Our Father in heaven is THE VINEDRESSER.
HE PURGES THE UNFRUITFUL BRANCHES.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 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...”
Take a look at verse 2 for a second. Many people look at that verse and say, “Ha!! See! You CAN lose your salvation!” To which I would calmly, and politely, reply… “Nah!!” Remember, in Matthew chapter 7, Jesus says that there will be many who will say, “Look at all these great things we did in Your name!” And Jesus will say, “I NEVER knew you.” In other words, these people never belonged to Christ in the first place.
It’s like the parable Jesus spoke in Matthew 13:24-28—“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’…”
Just like Satan sows tares among the wheat, he will try and graft wild branches into the grapevine. But, GOD being the great Harvester that He is, He can tell the difference. And He will bring to light the fraud that these people are. Because you see, if a wild grapevine is grafted into a true grapevine, the results can be disastrous. But when it comes time for the harvest, GOD is able to pick the good fruit from the bad. The apostle Peter talks about how GOD saved 8 people from the wrath of the flood, and He saved righteous Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and He cast the angels who sinned down into Hell, but saved the obedient ones. And he writes in 2nd Peter 2:9—…the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment… And He knows how to purge—to completely cut out—the wild branches from those that grow from the True Vine.
He purges the unfruitful branches and HE PRUNES THE FRUITFUL BRANCHES.
There’s a couple of translations that say “purge” instead of “prune.” But there is a difference between the two. “Purging” means “cutting out”, “pruning” means “cutting back”. You remember me and my funkybush? When I cut those branches back, I clipped the part that was keeping it from growing. It had become hard, and wooden. And it wasn’t allowing that shoot to grow and bloom. That was “pruning.” By the same token, sometimes we will have things in our life that make us wooden, and hardened, and stiff and rigid. And we stop growing.
So, the Vinedresser looks at this branch and says, “OK, you’ve got this in your life, and that and something else. I think I need to cut some of that stuff out of your life.” Have you ever had some activity or habit that you just loved so much, and that you did, without fail, on a regular basis? For some guys, it’s the First Church of the Bass Boat. There are some people that could almost swear an oath on a TV Guide.
Then one day, when you’ve gone a while without whatever it was you were so hooked on, you think, “Wow, I really don’t miss doing that.” You drive past a bar, you think, “I used to go there all the time. Huh, I don’t miss it now.” You see someone you used to date, that was bringing you down, and you say, “Why did I ever…?” Well guess what? You can thank the Vinedresser for that. He pruned that out of your life. He took away your desire for whatever it was that you just couldn’t do without, so that you could grow, and be fruitful, and bring glory to His name.
Earlier I talked about how if you have a grapevine, you need to prune some of the shoots so that the branch can support them. Sometimes we get caught up in doing good things. That happened to me a few years ago. I was teaching Sunday School and doing this and that and something else. I was trying to do too much. And instead of devoting enough time to a few things, I was devoting a little time to a lot of things. And it wasn’t doing anybody any good.
But that’s what David meant in Psalm 37:3-4—Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. In other words, HE will tell you what you’ll want to do. But so many people look at those verses and say, “The desire of my heart is that new Lexus. Give it to me LORD!!” But, enough about Mike Murdock. That’s not what it means! Look at what Christ says in John 15:7—“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” “If My words abide in you.” What words? Luke 12:15—“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Know what that means? If you’re begging GOD for that new Lexus, and that’s what your prayers are about, then Christ’s words are not abiding in you. Because you’re coveting.
Well, we’ve looked at the Vine, and the Vinedresser. Now let’s look at the branches.
First, WE GROW.
“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. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
Peter said that we are to …grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do that by staying in His word, by reading, and meditating on it, and by asking GOD for help in the tough parts. Sometimes He’ll send us to someone else for help, and by doing that He grows both people together. Remember Paul, how GOD blinded his eyes? Did HE open them? NO. He sent Paul to someone else, and glorified Himself through both of them.
Sometimes He’ll grow us through trials. These tests aren’t meant to lead us into temptation, and it’s not like GOD doesn’t already know if we’re going to pass or fail. Somebody once said that trials don’t build character, they reveal it. Daniel purposed in his heart to obey the LORD. So when the time came, he passed his test with flying colors. Peter, on the other hand, failed his test, and denied the Lord Jesus. But after that, you couldn’t shut him up.
Finally, WE ARE GROOMED.
We need to allow GOD to take away from us the things that are keeping us from growing as well as we should. If there is some habit He wants us to give up. If it’s too much TV, turn it off. If we’re hanging out with people that are nothing but bad news, stay away from ‘em. If they keep coming your way—I’m not sure if Tom Petty is a Christian or not, but tell them “Don’t come around here no more.” When GOD tries to take something away from us, like He did with Job, we need to be ready to say, “Here ya go, Lord! Take it away!”
But how often do we say, “Well, maybe not just yet!” When GOD called me to Himself, man, I held out for about as long as I could. Finally, I just had to say, “Alright already!!” You see, one other thing the Vinedresser has to do is make sure those branches are growing straight along that rail, and they're not getting all tangled up with. Like we foolish humans so often do. That’s why Paul wrote Ephesians 5:11—And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness… And 2nd Corinthians 6:14—Do not yoke yourself with the unrighteous….
Christ is the Vine, we are the branches. If we dwell, rest, continue, and stand firm in Him, He will dwell, rest, continue, and stand firm in us. I’ll leave you with these words from a book called, oddly enough, “Abide In Christ”, by Andrew Murray. He makes special mention that Jesus did not say “abide WITH Me”, but “abide IN Me.” He writes,
...with no less earnestness than He had cried, "Come to me," did He plead, had you but noticed it, "Abide in me."...In very truth, there is nothing that moved you to come, that does not plead with thousandfold greater force: "Abide in Him." You did well to come; you do better to abide. Who would, after seeking the King's palace, be content to stand in the door, when he is invited in to dwell in the King's presence, and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life? Oh, let us enter in and abide, and enjoy to the full all the rich supply His wondrous love hath prepared for us!