2nd May 2021
...what God wants...
"I am the vine,
you are the branches,"
Well spring has sprung!
Isn't it wonderful, as we walk or drive
through the countryside,
to see the green of the leaves
now filling the trees,
the blossoms on so many of the
shrubs and various flowers
starting to bloom;
the world is beautiful again
after a long, cold winter.
It's against the backdrop of springtime
that we read John 15:1-8 where Jesus
describes the relationship that exists
between him and his disciples using the
analogy of a vine and its branches.
Another of his great 'I AM..' sayings
"I am the vine, you are the branches,"
There is hardly a passage in all the
New Testament that better defines the nature
of Christian discipleship.
In this passage, Jesus tells us what God
wants from us, what God does for us,
and what God expects of us.
First, Jesus tells us what God wants from us.
In a word, God wants fruit!
Fruit is mentioned six times in our text
and a total of eight times in this chapter.
In the eighth verse Jesus says,
"My Father is glorified by this,
that you bear much fruit and become
(or prove to be) my disciples."
Yes, God wants us to bear fruit.
But what kind of fruit are we called to bear?
Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 says,
"...the fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."
These are the qualities of Christian
or Christlike character.
We should also bear the fruit of Christian converts.
People should convert to the Christian faith in part
because of the character and conduct they see in us.
We see, on several occasions in the New Testament,
Christian converts are described as fruit.
This morning's set reading from Acts 8:26-40
tells us of one such conversion;
Philip's meeting with the Ethiopian.
This is probably one of the more interesting
characters we will come across in Acts,
a wealthy Ethiopian eunuch.
One would think that the first Gentile convert
(specifically mentioned in Acts)
would have been won by an apostle.
He had been up to Jerusalem to worship
the God of Israel there.
And yet he was not saved in Jerusalem,
but in the desert.
And rather than being "led to the Lord"
by one of the apostles there in Jerusalem,
or even by Peter or John in a Samaritan city,
he was converted through Philip,
who was divinely directed to him
in that remote desert place.
This conversion was far reaching,
the eunuch went back to Ethiopia
and spread the gospel there.
The vine branches are far reaching.
The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch
teaches us one of the ways God uses to
evangelise the world.
I say "one of the ways God uses" because it is
clear from the book of Acts that a lot of
evangelism was done without an angel of the Lord
having to tell the Christians what to do
It's what one does if one loves Jesus
and loves people;
you tell the good news.
Jesus already gave us a command about it in the
'Go and make disciples of all people'
and since there is no teaching anywhere
in the New Testament that says this work
of the Lord is limited to the time
of the book of Acts,
we should assume that one of God's ways
today of building his church is to give
direction to his people in extraordinary ways
as well as more ordinary ones.
God works in many different ways,
He did it all those years ago and is
still doing it today.
Those branches of the vine bore great fruit
because they stayed firmly connected to the vine.
Jesus is able to provide all we need to help us
remain a healthy and productive part of the vine.
"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.
Those who remain in me, and I in them,
will produce much fruit.
For apart from me you can do nothing."
So let us stay connected to the vine;
stay connected to Christ.
Our relationship to Jesus is our basic identity in life,
like branches to the vine. He is the source of our life
and the secret to our fruitfulness.
It may be interesting to watch,
or just listen to a song
'You Are The Vine; We Are The Branches'
sung by Divine Hymns
via the link shown below.