John 15:1-11 | Abiding in Christ Part 2 | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 15:1–15:11
I’d invite you to open your Bibles to John 15. Our text is verses 1-11. John 15:1-11, and please follow along as I read. Jesus, speaking to his fearful disciples, says the following:
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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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. 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Well, as I mentioned last week, we’re going to take a number of weeks to go through these eleven verses. We got through verses 1 and 2 last week, and we’ll get through probably verses 3-5 this week, and then we’ll continue on from there. There’s so much to gather from this passage, and I likened it last week to a vineyard, a vineyard that you look out over, and you were maybe getting a tour of the vineyard, and the tour guide is showing you different aspects of the vineyard. Look over there, there’s the vinedresser. Look over here, there are branches. Look over here, here are branches not bearing fruit.
He’s kind of giving you a tour of the vineyard, and that’s really what Jesus is doing here. In his calls for us to bear fruit and to do so by abiding in him, he teaches a lot about branches, the vinedresser, fruit, branches that actually don’t bear fruit. He teaches us a lot, so in a sense we’re getting a tour of fruit bearing or a tour of spiritual vitality and spiritual life with all the things that we need to understand based on what the Lord is teaching us.
I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie, the cartoon movie, Ratatouille. If you’re not a carton fan, well, sorry. Ratatouille is a movie about a rat who goes to Paris, and he’s a chef. He’s a rat who’s a chef. And he basically takes a young man who doesn’t know how to cook, teaches him to cook through a number of interesting ways, and it’s … anyway, go see Ratatouille.
But what I want to highlight to you this morning is, there’s a scene early on when Remy the Rat is in an upper window looking into the kitchen, and the chef who owns the restaurant (he’s dead; now it’s his ghost talking to Remy the Rat). The chef is asking Remy all that he sees in this kitchen. Where is the chef? Where is the sous chef? What does that man do? What does that lady do? And he’s kind of walking him through all that he sees as he looks out on this kitchen. And Remy’s answering appropriately every time. The rat speaks. Remember, it’s a cartoon. He answers appropriately every time. He knows what’s going on.
And in a sense that’s kind of what we’re doing here. We’re looking out on a spiritual vineyard, and the Lord is showing us, look, see, there’s the owner of the field. There’s some branches bearing fruit. There’s some branches that are about to be pruned in order to bear more fruit. Look at those branches. See those laying on the ground; those didn’t bear fruit. Look, someone’s coming and gathering them and taking them away to be burned.
We’re seeing the whole scope of a spiritual dynamic. We’re seeing the whole scope of what the Lord wants us to understand so that we would bear fruit. In this section there’s warning, there is comfort, there’s exhortation, there’s a lot in these eleven verses. And we want to get the whole scope rather than just say, okay, go bear fruit. We got to know what that means, what happens if we don’t, what happens when we do. So that’s kind of what we’re doing over last week and the next couple weeks.
This morning we’ll get to verses 3-5; but as we’re looking down on this spiritual vineyard, let me just walk through the nine things that we see. I’ll walk you through the full nine points, and we’ll go back and focus on numbers 3 and 4. But as we go and look at the spiritual vineyard, we notice that the Father and the Son are active in fruit bearing. This isn’t just branches and possibly fruit. There’s a vinedresser out there. There’s a vine that the branches get their nourishment from and then produce fruit.
So, the Father and Son are active in fruit bearing. We looked at that last week. Another thing we looked at last week is the Father takes away and prunes branches. So, there are two kinds of branches. The Father takes away some that don’t bear fruit, and he prunes the ones that do. Another thing we see as we look out on this spiritual vineyard, we see that Christians—we’ll focus on this today—Christians are presently clean branches with new life. Christians are presently clean branches with new life.
Christians aren’t some sort of neutral branch that need to muster up the strength to bear fruit so that God will accept them and bring them into the vine. That’s not how it works. Christians were united to Christ by the Father’s own doing, and Christians live and thrive with new life.
Number four, we see Christians are able to abide in Christ in order to bear fruit. So, the strength that we need to bear fruit, to do good deeds, to obey the Scriptures, the strength that we need comes by abiding in Christ, remaining, staying closely connected to, actually in Christ.
Number five, we’re going to learn that false professors do not bear fruit and are subsequently judged. False professors do not bear fruit and are judged. Then we’ll see that Christians, number six, Christians indwelt by the word will experience answered prayer. If you’re going to bear fruit, it’s good to know that when you ask the Lord to help you bear fruit, he answers. So, we’re going to look at that later on in verse 7. Christians indwelt by the Lord will experience answered prayer.
Next, we’ll notice that the Father is glorified when we follow the Son in fruit bearing. The Father is glorified, the farmer, the vinedresser is glorified, made much of, when we follow the Son in fruit bearing. In that point, we’ll understand that when we bear fruit, the Father smiles.
Number eight, Christians abide in Christ’s love by obedience. We’re going to talk a lot about abide, especially coming up in the following verses. What does abide mean? Well, there’s some elements to the idea of abiding, but primarily we need to understand that Christians abide in Christ’s love by obeying him.
And finally, number nine, which we’ll get to eventually, Christians who abide experience the fullness of joy. Christians who abide in Christ experience the fullness of joy.
So that’s kind of where we’re going. We’re looking out over the vineyard and seeing all sorts of realities that we need to understand if we’re going to walk faithfully and bear fruit. But for this morning, I want to focus on points three and four.
3. Christians are Presently Clean Branches with New Life
Point number three, Christians are presently clean branches with new life. Christians are presently clean branches with new life. Christ wants his followers—specifically in this text the disciples in the upper room—he wants his followers to know that they are presently clean, even though he desires more fruit. So he says in verse 3: “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”
He speaks to them as being clean like a branch who is without a disease. So, a diseased branch sometimes is sick and dirty and doesn’t bear fruit. He’s saying, you are branches, disciples, men in this upper room, you are branches that are clean. You can bear fruit. You are okay. You’re secure. You’re right, is what he’s saying.
Remember what he told them earlier in the evening? Remember at the very beginning of this evening, he got down on his hands and knees and washed their dirty feet; and Peter tried to stop him, saying this isn’t right. This is backwards. If anybody washes anybody’s feet, you should be sitting there, and we should be washing your feet. Jesus says, if I don’t wash your feet, you have no part with me. And so, Peter being Peter goes from one extreme to the next and says, fine, then wash everything. Just pour the water on me. If I need you to wash my feet to have a part with you, then wash me entirely. I want to be with you, have a part in you.
Jesus says to them then, in John 13:10, the one who has bathed (entirely), the one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he’s completely clean. And then he tells the disciples, and you are clean, but not every one of you. Why’d he say that? Judas was still in the room. So he tells the disciples, you are clean, but not every one of you. He’ll go on to tell them that one of them will betray him.
Then we see later on in John 13 that Judas leaves the building; Judas leaves the upper room. And so now it’s just a bunch of men who are clean in Christ. No more Judases. That’s why here, in 15:3, he says, already you are clean because of the word I’ve spoken to you. And there’s no qualifier after that. But not every one of you, because the one that wasn’t one of them is now out. So he’s telling these disciples, you guys are clean branches.
Now there’s a couple important realities to understand from this. They’re very encouraging. First, it’s this. Believers are already clean. Believers are already clean. Now, you might not always feel clean as a believer. You might not always feel perfect. You might not always feel worthy, and that’s a good thing to feel because we’re not. But believers are, in the eyes of the Lord, clean branches. They are washed. We stain our garments with sin. When he looks on us, he sees clean garments washed in the blood of Christ. There’s a security given here by Christ. There’s a great security here given by Christ.
Two times already in the upper room he tells them that they are in fact already clean. Clearly Jesus wants his disciples to know where they stand before him before they go out into a hostile world when he’s in heaven. Did you hear that? Christ wants us to know where we stand with him while we are out in this hostile world seeking to obey him and make much of him. He wants us to know where we stand. He doesn’t want us auditioning for heaven. He wants us to be grateful that we are secure in heaven and then to be free to live for him. That’s what Christ wants.
So an important reality to understand based on chapter 15:3, already you are clean, is that believers are, in fact, already clean. Second reality, he says this: You’re already clean because of the word that I’ve spoken to you. What makes us clean? He doesn’t tell the disciples, guys, you know what, you’re clean because, let’s be honest, you’re just a lot better than the Pharisees. I mean, you have very little sin; they have a lot of sin. So when I look on you and the Pharisees I think, you know what, they have less sin. I’m going to go and take these guys.
That’s not how we become clean, by being better than other people. We’re clean because we’ve been born again by the word. We’ve been born again. We’ve been made clean by a message that we’ve embraced. We’ve been made clean by a message we’ve embraced.
In 1 Peter, Peter tells the Christians who are dispersed, scattered, maybe many of them meeting each other for the first time, as some are on the run because of Nero’s persecution. So not all Christians that Peter was writing to knew each other all that well, and he says that you can love one another. You can love one another because you’ve been born again. You’ve got new hearts to do that.
And notice how they’ve been born again. 1 Peter 1:22-23: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” He tells the Christians, you can love one another because you’ve been started over. You’ve been given a new life. You were born as your father’s son and your mother’s son. You were born a sinner. Perishable seed. You’re going to be born and die.
But at some point in your life, you were born again spiritually. God bore you again through the Word, through the message that he was proclaiming to the world. What’s that message? That he came to bring his righteousness to give to sinners who don’t deserve it, and he takes all of their sin. And when they embrace that word, that message, it changes their life, changes their heart.
So they’ve been born again to a new hope, born again to new lives. They’ve been born again and they stand there going, I didn’t do it to myself, but I am clean before God. And that’s what Jesus wants his disciples to know.
We hear the word of God, and it changes us. If you’re a Christian, at some point the word of God did this to you at the beginning of your Christian life. Maybe someone presented the gospel to you, and you were amazed by it, embraced it, and thought I can be right with God, not based on my own doing but by his Son’s own doing. I’m all in. You were born again by the word, by the message, by the gospel.
We continue to be born again or live that new birth by the word. We’re taught, we read, we understand, and we’re changed. The word changes people. John 17:17. Jesus prays sanctify them, make holy, set them apart, by your truth. Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth. The word changes people. For the first time when they enter into the Christian life and continually.
I’ll never forget preaching on a Sunday morning to a couple hundred youth who were about to go to summer camp. Now their minds are on summer camp, not that moment and necessarily my preaching or the Bible or whatever it may be. They’re just thinking summer camp, fun, late nights, energy drinks, and let’s go. So it was the Sunday before summer camp when maybe the attentiveness wouldn’t be as focused on the word as normally it would be, and I preached on Psalm 50.
I came to Psalm 50, verse 20, and it says this: “You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son.” The Psalmist is talking about an evil doer and he says one of the things that you do that’s evil, you slander your own family members. And this is a normal Sunday in the summer before summer camp, go through that verse; and that verse, by the power of the Spirit, grabs the heart of a young high school student, and he thinks, that’s me. That’s me.
He went home and before he even went to camp he went to his two sisters and asked for their forgiveness for how he’s treated them his whole life. Confessed that sin to his parents. In that moment, he was born again, not by a preacher, not by a church. He was born again by the word of God. The word convicted him of sin. He knew the only place to go was to Christ for forgiveness and a new heart, and he went to Christ, and Christ forgave him. This young man faithfully serves the Lord today, and it started because he was born again by the word of God.
Same way we all started. Might not have been in a sermon. Might have been with a gospel conversation with mom. Might have been in singing a truth from the Scripture that we were gripped by. Might have been reading it ourselves, someone telling us. Whatever it was, if it was reflective of truth in the word of God, the truth gave us new life.
And so Jesus is saying, you are clean because you responded to the word. The word did its work in your life. There’s an absolute sense here in how we stand before God, isn’t there? There’s an absolute sense. If you had a good week in Christ last week, guess what, you’re still in need of his grace. It’s his grace that got you to heaven, not your good week last week. If you had a bad week in Christ last week, guess what, his grace brings you to heaven. There’s an absolute sense that says no matter what I’m clean as a believer. It’s not based on my performance in that sense.
But there’s also a progressive sense, isn’t there? There’s a progressive sense where we continue to grow into the image of Christ (Colossians 3, Ephesians 4). We progressively look more and more like him. So both of those realities are true.
The progressive sense. You know a famous passage, especially if you’re a husband or a wife, you know the famous passage in Ephesians 5:25-26: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” That’s the word, that’s the message, the gospel. “[A]s Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, [make her holy], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”
So there’s this cleansing that’s happened to us so we are completely clean in the words of John 15 and John 13, but as those completely clean we still need to have our feet washed by the word, right, in the words of John 13. So there’s an absolute sense that we’re clean before God, but also a progressive sense that we want to continue to become, in a sense, more clean in a daily reality. This is a continual process.
These disciples can move forward in loving obedience because they’re already considered clean by God through the word that Christ has spoken to them. They listened to Christ’s word, and now they become clean. And now they can pursue greater Christlikeness.
What I want to highlight here is, think of when this statement is made in the upper room discourse. He’s told them things like, hey guys, I’m gonna leave. What? You indicated that you were the Son of David, you were the Messiah. You’re the one that’s going to reign on David’s throne. Now you’re saying you’re gonna leave. We’ve left everything to follow you. Family members hate us, Rome hates us, the Jewish authorities hate us; and you’re telling us you’re gonna leave? That’s kind of what they were thinking in the upper room.
But he also said things like, I’m going to prepare a place, and I’m coming back for you. So he gave them some reality, he gave them some encouragement, he gave them some warning. He’s giving them a lot in this upper room discourse. I mean I would think at the end of this night they’re emotionally drained. It was a lot to take in. You’re getting it in months. They got it in one few-hour period. Imagine that.
So he’s telling them all of these things, and then he’s about to tell them—he’s just previously told them, if you love me, you’ll obey my commandments. If you love me, you’ll obey my commandments. If you love me, you’ll obey my commandments. He’s going to tell them things like, if you don’t bear fruit, if there’s a branch that doesn’t bear fruit, they wither away, they’re gathered together, they’re thrown into the fire, and they’re burned. And he’s going to give them more commands. Stay with me. Remain with me. Abide in my love. Obey my commandments.
He’s giving them lots to chew on. It’s good in the middle of that for them to hear, guys, you’re clean. You’re okay. You’re secure. And isn’t that what our hearts need? So much temptation, so much of our own sin, so much persecution. We wonder, where is the Lord here? I’m letting him down here. When’s he coming back? So much to worry about in this life, and he says, listen, you are clean. He’s giving us security. He’s giving us an understanding of where we stand with him as disciples.
I believe from the bottom of my heart that you cannot flourish as a Christian until you are assured that you stand secure in Christ. If you are wondering where you stand, I do not think that leads to a productive Christian life, because oftentimes you’re trying to live the Christian life to recommend yourself to God, and that’s no way to live. You should be living the Christian life thankful because you are free in Christ, and you want to honor him because you know where you stand. That allows for a Christian to flourish.
Horatius Bonar, the hymnwriter, said this about this idea of knowing where you stand before Christ. So do you know where you stand, and are you free or are you afraid of what he thinks of you all the time. Am I really going to heaven or am I going to hell? Listen to what Bonar says:
Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this.
I say it as a personal testimony, for years I lived the Christian life wondering, am I doing enough? Am I really in Christ? Well, I don’t see fruit here and there. There was not an active sanctification. It was all about me in my own power trying to earn it. In fact, there’s someone I actually didn’t even really need—Jesus Christ. I was trying to do it on my own. I just kind of set him aside and said, I’m going to bear fruit, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that, and God, you’ll see I’m a Christian. No need for Christ.
But when these realities were brought to me, I was convinced of things in the Scripture and knew where I stood before God, that completely changed my life. It was like I had been born again all over again. I stand secure by the blood of Christ, not my own performance. And that changed me, and more fruit came. Not from my own doing, but he brought these realities to me.
I wonder, I assume, I bet, I would bank on the fact there are people in here that need to hear this message. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, have repented of your sins, simply want to follow him, trust in him, not your own performance to please God, it’s so important, I would say this by way of kind of application: Enjoy the security of the gospel. Be grateful for the security the gospel brings. Enjoy the security of the gospel.
The disciples were about to go out into the world, face not only an angry religious culture that they grew up in (Judaism), but face the persecution of Rome. And if they’re going to go out and do that, they better know where they stand. How are we to do the same thing?
In your worship guide for this month, we recommended a book to you called Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J. D. Greer. A lot of it’s about assurance of salvation—knowing that you are right with God. Listen to what Greer says:
It’s only through assurance of love that we find strength to endure all manner of opposition, doubt and trial. How can you stand against a hostile world if you are not assured of the God whom you are leaving it for? How can you take up the cross if you are not convinced of your resurrection?
It’s a great question. Now, I just told you, enjoy the security of the gospel. I want to give you some ways to do that. I want to give you three passages to know, to meditate on, to understand.
Romans 5:1-2: “Therefore, since we have been justified by …” our performance. Okay, it doesn’t say that. Your laughter shows you’re good Bereans checking up on the pastor. “Therefore, since we have been justified [made right, declared innocent] by faith …” “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him [Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
All security that we enjoy is because of Christ, not us. Hallelujah! All I have is Christ. Romans 7:24 to 8:1, the apostle Paul writing this:
Wretched man that I am! [Paul understood what it felt like to be frustrated by sinning as a Christian.] Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. [There’s this war going on.]
Chapter 8, verse 1:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That’s what Paul preached to himself when he was anxious about the lack of progress in his own Christian life. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The final passage I’d point you to is Galatians 5:1-6. I’d actually ask you to turn there. Galatians 5:1-6. This is really a theme of Galatians. The Galatian believers, at one time they were like, faith! Jesus Christ! Yes, we’re saved! And then they’re pressured by those who would tell them, yes, faith—great, Jesus—great, but you still gotta keep the Old Testament customs. And Paul says a number of things to them.
Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? Who’s tricked you? Did you come to Christ by faith, and now you proceed in Christ by your own works? No, is the obvious answer. It’s all by faith. So this whole letter is written to refute this idea that faith is good enough to kind of save you, but you better keep yourself secured. Galatians 5:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
He’s saying to the Christians, you’re free. Don’t go back under the Old Testament law and try to perform your way to heaven. You’re just putting a yoke of slavery on yourself, and all that does is weigh you down. You’re free in Christ. Verse 2:
Look, I Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision [that’s what they were being forced to go back to], Christ will be of no advantage to you.
Why would Christ be of no advantage? Because if they say, see, we’re in heaven because—yeah, we had faith in Christ, but we were circumcised. We obeyed the Old Testament law. See, God, we are good. Then guess what? You didn’t need Christ. Christ would be no advantage to you. Verse 3:
I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.
You want to keep the law? Be circumcised? All right, keep every single ounce of every single command in the Old Testament law, because that’s what’s required. Paul’s being sarcastic here. Verse 4:
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
Legalists don’t understand the beauty of grace. That’s why legalists are rarely people who smile. Verse 5:
For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith [there’s our word again] working through love.
We have faith in Christ, but he is the one that brings us to heaven, not our own good deeds. And we simply live every single day by faith in that message. And we love Christ, so we want to honor him with our lives. But it’s not our ability to do that perfectly or inability that brings us to heaven. It’s him. We have faith in him, in that message.
Know gospel promises—please, Canyon Bible Church of Prescott—know that you are secure in Christ. And in that sense, always have a smile on your face. No matter what. Because you know it’s not based on my performance, it’s based on his performance for me that I stand secure.
And if you’re in here thinking, well, you ought to be careful because then people are just going to sin like crazy and think they’re going to heaven. No, they’re not. Because if they’ve been born again, they’ve been born again, and they have a new heart which loves to do the things of Christ, which wants to do the things of Christ, which relishes his word, which relishes his commands.
That’s why Jesus keeps saying, if you love me, you’ll obey my commandments. If you actually have been changed to love me from the heart, that’s just going to lead to a life of wanting to obey. So, enjoy the security that the gospel brings.
And if you’re in here today and you’re not a Christian, you wouldn’t call yourself a follower of Christ, just know this. Christians are maybe the only people in the world, the only religion in the world where we are not assuming that our standing is based on what we do. It is not. Every other religion in some form has that. Our standing is based upon the fact that we actually don’t look that great before Christ, but God sent his own Son to be our righteousness, not based on anything we’ve done. We are no better than anybody in the world.
We are no better than ISIS before Christ. We sin just like they do. They have lust. We have lust. They hate people. We hate people. They’re angry. We’re angry. Christ doesn’t say, oh, you’re a little better, so I’ll bring you to heaven. We have our ticket reserved for heaven because he came down and gave us righteousness, preached a message that we can be right with God through faith in his Son Jesus Christ who is perfect. That’s what we believe, and that’s what we want to invite people to.
Let go of all your sin. We’ll, I’ve messed up for so long. That’s no surprise to Christ. Join the club. Let go of your sin. Trust in him for 100% righteousness. Let him forgive your sin and give you a new heart to want to love him and serve him because you’re secure in him. That’s what we invite you to.
By the way, he died to pay our penalty of sin, and that’s no reason for you to come to him, because he’s just a martyr. But he rose again, proving that he has power over sin and death. That’s the one I’ve put my trust in. That’s the one Christians here put their trust in. The one who died for sinners and lives again to give them a hope.
So, at the beginning of the Christian life the Lord wants his disciples to know that they are clean, accepted, secure. You hear Paul—Romans 8—what shall separate us from the love of Christ? That whole chapter’s written so that you would know where you stand. Think of the hymn, Blessed Assurance. “Perfect submission, all is at rest.” Think of your heart. “[A]ll is at rest, I in my Savior [hear the word abide?] am happy and blest; watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in His love.”
4. Christians are to Abide in Christ in Order to Bear Fruit
The fourth feature in the panorama of fruit bearing. So, we’re looking at all these aspects of fruit bearing. We started the morning looking at the fact that Christians are presently clean branches with new life. Fourth, Christians are to abide in Christ in order to bear fruit. Christians are to abide in Christ in order to bear fruit. If you are going to bear fruit as a Christian, then you will do so only by strength that Christ supplies.
Verse 4: Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless, you abide in me.” So, Jesus is telling his disciples, listen, you guys are clean, but that doesn’t mean you guys just hang out here in the upper room until I come back again. No, you go out and abide. You bear fruit. You obey commands. You do things. So, you’re secure, but you’ve been called to go out there and live for me.
Verse 5, he says what he just said in verse 4. “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.” Guys, do not try to go out and obey in your own strength. You need to stay connected to me. Now they might be thinking, but you’re going to be gone. That’s why he promised them the Holy Spirit to be inside of them. That’s why he gave them his word. He wanted them always to come back to what he had told them earlier. He wanted them to always go back to his word.
That’s why one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit to the disciples was to give them remembrance of all that Jesus said, and they would write it down for the churches. And that’s what we have in order to abide in Christ. Everything he taught us, every lesson he taught us, everything he needs us to know to thrive as Christians, to bear fruit as Christians he gives us in his word, and he says abide in that. Stay in me. Remember what I told you.
Now, we have to know what it means to abide in Christ. As a Christian, don’t give me mystical kind of fuzzy definitions of things. Hey brother, all you gotta do is abide in Christ. Thank you. What does that mean? What does that mean? Just go home and think, abide in Christ? Does it mean putting my head on the Bible? What does it mean? We need to know what it means.
Well, praise the Lord, he tells us what it means. What does it mean to abide in Christ? Literally, the term means to remain in him, dwell in him. Pitch our tent in him. Stay in him. Stay here. Spiritually, we get our definition by looking at a number of these verses. So I’m going to walk you through what it means to abide in Christ based on these verses, and at the end I’ll summarize it for you so we know, we’re very clear on what it means to abide in Christ.
First, notice in verse 4, “abide in me and I in you.” Jesus assumes that when we abide in him, stay connected to him, stay in him, he will be connected to us. We are in him. We’re not next to him. We’re not kind of near him in the vicinity. Stay in him. Jesus is talking about a oneness of relationship here.
Verse 5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” Jesus assumes that when you stay connected to Christ, you will bear not just fruit—much fruit. Okay, so in verses 4 and 5 we realize that he wants us to be in him to receive power. Okay, that’s not enough yet. There’s more to the definition.
Verse 7: “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Now, remember, verse 4 and verse 5 both said if you abide in me, I’ll abide in you. If you abide in me, I’ll abide in you. Now, it says, you abide in me and my word’s in you, so we learn something more about his abiding in us, don’t we? How does Jesus abide in us? He puts his words into us.
We know what he says. We know what he’s like. We know what he teaches. We know how he encourages. His words are in us. If you’re going to abide in Christ, you need to know the Bible, his word. And if you’re a baby Christian—I basically just know John because you’ve been teaching it—great, that’s more than you knew two years ago. And as you go along in your Christian life, you’re going to learn more and more and more of what God wants and who he is and what he promises and how he encourages and what’s happening. You will know that. You will stay connected to his words. Abide in me and my word’s in you.
Verse 9, there’s more to this definition: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” Now he brings up the idea of love. So if he didn’t do that, you’d just be thinking so far, okay, I just gotta know my Bible. That’s abiding in Christ. No, that’s part of it. Know our Bibles and love him. Stay in my love. Abide in my love. Remain in my love. Think about my love. Dwell on my love. Know how I’ve loved you.
Verse 10, well, how do we do that? Good question. Keep asking them. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” No one can say I love Christ and think little of his commandments. If you say you love Christ and you love to obey him, love his commandments, you understand what he wants.
So, let’s put all of that together. What does it mean to abide in Christ? Here’s a sentence for you. We abide in Christ when his word abides in us and when we obey it out of love to him. We abide in Christ when his word abides in us and when we obey it out of love to him. One more time. We abide in Christ when his word abides in us and when we obey it out of love to him. What’s the result? Power to live the Christian life. That’s how you live the Christian life. His word is in you; you obey it out of love to him.
So, how does this affect tomorrow? How does this affect Monday morning? How does it affect the rest of the day? If our goal on this earth is to live as new creations, to make much of our Lord, if that’s our goal, and it should be, to live as new creations, to make much of him, glorify him, then we need to do so by abiding in him, which is these elements.
So, first, if you’re going to live for Christ faithfully, you need to have a desire for the word. Desire the word. Desire to take it in. Desire to know it. I mean, this is the one that you say saved you from hell, is going to bring you heaven, gave you a new life, you can’t appreciate all that and say, yeah, I really don’t care what he says though.
It doesn’t make sense. He’s given us his word—66 books, multiple authors all agreeing and saying the same message. All pointing to the message of redemption and making a new people for God. Sixty-six books he’s given us to know him better and to know what he desires for us. Desire that word. Desire it. Know it. Want to know it.
Listen, the Bible doesn’t talk a lot about reading the Bible. The Bible talks a lot about things like meditate on the word, desire the word, long for the word, love the word. It’s about desire. 1 Peter 2:2: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” I’m not telling you, hey, Canyon Bible Church of Prescott, as an application of this message, go home and read your Bible. I’m saying, tell the Lord: Lord, I want to long more for your word. That’s what we’re saying. Desire the word.
Secondly, by way of application, desire to obey the word. Don’t just desire to know the word. Desire to obey the word. Listen, sometimes I’ll be talking to people; and well meaning, they’ll say things like, I’m trying to overcome this sin. I mean I read my Bible and I pray. Like those are like the end goals. I’m reading my Bible and I’m praying. That’s just the training room. The competition is still coming. We read our Bible to know who he is, to love him, to enjoy him, to know what he wants. We pray, Lord, give me power; give me strength. You are worthy. I’m adoring you. I’m thankful to you. We have that communion with him, and we’re learning from him so that we go out and obey him.
Battles are not won at headquarters. Soldiers don’t say I’ve read my battle plan. I know it like the back of my hand. Battle won. No! You gotta go out and fight the battle. But you’re not going to fight the battle well unless you know the battle plan and have communication with the one who’s in charge over you. That’s prayer and Bible reading. We know who God is, we know what he wants, we’re talking to him, we’re enjoying that fellowship with him, we’re learning from him; and then we go out and we obey by his power.
So, you can’t just desire the word. You gotta desire to obey the word, to see it lived out. Psalm 119:44-45, the Psalmist says this: “I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.” A wide place—when the Psalmist refers to a wide place, it’s a place of safety. There are options. If there’s a threat over here, I’ve got a wide place. I can come over here. Picture it in today’s world, being in a busy city, being chased by the bad guys, running through an alley, there’s nowhere to go. You’re fenced in. You’re boxed in. It’s a narrow place. Narrow places don’t bring security when someone’s coming after you.
So, the Psalmist is saying because of your word, I’ve got a wide place. But notice, it’s not just because of the word. He says this in verse 44, Psalm 119: “I will keep your law continually.” The one who not only has the word of the Lord, but obeys the word of the Lord, that’s the person who’s in a wide place, who’s safe.
So, desire the word, desire to obey the word; and third, as we’re talking about abiding in Christ, desire to obey the word to show love to Christ. That’s our progression, right? Desire the word, desire to obey the word, and desire to obey the word to show love to Christ. Remember, Jesus in chapter 14 said three times, three different ways, if you love me, you’ll obey my commandments.
Our Christian life isn’t about obedience only. Our Christian life is about obedience to Christ because we love him, and he’s worthy of our lives. He’s changed our lives, made us new so that we can be who we couldn’t be before without a new nature. Now we do have a new nature. We can be who he wants us to be, and so we’re just going to kind of not really care about that. No, we love him. I want to be everything he wants me to be.
O, Father, use my ransomed life in any way you choose. We sang that today. That’s what we want. Desire to obey the word to show love to Christ. Now, those three elements are so huge, that’s what it means to abide in Christ. To be ready to live the Christian life for his glory. You can’t take one of those things away or it all falls. It’s like a three-legged stool. Take one away, it falls. You do not abide in Christ if you are not desiring to know what he says, who he is. No abiding in Christ. No thriving relationship to him.
You know, I really want to get to know you. Just don’t ever talk, and I’m not going to ask you questions. We’re just going to sit here. That’s foolish. Single men, don’t ever go out on a date and say something like that, okay? When you want to be close to someone, you want to hear what they have to say. You want to know them, and you want to tell them about yourself. The word is important. Communication is key. You will not abide in Christ if you do not desire the word.
You also won’t abide in Christ if you’re not concerned about obedience. Well, I know the Bible like the back of my hand. Okay, then why don’t you ever obey it? I mean it’s written for us to obey, love. We want to obey him. We love him. If you know the Bible like the back of your hand, that does not mean you are abiding in Christ. See the Pharisees. They knew their Bibles. They didn’t obey for the reasons he wanted them to obey. They didn’t even obey the way he wanted them to obey. They didn’t do that, but they knew their Bibles.
So, just knowing your Bible isn’t enough. There’s also no abiding if you don’t increase in obedience for the right reasons. You could actually be wanting to know the Bible and obey the Bible for wrong reasons. To recommend yourself to God. See, save me. Or maybe to earn the favor of that peer group that you’re in. Man, I memorized Ephesians and I’m growing. And really in your mind you’re thinking I want to impress you. That’s not abiding in Christ. That’s thinking highly of yourself.
So, abiding in Christ is made up of these elements: desire the word, desire to obey the word, and desire to obey the word to show love to Christ. Listen, as a Christian with the Holy Spirit, you live that way, you long for those things, watch the fruit come. Watch the fruit come.
Listen to Colossians 3:16-17. Maybe just note this in your notes, this reference. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Okay, so Christ wants his word in us, to be coursing through us. So, I don’t know if you go home and you memorize it, you turn on music and you sing it. You pray it. You get that word in you because you want it in you. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” What’s going to happen when it does? “[T]eaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
When you get the word of God in you and you have the Holy Spirit of God in you because you’re a Christian, man, you’re going to sing it, you’re going to be thankful for it, you’re going to teach others, you’re going to warn others in some areas. You’re going to be grateful for it. I mean, that’s what you want. You want that word in you. Know this: That’s a mind that desires the word.
But then verse 17 of Colossians 3: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” There’s obedience. So, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, but he doesn’t end Colossians there. All right, I’m done. Thanks, Colossians, see you later. He goes on to verse 17. And whatever you do with this joyful, word-filled, saturated heart and mind, whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
So obey now. Go to work like he would go to work. Lead your marriage like he would lead your marriage. Submit, love, bear with your enemies like he would bear with your enemies. Do everything like he would do.
“[G]iving thanks to the Father through him.” This is all for you. This is all for you. You see these three elements played out here in Colossians 3 also. This is what it means to abide in Christ. Let the word dwell in you, seek to obey it for the glory of the Father and Son. Do that. That’s what it means to abide in Christ.
I’m struck by even in these three verses we’ve looked at this morning how verse 3 wants us to rest. You’re completely clean guys. Rest in that. But then he gives commandments that imply we’re going to have to do some things. So. he wants our hearts at rest while we work for him. If you’re working for him to earn his favor for heaven, your heart will never be at rest. But if you know you’ve got his favor because of the righteousness of Christ, then you work for him, and you just want to serve him.
This reality, these two realities, resting and working in the right way, the right reason, these are brought about in a song called Jesus, I am Resting. I love this song. Listen to these words. It’s a prayer to the Lord. “Ever lift thy face upon me, as I work and wait for Thee; resting beneath Thy smile, Lord Jesus, earth’s dark shadows flee.”
So this is a man writing this hymn saying, I want your favor to be on me while I work for you. But my heart’s at rest. My heart’s at rest because I know I’m under your smile. That’s how you want to serve the Lord, knowing that you’re under his sovereign, secure care, and you want to give your life to him. Not trying to earn his favor. You have it and so you’re working to bear fruit. May we rest knowing that we are clean and work powerfully out of love for him. That’s our prayer. Let’s pray.
Father, teach our hearts to rest in the beauty of the gospel. Teach our hearts to rest in the righteousness that Christ has given to us. And Father, while we have hearts that rest may they abide in you, desire your word, desire to obey your word, desire to obey your word for your glory. May we bear much fruit from hearts that are at rest, and in that way, may we be fruitful and glorify our Father. We pray this in the name of Christ. Amen.
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