This week we have been considering what Jesus’ teaching on remaining in the vine from John 15 means for us personally.
‘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.’ John 15:1-8)
Lesson: To remain in the vine involves choosing to do Jesus' will.
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Yesterday, we saw that to remain in the vine is, fundamentally, about putting our faith in Jesus and keeping our faith in Him. Today, I want us to see that it also involves obeying Jesus.
Every day, we are tempted to do things according to our will and in our way. We are tempted with anger over patience, rudeness over loving words, boasting in self over serving in humility… The Bible is full of stories that teach us not to make bad choices without considering whether they align with God’s will and His way of doing things. To ‘remain in the vine’ involves being willing to do things in God’s way. Jesus equates remaining in the vine with doing His will when He says, ‘if you remain in me and my word remains in you…’ Every time we pray, 'Your Kingdom and Your will be done,' we are making a choice to remain in the vine. Whenever we reject temptation and embrace righteousness, is a choice to remain in Christ.
We lose connection with the vine when we choose to do things or do things in a way that go against Jesus’ will and way of doing things. Paul contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the fruit of the flesh:
‘The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.’ (Galatians 5:19-21)
These are the opposite of the fruit that the Spirit produces in us; it's striking and sobering to hear that ‘those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.’ I hope that you can see that this is a different way of expressing Jesus’ warning in our text from John 15: ‘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.’ (John 15:6).
As we see in John 15, our Father is described as a gardener who prunes away these kinds of things. True branches that are in the vine will desire to, and will increasingly, be rid of these things. They will bear ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ increasingly."
To remain in the vine involves choosing to do Jesus' will. If we are to be pruned of bad fruit and grow more good fruit, it’s imperative that we listen to Jesus and seek to live in His way. Remaining in the vine involves the simple - although sometimes painful and costly - act of saying no to sin and yes to righteousness. Jesus reveals very clearly that it’s His will that we remain in Him, by keeping His commands, and here are three references from John that speak directly to this:
‘If you love me, keep my commands.’ (John 14:15)
‘Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’ John 14:21)
‘But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’ (John 14:26)
Together in September
In September, we are having two Together Evenings, on Wednesday the 6th and Wednesday the 13th from 7p.m. (When there will be a light meal provided).
We will be using this time to come together for worship, teaching and prayer with a view to re-launching community groups afterwards.
Please put these dates in your diary, we would love to see as many people there as possible.