Make Your Home in Me
Greeting 1 John 4:15 (NLT)
“All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.”
Opening Prayer based on John 15
God of love,
plant us in the soil of your grace.
Nurture us with the strength of Christ,
the vine of everlasting life.
Enlighten us with the wisdom of your Spirit,
which flows through us today and all days.
Abide in us,
that we may abide in you
and live in your love.
In your holy name, we pray. Amen.
Adapted from The Abingdon Worship Annual 2012, © 2011 Abingdon Press. Posted on the Worship Elements page of the Ministry Matters website.
A Vineyard Call to Worship for John 15:1-8
God is the True Vine,
And we are the branches.
Connected to God.
Connected to bear fruit!
Connected to God.
Or we wither away.
Connected to God.
We come to worship God, who is the True Vine.
God, teach us how to remain connected so that we might bear good fruit!
Safiyah Fosua, https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/god-is-the-true-vine-21st-century-worship-resources-for-the-fifth-sunday-of.
Intercessory Prayer ACTS model
Creator God, you are the Alpha and the Omega, you are the beginning and the end. You knew us before we were born and had a plan for our life from before the foundation of the world.
And we know that you hold the whole world in the palm of your hand. In the blink of an eye Your eyes can see the whole earth. And you show yourself strong on the behalf of those that love you.
Your Word tells us that we can come to your throne of grace to find help in time of need. Dear Lord, this is one of those times. Please hear us today.
Forgive us of the wrong things we have done, we lay our sins down at the foot of the cross. Please forgive anything we have done that is separating us from your fellowship. Forgive our hurtful words and actions. Forgive our evil thoughts.
Thank you for loving each of us. Thank you for dying for our sins and rising from the dead. Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit who guides our life.
Gracious God, we lift up all who have been mentioned here today, and for those who are struggling quietly. Grant them you healing and peace. Show us the ways in which we can bring healing and peace to others.
Finally, God, we give you thanks once more for Jesus, the Vine, the Gateway to salvation. Keep us strong and faithful to serve you, until He comes again. All this we pray in His name. Amen.
Generous God, through your Son, Jesus Christ,
you have shown us what it means to love.
And you call us to follow Your example--
to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Continue to write your law of love on our hearts.
Give us an unwavering passion for justice,
and a tenacious faith that will not rest
until the hungry are fed,
the oppressed find relief,
and the outsider finds a welcome. Amen.
Christine Longhurst, in Hunger for Justice: World Food Day 2016, posted on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank website. http://foodgrainsbank.ca/product/world-food-day-2016-hunger-for-justice/
Scripture Reading John 15:1-8 (MSG)
1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. 4 “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
This is the Word of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Morning Message Make Your Home in Me
Key Point: Remaining in the Vine, that is Jesus, is about much more than membership and attending church once in a while. It is about discipleship and a life of commitment that produces good spiritual fruit that brings glory to God and blesses the world we live in.
I brought a dead branch with me today, and pictures of the tree it came from. A healthy branch, as part of a healthy maple tree, provides many desirable things: Shade from the sun. A home for birds and insects. Beauty-through trees like the maple we witness the circle of life through each passing season.
Some species of maples produce sap that people make great maple syrup from. Naturalists, and those who live strictly off the land, tell us that the leaves are edible-they can be cooked, or eaten raw, and they have a slightly sweet maple flavor. And the little helicopter things (technical name “samaras”) that come off them, well seeds inside them are edible, too.
So why do dead branches fall off a healthy tree? All large trees will have some dead branches; it's part of their life cycle. While it’s true that trees can become unhealthy from disease and fungus, and will die if left untreated, even the healthiest maple tree will naturally shed branches so that it continues to remain healthy. Many property owners will prune their trees on a regular basis to ensure their health. Either way, naturally or otherwise, pruning is a necessity for tree health.
And it probably goes without saying, but a branch has to stay connected to the tree if it is going to stay healthy. Once it comes off the tree, wind blows it off, something knocks it down, someone cuts it off, and it will soon look like this branch right here. It will be dead wood, useless for anything other than kindling.
Jesus talks about dead wood in our Bible passage today. In the Middle East there aren’t trees like maples and oaks. So, he used the illustration of the grape vine to make a point about being a disciple.
In verses 4-6, he said, “Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you… the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.”
Just like a dead branch from a great maple tree cannot provide sap, or shelter, or places for birds to build nests, a dead branch separated from the grape vine cannot produce delicious grapes. In other words, it cannot fulfill the purpose for which it was created in the first place.
And guess what? Just like with the maple tree, the grape vine needs a good pruning now and then, too. Why? So it can stay healthy and continue to grow AND continue to produce an abundance of fruit.
When Jesus says “I am the Vine, you are the branches, make your home in me just as I make my home in you” his point is that to stay spiritually healthy, and produce spiritual fruit, we must stay connected to him. If we don’t, we become dead wood just like this branch here, useless in the Kingdom of God. And we cannot fulfill the purpose for which God created us, and that is to bear good spiritual fruit.
Christ is the Vine, and God the Father is the Farmer who cares for the branches, and the branches are all those who claim to be followers of Jesus. Jesus makes it clear this analogy that the branches are to remain in the vine for the purpose of bearing fruit. When believers abide in Christ, and He abides in them, the result of this double abiding is that they bear fruit for His glory.
Two things about this fruit: First, the fruit includes the fruitful character of Christ within us. The fruit of the Spirit revealing the character of the divine life of Jesus is clearly stated here. The word love is used nine times (15:9-17). The word joy is used two times (15:11). This aligns perfectly with the first two graces listed in the fruit of the Spirit that Paul talks about in Galatians 5:22-23. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.”
Second, the fruit includes the fruitful ministry of Christ through us. Jesus said He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (Matt. 20:28). When we abide in Christ, He abides in us. When He abides in us, we are experiencing Jesus. Yet while we experience Jesus, He is ministering to those around us through us, and they get to eat the fruit! The fruit isn’t meant for just us so we can live the good life.
Simply said, when we remain in Jesus, and make our home in Him, like he has already done in us, the results will manifest as spiritual fruit in our life, and it will be noticeable to the world around us, and the world will be blessed through us.
One more thing, and we can’t miss it because it’s a part of Jesus’ analogy here, too, and that’s the pruning. Verse 2, “He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.” Living organisms that bear fruit, need pruning: maple trees, grape vines, and yes, as painful as it sounds, Jesus’ followers need pruning, too.
In verses 2-3, Jesus makes a clear distinction between two kinds of pruning: cutting off and cutting back. Cutting back: Fruitful branches are cut back to promote growth. God must sometimes discipline us to strengthen our character and faith. I think of Abraham in Genesis being asked by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Painful? Without a doubt. But it was a test of faith that strengthened Abraham’s faith when he obeyed and then God provided the ram as the sacrifice instead.
But there is also the cutting off that Jesus talks about here: Branches that don’t bear fruit are cut off at the trunk, not only because they are worthless, but because they infect the rest of the tree. People who don’t bear fruit for God, or who try to block the efforts of God’s followers will be cut-off from his life-giving power.
One thing I want you to take away from today is this: bearing fruit, and then more fruit, requires pruning: Following Jesus was not an invitation to follow him down easy street. And the pruning tool of the father/Gardener is His Word, it is prayer and listening for His voice in prayer. Allowing the Word of God to shape us brings forth a life-giving relationship with Jesus. (Just like a branch that remains on the vine.)
This is a relationship that promises an abundance of good fruit. If five times we are told to bear fruit here and eight times we are told to remain in Jesus, how often do we need to be shaped by God’s Word, through the Bible and in prayer?
I want to wrap this up with a brief discussion about membership versus discipleship. I say brief because this is really a preview of a more in-depth study of it throughout the weeks to come.
You see, I believe that somewhere along the way, the modern church became focused on membership and lost track of discipleship. Many say, “Well, sure I’m a disciple. I’ve been a member at Bethel (or McKendree, or Pine Grove Presbyterian, or St. Luke’s) for years.” But here’s the thing: Jesus never said, “Join my church. Take the membership vows.” He said, “Follow me,” “walk with me,” “make your home in me.” And I’m not saying you shouldn’t be a church member; what I am saying is that you can be a church member and never even come close to being a true disciple of Christ.
And the distinguishing marks of the true disciple are the fruits of the Spirit, which only grow when we remain connected to the Vine that is Jesus Christ.
We will talk more about the distinction between membership and discipleship in coming weeks, but let me say this much :
Discipleship is an experience.
It involves more than a mere one-time belief.
It takes more than church attendance.
It is a life commitment.
It has to be practiced for a lifetime.
It calls for following Jesus in daily living, in word and deed.
Discipleship is what making your home in Christ is really all about.
One final: Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is the Gateway to salvation. He told us that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Only through Him do we find forgiveness of sins, only in Him do we find eternal security. And only through him are we able to live an abundant life in which we produce the fruit that glorifies His name and blesses the world around us. Only by abiding in Him can we fully live out our purpose in life. Only by claiming Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and believing that he rose from the dead that first Easter morning can you be a branch on the life-giving Vine that is Him. Let’s pray.
The Lord’s Prayer
All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Benediction based on John 15:1-8, 1 John 4:7-21
Go now, and love one another.
Proclaim God’s salvation to every generation.
Remain in Jesus Christ,
and like branches of a vine, draw your life from him.
And may God the vine grower make you fruitful;
May Christ Jesus abide in you and give you life;
And may the Holy Spirit cast out all fear and fill you with God’s love.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
. . . In the name of Christ. Amen.
Copyright © 2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net.