John 15:1-17


  • About six years ago, my friend and I were counselors at our Bible camp. One day, we made a responsible decision to go out on a canoe to explore the islands with just the two of us. We figured that our co-counselors would be fine watching the campers, and we wouldn’t be gone for very long.
  • So we set off to the first island, and everything more or less went smoothly. But as we explored this first island, the wind started to pick up. After leaving the first island, we ended up having to go to a different island than we planned because of the wind.
  • As we approached this second island, I told my friend we were heading straight for a big rock and we should probably slow down. He looked over my shoulder and said, “Nah, we’re good,” and since he was the more experienced one at canoeing, I believed him. But as you’d expect, we hit the rock hard, and nearly both fell out of the canoe. Thankfully, the canoe was fine. 
  • After exploring this second island for a while, we decided that we should get back to camp before the wind got any worse. So we headed back to camp, or at least we tried to. By this point, the wind had picked up. The 4 mph wind that was forecasted was now a 17 mph wind. We were entirely incapable of going in the direction of camp, and there were also storm clouds on the horizon. We paddled, and paddled, and paddled, and paddled, but we just couldn’t move. No matter how much we fought the wind and the waves, we were just stuck. Our only option was to dock our canoe at some random person’s cabin and ask to use their phone to get a ride back to camp, so that is what we did. 
  • While I think the obvious lesson here is don’t go on irresponsible canoe trips, I want to bring up something. When we fought against the wind and the waves, it didn’t get us anywhere. Only when we allowed the waves to move us were we capable of moving anywhere. 


  • In a similar way, if we are going to grow or move in life, it only happens when we allow Jesus to work in us.


John 15:1-17- “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.


    • So often when we think about abiding, I feel like we often think it’s just waiting and sitting around until God calls you to do something big in life, but I think that is far more passive than we are called to be as Christians. 
      • For me, I would say abiding means diving into the chaos of the world with a supernatural peace that only comes from the power of Jesus Christ. 
        • And this supernatural peace is built on complete dependence
  • Abiding is dependence
      • We’re called to be more dependent on Jesus  than a sheep depends on their shepherd
      • More dependant than a child depends on their father
      • Jesus says that we are called to be as dependent to Him as a branch is to a vine for life. 
        • Vines were a common symbol in Hebrew scriptures because grapevines were all over ancient Israel. 
      • But Jesus is the TRUE VINE. 
        • Our first and ultimate source of growth, power, and identity should be in Jesus Christ
        • Not in our government, our country, or even our church
      • And when we choose to have this complete dependence on Christ, it’s a greater dependence than we have on oxygen to fill our lungs or food to nourish us. 
        • It’s a relational dependence.
  • Abiding is a relationship
      • While Jesus said these things to encourage the disciples after the Last Supper, His words can still encourage and inspire us now. 
        • Although Jesus is no longer with us in human form, when we abide, we have as true of a relationship with Christ as the disciples did when He was physically with them. 
        • And through our relationship and unity with the Son, we also have a relationship with the Father
          • Israel is no longer God’s chosen people, but anyone who abides in Christ and strives for a relationship with Him. 
      • And this relationship isn’t simply one way. It’s mutual.
        • We love Him and He loves us.
        • We talk to Him and He speaks to us. 
        • When we choose to abide, He abides in us.
  • Abiding is a choice
    • While He first chose us, it is our choice to abide
      • We have to choose to depend on Him
      • We have to choose to start this relationship with Him
    • And this a choice we make everyday
      • Choosing His power over our own efforts
      • Choosing His will over my desires
      • Choosing His ways over the ways of the world
      • Choosing good over evil
    • It’d be easy if a relationship with Christ was a one and done deal, but if we truly want to abide and experience this relationship, it means making these choices everyday.


    • Jesus provides a couple warnings for those who don’t abide.
  • John 15:2- Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away
  • John 15:6- If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned
    • So what keeps us from abiding? What makes us choose not to abide?
  • The threats of the world can seem too real
  • I want to talk real quick about the story of Jesus walking on water especially when Peter wanted to walk out to him
  • So when Jesus walked on water out to the disciples’ boat, they rightfully freaked out because they couldn’t tell it was him at first.
      • Once they realize it’s Jesus, Peter asks to come out to him
      • Once Jesus invites him to take out onto the water, Peter actually takes a few steps on the water, but then he sees the winds and the waves
      • In this moment, the power of the wind and waves seemed like more than the power of Jesus to peter, so he started to panic and sink
      • Only when he cried out to Jesus was he saved
      •  When Peter’s focus left Jesus and turned to these natural forces that scared Him, he was helpless and stuck.
      • Although Peter had already seen Jesus do many amazing things, including over 5,000 people being fed with only five loaves and two fish literally right before this, Peter stopped abiding and depending on Jesus because his focus was consumed by fears from the world instead of Jesus.
  • The treasures of the world can seem too real
      • I think this is demonstrated well by the beginning of the parable of the prodigal son
      • As we know, this is a story of a son who one day decides that it’s time for him to go see what the world can give him instead of staying at his Father’s house
      • So he asked his father for his share the inheritance and left
      • For a short while, he probably had a happy life full of luxury, fun, and reckless living, but then his money ran out and a famine came
      • With no money and no food, he ended up feeding pigs and begging to eat the same food as them
      • He was safe and loved in his father’s house, but the fun and addictive treasures of the world looked so much more captivating than the chores and responsibilities at this father’s house
  • God’s calling can seem like too much
    • I want to jump back to the Old Testament to illustrate this one. I want to talk about Jonah.
      • As we probably all know, Jonah was a prophet, and God called him to go tell the big, scary people of Nineveh to turn from their ways.
      • Instead of doing this, he was terrified and ran in the opposite direction
      • And we all know, he ends ups being swallowed by a big fish
      • Instead of abiding and depending on God to protect him on this mission he was called to do, he let his fears get the best of him and ended up in a worse spot than he would have if he just listened.
  • In all three of these stories, we see these biblical characters stop abiding and lose their dependency on God for a variety of different reasons, but they all end up in a similar situation. They end up failing and getting stuck when they think that abiding and depending on God isn’t enough. Like when my friend and I were paddling against the wind, they were helpless.
  • So if failing and getting stuck are the results when we don’t abide…


  • When we abide, we bear fruit.
      • The purpose of a branch is that it will ultimately bear fruit. 
      • Not many people raise grape vines because they’re pretty to look at
        • They plant, water, and take care of them, so their fruit can be enjoyed.
      • As Christians connected to the true vine, the fruit that we bear will be our Christian character
        • This can easily be connected to the fruit of the Spirit that Paul writes about in Galatians 5: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control
      • Jesus even emphasizes love and joy in this passage
        • Our love for others will be a direct result of abiding in His love for us.
        • And this love we share with others is to be as sacrificial as His love for us
      • As for joy, we will never experience the fullness of joy if we’re not abiding
        • And this joy is more than a happiness or excitement that passes with time
        • It’s a pure and eternal sense of delight that can only come from being right with God through the work of Christ.
      • If we want any of these fruits to be real and authentic in our lives and bring glory to God, it only happens when we abide in His presence and His love.
  • When we abide, we are pruned.
      • Any branch needs to be pruned for it to effectively grow
        • Although we bear fruit, all of our growth might not be productive, and that is where God steps in as the vinedresser. We’re only pruned, so that we can bear more fruit. 
      • The Greek word for prune is translated as cleansed in other parts of the New Testament. 
        • When we accept Christ as savior, we are initially pruned and cleansed of sin, but when we abide, we are also continually pruned and cleansed as God is molding us into who He created us to be.
      • And the process of being pruned might not always be that comfortable. He may prune the things that you hold close. He might prune what makes you comfortable, but He’s just doing this to allow you to grow into the person He knows you can be.
  • When we abide, we are friends with Christ. 
    • It was unusual for a disciple to be considered friends with his rabbi, but Jesus wanted a quality of love that surpasses the norms of this relationship
      • He wants to be more than our boss or our master. He wants to be our friend.
    • And when we abide in His love and obey his command, this friendship can be ours. 
      • A friendship without secrets
      • A friendship where love is unconditional
    • I’ve had two hour conversations with friends where we get past all the layers and get everything off our chest, and that’s the kind of friendship Jesus wants with you
      • A friendship where we can lay everything out in from Him, and He’ll be with us through all of our anxieties, doubts, and fears


  • To conclude, I want to share another quick story from camp. This one just happened last Summer.
    • Every Thursday night during chapel, we do this thing we like to call a reverse altar call where most of the counselors leave the chapel, so campers can come out and talk to us if they choose while they continue with some worship inside.
    • And while I’m just sitting on the ground outside waiting to see if any of my campers are going to come out, my mind decides to fill with questions and uncertainties and process emotions in five minutes that I probably should have for five months. 
      • “I have no idea where God is calling me.”
      • “Where am I going to end up?”
      • “Will I still be able to see my friends?”
      • “Will I be happy?”
    • And as I’m wrestling with these questions and holding back tears, these are the words that I hear coming from the chapel:
      • Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders/ Let me walk upon the waters/ Wherever You would call me/ Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander/ And my faith will be made stronger/ In the presence of my Saviour
    • Now, you might have your own opinions about this song. You may think it’s overplayed, overhyped, or overrated, and I wouldn’t entirely disagree with you, but in this moment, these words spoke power and encouragement into my life.
      • I knew God was calling me into the tidal waves of life, and I was only going to make it through if I was led by the Spirit and abiding in His love.
    • Maybe some of you feel like you're going through the tidal waves of life right now. Maybe it’s a big transition like graduation. Maybe it’s heartbreak. Maybe it’s your family situation.
      • Whatever it might be, I want to encourage you not to do it on your own. Trying to do anything without Jesus is only going to leave you failing and stuck, like trying to paddle a canoe in the opposite direction of the wind. Let go. Stop trying to do it on your own.
      • Run into these tidal waves with a peace, a joy, and a love that only comes from depending and having a relationship with Jesus.
      • Abide.