You will need two balloons for this study: a new one and a deflated old wrinkly one – still tied and with a little air inside. Also a balloon pump. You will need a way of displaying pictures, also the statements on the last page.
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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.
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. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 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. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
So far in our series of studies on the vine we have looked at
Sometimes when a person becomes a Christian an obvious change takes place in their personality. Some would say ‘It’s like a flower opening’. That is an apt description. Having been grafted into the Vine our branch can reach its full potential. Flowers are often attractive and have a lovely perfume, but in the case of our vine the flowers are insignificant. It’s the fruit we are looking for.
Have you ever looked for blackberries? Of course, we all have. But how often have you looked for those luscious plump ripe fruit and found only small hard miserable sour specimens. Still blackberries, still containing seeds but certainly not attractive. What’s the cause of this? They have probably not had enough moisture to produce enough sap.
All the blackberry needs is a good heavy rainfall, the sap will rise and the fruit will swell rapidly.
Unfortunately for us there is a restrictor in the flow of sap, and that is our will. All the sap we would ever need to grow plump luscious fruit is freely available – but it seems that somehow we are in charge of the flow.
What is the sap which fills a Christian and causes fruit to grow?
The Holy Spirit.
But I thought we agreed that we have Jesus living in us. Is that the same thing or something different?
Read Romans 8:5-11
5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
In verse 9 there are three terms for the Spirit – does this help?
Read John 3:5-8
5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again. ’8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Also look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
And John 7:37-39
37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
(Here you could discuss the filling of the Holy Spirit or ‘The Second Blessing’)
We are Christ’s body, and Christ lives in us by his Spirit.
So Jesus is in us by his Spirit, filling us with streams of living water.
Is this really our everyday experience?
Consider the water main in the road – a constant supply of pure fresh water.
Is it full of water? Of Course
Could the water company pump more water into it? It is doing so continually.
Why is that? Because people are drawing supplies from it all the time.
This is a picture of the way the Holy Spirit continually fills us.
We have a stopcock under our sink. What’s that for?
Its sole purpose is to restrict the flow to whatever it suits us. Usually to shut it off completely.
Blow into a balloon.
What is this balloon filled with? Air
But is it full? or can I blow more air in?
What happens if I now release this new young Christian – filled with the spirit of Jesus?
It rushes about everywhere spreading the Good News! But it will soon end up deflated and needs a constant refilling if it’s going to be much use.
Here I have a mature Christian. (Hold up old deflated wrinkly balloon)
What is it full of? Air. But what’s wrong with it?
Why can’t I blow more air in?
A knot has been tied in the neck! Is that the only way to keep the balloon full of air?
There is another way - (Connect a balloon to the balloon pump and inflate it).
This is now full but it’s likely to leak – but it’s still connected to a supply of air and I can keep it full.
(Hold up balloon with knot, and balloon attached to pump)
Which one is us? (Put them away)
Hopefully the fact that we are all here this evening means that we are open to the Holy Spirit to fill us.
But it seems to me that rather than be attached to a water main, we are more like blades of grass in a lawn with a sprinkler in the middle. The further away from the source, the less you receive. You wouldn’t expect to fill a bucket by putting it on the edge of the lawn to catch a few drips!
In order to receive a greater filling of his spirit we need to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus.
So the answer’s easy. All we have to do is move closer to Jesus and allow him to fill us (display picture of us in Christ – but with circle changed to balloon HERE). How do we do that?
I have a parable for you. I want you to imagine that you are on a space craft sometime in the future and you have been exploring distant space. You are now making your return journey. You set your course and look out of the window.
Display series of pictures.
Can you see the Earth? No, not yet – you can make out the Sun and one or two of the largest planets but you are still too far away.
As time passes eventually you can just make out the Earth, but it’s only a dot.
It takes a very long time, but every time you look out of the window the dot seems bigger. The nearer you get the more you can see.
Eventually more and more of your attention is taken up by the view from your window and you find you can see less and less of the other things that once seemed attractive. They are still there but they no longer seem important. The closer you get the more you can see.
You can now make out distinguishing features. If this was a planet you had been sent to explore you would now be close enough to study it.
As you get closer still it takes up the whole of your view and you find out more and more. You can now compare your findings with what has been written long ago – and you can make new discoveries for yourself.
But the Earth is still an insignificant dot compared to Almighty God. As we grow nearer to the heart of Jesus we find our thoughts are taken up with him. We can read with renewed interest what the Spirit has revealed about him in his word. Daily we discover more about him for ourselves.
But we must be alert to the dangers. If our spaceship was ever so slightly off course we would skim past, and the effect of gravity would be to speed us up and we would be flung out into space again. If our course was slightly different we might just stay in orbit. Remaining at a safe distance but never actually arriving at our destination – just going round and round.
Fortunately a spacecraft in orbit like that only needs a short burst from its booster rockets and it will begin its descent.
If we have become complacent with our Christian lives we just need a nudge to get us out of orbit and begin to move closer to Christ again. Or maybe we have run out of steam and we need refuelling to get us going again.
The passage we read to start with was longer than normal because we need to look for clues from Jesus that will help us move closer to him.
Look again at the first part of John chapter 15. Call out what you find in the following verses:--
1. Look at the second part of verse 5 apart from me you can do nothing.
We must learn to depend on Christ more.
2. Now look at the first part of verse 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you
We must not neglect God’s word.
3. Verse 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
We must learn to receive Christ’s love.
4. Verse 10 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.
We must learn to be obedient.
5. Now look at verses 3-15 and look for the word used three times:
13 Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command.15 I no longer call ;you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
We must maintain our intimacy.
Next time we’ll start to look at these.