I AM The True Vine

I. I am the true vine

John 15:1-11 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. 9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 

A. Important imagery we need to understand

•    Throughout the Old Testament, that imagery of the vine is used toward God's people.
•    In the Old Testament, someone or something being the vine, that was always Israel or the people of God, and yet every time it's used in the Old Testament, it's used negatively. 
•    Ps 80:8–16, Isa 5:1–7, Jer 2:21, Ezek 15:1–8, 17:5–10, 19:10–14, and Hos 10:1.[1]
•    When you heard vine terminology in the first century if you were a Jew, it was almost always a pronouncement of judgment.

B. Jesus here is turning that on its head.  "I am the true vine."

•    "I am doing what you cannot do, and I am being what you have not been able to be."
•    This is a gospel declaration from Jesus.

I. Expect pruning.

John 15:2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 

A. The first is that since Jesus is the Vine, since Jesus is what we cannot be… As much as we strive, as much as we work, as hard as we try to be moral and upright people, we're going to fall short over and over and over again. He’s the vine for us and now expect pruning.

•    We get pruned to produce more fruit, which in the long run is blessing, but being cut back is always tough.

B. Our best reference to fruit is in Galatians 5:22

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

•    Notice first of all it is Fruit not fruits. It is all interlocked.
•    If you lack patience, you're probably not loving. If you just took this and tried to tease one out, you would see they all fall apart if they're not all growing.
•    If you lack love, you probably aren't walking in any real joy. If you lack joy, you're probably lacking in kindness. If you lack kindness, you probably aren't walking in a lot of goodness. If you lack goodness, you're probably not faithful. If you lack faithfulness, you're probably not gentle. This is a fruit that grows symmetrically over time.
•    Lord in his kindness prunes so that I might grow in these areas.

C. Where did we get the Idea there is no room for difficulty in the Christian life?

•    We began to believe that to follow the Lord makes no room for difficulty, suffering or hardship, and doubt.
•    Somewhere along the way, we started thinking in terms of a singular moment as opposed to a lifelong journey where we wrestle with doubt and cling to the cross and really put one foot by faith in front of the next our whole lives.
•    This idea of utopia on earth is absurd. It's nowhere in the Bible. The Lord prunes, and we grow. If you are successful in growing, you get pruned.
•    It doesn't mean you're being punished or that you don’t have enough discipline to have a happy-clappy Christian life.

II. I am the true vine also means… Our position is in his presence.

John 15:3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.

A. He is saying, "If You believe in me, place your faith in me."

•    You are already purified already being pruned to help you bear more fruit.
•    If you are not a believer, you are cut off. There isn’t this idea of trying. You are or you are not.  If you are, you are purified, and you are bearing fruit.

B. Abiding, Look now in verse 4.

John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!

•    One of the great supernatural mysteries of what it means to be a Christian is around this idea of union with Christ, that I am in him and he is in me.
•    If you're a Christian, when God sees you, he sees the perfect obedience of Christ, not you and your failures.
•    There's also this union with Christ that's celebrated in Communion. It's celebrated at baptism and celebrated in the proclamation of the gospel.
•    It actually infers to this intimacy we have with Christ, that we are welcomed and delighted in. That's so hard for us to believe.

III. Power to Love

 John 15:8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. 9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 

A. There's a cycle of dependence occurring here

•    What he is saying is if you abide in my love, you will keep my commandments.
•    It’s not, "Obey my commands and you'll love me," but "As you grow in your love for me you'll obey my commands."
•    When you get this backward, you totally enslave yourselves and step outside of the orthodox Christian faith.
•    Orthodox Christian faith is not, "Do so you might be approved." It's "Love so therefore you'll do."

B. What this means for Christians

•    We want to fill our lives with things that stir our affections for Jesus. That's the bottom line.
•    Simultaneously, I want to cut out of my life anything that robs me of those affections.
•    If I'm first called to love Jesus and then in loving Him that straightens the crooked paths, then the best way to spend my energy, my time, and my efforts is not trying not to do bad things but rather giving myself over to a growing love for Jesus Christ.
•    To work on growing my capacity to love the Lord empowers and fuels my obedience.
•    It's the power to love that drives our obedience and our transformation to look more and more like Jesus Christ,

Summary: What's at stake in all of this that I'm talking about?

John 15:11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 

This is why Jesus is teaching this. I've taught for years that joy and happiness are not the same things and that one is worthy of pursuit and one is not. Happiness is built on external circumstances. Joy is different than happiness. It's built not on external circumstances but on spiritual realities, that I belong to Jesus and he belongs to me and that I am positioned in his presence and he is what I will never be, and I get to rest in that. Why these things matter, why pruning matters, why your position matters, why love matters is the God of the universe is serious about your joy, your deep-rooted, deep-seated confidence that he has you, that he's for you, and that he will make a way.