“A Life that Abides”
May 25, 2003
For everything that one can say about Jesus, there is one thing which is plainly clear: Jesus had such an intimate, personal, and devoted relationship with the Father, that their relationship was one of complete and total communion with each other.
If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what God says, listen to Jesus. If you want to know what God does, follow Jesus. It is our confession of faith that Jesus alone is so uniquely related to God the Father that we know him to be the Son of God, the very Word of God incarnate.
For John, it is this unique relationship between Jesus and God the Father that becomes the resounding theme of his whole Gospel. From the very beginning of his Gospel, John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” For John, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, is the complete and total incarnation and divine presence of none other than the Almighty God.
Our text for this morning returns us to the Gospel’s resounding theme of Jesus’ unique relationship with the Father with Jesus’ proclamation, “I am the true vine.” Here we have the last of the great “I am” sayings of Jesus in the Gospel, which is Jesus’ own testimony as to who he truly is.
We cannot miss the impact and purpose of Jesus’ words, which serve as a reminder of when Moses said to God, “What is your name?” and God replied, “I am”. Numerous times in the Gospel, Jesus refers to himself as “I am”: “I am the bread of life”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the resurrection and the life”, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
How comforting and wonderful it is to know that the one, who is the Christ, the one who is our Lord and Savior, and the one whom we follow in faith and obedience, is none other than the eternal, sovereign, and loving God of all grace and glory. But, what is enormously significant about our text for this morning, is not what Jesus’ says about himself, but what Jesus’ says about all of us.
One of the things I often hear is that Christianity is a religion, but that is such a sterile, uninspiring characterization of what Christianity really is. Christianity is not just a religion, it is more than that, Christianity is a faith, but it is even more than just a faith. In its truest expression, Christianity is a relationship – an intimate, enduring communion between our Lord Jesus and ourselves. Jesus says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” “Abide in me, as I abide in you.” It is the very foundation of our faith and way of life that Jesus is in us and we are in him. He is the vine which connects us with him and with each other, he is the vine which gives us the nourishment to grow, the vine which gives us the hope to blossom, and the vine which gives us the grace to become fruitful in our lives of faith.
What Jesus both declares and offers all of us is the same relationship with him as he has with the Father. This is an offer the Christian community cannot pass up nor neglect. The question for us then, both as individuals and as the community of faith, is how are we going to respond to Jesus’ call to abide in him? How do we live a life that abides?
At first glance of the text, it would seem that the answer is clear – if you want to live a life that abides in Jesus, you have to bear fruit. Now, I don’t know about you, but the idea of having to produce more fruit isn’t necessarily so comforting or so easy. Frankly, considering my weekly schedule of church work, sermon preparation, meetings, soccer practice and games, horse back riding lessons, honey-do lists, getting the girls to bed, and everything else that I’m doing, in some sense I feel I am producing enough fruit to fill a cornucopia.
In fact, having to produce more fruit seems to echo too much for me the message of our fast-paced, machine-driven, technological, cutting-edge society with its emphasis on production, production, and more production! We are a people who already work like crazy either to keep up with the Jones’ or to just make ends meet, let alone trying to make it possible for our children to do any and every extracurricular activity that comes along so they will be well rounded children.
To be honest, I believe we work too much, we are involved in too many things, and our family lives are feeling the stress and strain of having too much on our plates. Sometimes I feel like I have so much on my plate, that I’m like the “other plate” in the Chinette paper plate commercial. You know, the one that teeters on the edge of collapse, as it soaks up the juices from the food, finally collapsing under the stress. Surely Jesus means something else besides just doing more work…and I believe he does.
My friends, Jesus is not calling us to be more productive, but to be more fruitful; not to do more, but to be more, so that our lives may be the fertile, strengthened, and healthy branches upon which fruit can be grown. Jesus is calling us to abide in the one who is the true source of fruitfulness – himself. He alone is the true vine, the only one who makes it possible for us to be fruitful in our lives.
So maybe abiding in Jesus is more than about bearing fruit, since we cannot bear fruit on our own anyway. Maybe the key to living a life that abides in Jesus, and is able to bear fruit, is to follow our calling to put ourselves in a position to remain connected to the true vine, so that we can remain nourished, enriched, and strengthened so that we may be fruitful through him. It’s not about doing more, it’s about being more – being more in communion with God, being more in communion with Jesus, building up our relationships with Jesus and with others, deepening our spirituality, and expanding our vision to see what God is doing in the world.
If we want to live in a life that abides in Jesus, we have to begin to change our priorities and the priorities of our children, so that our lives can belong to God first, rather than second, or third, or tenth. We spend way to much time, and expend way to much energy in trying to find time for God in our plans, rather than making time for ourselves in God’s plan.
Abiding in Jesus means – taking a break from the crazy world to take time to be with God. Take time to get to know God in Jesus Christ in a much more intimate, personal way, so that your life will be enriched by God’s love.
Abiding in Jesus means – restoring and renewing our inner peace and joy, and finding spiritual refreshment. Take time to immerse yourself in God’s Word, so that through God’s Word to you, you will find spiritual nourishment and strength. Spend time communing with God in prayer. Reconnect yourself to God often, so that you will know with all assurance of God’s abiding presence in your life.
Abiding in Jesus means – trusting that God will make your life fruitful. Do
not worry about the amount of fruit you are bearing, but just be willing to allow God to bear fruit through you. Spend time in fellowship with other Christians, so that together, God can us all of us to be more fruitful for God’s kingdom.
We must never forget that we are the branches of the vine, the very body of Christ in the world. We are his feet that must carry the Gospel for him. His hands that must care for others for him. And his body that must serve others for him.
If Jesus abides in us, and we truly abide in him, we cannot help but be fruitful, which is exactly what God wants us to be. Amen.