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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Sept. 24, 2007

  • 2007 Sep 24

Fruitfulness Explained: Abiding Satisfied

Part 4 continued from September 23nd



To abide in Christ does not mean to keep ourselves saved, rather it means we pursue:


·      PURITY: as we keep our lives clean through His Word (vv. 3–4).

·      FAITH: as we live in His Word and pray (v. 7),

·      LOVE: as we obey His commandments (v. 10).

·      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.


He started in John 6.35 revealing Himself by saying: “I AM the Bread” we need to never perish, then in John 8.12 by declaring: “I AM the Light” we need to live.

In John 10 He opens to us the truth that He is related to us in two more ways: “I AM the Door” we need to enter God’s presence; as well as “I AM the Good Shepherd” we need -- who loves, leads, gives Himself to care for us.

At the grave of His friend Lazarus in John 11.25-27 Jesus tells us that “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” all that we need to live here and there in serenity and security. As the hymn writers say: “no guilt in life, no fear in death Jesus has set my destiny”!


In the Upper Room Jesus comforts His troubled disciples in John 14.6 with the three-fold cord that can’t be broken as He promises “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. The way for today, the truth for tomorrow and the life for evermore.

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.


·      One of the sobering principles of the New Testament is that uselessness invites disaster. The fruitless branch is on the way to destruction.

·      A second truth: contact is the key to all of our spiritual life. Jesus lived connected to God. The secret of the life of Jesus was his contact with God; again and again he withdrew into a solitary place to meet him. We must keep contact with Jesus. Connection takes planning. We must take deliberate steps to stay connected.

·      A final truth: any amount is sufficient. “To take but one example—to pray in the morning, if it be for only a few moments, is to have an antiseptic for the whole day; for we cannot come out of the presence of Christ to touch the evil things. For some few of us, abiding in Christ will be a mystical experience which is beyond words to express. For most of us, it will mean a constant contact with him. It will mean arranging life, arranging prayer, and arranging silence in such a way that there is never a day when we give ourselves a chance to forget him”. Don’t wait for a better time – seek Him now. Don’t put off for later and miss the blessing of this moment you can have with Him.

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.


This sermon will continue tomorrow September 25th when we look at why “Jesus used this vine/branch metaphor for their understanding”.

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