The Secret to a life of blessing: Abiding in Christ

John 15:1-17

1)I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
2)Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3)Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4)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.
5)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.
6)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.
7)If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
8)By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
9)As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
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.
11)These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12)“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
13)Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
14)You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15) No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
16)You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
17) These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
‭‭(John‬ ‭15:1-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬)‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Introduction

In the gospel of John we clearly see that Jesus Christ is not only portrayed as a righteous man or a prophet but as God in human form. We see that Jesus equated Himself with God by the seven “I AM” sayings, Jesus said: “I AM the Bread of Life”, “I AM the the Light of the world”, “I AM the resurrection and the Life”, “I AM the door”, “I AM the Good Shepherd”, “I AM the way, the truth and the life” and then lastly in this parable, “I AM the True Vine.” In the Book of Exodus when God spoke to Moses He identified Himself as “I AM.” That is one of God’s Names. Jesus used these “I AM” sayings deliberately showing Himself to be God, the same God as the God of the Old Testament, Jahwe, as the God who appeared to Moses in Arabia.

In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was many times compared to a Vine that God planted. We see this in Psalm 80, and in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The indictment against Israel was that although God planted them as a nation, they did not produce the good fruit that God wanted them to produce. Instead they produced bad fruit.

Jesus came here and said He is the true True Vine, the true Israel, and that if we are united with Him we will not be like Israel in the Old Testament, but we will be fruitful and bring glory to God. In this portion, Jesus makes it crystal clear that we cannot afford not to have union and communion with Him on a constant basis. Anyone who is not united to Him, and believes in Him as the Messiah and Savior of the world, will be cut of and thrown away and be judged. In this message I want to look at four things: firstly, what is the determining cause for people abiding in Christ. Secondly, why is it necessary to abide in Christ, thirdly, what is the meaning of abiding in Christ, or how do we abide in Christ? And then fourthly, what is God’s purpose for us in abiding in Christ.

What follows in this message is the secret to a life of blessing: abiding in Christ.

1) The determining and principal cause of abiding in Christ

In verse 16, Jesus said that we did not choose him, but He chose us and appointed us to go, and bear fruit, fruit that will abide. When Jesus said these words, he was speaking to his apostles. That was the immediate context. Jesus handpicked them, and appointed them for the work of ministry. The determining cause for them being apostles was the fact that Jesus Christ chose them. It doesn’t mean the disciples didn’t choose to follow Him. But their choice to follow Christ was secondary. The disciples were chosen and appointed by God and that is the determining factor why they could abide in Christ. In fact, God chose them unto salvation before time began, not only to be his apostles, but unto salvation (Ephesians 1:3-5).

This text can be applied to any, true believer, of Christ. The decisive and determining factor and cause why we can abide in Christ and why we can be united to Christ is because Christ chose us, elected us, to Himself. God the Father chose us before the foundation of the world unto salvation, (Ephesians 1:3-5) in Christ, and He chose us to be holy and fruitful before the foundation of the world. This text tells us that Jesus was also involved in this choosing of His people unto salvation and fruitfulness. This doesn’t mean we don’t choose Christ, and shouldn’t repent of our sins and that we shouldn’t choose to follow Christ, and believe in Him, and commit our lives to Him. These things are all necessary. What this text emphasizes is that God is the Author and Finisher or our faith and salvation. He is the determining cause in our salvation and growth in holiness. No one comes to the Son except the Father draws Him (John 6:44). No one knows the Father except the Son and no one knows the Son and except the Father and the one to whom the Son chooses to reveal Himself (Matthew 11:27-28).

2) The necessity of abiding in Christ (He prunes and takes away)

In this parable Jesus says that God is the Vinedresser or Farmer. He says He is the Vine and that we are the branches. In God’s economy, He is not the One that needs us. We are the ones that need Him for life and breath and everything! Just as a branch cannot exits without it being connected with a vine, so we cannot exist without our connection to Christ. God is our Creator, he is the reason everything exists. Without Him there will be no life. But more importantly, without Christ and His saving work on Golgotha there will be no spiritual births and no spiritual life possible. Jesus is the True Vine, not national Israel. We don’t have to become Jews or be circumcised to have union with God! We need to planted into the Vine that is Christ. We need to be engrafted into Christ! If we are not united to Christ then we have no hope to bear fruit.

In verse 2, it says that God is the one who inspects the Vine. In this parable a distinction is made between the branches that bear fruit and the branches that don’t bear fruit. Commentators say this distinction refers to those who are truly united to Christ and those who claim to be believers in God or Christ, but don’t bear spiritual fruit. In verse 2, God is portrayed as the One who inspects the Vine and the One who separates the true believers from the false ones.

He takes away the branches that don’t bear fruit. Verse 6 says: “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.” These two texts tell of the fact that God is going to judge those people who don’t bear fruit of repentance, and that He is going to judge them severely. Like branches that don’t bear fruit are cut off, gathered and burned in the fire, so the unbelievers and false Christians will be removed from God’s world and be judged by Jesus Christ and thrown in the lake of fire and be in torment for eternity. Unbelievers are not exactly like fruitless branches! Worthless branches that are burned, only burns for a short time, and then they become ashes! Unbelievers and false Christians will not become ashes, and they will not cease to be! They will be thrown into the lake of fire one day (Revelation 20:11-15) and there they will be in torment, not for a while, but forever and ever (Revelation 14:11).

If people don’t abide in Christ, and if they don’t bear fruit, they will be judged. That it why it is essential to abide in Christ and be united to Christ! People may ask: is it possible to be a Christian and then after some time not bear fruit, and then be thrown away, judged by God, and be damned? This parable doesn’t say that a true believer who is united to Christ can lose his salvation. That will contradict John 10:28-30. If you know anything about vines you would know that sometimes there are branches attached to the vine that never produces fruit. In a way they are part of the vine but in a sense they don’t receive the sap from the stem that causes them to produce any fruit. In the same way, there are some people who come church, who read their Bibles, who identify themselves as Christians, but they have not received spiritual life from God. They have not been united to Christ, and they don’t commune with Christ, and therefore their lives don’t change, they remain fruitless. They are the ones who will be cut off from the Vine, from the church, and will wither and be thrown away!

But then there are those on the Vine who do bear fruit. God says in this parable, if people do bear fruit, God will prune them so that they may bear more fruit. Again, no one can bear spiritual fruit unless he is connected to the Vine, who is Christ. Without Christ, as verse 5 says we can do nothing! No spiritual good can come from our lives unless we are in Christ, and unless we are united to Christ. In our flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7). But also, God is the one who looks after our spiritual lives. He is the only One who connected us to Christ and who engrafted us into the Vine. He is the only reason why we can bear fruit. But He is also the only reason why we can bear fruit week in and week out, year in and year out. He is the one who sustains our spiritual growth by virtue of Christ. Like a farmer prunes a vine and cuts of parts of the branches every season, so the Father cuts off worthless things in our lives. He disciplines us. He corrects us. He rebukes us. He trains us. We suffer for Christ’s sake all for this purpose: so that we may bear more fruit! God is the active agent that causes us to grow and bear more fruit. And he looks after our spiritual growth only in Christ and by virtue of the fact that we are one with Him. Without Christ we can do nothing (verse 5). Therefore abide in Christ!

3) The meaning of abiding in Christ (how to abide in Christ)

By faith in Christ (John 3:16, 14:1)

The Bible makes it very clear that no person receives the gift of the Spirit and eternal life without putting their faith in Christ Jesus. Everyone who believes in Christ and what he has done for us on the cross receives eternal life, the gift of the Spirit (John 3:16; 3:36). It is when we come to Christ and drink from Him, and repent of our sins, and believe that Jesus paid our debt on the cross, and bore the wrath of God on our behalf, that we are saved and united to Christ. That is where abiding in Christ starts.

By receiving and believing the word (verse 3)

It is like verse 3 says: “you are clean by the word that I have spoken to you.” It is when we receive the word of Christ, when we receive the gospel being preached, when we accept it and believe in the promises of God that we are cleansed from our sins. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from our sins when we confess our sins and believe and accept the word of God! We are born again not by corruptible seed but by incorruptible seed by the living and abiding word of God, …. And that word is the gospel that was preached unto you (1 Peter 1:23-25).

Walking in the light (John 3:20-22; 1 John 1:7-9)

As the apostle John said in his letter: “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” ( John‬ ‭1:5-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬).‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

If we want to maintain fellowship with God we have to walk in the light and that means bringing our sins to Him. Christians are not perfect. We sin, we make mistakes, we offend people, and when we do that we ought to confess our sins to God and to each other when necessary. In this way, we keep abiding in Christ and remain in fellowship with Him. It is in the communion of the saints that we grow, and are forgiven, and cleansed of all our unrighteousness.

By prayer (confession of sins and asking for forgiveness) (1 John 1:5-10; Matthew 6:9-11) Thanksgiving

Jesus taught us to pray daily: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sinned against us (Matthew 6:9-11). There is no way we can abide in Christ without following the pattern of our Lord. He had the habit of spending much time with the Father in the morning. He prayed for hours alone. He urged his disciples to pray often and so did the apostles. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16; Ephesians 6:18). Be constant in prayer (Romans 12:10-12). It is unthinkable to abide in Christ without spending time alone with God, praising and thanking Him and making your requests known to God (Phillipians 4:4-7). That is why Jesus also said: “If you abide in Me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be granted to you” (John 15:7).

By abiding in the Word (verse 3;7)

And when we pray and spend time with God we spend time in his word. To abide in Christ means to abide in his word (verse 7). As we meditate on his word and delight in his word (Psalm 1:1-4) we are abiding in Christ.
Dear friend, do you spend enough time with God, in His word, reading it, studying it, meditating on it and believing in it? Without this daily habit we cannot think that we will commune with God and abide in him.

By abiding in his love (verse 9; 12,13)

Now when Jesus commanded his followers to abide in Him, he qualified it by saying: abide in my love. He said: “As the Father loved me, so I have loved you, abide in my love.” Jesus gave us a new commandment, not only to love our neighbors, but to love one another as He loved us! No greater love is there in this world, than the love that Christ had and has for his church. He sacrificed Himself for his people and so redeemed them from their sins. We cannot save anyone from their sins, but in the way that Jesus gave Himself for His people he showed us how we also should lay down our lives for each other in the church (1 John 3:16). This is the way to abide in Christ and to abide in His love: to love each other in the way Christ loved us: to live a life of sacrifice.

By keeping His commandments (verse 10) as Jesus did: Jesus is our pattern and example

And then Jesus qualifies again what this means: to abide in His love. To abide in His love is to keep his commandments. If we want abide in Christ we have to obey his commandments. In other words, we have to love His commandments and the character of God revealed in His commandments. You may ask: which commandments? To summarize: the great Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). And to know what this means in more detail: Go to the Ten Commandments: You shall have no other gods before me, you shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain, you shall not murder, you shall not steal etc.

In our own strength it is not possible to keep and obey the ten commandments and the great commandment. Even if we are born from the Spirit we cannot obey the commandments of God perfectly. But by the help of the Spirit we can keep them, delight in them, and obey them significantly, though not perfectly.

By loving each other as Christ loved us (verse 12,13)

How did Jesus love His disciples:

 He came to identify with their weaknesses (He became a man)
 He learned their language (mother tongue)
 He prayed for them constantly
 He lived with them and had fellowship with them
 He taught them the word of God
 He ministered to their needs (fed them, cared for them)
 He sacrificed himself for their salvation
 He always had their best interests in mind
 He rebuked them and corrected them
 He healed them
 Jesus exhibited the fruit of the Holy Spirit to his disciples (kindness, goodness, peace, joy, love, self-control, patience and faithfulness, humility)

To abide in Christ we ought to follow Christ’s example and care for each other, pray for each other, live with each other, have fellowship with each other, have each other’s best interests in mind, teach each other the word of God, heal each other, sacrifice for each other and correct each other. We cannot save each other, but we can point each other constantly to the One who can!

4) The purpose of abiding in Christ

That God be glorified by the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us (that the world may be filled with the exhibition of God’s character) (verse 8)

God is glorified in the world and in us when we bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:22,23 we see what the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. When we are patient to people and each other, when we exhibit the joy of the Spirit, when we practice self-control in keeping our temper and in our sexual behavior, when we are faithful in keeping our word and our promises and doing our work and being on time for work, and when we are generous and show kindness in the way we speak, and when we have a humble opinion of ourselves and exhibit that we esteem others higher than ourselves, and so on, we glorify God, because we exhibit the nature of God. These are the blessings that God works in our lives and are like fruit that bring spiritual nourishment and light to the world.

We shouldn’t think that these segments of the fruit are distributed only to some members and that some receive the love and others the peace and some the humility and some the kindness. No, the fruit come as one package. Christ produces all these segments of the fruit in every one of His children. Love, joy, peace and patience are produced in all his children. Goodness and kindness and faithfulness should be exhibited by all his disciples. And God will keep on pruning us until he sees all these segments of the fruit in all his children!

Love: the ability to care for another person and to seek the benefit of others. Love rejoices in the truth. Love bears and endures all things. Love does not rejoice in iniquity. Love is long-suffering. Love is kind. Love does not keep a record of wrong. Love is forgiving. Love is not just a decision to lay down your life for other people. Love is a disposition of the heart. It is the ability to have empathy with another. It is the ability to listen and care for others and seek their benefit, not just temporal benefits, but eternal benefit. Therefore love shares the gospel of salvation with others, because it is only through faith in Christ that people can be saved. Love causes us to pray for others to be saved, persistently, because it is only through union with Christ that any person can receive the Holy Spirit. To love God and others are gifts wrought in a person by the Holy Spirit. No one can truly love another except through union with Christ and the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). We love because we have first been loved by Christ (1 John 4:19).

Joy: knowing you have eternal life and it will last. Knowing your sins have been dealt with in Christ. Spiritual and godly happiness.

Peace: peace of mind, a clear conscience towards God and man. The peace that surpasses all understanding comes from God (Phillipians 4:7). We have received Jesus’ peace not the peace of the world (John 14:27).

Patience/long-suffering: the ability to endure suffering for Christ’s sake. This is produced by the Holy Spirit and by going through tribulation (Romans 5:3,4). Through trials and tribulations that are orchestrated by God in our lives this grace is produced.

Kindness: the ability to diffuse a conflict situation. This disposition of character can only be wrought by the Holy Spirit. Not being rude and obnoxious even when you are undergoing a stressful situation or are frustrated because of a series of events. To exhibit kindness at all times is a grace wrought in a person who has been transformed by the Holy Spirit. It is a blessing.

Goodness: seeking other people’s benefit in material goods or otherwise. No one is good except God. Therefore we cannot be good or exhibit goodness unless God dwells in us. Through the Holy Spirit we can seek other people’s benefit and be generous and unselfish.

Faithfulness: keeping your promises and word. The desire to be faithful comes from God. Being faithful in work responsibilities and in the little things God demands from us is not possible unless we are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is only when our behavior and minds and wills are under the control of the Holy Spirit that we can be faithful to God and faithful in our work, church and family responsibilities.

Humility: seeing yourself as you really are. God must show you this. When God shows us our sins and when he works in us and convicts us of our sins, it produces humility. To see ourselves as we are, and to know and realize that all that we have, and are are gifts and blessings and graces are coming from God, must of necessity produce humility.

Self-control: saying no to temptation, the ability and strength and inclination to be self-disciplined is a blessing produced by God. The Holy Spirit restrains us to say yes to evil and sin. To deny ourselves everyday and say no to sin, day in and day out, year in and year out, can only be produced by the Holy Spirit’s restraining hand.
That we go and bear fruit, fruit that will abide (verse 16)

And what is remarkable about this fruit is that God doesn’t only want this fruit to be there for a season, or a few years, or a decade or two. Christians increase in bearing fruit, but God prunes his people so that the fruit of the Spirit, may last, and abide forever. God’s purpose is that we be conformed the the image of Christ and therefore He will keep on pruning us until we bear the image of the Man of heaven. That was the goal of the ministry of Paul the apostle:

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians‬ ‭1:28‬ ‭ESV‬).‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

These blessings that God works in us are permanent blessings. They must increase year by year, and they are all locked up in the Person of Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). When we abide in Christ, when the branch receives sap from the Vine, it will bear much fruit! And that fruit will abide, because God is the One who produces it. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

That we prove to be His disciples by bearing fruit (verse 8)

When we bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit, day in and day out, year in and year out, we prove that we are Christ’s disciples. And God wants the world to know that he has disciples, in fact, in every corner of the globe. He wants His disciples to make more disciples of all ethnic groups in every generation! This is the task He has given his disciples and this is His purpose in creation and salvation: a global family that belong to Him, exhibiting His nature, glorifying Him!

That Christ’s joy be in us and that our joy may be full (verse 11)
One of the greatest blessings in the Christian life is to have the joy of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said all these things to His disciples that His joy may be in them. This joy comes from a clear conscience and knowing that God does not count our sins against us. If we know that God has forgiven all our sins through Christ, and we know that we are in the right relationship with God, and that God is not angry with us anymore, but that He has adopted us into His family, and given us His Spirit, unspeakable joy should be the natural result. Joy inexpressible is the logical consequence. If the infinite God loves you infinitely, and has averted his infinite wrath towards you through the atonement of the infinite valuable Son, Jesus Christ, is there not reason to have fullness of joy? The joy of the Lord is not something that is dependent on circumstances, but is dependent on the fact of our redemption and our right standing in the sight of God.

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow Me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish and no one will pluck them out of my hand. My Father is greater than I and no one will be able to pluck them out of His hand. The Father and I are One” (John 10:27-30). This must be one of the most wonderful promises in the Bible. God assures his disciples that no one will be able to make them lose their salvation. This, I believe, is the greatest reason for fullness of joy! God is faithful to keep us saved, and supply us with new mercies and new grace every day in the Holy Spirit! The good work that He started He will finish (Phillipians 1:5).

That we be called his friends, not servants (verse 15)

Another purpose and blessing of abiding in Christ is the fact that God calls us his friends. As Jesus said to His disciples, he calls us no longer servants, because servants don’t know what their masters are doing, but Christ calls his disciples friends. He does that, because he has made known to His children, the mystery of His will in salvation and in the Bible. He has made known to us His secrets (Jeremiah 33:3). We don’t know all God’s secrets, we don’t know the hidden will of God, but God has made known unto us, he has revealed unto us, the way of salvation and the way of righteousness. He has made known unto us the things that are necessary to know for life and godliness. He has made known unto us his covenants and his promises and his word. And therefore God calls his disciples, friends! What a blessing! He has not done this to all mankind, but to His elect ones only.

That we may receive what we ask (consecrated relationship) (verse 7,16) according to His will (1 John 5:14)

One of the principal blessings of the Christian life is to have communion with God and that God answers our prayers when we pray. The answers to our prayers does not always come in the timeframe we want, or in the way we want, but if we ask things according to His will, God will answer,
and our joy will be full (John 16:33). The blessing of abiding in Christ is to have fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This communion is not uninterrupted, because we still sin and need to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, but it is nevertheless wonderful to have communion with God from day to day and to have a meaningful and consecrated relationship with God.

Everything we ask for, according to God’s will, we will receive, and when we abide in Christ and his words abide in us (1 John 5:14-16; John 15:7).

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