Summary: God loves his people into obedience and joy.
We say, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” because an image conveys information which would require pages of writing to explain. Well if a picture is worth a thousand words, then maybe a parable is worth ten thousand! And one of Jesus’ most loved metaphors for himself and our relationship to God is: “I am the true vine.”
In three sermons I have used about 8500 words trying to explain and apply this rich analogy. Today, by God’s help and mercy, we will add another 2900 and complete our survey of these 11 verses in John 15 as we see how remaining in the vine allows us to know God’s love and experience his joy.
[Read John 15.1-11. Pray.]
Paul Gustave Doré was born in Strasburg, January 10, 1833. He was well-known for illustrating many works, including a version of the Bible. (You can download the set of pen and ink drawing from Project Gutenberg.) The story is told that on one occasion he was putting the finishing touches on the face of Christ in one of his paintings, when an admiring friend stepped quietly into the studio. She stared with delight at his work, mouth open at the beauty and lifelikeness.
Doré sensed her presence and said graciously, “Pardon, madam, I did not know you were here.”
She answered, “Monsieur Doré, you must love him very much to be able to paint him so truly!”
“Love him, madam? Oh, I do love him, but if I loved him better, I would paint him better!”
Something similar is true of each of us. If we love Christ better, we will serve him better; we will delight in his will and his ways; we keep his commandments. The deeper our love for God, the greater our fellowship with God – a fellowship which is not a thing of mere intellect or sentiment, but a living communion with Christ by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Through God’s Spirit, the life of Jesus fills and animates our life. From the fertile soil of love for Christ grows the beautiful fruit of obedience. Love deepens the fellowship which necessarily produces faithfulness.
That is why I believe a primary purpose of preaching is to instill confidence in God’s love for us and to excite and encourage our love for God. As Jeremiah reminded Israel in exile: “Thus says the Lord: I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31.2-3).
And I think the hymn by Elizabeth Prentiss is a both a beautiful and wise prayer: “More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee! Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee; this is my earnest plea: more love, O Christ to Thee, more love to Thee!”
I think that is what Pastor Steve Brown means when he says, “The only people who ever get better are those who know that if they never get better, God will still love them.” True abiding in God’s love results in a life conformed to his will.
It reminds me of the little boy who told his Sunday School teacher: “I love my mommy with all my strength.” That seemed an unusual expression for a young boy, so the teacher asked what that meant. He said, “Well, we live on the fourth floor of this tenement; and there’s no elevator; and the coal is down in the basement. Mother is busy, and she isn’t very strong; so I keep the bin filled with coal. It takes a lot of trips, so I fill the pail as full as I’m strong enough to carry. I love my mommy with all my strength.” Love produced works in keeping with the profession. As we consider this morning how God’s love for us and ours for him strengthens us for obedience and joy, note first, that…
1. We Must Strive to Remain Under the Assurance and Influence of Jesus’ Love for Us (John 15.9)
Will you listen to the Lord? “As the Father loves me, so I love you.” Could there be three more beautiful words coming from the mouth of God? “I love you.”
God loves his people with an electing love: “The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you…” (Deuteronomy 7.6-8).
Additionally, the Lord Jesus loves his people with a leaving love: a man leaves his father and mother to hold fast to his wife because he loves her. So the Son left the Father’s home in heaven to woo and win a bride, the church.