Sermon delivered on Easter 5B, Sunday, April 29, 2018, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.
If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.
Lectionary texts: Acts 8.26-40; Psalm 22.24-30; 1 John 4.7-21; John 15.1-8.
In the Name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen.
Greetings to you from the ADGL synod. It was a blessing to be able to meet brothers and sisters in the Lord from other parts of this diocese and beyond. I interacted with bishop Boniface from Tanzania who is here in the states visiting and hope to visit with us before he goes back to Africa. From many good things shared by archbishop Foley Beach, I have a food for thought for us this morning before I share my message for today. Archbishop mentioned that there is a somebody who researched and wrote about the worst books to read and listed number one as the Bible, asked why it is so, he said because those who believe in it, do not read it either. I will leave it at that.
Jesus is the source of life, and His life within you is for one purpose- that you might bear fruit. Today i want us to ask ourselves; Are we connected to Christ? and If we are in Christ, then how much fruit is there in our lives?
Today’s Gospel is one of the seven I am sayings of the gospel of John;
“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger.” John 6:35
“I am the light of the world; he who fallows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12
“I am the gate; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” John 10:11
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” John 11:25
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” John 14:6
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1
In Hampton Court near London, there is a grapevine which is about 1,000 years old. This grapevine has one root which is at least two feet thick, and some of the branches are 200 feet long. Despite its age the vine produces several tons of grapes each year. Although some of the smaller branches are 200 feet from the main stem, they still bear the sweet and delicious fruit because they are connected to the vine. Life flows from that single root and throughout the vine bringing nourishment and strength to each of the branches.
Jesus promises to do the same for us. He is the “true vine” bringing life to each of the branches. The purpose of the vine is to bring nourishment to the branches in order that they might produce fruit. When separated from the vine the branches wither and die. The importance of our spiritual life is dependent upon our connection to Christ the “true vine.”
Each of us must answer two questions this morning. First, are we connected to the vine, or is the life of Christ flowing within us? Secondly, if we are connected to the vine and we are joined to Christ, then how much fruit are we producing through our lives; is there no fruit, some fruit, or an abundance of fruit?
Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the true vine.” Have you ever wondered why Jesus may have said that? Think with me a moment about what has happened and where Jesus and His disciples most likely are.
If you remember this is the night of Jesus’ betrayal, but before that happens Jesus and the disciples have been in the upper room. As they celebrated the Passover in the upper room, Jesus had washed the disciples feet and spoke with them about the events that were to take place. After a great deal of discussion with His disciples Jesus ends chapter 14 saying, “Come now; let us leave.”
I believe that it is as they are making their way from the upper room to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus continued to instruct this group who had walked with Him for the last three years. Jesus knew that time was running out, but He still had much that He wanted to share with the disciples.
Our gospel today is continuation of the teaching, Jesus was a master teacher. He didn’t talk over people’s heads; He used things which were common to those He taught so that they could understand His teaching. So I believe that as Jesus and the disciples were making their way they walked beside something familiar to everyone in Jerusalem–a grapevine.
Everyone living in Jerusalem, and even the fishermen among the twelve who walked with Jesus knew that life flowed from the vine into the branches. So Jesus uses this common sight around Jerusalem to bring further understanding to his hearers.
Jesus is showing His disciples and us that He is the source of spiritual life. Jesus is the source of life, a resource made available by the Holy Spirit when He comes to dwell within the believer. John spells it out plainly for us:
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.(1 John 5:11-12)
Jesus is the life source and His life within the believer is for one purpose–to produce fruit. The question we need to think about for ourselves is, “How much fruit is being produced, is there no fruit, some fruit, or an abundance of fruit?” Remember, Jesus is talking with His disciples. Jesus is the true vine and His disciples and those who believe in Him are the branches. So when we think about the quantity of fruit in an individual’s life we are talking about believers– that is those connected to the vine. As we said, anyone who is not connected to Jesus cannot bear fruit.
Therefore, the question as to how much fruit is being produced in your life deals with the issue of what you and I are doing with the life source that is within us.
Let’s quickly think about the Fruit. Some of you may be wondering exactly what is this fruit we are supposed to be producing.
- Some have taught that the fruit Jesus is talking about is OBEDIENCE. This fits with the context, those who love Christ will obey His commands.
- Others have taught that the fruit is to REPRODUCE OTHER BELIEVERS. One of the signs of life is that it reproduces itself. Fruit carries within it the seed which has the ability to reproduce.
- Others have taught that the fruit is the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is the fruitful evidence that you are connected to the vine.
So which one is it?
Jesus says, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. (Matthew 7:16-18)
Jesus says you will recognize the fruit; we are fruit inspectors. So let’s check out the fruit.
- Is OBEDIENCE to Christ’s word something that the life of Christ would produce within the life of a believer. YES!
- Is REPRODUCTION of new believers something that Jesus’ life within you will yield as fruit? YES!
- Is the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT a byproduct of Christ’s life at work within a believer? YES! So the the fruit of the believers’ life that is connected to Jesus, the true life-giving vine is ALL OF THE ABOVE! And more. Those who are Christ’s branches should desire to produce more and more of ALL His fruit.
Now the of quantity. How much fruit is your life producing; is there no fruit, some fruit or an abundance of fruit?
The gospel says there are branches that produce NO FRUIT.
“He cuts off [takes away (NKJ)] every branch in me that bears no fruit. . . If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:2, 6)
Jesus said the Father’s desire is that all who are in Christ will produce fruit bringing glory to the Father. The Father receives no glory by cutting off branches that are in Christ. The Greek word “airei” translated “cuts off” or “takes away” also means “LIFT UP.” That’s what a gardener does for the new branches; he lifts them up giving them the support and training that they need in order to produce fruit.
Left to ourselves we all would remain branches IN CHRIST, but unfruitful because we are growing in the dirt of this world. The life source is within us; God’s Holy spirit is in our lives, but God does more to make us fruitful. God lifts us up; He disciples and trains us in order that we might grow and produce fruit. How does God lift up these fruitless vines?
- He places us in relationship with other believers. We need each other to grow effectively and be fruitful; none of us can make it alone. I believe this is the single most important thing that God does for us. Being a part of a church and sharing in loving relationships with other Christians is vital to our spiritual health.
- He instructs us in His Word. The Holy Spirit is our teacher; through our personal devotions, sermons, teaching and interaction in small groups the Holy Spirit will cleanse and strengthen our lives through the Word of God.
- God renews our minds so that we no longer conform to the ways of this world but pursue His kingdom; He teaches us to hate sin and desire righteousness in our lives. When we have sin in our lives we want to be restored in our relationship with God and He is faithful to forgive us.
If we don’t let God lift us up then we are in danger of becoming a fruitless branch that chooses not to remain in Christ. If we don’t enter into relationships with other believers, if we don’t apply His word to our lives, if we don’t let the Holy Spirit renew our minds, then we are cutting off the flow of Christ’s source of life that He places within us.
The branches that produce SOME FRUIT.
As a believer you are joined to the vine. The life of Christ within the vine is what produces the fruit. Therefore any fruit produced in your life, obedience, reproduction, or the Fruit of the Spirit, IT IS ALL GOOD FRUIT.
However, each of us as branches can restrict the quantity of fruit produced in our lives.
“ . . .every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:2-4) What is it that restricts the production of fruit? In a word it is SELF.
We love Christ; His Spirit is within us, and His fruit is evident in our lives. But from time to time, more often for some and less for others, we stop relying upon Christ and His life within us and live our life in our own strength. Jesus said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself!”
In those times when we stop depending on Christ and rely upon our own strength and ability, it is then that the branch is unable to continue to produce fruit. Often times we may fall into sin once again simply because we didn’t depend upon Christ the source of life to help us.
“Every branch in me that doe bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Pruning is painful. But also is productive. When the branches are pruned more fruit is produced. The pain of cutting accomplishes what the Father intends–FRUITFULNESS!
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? . . . 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 12:7, 11)
I want to conclude by mentioning the branches that produce an ABUNDANCE of FRUIT.
“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. (John 15:5) These are the branches that have been properly trained through the discipline of pruning. They have crucified self and have learned that apart from Christ they can do nothing.
Paul says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:7-8) Those branches that remain in Him and His word remains in them will not ask selfishly. They have died to self and the passions of the world; they live for Christ. Therefore whatever they ask for is what Jesus would ask for.
Jesus, the true vine is producing fruit within His branches. Christ’s fruit is good; it alone will endure. How much fruit are you letting be produced through your life? Is there no fruit, some fruit or an abundance of fruit?
In the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen.