John 15:5

Sermon preached on November 06, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Three or four years ago I had a problem with Virginia Creeper in my backyard. It's a plant that grows and attaches itself to other plants. It's very pretty in the fall as it turns a nice red color. But it can cause problems for trees because it can climb up and intertwine with the trees branches and leaves and so deprive the trees leaves of sunlight. I've also heard that it can contribute to trees being knocked over by wind in a storm. It adds so many leaves among the tree that the combined leaves act like a big sail, a barrier that makes it more likely that the tree will be knocked over. One of our big trees in the back had a creeper stalk going up it that was four or five inches in diameter. It went right up the side of the trunk. It must have been there for years. It went up and up and branched out and the creeper had pretty much taken oven the tree. You can't kill a creeper like that by spraying its leaves because they're so high and they're all intertwined with the tree's leaves. The only way to kill a creeper like that is to cut the stalk near the bottom. So I got a saw and cut the stalk. When I did that I knew the creeper up above was done for. It couldn't grow after that. It couldn't survive. It's life line was gone. It could only wither up and die.

Every plant needs its lifeline. Branches need a vine. It's that way with us as well. Jesus said, (John 15:5)

"I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing."

Jesus is our source of life, of strength, of power. We get all of our power from Him. If we are in Him we can bear much fruit. If we are not in him we are without life and unable to do anything.

The main thing we should note is that

all of our strength and spiritual life comes from Jesus.

Understanding this truth is one of the keys to successful Christian living. This is something that we always have to remember. It makes all the difference. This is the heart of sanctification. In order to bear fruit, in order to love others, in order to do anything good, in order to stand against Satan's temptations, in order to bring glory to God—we need to be united to Christ and draw on His power. By ourselves we are, (Iain D. Campbell, "I AM")

"helpless and hopeless and fruitless."

Leon Morris says, (John, NICNT; p. 596)

"In isolation from him [Jesus] no spiritual achievement is possible."

When you're facing a temptation or when you have the opportunity before you to do something good—you must realize that in yourself, you can do nothing. You need Jesus to do it through you. When we don't rely on Jesus, we're like Peter when he said to Jesus, (Matthew 26:33)

"Even if all fall away
on account of you, I never will."

Peter was so confident. He was so devoted to Jesus, he loved Jesus so much that he thought that he would never fail in that way. But what happened to Peter? He deserted Jesus. Fear came and he denied Jesus three times. What happened to Peter was that he lost his connection to Jesus. Before Peter said that he would never fall away, Jesus said to the disciples, (Matthew 26:31–33)

"This very night you will all
fall away on account of me,
for it is written:
'I will strike the shepherd, and
the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'
But after I have risen,
I will go ahead of you into Galilee."

Peter, rather than resting in Jesus, rather than asking Him for advice and help, argued with Him. He lost his connection to the vine. He went his own way. He depended on his own strength. His fall was certain.

How different was David before Goliath. When Goliath threatened to cut David's head off and feed it to the birds of the air, David said to him, (1 Samuel 17:45–47)

"You come against me
with sword and spear and javelin,
but I come against you
in the name of the LORD Almighty,
the God of the armies of Israel,
whom you have defied.
This day the LORD will hand you
over to me, and I'll strike you down
and cut off your head.
Today I will give the carcasses
of the Philistine army to the birds
of the air and the beasts of the earth,
and the whole world will know
that there is a God in Israel.
All those gathered here will know
that it is not by sword or spear
that the LORD saves;
for the battle is the LORD'S,
and he will give all of you into our hands."

David knew his strength was in God and in Him alone. He relied on God and God enabled him to prevail over Goliath.

Paul was the same as David. He knew that all his hope and strength were in Jesus. Paul had learned this lesson by experience. In the province of Asia Paul and Timothy faced hardships and pressure. The difficulties were such that they were far beyond their ability to endure. They despaired even of life. Paul said that in their hearts they felt the sentence of death. But Paul knew the reason these things came upon him and Timothy. He wrote, (2 Corinthians 1:9-11)

"But this happened that we might
not rely on ourselves but on God,
who raises the dead.
He has delivered us from such a deadly peril,
and he will deliver us.
On him we have set our hope
that he will continue to deliver us,
as you help us by your prayers."

Paul and Timothy set their hope on Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul wrote about how he asked the Lord to take away his thorn in the flesh. God didn't do it. Instead He said to Paul, (verses 9–10)

"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Paul's response was simple, yet profound. He wrote,

"Therefore I will boast all the more
gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ's power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ's sake,
I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,
in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong."

When we're trying to do anything, whether it's resisting temptation, whether it's witnessing to someone about Jesus, whether it's standing up to powers that are opposed to us—we must remember that our only hope is to rely on God's power in us. On our own we are totally, completely, utterly helpless. Satan would defeat us in a nanosecond. We can do nothing without Him. He is the source of all of our strength.

Recently I read a great quote that related to Christians ministers, but it's one that is applicable to every Christian. It comes from retired Welsh pastor Geoff Thomas,

"The Christian ministry does not require unattainable perfection but it does insist on utter reliance on an all sufficient attainable Savior."

That's what we all need to do. We need to rely on God, not ourselves. We don't have any strength on our own. There's a story about Lawrence of Arabia that illustrates this. (James Montgomery Boice, Philippians, p. 48)

"When Lawrence of Arabia was in Paris after World War I with some of his Arab friends, he took some time to show them the sights of the city: the Louvre, the Arch of Triumph, Napoleon's tomb, the Champs Elysees. They found little interest in these things. The thing that really interested them was the faucet in the bathtub of their hotel room. They spent much time there turning it on and off; they thought it was wonderful. All they had to do was turn the handle, and they could get all the water they wanted. Sometime later, when they were ready to leave Paris and return to the East, Lawrence found them in the bathroom trying to detach the faucet. 'You see,' they said, 'it is very dry in Arabia. What we need are faucets. If we have them, we will have all the water we want.' Lawrence had to explain that the effectiveness of the faucets did not lie in themselves but in the immense system of water works to which they were attached. He had to point out that behind this lay the rain and snowfall on the Alps."

That's what we would be like without Jesus.

We Christians sometimes have the mistaken notion that we're like rechargeable batteries. We plug into Christ to get recharged and then we disconnect and go off on our own to do battle. That's a recipe for disaster. That's not the way it works. We need to be plugged in at all times.

Last July I was watching the end of one of the Tour de France bicycle stages. At the 1 kilometer to go mark they have a big inflatable banner that goes up over and on the sides of the road. It's a huge red and white thing that let's everyone, especially the riders, know that there's only 1k to go. If my memory is right this particular stage was a mountain stage but that the last 1.5 kilometers were flat, on top of the mountain. Most of the main contenders were together at the top of the climb but they knew that there were valuable seconds to be gained in the last bit of the race. One guy really poured it on and opened up a gap on his rivals. He had obvious saved something on the climb and was streaking ahead. He was really motoring along, in the center of the road with his head down, when all of a sudden, the big banner came crashing down right in front of him. It was perfect timing. If the movie people ever tried to recreate the scene, I'm sure they would have to do multiple takes to get it as perfect. It happened so quickly that he didn't see it coming and even if he had seen it, he wouldn't have had time to react. The deflating banner landed on the road just an inch in front of his wheel. His bike was stopped by the banner and he went flying through the air over it on to the pavement on the other side of the banner. The banner blocked the whole road and stopped all the other riders—some crashed into it but had more time to react, others had to stop and lift it up and go under it. It was a disaster—especially for the first guy who got hurt. He was all bloodied and beaten up and it was several minutes before he could continue.

People who had been following the tour for 50 years said nothing like it had ever occurred before. What happened to the inflatable banner? It was powered by a generator and a spectator was walking by and either his foot or a part of his clothing snagged on the cord and the motor that was pumping air into the banner got unplugged from the generator. As soon is it got unplugged the banner came crashing down. I couldn't believe how quickly it fell. Usually a inflatable will fall slowly—but the center of it must have been very heavy so it fell like a rock. Within two or three seconds it went from being this big majestic marker to being a big mess of plastic lying mangled on the road, stopping the whole race.

That's what we're like if we're disconnected from the vine. If we're disconnected we cannot function. We're not rechargeable batteries. We need to be constantly connected to the source of our power.

This means that

you need to be constantly drawing on God's strength.

Paul told us to do that in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 when he wrote,

"pray continually;"

We are always and wholly dependent on God for all things. Therefore we need to be constantly in communication with Him, drawing on His strength, asking that it be made evident in our lives.

We have an example of this in Nehemiah's life. Nehemiah was living in Persia at the time of the exile. One of his brothers came and told him of the deplorable condition of Jerusalem, how it's wall had been broken down and its gates had been burned with fire. When Nehemiah heard that he spend several days mourning, fasting and praying to God. Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king. Some time later, when he went into the king's presence, Nehemiah was sad. The king asked him why he was sad. We read, (Nehemiah 2:2–5)

"I was very much afraid, but I said to the king,
'May the king live forever!
Why should my face not look sad
when the city where my fathers
are buried lies in ruins, and
its gates have been destroyed by fire?'
The king said to me,
'What is it you want?'
Then I prayed to the God of heaven,
and I answered the king,
'If it pleases the king and if your servant
has found favor in his sight,
let him send me to the city in Judah
where my fathers are buried
so that I can rebuild it."

Before his request, Nehemiah had mourned, fasted as prayed—for months. Then when he made his request, when the king asked him what he wanted, before he answered the king, Nehemiah prayed to the God of heaven. He prayed right then and there. He sent up a prayer to God. The king probably wasn't aware of the prayer, but Nehemiah was praying. Nehemiah knew that unless he relied totally on God, his cause was lost.

How different was the case of King Asa of Judah. When Baasha king of Israel went up and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering Judah, Asa took silver and gold out of the treasures of the Lord's temple and his palace and sent them to King Ben-Hadad, king of Aram (Syria), and asked for his help. It appeared to work perfectly. King Ben-Hadad invaded Israel and King Baasha had to withdraw from Ramah.

But Asa hadn't relied on the Lord. We read, (2 Chronicles 16:7–9)

"At that time Hanani the seer came to
Asa king of Judah and said to him:
'Because you relied on the king of Aram
and not on the LORD your God,
the army of the king of Aram
has escaped from your hand.
Were not the Cushites and Libyans
a mighty army with
great numbers of chariots and horsemen?
Yet when you relied on the LORD,
he delivered them into your hand.
For the eyes of the LORD range
throughout the earth
to strengthen those whose hearts
are fully committed to him.
You have done a foolish thing,
and from now on you will be at war.'"

He didn't rely on the Lord. He was foolish.

The reason Asa was foolish was because he did not depend on the Lord even though our Lord is an inexhaustible source of strength.

What a source of power we have in Jesus.

In our text Jesus said,

"If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit…"

We are connected to Jesus, to His strength, His power. Jesus wants us to bear much fruit. He wants us to overcome temptation. He wants us to love others—even our enemies. He wants us to speak to His glory. He wants us to be lights in this dark world.

What a task we have! Can we do it? Yes, if we remain in Jesus, if we rely on His power. In Ephesians 1:18–23 Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians. Here's what he said,

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart
may be enlightened in order that
you may know the hope
to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance
in the saints,
and his incomparably great power
for us who believe.
That power is like the working
of his mighty strength,
which he exerted in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand
in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age
but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under his feet
and appointed him to be head
over everything for the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of him who fills everything
in every way."

How thankful we ought to be that we have Christ as our strength. In every temptation He will be with us. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able. (1 Corinthians 10:13) We ought to say with the apostle Paul, (Philippians 4:13)

"I can do everything
through him who gives me strength."

Christians rely on Jesus. Rely on His Word. Rely on His Spirit. See yourselves as helpless outside of Him. Don't be proud. (1 Peter 5:5-6) If He is our strength how can we be proud? Rather than being proud, we ought to see ourselves as weak and rely on Christ's power and glory in Him.

If anyone here is not a Christian, understand that all that you do, all that you accomplish in your life—is vain, empty. Charles Spurgeon said, (James Montgomery Boice, Peace in Storm, John 13–17), 1164)

"Without Jesus you can talk any quantity; but without him you can do nothing. The most eloquent discourse without him will be all a bottle of smoke. You shall lay your plans, and arrange your machinery, and start your schemes; but without the Lord you will do nothing. Immeasurable cloudland of proposals and not a spot of solid doing large enough for a dove's foot to rest on—such shall be the end of all!"

You need Jesus for your work to have true meaning. Only He can give you that. Trust in Him today.

Benediction: Ephesians 3:20–21

"Now to him who is able to do
immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power
that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church
and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations,
for ever and ever! Amen."