Fruitfulness Explained: Abiding Satisfied
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 are very 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).”
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.
This morning see God walk down the rows of vine branches. Watch how He takes listless, sometimes empty branches and brings them back to full spiritual vigor.
Follow His eyes as He examines each branch to see where it is headed, how it is doing, and what needs to be done to improve its fruit-bearing.
Trace His hands as He skillfully and lovingly lifts up branches that have begun to grow along the ground far from the Light of His presence.
Watch as He inspects the leaves caked with the soil of earth and clips, cuts, and disposes of whatever has been paralyzed; cleanses what is salvageable; and weaves back up again into fruitfulness, the restored and pruned branch.
Then ponder with amazement the huge pile of wilting branches, He cuts away each time He passes down the rows.
Feel the heat of the flames as all that useless growth is burnt, and the branches look so bare and sparse.
Remember that the goal of the Gardener is supreme – getting rid of ANYTHING that impedes the fruitfulness of His branches.
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.
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?
Sometimes He simply uses the Word to convict and cleanse us. (The word translated “purge” in John 15:2 is the same as “clean” in John 13:10. See Eph. 5:26–27.)
Sometimes He must chasten us if we are cast down in the mud of sin (Heb. 12:1–11) and spiritually lifts us back up into the sunlight of fellowship. At the time, it hurts when He removes something precious from us; but as the “spiritual crop” is produced, we see that the Father knew what He was doing.
If we are flourishing with external growth but not producing much fruit (by giving, sowing and reaping, spirit walking, flesh denying and so on…as we saw last time) He prunes us by cutting away at our rambling growth until we bear more fruit. Our Father has to prune us so that the quality keeps up with the quantity. Left to itself, our branch might produce many clusters, but they will be inferior in quality. God is glorified by a bigger crop that is also a better crop.
And finally if we are fruitful and bearing more fruit, at special times He invites us to allow Him to even more prune in our lives until we bear MUCH FRUIT!
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 Me that 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 Me that 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.
This sermon will continue tomorrow September 24th when we start by looking at “FRUIT IS YOUR ONLY PERMANENT DEPOSIT IN HEAVEN”.
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