We Get To Be Totally Dependent Upon Jesus (John 15:1-8)

Text: John 15:1-8 

In today’s text Jesus uses a parable, a story, to compare the believers’ relationship with Him. Jesus says that He is a vine, we are the branches and the Father is the vinedresser. He says that branches that are connected to the vine will bring forth much fruit. This fruit represents good works. Just as a branch receives its energy, nutrition and food from the vine, we too receive spiritual sustenance from Jesus. 

Just as a branch will quickly die and crumble when it is separated from the vine, we too crumble and fail when we are separated from Jesus. Thus we are totally dependent upon Jesus for all things, for apart from Him we are unable to do anything. 

I think deep down we all know that we are unable to do much of anything apart from Christ. The Law of God that is inscribed on our hearts continually condemns us, we are reminded that we fail to measure up. As we ponder the 10 Commandments we are hit by the weight of God’s Holiness and our failure to achieve perfection. Sure we have our temporary success stories, but through and through, we simply do not have the spiritual DNA or the will power to bring forth proper fruit. We don’t have what it takes to crank out perfect lives, with perfect children, with perfect marriages, with perfect work reviews, with perfect crops, with perfect attitudes. As a result we typically face three options. 

The first option is to try and produce the fruit in our own strength, to force it. In other words, we can find ourselves resisting this idea of being helpless apart from Christ, that our personal DNA does not bring forth good works, thus we set out in our mind to make sure that good works and good fruit are always present. We try to overcome our helplessness and convince ourselves that we have what it takes. 

Several years ago I can remember taking a branch and shoving this dead branch into a flowerpot and then using duct tape to tape a bunch of fresh fruit to the branch. What my point was and what I am trying to communicate now is that we can go down this road of attempting to fix the fact that we cannot do much of anything. Instead of embracing the truth of who we are, that we are simple branches that can’t do much of anything, we rather start trying to overcome this truth by making corrections through our own efforts, agendas and will power. What we end up doing is that we start trying to overcome the fact that we are a powerless branch and we set out to try and prove to God and others that we can do all sorts of things. As a result we start to depend on ourselves in getting this fruit to show. We become that branch that has fresh fruit duct taped to it. Then if we are able to finally bring about works that remotely look like real spiritual good works, we then make things worse by taking confidence in our fruit. As a former youth once said, the problem with spiritual good fruit is that we end up eating it. Furthermore, we become prideful in our good works and then to make it a little worse we start to compare ourselves to other branches. 

The second option is that we acknowledge that we are a helpless branch. We shrug our shoulders and say, “I am a helpless branch that cannot bear fruit, I cannot bring forth spiritual fruit.” This is true, but then our sinful nature twists this saying, “who cares about good fruit anyway. If I can’t produce it, I must be free to do whatever I want. I am not connected to anything or anyone. I am a lone branch, free to be a dead, free to lie in the dust of the earth and free to indulge.” 

No my friends! All of this is so backwards and wrong. Yes you are a helpless branch. Yes, you cannot bear fruit. This doesn’t mean that it is up for us to overcome this great difficulty. This doesn’t mean that we are a lone branch in this life, with no purpose and no hope. Rather you have been grafted into the true vine. You have been grafted into Jesus. Jesus chose you to be a part of the vine. In this text it says that you have been cleansed by the power of the savior. You are clean by the work and declaration of Jesus Christ. The amount of fruit or lack of fruit do not make you clean. You are clean because of Jesus. Jesus takes all of the credit in declaring you clean and that is really, really good news. 

Being grafted into Jesus, He calls you and me to remain. Though how do we remain? Do we remain by bearing fruit? As branches do we remain attached to the vine by showing that we have what it takes? Does God look down at us and say, “My little branch you look like you have potential in bearing lots of good fruit. I think we are going to graft you in.” After being grafted into the vine does God then say, “So, now that you are grafted in get to work producing fruit, so that you can validate yourself.” No, this is ridiculous. Unfortunately, many Christians are under the impression that they were saved but now they are on spiritual probation, that they have a quota of fruit that they have to produce in order to remain and have a secure spot. No, no, no! To abide and remain in Jesus is to believe in Jesus. One remains in Jesus; one remains connected to the vine by “faith.” To abide is to simply continue in belief. My friends, to abide in Jesus is to continually confess that we are a helpless branch that nothing good dwells in us. (i.e. repentance) To abide in Jesus is also to cling to the many promises of God in Christ by faith. By faith we rest and receive the promises that inform us that by Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection that all of our sins are atoned for, that we have all that we need and that we belong to Him. By faith we remain in Christ and He in us, thus as we abide in Christ we are continually nourished, daily fed, and ministered to. 

We are totally dependent upon Jesus, for we are mere branches. We have been grafted in and we remain in Jesus by faith, not works. But what about this idea of fruit? There must be fruit, right? One of the greatest struggles for us as Christians is understanding that we don’t produce fruit, we bear it. One more time, as Christians we don’t produce fruit, we bear it. Apart from Christ we can do nothing. However, as we remain in Christ we bear fruit as a result. The fruit doesn’t save us, Jesus saves us. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” Think about that, we were created ‘in” Christ Jesus for good works, works that were prepared in advance that we get to walk in. 

Good works are a by-product of being in Christ. This spiritual fruit is a fruit of the spirit, not the branch and certainly not us. I have used this illustration time and time again, and it is certainly worth noting again for those of you that haven’t had the privilege of hearing it before. Imagine going on a walk this afternoon and coming by a large tree and seeing one of the branches shacking, grunting and screaming. You stop and look at the branch and say, “My little branch, what on earth are you doing?” The branch responds to you saying, “I am trying to produce apples.” To this you respond, “Well, that is certainly quite silly. You are attached to this apple tree, you should certainly be concerned if you were not, but you are quite secure and very well grafted into this healthy looking apple tree.” The branch responds, “I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes.” With compassion you look at the branch and say, “You are obviously connected to the tree and it seems to me that you will be supplied everything that you need and the fruit will happen naturally.” 

Obviously this is a silly illustration but it does show you that the branch will produce fruit because it is connected to the tree. 

My friends, many of us worry that producing fruit is all up to us because we fail to realize that we are connected to the true vine. 

The great comfort of the Gospel is that we are not only grafted into the Gospel, that is justified, but we are also continually, daily, being ministered to, we are daily being sanctified by His Word. We have Jesus by Faith. God is at work on us as branches enabling us to both will and to work for His good pleasure. We can rest with confidence that He who began a good work in us will bring it forth to completion. He grafted you into the vine. He abides with you. He will continually prune you through the Law. He will continually nourish you through the Gospel. He will continually bring forth fruit. You get to be totally dependent upon Jesus. Rest, abide and believe upon Jesus. 

Sources: Gospel Handles (Rossow) ~ Commentary on John (Lenski) ~ Sermon Studies on the Gospels: Series B (NWP)