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I carry with me a reminder of the incredible plan God has for me, everywhere I go. It is a piece of gold. Most of you here this morning have one too. It is a ring. If you have anything made of gold, silver, or precious gemstones — you have that reminder also. Or at least after this morning it can become a reminder of God’s plan for your life.
What will you end up with from your life lived on planet earth? God says all we will hold in our hands at the end of life will be either ashes or treasures.
For every day, every hour, and every moment lived — God is going to reduce EVERYTHING to smoke and soot, or one of three things – gold, silver, or precious stones. Which do you think is better? Your life today reflects what you believe about the end result you desire – ashes or treasures.
Open with me to 1 Corinthians 3.10-15. When we get to 1 Corinthians we will discuss far more about why God chose these symbols of our life.
The first three substances — gold, silver, and precious stones are very identifiable. They are hard to change. Gemstones can be crushed, ground, or milled as flour and yet NEVER lose their distinct crystalline structure. An amethyst is rhomboid in structure, whack it with a hammer, crush it to powder – every piece will be rhomboid. Topaz is orthorhombic – the same is true to the minutest speck. Rubies are hexagonal to the minutest speck; and so through every precious stone. Gold is one of the heaviest minerals, and therefore can be panned easily because the gold sinks to the bottom, below the other substances. In addition, it can be easily separated from other substances due to the weight differences. Gold is the most malleable and ductile substance known. It can be flattened out to less than .00001 (hundred-thousandth) of an inch, and a 1 oz. (28 gram) mass can stretch out to a distance of over 50 miles (75 kilometers)!
These three precious substances are also very scarce. It is hard to find them so they are called precious. They are all out of sight (underground) and hard to get. They also arevery enduring, able to withstand all the elements – fire, water, storms, and time. Gold is also one of the most resistant metals. It won’t tarnish, discolor, crumble, or be affected by most solvents. This adds to the uniqueness of this mineral.
The other three substances Paul names are all above ground, very visible (wood of trees, hay of grass, stubble of straw), very fragile (they burn, they die from insect attack, they rot with water); very soft (they can be easily ground up and lose their identity); very plenteous (they grow everywhere).
But gold and silver and precious stones all have a problem. They are not usually beautiful in their natural state. They need some purging, refining, and polishing. My wedding ring is made of precious gold. It has a soft and beautiful shine that reflects an incredible change that has taken place. You see gold and silver rarely occur pure and shiny in their natural state. “ The mineral Gold is almost always mixed with a small amount of silver, and sometimes contains traces of copper and iron. A Gold nugget is usually 70 – 90 percent gold, and the remainder mostly silver.”
Think of this verse the next time you look at anything that shines with the luster of gold or silver.
“God has a plan to make us valuable, precious, and enduring. In nature, gold is usually found in combination with other minerals, principally silver, lead, copper and zinc. The process of refining, or purifying, gold to the point where it is truly a precious metal – and a useful one – involves the use of intense heat and caustic chemicals. What is more satisfying after working hard to polish a piece of fine silver than to look into its gleaming surface and see your face? How would we know what we look like as we face each day if we could not look into a mirror, the reflecting surface of which is a thin layer of silver? But think of what the silver had to be put through in the refining process.
God’s pruning is the refining process through which the believer must pass before God can look at him and see His own face. Actually, God is looking for the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).
As we undergo God’s pruning, He is removing from us that which dims the image of Christ in us. God has a model or pattern to follow as He fashions the lives of His children. That pattern is Jesus Christ. And God’s great purpose is that Christ should be “formed in” us (Gal. 4:19).”
FRUITFULNESS ENCOURAGED IN COLOSSIANS 3.12-17
Colossians 3:12-17 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
I Cor. 3:11-15 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
After warning us against the sensual sins, Paul then pointed out the dangers of the social sins (Col. 3:8–9). Dr. G. Campbell Morgan called these “the sins in good standing.” We are so accustomed to anger, critical attitudes, lying, and coarse humor among believers that we are no longer upset or convicted about these sins. We would be shocked to see a church member commit some sensual sin, but we will watch him lose his temper in a business meeting and call it “righteous indignation.”
The picture here is that of a person changing clothes: “Put off… put on” (Col. 3:9–10). This relates to the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:1); for when He arose from the dead, Jesus Christ left the graveclothes behind (John 20:1–10). He had entered into a glorious resurrection life and had no need for the graveclothes. Likewise, when Lazarus was raised from the dead, Jesus instructed the people to “loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44).
The graveclothes represent the old life with its sinful deeds. Now that we have new life in Christ, we must walk “in newness of life” by putting off the old deeds and desires (Rom. 6:4). We do this by practicing our position in Christ, by reckoning ourselves to be dead to the old and alive to the new.
Paul began with anger, wrath, and malice—sins of bad attitude toward others. The word anger is the same as the word wrath (Col. 3:6), referring there to the wrath of God. This word describes habitual attitudes, while wrath refers to the sudden outburst of anger. God has a right to be angry at sin and to judge it, because He is holy and just. In fact, there is a righteous anger against sin that ought to characterize the saints (Eph. 4:26). But none of us have the right to “play God” and pass final judgment on others by our attitudes. Malice is an attitude of ill will toward a person. If we have malice toward a person, we are sad when he is successful, and we rejoice when he has trouble. This is sinful.
Blasphemy describes speech that slanders others and tears them down. Often among Christians this kind of malicious gossip masquerades as a spiritual concern: “I would never tell you what I know about her, except that I know you’ll want to pray about it.” Evil speaking is caused by malice (1 Peter 2:1). If you have deep-seated ill will toward a person, you will use every opportunity to say something bad about him.
Filthy communication is just that: foul speech, coarse humor, obscene language. For some reason, some Christians think it is manly or contemporary to use this kind of speech. Low humor sometimes creeps into conversations. If someone says, “Now, take this with a grain of salt!” you can remind him of Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” Salt is a symbol of purity, and grace and purity go together.
The final sin Paul named was lying (Col. 3:9). He wrote this same warning to the believers in Ephesus (Eph. 4:25). Satan is the liar (John 8:44), while the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17; 15:26). When a Christian lies, he is cooperating with Satan; when he speaks the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), he is cooperating with the Spirit of God.
A lie is any misrepresentation of the truth, even if the words are accurate. The tone of voice, the look on the face, or a gesture of the hand can alter the meaning of a sentence. So can the motive of the heart. If my watch is wrong and I give a friend the wrong time, that is not a lie. Lying involves the intent to deceive for the purpose of personal gain. An old proverb says, “Half a fact is a whole lie.”
Bishop Warren A. Candler was preaching about the lies of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), and asked the congregation, “If God still struck people dead for lying, where would I be?” The congregation snickered a bit, but the smiles disappeared when the Bishop shouted, “I’d be right here—preaching to an empty church!”
FRUITFULNESS EXAMINED IN 2 CORINTHIANS 5:1-10
Romans 14:10-13 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
1 Corinthians 3:5-17 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
2 Corinthians 5:1-10 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
FRUITFULNESS ETERNALIZED REVELATION 19:1-8
Revelation 19:7-8 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (NKJV)
Revelation 19:7-8 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (NIV)
Revelation 19:7-8 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”8 And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (NASB)
- Casting crowns over and over in the worship scenes
- Rewards are command based. Commands or imperatives equal responsibility. We are never commanded to do what only God does. We are commanded to do what we are responsible to allow God to do through us. Never does God’s Word says “justify yourself, or impute yourself”. But over and over God tells us “clothe yourself, flee, be not conformed” and so on.
EXPERIENCE THE LOVING LEADERSHIP OF JESUS
AUTHOR: JAN DAVID HETTINGA
- An assumption of superiority.
- The need to be more right than anyone else.
- The impulse to prove and promote myself.
- The tendency to take credit for things that were really the ideas or the work of others.
- The ease with which I can hold a grudge over slights that I’ve been guilty of committing myself.
- My uncanny ability to rationalize, justify, and excuse what I do and say while at the same time, and even over the same issues, being unsympathetic and judgmental with others.
- Leveling behavior; that is, building up myself by tearing others down.
Here are some other strongholds you might want to be wary of:
- I need to stay in control because I’m so shy and sensitive.
- I can’t give God complete control because my marriage partner would take advantage of my submission.
- I’m oversexed. God’s rules are too restrictive.
- I’m a fearful person. Losing control scares me most of all.
- God understands why I can’t surrender.
- Security and comfort have always been big issues with me. I can’t risk having God take away my support system.
- My children need my full attention. God can have my life after I get them raised.
- I like to eat. I can understand why the Israelites complained about the manna. I suspect that if I gave my appetite to God, my life would be boring.
- In order to “reach my friends” I have to be with them doing the things they enjoy.
- I’m basically honest. I don’t need help with transparency, integrity, and accountability.
- My church or parachurch circle is more right, more blessed, and more spiritually powerful than others. I’m okay because I’m with a superior group.
UNHEALTHY FEAR (chart)
- Fear of Pain Fear of Abandonment or Rejection
- Fear of Death Fear of Losing Control
- Fear of Failure Fear of the Future
- Fear of Shame and Embarrassment Fear of Strangers
- Fear of Loss Fear of What People Think of You
- Fear of Aging
HOW DOES GOD DELIVER US FROM FEAR?
- With Greater Fear!
- Fear of God
WHAT IS THE FEAR OF THE LORD?
- This list is distilled from references to the fear of the Lord that appear throughout Psalms.
- Reverence and respect for God as the all-powerful Leader of all else.
- Certainty of inescapable accountability for behavior to God
- Practicing the presence of a Holy God
- Humbly following His leadership by obeying His Word.
THE POWER OF UN-SELFED LOVE
- Kingdom of Self LOVE Kingdom of God LOVE
Revolved around SELF Revolves around the highest good of GOD
My Desires His Desires
My Pleasure His Pleasure
My Happiness His Happiness
My Ownership His Ownership
My Control His Control
My Success His Success
My Needs And the Highest Good of God’s Universe
THE BEAUTY OF KINGDOM COMMUNITY
- Kingdom of SELF Kingdom of GOD
Relationally toxic Relationally healthy
Breakdown of Relationships Building of Relationships
Alienation Oneness and Togetherness
|v. 1 ”I AM the True Vine and My Father is the Vinedresser.”||Our Father the Vinedresser is here. He is looking at us and wants to see what our connection to His Son is doing in our lives. Specifically, God the Father, our personal Gardener is looking for FRUIT. Fruit is what is produced by God in my life that will last forever. As we look at John 15 we are listening to the Gardener.
In Christ’s time, the vinedresser prunes the branches in two ways: he cuts away dead wood that can breed disease and insects, and he cuts away living tissue so that the life of the vine will not be so dissipated that the quality of the crop will be jeopardized. In fact, the vinedresser will even cut away whole bunches of grapes so that the rest of the crop will be of higher quality.
This morning in our lives God wants both quantity and quality.
The greatest judgment God could bring to a believer would be to let him alone, let him have his own way. Because God loves us, He is at work tending to our lives, encouraging us to bear more fruit for His glory. Your Heavenly Father is never nearer to you than when He is pruning you. Sometimes He cuts away the dead wood that might cause trouble; but often He cuts off the living tissue that is robbing you of spiritual vigor. How does the Father prune us?
|v. 2a “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.||The first truth of John 15 is that it is for EVERY believer. Jesus is talking to “every branch in Me”. He is talking to every young person here this morning, every mom and dad here this morning. He is talking to every student, every professional, and every senior saint that knows Him as Savior and Lord this morning. He wants us to listen to Him and understand what He is doing.|
|v. 2b “Every branch in Methat does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.||He’s talking to us
There are 25 reasons in the following verses why I believe that all of these eight verses speak about believers headed to Heaven. In fact, it was not until I studied this book more intensely than ever before reading every word dozens of times, that two words unlocked this passage. Notice those words “in ME” with “Me” starting in John 6:35 (also 6:47, 56; 7:38; 10:38; 11:25-26; 12:44, 46; 14:1, 10-12, 20, 30; 15:2, 4-7; 16:9, 33; 17:20, 21, 23).
Every one of the 27 times John records “in Me” it refers to the believer or his place in relation to our Triune God. So it is hard to imagine that the Lord switched gears in John 15:2 and says this one is unfruitful and thus unsaved. All believers go through seasons of fruitlessness, if you want to verify that think back over your own spiritual pilgrimage, right?
“In Me,” that is, in Christ, is what it means to be saved. There are tremendous words like propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption that cover particular phases of salvation, but the entire spectrum of salvation is in the phrase “in Christ.” There are only two groups of people: those who are in Christ and those who are not in Christ. How do you get “in Christ”? By the new birth. When you trust Christ as Savior, you become a child of God through faith. You are born again by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit does something else: He not only indwells you, but He also baptizes you. That is what puts every believer into the body of Christ—“every branch in me.”
Now what does all that mean? It unlocks the truth that all of these verses are for every believer! You can be fruitless at times (1 Corinthians 3:15), but not for long. The Lord stops by and starts “lifting you up” out of what ever sin that has soiled you and stopped your fruit bearing. Then as you get back into production He continues until you grow even more! WOW, what a delight to know we are so vital to God’s plan; He personally is working on us!
I think that the greatest term that expresses salvation, according to the Bible, is this one word, identification. To be saved does not mean to be joined to a church, to go through this, or to do that. It means to be identified with Christ, vitally joined to Him through a living faith in Him as Savior.
|v. 2c “Every branch in Methat does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.||
Christ’s central theme of John 15:1-8 is not salvation, how it is to be obtained or the danger of losing it. Instead, the great theme here is fruit-bearing, and the conditions of fertility.
The word “fruit” occurs eight times in the chapter, and in Scripture eight is the resurrection number. It is associated with a new beginning. It is the number of the new creation. If these facts are kept in mind, there should be little difficulty in arriving at the general meaning of our passage.
Is it really possible that a believer, attached to Jesus can be fruitless at times? Jesus says so. He says I have no branches that I will allow to persist in a state of acting, behaving, thinking, and responding like an unbeliever.
That is what we are like when we sin, when we stray, when we grieve the Holy Spirit of the Living God, when we quench the power and working of the Lord who dwells within us. We are acting like we are lost. We feel cold, distant, useless, and insecure. Often in these times believers feel unsaved and get even more discouraged thinking that they didn’t “pray the right prayer” or something. It is exactly those times, times of not living to God’s glory, that are “fruitless”.
It is exactly those times of not obeying the Lord that we become fruitless. It is when we feel lost, cold, and far from God, that He is speaking of when Jesus said, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit.”
When that condition arises Jesus dispatches the Gardener. God the Father, the Vinedresser walks down the row, finds the branch in distress and begins His loving work to stop the unacceptable condition of a branch connected to Christ that does not have Christ flowing through them.
Any part of the branch that Christ is not fully allowed into is addressed – that is chastening, that is pruning, and that is purging or cleansing.
FRUIT IS YOUR ONLY PERMANENT DEPOSIT IN HEAVEN
Real fruit is precious to God! Fruit is the main earthly reason you were saved. Paul told Christians they were “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). In practical terms, fruit represents good works – time, treasure, attitude, or action of ours that God values because it glorifies Him. The fruit of my earthly life is how God is glorified on Earth; and the basis of my capacity to glorify Him in Heaven someday. That’s why Jesus declares, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8)
|v. 2d “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.||ALL BELIEVERS BEAR FRUIT
A true branch, united with the vine, will always bear fruit. Not every branch bears a bumper crop, just as not every field has a bumper harvest (Matt. 13:8, 23), but there is always fruit where there is life. But the question still remains about what “takes away” means.
The answer comes in two parts. First, a clearer translation of the Greek word airo, rendered in John 15:2 as “take away,” would be “take up” or “lift up.” Remember the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible, so look at how God’s Word uses this word.
Jesus explains the process that God the Father uses with fruitless areas of our lives. This is the area of greatest blessing if we understand, and greatest confusion if we don’t. The translators of this verse have almost added to the confusion by the words “takes away”. It sounds like get rid of, or cast out, or something terrible. Actually this word translated here “takes away” is the Greek word airo and it means simply “lifts up”.
We find accurate renderings of airo, for example, when the disciples “took up” twelve baskets of food after the feeding of the five thousand:Matthew 14:20 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained.
This word is used again when Simon was forced to “bear” Christ’s cross:Matthew 27:32 Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross.
In fact, in both the Bible and in Greek literature, airo never means “cut off.” Therefore, when some Bibles render the word as “takes away” or “cut off” in John 15, it is an unfortunate interpretation rather than a clear translation. “Lifts up,” suggest an image of a vinedresser leaning over to lift up a branch.
What a comforting thought to see in this passage our loving Heavenly Father coming down the rows of His Son’s vineyard and finding a cast down branch.
What would that be in the context of a vineyard? It could be a branch that has gotten so far under the rest that it is not getting sunlight, and that has weakened it and stopped its growth.
It could be a branch that has gotten covered with dirt or caked with mud by the traffic around it or a storm that passed through.
It could be a branch that has fallen and is down on the road getting trampled. All of these are genuine conditions that First Century vineyards faced. All of these also parallel life on planet earth 2004!
The branches out of the sunlight are like believers out of touch with God, prayerless, with no daily habit of finding God in His Word. They are not close to other believers and do not feel the warmth of God’s love or the encouragement of saints around them who love and care for them. God reaches down and starts to pull them back by whatever means it takes to get them back to the Bible, back to the church, and back into authentic fellowship and accountability.
The branches caked with mud and dirt are believers who get lured into sin. It may be slowly, like the dust that slowly built up on the leaves of the plants near the roads back then. A tiny bit over a long time has a deadening effect. Some believers trifle with sin, never plunging in, just sneaking in a sin here and there. The net effect is a growing loss of life giving exposure to the Son of God. Spiritual paleness and limpness overtake them slowly but surely and they begin to waste away, their vibrancy fades, their families and marriages suffer – all because of the little sins they allow into their daily lives. Others plunge into sin, and quickly are so caked with it they feel despair, they feel hopelessness, and they feel far from God. Again, a loving Savior comes to the scene of the disaster and begins the process of lifting the fallen branch out of the mud.
The branches that are trampled are those who are weak, frail, and in need of much help. They get trampled by life, trampled by work, trampled by health concerns, and trampled by finances. Each of these areas is a lack of faith on their part, so they suffer the consequences of fearfulness, anxiety, joylessness, and many other ills – until the Heavenly Gardener again comes along through a timely visit, a phone call, a letter, or a message of hope that sparks their hearts to again trust the One who loves them and gave Himself for them. Even in the area they are cast down about, they are lifted again into the sunlight of His love, joy, and peace.
|v. 2e “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.||These beautiful and life-sustaining trees are mentioned in Psalm 92, the psalm for the sabbath day. “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree…” (v. 12)
Psalm 92 “bear fruit”
Beware of sins of old age
Senior Citizens Challenges
Seniors by the time they reach Psalm 92 life should have learned:
How useless self pity is; how dangerous selfishness becomes; how worthless greed ends up; how hopeless independence can be; how restless discontentment can be; how empty pleasures become empty so quickly.
On the positive side senior saints have learned how priceless real friends truly become; how endless Christ’s joys can be; how numerous ministry opportunities are all around us; how satisfying Christ’s presence becomes the more we are alone; how comforting prayer grows to be in our lives.
|v. 2f “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.||Our Father the Vinedresser is here. He is looking at us.
It is the wise farmer who knows the correct times of the year to cultivate and prune his vines to insure maximum yield. In the Holy Land grapevines first bloom in May, and the fruit will begin to ripen by August. There are two calculated prunings (as noted in the Gezer Calendar) in the fall before the vines become dormant, the unproductive bunches from the previous year are removed, and at the peak growth time of the year once the grapes appear, excess leaves and tendrils are cut away to encourage greater yield and even ripening. In our lives we also need to be trimmed when things get in the way and when things are going better than ever! Yahweh will thus bide His time until the appropriate moment to make His pruning in our lives.
“Does God have a grudge against His children? Is He trying to “get even” with us? Is God’s chastening and pruning a kind of parental revenge for childish wrongdoing? Often we may think so, but this is far from the truth. God disciplines us for our own profit so we can share in His holiness. God’s one supreme purpose in disciplining us is purification. He wants to take away from us all that mars the likeness of Jesus Christ within us. It is His own holiness that He wants to perfect in us”.
PROFILES IN PRUNING In the vineyard, an expert pruner applies his skills in four specific ways:
When He chastens we are “lifted”; when He cleans we are “purged”; and when He communes we “abide”.
“Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” The Greek word is kathairoµ , which means “to cleanse.” Some people consider the purging to be pruning, and He does that too, but it really means to cleanse.
However, the “purging” in this verse literally means cleansing. When I was in the Bethlehem area, I saw that in their vineyards they let the grapevines grow on the ground, and they propped them up with a rock. Because the grapes get dirty and pests get on them, they actually go around and wash the grapes before they get ripe. So the Lord comes to our lives; He lifts us up and washes us so that we may bear more fruit. How does He do this?
FRUITBEARING 101: Jesus Never Neglects Any Vine That He Owns
If you are in Christ He is at work somewhere in your life – trimming, lifting, cleaning, or pruning. Whenever we have fruitless times, God steps in to change that.
“For the Christian, sin is like dirt covering the grape leaves. Air and light can’t get in. The branch languishes, and no fruit develops. How does our Vinedresser lift us from mud and misery? How does He move our branch from barren to beautiful so we can start filling up our basket? The answer to this question is the first secret of the vine. It’s All Up To You. Once believers understand God’s motive in discipline, an astonishing truth dawns: The discipline doesn’t have to continue! It’s all up to me. I will only experience pain as long as I hang on to my sin. If you’re still wondering whether you are in a season of discipline, ask yourself this question: Can I look back over my walk with God and see very clearly that a sinful behavior I used to be caught up in is no longer an issue? Are there thoughts, attitudes, or habits that used to dominate my life but don’t anymore? If you can answer yes, you’re moving forward and upward with God. If you can’t, your grape harvest basket is probably empty and you are undoubtedly being disciplined. I recommend that you now try to understand what degree of discipline God might be using to get your attention. Note Hebrews 12 with me. There are stages of God’s chastening in a believer’s life.”
How do we know what to send ahead? One sobering warning about Heaven is from Pastor Jan David Hettinga  in his 1996 book entitledFollow Me. There he lists three terrible dangers that can rob anyone of finishing well and earning Christ’s well done. These three areas should concern all of us who seek Christ’s full rewards in Heaven. He says:
1. Beware of the sins of old age: lust for comfort and convenience, greed for recognition and covetousness for security. The sins of old age can erase Christ’s “well done.” Remember Solomon.
2. Beware of the problem of exceptionism: it makes me think my life is an exception to God’s Word. Thus I can excuse myself from doing anything for Heaven because of my past, or my pain, or my poverty, or my poor self-image. The problem of exceptionism can erase Christ’s “well done.” Remember Ananias and Saphira.
3. Beware of the unmortified pockets of pride: allowing these pockets to grow and not be dealt with. It can make me proud of my intellect, or proud of my achievements, or proud of my giftedness, or even proud of my goodness. Pockets of pride in my life can erase Christ’s well done. Remember Lot.
FRUITBEARING 102: Jesus wants me to increase in fruitbearing every growing season of my life – so He will work on me to that end!
Do you realize that when you and I were saved we enlisted God Himself as our personal, lifelong gardener? With pruning clippers in hand He is ALWAYS at work! When we are fruitful, God moves in to make us “more fruitful”. Are you ready for a troubling truth that, once grasped, will free you to view the trials you’re now facing in a new light, even change how you feel about them, and reward you with a beautiful harvest for God?
Because of the grape’s tendency to grow so vigorously, a lot of wood must be cut away each year. Grapevines can become so dense that the sun cannot reach into the area where fruit should form. Left to itself, a grape plant will always favor new growth over more grapes. The result? From a distance, luxurious growth, an impressive achievement. Up close, an under-whelming harvest.
Do you know who God has targeted as the most fruitful branches in His vineyard? The senior branches. That is exactly what Psalm 92 says. Seniors or those who are “older” in the faith have so many blessing from the Lord.
Senior saints have deep roots, they have weathered the storms, they have experienced painful losses, they know how brief life can be.
Senior saints know that security only can be found in Christ’s presence, where reside the precious trio of peace, comfort, and joy. Do you remember some of those senior saints that God points out in His Word?
FRUITBEARING 103: Jesus invites us closer and closer to Him the more we cooperate in the fruitbearing He seeks.
The third lesson of the Vine : If your life bears a lot of fruit, God will invite you to abide more deeply with Him. His purpose is not that you will do more for Him but that you will choose to be more with Him. Only by abiding can you enjoy the most rewarding friendship with God and experience the greatest abundance for His glory. Abiding is all about the most important friendship of your life. Abiding doesn’t measure how much you know about your faith or your Bible. In abiding, you seek, long for, thirst for, wait for, see, know, love, hear, and respond to …a person. More abiding means more of God in your life, more of Him in your activities, thoughts, and desires.
The cleansing power of the Word of God. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:22–23). We were born again by the Word of God, washed from our sins. Then in our walk down here we get dirty and need the Word of God to cleanse us continually. That is one reason to study the Bible—to be cleansed. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Ps. 119:9).
How does God work? “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word” (Ps. 119:67). “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Ps. 119:71). My friend, He uses affliction to bring us to the Word of God that you and I might be made serviceable to Him. I don’t think that you will ever be clean before God if you don’t study the Word of God. I believe that the people who are really dangerous are the ones who are as active as termites in our churches but who are reluctant to study the Word of God. I consider them the most dangerous element against the Word of God and the cause of Christ in this world. My friend, we need to study the Word of God and apply it to our lives.
The cleaner we are in our daily lives, the more fruit we will bear. The leaner we are the more capacity we have to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10.31). Note that the fruitful branches are “purged” (John v. 2—same word as “clean” in v. 3) so that they will bear more fruit. God cleanses us through the Word, chastening us to make us more fruitful, which helps to explain why a dedicated Christian often has to go through suffering. As believers move from producing “fruit” to “more fruit” (v. 2) to “much fruit” (v. 8), they glorify the Father. The evidences of the “abiding life” are: a sense of the Savior’s love (v. 9), obedience to His Word (v. 10), answered prayer (v. 7), and joy (v. 11)
|v. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.|
|v. 4 “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.”||The Branches Abide
The key to this passage is the word abide; it is used eleven times in John 15:1–11 (“continue” in John 15:9 and “remain” in John 15:11). What does it mean to “abide”? It means to stay in touch with Christ so that His life can work in and through us to produce fruit. This certainly involves the Word of God and the confession of sin so that nothing hinders our communion with Him (John 15:3). It also involves obeying Him because we love Him (John 15:9–10). This abiding relationship is natural to the branch and the vine, but it must be cultivated in the Christian life. It is not automatic. Abiding in Christ demands worship, meditation on God’s Word, prayer, sacrifice, and service—but what a joyful experience it is! Once you have begun to cultivate this deeper communion with Christ, you have no desire to return to the shallow life of the careless Christian.
Abiding is about being, not doing; Jesus wants me to be with Him more than do for Him!
Abiding produces fruit. John 15 is Christ’s explanation of fruitfulness. The entire passage is ONLY to believers. So the salvation is assumed, it is the fruitfulness that is being explained. Fruitbearing in our lives is totally tied to proximity. We bear fruit when we are connected and close. Many have been born into His family, few stay close in abiding fellowship. Many have eternal life forever in Heaven but do not experience it here today. Jesus is near at times and far much more often.
Jesus wants my life spent intentionally on fruitbearing for His glory – that means abiding, and that means I will Walk in the SPIRIT.
Abiding speaks of our keeping close to Jesus so that we can bear fruit. To abide never means “to keep yourself saved”. Twice in this passage (John 15.1-16) Jesus commands us to abide. We are never commanded to do anything that we are not responsible and able to do. So He does not say “Keep yourself saved” or “Save yourself” rather He says, “I command you to stay near Me, stay with Me, stay close to Me” much like we say to our children when we want to help and protect them or insure that there is something special they do not miss. Jesus does not want us to miss the benefit and blessing that comes from nearness to Him. Nearness to Jesus is a choice based upon obedience. If you are not close to Him today – He has not moved, you have.
Look at His direct calls to us commanding us to stay near Him in every way possible through life:
John 15:4, 9 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. 9 As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
To abide in Christ does not mean to keep ourselves saved, rather it means we pursue:
Since we know the Scriptures with one voice promise us that God is faithful and will never leave or forsake us, “abide” thus becomes a heightening and deepening offer of closeness to Him. God who has come to live with us now wants us to invite Him into our private quarters where we really live. If He is on the doorstep, He wants into the house. If He is in the entry way, He wants into the home. If He is in the living room, He wants full run of the house to go upstairs and into the bedrooms and closets.
When we abide in Christ it is assumed that we entered into His life by the sacrifice He made and we accepted. Abiding grows as we choose to daily maintain constant dependency on Him. We stay conscious of our helplessness; we realize that “severed from Him, we can do nothing.” Abiding in Christ means we draw from Him all we need to live His life all our days.
“It is not enough that I turn from myself in disgust; I must turn to Christ with delight. I must seek His presence; I must be occupied with His excellency; I must commune with Him. It is no longer a question of my sufficiency, my strength, or my anything. It is solely a matter of His sufficiency. The branch is simply a conduit, through which flows the fruity-producing juices, which result in the lovely clusters of grapes”.
|v. 5 “I AM the Vine and you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”||Jesus, who is the eternal unchanging God of the universe, opens His arms to us opening an intimate and personal relationship directly with us.
Jesus gives the seventh and final declaration of His divine relationship to us. In God’s Word a seven-part truth is a completed set. Jesus says that I AM all you need, needed, and will ever need. And in John 15 explains how to get and keep everything He has promised us.
|v. 5 “I AM the Vine and you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”||When Jesus speaks to His disciples in John 15, He was emphasizing the familiar to portray the eternal. The vine was part and parcel of Jewish imagery, and the very symbol of Israel. The vine was grown all over Palestine as it still is. It is a plant needing a great deal of attention if the best fruit is to be gotten from it. It is grown commonly on terraces. The ground has to be perfectly clean. It is sometimes trained on trellises; it is sometimes allowed to creep over the ground upheld by low-forked sticks; it sometimes even grows round the doors of the cottages; but wherever it grows careful preparation of the soil is essential. It grows luxuriantly and drastic pruning is necessary. So luxuriant is it that the slips are set in the ground at least twelve feet apart, for it will creep over the ground at speed.
JESUS USES A UNIVERSAL IMAGE : there was no one living in Israel in the time of Christ’s ministry that had not seen a vine and its branches – except maybe the blind who had escaped the healing touch of Jesus. So when he set out to explain the relationship that he desired from those who were his own children – he used the vivid image of the vine and branches.
JESUS USES A HISTORICAL IMAGE : After the Old Testament era the identification continued, in fact the vine is the national symbol for Israel on the coins of the Maccabean Period (167-63BC). By the time of Christ’s ministry the Temple of Herod had made the vine and branches to be the glory of the area in front of the Holy Place. Herod’s Golden Vine was the spot that the Jews could bring golden clusters of grapes to hang as an offering to the glory of the God of Israel – and many did. Many wealthy people brought a new bunch of grapes and the not as wealthy would bring a new grape to hang on to that vine. So to all in Israel as John records these words of Jesus the vine and branches were the very symbol of Israel. But Jesus changes the symbolism and declares in v. 1 that He is the true vine. The point of that word alethinos , true, real, genuine, is this.
JESUS USES A BIBLICAL IMAGE : Often in the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God. “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:1–7). “Yet I planted you a choice vine” is the message from God through Jeremiah to Israel (Jeremiah 2:21). Ezekiel writes in chapter 15.1-11 and 19.10 that Israel is as a vine in God’s sight. Hosea writes “ Israel is a luxuriant vine” (Hosea 10:1). Psalm 80.8 records that “Thou didst bring a vine out of Egypt”. Thus in the Old Testament the vine had actually become the symbol of the nation of Israel.
JESUS USES A NEGATIVE IMAGE : The vine is never used in the Old Testament for Israel in a positive way. It always spoke of degeneration. The point of Isaiah’s picture is that the vineyard had gone wild. Jeremiah laments that his nation has turned into “degenerate and become a wild vine” (Jeremiah 2.21) Jesus was warning any who heard Him that just being associated with God’s people did not save. They were degenerate and wild. The only hope was by a living connection to Him! We need to be connected to Christ, living in Him or we have no hope. It is not human descent but Divine rebirth that saves. Nothing external can give endless life, only connection to God Himself through Jesus.
JESUS USES A VIVID IMAGE : Vines grew everywhere in Israel as they do today. And everyone who grew grape vines knew the close attention they need to bear good fruit. Each year 90% of all growth from the previous year must be cut away. Pruning was required, and the soil constantly prepared. The vines have to be held away from the ground by trellises or sticks. After three years of maturing, the new plant is pruned back twice each year as it bears two kinds of branches, ones that have fruit and ones that don’t. Any branch that does not bear fruit is drastically pruned back, so none of the plant’s strength is misused for mere foliage and not grapes. An unpruned vine never produces the good fruit it is capable of—and this Jesus knew very well.
JESUS USES A SOBERING IMAGE : The wood of the grape vine has the distinct characteristic that it is good for nothing. It is too soft for any purpose. At certain times of the year, it was laid down by the law; the people must bring offerings of wood to the Temple for the altar fires. But the wood of the grape vine was excluded. Wood pruned out of a vineyard was only useful for a bonfire. This completes the picture Jesus draws.
|v. 5b “I AM the Vine and you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”||When Jesus stopped to describe our daily relationship to Him in John 15 – it was of utmost importance. The timing is unbelievable, just hours before the darkest night on earth. The cross and the grave were looming yet Jesus joyously looked ahead for the joy of being united with His disciples and us!
Think about something – when Jesus sums up the Christian life it is with this picture. We are a branch and everything in our life is connected to HIM! All we are and all we will ever be flows through Jesus. That is an awesome thought.
We live our lives from salvation onward – attached to Jesus. Everything we say we say with Him, everything we see we see with Him, everything we do we do with Him. We are like Siamese twins, we are connected, attached, linked and sharing His life.
Now look further and what is amazing if you step back and look at John 15.1-8 — no sin is in the picture. Jesus is describing us as we are, wearing His righteousness, and thus He sees us as without sin. The result is that Jesus is asking the Father to remove anything that hinders His life from being ours. Life is reduced to being either good or good for nothingness.
To be good branches for Jesus we need some constant help. This is the job of the Gardener, and God the Father assumes the role of the gardener. He is always at work in our lives trimming, pruning, lifting and promoting Christ-likeness. The explanation of John 14.21 is seen in John 15.1-7.
Jesus used this vine/branch metaphor for their understanding. But the importance of vineyards in the ancient world is difficult for modern readers to appreciate. Winemaking dates back to the earliest days of human history. Genesis records Noah as the first vineyard cultivator and winemaker, with unfortunate results (Gen 9:20 ff.). The production and consumption of wine was an economic mainstay for the farmers of Israel in Jesus’ day. Many Christians today do not drink wine, and most have little understanding of a working vineyard. Wine comes from the juice of the grapes produced by a grapevine. So what lessons was Jesus offering to His disciples that night and thus to us?
|v. 5 “I AM the Vine and you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”|
|“I AM the Vine and you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit”||Constant Attention Needed
Do you remember the explosive power of growth and multiplication that God built into plants? That is why it take so much effort on God’s part toprune us constantly. In the agrarian world of the Bible, pruning was a crucial process in tending vineyards and produce-bearing trees. Pruning embodies a paradox of life—that growth and productivity require deprivation and stress. If left to grow unattended, a vine or fruit tree will produce lush foliage but little fruit. This passage is a full-fledged development of the analogy between Christ as a vine and His disciples as branches. Drawing in minute ways on actual practices of pruning, Jesus pictures the nature of Christian growth, an important part of which is that God prunes every branch that bears fruit, “that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). Far from being an image of punishment, pruning signifies nurture, growth and fruitfulness.
Let me share a few insights from a grape arbor. That is what we called ours at home as I grew up in Michigan. We cultivated grapes for my mother’s incredible grape jams, jellies, and juice.
|v. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me…”|
Mineral Facts online at: http://www.minerals.net/mineral/elements/gold/gold.htm
Adapted from Secrets of the Vine.
This is the key Greek preposition eis which occurs 711 times translated “in and into” in the Greek New Testament and only 58 times “on”.
Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John Volume 3. Swengel, Pa.: Bible Truth Depot, 1945, p. 286-289.
Quoted from Wiersbe, Warren W., The Bible Exposition Commentary, ( Wheaton, IL: Victor Books) 1997.
Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of The Vine. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2001,p. 21-35.
Roy Gustafson, In His Land Seeing Is Believing. Minneapolis, Minnesota: World Wide Publications, 1980, p. . 75-78 .
Walton, John H.; Matthews, Victor H.; Chavalas, Mark W., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, ( Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press) c2000.
Walton, John H.; Matthews, Victor H.; Chavalas, Mark W., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, ( Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press) c2000.
Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of The Vine. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2001,p. 39-48.
Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of The Vine. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2001,p. 50-59.
A.W. Pink, John, III, 307-309.
Drawn from Bryant, Beauford H.; Krause, Mark S., The College Press NIV Commentary: John, ( Joplin, Missouri: College Press Publishing Company) 1999, c1998
Pruning in biblical times was done with pruning hooks (Is 2:4; 18:5). These were small, sickle-shaped knives forged at spearpoint and attached to a short handle. As a tool the pruning hook in the Bible is a physical icon symbolizing prosperity and peace, as suggested by three famous parallel passages that speak of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks (Is 2:4; Joel 3:10; Mic 4:3).