Over the last few weeks, we have been allowing God work in us and to teach us to abide in Jesus. This has been a powerful discussion about the invitation Jesus extends to us in John 15 where Jesus teaches, using the example of a vine and branches, to remain connected to Him and to experience the fullness of life available to us in Him. Like a branch stays attached to a vine, abiding in a relationship with Jesus, that is rooted in love, is the only way our lives can produce good fruit.
The first week, we talked about Jesus being the one and only true vine and us being the branches, and if we want to live the life God wants for us, then we have to stay connected the vine, to Christ.
The second week, we acknowledged God is a good gardener who knows exactly how to prune our lives in order for us to be free as disciples of Jesus.
Last week, we discovered every single person will produce some kind of fruit with their lives. The question is whether it will be good fruit or bad fruit. The good news is, if you are producing bad fruit, your crop can change so your fruit can change all by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And today, we’re going to look at the reason WHY we need to abide in a relationship with Jesus so that we can experience the fullness of God. Let’s start by looking at the scripture again.
“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! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Why? Because if you are loving each other like I have loved you, then that means you are remaining in me. And that’s the big point of this teaching. Abide, remain, stay with me because I, as your Creator, your Father, your Savior, love you. And isn’t….
POINT #1 – LOVE IS THE DRIVING FORCE FOR CONNECTION
You see, love is the glue that holds us in relationship with Christ. It is the magnet that pulls us to abide in Him. The reason we choose to remain connected to the vine, the reason we invite the pruning of God, and the reason we sensibly assess the fruit we produce is because we trust that God fully loves us, and because we are growing in our love for Him.
Jesus expands on this near the end of the passage we have been studying.
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! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Jesus connects the dots as to why we should remain in connection with Him. First, it is because God the Father loves Jesus. Jesus is God’s son. The first born of all creation. He lived in total obedience to the Father. He and the Father are one.
Then, Jesus states that just as God loves Him, He loves us. The word that Jesus uses to express this love is the Greek word agape. Agape is a special kind of love. It is a sacrificial, selfless, and generous love. The kind of love that gives without receiving. This word indicates a choice to love. God chooses to love Jesus, and Jesus chooses to love us.
Jesus goes on to explain the response we ought to have to this kind of love. When we fully recognize that we are loved with an agape love, it should be our joy to remain in relationship with Jesus by living obedient lives, just as Jesus lived an obedient life. This is a choice we have to make.
Matt and I have three children between us. If anyone has children of their own, you know the challenge it is to have your children obey. They don’t brush their teeth. They don’t clean their room. They don’t treat their siblings with kindness. They don’t do their homework. It can be very frustrating as a parent. I want my kids to respond to my instructions, but I want them to respond because they know I want what is best for them.
I don’t want my kids to be robots who do exactly as I say without the ability to choose. That’s not a relationship. That’s not a true connection. I would love for my kids to respond to me because they know that I love them, and that they can trust me. Love and trust are the only things that will truly cause us humans to remain in a faithful and obedient relationship with Jesus—knowing we are loved beyond measure, and we can trust God with anything.
It’s why God gave us free will. You have a choice to be obedient. You have a choice to not be obedient. That’s free will. And the reason God gave us free will is because He wants genuine love. If He made us all to be puppets on strings, that’s not real love. That’s not a relationship.
Now some of us may be skeptical that we are truly loved by God and Jesus. After all, we have made plenty of mistakes and have been disobedient plenty of times. But Jesus anticipated that we would think that, so He gave a clear indicator that His love can be trusted. Didn’t He say, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
POINT #2 – THE CROSS IS THE PROOF OF LOVE
Jesus points to a specific part of His life for conclusive proof that we are indeed loved, wanted, and welcomed into connection with Him. To see this proof, we don’t have to look any further than His crucifixion and His death on the cross. It’s there that Jesus laid down His life so that we might have a chance at new life and freedom from sin. He proves His friendship, His compassion, His agape love by defeating death at the cost of His own life.
But why would Jesus do this? What would compel Him to pay such a high cost? Pastor and author Max Lucado said this about Jesus’ motivation. “Nails didn’t hold God to a cross. Love did.”
A relationship based on love causes us to be the best version of ourselves. It gives us confidence and assurance in who we are and who we are created to be. You see, Jesus does not just tolerate you. He does not just put up with you. He loves you, and wants you, and invites you into an abiding relationship with Him.
The apostle Paul wrote about this love in his letter to the early church in Ephesus. The church was struggling to remain faithful, and Paul knew the only thing that would change them was a proper view of God’s love.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Paul’s prayer is that the church would be strengthened so Jesus can be in their hearts. Not only are we invited to abide in Jesus, but we can be assured Jesus will abide in us. In fact, in James chapter four, the author makes a strong statement that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. We can trust this!
It’s not until we are abiding in Christ that we can fully grasp how wide, long, high, and deep God’s love is for us. The magnitude of God’s agape love is so massive that we cannot fully receive it without the power of the Spirit. You can hear about it. You can read about it. But to know the love of God through the Spirit fills us so completely that we will never be the same.
POINT #3 – GOD’S LOVE IS BETTER THAN YOU THINK
Can you think of someone in your life who really loves or loved you well? A spouse. A friend. A grandparent. A dog. What are the aspects of that love you most appreciate? When love is unconditional, there is nothing we could do to make that person love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make that person love us less. Unconditional love convinces us that we are loved just because we exist.
God loves us because we are His creation. We are a part of His family, and He loves us as His children. The scriptures affirm this over and over again.
1 John 3:1
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
It’s as if God knew humans would constantly struggle to believe they are loved beyond what we could think or imagine. And that’s why John flat out says, “…and that is what you are.” You are children of God! John doesn’t want us to miss this life-changing truth.
The very foundation, of the life God longs for us to enjoy and embrace, begins with this conviction. Too often, we have intellectually accepted it, but in reality, we have not allowed it to penetrate our hearts. Until the love of God makes that journey from our heads to our chest, we unfortunately will find ourselves struggling to connect to Christ.
God knows that until we see ourselves the way He sees us and accept His love, we will be missing the fullness of God.
Maybe this morning you have never made the decision to accept Christ in your life as your Lord and Savior. Or maybe you need to recommit yourself. Maybe you have never leaned into God’s love and truly embraced the life-giving vine. I would like to offer this gift to you today because it is a constant invitation from God. I’d invite you to pray this prayer with me.
Lord Jesus, I confess my sins and ask for your forgiveness. I acknowledge your great love for me. Please come into my heart as my Lord and Savior. Take complete control of my life and help me live in connection with you daily by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you, Lord for saving me and for answering my prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
By faith, receive God’s love and grace.