Leadership Forum Message: Remain in Jesus
Remain in Jesus (Discipleship Training)
John 15: 1 – 10
Key verse 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.
Yesterday we studied the power of one by one bible study. God conquered the province Asia and the Roman Empire by the intensive bible study of Paul in Ephesus and Rome. We thank God that we are allowed to be bible teachers and have a great vision like Paul for our generation.
John 15 is a part of Jesus’ farewell address which He delivered only to His disciples shortly before His death on the cross. Jesus is the vine and we are His branches. “Remain” is the most important word of this message. Only if we remain in Him we can receive the pruning of God and we can bear much fruit as bible teachers, disciple makers and global leaders.
Part I: Jesus, our true vine
1. Jesus is the vine and we are His branches (1)
Let’s have a look at verse 1: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” In the Old Testament Israel is pictured as vineyard of God. God had planted it working diligently to bear good fruit. But it yielded bad ones (Jes 5: 1.2). Israel should be a kingdom of priests for all people (Ex 19:5.6) but they became idol worshippers. Therefore God planted Jesus as the new vine into this world through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. In John 1:4 we read:”In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” We should know that only Jesus is the true vine and the true and eternal life is only in Him. Some people think that they can live for themselves. It’s ignorant to think that our lives belong to us. We must firmly believe that Jesus is the true vine and that we are His branches.
2. Pruning and cleaning to bear fruit (2)
God is our vine gardener. He wants to see fruit. Let’s look at verse 2: “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Actually, it is a natural process that a branch bears fruit. A good branch will automatically bear good fruit. Matthew 7: 18.19 say: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” So a branch without fruit is sick. The vine gardener has to cut it radically, because they take away the nutrients from the good branches.
After the gardener has finished this, He cares for the good branches which already bear fruit. Verse 2b says: “while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Even the good branches have to be pruned to bear more fruit. This is discipleship training.
Jacob was a man full of selfishness. But His good shoot was that He wanted to receive God’s blessing. But his worldly shoots grew large, especially His shoot to marry the woman of his dreams and his longing for wealth. But God pruned him through people who were even more selfish. Through the never-ending stress among his quarreling women and children he was humbled. Finally God cut away his ego. This was like a surgery, but after coming out of this surgery Jacob wasn’t Jacob, the cheater, anymore but he became Israel.
When we are pruned, we feel like dying. But pruning is absolutely necessary to bear more fruit. Therefore we should not think humanistically, but see God’s love. God prunes us because He loves us. He prunes us because He wants us to be good bible teachers and global leaders.
At the campus we meet many sheep who are good branches which are ready to follow Jesus. But the young people of our generation have many shoots like the Internet, parties or worries about their studies which are taking away all strength of the good branches. God has called us as shepherds and spiritual leaders. We cannot allow that they remain unpruned. We must help them to receive the pruning to seek God’s kingdom first.
3. The fruit.
What concrete fruit God wants us to bear? There are both inner and outer fruit. Galatians 5:22.23 say about the inner fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
The first fruit is love. When I came to study the bible I was overwhelmed by the love of the coworkers among each other. The love of the disciples among each other is a sign that they are Jesus’ disciples. Earlier the disciples were full of competition spirit. But after Jesus washed their feet, John was able to begin to love Mathew and they were able to work together for world mission. The love among our first generation ancestor missionaries is also a sign of Jesus. As the new generation we must also have this sign of love so that the world can see that we are the disciples of Jesus.
The outer fruit is that we are able to lead students to the word of God and to Jesus. Sh. Ales told us that there is a cherry tree in the garden of M. Hanna Shin. They can have a cherry-stone spitting contest together with Sh. David. Every year the tree has beautiful fruit. But how much more will this tree be fruitful after new cherry trees grew up out of these cherry-stones. The fruit of the discipleship training ministry looks the same. If we ourselves are good cherry trees, it is good. But how fruitful will our lives be when we are training disciples. This is a new dimension of being fruitful. May God raise in us the inner fruit of the spirit, especially the fruit of love. May God help us to seed out the gospel throughout Europe.
Part II: To remain in Jesus (4-10)
God is the gardener and he works diligently in His vineyard Europe by pruning our new generation in different ways. But receiving pruning is really hard, isn’t it? How can a man receive discipleship training? It’s simple: If we remain in Jesus, we are able to receive God’s love to bear more fruit.
1. Remain in Jesus
Let’s have a look at verse 4 and 5 together: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 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.”
No branch can bear fruit without the vine. Jesus says that it is absolutely impossible to bear fruit without remaining in him. The word “remain” out of the Greek “meno” (life relationship) is a central keyword of John’s gospel and is repeated ten times in this passage. For understanding what remaining in Jesus means we’d like to read Psalms 1:2.3: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.“ Consciously or unconsciously we meditate on many things. Currently, all people meditate on the soccer world championship. But if we want to remain in Jesus we have to meditate on at least one word of God day and night. We also have to meditate on our daily bread. If we only meditate on God’s word during Sunday worship service, but meditate on many worldly things over the week, we are like a plant which is only watered once a week during the hot summertime. Psalms 119:20 says: “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” A soul which longs for the word of God will bear uncountable fruit. We must check what is in our hearts. We must also check what is in the hearts of our sheep. Whether we bear good or bad fruit isn’t depending on our abilities or the circumstances, but whether we remain in Jesus.
The one who remains in Jesus will also pray to God. Verse 7 and 8 say: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Last year we experienced the power of prayer through the preparation of the European Summer bible conference by praying 3000 times together. We must remain in Jesus by praying. Then God will give us much fruit and we will be His disciples.
I thank Jesus that I am allowed to remain in him and bear fruit. I remained in Genesis 12:2 and hold on to God that He will make me a blessing. Through Matthew 26:28 Jesus gave me His blood of the covenant. I remained in the blood by bringing my sin of looking for the recognition of people, my selfishness and my sinful desires again and again to Jesus. I thank Jesus who gave me the fruit of the heavenly kingdom and inner peace and joy. God gave me one outwardly fruit, my mother. I testified her the grace of God. At the end of her life she found peace in the blood of Jesus. Today it’s even more important for me to remain in Jesus. I want to be a shepherd but I tried to feed the sheep with my own strength. I repented. To be a branch I want to meditate on God’s word day and night. I thank Jesus who gives me all strength to bear much fruit especially disciples of Jesus.
2. We must obey God’s commands
To become good disciples and to raise disciples we also have to learn to obey God’s word. Verse 10 says: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” God taught His people obedience by faith over forty years by giving them training through daily bread. Our Lord Jesus is the Son of God. But – as Hebrew 5:8.9 says – even He had to learn obedience. Without learning obedience we cannot be good disciples of Jesus and remain in Jesus, not to mention to help others to grow as disciples of Jesus.
God’s ministry is a ministry of obedience to the Word of God starting with Abraham. Abraham was able to be a blessing by obeying the Word of God. God’s ministry through UBF during the last 50 years was a work of obedience to the Word of God, especially Jesus’ world mission command. This work of God happened because UBF concentrated on intensive bible study and raising new disciples of Jesus. Europe needs bible teachers who obey the Word of God and teach it through obedience.
Today we have learned that we are able to be fruitful bible teachers and spiritual leaders by closely remaining as a branch in the vine. Jesus gives us the promise that this way we will bear much fruit. May God bless our New Generation to remain in Jesus and be fruitful branches, bible teachers and spiritual leaders of Europe.