The vine and the branches - John 15:1-7

This is a sermon by Dave Lynch from the evening service on 30th June 2002.

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Well, I don't know about you, but I have often marvelled over what people think it is to live a spiritual life. It is amazing to see what different people think following God should involve. You see there are so many different opinions and many of them are radically different from one another.

For example let me tell you about a man named Simeon Stylites. Simeon was a Syrian Monk who lived in the fifth century. Now in his quest to live a God centred life, Simeon built a pillar 60 feet high in the middle of the desert and it was on a 3 foot platform at the top of this pillar that Simeon lived for 37 years.

A man named Will Durant, writes this about Simeon: " on his perch Simeon lived uninterruptedly for 30 years, exposed to rain and sun and cold. A ladder enabled disciples to take him food and remove his waste. He bound himself to the pillar by a rope; the rope became imbedded in his flesh, which putrefied around it and stank and teemed with worms.

Simeon picked up the worms that fell from his sores and replaced them there saying to them, "eat what God has given you".

Well this is certainly on very extreme example of a way some people choose to follow God. By cutting themselves off from others and the rest of the world and suffering.

Well as Christians, who are spiritual people, we must ask ourselves the very important question, what is it to live spiritually? What is it to live the spiritual life of a Christian? Should we cut ourselves off from the sinful world around us? Or does it actually matter what we do at all? The Bible makes it clear that Christianity doesn't depend on people doing good deeds, but on God's mercy and forgiveness, so if this is true, if being a Christian doesn't depend on our goodness, then does it matter what we do in life at all?

Well John 15 says that the way that we live our lives matters a great deal. We are to remain in Jesus! So lets take a deeper look at the first part of this chapter and see what it means to remain in Jesus. Because this obviously a vital thing we're looking at.

Now if you look down at the first part of chapter 15 you will see that Jesus is using the imagery of a vine to describe what he's talking about so first of all lets spend a bit of time getting to grips with what this vine picture is all about, let's look at The Vine and in doing so we will learn of Jesus' Identity.

Well in speaking of the vine, Jesus is making use of some strong Old Testament imagery, which is used very clearly in Psalm 80. Now it's worth turning to this if you can so that you can really grasp the picture.

We'll pick it up from verse 8: You brought a vine out of Egypt you drove out the nations and planted it.

you cleared the ground for it and it took root and filled the land.

The mountains were covered with it's shade, the mighty cedars with it's branches.

It sent out it's boughs to the sea, it's shoots as far as the river.

Now in this Psalm we see that the picture of a great vine is used to describe God's people.

Who in verse 8 God brought out of slavery in Egypt and in verses 9-11 planted in the promised Land of Canaan where the people of God prospered and flourished.

But if you know the story of the Old Testament then you will know that things went bad and the people rebelled against God and as a result he punished them and again we see that this is depicted in verses 12-16 of Psalm 80. The Vine, God's people have been destroyed.

Why have you broken down it's walls so that all who pass by pick it's grapes?

Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it.

But notice that the Psalm does end with a hint of hope. In verse 17 we see that there is this character the Son Of Man and it appears that he is tied up with the restoration of God's people.

Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand the son of man you have raised up for yourself.

Then we will not turn away from; revive us and we call on your name.

Now flick back with me to John 15:1. When Jesus makes this claim "I am the true Vine" we can see that against the Old Testament background of Psalm 80 that the claim he is making is enormous! The identity he is claiming as his own is extraordinary. He is claiming to be the true Vine of God's people! He is the promised rescuer who is restoring God's people! And how is he doing this, by being the Vine, the source from which God's people will branch out! And so if you become a branch of this vine, then you become part of God's people! It's a truly amazing claim!

What's even more amazing is the way in which the Disciples have come to join the vine. Look at verse 3. "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you". So how do the disciples come to join the vine? Through the word of God! That word that Jesus spoke to them! That teaching that to have a part with Jesus means you must let him wash you. You can't do anything, you can't earn your way on to this vine, you must let Jesus humbly serve you by cleaning you. If you would like to know more about that then it would be worth reading over John 13 later on.

You see if you accept this message, the message of the good news about Jesus Christ, if you accept Jesus' word, then just like the disciples, you will be clean and you will be part of the true vine, of God's people.

Now from what we have already seen, this is a vine that is well worth belonging to. But Jesus says that once you join the vine, things don't just cease to happen. Jesus warns us that we must remain in the vine. So let's take a closer look at Jesus' Warning.

Well Jesus goes on in verse 4 to explain that now that disciples have been cleaned and joined the vine they are to remain in him. Look down at it: "Remain in me, and I will 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."

You see Jesus makes it very clear that it is vital for the branches to remain in Jesus. Absolutely vital. If they don't remain then they will become useless branches that are unable to bear fruit and they will be treated as useless branches...They will be Cut off verse 2 and thrown into the fire verse 6.

So we see that it is a matter of desperate importance that we remain in Jesus.

Now it's at this point that we start to panic and ask the question "How, O.K. I see it's vital to remain, but how do I do this". Well the brilliant thing is that God's word doesn't leave it us in the dark. Jesus goes on to explain. Look down at verses 9-10: "As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my Love". We are to remain in Jesus Love you see! And how are we to do this, well verse 10 explains: If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love. Just as I have obeyed my fathers commands and remain in his love." It's an incredible passage the relationship of Love we share with Jesus is the same as the relationship of Love he shares with his father! It is a relationship of Loving service and obedience.

Now again we're at a point of panic, what will it mean for me to obey Jesus, will I have to do what Simeon stylites did and live my life atop a 60 foot platform? Well fortunately the answer is no! Jesus goes on to explain exactly what it is to be obedient to him and it is about as far away from Simeon Stylites' way of doing things as you can get.

Look down at verse 12: "My command is this; Love each other as I have loved you. Greater Love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends".

This is what it is to be obedient to Jesus To Love one another the way he loved us! Now how did Jesus love us? What did Jesus do for us that reveals the ultimate Love, that love that he commands us to show to one another? Well he laid down his life! He sacrificed everything for our spiritual good! That's what he did. If we are to remain in the vine, then that is what we are to do also.

So how are we doing? Let's spend a bit of time looking at ourselves. Now this is quite difficult, because it's a very challenging passage. But if we are not going to allow God's word to change us, then there is no point in coming here week after week is there? Let's take a deeper look at Jesus' Command and see how we're doing.

Are you obedient to Jesus the way that he was obedient to his father? We're strange people aren't we.

Oh we say "yeah I want to obey God", but when that becomes a bit to radical, when it hurts, when it's personal and means that you actually have to sacrifice and please remember what a sacrifice is, it is a painful thing that means you lose out for the sake something else, when you have to do this, when being obedient to Jesus gets to hard, you all to often bail out don't you?

Is that the example that Jesus set? Please, it's nothing like it.

Has anyone ever heard the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? where he sat and thought about what him being obedient would mean. Where he cried blood, because he was so stressed about what he had to do! Jesus didn't just sacrifice money for the sake of others. Jesus didn't just sacrifice some of his spare time for the sake of others. He didn't just give up an uncomfortable number of nights in the week to Love others. He sacrificed everything, his life!! For people who would hate him, who would make fake promises of obedience only to turn around and stab him in the back by pulling out when things got a bit to hard. That's how he loved you! We were God's enemies, we spent our lives living against him, telling him that we didn't want him to be God over us. Pushing him out of the picture. And what did Jesus do?

He took on all of your guilt, all of the evil of you. He took that upon himself and then died. He died in your place. You deserve punishment for the way you have treated God, justice demands it. But Jesus took it for you. That's how he loved you, by sacrificing everything.

Now, how are you doing? Do you love others this way? Do you sacrifice everything for the spiritual good of others? Do you spend your week paining over the people in this building and putting serious thought into how you can help them grow? How you can move them forward in their spiritual lives?

Do you work so hard at being obedient to God's word that others will be able to look at you as an example to follow? That would certainly be spiritually good for them.

Do you pain over making sure you're involved in telling non Christians about Jesus, so that you can encourage others to do the same? Do you pain over giving an uncomfortable amount of money to support Christian work so you can love your Christian brothers and sisters by encouraging them to do the same?

We call these meetings services, don't we? Well how much service are you involved in when your here? This is the only time you get to meet with most of your brothers and sisters during the week and Jesus has made it clear how he wants you to serve, so are you involved in service at these services?

Do you pray for opportunities to Love your brothers and sisters on your way here? do you look for those you don't know to make them feel welcome, or do you just sit with those who make you feel comfortable? Do you work hard during the sermon, listening so that you can talk to people about spiritual things afterward? Or doesn't that matter Because your just planning on discussing football and other nothingy topics anyway.

Are you about each others spiritual good and doing everything possible to help one another? Or do you behave like a branch that doesn't want to belong to the vine, that doesn't bear fruit and needs to be chopped off and burned up.

This is an amazing passage. Look down over verses 14- 16, Jesus calls us friends!

We're his friends because he involves us in what he's doing! It's amazing us we're his friends, he involves us! Do you behave like his friend? After the amazing mercy he has shown you in bringing you into the vine?

As the Father has loved me, so have I Loved you. Now remain in my Love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed 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.

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