Sunday LinkUp – 28April2024









  • Plugged In  
    Michelle Fleming



The worst power outage in US history happened on August 14, 2003. It’s called the Northeast Blackout of 2003, and it affected 45 million people in eight states from Ohio to Connecticut. Though it lasted just a little over a day, much of the affected area was in the middle of a heatwave, which meant no air conditioning or fans. For people stuck in New York subways when the power went out, it took two hours to safely evacuate them. The same was true for people who were stranded mid-ride on roller coasters at amusement parks. Water service was also affected because the water pumps were electric.

It’s when we experience a power outage that we realize how much we rely on electricity to live and work, how much we need a strong connection to have a consistent flow. Otherwise, we experience what people in the Northeast Blackout faced: discomfort, delays, and loss.

When we think about our connection with God, we might see some similarities.  We need a strong connection with God to experience the reality of how deeply we are loved, and how that love – like electricity­­ – flows through us to others.  The apostle John writes in 1 John 4 that God is love and that the love we have for others comes from God. Here’s what else he says:

Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; [but] if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us … We love because he first loved us.  
I John 4:11-12, 19 (NRSV) 

His love – like electricity – flows from him, through us, and to othersIt’s his love that we share with others.  That’s why the connection to God is so important.  John also talks about when that connection feels weak, or when we choose to prioritize other connections over our connection with God.  That’s when fear creeps in, and we doubt God’s love for us:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.  
I John 4:18 (NRSV)

God loves us and doesn’t stop loving us.  We experience blackouts when we doubt God’s love for us, we start to look for connections elsewhere, weakening our experience of our connection with him.  When we don’t feel loved, we don’t have love to pass on to others.  Just like the Northeast Blackout, there’s discomfort, delay, and loss.

Power outages can happen due to weather events and human error.  But our connection to God is never in jeopardy.  Fear in our hearts can weaken our ability to let God’s love flow through us, but the connection will never let go.  His lavish love is readily available to us, whenever we turn toward him.

May you know and abide in the understanding that you are held and deeply loved by the Father, Son, and Spirit.

I’m Michelle Fleming, Speaking of Life.





Abiding In the Vine


A.  How does one live a victorious Christian life?

B.  How can we live righteous lives on a consistent basis?

C.  Jesus Christ, as He was preparing to die, knew that His disciples would need to have answers to those questions … so He gave them the KEY to living successful Christian lives.

D.  That KEY is found in John 15, but more explicitly in John 15:4-8

E.  Let’s begin by looking at John 15:1-3

1I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He [a] takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.   

a. John 15:2  Or lifts up  

From the Enduring Word Commentary

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away:

  • The branches that are taken away were never properly abiding in the vine, demonstrated by the fact that they did not bear fruit.
  • There is an alternative understanding of this passage that bears some consideration. James Montgomery Boice (among others) believes that the ancient Greek verb airo, translated, takes away is more accurately translated lifts up.
    • The idea is that the Father lifts up unproductive vines off of the ground (as was common in the ancient practices of vineyard care).  Those caring for ancient grape vines made sure to lift them up off the ground that they might get more sun and bear fruit better.
    • ii. “The verb translated ‘cut off’ (aireo) means literally ‘to lift up’ or ‘to take away’; the second, ‘trims clean’ (kathaireo), a compound of the first, means ‘to cleanse’ or ‘to purify.’” (Tenney)

Every branch that bears fruit He prunes:

  • This word for prunes is the same word translated cleanse in other places.  The same word could apply to either “pruning” or “cleansing” in ancient Greek.
  • The vinedresser cleans up the fruit-bearing vine so it will bear more fruit.

i. “Left to itself a vine will produce a good deal of unproductive growth.  For maximum fruitfulness extensive pruning is essential.” (Morris)

ii. “Dead wood is worse than fruitlessness, for dead wood can harbor disease and decay … God removes the dead wood from his church and disciplines the life of the believer so that it is directed into fruitful activity.” (Tenney)

iii. “And if it be painful to bleed, it is worse to wither. Better be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” (Trapp)



You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.   


Some may see verses 1-3 as containing a threat, but it really is a statement of fact, followed by another statement of fact …

  • IF a branch is to bear fruit, THEN it must be connected to a vine.
  • God wants us to bear fruit, so He will do what is necessary for us to bear much fruit, even if we’re already bearing fruit.


Now that we’ve seen how important it is for a branch to be connected to a vine, IF that branch is to bear fruit … and, by analogy, how important it is for Christians to be connected to Jesus Christ, let us see what the KEY to successful Christian living (bearing much fruit) is …


Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.   

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.   

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.   

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you [b]will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.   

b. John 15:7  NU omits you will   

  • From the RCL … Abiding in Christ is to be in a position of receiving “whatever you wish” and you can count on receiving it because the Father does not hold back.  Of course, Jesus includes that this life of abiding will be consistent with the abiding word that is given to us.  So, even what we “wish” will conform to the “true” wishes of the vine and vinedresser.  Even what we ask will not go astray.  And praise God for that as we don’t always know what to ask for (Romans 8:26).   But the Word does (Romans 8:27).
  • Cf. Romans 8:26-27

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.   



What is the MAIN TAKEAWAY?

  • IF you want to live a successful Christian life,
  • THEN you have to be connected to (and ABIDING IN) the True Vine – Jesus Christ
  • BECAUSE you cannot bear fruit (live as a victorious Christian) apart from Christ.
  • AND the way to ABIDE in Christ is to LET HIS WORDS ABIDE IN YOU.
  • 1 Peter 2:1-2  (KJV) Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:











For context, this image, like last week’s, falls within a long talk in John’s gospel account that Jesus is having with his disciples just before he goes to Jerusalem to be crucified.  He is aiming to encourage and comfort his disciples (and us), that even though he will die on a cross, his disciples will not be abandoned or left alone.  John takes special interest in relaying that Jesus is present with us, even though he has “gone away.”  He has sent us the Holy Spirit and therefore he is with us in a deeper way than he was before his ascension, and he has promised to return.

In John’s writing, we are confronted with the implications of Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension, and sending of his Spirit, along with his promise of his future return.  The question we are invited to wrestle with is what are we to do with our lives in the meantime?  Today’s passage in particular picks up Jesus’ instructions on that very topic.  Here we will see what our primary calling is “between the times” of his first coming and his return.

From this text, we can see that the proper response and way of life for all believers living “between the times” can be summed up in one concept.  Surely that sounds overly simplistic.  But Jesus’ emphasis on this one word is unmistakable in the use of the image he has chosen to describe our relationship with him, and how that informs how we live daily as we wait for his return.  If you are familiar with this text, you probably know the word I’m leading up to.  That word is simply — abide.  That is what we are to do as the disciples who follow Jesus.  But, before we walk away thinking we understand what abiding means, we would do well to let Jesus’ chosen imagery fill in for us what he means by “abiding.”  Otherwise, we may miss out on the comfort and encouragement he intends to offer us.

We will divide the text up into two parts. The first part will be the first three verses:


“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. (John 15:1-3 ESV)

Here are some general observations we can make from the first three verses:

  • First, Jesus begins by stating some realities that are involved.  He is going to lay the groundwork of what is true before he tells us what to do.  We do not receive the imperative of “abide” until verse four.  Jesus wants us to know who he is, and who we are in him first before he gives us the implications of that reality.  This is God’s grace to us.  The God revealed in Jesus Christ is not one of arbitrary commands, rules, or laws.  All that he commands of us flows out of who he is for us and who we are in relationship with himHe will never command something of us that doesn’t fit who he is as the loving Father who sent his Son to save us.  The Lord is consistent and trustworthy in all that he says and does.  And he begins his image of vine and branches by telling us what this image says about him.
  • Second, Jesus does not start with a statement about us, his disciples.   He begins by letting us know who he is in this image that he is about to use.  He does this with one of his hallmark “I Am” statements.  In this example, Jesus declares himself to be the true vine.  But not only that, he includes the Father as the vinedresser.  Jesus does not stand alone in the metaphor being used.  His Father is intimately involved in all that goes on with Jesus being the vineJesus wants us to know that he and the Father are on the same pageWe do not need to fear that what the Father does is in some way different or opposed to Jesus’ words to us.  Although the operative word in this image will be “abide,” that does not mean we are to just “hang around” as we are waiting for the Lord’s return.  But we do not need to be led to think that the Father is not for us in the same way the Son is.  There is no “good-cop/bad-cop” relationship we are brought into.
  • Third, and related to the second observation, Jesus adds a descriptor to his identity as the vine by saying he is the “true vine.”  You may remember last week that Jesus did the same thing in his description of himself as the “good shepherd.”  Jesus is making a distinction that we must take seriously.  The vine that we will be told to abide in is the “true” vine, meaning, this is the only vine trustworthy of abiding in.  It also alerts us to the fact that there may be other “vines” that could also call out to us with the command to “abide.”  It is vitally important to know whether those calls come from a “false” vine and not the “true” vine.
      • Have you ever found yourself abiding in a false vine?  There are many “vines” that call out to us claiming that if we just abide in them, then we will be fruitful and have life.  But, in the end, we come to find that those promises are hollow and empty, leaving us the same.  We are tempted, and sometimes fall prey to such temptations, where we come to think that there is some other source that will give us life.  Maybe it’s a particular lifestyle, ideology, community, social affiliation, status level, or any number of things we “abide” in that do not measure up to the “true vine” that gives us the fruitful life for which we were created.
  • Finally, after Jesus lets us know who he is and who his Father is, he then has something to say about who we are.  However, he does not make any claim about us apart from our relationship with him.  Using the image of “branches” for his disciples, he relates that “Every branch in me…”  Our truest identity is only found in Jesus.  There is no “us” in any true or fruitful way that exists apart from him.  In fact, if a branch is not bearing fruit, it is described as being taken away.  The vinedresser does not allow for any existence in the vine that is not a real existence as a branch connected to the vine.  We must remember that Jesus is speaking with a metaphor using images to declare what is true of himself and our relationship with him.  So, we must be careful not to read into the image interpretations that do not conform with the rest of the biblical witness of who God is.  Jesus is not saying that the Father is looking for worker bees to produce some fruit.  That’s not the thrust of the image nor is that consistent with Jesus’ revelation of the Father.

The Father is not searching among the branches to see who he can “take away.”  This is a descriptive statement of what it means to truly be a branch.  Branches draw from the vine, and it is on account of that relationship that fruit is producedThe branches don’t “produce” the fruit, the vine does.

    • In fact, the word “bear” in this text is the same word John used in the story of Jesus’ miracle of turning water to wine.
    • Jesus produced the “fruit” of the vine, in this case as wine, and then he tells his disciples to “carry” it to the master of the feast.
    • The word “carry” and the word “bear” are the same Greek word pheret, meaning to carry, bear, bring, or even to make publicly known.
    • The meaning is not meant to convey the producing or creating of fruit.
    • The disciples were not tasked to turn water into wine.
    • They were to pheret or carry it to the master.
    • That’s the Lord’s work in the branches that are put on display as a witness to him and his Father.

Making that observation also helps us understand the vinedresser’s work in pruning a little better as well.  The Father is pruning us in order that we can more fully be the branches we are intended to beWhen we experience pruning in our lives this image is not telling us the Father is displeased with our “production” of fruit and he is going to make us miserable until will get our quota up.  No, that again would not be consistent with who God is as revealed in Jesus.  The Father’s pruning has something to do with what we are going to see in the remaining verses.

Let’s take a look now of verses 4 through 8:

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. (John 15:4-8 ESV)

Now Jesus gives us the imperative to “abide.”   That is the life we are to live each and every day as disciples of the Lord.  But what exactly does that mean?  Some may see this as simply hanging around waiting for Jesus’ return.  But the Apostle John includes this teaching from Jesus as a comforting reminder that we are not left alone with Jesus’ departure.  He is still with us, and that is why we can abide.  So, we are invited to live in the present in the same way we will be living in the future kingdom the Lord brings when he returns.  Abiding is not something we do to pass the time or as a means to some other end.  It is the end purpose we are created for.  It is the eternal imperative of living in union with Christ.  When we get to heaven, enter the Kingdom, or whatever language you want to use to speak of God’s new heaven and earth that comes with Jesus’ return, we will be experiencing the fullness of the kingdom on account of the fact that we will be unhindered in our abiding in the vine.

Perhaps another word to bring alongside the word “abide” will be helpful here.  When we consider the image of a branch bearing fruit because of its relationship to the vine, we can see that the branch is fruitful because it is drawing from the life source of the vineIf you cut a branch off, it’s not going to produce any fruit regardless of how much you fertilize it, water it, affirm it, or scream at it.  Why?  Because it can no longer receive its source of life from the vine.  And that’s the word I would like to use alongside abide.  Receive.  That is another way of speaking of abiding in the vineAs branches, we are to receive our life from the vine.

Jesus is our source of life and there is nothing outside that relationship that adds up to anything other than withered branches, burned out and burned up.  Jesus wants us to know that there is no “true” life outside of a relationship with the “true” vine.

We see in these remaining verses that not abiding in Jesus leaves us powerless, wordless, fruitless, hopeless and without a prayerWe, as branches, are to be receiving all things from the vine.  That is what will make heaven, heaven.  What the Father aims to give us in Jesus is the fruitful life he has with his Son and the SpiritThere is so much to receive that it will be a way of life for all eternity.

In the present, even when we do receive, which amounts to bearing fruit, the Father will “prune” as a means to enable us to receive even more.  He does not want us to miss out on all the blessings and fruit that come with abiding in the vine.  That’s how good the Father is.  He even works to enable us to receive more as we grow to know him as branches in the vineIf the Father is the giver of all good gifts, as declared in the book of James, then the most important thing to cultivate is a relationship of trust where we can receive all that he has for us.  The only gift the Father cannot give us is the one we refuse to receive. But, as Jesus pictures it, even here, the Father moves to enable us to abide more fully, receiving all that he has to give.

Jesus punctuates the life of abiding as a life of receiving in verse seven:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7 ESV)






The Apostle John is not finished with Jesus’ words on abiding.  We are only dealing with half of the passage here.  However, next week we will look at the second half of John’s passage in John 15:9-17 to find the most precious gift he is aiming to give us.  Until then, take comfort and encouragement that Jesus’ resurrection means he has not left you, and that his Father has not abandoned you.  Rather, the Father is determined to bring you into an abiding relationship with himself, through his Son, by the Spirit, in such a way as to open your soul to receive the fruitful life he always had in mind for you.



Small Group Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think Jesus starts in his metaphor by telling us the realities of who he and his Father are, and who we are in relationship with him, before he gives us the command to abide?
      • All that he commands of us flows out of who he is for us and who we are in relationship with him.  
      • He will never command something of us that doesn’t fit who he is as the loving Father who sent his Son to save us.  
  • Discuss the importance of seeing that the True Vine, Jesus, and the Vinedresser, the Father, are one regarding their purposes for us, the branches.
  • What does the descriptor “true” tell us about Jesus being the Vine?
      • this is the only vine trustworthy of abiding in.   
      • there may be other “vines” that could also call out to us with the command to “abide.”   
  • What are some reasons Jesus would want to include this descriptor?
      • We are tempted, and sometimes fall prey to such temptations, where we come to think that there is some other source that will give us life.  Maybe it’s a particular lifestyle, ideology, community, social affiliation, status level, or any number of things we “abide” in that do not measure up to the “true vine” that gives us the fruitful life for which we were created.
  • Discuss the affect Jesus’ image of branches being thrown away and burned had on you and what it means to not abide.
  • What should we be careful about in understanding these images?
  • Are there some ways that we should NOT interpret the image based on other scriptures?
  • Discuss how this passage helps you understand a little more of what it means for the Father to “prune” the branches.
  • Can you think of times of pruning in your life that you are now thankful for?
  • How did seeing “abiding” as being a description of “receiving” from the Lord help, or hinder your understanding of the text?
  • A lot of points were made from the image of the vine and its branches.
  • What were some that had the biggest impact on you?
  • Did you see other points from Jesus’ word picture that came to mind that you can share?






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