************ Sermon on John 15:8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 13, 2000
"Who am I?" "Why am I here?" We must answer these questions correctly if life is to have any meaning or purpose. The man who calls a wrench a screwdriver, and who tries to use it as a screwdriver, is heading for frustration and failure. Likewise, the person who does not know who he is will experience the same kind of frustration and failure.
The Christian need not have an identity crisis. In today's Bible reading Jesus tells us who we are and why we are here.
We are branches, and Jesus is the vine. We are here to bear fruit. As our Lord Himself says,
(Jn 15:5) "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit ..."
Today, in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, we've been reminded of our union with Christ. We've been reminded that we draw life and nourishment from Christ the vine. Today, our souls have been refreshed and nourished by Christ. And, like any branch that draws nourishment, we must now bear fruit. Once you accept this simple fact, you are on the way to making your life meaningful and useful.
I Disciples of Christ Bear Fruit
A The reason God saved you and me is to bear fruit in this world. Over and over again the message of our Bible passage is that God looks for fruit in the lives of those He has saved:
-verse 2 - like a gardener, God looks for branches that bears fruit.
-verse 5 - God expects branches attached to the vine to bear fruit.
-verse 8 - fruitbearing is a sign of discipleship.
-verse 16 - God chose us and appointed us to go and bear fruit.
Those who have been saved and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb are expected to lead and to live the converted life, the life of gratitude, a life filled with good works, a life overflowing with fruit:
Topic: ConversionIt could hardly be more dramatic – from symbols of hatred to bandages of love because they were saved and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Subtopic: Examples of
Title: Hatred to Love
The American Red Cross was gathering supplies, medicine, clothing, food, and the like for the suffering people of an African drought and civil war. Inside one of the boxes that showed up at the collection depot one day was a letter. It said, "We have recently been converted and because of our conversion we want to try to help. We won't ever need these again. Can you use them for something?" Inside the box was several Ku Klux Klan sheets. The Red Cross cut the sheets into strips and eventually used them to bandage the wounds of blacks in Africa.
B Why does our heavenly Father want fruit in the lives of those He has saved and redeemed? Jesus says in our text, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit ..." The Father is glorified when we bear fruit. I remember when my dad would take my grandfather or my uncles on a crop inspection tour of his fields. When they complimented him on his crops, my dad would beam with pride. Good crops, bountiful gardens, beautiful flower beds all reflect well on the farmer or the gardener. Jesus says that the Father is like a farmer or gardener:
(Jn 15:1,8) "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener ... This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit ..."
Our heavenly Gardener is glorified when we, His vineyard, produce much fruit. Of course, as you all should know, we have been created and we live for the Father's glory. And, we bear fruit for God's glory.
But there is also another reason why we bear fruit. Think of an apple tree for a moment. Why does one of its branches produce apples? The branch bears apples not for itself to eat, but for others to eat. Likewise, we bear fruit not for ourselves but to share with others. Our goal is not only the praise and glory of God but also the common good, my Christian brother's and sister's growth and maturity in the Christian faith and godliness (cf Rom 12:4-7; 1 Cor 12:1-11; Eph 4:7-13; 1 Pt 4:10).
C Our heavenly Father, then, looks for fruit – fruit that brings Him praise and glory and that advances the well-being of the church. And, He can find this fruit only in the lives of believers. He doesn't look to unbelievers for fruit; He looks only to those who accept Jesus as Savior and trust Him as Lord. Jesus says,
(Jn 15:4) No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.Branches can bear fruit only if they are attached to a vine or a tree. Without the vine or tree fruitbearing is a physical impossibility. Likewise, only those who are in Christ, united to Him, one with Him, can bear fruit.
D Who are you? You are branches on the vine of Christ! Why did God make you? To produce fruit! God has made you and has saved you, congregation, to bear fruit. You have tasted of the Lord's mercies today and now yours is the responsibility to bear fruit. God has put you where you are that you might accomplish His special purpose. So on this Lord's Supper Sunday I urge you to accept the glory and the responsibility of being one of Christ's branches. I urge you to bear fruit.
II The Fruit We Bear
A What is this fruit that God wants us to bear? It takes many different forms and we can mention only some of them.
Winning others to Christ is fruit. Paul wrote to the church of Rome,
(Rom 1:13) ... I planned many times to come to you ... in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.And, in his collection of wisdom sayings, Solomon could say,
(Prov 11:30) The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.
There are many pictures in Scripture of the ministry of witnessing and leading others to Christ. Jesus compared it to catching fish: "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men" (Mk 1:17). In another place Jesus compares the missionary to a reaper or harvester (Matt 9:37-38). And, Paul compares the evangelist to an ambassador (2 Cor 5:20). The prophet Zechariah pictures the soul-winner as a fireman, snatching a burning stick from a fire (Zech 3:2). These pictures tell us there are times when soul-winning is a dangerous, dramatic experience – a snatching of sticks out of a burning fire. At other times, we calmly and patiently sow the seed of the Word and ask God for a harvest. Sometimes others work with us and we cast the net into the sea and catch many fish. Again, sometimes we witness personally to one soul and as ambassadors share the good news of the Gospel.
In all of this fruitbearing work of witnessing and evangelism and missions we must remember one thing: it is God Who does this work in us and through us; we are but instruments in His hands. "Apart from me you can do nothing," says Jesus (vs 5).
It is a great joy and privilege to lead others to Christ. I remember my first time quite vividly. A boy from the first congregation I served brought his girl-friend to Catechism class. One night, after she had attended four or five sessions, they stayed afterward to ask some questions. When they were answered she wanted to know if she could join the church. "Only if you accept Jesus," I said. I witnessed to her about the Lord and then asked her, "Do you want Jesus to come into your heart?" When she nodded her head we held hands, the three of us, and I prayed. She started to shake as Satan struggled to keep his hold on her; but he couldn't for suddenly she cried for joy as the Lord's presence filled her heart. This has happened many times since then. Yet, I can't say this is the result of memorizing verses or going to seminary. It is the result of Christ's life flowing in and through me and bearing fruit.
B Another kind of spiritual fruit is holiness or the sanctified life. Holiness, sanctification, is always a two pronged endeavor. On the one hand it involves the putting off of sin and evil; on the other hand it involves the putting on of what is good, pleasing and perfect in God's sight. We are to put off such things as sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. And, we are to put on such things as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (cf Gal 5:19-23; Eph 4:25-5:8; Col 3:5-14). Love I mentioned first and it is easily the most important thing we are to put on. Love must be the most important fruit the Lord looks for because He mentions it so often – 9 times in our passage alone, 232 times throughout the New Testament (cf Mt 5:44; Mt 22:37-39; Jn 13:34-35; Jn 15:9-17; Rom 12:9; Rom 13:8-10; 1 Cor 13; 1 Cor 16:14; Gal 5:13-14; Eph 4:2; Eph 5:2; Col 3:14; Heb 10:24; James 2:8; 1 Pt 1:22; 1 Pt 4:8; 1 Jn 3:10-23; 1 Jn 4:7-21; 2 Jn 1:5-6). Love, I would have to say, is something I have seen over and over again in this church of believers.
Put off sin and put on love, joy, peace ... The image Scripture creates is that of a change of clothing. The old rags of sin and evil must be exchanged for the robes of holiness and righteousness.
Many people try to achieve holiness by means of some formula or religious discipline. The Pharisees were that way. That had their countless lists of do's and don'ts for the people to follow – 1521 for the Sabbath alone. The Christian Reformed Church at one time tended towards this kind of legalism. But no one can be holy by following rules. The Pharisees thought they were and Jesus called them hypocrites. Holiness cannot be manufactured. It is the natural consequence of life in and with Christ and apart from Christ and His Spirit it is simply impossible.
The world has substitutes for the Christian virtues, substitutes that often puts believers to shame. I have to weep when I see many unbelievers living more moral lives than believers. Yet, their substitute is not an exact duplicate. Certainly unsaved people love and are loved, but they do not have that deep agape love that comes from the heart of God. The world manufactures happiness, but it cannot manufacture that deep joy that comes from knowing Christ. You can purchase sleep – through pills or alcohol – but you cannot purchase peace of soul. All of these marvelous qualities are spiritual fruit that only the Holy Spirit can produce when we, as branches, are drawing upon the Vine of life.
I dare say that every person here wants to improve him or herself. We all have weaknesses of character and faults of lifestyle that we want to remove, and strengths that we want to develop. How do we do it? By being branches – fruitbearing branches – of the Vine. Just as nature takes on new beauty and power with the new life of Spring, so the Christian experiences new beauty when Christ's life comes in.
C A third kind of fruit is generosity, a sharing of what we possess. When Paul gathered an offering from the Gentiles for the poor saints in Jerusalem, he called the offering "fruit" (Rom 15:28). One of the characteristics of the early church was the joyful sharing of possessions. It was not communism; it was Christian compassion:
(Acts 2:44-45) All the believers were together and had everything in common. (45) Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.God has not commanded us to follow their exact example, but He has told us to share with those in need.
Giving to God and, in His name, to others, is not something we do; it is the result of what we are. When the branch receives life from the Vine, it cannot help but give. This, too, is a fruit that fills this church – not just the rich but others too are generous.
D A fourth kind of spiritual fruit is good works. Paul offers a prayer for the Christians of Colosse. He says,
(Col 1:10) And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work ...We are not saved by works but for works (cf Mt 5:16; 1 Pt 2:9). Again quoting Paul who says,
(Eph 2:10) For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works ...
The unsaved person cannot perform any good works. He is dead as far as things spiritual are concerned, and he can only do "acts that lead to death" (Heb 9:14). But when the life of Christ moves in, the result is service for God, "bearing fruit in every good work" (Col 1:10). And the beautiful thing is that they are tailor-made for each individual believer. Paul says,
(Eph 2:10) For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.God has given each one of us our own ministry to fulfill in the place He has put us: whether it is the dairy, truck, office, hospital, home, school, garden, or wherever. He has given each one of us our own peculiar combination of gifts, talents, abilities, and opportunities so that we can fulfill the ministry He had in mind from eternity for us to do. For every single believer that ministry is unique and special so that no Christian need compete with any other Christian.
E A last fruit we can mention is the praise and worship of God. The author of Hebrews exhorts us,
(Heb 13:15) Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.Praise is so very important. Praise is what we are made for. God created us to live for the praise of His name. He wants and demands our praise. The Psalmist says,
(Ps 66:8) Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard;
(Ps 96:2) Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
Praise is the language of the Kingdom of Heaven just as English is the language of the U.S.A. and Spanish is the language of Mexico. And, those who are citizens of the Kingdom, those who are branches on the Vine of Christ, speak the language of praise. Not just the words of their lips but their whole life is to be praise to God.
III Bear Much Fruit
Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches. We draw life and nourishment from the Vine, as we saw in the Lord's Supper, and must now bear fruit. Not only that, but we must also bear "more fruit" and "much fruit" (vs 2,5,8):
(Jn 15:8) This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.As time goes by there is to be more and more fruit in our lives. We are to grow and increase and progress in fruitful Christian living.
This doesn't happen automatically, nor does it happen over night. Fruitbearing is a time-consuming, beautiful process. First there are the leaves; then the flowers; then the fruit. God provides the water from beneath and the sun from above. Day by day the branches develop; day by day the fruit is produced. If you are looking for instant fruitfulness, you will be disappointed. Fruit must be cultivated.
How do we do that? Bible reading, prayer, faithful worship attendance, participation in the sacraments, Bible study, these are all ways that God has ordained for those attached to Christ to produce more and more fruit.
If you have accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord – and by coming to the Lord's Supper this morning you say that you have – then you are a branch on His vine. And now, now it is your duty, your joy, your calling to bear fruit, much fruit. So I ask you: Do you bear fruit? Are you a fruitful branch on the vine of Christ?
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