Sermon – To live is to love (John 15:1 – 15:17) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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John 2021

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The Book of John was authored by one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, John, who features in the gospel. John makes his mission for writing the book plain in 20:31; “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” He details the many words and claims of Jesus, as well as the various responses from those listening; in either faith, amazement, caution or rejection. Listen as Cornerstone preachers unpack the narrative and invite us to reflect on our own response to Jesus.

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Sermon 47 of 58

To live is to love

Tom Smith, John 15:1 - 15:17, 27 November 2022

Tom continues our series in John’s gospel, preaching from John 15:1-17. In this passage we see Jesus teaching his disciples that he is the ‘true vine’ and they are the branches - and we see what this means for followers of Jesus today.

John 15:1 - 15:17

15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide 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. 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. If 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

So John chapter 15, starting at verse 1. I am the true vine and my father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit. While 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 as I also 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. I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain a me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.

If you do not remain a me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. This is to my father's glory that you bear much fruit showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the father has loved me, so have I loved you, now remain in my love.

If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love just as I have kept my father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. My command is this. Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no 1 than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends. For everything that I learned from my father, I have made known to you. You did not choose me.

But I chose you, and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And so that whatever you ask in my name, the father will give you. This is my command. Love each other. Each and every 1 of us, has an inner desire to be fruitful, whether it's to create in various forms like music, like We think cooking, building, dancing, playing.

Or if it's contributing to society, doing something meaningful, being hospitable, having a family, having a career, growing, developing, nourishing, blessing. We're not created just to scroll. Consume and do nothing. It's 1 of the reasons there's problems with social media because often, it's a fruitless exercise. It's 1 of the reasons lockdowns were so difficult because being locked up and not being allowed to do anything is not how we're designed to live, It's 1 of the reasons why the fellow scheme was always flawed because the problem it was trying to address at its core was not an economic problem.

It was a theological problem. We were made to use our traits talents, gifts, and abilities for creative, useful, joyful, fruit bearing. In Vauxhall station where I pass through to get to work, they often have daily inspirational quotes And 1 last week said, Bloom wherever you're planted. So that's amazing. Bloom wherever you're planted, that's A Christian inspirational quote, we have something within us that wants to bloom, something within us that wants to flourish and be fruitful.

And in this passage, Jesus makes sense of this inner desire that we experience because he shows us that the purpose of our lives is to bear fruit to the glory of God. And the way that we do it is by abiding in him, We are fruits bearing branches, and he is the vine, he is the roots. We cannot bear fruit without him. Let's look firstly at what Jesus wants for our lives. He wants us to bear much fruits.

So our first point, the purpose of our lives is to bear much fruit to the glory of God. The purpose of our lives is to bear much fruit to the glory of God. Remember, where we are in John's Gospel, It's the day before Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus has been with his disciples, he's washed their feet, predicted his betrayal and denial foretold his death and his glorification, and he told them he's going away. And where he goes, they cannot come, and they respond by saying, Lord, you're leaving us?

You're leaving us? We we we don't know where you're going. What are we gonna do, Lord? This would have been incredibly difficult for them. The hardest trial they'd ever experienced, their lord was about to leave them.

But as we saw in John 14 last week, he's promised them his spirits, he's promised them the advocates, the comforter to be with them. And as part of this final address, these departing words of Jesus where he's fleshing out what true discipleship looks like before he goes. He gives this amazing metaphor. I am the vine. You are the branches.

First 3, if you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit apart from me, you can do nothing. Then they say, this is to my father's glory, that you bear much fruits, Showing yourselves to be my disciples, Jesus is telling them to bear much fruit True discipleship means bearing much fruit. This may be familiar language to us because fruit is used throughout the bible, to describe the Christian life. Right at the beginning of the bible in Genesis 1, God, it says, God created mankind in his image, And God bless them, and God said, be fruitful and multiply, being created in God's image. Immediately was followed by this blessing to be fruitful and multiply.

Then, right at the end of the bible, In Revelation 22, John has this vision of Eden restored, and this life giving fruits which is the healing salvation of God, is extended by God's people to all nations, Isn't that amazing? So the theme of bearing fruit is throughout scripture, the people of God, of fruit bearing people. God did not create you. I wish I came up with this, but I didn't. 1 writer said, God did not create you, and Christ did not die for you that you might go through life getting God created you and Christ purchased you that you might invest your life giving.

If you refuse to bear fruits, you'll miss the true meaning of the Christian life, and the complete joy that Jesus promises, did you notice that in verse 11? He says, I had told you this, that your joy may be complete, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. We live in a hungry and parched well, that is crying out for fruit, crying out for the vitamins from good fruits. God has called us, and has has given us this privilege to be 1 of his branches to bear fruit for him, for his glory, and for our joy. And we need to understand that in order for us to truly live, to truly be human actually, We need to know what we were born for.

There's no identity crisis here. There's no what am I doing with my life moments. God has chosen us to bear fruit for his glory. That's what it means to be fully alive. The picture of fruit is so helpful because the the fruits that a brand produces isn't for itself.

The fig tree doesn't eat the fig. The vine doesn't eat the grape. Now, it nourishes others. That's its purpose. It's 4 others.

Or seeds are planted to bear fruit in seasons to come. The purpose of our lives is to bear much fruit to the glory of God. This makes some sense of this desire within us to flourish, to be fruitful. Jesus tells us that's what we're here to do. So how are we gonna do it?

The answer to that is really simple in theory, but really hard in practice. So bear much fruit to the glory of God by abiding in Christ. So our second point in order to bear much fruit, we must abide in Him Jesus says, I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener. Best 1. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruits, Well, 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've spoken to you, remain in me as I also 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. Jesus says to remain to abide in him because we are fruit bearing branches, and here's the vine. He's not just a vine, but he starts by saying, He's the true vine. Israel was called a vine, so the disciples would have known this.

And they would have known the the association of Israel with the vine actually became negative in the old testaments because Israel wasn't rooted in the lord, and therefore, failed to produce good fruits, Jesus is contrasting this fruitless nation of Israel with himself. It's only through him Will God's people ever be able to produce good fruits? He is the true vine. He's saying, there will be others coming after me. Claiming to be the Christ, claiming to be the way in which you can have life, and you can bear fruit, take no notes to them.

Don't get distracted. I am the true vine. Bear fruit in me, abide in me. If the branch doesn't remain in the vine, it will die. What does a gardener do to dead branches?

Cut them off. The father is the gardener. That's what that's what Jesus says in verse 1, the vine dresser. He takes away the branches that bear no fruits, The dead, non bearing fruits, with no signs of life or no no no buds of potential fruits, They're dead branches, and they're destroyed. If we have this massive, great, impressive branch but it's got no fruit.

What's the point of it? It's dead. It's useless. So cut it off. Because fruitlessness not only causes trouble, which we'll see shortly, and threatens the vine.

But also Rob's God of his glory. He's got no right to be there. So let it be taken away by the divine gardener who is too wise to make mistakes. Did you see that Jesus says, he cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit in verse 2. Hang on.

How does that work? How can a branch be in me and yet be cut off? It wasn't too long ago. In John chapter 6, that Jesus said all those the father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never cast them out. Remember that?

How can a branch be in me and yet be cut off? Well, in that same chapter, Jesus said, some there are some of you do not truly believe There are disciples who are not true disciples, believers who are not true believers, even out of the 12 chosen disciples, Jesus knew 1 would betray him. And in the same way, there are branches who are not true branches. They're in me, But they're not truly in me. That is who the father cuts off.

Without coming to the life giving true vine, We have no life. We are not born again. Jesus has just said in John 14, I am the way and the truth and the life no 1 comes to the father except through me. We need to make sure we're truly in Christ. It's really important that we get this.

If you haven't come to the way to the father, if you haven't come to Jesus, the truth and the life for your salvation. You are dead? So the first priority It's to believe in Jesus Christ in order to save your soul. God has sent him into the world as Savior to deal with our sin, so come to him. If we think we have, we could even say we have, but it's just an external show That's a dangerous place to be, because that is the vine.

That is the branch that is in me, but not in me. Trusting in him for our salvation is all that matters. If we don't have living union with Christ, If we haven't come to him for life, we are dead branches. We won't bear fruits, and so the father cuts us off. But those who are truly in Christ, the the fruit bearing branches, the father, the gardener, prunes, Did you see that in verse 2?

So that they may bear much fruit just as the glory of a gardener is in the abundance of their fruit of their crops. Just when you go to someone's house and they show you their massive marrows that they've that they've grown or that tomatoes or whatever it is, and they delight in you enjoying them. Jesus says, my father is glorified, when you bear much fruits. If the purpose of our lives is to be fruitful to the glory of God, then it makes sense that God would prune the branch so that it bears as much fruit as it possibly can. I've been researching gardening.

I'm not a gardener, but it's it's been surprising to me, the amount of meticulous care finds take to be kept at optimum health and performance Without pruning, you've got leaves everywhere, you've got shoots everywhere, it's a tangled mess, and it almost welcomes disease like milled you and Batritus, which gets into the the great bunches, and Paul says, don't know why you're laughing? And and causes causes the grapes to rot. Without pruning the vine, you get that, or the vine's overstretched. Which means that you get lots of little sour grapes, which are useless. And then, the next year, it doesn't produce as much fruits.

But by sniffing the the buds, the gardener regulates the crop. So we get not only better fruit now, but we have a healthier plan for years to come. At the time of pruning, it seems like a completely counter intuitive exercise. 1 a horticulturalist described pruning as heart wrenching because he has to make difficult decisions to cut back the vines he's raised from saplings, But an experienced buying dresser knows it's for the best, and sees beyond each individual action See years and years of sustained healthy, juicy, fruit. Our fruitfulness is maximized by the father's pruning.

Can you see how amazing this metaphor this metaphor is? The intentional care of the vine dresser is what separates a wild vine, which is good only for choking trees from a tended vine that produces the best fruits. Without the father's pruning, we would be a tangled mess. Our souls would be diseased by sin, which so easily entangles The little foxes that spoil the vineyards, and we will produce sour, useless grapes. I don't need to tell you that the pruning knife of the divine gardener is painful.

I don't need to tell you that because it hurts, doesn't it? It's humbling, but we diminish our fruit bearing potential. If we resist it. But as we abide in Jesus, as his word abides in us, the spirit convicts us of our sin We see ourselves for who we are before a Holy God, and it the the spirit reveals our sin within us, and helps us address it so that we can be obedient, so that we can bear more fruits, that is to the father's glory It's a painful exercise, but how much more fruit would we bear if we submitted to God's will and asked him to abide in us? Well, what does it actually mean to abide?

When we we've seen that We're only alive, we're only fruit bearing if we have this living union with Christ. That's when we're justified. That once for all, union with Christ in coming to Jesus for our salvation, that's the heart of the gospel. That union forms the basis for communion with Christ remaining in him, where we have a moment by moment fellowship with the Lord. Hudson Taylor, the founder of China in the Mission, led hundreds of missionaries in the mid nineteenth century to reach inner China for the first time, God used this man powerfully in Reena's biography at the moment, it's just incredible, incredible.

And he lived out so many of the principles of this passage. He was fruit bearing. He was selfless. He asked only the lord to provide. And in talking about all the incredible ways that God used him, His son says that he was a man who truly understar understood the abiding of John 15.

This was a man, and and I said of him, nothing could satisfy him, but unbroken fellowship with God And he would often ask himself, am I now living as near to God as possible? I think that's a great question to ask And I think summarizes this idea of abiding in Christ because that was Hudson Taylor's goal. The fruit came after, am I now living as near to God as possible? The more we know Christ, The more we live near to God, the more we become like him. So we need his word to abide in us.

We need to know him and pursue him Personally, that's abiding, feeding, being fed by his word, meditating on it day and night like that psalm 1 image, of the fruit bearing tree, allowing the words to renew our minds to stay in us and dwell in us, Richly, We've got no chance of bearing fruit if we don't remain in him, and if his word doesn't remain in us, there's no way we can have any effect by ourselves without Christ, that's exactly what he says in verse 5. I am the vine you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, You will bear much fruits. Apart from me, he can do nothing. Jesus is very clear that we are nothing without him.

We can do nothing without him. This is something that we need to relearn time and time again, isn't it? When things go well, we when we see fruit worked out in our lives, we can praise the Lord, and we can say, none of this would have happened without you. But then we also need to catch ourselves. For that moment, we even begin to think that any fruit could have happened by ourselves.

Without Christ, nothing is impossible. Without Christ, nothing is impossible. And that's a double negative, isn't it? What's the flip side of that? It's Philippians 4.

With Christ, everything is possible. Without Christ, I can do nothing. With Christ, I can do everything. We've seen that the purpose of our lives is to bear fruits to the glory of God. We can only do that by abiding in the true vine Jesus and remaining in him.

That's when we're alive. That's where the father can prune us and do his work in us, and that's when we are joined up with him. Okay? Maybe you're wondering now what is this fruit? What types of grapes are we growing here, Jesus?

Jesus mentioned something 9 times in this passage. Did you notice what it was? Third points, love each other. John 15 verse 12, my command is this. Love each other as I have loved you.

This is my command. Verse 17, love each other. Jesus's going away. He's sending the disciples out to the world. He says in verse 16, go and bear fruits?

What does that look like? Of all the things Jesus could say in this moment, Of all the tips, of all the life hacks he could give, he distills everything into 1 command, love each other as I have loved you. Love each other as I have loved you He shows how he will love them in verse 13, greater love has no 1 than this to lay down one's life for one's friends. Jesus is saying, you must continue to love each other with that same love that I exercise. When I go to the cross, and lay down my life for those who are truly my friends.

Wow. Amazing love, how can it be that thou my God should die for me. While we were still sinners, enemies of God Christ died for us, greater love has no 1 than this. Obviously, this can't be replicated in every sense. The sacrifice of Jesus, suffering for us in can never be replicated.

That love is completely unique. But the self sacrificing nature of it can be imitated. Jesus says that in our love for 1 another, we must be like him. And be willing to deny ourselves we saw that this morning, didn't we? The only way we can deny ourselves is in light of the love of Christ.

On the cross. That is sick sacrificial love. A few years ago, I had a company off-site, and we were doing this workshop about our values and how we were gonna treat 1 another and stuff. And people were saying, you know, honesty, they wanted transparency, they wanted to be open with each other. And I put my hand up and said to be sacrificial, And it was met with so much confusion.

And actually just like really angry angry stares. So much so. Someone actually put the hand up and said, I think sacrificial's a bit too far. Jesus says, our sacrificial love for each other will show ourselves to be his disciples. What an opportunity to witness?

What an opportunity for distinctive living? Loving each other sacrificially. It's so different to the world. The default view of our world is to look within to flourish, to love yourself, to to take care of number 1 first. Yeah.

Okay. I'll, you know, help out with the food bank, but on my terms, No. Jesus says, lay down your life and love me by loving others. That's the key to true human flourishing. That's what being alive really looks like.

Have you been at the receiving end of this love of Christ worked out in his church? Isn't it amazing? Isn't it such a blessing to your soul? And isn't it an amazing witness to others when you tell others of what someone in the church has done for you? They can't get their head around it.

They really can't. I've had it multiple times of sharing the examples of the love that we've experienced from this church my non Christian friends, and they cannot get their head around it. You know, why why why would you do a meal training for someone who's just had a baby? Why would you why would you put 63 events on for shared life? Because of the love of Jesus for us.

That's why we do it. When you receive that love of Jesus worked out in his people, Doesn't it make you wanna keep going? Doesn't it make you wanna go out and and do something for him? It spares us on. Not only are we blessed, but they are blessed too.

That's the way that this vine keeps growing. And keeps bearing fruits. I found this hugely challenging preparing this. And That's because I'm so selfish and so impatient and unlovable. And I'm struck by what Jesus says that apart from him, we can do nothing.

Apart from him, we cannot love each other, That's why we need to ask the Lord's help if we are to follow this radical command. Because let's be honest, it is radical, Jesus repeats what he said in John 14, twice here in verse 7 and verse 16. It's almost as if he wants us to get it. Ask whatever you wish, and it'll be done for you. Obviously, we don't take this in isolation, but when you see Jesus flow here, God's will for you is to bear much fruit for his glory.

You do that by abiding in me and my word abiding in you. When my word abides in you, you will lay my will. My father will prune all of the rubbish out. You will become more like me, you will love what I love, you will hate what I hate, and you will see that my command for you is to love each other. And so when you ask me, to help you to love each other.

I'm gonna do it. Imagine what it could look like for us if we were people who truly kept this, who remained in Jesus, who had his word remain in us, who did everything truly in Jesus. He asked for bold things, who loved each other as he commands, All for his glory, wow, what are people? What an image? 2 brief points of applications on the line before we close.

Firstly, to live is to be fruitful, to be fruitful, is to love. To live is to be fruitful, to be fruitful is to love. The secret of living is to bear fruit to the glory of God. That's what we were made for, not to live for ourselves but to love God and love others. It's interesting after the apostle Paul writes about the fruits of the spirit in his letter to the churches in Malaysia.

He tells them to carry each other's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. Then he says, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers, Carrying each other's burdens, doing good to all people, especially those who are our brothers and sisters. Sacrificially looking out for others and thinking, how can I love this brother this week? How can I bless this sister this week? That is how we live as Christ commands.

That is how we embrace the inner desire we have to bear fruit When we get this, when we really get this, that life is not about gain. It's about giving. That's when we are fully alive. To live is to be fruitful, to be fruitful is to love. Secondly, only when we remain in him can we really love?

Only when we remain in him, can we really love The only way we can do that which we have been created to do is if we abide. The bible says, draw near to god, and he will draw near to you. Pursuing God, depending on God, enjoying God being fed by his word. These are daily habits, but also daily battles of the Christian without abiding. We lose sight of the love of Jesus.

We become lukewarm. We won't be able to love others as he has called us to. Only when we remain in him, can we really love? Can we really be fired up about sharing the love of Jesus to those around us. Only when we remain in him, can we really love?

Maybe, as we've considered what this passage calls us to do. Some of it's hard to hear if we really let it penetrate it's really hard to hear because it's just so different to how we have been restaurant with from the world in in terms of how to live. The world has told us to just care about ourselves, and this says, love others. Maybe you've been aware of the father's pruning, and you've not let him cut away that which needs to be dealt with in your heart? Maybe that's why you feel like you're not in that close communion with God right now?

Maybe you feel like the season you're in isn't a fruitful 1. Maybe you find it hard to be in the word to sacrificially love others. Jesus says, in verse 3, You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. If you've come to Christ, truly for repentance, you are already clean.

In Greek, the word for prune in verse 2, so when the the when the father prunes, It's the same as the word for cleanse, and the word for clean in verse 3 is a related word. Not gonna try and pronounce it, but if you see it in the Greek, it's very similar. It's clear that Jesus is making a play on words. He's saying, you are already cleansed. You are already pruned.

You are already righteous. And justified and capable of bearing fruit? You are you are already united to me. And then he says in verse 16, I chose you. You didn't choose me.

I chose you. And appointed you that you might go and bear fruit, fruits that will last. So let us remain in him. Only then, can we love others and really live? Take a minute, and then I'll hand over to Rory.

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