Sermon Text: John 15:1-8 /
Pastor Daniel Schmidt /
Once each month, the students who attend our St. Matthew’s Lutheran School watch a video segment much like our WELS Connection. It is about a 10-minute video that helps them see different areas of ministry in our Wisconsin Synod. At the end of each month’s video, there is a segment that encourages them in their day-to-day walk with the Lord. The name of the series is “Stay Connected to Jesus”. At the end of each month’s segment, the hosts of the program encourage the children to stay connected to their Savior, Jesus Christ.
God’s Word before us this weekend reminds you and me of the importance of staying in a close relationship with the one and only Savior. Today, not just our children, but all of us, hear the encouragement: Stay Connected to Jesus. I invite you to listen as I read one verse from the Gospel Lesson assigned for our worship this weekend. We read the words of Jesus found in John chapter 15 verse 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.”
If you cut off a branch from a tree, what will happen to that branch? The green leaves will turn brown. The branch will become a dry stick, only good for burning in a fire. This is how the Savior himself describes those who don’t stay connected to Jesus. Earlier we heard the Lord tells us, “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.” The judgment for those who do not stay connected to Jesus and his Word is eternal life in the flames, in the fire of hell.
In our worship services last week, we had the opportunity to talk about the close relationship that is ours to enjoy with our Good Shepherd. Jesus Christ came as your Savior and mine, and won for you and me the forgiveness of all of our sins. It is Jesus Christ who rescued us from the flames and fire of hell and has brought us into the green pastures of forgiveness and eternal life at his side in heaven. Because of all that Jesus Christ has done for you and me and all believers, he is able to say, “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.” It is Jesus Christ who feeds us with the food of his holy Word. It is Jesus Christ who gives you and me life. He gives us a life to live for him here and now on this earth. He gives us life forever with him in heaven.
What fruit comes from an apple tree? The answer is obvious: apples. From an orange tree we get oranges. From a pear tree we get pears, and so on. As you and I stay connected to Jesus through regular use of his Word, what “fruit” do we produce? We read earlier in John’s first letter chapter 3, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth…obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.”
To believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior is a gift from God. We know from the Bible that faith is not a decision you or I make, but rather a gift placed in your heart and mine by God the Holy Spirit working through the Word. So also, living a life that is pleasing to our God is not something you and I can do on our own. A life that produces “fruit”, that is pleasing to God, comes only as we stay connected to Jesus. It only comes from the Word of our God.
It is the Word of God that gives you and me the power and the desire to live a life that produces God-pleasing fruit. Listen to how James chapter 2 describes the connection between faith in Jesus as the Savior and living for him. “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”
Many parents today, yes, even our Christian parents, at times, give in to the temptation thinking that the best thing they can do for their children is to give them everything this world has to offer. But today we hear from our Savior that the best thing for Christian parents and their children is to stay connected to Jesus. The best thing that a Christian parent can do for himself or herself, the best thing a Christian parents can do for their children, is to stay in God’s Word. This means reading God’s Word at home; coming to worship on a regular basis; making use of our Lutheran Elementary school, where students are staying connected to Jesus each day of the school week; making use of the Bible study classes, Sunday School classes and mid-week classes that are offered by the Church. As you stay connected to Jesus, the promise of the Savior is: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”
Staying connected to Jesus throughout our lifetime can be a challenge from time to time. The devil is always working hard; trying to get us to make the other things this sinful world has to offer most important in our lives. Your sinful nature and mine tempts you and me to think that living for Jesus means taking all the fun out of life. We are tempted to think that the only reason we do or don’t do something, the only reason why we say or don’t say something, is because God says we HAVE to live a certain way or face the consequences of life in hell.
But today you and I are reminded once again of the close relationship we enjoy with our one and only Savior. Once again we have come together in God’s house to rejoice in the forgiveness of all of our sins through Jesus Christ. Today we hear our Savior tells us, “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.” It is the Good News of Jesus our Savior that motivates and empowers you and me to live for him. Not just today, but every day of his grace that the Lord God gives to you, stay connected to Jesus. Amen.