Remain in Me

Remain Vine Branch


Sunday 08/27/23

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Remain in Me

For weeks we have been looking at the parable of the heart soils.

We’ve done this so as to better understand how to direct our energies as we pursue knowing God more fully. To better understand how to condition our hearts to be receptive to the messages of the kingdom and bear fruit consistent with the kingdom. With Jesus’ rule and reign in our hearts. 

In examining the “good heart” last week, we discovered the following and indispensable qualities which make a heart good soil for the message of the Kingdom.

The good heart was first a worshiper of God. 

Worshiping God conditions the heart to be receptive to the Spirit. And it is the Spirit Who empowers us to understand the message of the Kingdom. Which is the next attribute of the ‘Good Heart’. 

Everything the good heart does in response to the message of the kingdom, is done from a position of understanding the message

One of the things the Spirit impresses upon the ‘Good Heart’sunderstanding is a genuine and deep value of Jesus – of knowing Him and responding to His kingship in surrender.

The response of the good heart is one of integrity and maintaining a good conscience. This is accomplished not by trying to produce the fruit of conformity to Christ and honor of Him, but by clinging to Him through the messages of the kingdom deposited inside our hearts.

As the good heart clings to Jesus due to its comprehension of His surpassing value, the enemy attempts to distract it. Attempts to draw it’s attentions away from Him, weighing them down with worries and temptations. Satan tries to cause the steps if a Good Heart to stumble by provoking them with those dearest or most important to them. By stirring up their persecutions and their not understanding them. By scrutinizing their lives and their choices which seem to them to be guided by immaterial religious notions rather than the apparent concrete affairs of life.

The good heart is able to withstand these oppositions to their trusting relationship with Jesus by patient endurance. 

Like the fruit of their union with Jesus, this endurance cannot  be purely and simply understood as personal tenacity, for if that were all they had to rely upon their strength would surely, eventually fail. No, their endurance is based upon the sure foundation of being fully convinced of the value of Jesus. The value of knowing Him. 

Paul calls it the all surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord

To give in and turn away from that reality would be heart treason. Something within the Good Heart senses death and deep sorrow at the prospect of being distant from Christ. Of living like or claiming that they do not know Him Who their hearts love with a devotion which burns within them.

So you see, this tenacity of endurance is love based. It is something the heart cannot deny and still live with itself, so in the absence of any other choice they endure and draw all the closer to Him.

As I was writing these notes I was reminded of a line in a great song, which in spite of my enjoyment of it, sadly is of a couple who are in fact not really a couple. 

The song is called, “I like the sound of that” and the line I am reminded of very much aligns with our  clinging to Christ through adversity. 

The line is this,

“I love the sound of the thunder rolling

Makes you move a little closer to me”

I mean, believe it or not, that’s it in a nutshell. 

Adversity mounted against a good heart does not drive the heart away from Jesus, nor does it succeed in driving a wedge between them, quite the contrary. 

Adversity draws us closer! 

He is the source of all our comfort and life and we would surely rather die a thousand deaths than suffer separation from Him for even a moment!

THAT is the good heart and it serves as a great springboard into the passage we are cracking open today.

Turn with me to John 15 – where Jesus describes to His disciples the nature of the relationship they are about to embark on as children in the Kingdom of God.

John 15:1-8,  

“(1) I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.” 

I love this first verse because it paints a picture to me that causes me to understand and surrender to the nature of my relationship with the Father in regard to my Christian growth.

He is the maker of our hearts and He is also the One Who works the soil of it.

It reminds me of Psalm 33:13-21,

“(13) The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men.  (14)  From the place of His dwelling He looks On all the inhabitants of the earth;  (15)  He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.  (16)  No king is saved by the multitude of an army; A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.  (17)  A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.  (18)  Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy,  (19)  To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine.  (20)  Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.  (21)  For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name.”

Let me just tell you from the onset, that if you will determine to surrender to this relationship, inviting the hands of the Father to shape and mold your heart – you will ALWAYS remain in the position of producing fruit and honoring Jesus and the Father.

“(2)  Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. (3)  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” 

“(4)  Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.” 

All that Jesus says here, in my opinion, is centered on the location of the person in relation to the Vine.

As I have told you in times past, verse 2 can be understood in two ways. There are those who would offer a third position, but they do so out of a need for a false sense of security and not on the grounds of scripture. It is true that no one can snatch us out of God the Father’s hand, but that is all together different than a person forsaking Him. The idea is that no one can overpower God and through sheer force and against the Christian’s will snatch them out of God’s hand. That IS true, but it cannot be a freewill relationship if you cannot depart from it.

That is why this teaching of Jesus is replete with encouragements to REMAIN in Him. If one had no choice, then these encouragements are baseless and meaningless. 

So the first of the two possibilities is that this may be referring to a child of God who through neglect of his relationship with Jesus and pursuing headlong a relationship of knowing and trusting with the world, fails to produce fruit from their union with Christ and so become an enemy of His. 

James talks about this when he encourages Christians NOT to love the world. He tells them that if any one of them seeks to be the friend of the world they make themselves the enemy of God. The words “want to be” in James means to choose the world above Christ with deliberate intent.  Such would be the condition here and such a condition would sever their relationship with Him. 

This is a known and real possibility – it is called apostasy. 

A person who was never ‘IN’ Christ, has nothing from which to depart. No relationship with Him to betray. They are already enemies of God. Such a person cannot fail to produce fruit – they aren’t a fruit bearing plant. They are nothing more than tares.

One would hardly look at a weed and say it is failing to produce grapes. It isn’t part of the vine and therefore is not capable of bearing fruit.

Jesus would have no expectation of their bearing fruit, since He clearly states later on that the ONLY way to do so is through union with Him. If this person never entered into such a union they could hardly be said to be ‘in Him’ and therefore COULD never bear fruit. Jesus not only refers to this person as being “in Me but implies that He was looking for fruit which failed to be there. 

Again, Jesus wouldn’t do this with someone who was NOT His Own.

The second interpretation is less obvious but is also possible.

Another meaning of the word translated here as “removes” is lift up. If this child of God is remaining in Him, but failing to produce fruit it is a temporary problem. No child of God can fail to produce fruit for any prolonged portion of time. Their fruit might be scarce and of poor quality, but their union with Christ will not permit them long durations of fruitlessness.

When this happens in a child of God, He is said to ‘lift them up’. Running with the analogy of a grapevine, this is NOT beyond consideration. Vinekeepers know their business and the only branches even allowed to remain on a vine are those which are inclined to produce, the others are lobbed off. So if this branch is drooping down and fruitless, they will lift it up and tie it off where it will get more air and exposure to the sun. If it continues to be fruitless, they will in fact remove it.

This always reminds me of the illustration Jesus used of another kind of fruiting plant – that of a fig tree.

Turn to Luke 13:6-9,

“(6) And He told this parable:“A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. (7) He told the vineyard worker, 

‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’ 

(8) “But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. (9) Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Now we have discussed this many times and I have no desire to teach in it again, but I will provide some links in the article attached to this message which will go further with this for your own personal study.

We know God is patient and lovingly merciful. He endures long and is kind, but there comes a point at which a person’s sin takes on a defiant note. This escalates their sin to a high handed sin of apostasy. God does not create this condition, it is literally pursued by the child despite the workings and warnings of the Father and Spirit and finally is complete.

In either case, the lesson at this point couldn‘t be more clear and Jesus goes on to make it in verse 4 by saying remain in me!

But before that He addresses the ‘Good Heartof our parable from last week. The productive heart. This heart He prunes. 

“He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.” 

“(3)  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” 

Here Jesus switches between parable and reality. In the illustration we are pruned, in reality we are cleansed and the agency of this pruning, cleaning work is His word. The message of the Kingdom we hear and respond to!

In order to clearly see this in action we need to consider the men He was talking to. These are the same men He later says in prayer to the Father, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.  (7)  Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.  (8)  For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.” – John 17:6-8.

Yet these same men, just hours later forsook Him and one denied they ever even met Him. 

Now these were temporary lapses in an extreme situation, and there is something to be said about the shock of it all. 

Up until now, the only Jesus they had ever known was always invincible and untouchable. Now, for the first time, He appeared truly vulnerable and all too human. Like John the Baptizer when he faced prison and eventual death at the hands of Herod, these disciples temporarily wavered in their faith, but their stumble was not a complete fall.

Jesus goes on to encourage us saying…

“(4)  Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.” 

For verse 4 I like the Message translation. It says,


“Live in Me. Make your home in Me just as I do in you. 

In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, 

you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with Me.” 

The words “joined with Me”, gives me a different angle from which to consider this verse. It is the language of marriage. 

Marriages only grow and mature within the realm of intimacy. 

When two spend time with one another, surrender to one another, stay tightly within each other’s orbit, letting nothing and no one eclipse or challenge that devotion – they grow and mature. 

It is by neglect and abuse that marriages fail, not due to the loss of romance. 

In fact, romance is only a fruit of such a joining. It isn’t the joining itself, but it springs forth from time to time naturally and organically from a healthy union.

The same can be said of our union with Jesus our Vine. 

Our relationship is NOT emotion. It is not predicated on feelings, but feelings do come. They ebb and flow naturally. However, these feelings were never designed to stay at an unreasonable volume, but to wash up and recede like waves on a shore. 

Never truly or completely gone, but they swell into awareness in a rhythm which is quite natural, refreshing, surprising and invigorating. 

Joy and gladness are fruits of union, but are not the union themselves. 

So it is that we are joined to Jesus our Vine.

(5)  “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.”

“(6)  If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”

“(7)  If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. (8)  My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.”

There is a secondary meaning to the word Abide and it speaks to the endurance which leads to producing fruit we spoke of earlier and last week regarding the ‘Good heart’.

It is found in this last verse we are reading today – verse 9

John 15:9, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; remain in My love.”

We are told to remain in Him, allow His words to make their home in us and remain or abide in His love.

This word Abide carries its secondary meaning of steadfast perseverance or endurance and it is here that we will pick back up next week. 

For those of you seeking to study this further, we do have a similar message I taught in November of 2018 which took a slightly different trajectory. It was simply entitled, “Branches – John 15”. I will link it on the website at the bottom of the article affixed to this message.


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!