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I AM THE VINE

Date: 
March 18, 2018
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
John 15:1-17

Theme: When we abide in Christ we draw on a higher power!

INTRODUCTION

  • To help identify himself to his followers – to let them know who he really was – Jesus employed a number of “I am…” statements… (Bread of Life, Good Shepherd, Light of the World)
  • The scripture reading this morning is from the 15th chapter of John’s gospel, but the real key to understanding these words is found in the first verse of chapter 16: “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling.”  (John 16:1)
  • The faith journey is not an easy journey… the words of Jesus are intended to keep us from stumbling…
  • And how do we keep from stumbling? Jesus gives us the answer:  “Abide in me.”
  • What does it mean to abide in Christ?

 

THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES

  • The image that Jesus uses in John 15 is that of the vine and the branches… Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (John 15:5)
    • Jesus spoke these words to his disciples as he went with them from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane following the Last Supper.
    • He was preparing them for the journey that was ahead of them… his physical presence with the disciples would be ending… he needed to give them resources for the days ahead so that they would know how to continue his ministry…
    • When he spoke about the vine and the branches, he was teaching them what it means to follow him…
    • When Jesus spoke about vineyards, Judeans knew very well what he was talking about – much like people in Iowa would understand images of endless rows of corn or the people of Georgia would understand images of fields of cotton…
    • In Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, there were grapevines everywhere – grapes grew wildly along the roads and they also grew in well-tended vineyards where they produced much fruit…
    • Judeans pictured their nation as God’s vineyard – the Old Testament is filled with this imagery… the Hebrew people are the vineyard and God is the “vinedresser” – the gardener
    • Jesus often used the image of a vineyard in his parables…
  • What do you know about vines and branches?
    • Life flows through the vine to the branches – that’s the most important thing we need to know – life flows through the vine to the branches.
    • All the branches are connected through the vine – from the vine life flows through all the connected branches…
    • The purpose of a branch is to bear fruit… a branch that is not connected to the vine can not bear fruit and can not survive
    • Branches must be pruned - cut back carefully – in order to produce the best fruit.
  • Jesus is the vine and we are the branches – all life flows through Christ
    • Jesus is the source of our strength…
    • He is the source of Christian life, Christian community, and Christian discipleship…
    • We enhance our lives and our life together by drawing our strength from him…
    • Apart from him, we can do nothing… apart from him we cannot be the people God intends us to be… apart from him we cannot bear fruit that gives glory to God….
  • Jesus reveals that we are already attached to him… we are already the branches… further, he says, God will prune every branch to make it bear more fruit… God has already done this work… by the grace of God, Christ abides in us even before we choose to abide in Christ. (Orr)
  • We are invited to accept the fact that we are already accepted by God in Christ… he abides with us already, and we are to live knowing this to be true… we are to live in the presence of God… we are to abide in Christ – that is the key to avoiding stumbling in our faith journey – abiding in Christ.

 

ABIDING IN CHRIST

  • What does it mean to abide in Christ?
    • The word abide means to remain in the presence of…
    • Abiding in Christ is cultivating a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ – a meaningful relationship, not just a Sunday morning relationship, but a deep, lasting relationship that gives us strength always.
    • Jesus says, “Include me in the details of your day and I will fill all your life with my presence.” (May)
  • Abiding in Christ means:
    • Believing that Jesus is God’s Son (I John 4:15)
    • Receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior (John 1:12)
    • Seeking and doing the will of God (I John 3:24)
    • Believing the good news of the gospel (I John 2:24)
    • Loving one another (John 15:12)
  • Eugene Orr speaks about abiding in Christ as practicing the presence of God in our lives…
    • How do we do that? How do we make God the focus of our lives?
    • In John 15 Jesus answers that question with these words: Listen to my word… be constant in prayer… be filled with my spirit… trust in my love… keep my commandments… enjoy my presence… (Orr)
  • When we abide in Christ we draw on a higher power!

 

THE FELLOWSHIP OF BELIEVERS

  • If you look closely at a grapevine, you will notice that all the branches are intertwined – they look tangled and the vine itself is barely visible in the midst of the branches….
    • A Christian can’t be a lone branch on the vine…
    • The vine produces many branches and the branches must be intertwine and support one another if good fruit is to be produced… the branches support one another, protect one another, and shelter one another…
  • We abide in Christ as we commit to one another…
    • To be called by Christ is to be called into community, not for private communion…
    • We are Christians in relationship to others… we share a common life…
    • Individually the disciples could do very little… only when they were together were they at their best, drawing on the power of God…
    • Alone they were weak… together they strengthened and supported one another… is it easier to  break a twig or to break a bunch of twigs?
  • Remember, life flows through all the connected parts of the plant – the roots, the vine, the branches, the leaves, the tendrils, and the fruit, which suggests that you and I can never be private Christians… we must be connected. (Sueltz)
    • We are created for communion… we cannot live apart from the vine, nor can we survive without the other branches…  (illust: coal taken out of the fire burns out quickly)
    • While faith remains personal, it can never be private… we are joined with all who profess Jesus Christ as Lord.
    • The church is a fellowship of believers.

 

THE FRUIT OF OUR MINISTRY

  • The purpose of the branches is to bear much fruit…
  • Within the church of Jesus Christ there are two types of branches…
    • There are ornamental branches which look good, but don’t produce any fruit… their profession of faith is not matched by their practice of faith… they rob the tree of its energy and keep it from bearing new branches and producing new fruit…
    • There are fruit bearing branches which build up the church and give glory to God…
    • Jesus said that the former branches are cut away and the latter branches are cultivated… God blesses the lives of those who bear fruit… those who truly abide in Christ will bear much fruit…
  • What is this fruit that we are talking about? What is the fruit that God calls us to produce in abundance?
    • The fruit that we are to produce is a certain quality of life that is filled with love for one another… this fruit – this love – grows by the power of God working in us and through us.
    • It’s not about church attendance or stewardship or knowledge of the Bible… it’s about how we treat one another… the true fruit of the vine is a loving and compassionate life. (Blair)
    • The purpose of the branches is to bear the fruit of God’s love…
    • The simple truth is that we abide in Christ only to the extent of our love for one another… that’s what the verses in John 15 are all about…
  • Love was very important to Jesus…
    • Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
    • Loving one another is more than a feeling… love is an action that we take toward others…
    • Loving one another means standing with those who are in need, standing with those who are struggling, standing with those who stand alone…
    • Love is a way of giving our lives so that others may live… that is how Christ loves us… he lays down his life for us.  (John 15:13)

 

CONCLUSION

  • Jesus said, “Those who abide in me will bear much fruit.”
  • Bearing fruit is a double blessing…
    • Bearing fruit enriches our lives and the lives of those around us…
    • Bearing fruit brings glory to God…
  • Are you abiding in Christ? Ponder these four questions as you journey through life:
    • Are you drawing your strength from the higher power?
    • Are you bearing fruit?
    • Is your life an example of Christian discipleship at its best?
    • Is your life giving glory to God?

Sermon Seeds

  • Daily Study Bible – William Barclay
  • Life Application Bible Commentary – edited by Tyndale
  • Abide in Christ – a sermon by Eugene Orr – Minister’s Annual Manual – 2003/2003 – p. 378
  • Deeper Into John’s Gospel – Arthur Sueltz
  • Living In The Zone – a sermon by Steven May
  • I Am The True Vine -  a sermon by Brett Blair and Staff

 

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