March 8, 2009

"I Am the Vine"

A sermon I gave this morning.

On this 2nd Sunday in Lent we continue a series entitled “The I’s of Jesus”. We are going to be spending the majority of our time in John 15:1-11, focusing especially on verses 5-11. My hope this morning is to key in on 2 main themes of this passage: Jesus as the True Vine and Being Connected to the Vine.

Jesus as the True Vine

Notice that Jesus uses the phrase “I Am” two times in this passage and follows each of them with the “true vine” and the “vine”. It’s important that we recognize the significance of these few words. Remember the story of a guy named Moses (Exodus 3:11-14) who was out in the wilderness watching his father in-law's sheep and how he comes across a bush that was burning but wasn't burning up? God starts talking to Moses from this bush and tells him to go get the Israelites out of Egypt. After some discussion Moses is finally convinced to go but before he does he asks a very logical question, “Who should I tell them has sent me?” because he knew that the people would ask. God’s response…”I am who I am. Tell them I AM has sent you.” Jesus is making a statement of authority and His relationship to God the Father by using this phrase.

The other word that is significant, “vine”. Many times in the Old Testament Israel is symbolized as a vine but is usually noted as lacking something. An example of this can be found in Jeremiah 2:21, “I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?” Another example of this is Isaiah 5:1-7. Notice the contrast between an unfaithful, disobedient Israel and a completely obedient and righteous Jesus.

Jesus is letting us know that what He has to offer is like nothing else out there. He calls Himself the “bread of life”, “good shepherd”, “light of the world”, “the way, the truth and the life”. He tells a Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26) at a well that He has “living water” to offer her so that she won’t thirst anymore. She’s confused because she doesn’t see how He is going to make that happen since He doesn’t even have a bucket but eventually she tells Him the Messiah will come and explain everything to her. Jesus politely responds, “I who speak to you am he.”

Jesus is telling us that He is the real deal. He is telling us that He can be trusted with our hearts, our minds, our relationships, our families, our careers, our worries, our doubts, our questions…our very lives. Look at verse 4, this is a promise. Jesus has no intentions of going anywhere unless you and I tell Him to. Verse 5, apart from Jesus, we got nothing. Every other vine that you and I try to hold onto; power, prestige, wealth, all the earthly desires of our hearts leave us flat on our back and empty in our heart because they can’t handle the weight of our shame, guilt, regret or the weight of our desires to be sustained, fulfilled and joyful. This is what makes Jesus the True Vine. There was an image that kept coming to mind as I spent time on this message…

Now, please don’t think I’m telling you this because I work for a church and I get paid to say these kind of things. I am saying this as someone whose life has been changed by holding onto Jesus.

Being Connected to the Vine

Now, there may be a few questions that come up at this point like:

How do I know if I’m connected?

How do I stay connected?

What is this fruit that I keep hearing about?

You know you are connected to the Vine when you have told God that you are going to let go of all of the other things that you have been holding onto instead of Jesus and hold onto Him. When you have allowed Jesus to be your Savior AND Lord. What I mean by this is that you haven’t simply used Jesus as a ticket to heaven and then continued to live however you please but rather give Him not only your eternal life but your daily life. This is called discipleship. Verse 7 & 8, I know I’m connected when the things I wish for are the very same things God tells me in His Word He desires for me. The things He wants to do in me and through me. Jesus is not telling us that we have access to a personal genie but rather He is telling us what it looks like to be a disciple. This means we are going to bear fruit because that’s what happens when you and I are connected to the Vine but please understand that this is not easy. It requires commitment and sacrifice and discipline to produce this kind of fruit.

What’s the fruit of a disciple look like…love, a love that is self-denying and self-sacrificing. Paul talks about this fruit in Galatians 5:22-24. A love that through obedience leads to complete joy, verses 9-11. A couple religious guys are talking to Jesus when they ask this question in Matthew 22:36-40. You are a disciple of Jesus if you obey His commands to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. This is the fruit that we are expected to bear as disciples to everyone we meet.

Let’s talk gardening for a second. Honestly I know very little about it but as I spent some time researching the process of pruning, I came to a better understanding of why Jesus calls God the gardener and why you and I need to be pruned every so often. I’m sure many of you know about pruning and how it is a process of trimming away things that stunt growth, things that keep the plant from producing the most fruit possible. Discipleship, which requires being connected to the Vine involves spiritual pruning. God shows us places in our lives that are getting in the way of loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and others as ourselves and wants us to offer them to Him so He can cut them away from our lives.

How do we stay connected…We stay connected by allowing God to prune away the things in our lives that get in the way of us being disciples. Sometimes we don’t know what needs to be pruned or if we’re honest, don't want to be pruned but we must trust God as the gardener knowing that He wants us to have complete joy in Him. There may be something that comes to mind as you’re sitting there right now that the gardener needs to prune from your life, things like envy, greed, lust, pride, jealousy, deceit. The Holy Spirit uses different tools to prune us, a couple examples of those tools would be; Scripture, prayer and community (aka the church). To stay connected to the Vine we have to make these a significant part of our lives because it’s in these that we find encouragement, support, challenge and growth. We cannot stay connected in isolation.

And so the questions that we’re left with as we wrap up our time together…

Are you connected to the True Vine? If not, what is keeping you from connecting with Jesus?

Have you fallen off the True Vine and do you need to reconnect?

And if you’re connected, are you finding ways to stay connected?