One of the dangers of the Christian life, especially when you have been a Christian for a while is to think that you can do it alone. Yes I know the gospel. I know all that, but somehow we can slip into thinking that says I can be fruitful because of my own abilities and giftedness. So prayer drops off, Bible reading goes and is replaced by self reliance which leads to pride. And this can happen due to the busyness and routine of life and also due to time and age! There are times in Christian life when we can feel really spiritually flat, like our spiritual tanks are empty. Sometimes it can be due to fatigue, bad sleep, grief, health problems but sometimes it can be a result of trying to do things alone and be our own source of spiritual life, nourishment and power. According to the Lord Jesus – the vine. We can not do it! I have been very much reminded of this and the words of the Lord Jesus in John 15.
Jesus’ disciples have already taken hold of Christ, who he is, and what he has said and this is why Jesus tells them to remain in him. Look with me at v.4:
4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me
It seems to me that in our culture, we rarely use the word Abide. The word also means to stay, or to to remain, to be permanent, to be constant, steadfast. We are to abide in Christ. This seems scary, it is so hard to abide in Jesus. How do I know that I will keep on abiding in the Lord Jesus? If I don’t will Jesus give up on me? The wonderful think about Jesus words here is that they are a promise. Remaining in Christ not our responsibility alone! The Lord Jesus enables us to abide in him. God is faithful to the promises that he has made to his people – to us! Jesus remains in us and enables us to abide in him by nourishing ups with his Holy Spirit and with his power! The responsibility is not ours alone, which is a wonderful reassurance, but we are still responsible. We are dependent on the vine! And if we try to imitate Christian conduct, Christ likeness and witness, if it is not derived from the person of the Lord Jesus, the vine, it will lead to fruitlessness. Which is what Jesus says in the rest of v.4: Which is what Jesus says in the rest of v.4:
“Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”
The other danger is the think that we can bear fruit by acquiring our spiritual nourishment from supplements and additives – instead of the vine- instead of the Lord Jesus! An example of this is replacing reading the Bible with reading books about the Bible, instead of working hard at praying, we read books on prayer. We cannot bear fruit independently of Christ or receive spiritual nourishment outside of Christ. Christian books, Bible helps, Bible devotions are good things in themselves, but they are poor sources of nourishment if that is the your only source of nourishment. We bear fruit from the vine. The vine is Christ. The Word of God reveals him. So go to the Word. Go to the source!
We can never say to Jesus, or in practice say to Jesus, I don’t need you. I am not dependant on you.
5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
Apart from Jesus humanity can do nothing of eternal value or another way of putting – without Jesus we cannot produce spiritual fruit. Without Jesus we are spiritually bereft. This is hard because it goes against what our nature and what our culture tells us – which is that we are the masters of our lives. Our first parents thought this also when they fell into this trap. Adam thought He knew better than God, Eve was deceived into believing that God was stingy and was holding them back and both her and her Husband instead of living under God’s authority, chose to live under their own authority. We are naturally like this which is why Jesus words in v.5 are so offensive to our world, apart from Jesus we are totally cut off and alienated from God and can do nothing of eternal value. And the end result for those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus, who don’t abide in him and his word is to be cast out of God’s presence.
6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Judgement is not an easy topic, it is hard, it is painful, it is offensive because our culture tells that we are not accountable to anyone but ourselves, that there is no such thing as sin and if there is a heaven we are all good enough to go so to get there all we need to do is merely die (AKA Justification by death – Sola Mors). Branches that don’t bear fruit are useless. People who don’t bear fruit, who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who don’t glorify God are thrown out.
Our function as human beings who were created in the image of God is to bear fruit for God. The fruit comes as resulting of trusting in Jesus. If we are not trusting in Jesus then we are fruitless.A dead branch is the person who does not have a personal faith or relationship with the Lord Jesus. Every single church I have ever been in and served in there have been people who were not in the vine, that is they did not have relationship with Jesus. They were fans of Jesus, but they did not know him, and they were not living with Jesus as the Lord. They are next to the vine, surrounded by branches, but they were dead branches. Look at Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus and hung himself in selfish sinful and worldly regret. He was a dead branch and no one knew it. But… He knew it and more importantly Jesus knew it.
A living branch is the person who trusts in Jesus who abides in him, who remains in him, who wants what the Lord Jesus wants, and obeys his word and prays in line with Jesus will (as Jesus says in vv.7-8). The good news of course is that Gode sent his son Jesus to die on a cross, to be judged in our place, to be punished in our place for ignoring God’s rule over us, bearing the sins of all who will trust in him so that we can be right with God, so that we can be grafted into the vine and becoming living branches! If we believe this and I mean really believe this then we must keep on remaining in the vine, remaining in Christ. For our spiritual nourishment comes from him. Don’t settle for spiritual supplements and additives. Remain in Christ who alone is the source of our strength, power and salvation. For we are dependent on him, for life, breath and everything else!