Abide in Me
Topic: English Passage: John 15:1-11
I want to start this morning by having you think about your hobbies. What are your hobbies? It seems to me like that word isn’t used much anymore, so maybe it’s good to give you a definition. A hobby, based on the definitions I saw is something you do in your free time for pleasure, enjoyment, or relaxation.
Another word people use for a hobby is a pastime, which means something you choose to do to help pass the time. So again, the question is: what are your hobbies?
Some people collect stamps. Some people paint. Some people read. Some people write. Some people take up photography or cooking. What’s your hobby?
Some of you, maybe the moms with little kids, might think: What are you talking about? What free time? Others of you might be thinking: Who cares about hobbies? I don’t have any hobbies. That all sounds so boring.
Maybe so. But what I would submit to you is that each and every one of you has a hobby, strictly speaking. All of us do things when we have the time. Fiddling around on your phone can a hobby. Social media can a hobby. Playing video games or watching videos or going to the movies can a hobby. Checking your email or checking the sports scores can a hobby. Playing with your kids can a hobby.
I say that because of the definition of a hobby. If there’s something that you normally choose to do, because you think it’ll bring you some kind of joy or pleasure or rest, that could be called a hobby. You want to do it. You like doing it. There is some sort of satisfaction and joy that comes from it.
Now, the question about hobbies is really just a side entrance to a much bigger question, which is: What brings you joy? What is it that brings you satisfaction? What is it that makes this life worth living for you?
I’d like you to look down again a the final verse in our passage for this morning. John 15, verse 11. Jesus says to His disciples: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
All of us do things that we think they will bring us joy and satisfaction. And you need to know that Jesus is not opposed to you living a joyful life. God wants you to live a joyful life.
Jesus was the most joyful person to ever walk this planet. And He came into this world to give us His joy. And He gave His disciples this teaching so that they would have joy. Joy is one of Christ’s desires for His people. It’s what He wants.
The question is: how do you get it? How do you pursue or attain the joy of Jesus Christ?
Before we get into the answer, you need to know that even though the answer is simple, it requires faith, and it requires a shift in the way you and I think.
When Jesus came promising joy, He didn’t mean that He’ll give you more of the stuff that you find joyful. Jesus’ goal isn’t to give you more free time on your phone or more delicious food, or more movies to watch, or a better night’s sleep. He didn’t necessarily come to give you more of what you deem to be joyful. He came to give you HIS joy, which is greater than any other joy. He came to make THAT joy full.
Joy is a major theme in this section of John’s gospel. This is His final night with His disciples, before His death, and Jesus knows how they are going to react. They’ll feel lonely and fearful and troubled and sorrowful. They won’t have any joy. And that’s why it’s a topic Jesus comes back to throughout the passage.
Later, in chapter 16, Jesus talks about joy again, and He says: “Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” And then in chapter 17, His prayer is: “I speak these things in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.” Joy is one of Jesus’ focuses this night, and He wants His disciples to know it.
Now, as we come to chapter 15, I should cover one final phrase from chapter 14, which we didn’t discuss last week. The final line in chapter 14 says: “Rise, let us go from here.”
There are a couple of different ways to take that. It could be that at this point, Jesus and His disciples actually leave the Upper Room and start making their way out of the city. And in the time that they walk together, Jesus continues to teach them. If that’s the case chapters 15, 16, and 17 would have taken place somewhere between the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is arrested. And some people believe that Jesus’ discussion about the vine and the branches could be connected to a vine that was visible to the disciples as they were walking. That’s possible.
Another possibility is that Jesus made the statement, which would have made the disciples wake up a little and gather their belongings, and then He continues talking.
It would be like when you tell someone, “Ok, it’s late. I gotta go home now.” But then you just keep talking for another 20 minutes. I can definitely relate to that.
Whatever you think happened, Jesus’ statement at the end of chapter 14 places an emphasis on the teaching that follows. This is a passage of the Bible that you should get familiar with. This is, Jesus’ final message before He dies. And what He wants to give His disciples, because of His love for them, is joy.
So, again, how do you get it? What is it that Jesus says will bring you joy? The answer is one of the key words in this passage. It’s used 6 times in 11 verses. The answer is fruit. True joy comes from fruit.
Interestingly, the English word “fruit” comes from some Latin words that carry the idea of something being useful or productive, but also being enjoyable. So the concept of fruit and joy are connected even in our language.
What is fruit? We need to answer that question before we keep going. What is the Bible talking about when it mentions fruit in someone’ life?
The word fruit basically points to something that is produced by something else. That’s what a literal fruit is, right? Apples and oranges comes from a tree. The tree produces the fruit. Or the field produces a harvest.
Well, in a person’s life, fruit is what their heart produces. Your heart produces fruit. Everybody’s life produces fruit. And that can be good fruit, or that can be bad fruit. In today’s passage Jesus is talking about good fruit, useful fruit, pleasing fruit.
And in the life of a Christian, that fruit begins with faith and repentance. That’s what John the Baptist said: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”
That fruit, which begins in the heart will eventually by demonstrated externally through righteous words and righteous acts. The Bible refers to that as fruit. That is the fruit that comes from your heart.
The Bible also says that a Christian’s fruit includes the people we tell about Christ and then see come to salvation. When Jesus was in Samaria, back in John 4, He said to the disciples: “The fields are white for harvest [speaking of the people coming to Him], and the one who reaps is gathering fruit.” In Romans 1:13 Paul says, “I want to visit you and I want to reap some harvest. I want to obtain fruit.”
So the fruit of a Christian life includes righteous words and righteous actions, and it includes the people whom we are instrumental in bringing to salvation.
A good understanding of fruit, though, has to go a little deeper, because Jesus said (in Matthew 7) He would condemn some people, even though they had all kinds of righteous or religious activity. The external stuff isn’t enough.
One helpful verse in describing biblical, righteous fruit comes to us in Ephesians 5:8-10. It says: Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
So good fruit has as its heart the desire to please Christ.
We also have Philippians 1:11 which is Paul’s prayer for the church. He wants them to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
So you put that all together and what you get is the understanding that righteous, biblical, true fruit is that which is done with the intention of pleasing Christ and seeing Him be glorified. That’s biblical fruit. That’s good fruit. The things that please Christ and glorify Him, in your own life and in the lives of others. That’s fruit.
And this is the follow-up question. Do you want that? Would that bring you joy? Would you trade the joy of all the earthly stuff if it meant, both in your own life and in the lives of others, a desire to please Christ and give Him glory? Do you want that?
Joy comes from fruit. Joy comes from a life that pleases Christ and impacts others for Him. Do you want that?
If you don’t want that—if there isn’t something within you that says, “Yes, give me that, help me do that better,” you’re not a genuine Christian. Christians aren’t perfect. Far from. But because of the Holy Spirit within us, those who are saved want to see Christ glorified. They want to see others come to faith as well.
And it’s a frustrating thing to be constantly pulled at by the lesser joys of this world. It’s a battle. If you’re not having that battle, you are spiritually dead. And before any discussion about fruit, you need to repent of your sin, and beg Christ to forgive you and save you and give you a new heart—a heart that wants to please Him.
If you’ve done that already, this morning’s message isn’t intended to beat you up for not having enough fruit. The intent is to encourage you so that would have more fruit, because that’s what leads to joy.
And the encouragement that Jesus gives us here is this: God wants fruit in your life. God wants fruit. And if God wants fruit in your life, then it also means that God wants joy in your life. God wants to give you fruit, so that you would have more true joy.
Look down with me at verses 1 and 2. Jesus says: I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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.
In the Old Testament, grape vines were symbols of joy and blessing. Each household would have had its own vine to grow and cultivate. And if God brought rain and peace, those vines prospered. And if times were tough, the vines would be unhealthy, or they could be raided by animals or enemies, or they could dry up and die. And so those vines represented the nation of Israel.
In fact, some of the prophets explicitly talk about Israel and God’s vine, which He planted and protected, and from which He expected fruit. Well, at the time of Jesus, the rulers of Israel have rejected God. They’ve rejected Christ. And so there will be no blessing.
So, how are the disciples supposed to receive God’s love and blessing. If Israel is in rebellion, who is their source of life and joy? It’s Jesus. Jesus is the true vine. And, He says, His Father is the vinedresser. That’s the guy who works on it and takes care of it. That’s the guy who wants there to be fruit.
Every branch that does not bear fruit is taken away. That’s what a vinedresser does. In the realm of trees, I’ve heard them called sucker branches. They’re stealing food and resources from the rest of the plant, but they don’t do any good. And the solution is to cut them off.
Well, who would be the perfect example of someone connected to Christ, receiving His blessings, yet being removed? That’s Judas, who’s no longer with the group and who is now facing eternal judgment. And Judas becomes to us the prime example of all those who will walk closely to Jesus, but ultimately be cast away.
God will, ultimately, remove all unfruitful people. That doesn’t mean they will lose their salvation. It means they were never really saved to begin with. Because if they were saved, there would have been genuine fruit.
So, it’s not just that believers want fruit. It’s also the case that only true believers can produce genuine fruit. Every false believer will be condemned because all he or she has is false fruit. It’s fake fruit.
And though that judgment will be severe, and though Christians will be spared, it doesn’t meant that Christian are going to have zero difficulty or pain. What does the end of verse 2 say? The branches that produce no fruit get taken away, and the branches that do produce fruit get pruned.
Pruning a branch doesn’t mean you get rid of it. It means you cut back some of the stuff that isn’t beneficial for fruit. And when a vinedresser prunes his vine, it produces more fruit. The vine can direct its energy and nutrients to what is remaining.
So, in our own life that means God will cut things out of your life, not because He hates you, but because they aren’t the productive components of your life. Just to give you one example in my own life—I watch way, way less TV now than I did 15 years ago. Some of that is by my own choice, but a significant portion of it is just due to circumstances in my life. I’m married, and I have three kids. Those kinds of things have a pruning effect.
And my example is a very common one. But there are even more drastic things that can happen in your life, very tragic or burdensome things that happen, and it’s part of the pruning process.
In other parts of the Bible it’s describing as God refining us in a fire, like gold. God is pruning us. Not because He’s mad at us. Not because He’s grumpy. But because He loves us, and He wants to produce more fruit.
Think about that in whatever circumstances you might be facing. God is pruning you. He’s preparing you for a more fruitful life. That is an encouragement. And it’s an encouragement you can give one another. God is pruning you so that you would bear more fruit.
When difficulties come, don’t interpret them as God’s anger, receive them as God’s gracious work in your life for your good and for His glory.
You know, the disciples were going to go through a crisis very soon. Jesus is going to get arrested and pretty much all of them are going to be scattered. And after a failure like that, they might have been tempted to doubt their own salvation. Haven’t you ever felt that? You mess up in a big way, and you start to think, “Maybe I’m not even saved.”
Well, in verse 3, Jesus tells them the greatest news they could ever hear. “You’re saved.” Verse 3— Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
The Greek word for prune also means “to clean or cleanse.” And it’s basically the same word and the word “clean” here in verse 3, except that one is a verb and one is an adjective. Just like when Jesus washed Peter’s feet, He wants them to know that God’s cleansing work is not a salvific work. They’re already saved. It’s a sanctifying work.
Do you remember what Jesus said to the disciples when Peter wanted a bath? He said: “You guys are clean already.” And He was talking about the 11 of them. And now, Jesus is expanding that a little bit. You are clean because of the cleansing power of My word. Jesus is affirming their salvation.
So, again, this conversation here is not a salvation discussion. Jesus is not saying, “You guys better show me some fruit, or the Father is going to cut you away.” This is not a discussion about salvation. It’s a discussion about fruit. This is Jesus saying: “God is going to make sure that you bear more fruit.” And that would have been something that made them joyful.
By the way, and I think this is important to recognize, Roman Catholic theology can’t affirm this verse for you and for me. They can say it for the Apostles, because they’re considered super-saints. But they can’t extend this truth to you and me.
The New Testament extends it to us. We have been cleansed by Christ. That’s what we’re celebrating tonight with the Lord’s Supper. But in Roman Catholic theology, you can’t claim to be completely and permanently cleansed from sin. You can’t say that. You need faith in Christ word plus works to stay clean. It’s not a permanent, one-time cleansing. That’s why if a Catholic dies, they don’t think they were clean enough, and so they go to Purgatory to be purged from remaining sin. That’s is a direct attack on the gospel, and a direct attack on the saving work on Jesus on the cross.
We are clean. And now, having been cleansed, God wants us to bear more fruit. That’s the path to joy.
So, here’s the next question. How do we bear fruit? Joy comes from bearing fruit, but where does bearing fruit come from? How do we do it?
The answer to that question is the driving exhortation of this passage. And it’s a word Jesus uses 10 times in the verses that remain. What’s the answer? How do we bear fruit?... We bear fruit by abiding in Jesus. Joy comes from fruit, and fruit comes from abiding.
That’s the thrust of verses 3-10. Abide in Jesus. Abide in Jesus. That’s what Jesus wants from His disciples—that they abide in Him.
Look at verse 6 for a moment. Notice what it 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.
That’s talking about eternal judgment. Back in chapter 2, Jesus said the branches are taken away if they don’t bear fruit. Here, He says the branches are removed if they don’t abide in Him. He says that because they are connected reality. Those who abide in Jesus are those that bear fruit. Those that do not bear fruit are those who do not abide in Jesus.
Well, what does that actually mean? Another way to translate the word would be to remain in Jesus. Stay with Him. But again, what does that mean?
Well, if you put together what the gospel of John says about abiding, here’s what you get. To abide in Jesus is to live in genuine faith, humble dependency, and loving obedience toward Christ. I think that’s a good summary of abiding. Genuine faith in Jesus. Humble dependency on Jesus. And loving obedience toward Jesus.
Think about it like this. Jesus’ disciples stayed with Jesus for about 3 years. But now, He’s going to leave. But even though He’s physically leaving them, He’s asking them to keep doing what they were doing. Stay connected to Jesus.
The first component of abiding, I said, is genuine faith. You can’t even enter into the realm of abiding in Jesus if you have not received Him in humble faith.
In John 5:38, Jesus says to the Jewish leaders: “You do not have the Father’s word abiding in you, because you do not believe the one whom He has sent.” In other words, “You can say all you want about your connection to God, but it’s not really there, because you’ve rejected Jesus Christ.”
So abiding in Jesus mean believing in Him as the Son of God, the Christ, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world. If you don’t accept that, you cannot abide in Him.
Secondly, abiding means humble dependency. Absolute dependency. We get to see this in verses 4 and 5.
This analogy would have been very clear to the people in that society. You can’t cut a branch off a vine, and then just lay it next to rest of the plant and expect it to bear fruit. Once you cut it off and separate it, it’s dead. It can’t do anything by itself.
Therefore, Jesus says, neither can we, if we’re not connected to Jesus. We can’t bear fruit. We can’t do anything that is spiritually productive. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.
Listen, there is no such thing as a spiritual battery. Do you get what I’m saying. You can unplug your phone, and it’ll run for a day, or for a week in some cases. It can survive for some time, if it’s not connected. That’s what a battery does.
Well, that’ not how spiritual life works. There’s no battery. Take the battery out of a disconnected phone or a disconnected laptop, and what do you have? You have a fancy paperweight, right? It’s useless. It does nothing.
You don’t want to be that kind of Christian, do you? Who in their right mind wants to be Christian paperweight? Is that what you want? No! And it’s not what the elders want for you either. We, as we express the heart of Jesus, want you to be ministers. We want you building one another up. We want you impacting lives for Jesus Christ. And it all flows from abiding in Jesus. Abiding is vital. It is absolutely necessary.
What does that kind of abiding look like in your everyday life? It means you’re actively depending on Christ. It’s an active connection to Him, trusting that He, and He alone, is the One who can enable you to glorify God.
To use the language of First Thessalonians 5, to abide means to pray without ceasing. It’s a continual connection to Jesus, seeking His life to flow into you. That’s dependency. And that’s the picture you get from VERSE 7.
That tells us that abiding includes prayer. Abiding includes prayer. And, if you’re abiding in Christ, Jesus says, God will answer that prayer. What’s the prayer? It’s that Christ will be glorified.
Answered prayer is another topic that Jesus repeats in this section. We saw that back in chapter 14. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Again, the context makes it clear that the prayer God hears is the prayer that seeks to glorify Christ. That’s the prayer that seeks genuine, spiritual fruit. And the same idea is right here in VERSE 8.
True disciples bear God-glorifying fruit because true disciples abide in Christ. And to the degree to which we abide in Christ, we will bear fruit.
Abiding in Christ means having genuine faith, humble dependency, and thirdly loving obedience.
That’s how you abide. And that’s how you bear fruit. And that’s how you find true joy. It all requires loving obedience.
This isn’t a new topic for this night’s message. Jesus has already talked to them about the connection between love and obedience. You need to love Jesus. And love is expressed in obedience. We saw that back in 14:15—If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
And so now, Jesus repeats that message in VERSES 9 and 10.
Abiding in Jesus means there is genuine faith, humble dependency, and loving obedience. That’s how you abide, and that’s how you bear fruit, and that’s how you find joy.
This is the grace of Jesus Christ. If we are the branches connected to Jesus, Jesus is not telling us that we’re supposed to flex our fruit muscles and make fruit appear. That’s not how it works.
And yet, that’s what a lot of us go out there and try and do. “I’m going to make some fruit come out.” You’re going to hurt yourself like that. Jesus isn’t saying: “Go out there and bear fruit.” He is simply saying: “Abide in Me. Stay close to Me. Stay connected to Me. And fruit will come. And joy will come.”
So, as we come to a close, I really want to just speak to you as one of your pastors. And I want you to really think about this final question: Are you abiding in Jesus Christ? Are you abiding?
In a sense, Jesus, and us church leaders, aren’t even directly concerned about your fruit. Our main concern is: Are you abiding in Jesus Christ? That’s a question we need to ask ourselves as well. And it’s something we can all grow in.
Are you abiding in Christ? Are you walking in genuine faith, humble dependency, and loving obedience?
One the outside, nobody else might be able to tell the difference, but that is what makes all the difference. when you wake up in the morning, are you praying, asking Christ for help that day. When you get in your car to drive to work. When you arrive at work and start chatting with your co-workers. When you start dealing with clients or with your boss. When you get hungry. When you eat lunch. When your kids get cranky. When you leave work and go pick up your kids. When you answer the phone. When you send someone a message. When you get home and it’s chaos. When it’s time to put the kids to bed and you’re cranky already.
Are you abiding in Christ? Don’t go through life alone. Don’t go through life in neutral. Apart from Him you can do nothing. This is the key to the Christian life. There is no secret to it. Abide in Christ.
And if you’re abiding in Christ, if you’re actively and humble depending on Him and seeking to obey His word, then, Jesus says you will bear fruit and your joy will be made full.
If you’re abiding in Christ, will you check your email as much? Will you be looking at your phone more or less? Will you play with your kids more or less? Will you take more selfies or less? Will you talk to other people more or less? Will you watch more TV or less? Will you go to more birthday parties or less?
I don’t have all those answers. But the point is, stay connected to Christ, and He will lead you. Abiding in Christ doesn’t happen automatically. It has to be done intentionally. Stop connecting to Christ, and you will waste your life. Stop connecting to Jesus, and you will forfeit the joy that Jesus came to give you.