John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
The Christian life is not about our ability to perform. It’s about our relationship with God through the cross of Christ and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said – “Those who abide in Me shall bear abundant fruit, and those who do not abide in Me shall whither up and die.” So what does it mean to ‘abide in Christ?’
I. Abiding in Christ is a Saving Relationship
John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
A. What Does It Mean to ‘Abide’?
The word ‘abide’ literally means – ‘to remain or to continue.’ Years ago when I was taking Greek in college, we had to memorize a number of Greek vocabulary words each week. The only way I could memorize a lot of these difficult words was by word association. The Greek word for remain is ‘meno.’ Here was my trick for memorizing this word. What was the name of the ship Gilligan was in when he and the others were stranded on the island? It was the Minnow. Meno means to remain or to continue.
Jesus used this word numerous times that night in various ways. John also used this word numerous times when he later sought to explain Christ’s teaching in the book we call 1st John.
B. To Abide in Christ is a Saving Relationship
Here is one of the ways John used this word –
1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
John tells us that the reason some people profess for a season to be a believer and then fall away is because they were never really attached to the vine. How do I believe that is what Jesus was talking about? There are several reasons:
1. Jesus said that they are ‘not abiding in Him.’ These individuals are outside of a saving relationship with Christ.
John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
2. Jesus said that they will eventually wither up and die which indicates that they are not receiving life-giving nourishment from Him.
3. They are cast into the fire and burned.
4. John refers to such people in his letter stating that the reason they went out from the body of Christ was because they were never a part of the body of Christ. They were only appearing to be so for a season.
5. Jesus was drawing a clear distinction that night between Judas and the eleven. At this point, Judas has left to finish his act of betrayal. Here is an amazing thing about Judas. None of the disciples seemed to have a clue that he was the one who was going to betray Jesus. When Jesus revealed that one of them would betray Him, no one said, “Yeah and I know who it is. It’s Judas!” Instead, each of them asked, “Lord, is it I?”
C. Salvation is a Life-Changing Experience
Salvation is not someone trying to do better on their own. It is a spiritual new birth produced by the Holy Spirit of God. John writes –
1 John 4:13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
Speaking of the indwelling Spirit our Lord said –
John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
The Apostle Paul wrote –
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ESV
II. Abiding in Christ is a Growing Relationship
John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
As I said a few moments ago, Jesus used this particular word numerous times that night in various ways. No doubt He did so partly because of His analogy. All of the disciples were somewhat familiar with vines and the producing of wine. Because Jesus was on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, it’s possible that they even passed by a grape vine on the way and therefore the analogy was very fresh and clear in their thinking.
A. Jesus is the True Vine
Many of you are familiar with the Christian camp called ‘Alethia’ not far from here. The word ‘alethia’ means truth. Jesus said, “I am the true vine.” Earlier He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (see John 14:6) The reason Jesus said that was because there are many religious things in this world that are not true. One such false vine was the nation of Israel and their effort to earn salvation through their obedience to the Law.
Israel had once been known as God’s vine. Psalm 80:8 says, “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.” But Israel stopped being a true vine. We read from the book of Hosea – “How prosperous Israel is— a luxuriant vine loaded with fruit. But the richer the people get, the more pagan altars they build. The more bountiful their harvests, the more beautiful their sacred pillars.” Hosea 10:1 NLT Somewhere along the way, the vine Israel stopped producing fruit for God’s glory, and instead began to produce fruit for themselves. They became a vine full of beautiful leaves, but lacked genuine fruit.
The same came be true for all of us. More than one fruitful Christian has somewhere along the way, gotten caught up in themselves and strayed away from serving God. More than one church or denomination has gotten more caught up in their choir robes and chandeliers than reaching people with gospel and then discipling them in the Christian faith. More than one branch has started to produce more leaves than fruit.
We all have the tendency to loose our spiritual focus and therefore the Lord has to continue to work in our lives. Jesus said –
B. We Are the Branches
What a blessing it is to know that God can use us in someway to bring Himself glory. Jesus said –
John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
This year marks thirty years since I first yielded my life to go into the ministry. You might think that by this time I would have it down pat – but I don’t. I am still as dependent upon God today as I was thirty years ago. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in the last thirty years is that if God help me, it won’t get off the ground.
C. God the Father is the Vine-Dresser
John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
The word ‘husbandman’ means more than just the person who owns the vineyard. It means the person who takes care of the vineyard. Some of your translations say ‘gardener.’ Other translations say – ‘vine-dresser.’ The Holman translation calls God the – ‘vineyard keeper.’ God does not just sit back to watch what we do and judge us whether it’s good or bad. God is actively involved in each of our lives.
1. God the Father Cultivates Us For More Fruitfulness
John 15:2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away…
At first it might seem that Jesus is speaking about the same group that He spoke of in verse 6, but He’s not. How do we know that?
a. Those Who Are ‘In Him’ vs. Those Who Are ‘Not in Him’
First of all, He makes a distinction between those who are ‘in Him’ and those who are ‘not in Him.’
b. Meaning of ‘Taketh Away’
The terminology He used for ‘taketh away’ is not the same that He used for ‘gathering and casting into the fire.’
‘Casting’ into the fire refers to throwing something away. The Bible says that one day God will say to some – “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (see Matthew 7:23) God will cast false believers into hell.
‘Taketh up’ means something entirely different. Though it is sometimes used to refer to removing something, most often it is used to refer to lifting up or elevating something. Many believe that Jesus was saying that God will work with the believer who is not yet producing fruit, lifting them up and cultivating them so that they can bear fruit. The young man named John Mark comes to my mind here. Many of you know that Paul and Barnabas chose young John Mark to travel with them on their first missionary journey. However, somewhere John Mark decided to go back home. This angered the Apostle Paul and he did not want to bother with John Mark again. But Barnabas (the encourager) saw potential in John Mark and so he took him under his wing and mentored him. In Paul’s final letter to Timothy we ready – “Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry.” (see 2 Tim 4:11) What happened? Rather than casting John Mark to the side, God continued to work in his life, lifting him up like a tender shoot and training him to grow along the trellis. Many of you know that Mark wrote one of the four gospels. Many believe that Mark became a close friend to the Apostle Peter and actually gospel of Mark is Peter’s account of the life and ministry of Jesus.
2. God the Father Prunes Away the Useless Things in Our Lives
John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
The thought of being pruned doesn’t sound very pleasant. Yet gardeners know that pruning is an important part of cultivating a plant and helping it to grow. I learned this lesson from my dad when I was just a boy.
My dad was a self-made horticulturist. He loved to grow things, especially if he could eat them. One of the things dad raised was grapes. At the back of his yard there was an arbor that would always be loaded down with grapes every season. The reason the arbor would be full of grapes in the fall is because of what dad did about this time of year. He would go to the grape vine and cut it back until it was not much more than a gnarly vine. There was hardly a branch left on it by the time he was done. To the casual observer, they might have thought that he was trying to kill it, but instead he was preparing it to produce grapes. Dad knew that if he left all the branches on it, it would produce an abundance of leaves. But if he cut the excess foliage away, the vine would then be able to use its energy for the producing of grapes.
God will prune away those things in our life that might hinder us from bearing spiritual fruit. Such things can include sin, but it can also include selfishness. We read from the book of Hebrews –
Hebrews 12:5 My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth… 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
We get the word gymnasium from the Greek word translated here as ‘exercised.’ Literally we are being told that God takes us to the gym of chastening to train and develop us in our faith.
3. How Does God Produce More Fruit in Our Lives
How does God produce more fruit in and through our lives? In order to understand God’s process we must return back to Christ’s teaching.
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
It all has to do with whether or not we are ‘abiding in Christ.’ It’s all about our relationship with Him.
a. The Abiding of Salvation
As we have already seen, there must be the abiding of salvation. Until we are born-again by the Holy Spirit and become a part of Jesus Christ, we cannot produce spiritual fruit.
b. The Abiding of Surrender
To abide in Christ begins with salvation, but it does not end there. We must continue to abide in Christ through a surrendered life.
Many Christians make two great mistakes about their Christianity and bearing spiritual fruit:
i. “Now that I am a saved I will bear fruit automatically”
ii. “Who cares whether or not I bear fruit, just as long as I am saved”
Both of these thoughts are incorrect and outside of the will of God. We do not bear spiritual fruit automatically and it does matter whether or not we are a fruit bearing Christian. God has saved us to bear fruit!
John 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
c. True Discipleship Means Bearing Spiritual Fruit
Jesus said that true discipleship is revealed by the fruit we bear. Becoming a fruitful follower of Jesus is more than joining a church and being baptized. It’s more than gaining a some head knowledge about the Bible. True discipleship is about learning what God’s Word says and then applying it to the way we live.
John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
For Christ to bear spiritual fruit through our lives, we must live a life that is surrendered to His Word. How do we live a life surrendered to the Word of God? How do we live a life that is abiding in Christ?
There is another element of this abiding in Christ that although He is not mentioned in this particular portion of scripture, Jesus referred to Him several times that evening. It’s the Holy Spirit. The King James calls Him the Comforter, but He could also be called the Helper. That’s what the word actually means. The Spirit is someone God the Father has called to be by our side to help us. How does the Spirit help us in our spiritual walk?
Jesus also called Him the Spirit of truth who has been sent to guide us into all truth. Initially Jesus was telling His disciples that the Spirit would come and through inspiration enable them to write the Word of God. But the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit does not end with inspiration. It continues on with what we might call illumination. The Spirit takes what He guided these men to write and He teaches us how to apply it to our lives.
I find it very interesting to know that the word translated as ‘spirit’ comes from the word that can be translated as ‘breath.’ We sometimes sing a song called ‘Breathe.’ Think about the words –
This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me
How is God’s holy presence living within us? God is living in us by the Holy Spirit. At the moment of salvation the Spirit comes to live within us in order to help us live the fruitful Christian life. He reveals to us the truths from God’s Word. He convicts us of sin and He encourages us in the things of God. He guides us as we pray and He empowers us to live out what we know is the will of God.
III. Abiding in Christ is a Rewarding Relationship
I must close our study today, but before I do, let me show you one more important truth Jesus spoke that night.
John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
God does not want our Christian life to be dead and fruitless. God wants us to enjoy the abundant life in Christ. How can we do that?
Many years ago a young man came to Christ through an evangelist crusade held by Dwight L. Moody. Sometime after that the young man was in a testimony meeting where he stood up to share with the others his coming to Christ. After only a few words out of his mouth, the young man realized that he understood very little about what the Bible says. But with total genuineness the young man said – “I’m not quite sure—but I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey.” Another man was there in that meeting and those words inspired him to go home and write a this hymn.
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
(John Sammis 1887)