Summary: Expository sermon--don’t try to be the vine--be a branch. Major considerations: (1) Our Relationship with the Lord (2)Our Responsibility to Him (3) Our Reward in Him.
Just Be A Branch
Fortifying the Foundations #34
1. Have ever struggled in you walk with the Lord and found yourself asking, “How can I make Christianity work in my life?” There is no passage in the Bible that better answers that question than Jesus’ words in John 15. In my early experience I really struggled with that question—almost to the point of giving up. I was saved in a legalistic church that talked a lot about what I should do but very little about how to do it. I would struggle through the week sincerely trying to “live the Christian life” and then go to church Sunday morning. I would look around at all the people. They seemed so pious and holy sitting there in the pews. It seemed to me that others were cut out for Christianity but I wasn’t. The truth is I just didn’t understand what Jesus is saying here in our text.
In verse 16 Jesus talks about his will for our lives. John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” God designed each and every one of us to be fruitful. Are you bearing the fruit God designed you to produce?
2. What kind of fruit is God looking for in your life? He is looking for the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peach, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He is looking for the life of Jesus to be expressed through you and me— his character, his works, his will being done, lives being impacted by his love flowing through us.
3. My first reaction to that is a bit of panic. The works of Jesus, his character, his love flowing through me transforming people’s lives, that sounds like a lot to ask. I’m not sure I can live up to that. Have you ever felt a little overwhelmed when you realized God’s call on your life and His purpose for you? Can any of us do the works of Christ, be his representative here on earth, love others the way he loves them, demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit? In my own strength it is an absolute impossibility.
4. But here is the good news. I don’t have to do all that. All I have to do is allow him to do it through me, which is a very different matter. In fact, a whole lot of frustration can come into our lives if we don’t understand that distinction.
5. Paul makes that distinction in Galatians 5 when he contrasts the works of the flesh to the fruit of the Spirit. Normally we would expect him to contrast bad works and good works. The works of the flesh are bad works. They are things we produce out of our flesh that are contrary to the will of God. But the good that is produced in our lives is not called works in that passage but fruit. Fruit is something that naturally happens when God’s life is producing godliness in our lives. We don’t have to make it happen. All we have to do is let it happen.
6. Think about the job of a branch. All it does is be an extension of the vine. It doesn’t have to produce life. It just receives life from the vine. It doesn’t have to decide what kind of fruit to produce. As the life of the vine flows through it, it just naturally produces the fruit consistent with what the vine is. The life is in the vine. The vine does it all. The vine extends its roots into the soil and draws the minerals and nutrients and moisture. The vine sends the sap to the branches so that fruit can bud forth.
It is impossible for a branch to function as a vine. The branch does not have life in itself. It is totally dependent on the vine for its life and productivity. The great mistake we make is to try to be the vine when all we have to be is a branch. Life is very frustrating for a branch that is trying to be a vine.
Jesus begins our text in John 15 by explaining
I. Our Relationship with him.
1. At the end of Chapter 14 he concludes one portion of his teaching by leading the disciples out of the upper room toward the Garden of Gethsemane. John 14 ends with Jesus saying “Come now; let us leave.” It’s a fair assumption that that is exactly what they did. As they walked toward Gethsemane it is very possible that they passed by a vineyard where Jesus began his teaching in John 15:1. “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.” In verse 5 he clearly says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.”