Connected to Christ, John 15:1-11 ESV Colin Munroe, Lead Pastor

John 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me (both sincere and false believersthose who claim to follow Christ) that does not bear fruit he takes away (Judas), and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (fruit). By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love (last year’s theme). 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love (perfect example). 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you (fruit), and that your joy may be full.

This is the seventh and last of the “I AM” statements of Christ recorded in the Gospel of John. As branches, we have the privilege of sharing His life, and the responsibility of abiding.

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

There are actually three different vines found in Scripture. The past vine was the nation of Israel (On screenPs. 80:8-19; Isa. 5:1-7; Ezek. 19:10-14; and Hosea 10:1).

Jeremiah 2:21 (ESV)
Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate (immoral) and become a wild vine?

In an act of wonderful grace, God “transplanted” Israel into Canaan and gave the nation every possible benefit. “What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it?” God asked (Isa. 5:4). If ever a nation had everything it needed to succeed, it was Israel.

But the vine produced wild grapes! Instead of practicing justice, it practiced oppression; instead of producing righteousness, it produced lawlessness and cries of distress from their victims. God had to deal with the nation Israel and discipline it, but even that did not produce lasting results. When God’s own Son came to the vineyard, they cast Him out and killed Him.

There is also a future vine, “the vine of the earth” described in Revelation 14:14-20. This is the Gentile world system ripening for God’s judgment genuine believers are branches in “the vine of heaven,” but the unsaved are branches in “the vine of the earth.” The unsaved depend on this world for their nourishment and satisfaction, while believers depend on Jesus Christ. The “vine of the earth” will be cut down and destroyed when Jesus Christ returns.

The present Vine is our Lord Jesus Christ, and, of course, the vine includes the branches. He is the “true Vine,” that is, “the original of which all other vines are a copy.” As Christians, we do not live on counterfeits or substitutes! The symbolism of the Vine and branches is similar to that of the Head and the body: we have a living relationship to Christ and belong to Him.

Our union with Christ is a living union, so we may bear fruit; a loving union, so that we may enjoy Him; and a lasting union, so that we need not be afraid.

The vinedresser is in charge of caring for the vines, and Jesus said that this is the work of His Father. It is He who “purges” or prunes/cleans the branches so they will produce more fruit. Notice the progression: no fruit (2), fruit, more fruit, much fruit (5,8). Many Christians pray that God will make them more fruitful, but they do not enjoy the pruning process that follows!

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away (Judas), and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes (cleans), that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean (pruned) because of the word that I have spoken to you.

The vinedresser prunes the branches in two ways: he cuts away dead wood that can breed disease and insects, and he cuts away living tissue so that the life of the vine will not be so depraved that the quality of the crop will be jeopardized. 

In fact, the vinedresser will even cut away whole bunches of grapes so that the rest of the crop will be of higher quality. God wants both quantity and quality of fruit in our lives.

This pruning process is the most important part of the whole initiative, and the people who do it must be carefully trained or they can destroy an entire crop. Some vineyards invest two or three years in training the “pruners” so they know where to cut, how much to cut, and even at what angle to make the cut.

The greatest judgment God could bring to a believer would be to let him alone, let him have his own way. Because God loves us, He “prunes” us and encourages us to bear more fruit for His glory. If the branches could speak, they would confess that the pruning process hurts; but they would also rejoice that they will be able to produce more and better fruit. – James 1:2-4.

Your Heavenly Father is never nearer to you than when He is pruning you. Sometimes He cuts away the dead wood that might cause trouble; but often He cuts off the living tissue that is robbing you of spiritual vigor. Pruning does not simply mean spiritual surgery that removes what is bad. It can also mean cutting away the good and the better so that we might enjoy the best. Yes, pruning hurts, but it also helps. We may not enjoy it, but we need it.

?How does the Father prune us? He simply uses the Word to convict and cleanse us. Sometimes He must discipline us (Heb. 12:1-11). At the time, it hurts when He removes something precious from us; but as the “spiritual crop” is produced, we see that the Father knew what He was doing.

The more we abide in Christ, the more fruit we bear; and the more fruit we bear, the more the Father has to prune us so that the quality keeps up with the quantity. Left to itself, the branch might produce many clusters, but they will be inferior in quality. God is glorified by a bigger crop that is also a better crop.

Abide in me (Remain – command and not fulfilled in a single act), and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

Illus. – Gas Station – Ps 46:10

Abiding, for the disciples and for all believers today, means to make a constant, moment-by-moment decision to follow Christ.

Illus. – Mango Branch

Curiously, a grapevine branch can survive and produce foliage for a while after it has been severed, but it cannot produce fruit unless it is connected to a root stock.

It is not automatic. Abiding in Christ requires worship, meditation on God’s Word, prayer, sacrifice, and service—but what a joyful experience it is! Once you have begun to cultivate this deeper communion with Christ, you have no desire to return to the shallow life.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Illus. – Sharp Axe – If you don’t come apart…….

Of itself, a branch is weak and useless. It is good for either bearing or burning, but not for building. The branch cannot produce its own life; it must draw that life from the vine. It is our communion with Christ through the Spirit that makes possible the bearing of the fruit.

It is our union and communion with Christ that makes us fruitful!

Many images of Christ and the believer given in Scripture emphasize this importance of union and communion: the body and its members (1Cor. 12), the bride and the Bridegroom (Eph. 5:25-33), the sheep and the Shepherd (John 10). A member of the body cut off from the body would die – like a branch cut off. The marriage creates the union, but it takes daily love and devotion to maintain the communion. The shepherd brings the sheep into the flock, but the sheep must follow the shepherd in order to have protection and provision.

The sooner we as believers discover that we are but branches, the better we will relate to the Lord; for we will know our own weakness and confess our need for His strength.
The key word is abide; it is used eleven times in 1-11 (“continue” in 9 and “remain” in 11). What does it mean to “abide”? It means to keep in fellowship with Christ so that His life can work in and through us to produce fruit. This certainly involves the Word of God and the confession of sin so that nothing hinders our communion with Him.

It also involves obeying Him because we love Him (9-10).

How can we tell when we are “abiding in Christ”? There are evidences that appear and they are unmistakably clear. For one thing, when you are abiding in Christ, you produce fruit (2, 4-5 – Love, Joy, Peace…). Also, you experience the Father’s “pruning” so that you will bear more fruit (2). The believer who is abiding in Christ has his prayers answered (7) and experiences a deepening love for Christ and for other believers (9, 12-13). He also experiences joy (11).

If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (fruit)

How do we let Jesus’ words abide in us? (Ps. 119:11) The word abide implies intimate knowledge of what a person has said. But it also implies that the words become a vital part of the way a believer lives.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Abide in Him, His Word and His Love!   How?

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love (perfect example). 

11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (Neh. 8:10)

“Tis only a little Branch,

A thing so fragile and weak,

But that little Branch has a message true

To give, could it only speak.

“I’m only a little Branch,

I live by a life not mine,

For the sap that flows through my tendrils small

Is the life-blood of the Vine.

“No power indeed have I

The fruit of myself to bear,

But since I’m part of the living Vine,

Its fruitfulness I share.

“Dost thou ask how I abide?

How this life I can maintain?—

I am bound to the Vine by life’s strong band,

And I only need remain.

“Where first my life was given,

In the spot where I am set,

Upborne and upheld as the days go by,

By the stem which bears me yet.

“I fear not the days to come,

I dwell not upon the past,

As moment by moment I draw a life,

Which for evermore shall last.

“I bask in the sun’s bright beams,

Which with sweetness fills my fruit,

Yet I own not the clusters hanging there,

For they all come from the root.”

A life which is not my own,

But another’s life in me:

This, this is the message the Branch would speak,

A message to you and me.

Oh, struggle not to “abide,”

Nor labor to “bring forth fruit,”

But let Jesus unite you to Himself,

As the Vine Branch to the root.

So simple, so deep, so strong

That union with Him shall be:

His life shall forever replace my own,

And His love shall flow through me.

ARE YOU ATTACHED?

Many people try to be good, honest people who do what is right. But Jesus says that the only way to live a truly good life is to stay close to him, like a branch attached to a vine. Apart from Christ our efforts are unfruitful. Are you receiving the nourishment and life offered by Christ, the True Vine? If not, you are missing the key to living the Christian life.

New plants are pruned for three to five years to “train” them before they are allowed to produce a crop.

Disease and lack of productivity can spread from dead branches that have not been removed.

In the Old Testament, grapes symbolized Israel’s fruitfulness in doing God’s work on earth.

Wild branches are unproductive

Fruit – Answered prayer, Joy and Love!

Others – soul won for Christ & Fruit of the Spirit, perseverance and brotherly affection.

Each spring vinedressers cut back each vine to its root stock to enhance its fruitfulness.

Grape branches or tendrils can grow very fast and very long (twelve to twenty feet). But as they develop length and size, they use resources that could be channeled into making fruit. Pruning focuses the growth and energy of the plant. A lush vine with little fruit has failed its purpose.

Curiously, a grapevine branch can survive and produce foliage for a while after it has been severed, but it cannot produce fruit unless it is connected to a root stock.

Additional Verses:

1 John 3:6 (ESV)
6  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.

1 John 2:6 (ESV)
6  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 John 2:9-10 (ESV)
9  Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.

1 John 2:28 (ESV)
28  And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 

1 John 4:12 (ESV)
12  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

1 John 4:15 (ESV)
15  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.