Love Never Dies, prt. 16
Wildwind Community Church
August 1, 2010
John 15:1-12 (NIV)
1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
2 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.
3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
4 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.
5 "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.
6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
10 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.
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John chapter 15 opens up with Jesus saying, “I am the true vine.” This is basically a restatement of his words in John 14:6, “No one comes to the Father but by me.” As I said last week, this is the quintessentially Christian view – that there is only one God, only one Lord of Life, only one who ushers us into God’s presence, both in this world and in the next.
But Jesus brings up this vine thing not simply to reinforce this point, but rather to show us something new. The new thing he wants to teach us is about remaining. Remaining. My friends, today I want to talk to you about remaining in God, which I’m convinced is absolutely the hardest thing for us to do. So hard that we can often only remain in God for a few seconds, or maybe a few minutes, at a time.
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” I told you last week that the statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father but by me” is probably one of the most important verses in all of Christian theology, and it is. And it should be. But this verse you hear much less about, and it is no less important. In fact it’s far more important to the way we actually live. Our understanding of “No one comes to the Father but by me” is critical for how we think about God and see God and his work in the world. It shows us the scope of God’s saving power, and points to the absolute transcendence of Christ. But our understanding of “Remain in me and I will remain in you” is critical for how we actually live in relationship to God moment by moment. It shows us that not only is Christ’s saving work huge, not only is it transcendent, it is also immanent – that means deeply engrained in us – incredibly close to us – available for us to know and experience – an actual part of who we are. You can know that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life – as many people do – and never be changed in even the smallest way. But you cannot remain in Christ without being changed in every way that matters. Little wonder that we hear so much about the importance of believing that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and so little about actually remaining connected to him. One requires profession of belief – the other requires the long, slow death of self. One asks us to understand, the other asks us to submit. One requires verbal confession of Christ as the life. The other requires us to be complicit with God in our own deaths – the day by day extinction of the life we have always known as our own, so that the life of Christ may take root and grow in us. I’m not saying it’s not important that we understand that Christ is the way and the truth and the life. My message last week was on how important that is. But what we’re talking about today is even more important, for this is where we move past understanding, past theology, past verbal assent to this belief or that, and move into the heart of God – where we allow God to move into the heart of us – where the pre-existent Logos actually DOES that saving work – where he is not only the way, but MY way, faltering as it may be at times. Where he is not only the truth, but MY TRUTH -- found, faced, and followed. Where he is not only the life, but he is MY life – the source of my energies, the fountain of my perspectives, my understandings, and my aspirations. You can believe all you want that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. You can believe that no one comes to the Father except through him, and you can interpret that either of the two ways we talked about last week. And you can still live your life disconnected from the way of the way, separated from the truth of the truth, and therefore isolated from the life of the life. Religion is nothing – perhaps even less than nothing – unless it is not just understanding of God we seek, but rather union with him. The goal of religion is to lead us to life with God. And when I say life with God, I do not simply mean that we live our lives with the man upstairs as our co-pilot. I mean that the goal of religion is to lead us to participate with God in God’s life.