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Sermon September 17, 2017

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1319

Dr. Ed Pettus September 17, 2017 John 15:1-11

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

 

“I Am the True Vine”

 

  • Two Trees

 

God planted a lot of trees in the garden of Eden. There were fruit trees of every variety and they were beautiful trees, not a bug, not a disease, not anything that plagued these trees. The Bible speaks specifically of two: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These trees must have had some significant distinction to the eye. They must have both had some sort of fruit. Tradition says apple for the tree of knowledge. If it were to tempt me that much it would have been a fig tree.

Adam and Eve were tempted to eat of the tree forbidden by God. All these trees available and they had to eat of the one they were told to avoid. It seems that is part of our nature, to be drawn to that which is forbidden. As soon as a child is told not to touch something, their first instinct is to touch it. When we were at one of the Smithsonian Museums last time, I wanted to touch everything that had a “do not touch” sign.

I’m a fan of trees, not a tree hugger, but a fan. We used to visit the Angel Oak on John’s Island and I was amazed at its size, I read recently that one branch of that tree is 187 feet long. It meanders up and down touching the ground several times. It’s a strong tree, surviving weather and other threats over what is estimated about 400 years. It reminds me of the tree of Psalm 1.

 

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

 

When we abide in God’s word, we become like a tree firmly planted and able to bear fruit and we do not wither! John 15 has a similar thought that as we abide or dwell in the words of Jesus, we will also abide in his love and and we will have a fullness of joy.

 

 

 

  • The Tree of Life

 

Adam and Eve did not eat of the tree of life. If they had, things would have turned out differently. There is not much about this tree except that it was there and this tree does not appear again in the Bible until Revelation. In Revelation 2:7 those who conquer will eat of the tree of life. In Revelation 22:2 we see the tree of life again, planted by the river.

 

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

 

The tree planted by the river sounds a lot like Psalm 1. The tree of life is considered to be Jesus, or at least symbolic of Jesus. Such an understanding is possible when we see that the tree gives life gives life eternal in Genesis 3 and heals the nations in Revelation 22.

 

 

  • The True Vine

 

John 15 might be the closest comparison to the tree of life. Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches. Jesus is the true vine, the genuine vine. He is the real deal. He is not a false vine or a withering tree, but He gives life. Verse 5 speaks of the life we have - bearing fruit, connected to Jesus, knowing that apart from Him we can do nothing nothing. 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.

I want to focus on three ways we are connected to Jesus. In the ESV we see the word “abide” ten times. Abide is not a word we use all the time. It means to dwell, to stay, or to continue in something. Here it also means to live in. We abide in our abode. We live in our home. We live in the vine that is Jesus. It is much like the language Paul uses in Galatians 5:25, If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. It’s the same kind of imagery of living in Jesus and living in the Spirit. Let’s look at the three main ways we abide as branches in the vine.

 

 

  • Abide in Jesus

 

I have divided these three points in our outline this morning, but they are so intertwined we need to talk about them together. To abide in Jesus is to dwell in Him, to remain in Him. It is to be in relationship with Jesus. Jesus commands this.

 

4Abide 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. 5I 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. 6If 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.

 

The positive note is that we bear fruit when we are in the vine. The negative is if anyone does not abide in Jesus. They are thrown away, tossed on the fire. Abiding in Jesus is living in, with, for Jesus. It is finding our life in Him. The apostle Paul wrote many times about the importance of living in Jesus Christ. He used all the prepositions available, in, by, for, through Christ.

 

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:15-18)

 

 

 

How do we abide in Jesus?

 

  • Abide in His Word

 

We abide in Jesus by living in His Word. We continue in His Word day after day to the point that His words abide in us. The scripture speaks of the word being implanted or written on our hearts. That’s the way we abide in Him by getting His word into our hearts and minds so that we live it without even thinking about it. His word becomes our natural way to live. That word leads us to live in His love. Living in His love leads us back to His word, because we grow to love His word.

 

7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.

 

What happens when we abide in His Word?

 

  • Abide in His Love

 

When we abide in His Word (keep His commandments), we live in His love.

 

Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.

 

When we are connected to Jesus, we are connected to the tree of life. We are connected to the true vine. We are connected to God. In that connection we find our true life. To abide in Jesus is to abide in His word and His love. Jesus loves us more than we can imagine and the more we grow our relationship with Him, the deeper we will understand His love. To abide in Jesus is to fully devote our selves to Him in response to the things He has done for us. John’s gospel is filled with how much love God has for us and the gift of Jesus to give His life for us and the promise to send the Holy Spirit to be with us. God has done all of this and seeks in response to have us live in Jesus and Jesus in us. This is life! This is life for today and tomorrow and for eternity. Abide in Jesus. Abide in His word. Abide in His love. Jesus is our connection to life, the tree of life, the vine of life, the bread of life, the resurrection and the life, the way and the truth and the life. Amen.