This week I was encouraged in my One Year Bible reading by a great reminder about the significance of what I held in my hands.
[These words] are not just idle words for you—they are your life.
This morning we are in John chapter 15. Turn there with me and let’s remember that these are not just idle words, they are our life.
The theme of this passage is connection. The main idea is stay connected to Jesus. Do you see it? It’s in that word abide.
The Greek word translated abide is Meno. It means to remain in a place, not to depart to continue to be present.
The message of John 15 is Abide in Jesus. Remain in Jesus. Don’t depart from Jesus. Continue always to be present in Jesus.
The word meno takes on flesh in the image of a vine.
The image of a grape vine, familiar to the people of Israel.
A branch abides in a vine by maintaining a vital connection to the flow of water and minerals.
There is something amazing in the design of plants. Have you ever noticed the instincts of a plant?
You see it in a house plant, set just outside the stream of light through a window, reaching out towards the sunlight.
You see it in the Morning Glory vine reaching out and grasping for a solid hold to grasp and continue it’s climb.
You see it in those helicopter seeds falling from the Maple trees, reaching out for something to sink its roots into.
The plant world is designed with the instinct to reach out and find sustenance, security and strength.
The human spirit is the same, isn’t it? We all have an instinct in our hearts to reach out for sources of life.
In our time together this morning we are going to look at 2 principles of abiding, 4 practicals of abiding and 2 products of abiding.
1. Abide in Jesus or you’ll die
Does that sound a little dramatic?
It reminds of the book Cautionary Tales for Children by Hilaire Belloc. Here are some of the story titles:
Jim: Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion.”
“Matilda: Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death.”
“Rebecca: Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably.”
I could have made this point, the necessity of abiding. But that doesn’t really capture the point Jesus is making does it?
I think this is exactly what Jesus intended to communicate. Abide in Jesus or your spirit will slowly whither and die a slow and fruitless death.
Does that have your attention?
An independent branch bears no fruit.
Verse 4: As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
Verse 5: for apart from me you can do nothing.
A fruitless branch will be cut off.
Verse 2a: Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away.
An independent branch withers and dies.
Verse 6: If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers
Without a vital connection to the vine, a branch is fruitless and dead.
Without a vital connection to Jesus, the human soul is fruitless and dead.
“The purpose of the branch is to serve as a vehicle through which the vine expresses itself. The branch bears the fruit which the vine produces. Grapes do not appear on the trunk of the vine. The branches serve the vine by bearing grapes.” -Henry Lee Poe
Let’s transfer that over to us.
The purpose of the human person is to serve as a vehicle through which Jesus expresses himself. She bears fruit which Jesus produces. He serves Jesus by bearing fruit.
“In this statement on abiding, Jesus answered the great question of human existence: Why am I here? Human meaning finds its fulfillment in relationship to God. Because [we] were created to bear fruit which God wants shown in the world, people feel cut off, lost, and isolated when [we] are not fulfilling [our] purpose. . . People everywhere know what it means to search for purpose and meaning.”
“By abiding in Christ, a person opens the channels by which God feeds a soul and produces spiritual fruit.” -Poe
Jesus is the vine. He is the living organism. We are the extension of his life. We have no life in ourselves.
How can that be true preacher? I’ve lived my whole life without Jesus.
Are you really alive?
Henry David Thoreau famously observed that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Have you really lived apart from God? What is the fruit of your life?
Let’s review the story of God: humanity created in the image of God, walking in communion with God, cut itself off from God, left incomplete and desperately searching for a source of life.
The message of Christianity is that God is in the world bringing dead souls back to life, restoring the true design and function of our humanity.
There is no true life apart from Jesus.
The Christian life is a dependent life.
If you try to live the Christian life without a living, dynamic connection with Christ you will feel dead and unfruitful. It will never work.
There are many Christians who haven’t learned this principle.
They don’t want to be the branch.
They want to be the vine, they want to be the independent organism, they are willing to graft a Jesus into their lives, but they want to be the center.
Disconnected from Christ we have no life, we have no fruit, we can do no lasting good. We will never experience lasting joy.
It’s a necessity.
2. Abide in Jesus and you’ll bear fruit.
1. Much fruit.
Verse 5: Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit
This speaks of abundance. A life that counts. A productive life.
2. Answered prayer.
Verse 7: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you
This speaks of a meaningful relationship with the living God.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand the Bible’s teaching about answers to prayer. Haven’t we all prayed desperately for things that didn’t happen?
I don’t know the answers. I know that my prayers change when I am connected to Jesus. When I’m connected to him my concerns are different. My desires are different. My perspective changes.
3. Glory to God.
Verse 8: By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
This speaks to significance.
Living to bring God glory can transform the most unpleasant and mundane moments. We can participate in the most significant project in the universe: the revelation of the glory of God.
4. Lasting fruit.
Verse 16: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide
This speaks to permanence and an enduring impact.
Your lawn, your home, your wardrobe, your body – it will all fade in the wind.
Even the best works – building churches, serving non-profits, civic and political engagement. It’s all temporary.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.
Psalm 39:5 NLT
Three things will endure forever: God, the word of God and the souls of men.
To the extent that you are involved in these things you are involved in eternity.
It is only through a living connection with Jesus that you can meaningfully spend your hours and your resources with a lasting impact.
Abide in Jesus or you’ll whither and die. Abide in Jesus and you’ll be fruitful.
How do you do it?
1. Abide in Jesus by meditating on the word.
Scripture meditation is a lost art. There’s never been a greater need for it than the distracted world of the digital age. Meditation seeks to take the Word of God from the head down into the heart.
How to meditate on a Bible verse:
- Memorize – read it again and again, write it out, learn it by heart.
- Visualize – try to capture the meaning of the verse with a mental picture.
- Personalize – reflect on the relevance of the word to your life today.
- Actualize – imagine the impact in your life if you believed/obeyed.
2. Abide in Jesus by obeying the word.
Obedience maintains the flow.
Verse 10: If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
What are to obey?
The love command.
Verse 12: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
3. Abide in Jesus by praying continuously.
There’s nothing more important to an abiding life than prayer. A continuous conversation with the living Jesus is the centerpiece of the Christian life.
To pray continuously pray about everything. Nothing is too small for your Savior.
To pray continuously, pray and then listen. It is a relationship. We aren’t talking to the air.
4. Abide in Jesus by resting in his love.
Verse 9: As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
Love is the water of the human spirit.
How do you remain in the love of Jesus?
Openness. Openness means I am willing to open my soul with all of its imperfections and flaws, to be known as I really am.
“The Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or — if they think there is not — at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.” -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
The product of abiding . . .
- Abide in Jesus and God will get glory.
- Abide in Jesus and you will get joy.
Verse 11: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown