearing fruit? Can we live righteously in our marriage if we are not in close relationship to Jesus? Can we live righteously as parents if we are not in close relationship with Jesus? Can we be a righteous friend if we are not in close relationship with Jesus? Can we live righteously when no one is looking if we are not in close relationship with Jesus? Can we shine as a light to the lost if we are not in a close relationship with Jesus? Are you in a close relationship with Jesus? Ask the Spirit to teach you what it means to be fruitful, and what it means to remain/abide this week. Memorize John 15:5.
Read Isaiah 5:1-7, and 2 Peter 1:5-9. What is the fruit that God wants us to bear? Write out what the fruit is in these verses, and then look up those words, meditate and ask the Spirit what they mean. What would that kind of fruit look like in your life?
Read Galatians 5:22-26. What is the fruit of the Spirit? In what ways do you not produce this fruit? In what situations in your life do you need to bear this fruit? Ask the Spirit to reveal to you where you need to bear this fruit, and then what it would look like in practical ways. Write out one or two ways you will ask the Lord to work this fruit in you. Then, look for the opportunities to carry out in his stength what he is calling you to do.
Read 1 John 2-4. There are twenty-six references to ‘abiding’, ‘living’ or ‘remaining’ in these three chapters. Find and list them. The Logos Bible app will help you. Go to John 15. Hold you finger on ‘remain’. Tap on Search. Change the Range to 1 John. Tap on search again. Look at the list of verses. How does John say we remain in Jesus?
Read Colossians 1:9-14. Make this your prayer for yourself, and for your brothers and sisters in Christ this week. Try to memorize and meditate on this passage.
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