Discover the Book - Sept. 23, 2007


Fruitfulness Explained: Abiding Satisfied

Part 3 continued from September 22nd



PROFILES IN PRUNING In the vineyard, an expert pruner applies his skills in four specific ways:


·      Farmers cut anything dead or dying off the vines.

·      Farmers try to expose every branch to the light so that it get maximum exposure to the sunlight.

·      Farmers prune unnecessary growth so that the vine concentrates on fruit production.

·      Farmers keep the soil around the roots clear and prepared to feed the fruit production needs of the plant.


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 [1] in his 1996 book entitled Follow 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.


Stage 1: Rebuke – “My son, do not…be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him” (v.6). We hear God’s rebuke, even though we don’t always choose to respond. God can make Himself heard in many ways: a prick of our conscience, a timely word from another person, a Scripture, the preaching of God’s Word, or conviction by the Holy Spirit. (Do you see how wonderful and kind it is of God to use so many methods to get our attention and steer us away from peril?)


Stage 2: Chasten – “For whom the Lord loves He chastens” (v. 5). In other places in the Bible, the word chastening is used interchangeably with discipline. But in our text we find a specific use that shows a more serious degree of discipline. Chastening is something you feel as emotional anxiety, frustration, or distress. What used to bring you joy now doesn’t. Pressures increase at work, at home, in your health or finance. Many Christians bump along in this level of discipline, yet fail to read the signs. They feel unfulfilled at church, critical of their Christian friends, and “on the outs” with God. When they pick up their Bible, it feels like a lead weight instead of a welcome relief. Their relationship with the Lord seems blighted by a sadness or lethargy they can’t quite trace. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you don’t need to go to church more or try to read your Bible with a better attitude. You need to look for ongoing sin in your life, the dirt crusting over your leaves and cutting you off from God’s best. If you don’t respond, love will compel your Father to take more drastic measures.


Stage 3: Scourge- “And scourges every son whom He receives” ( v. 6). To scourge is to whip, to inflict punishment. It’s the same word the Gospels use to describe what the Romans did to Jesus just before they crucified Him. Not a pretty picture! In fact, for the word scourge you could substitute cause-excruciating pain. What percentage of Christians do you think have experienced scourging? It may shock you to read that God scourges “every son.” That means you have most likely already been scourged in your life.


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?


·      Anna who fasted and prayed at nearly 100 years of age, and was still growing.

·      Simeon who was still praising and serving at an elderly time in life.

·      Zacharias and Elisabeth who were involved in ministry and got the opportunity to grow old and tired as they raised a son in their old age.

·      Aged Saint John the Apostle was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day – he had never grown tired of Sundays in the Presence of the Lord!

·      Caleb took on great challenges in his last days to honor the Lord.

·      Joshua made one of the most powerful statements about grandparenting as in Joshua 24:10 he stated that as for me and my house. He was still exerting great influence over his children and grandchildren for the Lord.


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.


This sermon will continue tomorrow September 24th when we look at “To abide in Christ does not mean to keep ourselves saved, rather it means we pursue”.


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