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Sunday, April 28, 2019

posted Apr 29, 2019, 8:25 PM by Site Administrator



John 15:1-10

Key Verse 15:5


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.


In the previous passage, we learned how we must love Jesus. We experienced Jesus’ love, and we now want to love him. But while he is in heaven, while he is God the Almighty, how can we love him? Jesus gives us a clear direction, saying, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” He also says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” All Christians say, “I love Jesus.” But Jesus does not accept that kind of a lip service. Instead, he wants real love that is shown in action of having his commands and obeying them. Show your love for Jesus by accepting his commands and obeying them. After this, Jesus gave them his teaching of the vine and the branches, showing them how they were related and how they would live a truly wonderful life. May God bless us to accept this teaching.


First, “I am the vine” (1-3). Look at verses 1 and 2. Let’s read these verses together:


1I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.


Jesus says, “I am the true vine.” The true vine is the vine that has everything for its branches to bear really good fruit. Any branch that is in this true vine, is to bear good fruit. When Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the vine,” and “you are the branches,” he meant that they were essentially related to him, and that he was the essential part for them to live truly meaningful and fulfilling lives. Originally, Adam was beautiful, powerful, glorious and full of life because he was connected to God, the source of life. But when he was disconnected from God due to his sinning, he became like a laptop computer whose plug was pulled out from the wall outlet. Still he was alive because he had been charged fully with life power that came from God, the source of life, and this one time fully charged life lasted about 1,000 years. But when the battery ran out, he could not be recharged any longer, and simply, he collapsed. Jesus is the true vine to which all his creation should be connected so that they can thrive and prosper. 

God the Father is the gardener. He is actively involved in the lives of those who are connected to Jesus the Son, to make sure that they become fruitful. How happy we are that God the Father is actively involved in our life! Surely, we are not alone, but we live our life together with God, and his whole concern for us is that we may become truly fruitful in our life. As the gardener what does he do? Jesus says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruithe prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” His main job is pruning. There are many branches in the vine tree; some branches bear fruits, and some others do not bear fruit; these fruitless branches are only leafy. What the farmer desires from the vine tree is not leafy branches, but fruit – grapes. These branches that have a lot of leaves, but do not have any fruit are useless and even harmful because they suck up a lot of nutrients, which, otherwise, would have gone to the branches that bear fruit. So he cuts them off. God’s desire is to send all nutrients to the branches that will bear fruit. 


God as the gardener, also prunes any branch that does bear fruit, so that it may be even more fruitful. This fruit-bearing branch has great potential to bear really best quality fruit. But it also can produce many twigs that will eventually be developed into many small branches, then, the nutrients that come to this fruit-bearing branch will be distributed to so many small branches, resulting in only small, sour and low quality fruit – such small, sour and low quality fruits have no value in the market. So, the gardener prunes these small twigs in the fruit-bearing branch so as to secure big, sweet and best quality fruit. When one person dedicates himself to Jesus fully, he has great potential to bear good fruit – through this one person, so many people can be inspired, encouraged and strengthened to repent and come back to God. Through this one person, God’s kingdom can advance powerfully in the world; he can grow to be a world class leader, very influential, honored and respected, bringing glory to God. But, like the 11 disciples, he may have some other hidden worldly desires that will suck up a lot of time and energy from him. Maybe, he has unique weakness or unique sin problem that makes him very ineffective. God helps him to be cleansed of all these things so that he may be even more fruitful. 


How? Through the words of God. Jesus says in verse 3, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” Through the word of God, they could see what was right and what was wrong; through the word of God, they could see what God wanted them to do. And as they accepted and obeyed the word of God, their own selfish desires and sins were removed from their hearts and lives. For example, they were competing with each other to be the greatest among them; they were still worldly and self-seeking even in Jesus. But Jesus showed them who is the greatest, saying, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) When the disciples James and John saw that the people in a Samaritan village did not welcome them, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" (Luke 9:54-55) They were immature and proud. But Jesus turned and rebuked them. With the words of God Jesus taught them, they were cleansed of all sinful, selfish and worldly desires and lives and became children of God sound and healthy.


As we strive to serve God’s will, we find that there are many things that suck our strength and time. Among them, sin is worst - it sucks up a lot of time and energy, which otherwise, would have gone to fruit-bearing in serving God’s kingdom. Some people are proud, and as a result, they spend tons of hours in judging and condemning others and in suffering from jealousy. Many people spend their time and energy in self-seeking worldly desires. Some people spend tons of time and energy in seeking lust in darkness, as a result, they are not productive. So in order to cleanse them, in order to prune all these things from their hearts and lives, God challenges them and convicts them with the word of God, showing them what He wants them to do. Those who love Jesus – good branches – open their hearts and accept God’s challenge in repentance and are cleansed and sanctified. In this way, they grow in Jesus continually and become more fruitful than before. 


Some people, out of good intension, do so many different types of God’s work, such as taking care of homeless people twice a week, visiting hospital to comfort patients there every Saturday, visiting Los Angeles county prisons for the prison ministry, visiting many countries for a short term mission, and attending three churches. As a result, all of their time, energy, potential and talents are distributed to so many ministries and works that even after working so hard, they only bear small, sour and low quality fruit. That’s not what God wants them to do. Instead, God’s desire is to prune them, to remove all other small twigs and small branches so that all their energy, strength, time and talent may be poured out on what God wants them to do so that they may bear really good fruit, best quality fruit, making the gardener so proud and happy. They become big, juicy and sweet fruits the Gardener desires. Through them, God fulfills his purpose and reveals His glory to the world. 


“God cuts off every branch in Jesus that bear no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” This shows us how seriously God desires fruit from us, Jesus’ disciples. No Christian can be casual about this will of God for them; all Christians must seriously and sincerely aim to bear fruit as Jesus’ disciples and pursue it. God called us to be shepherds, shepherdesses, Bible teachers and disciple makers. Right now, each of us is like a small mustard seed, so tiny and insignificant. But God is helping us to bear big, juicy and best quality fruit in our life; his desire is that all of us may become world best Bible teachers, world best disciple-makers and good shepherds and shepherdesses for God’s flock, and that each of us may become like a big gigantic mustard tree that covers the whole world. For this, God is working on us and cleanses us with his word so that we can live up to our true potential – how happy we will be when we live up to our true life capacity! Again, in this life as Jesus’ disciples, we are not alone, but we are with God the Father, working together to fulfill God’s purpose upon our life. Thank God! Let God’s work be done in our life!


Second, “Remain in me” (4-6). Now the disciples were clean and ready to do the works of God. But fruit-bearing requires one more step to go, that is, to remain in Jesus. Look at verses 4 through 6. Let’s read these verses together:


4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5"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. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 


In these three verses, Jesus uses the word, “Remain,” six times” - Remain, remain, remain, remain, remain and remain. This shows Jesus’ burning wish for his beloved disciples to remain in him. They had been with Jesus for three years; as they were submissive to him and followed him, Jesus could shape them up according to his plan and purpose, and had established them as Bible teachers, shepherds, and leaders – now they were living according to God’s will as His servants. But now, Jesus had to leave them and go home in heaven. Now Jesus’ burning wish for them was that, despite his absence, they would remain in him continually as they had remained in him for the past three years. He wished that they would continue to live as his disciples, as God’s servants, taking care of God’s flock just as they had been doing, even when he was not with them physically. Then, he would continue to lead them, shape them up and fulfill his purpose upon their lives. Only when they remained in Jesus continually, as branches of the true vine, they would come to bear great fruit in their lives, doing very important things for God, and becoming very great – at that time, their life would be truly fulfilling and meaningful, and they would become truly important, valuable, precious and even glorious both to God and other people.


 The word, “remain,” implies a certain period of time, during this time, until any branch bears fruit, there may be many challenges, obstacles and difficulties – maybe, some bugs bother it, or a strong wind may blow on it – but no matter what, the branch must remain in the vine continually. As we struggle to live according to Jesus’ plan and purpose, we come to have difficulties such as financial difficulties, or academic difficulties; but still, despite such difficulties, we remain in Jesus, living according to Jesus’ will and purpose. Sometimes, we have deep pains and sorrows due to misunderstanding or persecutions from our beloved people, but still we remain in Jesus, doing what Jesus wants us to do. We deny ourselves to follow Jesus. Psalm 126:5,6 describe a real Christian life very well: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” Why, sowing in tears? Because of pains and sorrows! But still, they keep sowing, doing what is asked. Then, at the harvest time, they sing songs of joy. As we serve God’s work, often we carry deep pains and sorrows in our hearts, but still, we keep doing what God wants us to do, asking students with smiles, “Would you be interested in studying the Bible?” While carrying such pains and sorrows, we still teach and preach the word of God. In that way, we remain in Jesus’ will and purpose both in good time and in bad time. No matter what, we do what He wants us to do. As we do so for 10 years, 20 years and 30 years, our life is being built up in Jesus completely according to Jesus’ will and purpose, becoming so holy and sanctified to God, and we end up seeing God’s great vision upon our own life coming true – we become fathers and mothers of many nations; we become fishers of men; we become a source of blessing that, through us, God blesses so many people in the world. When you remain in Jesus, you bear good fruit according to God’s plan.


What will happen if anyone does not remain in Jesus? Not good at all! In the passage, Jesus shows us repeatedly what terrible things will happen if any of his disciples does not remain in him. Verse 4b, “No branch can bear fruit by itself.” Verse 4c, “Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Verse 5, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” And verse 6, “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” If anyone does not remain in Jesus for whatever reason he may have, that person cannot bear any good fruit, nothing. Moreover, that person’s life withers moment by moment, because he becomes like a branch that is cut off from the vine; such branches are thrown and wither. The word, “wither,” illustrates the life of those who do not remain in Jesus very well; maybe, for success or money, they go out of Jesus’ will; maybe, for a romantic relationship or for their marriage dream, they go out of Jesus’ will and purpose; at first, they feel good at the thought of having secured what they have desired, but as time passes by, their life withers in them moment by moment, and they come to lose joy and peace little by little, and eventually, they completely wither that nothing can make them joyful and happy any longer; simply, they are dead spiritually. Such branches are good for nothing but firewood. Jesus talked to them about this over and over to make sure that all 11 of them really understood that, once they went out of Jesus’ will and purpose no matter what reason or purpose, they would not be able to do anything well or achieve anything in their life; Jesus really wanted to make sure that they understood that, once they went out of his will and purpose in anything, their life would surely wither. Simply, their life would wither, once they went out of Jesus’ will and purpose, whether they secured their dream job or not, whether they successfully built a dream family or not. All these people die sorrowfully regretting terribly of their wrong choice. This is Jesus’ warning for all his beloved disciples, for all Christians.


When we study the Bible, we find that this is actually, God’s warning for all mankind from the beginning of God’s creation. After creating the first man Adam and giving him the perfect paradise, the Garden of Eden, God told him very clearly to not go beyond his will and purpose, saying, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden. But you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16,17) But alas! Adam didn’t pay attention to God’s warning; he took it with a relativistic attitude, something optional. As a result, he and all his descendants came to die. When God brought the Israel people out of Egypt, he told them about the blessings when they obeyed his commands and warned them about the terrible consequences of disobeying his commands; he had Moses tell all Israel people about these, and later, had six tribes stand on Mount Gerizim to pronounce blessing if they obeyed God’s commands, and the other six tribes stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses if they disobeyed. Deuteronomy 27 and 28 talk about this; an interesting thing is that God mentioned about blessings in 14 verses, but curses in 66 verses, showing what terrible things might happen to them if they disobeyed. God really warned them about it, and tried to engrave into their hearts these warnings through this special ceremony or performance. But they didn’t pay attention to God’s warning – so they were destroyed and suffered terribly. Now in the New Testament, God came to the world, found some people who loved him, and gave them the same direction – blessings and warnings. He used very strong words: “No branch,” “must,” “nothing,” “thrown away,” “withers,” “thrown into the fire and burned.” Remember that the direct audience of this teaching was his 11 apostles – even these apostle whom Jesus loved so much were not exceptional. There is no exception, and this principle is applied to everyone absolutely. If you remain in Jesus, you bear good fruit; if you don’t remain in him whatsoever reason you may have, you wither, and die miserably. Remaining in Jesus is as important as receiving the forgiveness of sins. Jesus never wants his disciples to make a mistake in this matter. 


Jesus was like a mother who is going to be on a trip leaving her children behind – before leaving, in order to make sure that nothing terrible shall happen to her children, she would give all important instructions to them, saying, “Don’t play with fire! Don’t turn on the gas! Don’t go to the street!” Jesus never wanted something terrible happen to any of his beloved disciples. So he warned them continually, and strongly that they must not make any mistake in this matter. Otherwise, they would be like a branch that is thrown away and withers, only to be picked up and thrown into the fire and burned.


This is Jesus’ anguished heart for his believers, but many people think differently. Instead of striving and making conscious efforts to remain in Jesus, they conveniently say, “God is in control,” or “If this is not God’s will, he will let me know,” and pursue what they desire in finding a job, in finding a marriage partner, and in choosing a housing location. They go out of Jesus’ will and purpose in these things very conveniently, relying on theology or quoting from Bible verses easily. As a result, they become like branches that bear no fruit. Also, many people think that they are remaining in Jesus because they say that they believe in Jesus. They are really blind and ignorant. If they have been remaining in Jesus, they must have borne great fruits for God’s glory, but instead, the fruits they have borne are broken families, wandering children, bitterness, anger, sorrow, loneliness and depression. It is no wonder that the divorce rate among the church going people in America, this so-called “a Christian country” is so high, even higher than that of among the unbelievers. Their fruit testifies loudly of what they have become – not branches of the vine, but dried wooden sticks that are good for nothing but firewood. Jesus’ message is this: Remain in me. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.” 


Third, “Remain in my love” (7-10). Look at verses 7 and 8. Let’s read these verses together:


7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.


Now, here Jesus explains the meaning of remaining in him as his words remaining in the disciples. The disciples might have their own ideas and desires. Then, Jesus’ words, which show Jesus’ will and purpose come to them, and there is a conflict between Jesus’ desire and their own desire; then, after some struggles, they choose Jesus’ will and purpose upon their life over their own will and purpose. As a result, their own desires and plans do not remain in their hearts and lives any longer; instead, Jesus’ words remain in them and they live according to Jesus’ will and purpose. At that time, they remain in Jesus, doing what Jesus wants them to do. At that time, as they struggle to serve Jesus’ will and purpose, if they face any challenge or difficulty, or if they need anything, they simply ask God for it, and God will answer their prayer. The expression, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you,” shows how those who remain in Jesus will come to experience God’s help and intervention in their practical life of serving Jesus’ will. Because of God’s practical help in their life of mission, their Christian life is so abundant and they grow in their faith in God more and more. They are the ones who grow from glory to glory. When you remain in Jesus, when you know how you have obeyed God’s will despite such challenges, even pains and sorrows, you can enjoy such a heart’s consolation that you have not denied the words of the Holy One. At that time, your conscience is free; at that time, you have nothing to fear or worry about; instead, in all circumstances, you can confidently pray to God, asking for his help and blessing. Such people are really blessed; they are God’s beloved people. They are Jesus’ disciples. In that way, when they bear much fruit by the help of God, God is happy with them. Jesus says, “This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” 


Look at verses 9 and 10. Let’s read these verses together:


9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 


Here, Jesus explains that remaining in him means to remain in his love. What does it mean to remain in Jesus’ love? It means to accept Jesus’ love for us and love him back; simply, it means to remain in the love relationship with him. How can we remain in his love? By obeying his commands, as Jesus obeyed the Father’s command and remained in his love. What if his command is conflicting with our own desires and plans for our future career or marriage dream? We choose to remain in his love by obeying his commands. We choose his love over our dreams and desires. What if his command is very costly and painful to obey? We still accept it and do it, willing to bear such pains and sorrows for his sake. The Father’s command for Jesuswas to die on the cross for sinners; it was scary. But see what Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me,...” There was no hint of doubt about the Father’s love for him even at this kind of command. Indeed, he loved the Father and remained in the Father’s love by doing whatever the Father asked him to do. Those who love Jesus trust in his love for them that no matter what, in any circumstances, they don’t doubt or complain, but happily follow Jesus’ guidance – they remain in Jesus’ love by obeying his commands absolutely.


Again, Jesus is the vine and the disciples are the branches. As long as we remain in Jesus, the vine tree, we are branches of the vine, but if we don’t remain in Jesus, we are no longer branches, but wooden sticks and become firewood. When we don’t remain in Jesus, we lose our identity and we don’t know who we are and what we are supposed to do. We, Christians must remain in Jesus so that we can live up to our potential, bearing great fruit for God’s glory. Then, how can we remain in Jesus? By obeying his commands. 

One Word: Jesus Says, “Remain In Me.”