Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Title: I Am the True Vine
Scripture Text: John 15:1-17
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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 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.
This Sunday was to be Kindergarten Sunday. However due to COVID-19, we are unable to have the children present a praise item. Nevertheless, let’s continue to remember the CCKBC Kindergarten in prayer.
Last Sunday, Ps Luwin helpfully brought us through a passage from Philippians. He helped us to understand what it meant for us to ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling’.
Ps Luwin further mentioned that for us, it meant not to subscribe to ‘Doctrinal Christianity’. Instead that our faith should affect our Heads, Our Hearts and our Hands.
Essentially our faith should be understood and lived out.
In today’s Hermon Herald, our sister Rebecca has written her reflection of being a Christian Kindergarten teacher.
One incident she shares is that of eating carrots. Teachers have to be consistent with what they teach children and what the children see in the teacher’s own behaviour as well.
Her testimony also emphasizes this point, that we need to walk our talk.
So modelling is important and last week we saw 2 great testimonies of Christians who lived out their faith. The testimony of Timothy and that of Epaphroditus.
For those who have not been worshipping with us for long, as a church in 2020, we are going through the prison epistles. Letters, Paul wrote when he was in prison to the various churches in Asia Minor.
We have journeyed through Ephesians, are half way through Philippians and will preach through Colossians next.
Across all 3 letters, we will realize that Paul has consistently emphasized that our belief and understanding of the faith must be lived out. We can see this in the following verses:
Eph 4:1 urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called
Phil 1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ
Col 1:10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him
I pray that as we go through today’s passage from John 15, we will see that Paul was just imitating Christ.
And here, because we are a BP church, I would like to address this good tendency of ours to always be seeking a deeper understanding of the bible.
It’s in our DNA to be intellectually curious.
May we be reminded that it is equally important that we seek to live it out.
I submit, it will be beneficial, if at every stage of our spiritual growth in knowledge, that we also ask the question – how is what I know, transforming me to be more Christ-like.
In our quest for a more accurate and deeper understanding of God’s word, let’s also pause to work out its implications and applications upon our lives.
May I share with all of us the 5 sermon outline points.
(1) The significance of Jesus Being The True Vine
Today’s ‘I Am’ saying is the last of the 7 ‘I Am’ sayings in John’s Gospel. I’m sure most of us are familiar with the 7 of them.
For the first audience, ‘I Am’ is the name of Yahweh who revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:14). And so with this title name, Jesus is claiming that He is God. He is divine.
To the first audience, that’s a very huge claim. That’s a claim that can get someone stoned to death for blasphemy.
And Jesus tops it, by saying ‘I Am the True Vine’.
To understand this significance, we need to remember that this analogy of the vine is a popular metaphor in the bible.
For the 1st century audience, they would immediately associate the nation of Israel with the Vine. An example is in Psalm 80.
Ps 80:8 You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
Other passages we could refer to would be Jeremiah 2:21.
Israel was God’s chosen Vine but history has shown that Israel has proven time and time again to be fruitless.
This can be clearly seen in the first 7 verses of God’s rejection of Israel in Isaiah chapter 5.
I’ll just highlight 2 verses:
Is 5:3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
So 1 bible commentator says:
“Theologically, John’s point is that Jesus displaces Israel as the focus of God’s plan of salvation with the implication that faith in Jesus becomes the decisive characteristic for membership among God’s people.”
As Israel was fruitless, Jesus is fruitful. Jesus fulfills everything that Israel could not.
And so Ps 80, prophesies in v15 that there will come in the future, a man who will be the True Vine, the one who will bring forth good fruit, the man Jesus of Nazareth.
Church, the implication for us today, if we accept that Jesus is the True Vine, then we need to be careful how we see the political nation of Israel.
It may not be accurate to associate political Israel with biblical Israel.
And if Jesus is the True Vine, then it also means True Israel consist of all who have placed their faith in Jesus.
Thus, because Jesus is the divine True Vine, to be connected to Jesus, is to be connected to God.
So, only in Christ, are both Jews and Gentles united in one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
(2) The sign of connecting with the True Vine
As we look at these 17 verses, we see 2 words which are constantly repeated. The first word is abide. We see this repeated 11 times.
The 2nd word is fruit. And this is repeated 8 times.
And so because of this emphasis, we know that this is very important truth which the Apostle John is trying to get across.
John 15’s context is Jesus’ farewell discourse with his disciples before Gethsemane. Jesus is preparing them that he will be departing soon.
Yet they are not to feel abandoned because He will continue to be with them spiritually.
Like the Vine to the Branches, so too will Jesus’ enabling continue to flow through the disciples.
And so we thank God that for all of us, who live between Jesus’ 2 comings, He continues to give us the strength, wisdom and desire to live for Him.
Now the sequence we observe between ‘abide’ and ‘fruit’ is that abide comes first followed by fruit. So fruit is the sign that we are abiding in Jesus the Vine.
This means that a personal relationship with Jesus is the first and foremost priority.
To abide, means to endure, to stay, to remain, to continue. All this also shows that it is an ongoing relationship that we must have with Jesus the Vine.
So the grace of God brings us into a relationship with Jesus the True Vine and if we want to have life and continue to have life, we need to faithfully abide in Jesus.
Scripture thus answers for us the question – how do we know we are abiding in Jesus?
The sign of abiding is when there is fruit.
And we know that fruit on the vine is visible. It can be seen, it can be witnessed to.
This implies that there cannot be any fruitless Christian. There is no excuse then for a believer to say, I’m not bearing any fruit.
A branch connected to the Vine has no say in bearing fruit. It just does. And so if we are truly connected to Jesus, we will bear fruit.
So this means, don’t worry about the sign, work on the relationship. When the relationship is fine, the fruit will appear.
Now we may then ask, what might this fruit be? Let’s then turn to a familiar passage from Galatians.
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The 2nd half of John 15 speaks about persecution. Could it be that even under such hash and challenging situations, Jesus is saying, if you abide in me, you can still exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.
Paul was abiding in Christ the Vine when though he was imprisoned, he was able to say ‘I want you to know that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel’ Phil 1:12.
Timothy must have been abiding in Christ the Vine when he is described as having genuine concerned for the welfare of the Philippian believers.
Epaphroditus must have been abiding in Christ the Vine when he served in the work of Christ even to the point of near death.
Church, may our lives, show that we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires and now exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.
Let us take comfort that such a high calling is possible. Because so long as a branch abides, it will produce the fruit in which the Vine enables it to produce.
(3) The means of abiding in the True Vine
In these 17 verses, I submit Scripture also show us the means of abiding in Christ.
V10 says, 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.
So the first means of abiding in Christ is obedience to the commandments of God. Obedience is an attitude isn’t it.
But we know that pride hinders obedience. Pride makes us think that our way is better and that only we should determine our own destiny.
Obedience, however shows that we are humble towards God’s will, we desire to please God and to be in His good pleasure.
Obedience I would like to submit also is a work of God in our hearts. It is God who helps us to embrace that His will for our lives is good and perfect.
Remember Philippians 2:13 – for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Let me be honest. I struggled with obedience especially with regards to my calling to ministry.
Why would I want to enter such a trying profession, when I could serve God as a lay person? I had a long list of justification why I should just be a lay member.
But the turning point came when I yielded in obedience.
Now before I yielded, I likely would say, coming into ministry was a huge sacrifice. But after yielding in obedience, I don’t feel it is a sacrifice anymore.
Instead, I’m seeing it more and more as an awesome privilege.
Now, I’m amazed that God even chose me. For I’m lacking in many areas of character, competency and capacity.
Today, are we facing any challenges of obedience towards our abiding in Christ the Vine? If so, maybe we need to check our pride?
Look with me now at v7. “if you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.”
v15 ‘for all that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you.’
We see here that Jesus graciously reveals God’s heart to us. This revelation we know comes in the form of Scripture, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
So the 2nd means of abiding is to abide in God’s Word.
Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
A song believing parents teach children – read your bible pray every day. Read your bible pray every day and you will grow, grow, grow.
Are we setting a good example for our next generation by abiding in Christ the Vine through daily bible reading? If we are, praise God for that!
There is a current initiative of the Youth Ministry. For our Youth Group Leaders to contact individual youths and have a 15 min devotion each day.
Each devotion will be centred on a portion of Scripture.
Parents would you encourage your youth towards this daily time of devotions?
CG Members, I trust that we are all tasting the goodness of God’s word as we meet weekly during CG Open Month.
In all ways, let us continue to abide in God’s Word together.
The 3rd means of abiding is prayer. V7 intertwines Scripture and Prayer and v15 & 16 does the same thing too.
Prayer, we know is communicating and communing with God. And those who are in a right relationship with God, He will grant their request.
When we abide in the attitude of obedience and by depending on Scripture, I submit, our communication with God, will be according to God’s will.
Prayer is not demanding God fulfil our wishes, prayer is saying, Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Prayer is us abiding in God and conforming our will to His. Such a prayer is what our Triune God is well pleased to answer.
We thank God that our church prayer meeting attendance has increased during this pandemic. May I encourage more to join in. It’s only twice a month and you can join us from the comfort of your homes.
Church, with all of us staying home most of the time, let’s fortify our habits and live out the children’s song. Let us read our bibles and pray every day.
(4) The blessings given by the True Vine
To encourage us to persevere in the means of abiding, I submit that today’s passage describes to us the 4 blessings of abiding.
Firstly, we have the blessing of experiencing God’s love. V9 says, as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
When we abide in Jesus, we experience the fullness of God’s love in and through Jesus Christ.
The truth is that for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son. The fullness of God’s love towards us is Jesus, who is Emmanuel, God with us.
Scripture says, greater love has no one that this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Holy Communion is our reminder of the costly sacrifice of God’s Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And so we sing – And can it be, that I should gain, an interest in the Saviour’s blood. Died he for me, who cause his pain … O how can it be that thou my God should die for me!
May I invite us all to come to church on any Sunday. And let us as one body, partake of Communion and remember the sacrifice of our Redeemer and Lord.
Secondly, we are given the blessings of belonging. And this is seen in the discipline we receive.
V2, every branch that bear fruit, God the Father will prune, so that it may bear more fruit.
Heb 12:7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
Isn’t this what we tell our children too? If you are not my kid, why would I bother to waste energy to discipline you?
Let’s thus sing with grateful hearts – Now I can see testing comes from above, God strengthens His children and purges in love. My Father knows best and I trust in His care, through purging, more fruit I will bear.
The discipline we experience shows us God’s love for us as His children.
Let’s allow discipline to give us a sense of belonging, a sense of being blessed.
Thirdly, v11 says, these things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.
The blessings of Joy is that we have gladness and happiness which is not dependent on circumstances nor mood.
Nehemiah 8, tells us of the turning back of the hearts of the people towards God, as Ezra read from the Torah and explained its meaning to them.
As Scripture began to convict them, they began to weep in repentance. In v10, Nehemiah said, do not grieve, for this day is holy to the Lord, instead the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Nehemiah is saying, the life-giving Word of God that cuts our hearts and turns us back to God is for our good. It will result in us experiencing the joy of the Lord and that will be our strength.
Church, the blessings of abiding in Christ is the joy of the Lord. And in the challenging times ahead, this will be our strength, every moment of every day.
Finally, the blessings of godly friendship. V12 and v17 says, love one another as I have loved you.
When we each abide in Christ, we will love one another as how Christ has loved us. What a wonderful experience that will be.
It will mean we will forgive others just as how Christ forgives us. We will not hold grudges. We will seek to mend our strained relationships instead of avoiding each other.
We will be patient as how Christ is patient. We will be gentle, we will be kind as how Christ is with us. We will seek to understand even more than seeking to be understood.
The extend of such friendship is found in Ephesians 2:14 ‘For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the diving wall of hostility.’
Jews and Gentiles, bitter enemies have been reconciled in Christ.
Church, Scripture has given us such a wonderful picture of the community of branches that are abiding in Christ the Vine.
Our theme this year is ‘Keep strengthening our roots’.
As our roots cling tightly to Christ, may Christ the Vine help us become the community of John 15.
(5) The goals of remaining in the True Vine
Finally, the goals of remaining. John 15 I submit shows us 2 goals.
The first is v8 “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.’
The glorification of God the Father is the goal of us abiding in Jesus the Vine. And Scripture says, that Jesus will bring God glory, when we, His disciples bear fruit by abiding in Him.
To give glory is to magnify, to give the highest honour and upmost praise. It means then that we are to flee from actions, words and thoughts that will bring dishonour to God’s name.
This is the season where many students are making great sacrifices for their major exams coming up. Our Olympic athletes have also been given another year to sacrifice and train hard for glory.
But all this glory is earthy and temporal.
In contrast, the death and resurrection of Jesus has bought us redemption and eternal life.
There thus cannot be any sacrifice too big for us to give unto God, the glory and honour that is due His name.
Should not 10,000 Reason always be on our lips – Even till that day, when my strength is failing, The end draws near, And my time has come, Still my soul will sing Your praise unending, Ten thousand years, And then forevermore.
And let us pray that the world will realize that we truly mean what we sing, for they see congruence in our daily testimony.
Church, giving God glory is a worthwhile all-encompassing life goal of every Christian. There can be no other higher calling.
The 2nd goal of abiding in Christ, flows out from the first – it is being God’s witness. V16, says bear fruit that will abide.
So the question is what fruit last forever? Only the souls of man do that.
In John 13:35, Jesus said by this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.
Abiding in Jesus, enables us to be his loving disciples and so witness for Jesus to a selfish and sinful world.
In Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan women at the well in John 4, Jesus associates fruit with new believers.
Jn 4:35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
The goal of abiding in Jesus is that through our fruit that our lives produce, others may come to also know and believe in Jesus Christ the True Vine.
I trust that we have become familiar with the hymn Servants of the Gospel. It has been deliberately chosen for the Philippian sermons.
And its lyrics are apt:
As servants of the gospel, Christ’s work we carry on, That through our prayer and witness, By grace we might win some. We call on every nation, To turn to Christ the Lord, Refuge in His mercy, And marvel at His love.
Church, Jesus says to all of us, 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.
Let us pray – Thank you Jesus for being the True Vine. Thank you choosing us and for giving us life. We thank you that when we faithfully abide in you, we will bear fruit that will glorify our Heavenly Father. In Jesus Name, Amen.