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. 3 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.
We must learn to depend on Christ more.
What did Jesus say in v5? ‘apart from me you can do nothing’.
What did he mean: ‘you can do nothing’? literally? Nothing at all?
Is there a difference between our normal day-to-day life and work, and working for Jesus?
Or is it that now we are ‘In Christ’ – if we have truly ‘given our life to Jesus’ – we are now directed by him as we submit to his authority?
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.
Look again at v5: those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
What does it mean to ‘have your mind set’? Is this truly attainable? How?
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Obviously we could live our life like non-Christians, but we are to live like Christ.
Remember what Jesus said in John 5:19 “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing”.
If that was true of Christ, how much more will it be true of us?
Turn to Psalm 127:1
1 Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.
Think for a moment. Are you a builder or a watchman? We’ll look at builders first.
Some people are builders by nature – they are the ones who like to make things happen. Some of those are natural leaders, others are happy to be labourers. But it’s important that each of these follow the architect’s design. The labourer’s job may be just to dig a foundation trench but if it’s in the wrong place the whole building will fail.
Many different trades are employed to build a building. Sometimes a person shows a natural ability – a gift. But how does a builder (craftsman) usually learn his trade?
Some form of apprenticeship.
One bound to an older person for a number of years in order to learn his trade.
How does an apprentice learn?
By listening to what he is told, watching someone else do it, and having a go – with help.
Eventually he is able to go off and do things by himself without any help.
Who decides when the apprentice is ready? Is it the apprentice? Or his instructor who has been in the business for the last 40 years?
Why can’t the apprentice decide?
He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know!
We are all some way through our apprenticeship. Often we will be given things to do which our instructor knows we have practiced and can do well. Sometimes we will be asked to repeat something at which we failed. Sometimes we will be asked to do something which will be a challenge. These are tasks chosen by the instructor to widen our knowledge and skill. If we refuse the training, we will always struggle in that area.
Remember, when we build for Jesus, he gave us our skills and abilities, and he will also provide the strength we will need.
While what we build reflects our own individuality and style, it still has to be in line with the architect’s plans.
How often do we need to check with the architect? Or look at the plans?
Daily (at least!)
Is that really necessary? (– I’ve seen the plans, I’ve even learnt some of them by heart. I know what the building should look like).
God’s plans are dynamic! While the plans don’t change, the structure does – and we need moment by moment guidance if we are to build in the right way.
(Psalm 127:1 again)
But suppose you aren’t a builder – you are more of a watchman – a person who watches over the lives of others and wants to give care and support and encouragement. To help people in their time of need.
Here the danger is that we may begin to feel that everything depends on us. We may attempt to counsel or comfort others in our own strength, out of our own resources. Or having identified a problem, we take it upon ourselves to try to deal with it – even though there are others who are better placed or have better skills and who would love to help.
But there is a greater danger.
In what way might we attempt to do for others what only Christ himself can do?
We may comfort someone who is hurting, but only Christ can heal.
We may point out sin, but only Christ can deal with it.
We may see the need for a change of lifestyle, but only Christ changes lives.
This is a difficult one. But if we constantly rely on Christ to guide us, we will discern how to lead and direct someone towards Christ in order for him to minister to their needs. It’s a natural human reaction to depend on our own strength.
Both builders and watchmen can slip into the same error. It’s very natural to try to remain in control and be successful
Look again at Psalm 127v1
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.
A life depending on Christ is both fruitful and restful because he takes the strain and he is the one who is ultimately responsible for making things happen.
A self-directed life can be full of stress and anxiety and produce little.
‘If in danger, or in doubt, shout and scream and run about’
Let’s do a test. How much do we depend on Christ? Who is in control?
Or let me ask the question: How much self-control have we got?
Where am I?
Realistically by how much am I in control of my life? How many decisions do I make each day without reference to Jesus?
Now cross through the word CONTROL and write DEPENDENCY
It’s a straight relationship. The more I give up control of my life the more I have to depend on Christ. But that is a lesson I find hard to learn. That’s why we are all still apprentices. So how can I learn to depend more on Christ?
That question can be answered by asking another question, which I want us all to answer. Not out loud, but we must be honest with ourselves. Are you ready?
What is the place of prayer in my life?
We must consider Quantity and Quality.
The more time I spend with God in prayer, the more I demonstrate my dependence on him. This is not something for us as a group, but as individuals:
I challenge you – and me – to spend longer in prayer. Be honest. Analyse your prayer life now, and resolve to improve it.
Don’t be unrealistic: If you only pray randomly, try to make it regularly as well. If you only pray regularly, add some random prayer times. However long you normally spend in prayer, add another ten minutes. But more than this – as you expand your prayer time, linger in his presence, and soak up his love. Above all, learn to depend on Christ to help you to pray.
Someone read John 15:14 and 15
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.
What sort of things do you talk about when you chat to a friend on the phone?
How you are.
What you’ve done, what you are doing, what you hope to do.
What your family are up to.
How much of your conversation is taken up with you asking your friend to do something for you?
Right. So we decide we are going to make an effort and really get down to some serious prayer.
We pick up the phone and dial God. Here comes the first hurdle. Do we ever feel that the response we are getting goes something like this:
‘I’m sorry but the person you are trying to contact cannot come to the phone. Please leave your message after the tone.’
Or, worse: ‘Your call is important to us but all our operators are very busy at the moment. Please listen to this tinny music for an hour or so . . .’
God doesn’t have an answerphone but perhaps sometimes it seems as if his door is shut. We feel that sometimes we just can’t make contact.
That suggests the problem is with us. What can we do?
Let’s look at some reasons why we may have problems making contact:
(Display headings: Emotional . . . Physical . . . Spiritual)
Emotional reasons – Anger, Fear. In what way can they drive us away from God rather than draw us towards him?
Physical reasons – how and where we pray (bed is not a good place!). We need somewhere where we can be alone and undisturbed. Is that a problem? If you had made an appointment for someone important to call at your house to talk to you, wouldn't you arrange to speak to them alone and undisturbed? (And not in bed!!)
It is also helpful not to approach God casually. Some may kneel or stand to pray. And what do we do with our hands? Do we consciously open our hands in an attitude of receiving? If we do, then we must also include times with our hands closed, or firmly on our knees, to remind ourselves to stop asking and to allow time for praise and worship, and to allow God to speak to us.
Spiritual reasons – Look at Revelation 3:15-16
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Now look four verses on: Revelation 3:20
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
That’s not the problem, we say – it’s God’s door that’s shut.
No says God, there’s only one door between us and the handle is on your side. This verse has been used to lead many unbelievers to Christ. But it was originally written to help Christians to find the way back.
There’s nothing wrong in coming again to the foot of the cross and asking Jesus for cleansing and restoration. Asking him again to come into our lives and make us new creatures in the sight of God. Repenting of our sin. Asking again for the Holy Spirit to flow in us.
Once saved, always saved – may be true, but once saved, always living in a right relationship with Jesus – is not.
Having made contact, can we improve our prayer life?
What should be added to it? What or how could we pray? What should be our goals to improve it?
Spend more time/ Listen/ Look for answers/ Memory – other people/ Praise/ Worship/ Repentance/ Scripture/ Keep a prayer journal.
As we come to prayer we can ask the Lord for help. ‘Lord teach us to pray’. Don’t try to do too much too quickly, but work at it every day. Remember we’re apprentices; we always have more to learn.
Having started on our main prayer time, what about the rest of the day? Or perhaps you find that a long prayer time is not for you. How can we remember to pray during the day? One idea is to use something you do as a trigger for prayer. This could be as simple as opening a door. Put a note by the front door, on kitchen cupboard doors, any door that you will use during the day. Use it as a reminder that as we open the door Jesus is there waiting to come in and talk to us.
Or perhaps a note on the phone. This will remind us that prayer is God’s initiative. He’s waiting for us to pick up the phone.
Let me read some words from Psalm 37:
4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
Jesus said: 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.