Abide & Advance
Abide & Advance

Key Text: John 15:1-17

 In chapters 15 and 16 of John’s gospel we see Jesus telling the disciples about three key aspects or themes of mission.

1.He confronts the disciples and ourselves with the importance of mission. John 15:1-17

2.He warns about the cost of mission John 15:18-16:4

3.He points to the resources that are available in the work of mission. John 16:5-33 The full statement of our mission is found later in John 17:18 ‘As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.’ The gracious indwelling of God with His people is not an invitation to settle down and forget the rest of the world, it is a summons to mission.

Jesus’ reference to ‘the vine’ comes out of Psalm 80:8 which talks of Israel as the ‘…vine out of Egypt’ and Jesus as ‘the son of man you have made strong for yourself.’ Psalm 80:17

The same Psalm 80:16 reminds us that vine is burned with fire and cut down because Israel has failed God in the long-term role she was called to fulfil, of being a light to the Gentiles. To bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth. But God’s plan and purpose which Israel rejected through apostasy, does not fall to the ground. It is grasped by the one who stands in the midst of Israel and among the disciples, Jesus.

In contrast the vine which destroyed itself through disobedience, Jesus the true vine is obedient through sacrifice even to death. The mission of being light to the world and bringing God’s salvation to the nations, is ultimately fulfilled in and through Christ Jesus.

The vine exists to bear fruit, it lives to give its life blood, its flower is small but its fruit is abundant. When the fruit (Grapes) are produced they are picked and cut back to the stem (pruning) so they may bear more fruit This is about the renewing of the mission, we don’t stop when the fruit is produced and harvested, we go again. As students of Jesus we are sent into the world as Jesus was by His Father, to carry on the task, the mission, in His physical absence from the earth. This is what Jesus is saying to us in v.5 ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’

Then Jesus goes on to tell us to ‘abide’ in Him. This word abide means to remain, not to depart, continue to be present. Because unless we remain in Him we cannot bear fruit, we cannot fulfil our function because the life and strength needed comes from the true vine, Jesus.

v.5 also tells us something equally important, that it is because of Him we produce fruit, (much fruit) and apart from Him we ourselves do not have the ability or resources to produce fruit. Spiritual fruit bearing is not a human possibility, it is the work of Christ through us

Our purpose is to live in Christ, remain in Him, draw life from Him in order that we might be properly equipped for the mission of sharing the good news of God’s salvation, seeing people respond to the Holy spirit and advancing the kingdom. It’s only when we abide in Him that the kingdom can advance. We must have a continual dependence upon the living saviour, communing with Him through the Holy Spirit and submitting to Him in all things.These are the characteristics of a life in which God is glorified through the bearing of fruit to His praise.

The purpose of the fruit bearing is given in v.8 ‘By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.’ The ultimate purpose of the coming of Jesus is the glorifying of the Father through our faith response to Him which is realised primarily through the effective mission of the disciple community.

The fruitfulness of the disciple is part and parcel of the way the Son glorifies the Father. To seek the glory of God therefore implies a commitment to mission. By becoming fruit bearers, we show ourselves to be the authentic disciples of Jesus.

Just like any fruit tree, if a branch is not bearing fruit at the proper time as it should, it gets cut off, pruned. A good vinedresser will prune in two ways to ensure as much fruit as possible: First cutting off dry and withered branches in the winter and then in the Spring remove the bad and useless growths in the spring.

As soon as it is disconnected from the life source the branch dries up, withers and becomes brittle because it has no life of itself and it has been disconnected from its only source of life. Jesus rightly says it is gathered up and thrown into the fire and burned.

God is not afraid to use hard and difficult circumstances and trials No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

For us there are those who can appear as branches indistinguishable from the others but with the coming of winter frosts indifference, Struggle, doubt, fear, accusation, poor health, bereavement, financial hardship, redundancy, pandemic. It will expose you to be a withered and dead branch fit only to be thrown away. Within every Christian community there will be those who in the end, will be exposed as dead branches. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual the harder the pruning the greater the fragrance and beauty will be later.

This is what apostle Peter understood when He wrote 2 Peter 1:5-11 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-controlperseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is near sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

So pruning gets rid of the withered and dead branches but it also makes the remaining branches more fruitful.

v.3 tells us of the cleansing effect of God’s word…you are clean because of the word that I have already spoken to you. The word of God is the primary way that God uses to prune the life of a disciple. As the word works in us we become in a new way attractive and authentic in our Christian living and witness.

Remaining or Abiding is conditional upon obeying. Abiding is not a personal mystical, inner state.it is not even a sense of inner peace , although that comes with the abiding. To abide is having a clear conscience before God and man. Paul spoke of this in Acts 24:16 ‘So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.’ it is allowing Jesus words to remain in us.

This obedience is not however a grim, forbidding, oppressive thing v.11 Jesus tells us I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’

To submit to Christ is no hardship. Instead it is the road to freedom it therefore, brings the joy of Christ’s presence welling up in our hearts.

When people see this supernatural fruit in our lives, they cannot help but be attracted to Jesus.