2015 Confirmation Sunday at Zion Lutheran: Abide In Him

Text: John 15:1-8

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus is the true vine and you are branches. As branches, you have been grafted into Him and abide in Him.  You have been placed in the garden, the holy Christian Church.

Adam, Annah, Grace, Reed, Taylor, and Troy, it is certainly obvious from the illustration in today’s Gospel reading, as well as all your confirmation instruction, that Jesus deserves all the credit for declaring you clean and for connecting you to Him. Indeed, as dead helpless branches, you have been gathered off the desolate ground, scooped up, forgiven at the cross, made His own, and grafted into the true living vine—all by the power of the Lord’s Promises pronounced and applied to you.

He did this—for you. 

Now, as living branches that are connected to the True Vine (Jesus Christ), notice that the calling for you is ‘not’ for you to work towards becoming ‘more’ connected or ‘more’ grafted into Christ, but the calling is to simply abide and remain.

What does this mean though? 

It means that you are not to leave and abandon Him, but to stay with Him, remain here long after this Confirmation Sunday.  It also means that you can confidently know that you have already been cleansed and are fully and completely grafted into the vine through the Lord’s powerful Word, His Word that delivers the benefits of Mt. Calvary to you.

Listen dear Confirmation Students, despite what others may say or what you might someday think or feel, you are completely declared righteous because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.  From your confirmation instruction you know and confess that you are also completely sanctified—that is to say, made clean—by the Word spoken to you.  You are counted as saints for Jesus is your all-in-all.  You are lacking nothing and I mean absolutely nothing.

Adam, Annah, Grace, Reed, Taylor, and Troy, there is more to this though. Do not believe the misguided advice of well-intentioned Christians who try to create the impression that the goal of the Christian life is to move closer or upward towards the vine in order to obtain something that it is lacking. Do not listen to the adjectives of well-intentioned Christians; adjectives like: more, greater, truer, further, higher, more real, and nearer.  This kind of chatter and nonsense gives the impression that you, as branches, are lacking and should ascend up the vine to obtain a greater or improved status. But this is not the case for you!  You are not lacking anything in Christ. The reason being, you have every spiritual blessing in Jesus.  He has declared you clean.  Yes, His Word is enough. He has declared you spotless; it is what it is.  It is not necessary for you to move upon the Holy One, but rather it is the Holy One who has already moved upon you with a declarative Word. “You are clean; you are washed; you are mine!”

Adam, Annah, Grace, Reed, Taylor, and Troy, also do not believe the foolish idea that as branches of the vine that you need to produce good fruit—that is good works—as some sort of payment or bargaining tool for being connected to the true vine.  This irrational boloney says that you need to produce good works in order to prove that you are clean or to do good works to validate the integrity of your Christian faith.  Listen!  You are a Christian and are forgiven by Jesus not on the basis of what you do, but on the basis of what Jesus already did for you.  It was finished at the cross.  Not 90% or 95% finished, but 100% finished! It is Jesus and Jesus alone—for you!  Indeed, as branches of the true vine, the good works that each of you bear certainly have no power to make you cleaner or more connected to the vine.  That is Jesus’ work. But rather, the good works that you walk in are simply a result of being connected to Jesus by the Word and faith.

Now, while it is spot-on to confess that good works are not the cause of you being a Christian and do not preserve faith, it must be noted that it is certainly true that evil works do destroy faith.  What this means is that even though you are cleansed by God’s forgiving Word, you are daily in need of the vinegrower’s work upon you.  Otherwise stated, you are in need of God the Father’s work upon you.  This is so because the old sinful nature still clings to you, as it still clings to me. You are simultaneously sinners and saints. 

Thankfully, God the Father will indeed act upon you.  However, He will not act upon you by applying spiritual cosmetics to your sin, in order to masquerade your sin as legitimate fruit. He also won’t give you exhorting pep talks to encourage you to try harder or somehow produce more good fruit, or possibly reform your sinful nature.  No, what is needed is something much more radical and that is an end to your old sinful nature. What is needed is death. Your sinful nature needs to be cut off and thrown away, that is to say, drowned in the waters of baptism, for you have been baptized.  The Vinegrower needs to act upon the branch—that is you—by pruning and stripping you of unneeded leaves—sin.  Thankfully, God will not allow or permit you to simply exist in an unpruned status.  You are too important to Him.  You must be acted upon and tended to every single day, for to not do so would be to let you degenerate into a wild and barren branch.  To not act upon you would be to allow you to decay into nothing.  Thus, God does indeed cultivate, feed, prune and strip you so that you yield good fruit.  Do not resist this pruning, for it is good and necessary.  It is a gift.    

Adam, Annah, Grace, Reed, Taylor, and Troy, you will be constantly pruned to bear more fruit; however, this leads us to ask, ‘fruit for whom?’ As you already know from Confirmation Class, Martin Luther once said, “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.” This is so true in regard to our illustration before us.  The branches are not called to produce fruit so that the vine can eat the fruit. This means that you don’t produce good works, but you simply bear good works, good works that are prepared in advance for you to walk in.  You don’t do good works to become a Christian; rather you do good works because you already are Christians.  And these good works are there for your neighbor.  They are there to be given away to your moms and dads, your siblings, your cousins, your friends, your teachers, your fellow students, and so forth. 

Blessed Baptized Confirmation Students, today and for the many years to come, remember that Jesus says that apart from Him you can do nothing.  That’s right you can do nothing apart from Christ.  Your Christian life is not the establishment of the unholy trinity of ‘me, myself, and I’ as an independent self-sufficient vine, it is rather to abide in Christ the true and only vine, by faith; continually receiving the Word and Sacraments that are for you. Adam, Annah, Grace, Reed, Taylor, and Troy, abide in Him as His living and precious branches.

Blessed Baptized Confirmation Students, today and for the many years to come know that as branches of God the Holy Spirit, you only do good to the extent that He rules, leads, and guides. If God the Holy Spirit would withdraw His gracious hand—if you ceased to be branches of the vine—you could not for one moment remain in the faith, let alone bear good fruit.  You are dependent upon the vine and cooperate as you receive all that is good and salutary from the vine.  Adam, Annah, Grace, Reed, Taylor, and Troy, abide in Him as His living and precious branches.

Blessed Baptized Confirmation Students, because good works are the fruits of the Spirit, you get to look to Christ and His Word rather than yourselves and what you are doing. The reason for this is, if you look to the good works to spur on more good works, your endeavor will prove to be futile at best. It is foolish because Jesus, the true vine, is the author and perfector of your faith and good works; Adam, Annah, Grace, Reed, Taylor, and Troy, fix your eyes on Jesus, His Word is for you.

Blessed Baptized Confirmation Students, remember what you have learned, know that you are declared forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the cross and you are completely clean by the Word spoken to you.  You, along with all of us here today in your midst, are counted as saints for Jesus forgives you and all of us of our sins. Be of good cheer with all of us that our sins are forgiven.  Know in today’s Communion Supper that there is no condemnation for you are in Christ Jesus.  The Body and Blood are for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.  You are clean; Jesus is your all-in-all.  Adam, Annah, Grace, Reed, Taylor, and Troy, abide in Him as His living and precious branches.

Blessed Baptized Confirmation Students the Triune God has brought you up and instructed you now in the way of life, that you understand Him as your Creator, Redeemer, and the One who makes you holy.  As beloved branches, abide in Him—receiving, faithing, living in Him and His Word for you.  Adam, Annah, Grace, Reed, Taylor, and Troy, today confess, “Jesus, my true vine, to You I live.  Jesus, my true vine, to you I die, living or dying, Lord Jesus, I am your beloved branch.”

This Confirmation Sunday, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


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