Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

4 October 2005

The True Vine

   John 15:1-15:8  


Introduction –

Have you known the agony of not doing the right thing?


Have you ever thought, “I ought to do this or that” only to forget all about it?


Have you ever promised yourself that you’ll never say something or do something only to blurt it out or do it anyway?


Have you ever thought “I can’t change – I’ll always act like this”?

Have you fallen into the trap of comparing yourself to others?


Have you ever thought, “At least I’m not like that guy down the street”?


Have you consoled yourself about your failures and shortcomings by making a list of the obviously huge sins of others?


In the middle of comparing yourself to others have you ever thrown your hands up in despair and said, “I really am no good”?

What is our problem?


Left to ourselves, we cannot make all the changes we need to make.

 

On our own we cannot keep on doing all that we should do.

 

Let’s face it.

 

Our lives are beyond our control.

 

Without help, we usually will fail to do the right thing.

But we are not alone…God’s people have not CHANGED in thousands of years.

 

In fact, the Jewish prophets described the people of their time as GRAPEVINES gone wild…

Isaiah said… “I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a wine-press as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit (Isaiah 5:1-2 NIV).”


Jeremiah passed along God’s word to the people when he wrote, “I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?” (Jeremiah 2:21 NIV).

But Jesus came with a new message about God’s grapevine that is recorded in John 15:1-8.   

 

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.
3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

 

Jesus gave us this wonderful parable, but what can we learn about a grapevine that can be applied to our lives?

Well, there are several LESSONS WE CAN LEARN FROM A GRAPEVINE


Growing up we had a grapevine that stretched for about 100 feet along the top of a hill. 

 

And by watching my dad, I learned some things about grapes and grapevines…

Grapevines would rather produce shoots and leaves than grapes.

 

They end up looking lush and green, but ultimately they are only good for making decorations.

Grapevines must be pruned drastically.

 

The gardener must be merciless, cutting them back each year as far as he possibly can.

Branches with no fruit must be removed so they don’t draw nutrients away from the grapes.

And fruitful branches must be pruned back to produce even more in the following year.

What we learn about grapevines and how that message from Jesus pertains to us, gives us hope.

It tells us that God doesn’t want to leave us on our own.

 

He wants to be the Gardner who cares for us and makes us fruitful.


It tells us that God can do in us and through us what we could never do by ourselves.

It tells us that He will make us more and more fruitful – giving us more and more righteous attitudes and actions.

It tells us that Jesus himself will live in us and God will answer our prayers as we learn to put the Bible into practice.

You see, this is what our passage is about this morning…God as the great gardener, and Christ as the most excellent vine, wants us to remain in the vineyard and to produce good fruit.

 

Remaining and bearing are the two interwoven themes we’re going to look at a little closer.

These two themes "are" closely related because it is only when we abide in Christ that we can truly bear fruit.

 

If we do not abide in Christ we cannot bear fruit and therefore, according to Jesus’ words, we will be cut off from the vine.

How does a person REAMIN (ABIDE) IN CHRIST

Jesus said, “Remain (abide) in me, and I in you.”  

 

Did you know that the word “remain” or "abide" occurs no less than six times in this chapter.

 

In answering the question, “How do we make this “remaining” process happen, this passage provides clues from Jesus himself.”

First, we need to feed ourselves with the words of Jesus.


Again: "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you."

 

The words of Jesus are life.

 

They are the sap that flows from the root up into the branches.

PSALM 1 says, “Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, its leaf does not wither. In all that they do, they prosper”.

In order to remain spiritually alive, we need to feed ourselves on God’s word.

Secondly, we also need to feed ourselves with an active prayer life.


This goes along with remaining in God’s world.

 

Verse 7 says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask and whatever you wish will be given.”

 

EX. SPEAKING BEFORE A GROUP OF IMPORTANT COMPANY OFFICIALS.

In order to remain, we need to have an active prayer life.

 

Paul said we should pray about everything, not just the big things.

Thirdly, we also need to feed ourselves by showing love to others. (John 15:9-15 & 13:35)


In v. 8, Jesus says that by remaining we will be “showing ourselves to be (His) disciples.”


How do we show ourselves? 

 

Listen to verse 9 and following.

9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

 

How do we show ourselves to be his disciples? 

 

Its love!  

 

No surprise here.

Jesus commands us to love, and then He says we are to be BEARING FRUIT (another way we show that we are His disciples)

But maybe abiding in Christ isn’t your problem this morning.

 

You’ve accepted Christ and all his promises.

 

You study enough Bible to get by, and love your neighbors most of the time.

 

But are you bearing fruit or are you withering?

How many of you have ever felt like a house plant that is not cared for? 

 

Plants need good soil, water and sun light, but I can’t get my daughter Mary to understand that.  

 

Every plant we give her dies shortly there after. 

 

The first thing you notice is that it appears to still be alive but there are some branches that have no leaves.  

 

It probably would be something that I would want to hide - I don’t think I’d want it to be in the center of my kitchen table.

 

No I think I would place a plant like that in my basement or in my garage.

 

I might place it where it could get some light and give it some water in the hopes that it might revive and start growing well again, but if it doesn’t, well I’ll probably toss it.

ARE YOU WITHERING? Like the poor plant in my example.

 

Well, there is a way to bear good fruit again.

 

Once we abide and remain in Christ, we can then concentrate on developing the fruit of that relationship.

But that can make for some difficult questions…there are many things that can cause us to wither…

MAYBE WE’RE TOO COMFORTABLE AND OUR COMFORT MAKES US FORGETFUL!

 

Deuteronomy 8:11-14 (NIV)

 

“Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”


How do we know when we’re too comfortable?

 

When you can’t find anything to thank God for!

 

I want to tell you something - there is always something to thank God for - always, whether its the air we breathe or the clothes we wear - we could be the poorest of the poor and still be too comfortable if we can’t thank God for anything.

 

And the gratitude has to go further than our mouths - and even further than our checkbooks - it has to come from our hearts and be in our lives.

Getting comfortable does not bear good fruit.

MAYBE WE’RE WITHERING BECAUSE WE’RE TOO HABITUAL! WE NEED CHANGE!


It’s true that some habits are good, but it’s equally true that some habits are bad.

 

 

 

Samuel Johnson is quoted as saying, "Habits are first cobwebs, then cables…the chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken."

For example it is a good habit when you have a regular devotional time with God every day.

 

It is a bad habit when that’s the only reason why you have a regular devotional time with God.

 

Do you meet with God out of habit or out of love?

When we say the Lord’s Prayer, do we do it out of habit or out of our need to communicate with our Creator?

Do we say "I’ll pray for you!" out of habit?

 

Do we say, "Lord forgive me" out of habit?

 

Do we say, "I love you Jesus," out of habit?

 

OR DO WE REALLY MEAN IT?

We need to break some habits and the only way you’re going to break them is if you’re aware of them.

 

When we start to do things out of habit then we start to grow distant from God.

Doing things out of habit, does not bear good fruit.

MAYBE WE ARE WITHERING BECAUSE WE’VE BECOME TOO JUDGEMENTAL WHEN YOU NEED TO BE FORGIVING.

We’ve all heard this familiar passage from Matthew 7:1-2 (NIV)

 

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

It’s very often true that the faults we constantly see in the lives of others are the very faults that we have ourselves.

And those who are too judgmental really find it hard to forgive people.

 

Those who find it hard to forgive people will become bitter people and bitter people wither spiritually.

Ephesians 4:30-31, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice."

We’re fooling ourselves if we think we can bear good fruit with bitterness in our spirits!

 

Do we want vitality in our life with Christ?

 

Then we need to make sure we have a heart that is able to forgive!

And on the other hand, MAYBE WE’RE WITHERING BECAUSE WE ARE "TOO BUSY"!

While waiting to be interviewed for a job as a wireless operator, a group of applicants paid little attention to the sound of the dots and dashes which began coming over a loudspeaker.

 

Suddenly one of them rushed into the employer’s office.

 

Soon he returned smiling.

 

"I got it!" he exclaimed.”

 

How did you get ahead of us?" they asked.

"You might have been considered if you hadn’t been so busy talking that you didn’t hear the manager’s coded message," he replied.

 

"It said, ‘The man I need must always be on the alert. The first one who interprets this and comes directly into my private office will be hired.’"

Some of us get so busy that we miss out on the things God is saying to us.

 

When our "business" interferes with our relationship with God then that relationship will wither.

 

If we ever find excuses for not spending time in prayer, or spending time reading the Bible, or being together as God’s family, then we’re too busy to foster good fruit.

But again the question remains, how do we begin bearing this good fruit?

Bruce Wilkinson offers four types of fruit bearing in his book “Secrets of the Vine” which I offer to you as a plan of action.

First step- recognize that there’s no fruit.

Jesus said, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away” (John 15:2a).

Bruce says that “when the branches fall into the dirt, God doesn’t throw them away or abandon them. He lifts them up, cleans them off, and helps them flourish again . . . 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 . . . [God’s] purpose is to cleanse you and free you of sin so that you can live a more abundant life for His glory. The Bible calls this process disciplining or chastening”.

Discipline or chastening is a process that God uses to remove certain sins from our lives that we sometimes cling to and are unwilling to let go of.

 

Sometimes we undergo chastening and certain trials to build character in us and to remove sins in order to make us purer Christians.

 

Once we are purified this will lead to bearing fruit.

 

We read in Hebrews 12:11, “No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”

The first step of good fruit production is recognizing the need for discipline because of no fruit.

Step two – begin producing some Fruit.


After Jesus told His disciples how the Vinedresser cares for the barren branch, He reached for a branch that showed rampant growth but produced only a few clusters of grapes.”

 

Then Jesus said, “every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit”

 

The second branch of which Jesus spoke “bears fruit.”

 

Here we find the second step toward abundant living – the step of pruning.

 

Wilkinson says that “If disciplining is about sin, pruning is about self. In pruning, God asks you to let go of things that keep you from His kingdom purposes and your ultimate good.” 

 

“It is helpful to think of mature pruning in terms of the Bible phrase, ‘the testing of your faith’.”  

 

“Tests of faith are various trials and hardships that invite you to surrender something of great value to God even when you have every right not to.

 

You will feel battered by circumstances, but not distant from God; tried by Him, but not judged or guilty.

 

Psalm 66:10 and 12 reveal that the testing of our faith leads to abundance, for these verse say, “For you, O God, tested us; You refined us like silver . . . But you brought us to a place of abundance.”

The second step of good fruit production is recognizing the need for pruning to produce some fruit.

The third step – recognizing the need for More Fruit:


Next Jesus said, “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” (15:5).

 

The third branch of which Jesus spoke “bears much fruit.”

 

Here we find the third step toward abundant living – the step of abiding.

 

“After discipline to remove sin, after pruning to change priorities Jesus says, ‘Abide in Me’.”

 

This point reveals the astounding truth that God doesn’t want us to do more for Him, but that He wants us to be more with Him.

“To abide means to remain, to stay closely connected, to settle in for the long term”.

 

This picture tells us, “If your life bears a lot of fruit, God will invite you to abide more deeply with Him.

 

[Once again I state that] 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”

The third step of good fruit production is recognizing the need for More Fruit by remaining and abiding in Christ.

And the fourth and last step is recognizing the need for Much Fruit.

Jesus goes on to say, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather and throw them in the fire, and they are burned” (v. 6).

 

The fourth branch of which Jesus speaks might be “thrown in the fire.”

 

Here we will discuss the final step – the step of Abundance.

 

Of course being thrown in the fire is not a picture of abundant living; it is just the opposite.

 

Jesus had been showing his disciples the steps that lead to abundance, but right here he cautions what will be the result if we do not reach the point in which we learn to “abide in Christ.”

 

 Abiding is everything.

 

This step will either make us or break us.

What does it mean to be thrown in the fire, as Jesus says?

 

Jesus is making a dramatic point.

 

If we are not abiding, we wither and die and become of no spiritual use.

 

In other words, if we don’t abide we are useless and our lives won’t produce – we won’t experience the good fruit he has intended for us.

Like I said, this step will either make us or break us.

 

If we do not yearn to abide in Christ, we will be spiritually useless to the Lord, and this is a picture that is just the opposite of abundance.

 

If we learn to abide, we will climb to the top step and experience a breakthrough in our lives and become as vines that are overloaded with fruit and abundance.  

And now it’s your turn…

We have covered a lot of territory this morning…


We looked at remaining…the need we have as Christians to feed ourselves on the Word, on an active prayer life, and by showing love to others.


We looked at bearing fruit and those things that may cause us to wither, and the 4-step “No fruit - some fruit - more fruit - much fruit” plan to be better fruit produces.

Jesus has come with a new message about God’s grapevine for me and you.

 

We are no longer the people of God left to grow wildly and to produce fruit sparingly.

 

We have the Vine-dresser of all vine-dressers, the True Vine of all vines, in our corner now to help us remain and bear fruit.

In fact, there are only two kinds of fruit that our lives can produce.

 

On the one hand, all by ourselves, we can produce every type of sin imaginable and on the other, with God’s help, we can produce the attitudes and actions of Christ in all that we do.

God has left the decision in our hands.

 

Either we’ll keep on depending on our own abilities, or we will turn to Christ to do what we could never do alone.

He is the True Vine.

 

Praise be to God.

Will you join me in prayer?

 Amen

 

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