What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Our church vision is to help people follow Jesus Christ both inside and outside of Grace Fellowship Church. We believe that when we follow Jesus’ teachings and example that we live the very best life possible.
We believe this because we believe the claims of the Gospels about God, Jesus, Us and life. When we believe we obey. When we trust we follow!
In our passage today we have an agricultural analogy that describes what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
What is the purpose of any plant that we have in a food garden? It is meant to produce food. What is the definition of a successful garden? It is one that produces the food that is planted.
Not every garden is successful. In fact, it has been my experience that every garden is different!
So, how does this passage describe what it means to follow Jesus? Well, first of all, we have to accept the fundamental truths of the passage! We must abide in Christ in order to bear fruit!
- We Must Trust Jesus as the True Source of Life
- This starts with God as the Gardener
This is a good way to think of God. It is the original analogy of what God is like in the Bible. God is described in Genesis 1 as the Creator of all that is. God brings light to darkness, form to formlessness and fills the emptiness of what He forms. And He does this in a manner that is beautiful and useful.
Genesis 2 is the explanation of Creation from the perspective of man. God creates a garden. So, God is the gardener. And we are all living in His garden!
The gardener decides what to plant, the gardener decides what fruit He wants produced. God has planted His image inside of all people. That is what He wants produced in us. Jesus is the image of the invisible God! So, that is what we are to look like.
- Jesus is God’s grape vine
Grapes are very interesting in the way that they grow.
A grapevine is made up of two different parts.
The first part of the grapevine is the trunk or in this case it is called the vine. That trunk is the support system for the branches.
The trunk provides nutrients. The trunk allows for greater fruitfulness because it is much more mature than the branches!
The trunk provides protection from native diseases and bugs that exist in the soil that the branches will be harmed by.
- We are to cooperate with Christ in bearing fruit
Branches bear the fruit
Branches must be attached to the vine in order to bear fruit.
We have the opportunity to glorify and please God by bearing the fruit that He desires from us.
The fruit that God desires from us is for our lives to reflect His character and values.
Patience, kindness, not jealous or proud or selfish etc.
Having God as our God,
not using a physical idol to represent Him,
Not misrepresenting or bringing shame to His name
Entering into His Sabbath rest
Not murdering, bearing false witness against our neighbor, committing adultery, stealing, honoring our parents and not coveting.
When we consider our lives, we see that we are not as fruitful as we can be, so God works to maximize our fruitfulness. He prunes us.
Pruning as it relates to a grapevine is the process of removing what hinders fruit bearing. This is what God says He will do in our lives.
- We Have Need of Pruning
- There are things in our lives that need to go
There are things in our lives that draw us away from bearing fruit.
There may be forms of entertainment that fix our minds on attitudes that hinder fruitfulness.
There are advertisements and shows that would seek to makes us love money. Loving money has got to be pruned from our lives.
Revenge has got to be pruned from our lives.
Pride has got to be pruned from our lives.
Selfishness, hatefulness, bitterness, unforgiveness etc.
- The purpose of change is for us to bear fruit
While this is may be painful, it is not about punishment, but usefulness or fruitfulness.
God allows difficulties in our lives so we might see areas of our lives that need to change.
Be careful about looking at other people and what God is doing in their lives and comparing. You can’t see what God is doing in other people’s lives. And it doesn’t matter anyway. God does not say that He will do in our lives what He is doing in someone else’s life, except that if we will abide in Christ we will bear much fruit!
Fruit is what God desires from us as a part of His creation. He wants people to reflect His character.
- God decides what needs to be cut away
He is the Gardener.
He has tools that help to prune: fasting, prayer and giving are the big three.
Fasting fights against sensual pleasure addiction
Prayer fights against pride and self-sufficiency.
Giving fights against greed.
Ephesians 4: put off what belongs to the flesh, renew your thinking about what is good and what you need for life. And put on the character and behavior of Jesus! This putting off, mind renewal and putting on is what it means to abide in Jesus. And if we are going to bear fruit…
III. We Must Abide in Jesus
- This means we remain in Jesus’ teaching
John 8:12 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Whoever follows Me will have the light of life.
John 8: 31-32 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
If you hold to Jesus’ teaching you will know the truth and be truly free. It is His Disciples who do this.
Matthew 7: 24-27 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
- God promises to act on our behalf
v.5 bear much fruit (You will do this!)
v.7 ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you
(God will do this!)
Remember that we are living in God’s world. He is the Gardener. Therefore, He decides what He wants our lives to be.
God delights to bless! He wants the garden to bear fruit. This pleases Him!!! God never works against us bearing fruit!!!
- We must trust God with our lives and follow
We only need faith when things are unseen or uncertain! The unseen and uncertain is our cross. We must carry it and follow Jesus.
Matthew 16: 21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.