Stay in the Vine

Posted: November 18, 2015 in John, Uncategorized

John 15:1-8, “Stay in the Vine”

Children of the 80’s will easily remember the old Wendy’s hamburger commercial.  A group of older women walk up to order some hamburgers, and one looks down at the sad pathetic sandwich she receives & says, “Where’s the beef?!”  If you order a hamburger, you actually want some meat to sink your teeth into – that’s the whole point of the sandwich.  Likewise, if you’re a farmer, you want to see fruit and harvest from the crops that you grow.  Farmers don’t spend all their time & money on fruit & vegetable crops just to see a bunch of pretty plants in the ground – they want to actually get something from the effort.

Jesus gets into a bit of a farming illustration here when speaking to His disciples.  He relates to them as the vine, and they are the branches.  Those who are in Him are alive – those who are not (like Judas) are cast away.  How do they know where they are?  By asking “where’s the fruit?”  Fruitful Christians are real Christians.  They will be pruned from time to time, but they consistently produce fruit that brings glory to God.  Fruitless Christians may not be Christians at all.  The fruit is the evidence.

The thing that makes the difference is where we live.  Are we in Jesus, or are we not?  As the vine, Jesus alone gives life – He alone produces the fruit we seek.  The key is to be in Jesus.

Chapter 15 comes in the middle of a longer section known as the Upper Room discourse.  Jesus has already celebrated the Passover Supper (the Last Supper) with the disciples, and Judas has left to start down his road of betrayal.  The remaining disciples know that the betrayal is coming, and that more failure is headed their way (via Peter & all of them), even while Jesus has told them plainly that He will be leaving them soon.  It’s no wonder that their souls are troubled, and Jesus has spent a bit of time reassuring them that the plan of God is at work, and that not only will Jesus come back for them, but the Holy Spirit will come to them in the meantime & equip them for everything God has in store.

The disciples have been exhorted to love Jesus & to keep His commandments…but how?  How do they continue to walk with Jesus & not fall away like Judas?  The key is to rest.  They need to rest in Jesus & rest in His work.  They need to abide in Him, remaining dependent upon Him.  He will do the rest, and He will produce all the fruit in their lives that gives glory to God.  We do not work to stay in Christ; we simply stay.  We abide in the vine, and we stay with Jesus.

John 15:1–8

  • The work of the vinedresser

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 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.

  • Jesus begins with another “I AM” statement – in fact, the last major “I AM” statement within the gospel of John.  Any time Jesus has used the words εγω ειμι, He’s referred to the famous covenant name of God that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush.  “I AM who I AM” – He is the ever-existent, the self-existing, the covenant-keeping God of Israel.  When Jesus uses this phrasing in the Greek, He is adopting this covenant name of God to Himself, and revealing part of His divine character.  (Prior statement was 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  How does being the vine relate to His divine character?  God alone gives life.  Just as a vine gives life to the branches, so does Jesus give life to His disciples.  Jesus already stated “I am the resurrection and the life,” (Jn 11:25) – this fits right in line with that.
  • Jesus isn’t just A vine; He is the “true vine.”  The true vine as opposed to what?  Many times in the OT, Israel is referred to in terms of being a vineyard (Isa 5:1-7, for example).  In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus had previously called on this idea of Israel as a vineyard in a parable He told just a few days prior (Mt 21:33-46).  In these examples, God is pictured as the landowner, and Israel as the vine/vineyard.  Israel was supposed to be a choice vine, but the problem was it produced wild grapes, as seen through generation after generation of rebellion and sin.  Thus Jesus is first & foremost contrasting Himself with corrupt Israel.  The legalistic traditions and customs of the Jews had fallen away from the true heart of God, and Jesus rights what went wrong.  He is the true vine, able to produce the best fruit.
    • The primary contrast was with Israel, but there are many other religious & philosophies in the world outside of Biblical Christianity.  Beware of false vines!  There are other claims to truth or enlightenment, but only Jesus is THE truth.  Throughout the Upper Room discourse, Jesus repeatedly emphasizes His exclusivity.  It is Jesus, and Jesus alone who is the truth.  It is Jesus, and Jesus alone who reveals the Father.  It is Jesus, and Jesus alone who grants life and salvation.  We must go through Him, or we have nothing.
  • Jesus is the true vine, and God the Father “is the vinedresser.”  He is the one responsible for the vine, caring for it.  Keep in mind this is NOT a statement suggesting that Jesus is anything less than fully God (such as a vine is fundamentally different than a vinedresser).  Rather, this is a statement that simply affirms the different roles of Father & Son.  Remember how verse 1 began: in the same breath that Jesus lists their different roles, He also affirmed His own deity with the “I AM” title.  So Jesus is fully God, but God the Son & God the Father have different roles in relation to this metaphor.  In their respective roles, Jesus humbled Himself to be the vine, and God the Father cares for Him, watches over Him, and tends to Him.
  • What does the vinedresser do?  He tends to the vine, of course.  Winemakers (vinters) and other growers of grapes (viticulturalists) understand the importance of pruning.  As the grape vine matures, it tends to produce the most grapes off canes/branches that are one year old.  If the canes are not pruned annually, grape production decreases, and once a cane finishes fruiting it never fruits again.  The nutrients in the grapevine at that point are used to produce wood & not fruit.  Obviously a vinedresser wants fruit, so the vine needs to be carefully tended & pruned wisely.  Dead wood, for obvious reasons, is useless.  It’s actually dangerous.  Disease can set in, infecting the rest of the plant, so it needs to be cut away.  Either way, the vine is going to be trimmed.  Some cuts produce more fruit & other cuts lift dead wood away. [unwise trimming/wise trimming]
  • God is the wise vinedresser!  Jesus will describe what is done with the dead wood in a moment, but first He describes the healthy pruning.  Dead wood bears no fruit, and God takes it off the vine.  The word for “takes away” could be translated “lift up,” and it’s easy to imagine a vinedresser lifting the dead branch up and away from the original, vibrant vine.  Likewise, God the vinedresser is aware of the healthy branches – the ones that are capable of producing more fruit & have already shown promise.  He knows what needs to be done among them in order for them to be productive.  What does He do?  He “prunes” them.
    • Obviously Jesus is speaking in symbolic language using a metaphor – so we need to be careful not to interpret things too literally here.  Jesus is not a literal wooden grapevine, nor are we literal wooden branches.  We don’t wake up in the morning expecting to see a bunch of grapes growing out of our foreheads, etc.  But Jesus doesn’t choose the metaphor by accident.  When He speaks of pruning, Jesus isn’t referring to a literal cutting, but there’s no doubt that that work of God does feel like a cut at times.  Like a surgeon’s scalpel, God cuts away the bad in our heart and makes room for the good things that glorify Him.  He continues to slice out sin & our flesh in order that we might see more of the Savior.  This is the process of sanctification.  When we turn to Jesus in faith, He immediately forgives us of our sin, and the Holy Spirit gives us a new birth & seals us for eternal life in heaven.  But that doesn’t mean God is done working in our lives.  After all, we do not instantly become perfect sinless beings when we become born-again believers.  We repent of our sin, turning away from it – but we still struggle against it.  We still sometimes fall into it.  Does God abandon us when we do?  Heaven forbid!  He still knows us, still loves us, and still saves us.  But that doesn’t mean He lets us stay the way that we are.  He works within us, cleansing us, perhaps cutting our conscience in loving discipline.  He prunes us, as a wise vinedresser.  That process may not be fun, but it is necessary.

3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

  • How does God do His work of pruning?  Through His word – the Scripture.  In fact, Jesus tells His disciples that they are “already clean because of the word” that He had given them.  Jesus spoke His word in their presence, much of which became the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Beyond this, Jesus had affirmed and even clarified the teachings of the Scripture contained in the Old Testament.  It was this word that cleansed them.
  • How does cleansing relate to pruning?  At first glance this would seem to be a strange statement to include in the middle of a vineyard metaphor.  What does the cleansing of the disciples have to do with it?  What may not be apparent in English comes through loud & clear in Greek.  The words for “prunes” & “clean” (though one is a verb & the other an adjective) share exactly the same root word.  The vinedresser could be said to “clean” the vine as he pruned it for health & growth.  Thus Jesus is saying that the disciples who were with Him were already pruned.  God the Father had already determined them to be healthy, fruit-producing branches (including Peter, who would soon betray Jesus that night, but not Judas who is conspicuously absent).  For these 11, God had already done a work of cleansing in their lives via His word.
    • This is what God’s word is supposed to do.  It cleanses us – it teaches us – it rebukes us – it makes us more & more into the men & women that God desires for us to be.  Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."  Does the word cut believers?  Yes!  Again, like a scalpel, it is able to peel back the layers of our heart, helping us distinguish between what is godly & what is evil.  It can also go deep, like a sword, pricking us right at the point that we need it most.  God’s word will help us discover things about our own motives that we never even realized was there until the Spirit pointed it out through the word. 
    • That’s believers, but what about non-believers?  Yes!  Acts 2:37, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”"  The people of Jerusalem were listening to the 1st sermon ever preached by Peter, and they were cut to the heart of what they had done to Jesus.  They were convicted by the word that was preached to them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah & that they had crucified Him, though He rose from the dead.  They knew they needed to respond.  Likewise, today men & women hear the word of God, and the Holy Spirit uses it in supernatural ways to prick their conscience, and awaken them to the reality that they need to be saved.  (The Spirit may be pricking someone today, right now!)
    • Again, this is exactly what God’s word is designed to do.  2 Timothy 3:16–17, "(16) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."  There’s a reason we put such a high value on the word here at CC Tyler: God uses it.  What men & women need are not the thoughts & opinions of another man.  What we need is the doctrine of God.  Through His word, God builds us, molds us, shapes us, disciplines us, and does whatever is needed to make us into the people He wants us to be.  Sometimes we might feel a bit pruned by it, but that pruning is a good thing!  It only helps us be more fruitful down the road.
    • BTW – it’s not just the written word, but Jesus’ spoken word.  Jesus did more than teach the Old Testament – He proclaimed the gospel.  Ultimately, the gospel truly cleansed the disciples & purified them.  The good news of Jesus is what set them apart from the rest of the world and helped them remain fixed in & upon Christ.  That’s true for them & for us.  We dare not get away from the good news of Jesus.  We dare not leave the gospel of Christ.  We dwell upon & abide in the message that Jesus is God in the flesh who died for our sins, and rose from the grave.  In that message is the word that God uses to truly cleanse us as His own!
  • The work of the vine

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.

  • Remember that the Father is the vinedresser, and the Son is the vine.  What is the work of the vine?  It provides life to the branches.  From an earthly viewpoint, it’s obvious even to city-folk that detached branches are dead branches.  The only way a branch receives water & other nutrients is for it to be attached to the main plant.  In the vine is life, and when branches are attached to the vine, they partake of that same life.  In fact, the branches & vine are so united together, that we’re hard-pressed to distinguish them from another when looking at it.  We don’t gaze at a grape vine & say “What a good vine, and look at all of its many canes & branches & leaves & grapes & ….”  We say “what a big vine!”  It’s all one plant – the branches being simple offshoots of the main vine.
  • That’s the relationship that Jesus describes between His disciples and Himself.  He is the vine, and He gives life to all the branches.  That is why we must “abide” in Him.  The idea of abiding is extremely important in this passage.  Between vss. 4-7, Jesus repeats the word “abide” 7 times.  The word is fairly common in the NT, though the apostle John is responsible for roughly 2/3 of the usage.  It’s common, but it’s important to John’s theology!  The idea behind the word is itself fairly simple.  It means “to dwell, remain.”  Interestingly, the noun form of the word was used by Jesus earlier in Ch. 14, as He promised to prepare many mansions/dwelling places for His disciples (14:2).  He used it again in 14:23 when He promised that He and His Father would make their home with anyone who loved Jesus by keeping His word & commandment.  So when Jesus commands His disciples to “abide,” He’s telling them to dwell with Him – to remain in Him – to put down roots & stay in Him.  True disciples of Christ don’t constantly check out other religions or supposed paths to truth, as if we might find something better along the way.  Jesus IS the truth.  He is the true way to God, and the true vine of God…and He gave the definitive proof of it when He rose from the dead.  Thus when we find Jesus (or rather, when we are found by Him), we stay in Him.  We abide.
  • Keep in mind, this is not a work.  It is no more “work” for branches to abide in a grapevine than it is for Christians to abide in Christ.  That is simply what we do.  There are indeed good works that come along when we abide, and those works provide proof of our abiding – but they are not what earn our salvation.  Our place in Christ is secured by Christ Himself.  Our salvation is a gift of grace from Jesus.  Everything else that happens in our Christianity flows from that starting point.  (BTW – if it doesn’t in your case, you need to ask yourself if you ever truly believed upon Jesus!  Our salvation starts at the cross & resurrection of Jesus, and nowhere else.)  So to abide in Jesus is not a work we perform; it’s the proof that we ARE in Jesus.  So we need to ask ourselves: where are we?  Where do you abide?  Are you found in Christ?  Do you know that your life – your salvation – your everything is found in Jesus?  Examine yourselves: 2 Corinthians 13:5, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified."  Paul’s basically saying the same thing.  Where is your abode?  Where is your hope & trust?  The question is not whether or not you prayed a sinner’s prayer, or filled out a decision card at a crusade, or joined a church, or been baptized, or any other such thing.  The primary issue is your dwelling place.  Do you hope in yourself?  Or is ALL of your hope & trust in Christ Jesus, crucified for you & risen from the grave?  Salvation is only given to those who abide in Christ.  No one apart from that has any such assurance.
    • In a sense, this gets around much of the theological debate of Calvinism, Arminianism, easy-believism, or whatever other “ism” that might speak various viewpoints on eternal security.  What Jesus teaches here really has nothing to do whether or not salvation can be lost – nor does it say anything regarding the guaranteed salvation of anyone who prayed a prayer (“once saved always saved”).  Jesus gives a test of the present – a guide by which anyone can look at any given time and have his/her salvation assured, or his/her conscience convicted.  Where are you right now in Christ?  Not as a child years ago – not possibly in the future on your death bed – but right now.  Do you have faith in Jesus today?  Are you abiding in Him & His word of grace right now?  If not, you have no real assurance – maybe you’ve been a false convert, or putting your hope in the wrong things.  But if so, you have all the assurance you need.  No priest, no act, no other deed can offer you more than the assurance the Holy Spirit gives as you actively, knowingly abide in Christ.
  • What happens for those who do not abide?  The cannot “bear fruit.”  They cannot live as Jesus desires them to live – the cannot love as Jesus calls them to love.  The word of God makes no sense to them, because they do not have the mind & spirit of God, having been estranged from the vine of Christ.  They lack life, because they lack Jesus.  If it sounds strange, it shouldn’t.  The streets & even church buildings across America are filled with all kinds of false converts.  They claim the name of Christ, but they neither abide in the word nor the gospel of Christ.  False converts sit side-by-side with true Christians, and externally they can look almost identical to each other.  They are both “on” the vine, but only one is “in” the vine.  Only one abides.  Jesus taught this earlier in His ministry in the parable of the wheat & tares (Mt 13:24-30, 37-43).  In the parable, God always knew the difference between the wheat & tares, and likewise here, He knows the difference between the living branches & dead wood.  (If you’re not sure which one you are, ask God to reveal it to you.)
  • Overall, the idea is dependency.  There is no life & no fruit apart from abiding in Jesus.  He expands on this in vs. 5…

5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

  • In Christ, we bear much fruit.  Apart from Christ, we bear no fruit.  That’s a stark difference!  There isn’t any gray area or middle ground here.  Without Christ, “you can do nothing.”  Nothing = nothing…zilch…nada.  Is this universally true?  (I.e. for all peoples, in all cultures, at all times.)  Actually, yes.  Whether you are Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, or whatever, you can do nothing without Christ.  When Paul was speaking to the Athenians, he quoted the Greek philosophers back to the Greeks & said of God, “In Him we live and move and have our being,” (Acts 17:28).  To the Colossians, Paul wrote of Jesus “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist,” (Col 1:17).  The very fabric of the universe is held together by the sheer will of Christ Jesus.  So yes, this is universally true.  However, that goes beyond the context of what Jesus was saying to the disciples at the time.  Here, He isn’t speaking of existence – He’s speaking of fruit.  He’s talking about anyone doing anything that would please God.  Even more specifically, He’s talking about fruit / works / deeds / love that flows out from the life of a born-again Christian.  Those things don’t come if we’re not in Christ.  That fruit cannot be generated apart from Jesus.  Just as a branch will only produce grapes when attached to the vine, so can we only produce true Christian works & love when we dwell / remain / abide in Christ.
  • Objection: “Are you saying that non-Christians cannot love anyone or do good things?”  No.  There are many people who selflessly love their children, although they don’t believe in Jesus.  There are many truly generous, sacrificial people in the world who are not Christians.  By their love is not Christian love.  It cannot be, by definition.  Christian love comes from Christ.  Their good acts do not bring glory to God.  How can they?  They are done apart from the grace of Jesus, which means it’s tainted by their sin (just like ours would be apart from Christ).  Anything done outside of Christ has no eternal value.  It may be good for the moment, but when the moment is gone, it’s over.  Many humanitarian aid organizations do a wonderful job of feeding the hungry, but if they do it apart from Christ & do not share the gospel of salvation, all they’ve done is to postpone the moment of someone’s death.  They’ll still die, and they’ll die in their sins without the hope and grace of Jesus.  From that viewpoint, the “good deed” was futile.
  • The sad thing is that even Christians can fall into this same sort of mindset.  They want to do good works, but they want to do them for the wrong reasons.  Or they try to accomplish them in their own strength by their own willpower.  And likewise, those efforts are futile.  What did Jesus say? “…For without Me you can do nothing.”  Do you want to please God?  Abide in Christ.  Do you want to produce something of eternal value?  Dwell in Jesus.  Once what’s done for Christ will last.
  • The good news for believers is that when we do abide in Jesus, we do produce fruit.  Not just one fruit (as in a single grape) – Jesus said we will bear “much fruit.” From a single Christian fully dependent upon Jesus, the Lord can bring about an incredible harvest!  Just think of the fruit that is borne to the man who shared the gospel with DL Moody or Billy Graham.  All it takes is for one disciple of Jesus to dwell in Him, being empowered by the Holy Spirit, and God can do amazing things!  Like the parable of the sower (soils), the harvest wrought by God can be 100-fold!
    • Do you want to be used by Jesus?  Abide in Him.  Do you feel as if you’re ineffective for Christ?  Examine yourself & check your dwelling – see if you are dependent upon Him.  There are many who might rightly claim to dwell in Jesus for their salvation, but they do not abide in Him for power.  They know they need Jesus for everlasting life in heaven, but think that they can handle the rest on their own.  That’s not really abiding, is it?  It’s one thing to know your need for a doctor & walk to the hospital; it’s another to be carried in on a stretcher.  One is far more dependent!  That’s how dependent we are to be upon Jesus.  We don’t simply rely upon Him for a few things; we rely upon Him for everything!
  • The future of the branch

6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

  • So we know what the vine provides for the branch: life & fruit.  Without the vine of Jesus, we can do nothing.  Not only can we do nothing of eternal value without Him, we are guaranteed no eternal life without Him.  Jesus spoke to this regarding the work of the vinedresser in that He lifts up/takes away lifeless branches from the vine.  They’re dead – they do not belong in a place of life.  Dead branches on a living vine is the agricultural equivalent of the old movie “Weekend at Bernie’s.”  It’s as if the Author of Life would drag around corpses all day long.  Not once in the gospels do we see Jesus hanging around cemeteries for the fun of it.  He’s definitely shown walking into a cemetery…but He doesn’t leave it the same way He found it!  (By the time Jesus got done, it had one less occupant!)  That’s the point here.  Jesus gives life.  Things that remain dead have no part of the vine.  If they did, they’d no longer be dead (again, by definition).
  • So what happens to these dead branches when they are lifted up & removed?  They are gathered up & cast into the fire.  This is the consistent picture of judgment throughout the New Testament.  This is not the Bema Seat judgment for believers, in which the unworthy things we do in life are burned away in eternity like wood, hay, and stubble (1 Cor 3:12-13).  This is the Great White Throne judgment, where anyone’s name that is not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15).  In this judgment, those who remain in their sin (and thus never abided in the life of Jesus) are forever cast away from God.  They share a dwelling place not with Jesus, but with the devil.
    • This is truly a horrible fate – and not one that God desires for any!  Anyone can be saved – no one has to remain a dead branch.  Jesus is in the business of giving life to that which is dead.  You don’t have to face the judgment of God…you can receive the life of Christ!
  • So judgment awaits non-believers (the dead branches).  What about the rest?  What about those who receive life from the vine?  Vs. 7…

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

  • Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t specifically address the opposite of judgment.  At least, He doesn’t do so directly.  He doesn’t say that abiding branches look forward to eternity – but then again, He didn’t have to.  He already said as much numerous times earlier that night.  Of course in 15:3, Jesus told the disciples that they were already clean/pruned – thus they were already those who remained in Christ.  But throughout Ch 14, Jesus said much more.  In 14:3, Jesus said that He would receive His disciples to Himself to dwell with them forever.  In 14:6-7, He spoke of the Holy Spirit as a Helper who would come to be with them – a promise only given to believers.  In 14:18, Jesus personally promised to come and be with them again.  In 14:19, Jesus promised them life – in 14:21 He promised to manifest Himself to them – in 14:23 He said that He & His Father would make their home with the disciples, and more.  By this point, there ought to be no doubt of the life Jesus promised His followers, nor of the relationship He has with them.  So although Jesus does not explicitly speak here of the life He gives them, it’s definitely implied.  They abide in the vine that gives life, so they are promised eternal life in the future.
  • But Jesus does give a specific promise here, and it relates to prayer.  This is something else Jesus introduced earlier that night.  John 14:13–14, "(13) And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (14) If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."  What Jesus promised then was huge: guaranteed answered prayer.  Of course it’s not a blank check to act like spoiled children at Christmas.  Even in Ch 14, there is a qualification on the promise: whatever we ask for in prayer needs to be asked in Jesus’ name.  IOW, it needs to line up with Jesus’ revealed character and will.  Jesus is not obligated to let us fly like Superman or win the lottery, simply because we tack on the words “In Jesus’ name, amen” at the end of our prayers.  What that phrase refers to is coming to someone in the representation & authority of someone else.  We go to God in prayer based on the person, will, and authority of Jesus Christ.  If what we ask for doesn’t line up with Jesus, we’re not going to get it.
  • Jesus expands on this a bit in 15:7, showing more of what it means to ask in His name. (1) We abide in Him, (2) His words abide in us. … (1) First, we abide in Him.  Are we saved?  Do we remain/dwell in Jesus & the gospel?  Are we fully dependent upon the Lord Jesus?  If we are, then it’s doubtful that we’re going to ask for outlandish things like $10 million or superpowers, etc.  Those who are truly saved ask for the things the glorify God; not man.  When Jesus is our Lord, our desire is to lift Him up; not ourselves. (2) His words abide in us.  Do we know His word – His revealed will?  Do we abide in the things Jesus has taught?  Are we faithful to His commands, trusting His promises?  The better we know the word of God, the better we know the will of God.  When we know His will, we pray the things that are on His heart.  The more we know His word, the more our minds will be transformed from the inside-out (Rom 12:1-2).  Thus His desires will become our desires.  When we pray for the desires of God to come to pass, we are sure to see it happen!
    • How’s your prayer life?  Do you feel as if some of your prayers bounce off the ceiling?  Get to know your Bible better!  Read and learn of the things that are on the heart of God & watch your prayer life transform.
  • What happens when we do?  We begin bearing more fruit for the glory of God.  Vs. 8…

8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

  • Hear this clearly from the words of Jesus: God wants you to bear fruit!  That is exactly what Jesus is saying here.  It brings glory to God the Father when the disciples of His Son bear fruit through faith in Him.  What do you think happened when Matthew left his tax-collection booth to go follow Jesus?  God was glorified.  What happened when Saul fell on his knees and became the apostle Paul?  God was glorified.  What you think happened the moment you turned away from your sin, and put your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior & Lord?  When you lost the desires for the sinful things you used to do, but started yearning for the righteousness of God?  When your heart began to break for the things that God’s heart longs for, and when you looked upon others with the compassion of Jesus?  God was glorified!  God is glorified through your fruit!
  • Why is the Father glorified?  Because ultimately it’s the life of His Son that makes the fruit possible.  Fruit in the lives of disciples is the power of God on display.  When men and women are transformed by faith in Christ, that transformation glorifies God.  People who were once addicted to drugs and alcohol are now free.  People who once lived in lies now speak the truth.  People who were filled with rage are now filled with the Spirit.  In every case, a fruit-bearing Christian is a person who was once completely lost in sin & dead in his transgressions.  Now he/she is alive in Christ Jesus, made into a new creation, and transformed by grace.  That kind of work never comes by the will of man, no matter how many self-help books we read or programs we work through…all of that is due to the power of the Risen Jesus.  Thus all of it gives wondrous glory to God!
  • We need to emphasize that fruit does not save.  The life contained within a branch is not there because the grapes hanging off the end gave it life; the grapes are there because the branch has life.  The life of the branch comes from the vine.  Is fruit important in the lives of Christians?  Absolutely.  But fruit (works, love, etc.) never saves anyone.  The work of Jesus at the cross & resurrection is what saves us.  His grace, appropriated to our lives through faith is what saves us.  Fruit doesn’t save; fruit is what comes after salvation.
  • Fruit does give assurance.  It provides an objective standard by which to judge our faith.  You say you love Jesus?  Great!  Why?  Where is the evidence?  Do you currently dwell in His gospel message?  Do you love others with the love of Christ?  Ultimately, the fruit of abiding in Christ IS love (something which Jesus goes on to emphasize in the next several verses).  That’s not just something proclaimed by Jesus in the gospel of John – it’s throughout the NT.  Galatians 5:22–23, "(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."  The word “fruit” is singular.  The fruit is love, and it is demonstrated in several ways.  Christian: what’s coming out in your life?  Are you characterized more by your compassion towards others, or your disgust towards them?  Are you ruled by your lusts or do you exhibit loving mature self-control?  This is the fruit of the Spirit – this is the fruit borne out in the lives of disciples of Jesus.  What does it look like in your life?

So where do you live?  Where is your hope?  Where do you remain?  If your efforts are constantly on your efforts…if you’re constantly working to prove yourself good in the sight of God, then you’re not resting in Jesus.  Those who abide in Jesus abide in His word.  Those who abide in Jesus abide in His life.  Those who abide in Jesus abide in His work.  It’s what He has already done, and what He is continuing to do in our lives.  Branches do not work to stay in the vine; they simply draw life from it.

Draw your life from Jesus!  Drink deeply of what He offers.  Pray fervently, based upon His word & promises.  Learn of Him more & more in the Scriptures.  Stay grounded firmly in His gospel.  When you do, you will produce fruit.  Yes, you may be pruned from time to time as God helps you grow.  This might happen through a bit of rebuke or discipline – but when it’s of God, it’s a good thing.  Let Him prune you so that you will continue to be fruitful.  Trust God and the work that He is doing in your life to make you more and more into the person He wants you to be.

Some of you today might need some assurance of your salvation.  Look to the work that Jesus has done!  If your hope is in Him & Him alone – if you are seeing the fruit of love in your life – if your current abode is in Jesus Christ, then you have assurance!

Some of you might need to question your claim to salvation.  If you aren’t fully dependent upon Jesus as a branch is to a vine, then you don’t have that assurance.  If you don’t have the fruit of the Spirit evident in your life, you don’t have that assurance.  Far better to question your claim to salvation today, then to face Jesus on the day of judgment & hear the words, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”

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