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Soar Like Eagles: The Gospel of John #18 “Stay Close To Me!”John 15:5, 13-15

23 Jun

remain-in-me John 15:5 (ESV) 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.

John 15:13-15 (ESV) 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.

This is the seventh and last of the “I AM” statements of Christ recorded in the Gospel of John. However, Jesus did not stop with this image, but went on to use the picture of “the friend.” These two pictures of the believer—branches and friends—reveal both our privileges and our responsibilities. As branches, we have the privilege of sharing His life, and the responsibility of abiding. As friends, we have the privilege of knowing His will, and the responsibility of obeying.

In the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus moves from words of comfort to words of warning to his 11 apostles. The first one: stay close to me.

A missionary recently related a story of a trip to Thailand and he was offering firm, repeated warning to his son “Don’t let go of my hand!”

He was concerned that he’d get lost in the underground marketplace: lots of people, the child too small to understand yet totally incapable of  taking care of himself or finding his parents if he were to get separated from them.

“Don’t let go of my hand” had a very special meaning, didn’t it? But how do you explain to a young child such things when he approaches everything on a very innocent, simplistic level?

If you understand that frustration, you can relate to what Jesus must have felt as He considered His disciples’ future (John 15:1-8).

Jesus was leaving, that much He’d explained. The Spirit was coming, that they understood. Were the 22 eyes looking at Him on that occasion filled with confidence…wisdom…or were they filled with concern and uncertainty?

Jesus says five times in six verses: Remain in me!

In these opening verses, our Lord uses a similar homespun illustration — that of a vine and its branches — to teach His disciples the importance of fellowship with Him. This was an ancient metaphor that Israel’s prophets had used for centuries. He gives His followers a handful of reasons why they must remain close to Him.

Vineyards were everywhere, and it may be that they passed several on the road from Jerusalem to Gethsemane. They were certainly partaking of juice from the vine at their Passover feast.

The vine was also known as an emblem of their own nation, just as the eagle is the emblem of the United States.

Reasons to “remain in Him”

  1. Remain in Me because “I am the true vine.”2e612d37dad07e6540b501adaa8b2d2b

The story of Israel’s relationship with God had more “ups and downs” than a yo-yo. One minute they were worshipping God and the next minute they’re putting up Asherah poles or dancing around golden calves.

This verse describes their behavior: (Exodus 32:6)  “So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”

What prompts such unfaithfulness (then and now?)

  • What enables a Christian to slip out the back door or a church building and step into the side door of an adult bookstore?
  • What leads a disciple to let go of the hand of Christ and raise his hand in abuse against his wife or children?
  • What seduces the Christian into dancing with the devil?

The words of Jesus are plain: “I am the true vine.”

The first essential in planting a vineyard is to have the right stock. Every nurseryman guarantees that the plants he sells will run true to type.

Our problem? We often become enamored with imitations…the fake vine that claims to be rooted in something good is simply that: fake!

It looks succulent and good…others have chosen to drink of its nectar so we do too. That false vine comes in the form of money…power…pleasure…fame….the list needs to come from your lips.

No matter how sweet and filling these items may be today—they are destined to dry up and blow away—as will all people who have joined themselves to them!

  1. Remain in Me because “My Father is the husbandman (gardener)”

Israel is a land of vineyards and every vineyard must be pruned by an expert. The vinedresser had to know how and when to prune and fertilize the vine, so that it would produce the maximum stock.

Jesus indicates that God is both the owner and the manager of the field. It was His to tend as He saw fit. And there is one goal in mind: to get the most good fruit possible from the vines under His care.

The concept of pruning involves the removal of some shoots in order to enhance the fruit beaing of the other branches. Christ assures his followers that God had already pruned and cleaned their branches and that he would continue to tend them as they grew.

How does He do this? Through the discipline and trials we go through as Christians. “Trials only stop when it is useless: that is why it scarcely ever stops.”

But pruning also involves cutting off the branches that bear no fruit. And we simply cannot ignore the scriptures that speak of this process:

(Mat 13:40-41)  “”As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. {41} The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.”

(2 Th 1:7b-9)  “…This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. {8} He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. {9} They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power”

Cutting off barren branches is serious business. The fear of hell exists for a reason: the gardener will not tolerate barren branches.

  1. Remain in Me because You Can’t Bear Fruit Alone

Those branches which did not bear fruit had to be taken away, while those which bore fruit were cleaned so they could bear more fruit.

These verses talk of Christians who are habitually unfaithful to the cause of Christ. It isn’t spiritual immaturity or laziness or struggling lifestyles. These are people who have lost their connection/allegiance to Christ.

(2 Peter 2:20-22)  “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. {21} It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. {22} Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.””

  1. Remain in Me because if you do, I’ll make you fruitful.

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 scripture, fruit, more fruit, and more fruit is the divine order! Growth brings increase in fruitfulness, and the more mature a Christian becomes, the more is expected of him.

Trying to bear fruit on our own is like trying to turn on a light that isn’t plugged in. We can check the bulb and flip the switch as often as we like, but if it isn’t connected to the power source, it will not work!

God blesses those who abide in Him:

  1. Prayer is answered.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (vs. 7)

 

  1. God is glorified

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (vs. 8)

  1. Our life will be motivated by love.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (vs. 9-10)

  1. Joy will be ours in abundance.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (vs. 11).

A pair of scissors consists of two single blades. Yet the blades, regardless of  how sharp or shiny, are useless without one essential element — the small metal screw that holds them together.

Can you imagine trying to cut some paper or fabric without that tiny screw? Of course, you could put a blade in each hand. But think of the effort and difficulty involved in trying to make an even, precise cut that way. But when that tiny screw brings both blades together, suddenly the cutting becomes effortless.

In our relationship with God, abiding in Jesus is the screw that holds everything together and makes us useful to Him.

 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Jesus Christ

 

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