Summary: Stay Connected to Jesus 1) That you may live; 2) That you may love
How connected are you? How reliant on your laptop, tablet, or smart phone? Take a look at this video clip (view “Connect” by The Veracity Project). As the clip highlighted, we’re quite connected – perhaps even over connected in this digital age. It used to be that when you went home, your company work was done. That’s not true anymore. Customers and co-workers can now phone, email, or text you any time of the day and you’re expected to respond within hours if not minutes - no matter that it’s your day off and you’re at a fancy restaurant with your wife to celebrate her birthday. Why don’t more people just disconnect from the digital rat race if they don’t like the constant intrusions? They’re afraid that if they do, they’ll miss something important.
Do you feel that way about your connection with God? That was the question at the end of the video clip. Do you fret when you miss a Sunday service the way you fuss when your internet service goes down for a couple of hours? Our sermon text this morning teaches the importance of staying connected to Jesus: so that you may live, and so that you may love.
Our text from John 15 in which Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches is a familiar one. But do you know when Jesus spoke these words? He spoke them some time after he and the disciples got up from their last supper together and headed out to the garden of Gethsemane. Some Bible students suggest that Jesus expressed himself as he and the disciples passed the temple gates which featured vines of gold with grape clusters as large as a man. If so, that would have been a dramatic backdrop to these words: “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).
Just why do we need to stay connected to Jesus? Because without him we don’t have life any more than a branch broken off from a tree has life. “Are you serious?” snorts Satan. “You’re telling me that your unbelieving neighbor doesn’t have life? He has more of a life than you! What do you think he’s doing right now? He didn’t have to hustle off to church like you leaving half-eaten bagels littering the breakfast table. Oh no. He’s stretched out on the couch with the morning paper or flipping through the cable guide to see when the golf tournament will be televised. And kids, your classmates may be enjoying a birthday party right now. Are you having as good a time as they?”
Satan’s seditious hissing needs a response. Let me first of all say that missing a church service or two doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re disconnected from Jesus. We stay connected to Jesus by remaining in his Word (John 15:7), which of course we can do by coming to church. But we can also remain in his Word at home when we have private and family devotions. But don’t let that be a regular substitute for gathering here. Those who faithfully study the Word at home know that God says we need to be in church so that we can be an encouragement to one another, as well as to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.
But it’s also important to point out that we can be outwardly connected to Jesus through church attendance or by respectfully sitting through family devotions but still be very much dead. On your way out of church this morning look up at the trees by our grass parking lot. You’ll see a couple of tree limbs that snapped off during our last snow storm but haven’t fallen to the ground because they’re caught in other branches. You probably haven’t noticed these limbs before because their needles are still green and blend in with the healthy limbs around them. But give it some time and those needles will turn brown – the telltale sign of death. Likewise a hypocrite may look the part of a true believer but his true nature will be revealed on Judgment Day. Jesus said: “…my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit…such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:1b, 2a, 6b).
Friends, could you be a broken branch? When you hear God’s Word do you take to heart his promises or scoff at them? Satan doesn’t want you to think that there is any advantage to being connected to Jesus. He’d rather you think of that as being shackled – like a prisoner chained to the wall of his cell. But do you really gain freedom by disconnecting yourself from Jesus? If tree limbs could talk, those branches that snapped off in the snowstorm would not boast that they are now free to see the world. They know they’re doomed, for they have lost their means of life. They aren’t getting the sap and nutrients they need from the trunk and as soon as they fall to the ground (or as soon as someone can shimmy up the tree to snag them), they’re headed for the dump. That’s freedom? (Mark Paustian) Likewise true freedom comes from staying connected to Jesus, for only through faith in him will we enjoy the benefits of forgiveness and therefore have life eternal even as this world is burned up.