Jesus Is the True Vine
Series: The Great I Am
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - March 2, 2014
*Jesus Christ is the great I AM, Lord God Jehovah of the Old Testament. In Exodus 3, the pre-incarnate Christ is the One who spoke to Moses from the burning bush and said His name is "I AM."
*Almost 1,500 years later God the Son humbled Himself to become a man. And as He ministered among His people, Jesus gave us at least 8 "I AM" statements in the Gospel of John:
-"I am the bread of life."
-"I am the light of the world."
-"I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.''
-"I am the door."
-"I am the good shepherd."
-"I am the resurrection and the life."
-"I am the way, the truth and the life."
-And "I am the vine."
*Jesus spoke these "I AM" statements as more evidence that He is the Almighty God of the Old Testament, one with the Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit of God. Today we will finish this series by focusing on the Lord's "I AM" statement in John 15:1-8.
*Jesus said, "I am the true vine." -- What does this mean for us?
1. First: As the true vine, Jesus is our essential connection.
*Listen to the Lord again in vs. 1&2:
1. "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
2. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."
*Then in vs. 4-6, Jesus said:
4. "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
6. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned."
*The Lord is our essential connection to life. Jesus Christ is our only possible connection to eternal, abundant life! Jesus tells His followers, "I am the vine, you are the branches." And William Barclay helps us understand why it is so important for the branches to be connected to the vine. You see, by themselves the grapevine branches are basically good for nothing. Their wood is too soft for any constructive purpose. At certain times of the year, Jewish law required the people to bring offerings of wood to the Temple. That wood was to be used for the altar fires. But they were not allowed to bring wood from grapevine branches. The only thing that could be done with the cut-off vine branches was to make a bonfire and destroy them. (1)
*That is a picture of life without Jesus. In the long run, we can do nothing worth doing without Jesus, we have nothing worth having without Jesus, and there is no true life in our souls without Jesus. So Jesus Christ is our essential connection to life!
*This connection reminded one Christian friend about people on life support in the hospital, and she told me: "Jesus is our life support." Jesus Christ is our real life support! He is our only source for eternal, abundant life.
*As the true vine, the Lord is our essential connection.
2. And He provides for our essential cleansing.
*Everybody needs the kind of spiritual cleansing we see in today's Scripture. God's Word tells us it involves both purifying and pruning. Jesus talked about these things in vs. 2&3, where He said this to His disciples:
2. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He (i.e. the Heavenly Father) takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
3. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you."
*There is a whole lot we can understand about salvation in these verses.
 First, it comes through a person: Jesus Christ.
*The only way to be saved is to have a close, personal relationship with Jesus. When we place our trust in Him, we become connected like branches are connected to a vine.
 Salvation comes through a person, and it is provided through the Word of God.
*Again, as Jesus said in vs. 3: "You (i.e. You who are My followers. You who know Me and trust in Me) are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you."
*The Word of God tells us the truth about our sins and salvation: That we must be saved, that we must be born again spiritually, that our sins must be forgiven and washed away, and that we will be saved by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ.
 Salvation is provided through the Word of God. But it had to be paid for by the cross of Christ.
*Jesus spoke these words just hours before He died on the cross. The cross was supremely on His mind as He spoke here. And down in vs. 13, Jesus said: "Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."
*God loves us more than we can imagine, and He always has, because He is love. Romans 4:5 tells us an amazing thing: God "justifies the ungodly." This means that no matter what you have done, God loves you and He will forgive you, if you will trust in Him. And we should trust Him, because He loved us enough to die on the cross for our sins!
*When we hear this truth and receive the Risen Christ as our Lord and Savior, our sins are forgiven and washed away forever! But there's more to the story, because as long as we are in this world, we are branches that need to be pruned. That's why in vs. 2, Jesus said our Heavenly Father prunes every branch that bears fruit, so it will bear more fruit.
*Greg Buchner explained: "Growing up we had a grapevine that belonged to a neighbor right along our property line. And watching him, I learned some things about grapes and grapevines. Grapevines would rather produce shoots and leaves than grapes. They end up looking lush and green. But ultimately they're only good for making decorations.
*Grapevines must be pruned radically. The gardener must cut them back each year as far as he possibly can. Branches with no fruit must be removed so they don't draw nutrients away from the grapes. And fruitful branches must be pruned back to produce even more in the following year." (2)
*Steven Pace says: "Fruitful branches are pruned, all bad spots are removed, and even the strongest Christians have spots in their life that have to be removed. All of us have areas in our lives that we struggle with, things that God needs to prune away:
-Some struggle with their thoughts, some with attitude.
-Some with commitment, some with relationships.
-Some with behavior, some with service.
-Some with passion, some with surrendering their will to God.
*The purpose of pruning is to prepare the branch to bear more fruit. The purpose is not to punish, not to hurt, not to damage the branch. God wants to use us to our full potential. And that is why he prunes the branches." (3)
*We all need pruning, and this hurts, because it cuts. It reminds me of something I heard a preacher in Georgia say almost 40 years ago: "The most miserable people in this world are not the lost people. The most miserable people in the world are the Christians living like lost people." But thank God for that misery! He uses it to prune away the sinful, hurtful, useless parts of our lives.
*Purifying and pruning: As the true vine, Jesus provides for our essential cleansing.
3. And He gives us an essential command.
*We see this command in vs. 4, where Jesus said: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."
*Abiding in the Lord is absolutely essential, but what does that mean? It means "to stay, dwell, continue, or remain." The Lord is telling us here that we need to stay close to Him. He wants us to pursue closer and closer fellowship with Him.
*Paul Fritz says: "The best way to allow Jesus to abide in you is by allowing His word to fill your mind, heart, soul and emotions with His perspective." That's why in vs. 7 the Lord tells us that we need to let His words "abide in us. Great things happen when we abide in the Lord, and let His words abide in us. But how much are you feeding yourself on the Word of God? (4)
*Clyde Covey told a story about his granddaughter, Kacie. When Kacie was 7, she bought a pet fish with the money her parents gave her for a great report card. Kacie's mom asked her what she was going to name the fish. But Kacie explained that the fish already had a name: "Sparingly." Mom looked confused, so Kacie got the instructions that came with the fish. Then she showed her mom where it said, "Feed sparingly once a day." When it comes to the Bible, God doesn't want us to feed sparingly. (5)
*We need to be more like Martin Dale, who said: "When I became a Christian, the words of the Bible took on new significance. They seemed to jump out of the page like a living Book. They spoke to me and spoke into my life.
*If you hang around someone long enough the character of that person rubs off on you. And the same is true with Jesus. His character will be formed in us as we abide in him." Martin also said: "Going to church is not enough; we must get to know Jesus."
*And Jesus will do great things in our lives, so He said, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."
*As the true vine, Jesus gives us an essential command.
4. And He gives us an extraordinary commitment.
*We see it in vs. 7, where Jesus said, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."
*This is an amazing promise of answered prayer, but notice the conditions for this answered prayer: Again, we must abide, remain in the Lord, close to the Lord, seeking closer and closer fellowship with Jesus. And we must let His words abide in us.
*God has already answered more prayers than we can count. Yesterday, I was thought back to the testimony of Joanna Williamson from Rayville. Her sister Janis was our music director at McClendon, and Janis gave me this testimony about answered prayer in her sister's life. It happened back when Joanna was a freshman in college and was engaged to her husband, Dinky.
*Listen to part of Janis' testimony about her sister: "They had eaten lunch at Johnny's in Rayville, and then stopped to visit with Dinky's grandmother. When they left for Dinky's house, Joanna's seatbelt would not work. Dinky, who never wore one, said don't worry about it, we're only 5 miles from my house.
*Joanna, who was and is a "seatbelt freak" (won't back down the driveway without one) had a fit. It was a new truck, 2 days old, and this was not acceptable. She almost tied it around her but then she gave up and said okay, just be careful.
*They had driven about a mile and were in a big wide curve. Something slid off the seat and as Dinky reached for it, he ran off the road. The shoulder was 11 inches lower than the road, and when they came back on the road, something happened with the tire, and they went rolling. Dinky was thrown out on the first flip and watched the truck roll 3 or 4 more times before Joanna was ejected. She flew out, and down the road as Dinky watched, and he was sure the truck had run over her.
*As it turned out, the bumper and headlight apparently hit her in the back of the head. She had a broken neck, he was sure. She wasn't moving and was barely conscious.
*At the hospital, our worst fears were confirmed. The x-ray showed that the topmost vertebra was broken and had slid down toward her spinal cord. So, not only was it broken, it was displaced. She went into a coma for 3 days, and they were unable to move her because of the position of the broken vertebra moving toward the cord.
*Her brain was swelling badly and we kept expecting them to do surgery to relieve the pressure. But again, they couldn't move her because of the neck issue. So we just had to pray, and wait, and hope for no brain damage.
*When she woke up on the 3rd day, the swelling had gone down some. And Dr. Irby sent her down for more x-rays of the neck so he could determine exactly how to proceed. He found us in the ICU waiting room and practically yelled at us to 'GET IN HERE!' We went in expecting the worst, because he was so agitated. He slapped up the old x-rays and said, 'Do you see these? -- Do you all see that broken bone?' Of course we said yes. It was clearly visible because of the break and because it was out of place. Then he put up the new x-rays. Now 4 days later: no broken bone. Her neck was perfect, plain for all to see.
*He couldn't believe it. He kept asking US if WE saw the difference. He kept saying he couldn't explain it and couldn't believe it. Of course we told him that we believed it, and there was a simple explanation: Hours and hours of prayer and a merciful, loving God!
*You may have never seen prayers answered like the prayers for Joanna. But if you are a Christian, you have already received the greatest answer of all! God has forgiven your sins, and given you an everlasting home with Him in Heaven! God has answered your greatest prayer, and He wants to answer more!
*As the true vine, Jesus gives us this extraordinary commitment.
5. And He can bring us to an excellent conclusion.
*Jesus Christ can bring our lives to an excellent conclusion: A life full of fruit for the glory of God. As the Lord said in vs. 8, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." By God's grace, we get to bear the fruit, but God gets all the glory, because He deserves all the glory.
*We can bear much fruit for the Lord. But what kind of fruit is the Lord talking about here? As we go through the New Testament, we can see at least 4 different types:
 The first kind of Christian fruit is holiness and goodness, -- the character of Jesus Christ. So Ephesians 5:9 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is in all (believers) goodness, righteousness and truth."
 The second kind of Christian fruit is our financial giving. In Philippians 4:15-17, Paul said:
15. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.
16. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.
17. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.
 A third kind of Christian fruit is our heart-felt praise to God. Hebrews 13:15 says, "Therefore by Him (i.e. by Jesus) let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."
 The fourth kind of Christian fruit is reaching other people for Jesus, spreading the good news of forgiveness and eternal life through the cross of Christ.
*In John 4:35-36, Jesus said:
35. "Do you not say, `There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
36. And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.
*Think about someone who helped lead you to Jesus. You are part of their fruit. Now God wants us to bear more fruit for His Kingdom.
*By God's grace, we can bear all kinds of spiritual fruit. And the more we abide in Christ, the more godly fruit we will bear. But God gets all the glory, and He deserves all the glory, because He is the great "I AM."
*Think about Jesus Christ, the great "I AM," as we go to God in prayer.
(1) Adapted from "Barclay's Daily Bible Study Series - NT" by William Barclay - Revised Edition - Copyright 1975 - First published by the Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - "The Vine and the Branches" - John 15:1-10
(2) SermonCentral sermon "The True Vine" by Greg Buchner - John 15:1-8 - 02232003
(3) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Jesus said I am" by Steven Pace - John 15:1-5 - 03222003
(4)SermonCentral sermon "Abide in Me" by Paul Fritz - John 15:7
(5) "Mature Living, July 2012, p.36 - Source: "In Other Words" by Dr. Raymond McHenry, Feb.2014 - #2 - www.iows.net
(6) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Abide in Me" by Martin Dale - John 15:1-17