The journalist Clive James once wrote about a best-selling book from Canada called “Coping with Back Pain.” It did so well that the Americans printed their own edition. But the Americans called it “Conquering Back Pain” because the United states is a can-do nation that doesn’t just cope, it conquers! Extending the principle he suggested that in the interests of honesty some other books should have their names changed for Canada.
So the Canadian version of Julius Caesar’s memoirs should become, “I came, I saw, I coped.”
“She Stoops to Conquer” becomes “She Stoops to Cope”
“Hail the Conquering Hero Comes” should be be, “Hail the Coping Hero Comes.”
How are you doing in your Christian life? Are you coping? Or are you conquering?
Romans 8 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. More than conquerors. Hyper-conquerors!
Romans 5 17 how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Hyperconquerors! Reigning in life. Christians are not just meant to cope. We are meant to conquer. We are not just meant to struggle on, coping “under the circumstances”. We are meant to be victorious, reigning in life, conquering “over the circumstances”. But how do we do that? Jesus Himself taught us the secret of victorious Christian living. He Himself is that secret! “I am the vine. You are the branches.”
In John’s Gospel there are seven places where Jesus says, “I am” to reveal who He is and the difference he can make to our lives if we follow Him.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life;” (John 6:35).
“I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12).
“I am the door.” (John 10:9).
“I am the Good Shepherd.” (John 10:11).
“I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25-26).
And Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
We have already looked at those six amazing claims Jesus makes about himself in other sermons on John’s Gospel. Today we come to the seventh “I am” saying of Jesus.
John 15:1 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 4 Remain in me, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
“I am the vine – you are the branches.” Here is the secret of victory in our Christian lives. Here is the way we can be not just coping but conquering. This is how Christians reign in life. “I am the vine.” In Hampton Court palace there is a grapevine under glass; it is about 1,000 years old and has but one root which is at least two feet thick. Some of the branches are 200 feet long. Because of skillful cutting and pruning, the vine produces several tons of grapes each year. Even though some of the smaller branches are 200 feet from the main stem, they still bear fruit because they are joined to the vine and allow the life of the vine to flow through them.
“I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus said. God calls us to trust him and obey Him. Jesus promises all kinds of wonderful blessings if we remain joined to the vine – if we abide in Christ.
There are the blessings of answered prayer.
John 15 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you! And Jesus talks again about fruitfulness in prayer in verse 16.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
God wants Christians to live fruitful lives. Fruitful lives. Not just the fruit of answered prayer. But also the fruit of good works which bring glory to God. The fruit of the Spirit, the character of Christ. The fruit of new Christians who find faith through us.
Answered prayer. Fruitfulness. And Jesus also promises that his disciples will have joy.
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Joy – not joy as the world gives it but joy which springs from Christ Himself – His joy!
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.
Christians have the privilege of a very special relationship with God. Jesus calls us His friends! Joy. Fruitfulness. Answered prayer. There are so many blessings which God promises to us if we will only remain united to Jesus – abiding in Christ.
The challenge for us as Christians is to stay abiding in Christ. And how do we do this?
FIRST God’s word – Scripture
John 15 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
It is God’s Word that brings us new life – God’s word is the truth that sets us free!
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
The words of Jesus are the source of our new life and the secret of abiding in Christ. “If my words remain in you,” says Jesus. If we are feeding on the Word of God the Bible and let it shape our lives. We become more like Christ as we allow His words to take root in our hearts and transform us. We do this as we listen to sermons and seek to put we learn into practice. A quick reminder – there are more than eight years of old sermons online on the blog – including all our previous sermons on John’s Gospel. We can also learn from God’s word in Bible Studies and in our Daily Bible Readings. Abiding in Christ through God’s Word, the Bible
The second way to abide in Christ is through PRAYER. We thought about this in our Family Service last week. Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For whoever asks will receive, whoever seeks will find, whoever knocks, the door will be opened to you.
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
Prayer is at the heart of our relationship with God. We abide in Christ by spending time in His presence. Asking, seeking, knocking. But also listening to God and not just rattling through our shopping list of requests. True prayer is receiving God’s joy and His peace and His wisdom. Enjoying God’s presence, as adoring children love to just cuddle up and spend time in the arms of their loving Father. As well as in our personal times of prayer, we can pray together at Draw Near to God, and in our Home Groups, and whenever we meet with other Christians.
The THIRD element of abiding in Christ is OBEDIENCE
9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
So we remain united with Christ by obeying his commands. And the greatest command of all is to love. To love God and to love other people.
12 My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command….. 17 This is my command: love each other.
Here is a challenging command to obey. To love God and to love other people with the same kind of love as Jesus has loved us. But this is the New Commandment Jesus gave all his disciples.
John 13 34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
So this is how Christians can reign in life – not just coping but conquering. Here is the secret of Victorious Christian Living and of our witness in this God-rejecting world. Nothing dramatic. Nothing surprising. Nothing new. Simply to let Christ live in us. To let the victory of his cross over sin and death and the devil be our victory. To let the power of His glorious resurrection life be OUR power. Through Scripture. Through Prayer. Through Obedience. Through Sacrifical Love.
But the sad truth is that many Christians miss out on God’s rich blessings because they fail to abide in Christ. Jesus gave that warning.
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.
Apart from me you can do nothing. If we fail to abide in Christ we will miss out on the blessings Christ has for us. If we try to serve God in our own strength, with our own plans, in our own efforts, we will achieve nothing. Our lives will be fruitless. Jesus says apart from me you can do nothing. If we persist in thinking we can achieve anything at all in our own strength, we will come under God’s judgment! We can come to the point where God will not choose use us to bear fruit for His Kingdom any longer, because we are trying to do everything in our own strength instead of in Christ’s strength.
One year in a small town in Texas the school burned to the ground. More than 200 lives were lost, because they didn’t have a sprinkler system fitted. After the initial shock had passed they began to rebuild the school and called in the very best fire prevention company to install a state-of-the-art sprinkler system. There were sprinklers in each room, to alleviate fears of another disaster. The school opened and all was well for a number of years, until they were doing building work to expand and they made a worrying discovery. The new fire extinguishing equipment had never been connected to the water supply! They had the latest in technology and equipment, yet it was entirely useless! It wasn’t joined to the mains – it would have had no water!
Abide in me says Jesus, and you will bear much fruit. Without me you can do NOTHING.
SCRIPTURE PRAYER OBEDIENCE LOVE? How can we do this in practice?
The good news is that we don’t have to follow Jesus all by ourselves. We can help each other! A few years ago, but before a number of folk joined the church, I gave everybody a copy of my first book, Making Disciples One to One. If you didn’t get a copy then, or since, please do take a copy today. The book is all about how we can help each other to abide in Christ, by meeting together as Christians. One of the chapters gives us 12 Great Reasons for meeting together one-to-one to encourage each other in our faith.
1. Anybody can do it!
2. Dialogue teaches the parts monologue can’t teach
3. Jesus TELLS us to pray together.
Matthew 18:19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
4. Opening up to each other is opening up to God
5. Confession and absolution helps us deal with sin
6. Discipleship, like salvation, is intended to be shared
7. It is good to be in covenant relationships with others
8. Being accountable is a good thing
9. Seeing Christ in each other
10. Things “better caught than taught”
11. Exercising Spiritual Gifts
12. Practising God’s kind of love on other Christians
Making Disciples One-to-One contains a number of resources to make it easier for Christians to meet together and encourage one another in our faith. There is a short course One-to-One for New Christians, when a new Christian meets with a mature Christian to grow in their faith. If you would be interested in doing that – sign the sheet. There are resources to help two established Christians to meet together as prayer partners, or Spiritual Friends. If that interests you, just find a friend and start meeting! And there is a guided course in discipleship called Fan the Flame especially for mature Christians to who really want to go on with God and stretch your faith. That course gives a programme to read and pray and reflect on each day, and every week or two weeks you meet with a guide to discuss what you have been discovering. Fan The Flame spends the first week looking at Knowing God better, deepening our relationship with God and our worship and prayer life. The second week focuses on Becoming like Jesus, Repentance and Holiness, Christian Victory and Overcoming Temptation, and Total surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Week three looks at Living in Christ’s body, forgiving ourselves and forgiving others and living in Fellowship and Community. Week Four thinks about Becoming a servant, following the example of Christ our Servant King, and Loving our neighbour. The final week explores what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, Sharing Christ’s resurrection life – the empowering Spirit. If you would like to follow Fan the Flame, sign the sheet.
One-to-one for New Christians, Spiritual Friendships, and Fan the Flame. Would meeting with another Christian help you to grow as a Christian and to abide in Christ? Are we living in Christ’s victory? Are we conquerors? Or just copers? How well are we doing at abiding in Christ? Scripture? Prayer? Obedience? Love? And what are we going to do about it?
“I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus said. 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.