Remain In Me
Purpose: To visualize the powerlessness of depending on ourselves rather than God.
Objects: An electric power strip with multiple outlets (the kind that computers and appliances are plugged into). One or two appliances and a light.
Experience: Hold up the power strip for everyone to see and say: "You have all seen one of these. We use power strips to plug computers or appliances into." Then plug one or two appliances and lights into the strip. Finally, plug the power strip into itself and attempt to turn on the lights and appliances. When they don't turn on, ask, "Why won't this work?"
"Well, obviously it won't work because the power strip doesn't have any electrical power in itself. It has to plug into an electrical outlet in order to bring any power to the other appliances." Then, unplug the power strip from itself and into a wall outlet so that the appliances and lights turn on.
Craig Brian Larson, Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Reading God’s Word
Spiritual disciplines are very important, because it helps us to stay connected to God and Jesus
For quite some time I’ve been fairly faithful with reading the Bible every day
YouVersion Bible app and Our Daily Bread app are really helpful with tracking the number of days I have read them
There is a reminder each morning that tells me how many days I have read in a row and then it encourages me to keep up the good work
While reading and studying the Bible is a spiritual discipline that I’ve been able to maintain pretty consistently, I can’t say that about my prayer life
I so desperately want my prayer life to be as consistent, but I’ve struggled over the years
I was going through a four-week coaching cohort with Daniel Henderson from Strategic Renewal as we worked through his new book Glorious Finish
It was during one of the coaching sessions, that it dawned on me, that I was missing the perfect opportunity to pray for 30 minutes each morning
I ride my stationary bike almost every morning for 30-35 minutes
My usual thing to do during that time was to watch television
I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that I could be praying during that time instead of watching television
It’s made all the difference in the spiritual discipline of prayer
I look forward to the time together with the Lord
My reverence of God is many times guided by what I read that morning in my devotions
There are still times when I don’t work out and I find it difficult to spend 30 minutes in prayer during the day
I like the fact that I’m doing a physical and spiritual work out at the same time – it helps me stay connected to Jesus
We all probably have some physical disciplines that we practice consistently
Take a moment to think about what those physical disciplines are
What interrupts those physical disciplines?
Every one of us probably has spiritual disciplines that we consistently do every day
What are those spiritual disciplines?
What stops us from being consistent with those spiritual disciplines?
In order to be physically strong, we have to consistently remain active, either in a gym or at home. The same is true of our spiritual lives. Jesus tells His disciples in John 15:1-17 that if they want to be spiritually strong, they have to remain in Him. While we may be able to fool other people, like these two guys (show redneck six-pack abs picture), . . .
BIG IDEA – God knows the condition of our connectedness.
He will act accordingly, based on whether or not we are remaining in Christ.
GOD (John 15:1-17)
Branches – we must remain (vv. 1-11)
Vine metaphor (vv. 1-8)
“When Jesus calls himself the true vine, he’s indicating the existence of a false vine.” [Carter & Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 304]
All throughout the Old Testament, Israel is symbolized as the vine (Ps. 80:9-16; Is. 5:1-7; 27:2ff.; Jer. 2:21; 12:10ff.; Ezk. 15:1-8; 17:1-21; 19:10-14; Hos. 10:1-2)
Unfortunately, they are not depicted in a positive light
Read Psalm 80:7-9
Read Isaiah 5:3-5
They’ve failed in their task of pointing people to the Lord
Their role, as God’s chosen people, was to show the other nations what a relationship with God looks like
We see the result of this failure on Israel’s part, Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire (Psalm 80:16a)
Fortunately for us, God had another plan
Jesus is now the vine
He is perfect without sin, so He doesn’t fail in pointing people to God and showing them what a true relationship with God looks like
Psalm 49:6, he says: “Is it too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
God was promising, through Isaiah, that He would provide salvation for all nations, through His Son, Jesus
Jesus did not fail in that task, which makes Him the true vine
While the role of the vine has changed, the role of the Gardener has not
God is still pictured as the gardener
God, as the gardener, only makes sense, because the gardener is in control of everything that happens in the vineyard [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 450]
Jesus’ disciples (immediate context)
All followers of Jesus Christ (general sense)
Now that we have established who is represented in the metaphor, we can look at the content of the metaphor
Fruitful or fruitless
The Greek word for pruning is kathairō which means “to cleanse”
It has the sense of cleansing by pruning [Rogers & Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 218]
“A method of viticulture consisted of training the vines on trellises, poles, or trees (4-6 feet high), which provided a canopy-like form (Columella, Book 4, 18-19) . . . To train the vine for maximum yield the vinedresser had to prune excessive branches.” [Rogers & Rogers, 218]
Every one of us, as followers of Jesus Christ, has experienced the pruning process
We all know the areas in our lives where God has asked us to sacrifice something that represents sin in our lives – that’s the pruning process
What is God asking you to sacrifice right now, so you can seek holiness?
My Next Step Today Is To: Submit to God’s pruning in my life, so I can be more fruitful for Him.
Jesus told His disciples that they were already clean, because of His word that He had spoken to them (they had been pruned/clean)
If a follower of Jesus Christ says that they have not experienced the pruning process, it’s probably because they are not a true follower of Jesus Christ – they aren’t connected to the vine
We’ll talk more about that in just a little bit
We can be fruitful by being obedient to God’s pruning process in our lives, but we also have to remain in Jesus
Remain in Jesus
PRINCIPLE #1 – Spiritual fruit is the result of being connected to Jesus.
When we think of the word “remain,” it has the sense that a relationship is already present [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 803]
For the Jews, remaining in Jesus meant holding to His teachings, To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
The same is true for us also
If you remain in me and my words remain in you . . . (John 15:7a)
We can’t produce fruit on our own
Imagine for moment that Neil Starner or Vinnie Spangler brings you a branch from one of their fruit trees that is just loaded with fruit. You’re excited because you won’t have to go to Sandoe’s or Hollabaugh’s anymore to get that kind of fruit. You place the branch in a special spot in your kitchen and excitedly wait for the next season to come. But, the branch doesn’t produce any fruit at all. You’re crushed and disappointed. Perhaps you go to Neil or Vinnie and complain that your branch is broken or something is wrong with it. The misconception you’re living with, is that the branch will produce fruit again next year. The reality, is that the branch will never produce fruit again, because it has been separated from the tree.
“The key to the Christian life is Christ’s life in the Christian.” [Carter & Wredberg, 306]
My Next Step Today Is To: Make sure that I am connected to Jesus by holding to His teachings and having His Word remain in me.
God knows the condition of our connectedness.
What fruit should we be looking for, to know that we are connected to Jesus?
What fruit should we be producing?
From John 15 [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 517]
The fruit is a result of praying in Jesus’ name
Obedience to Jesus’ commands (v. 10)
Experience of Jesus’ joy (v. 11)
Experience of Jesus’ peace (14:27)
Love for one another (v. 12)
Witness to the world (vv. 16, 27)
“This fruit is nothing less than the outcome of persevering dependence on the vine, driven by faith, embracing all of the believer’s life and the product of his witness.” [Carson, 517]
From other passages in the Bible
Winning lost souls (Rom. 1:13; John 4)
Holiness (Rom. 6:22)
Financial giving (Rom. 15:28)
Helping practically (Col. 1)
Giving praise to His Name (Heb. 13)
Love (Gal. 5:22) – wait for vv. 9-11
My Next Step Today Is To: Examine my life to make sure that I am producing the fruit that shows I’m connected to Jesus.
As we remain in Jesus and produce much fruit, we see the results of that
Results of being fruitful
This is not a “genie in bottle” kind of answered prayer
Every one of us may want it to be that way, but it isn’t
When we’re genuinely connected to Jesus, His desires become our desires
We’ll be praying according to God’s will and not our own – no more selfish prayers
Our prayers will center around the fruit that we should be producing
When that happens, God will answer those prayers, because He will give us whatever we wish for, because it is what He wishes for
God is glorified
The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question, “What is the chief end of man?”
The answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
Showing the world that we are Jesus’ disciples
When we’re producing the fruit that comes from being connected to Jesus it will transform every area of our lives
It will transform our families, our work place, our community, and our church
Each one of us should be striving to be fruitful, but we also see those who are fruitless
Bears no fruit
Jesus says that the Father cuts off every branch that does not bear fruit
The Greek for “cuts off” is airō which means “to take off or away”
It wouldn’t be a stretch for the disciples or John’s readers to remember Judas Iscariot at this point – he would be an example of a branch that is not bearing fruit
Carson mentions that Judas would not be the only person in the New Testament who was initially connected to Jesus or the Christian church, who later testified “that the transforming life of Christ has never pulsated within them (e.g. Mt. 13:18-23; 24:12; Jn. 8:31ff.; Heb. 13:14-19; 1 Jn. 2:19; 2 Jn. 9).” [Carson, 515]
They did not persevere by remaining in Jesus
This is talking about professing Christians who appear to be part of the Christian community, but eventually admit that they were never really part of it from the start [Köstenberger, 455; Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 284]
There have been multiple people in the past couple of years who have admitted to deconstructing their faith (they no longer believe in God). I read the Instagram post of one of those individuals recently. I was not surprised to read that they admitted to not producing fruit or ever being part of the Christianity. He has grown up in a pastor’s home, as did his wife. They were surrounded by Christians and simply adopted the Christian lifestyle without the relationship with Christ. This individual says, “Stepping away from belief in God has felt like a loss in some ways – but it’s felt like freedom in others. Jess and I both always had this sense that we weren’t doing enough of the things we were supposed to do as Christians. We didn’t enjoy going to church. We didn’t enjoy reading the Bible. We didn’t enjoy praying. We didn’t enjoy worship. It all felt like obligation, and our lack of enthusiasm about those things always made us feel like something was wrong with us. Now I don’t believe anything was wrong with us. We simply didn’t believe – and we were too afraid to admit that to ourselves. So in that sense, we have a tremendous sense of relief now.”
Notice that there was no talk of a relationship with Jesus Christ – it was all about a works mentality and the fact that they never had a genuine conversion experience (they simply adopted their parents, grandparents, and sibling’s beliefs)
Arrogance/Pride (Job 42:1-6; 1 Cor. 1:18-25; Ps. 7:9)
God knows the condition of our connectedness.
Don’t remain in Jesus
They are no longer remaining in Jesus
Jesus said that we cannot bear fruit apart from Him
In fact, we can’t do anything apart from Him
We see the results of fruitlessness
Results of being fruitless
Cut off from the vine
Thrown into the fire
This is talking about eternal separation from God and Jesus in hell
1 John 2:18-19, Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
What we see in vv. 9-11 is the practical application of what Jesus just said
Practical application (vv. 9-11)
Follow Jesus’ example
The Father loved Jesus perfectly, and He in turn loved His disciples perfectly
Jesus wants His disciples and us to remain in His love
The way that Jesus had remained in the Father’s love was by obeying His commands
The way that we remain in Jesus’ love is by obeying His commands
As was mentioned last week, the commands that Jesus is talking about is not a list of do’s and don’ts
It is a lifestyle of following Jesus’ example in every area of our lives
When we obey Jesus’ commands and remain in His love we can experience complete joy
Jesus is telling them about obeying His commands and remaining in His love, so that His joy will be in them
“It is an inspiring thought that Jesus calls his followers into joy. The Christian life is not some shallow, insipid following of a traditional pattern. It is a life characterized by ‘unexhausted (and inexhaustible) power for fresh creation’ (Morris, p. 674).” [Morris cited by Gangel, 285]
As branches we must remain in Jesus in order to be fruitful
Jesus then changes from vineyard metaphor to another familiar concept – servants and friends
Friends – we must obey (vv. 12-17)
Command – love one another (vv. 12-13, 17)
Jesus does not call it a new command here, because He has already said that in John 13:34-35
We already learned about what it looks like to love one another like Christ loves us when we looked at John 13:31-38
PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when His people love each other faithfully and fervently.
The only way that we can love others like Christ loves us is to be connected to Him and remain in Him
Expression of love
Laying down our lives for our friends
In the Greco-Roman world, the ultimate expression of love for a friend was a willingness to sacrifice oneself, even to the point of death [Michaels, 812; Köstenberger, 458]
“Unity instead of rivalry, trust instead of suspicion, obedience instead of self-assertion must rule the disciples’ common labors. The measure of their love for one another is that of his love for them . . . which would be further demonstrated by his forthcoming sacrifice.” [Tenney cited by Gangel, 285]
Jesus was going to live that expression of love out within a couple of days
Jesus then explains what friendship with Him means
Evidence of being Jesus’ friend (v. 14-15)
If we obey His commands, we prove that we are Jesus’ friends
Obedience doesn’t make us Jesus’ friend, but it is evidence that we are His friend – it’s what characterizes the friendship
Friends instead of servants
Under a supreme ruler (potentate) there are several levels
Every level is required to obey the ruler
The servant is required to obey without any explanation or reason given
Friends are given more information – they know what the ruler is thinking and why he is asking them to do a certain thing
That is what Jesus has done with His disciples
He has told His disciples everything that He has learned from His Father
I think about an apprentice and his master
In the apprenticeship relationship, it is the responsibility of the master to impart his knowledge and skill to the apprentice
As the apprentice moves through the process of learning and skill they finally reach the level of master
Jesus has taken the eleven disciples through a 3-year apprenticeship and has promoted them from servants to friends
While most apprentices seek out a master to learn from, Jesus did it differently
Jesus has chosen us (v. 16)
Jesus had chosen these eleven men to be witnesses for Him
He appointed them to go and bear fruit
We know from church history that they accomplished that goal
As followers of Jesus Christ, He has chosen us and appointed us to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last
That is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20
He promises to be with us until the end
Jesus repeats the same promise about the Father answering their prayers
Is there an area of your life that you need to submit to the pruning process of the Father?
Are you connected to Jesus?
Are you holding to His teachings?
Is His Word remaining in you?
Are you producing the kind of fruit that proves you are connected to Jesus?
“Nearly seven years ago, I started a business. I prayed diligently about the decision and sensed God's confirmation to move forward. Because of my inexperience in retail operations, I depended heavily on God for wisdom and direction. Between the first time I caught a vision for this venture and the day we opened our doors, I prayed every step of the way.
On opening day, customers lined up around the building. With pounding heart and sweaty palms, I became acutely aware of the fact that the success or failure of this business rested on me. For the next four years, I ran the store as if this were true.
Instead of praying for God's wisdom or listening to the counsel of trusted advisors, like my husband, Dan, who was also my business partner, I relied on my own understanding. I simply was too busy and preoccupied to spend time reading my Bible. And when I did make time, I found myself re-reading the same passage over and over and never grasping the words. Daily preoccupation over my work took the place of daily quiet time with God.
Jesus said, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). I discovered how true his words are. The longer I skimped in my spiritual life, the further I fell from the vine. And the further I fell from the vine, the more all my efforts proved fruitless.
Making decisions apart from God and Dan started to have a snowball effect that eventually led to the demise of our business—and nearly our marriage.
Looking back on those four years, I know now what was at play: apart from Christ, I could do nothing. Instead of remaining in Jesus, as he instructs us to do in John 15:5, I ran on ahead without him.”
Marian V. Liautaud, "Remain in Me," Christianity Today's Kyria blog (12-22-09).