23 July 2007

"I AM the True Vine"--John 15:1-10 (part 1)

Today, we’re going to be looking at John chapter 15, when Jesus said, “I AM the True Vine.” When I was preparing this message, I was looking up information on grapevines. And it really shed a whole new light on what Jesus is saying here. The process of deciding which branches stay and which ones go. The different ways to prune the branches. I didn't know there was so much to it. In fact, I said, “Wow! I didn’t know there was so much to it.” It’s a good thing I didn’t inherit a vineyard, cause believe you me, we wouldn’t have a whole lot of grapes! In fact, we’d have some dead vines. I can't hardly grow a hangnail let alone something that intricate.

I'll give you an example. I used to live in a house that had this bush, I don’t know what it was called. I'll call it a funkybush. Well, one day, not having anything better to do, I took a look at it. And I noticed that some of the branches had become almost wooden. So I took a pair of shears and I cut them back. I figured, “Eh, I'll see what happens.” Well, what happened was, this funkybush grew. And grew. And grew some more. And by the end of summer I didn’t have a little funkybush. I had a big, ugly funkybush. So much for bright ideas.

One thing that showed me was that I was not cut out to be a vinedresser. Because in order to do that, you’ve really got to know what you’re doing. You can have these huge vines. But if you don’t prune them properly, you’re not going to have a good harvest. I found this from the Iowa State cooperative extension:

Grapevines produce fruit clusters on the previous season’s growth …Before pruning, an average grapevine may have 200 to 300 buds which are capable of producing fruit. If the vine is left unpruned, the number of grape clusters would be excessive. The vine would be unable to ripen the large crop or sustain adequate growth. The purpose of pruning is to obtain maximum yields of high quality grapes and to allow adequate growth for the following season.
Notice that last part. To allow adequate growth for the following season. In other words, if you don’t cut it right this year, it ain't gonna grow right next year. Keeping these vines and branches up off of the ground, and keeping them pruned is a monumental task. And in the big vineyards, there can be literally hundreds of people whose job is to simply go down the rows and make sure that the branches are producing fruit. And if there were some branches that were just kinda…there, they cut ‘em off.

Well, in the Book of John, at the beginning of chapter 15, Jesus gives us a picture of Himself as the One from which we all grow. That our life comes from Him, and that we are to be fruitful. And if we’re not, we are to be cut out of that Vine. This is what He says in John 15:1-10

“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. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 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. 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. 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. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 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.”
Christ is the Vine, we are the branches. And if necessary, every single person the whole world over would be able to bear fruit through Christ Jesus. But that’s not how it is. There are some branches that become unuseful, and the Vinedresser takes and cuts them out. That way, the real branches can grow and sustain adequate growth. And by the same token, the Vinedresser knows when He needs to cut back some branches so that they can grow better down the road.

First, let’s take a look at the Vine. CHRIST IS THE VINE.

Verses 4-5.
“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. "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.”

It’s the Vine that supplies nourishment to the branches. The life of the branches is from the Vine. After all, they can only get nourishment from the soil through the vine. It is the vine that gets the nourishment from the soil to the branches. And in much the same way, it is Christ that brought life from the Father to give to us. Problem is, so many times we go seeking nourishment from other things. Like I said last time, we get distracted by every bright, shiny object that comes along. We get fed over and over by the Vine, but we sometimes get bored with that, and eventually we want to go get fed by something else. We want to go back to that old hog trough.

Let me take you back to the book of Numbers a minute. The people of Israel had been eating manna for many years. Every night they’d go out and gather it up when it came down from heaven. And there was always enough. But, after a while, they got sick of it. And in Numbers 11:4-6—…the people of Israel…wept again and said, "Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at." But it was that manna that sustained them. And it is the true Vine, Jesus Christ, which sustains us. It may not always be what we WANT, but it is ALWAYS what we NEED.

At the end of that chapter in the book of Numbers, GOD gives them what they want. Know that phrase, “Be careful what you wish for?” If they had only seen how good GOD is in providing for his people. That’s why He provided a Savior. He wasn’t the Savior that was WANTED by the people at THAT time, but He is the Savior that was, is, and will be NEEDED by ALL people for ALL time. He didn’t come just to fill up our bellies and make all of our problems go away. ‘Cause brother, that ain't always the case. GOD sent us a Savior to nourish and sustain us with His life.
John 1:4—In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 6:35—Jesus said,
“I AM the Bread of Life.”
John 8:12“…he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
John 11:25“I AM the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”
John 14:6“I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life…”
See, a branch can't live apart from the vine. And we don’t have life apart from Christ. If you took a branch from a grapevine, cut it off, and stuck it in the ground somewhere. You could feed it, water it, nourish it, and give it all kinds of sunlight. You could talk to it, “Oh, come on little branch, I know you can grow.” It ain't gonna do nothin’. And what does Jesus say in verse 5? "Apart from me you can do nothing." Someone may say, “Well, I don’t believe and I’ve got a big business, I’m successful.” True. But guess what? GOD looks at that house, and that business, and that big bank account. And if it’s not going to His glory and His honor, you know what He thinks it is? Nothing! And that’s exactly what you can do apart from Christ. You can do a whole lot…OF NOTHING. That’s why we need to see Jesus is the Anchor.

Just like a branch can't grow if it doesn’t abide in the vine, we can't grow if we don’t abide in Christ. You can grow, sure, but you're not going to grow in a way that glorifies GOD. You’re not going to grow in a way that produces fruit. Jesus said in Luke 6:44“For every tree is known by its own fruit…” And what is the Vinedresser going to do? You see, if we are a branch, there are two things we can abide in. We can abide in religion, or we can abide in Christ. Now you may say, “What’s the difference?” Well, guess what? I’m gonna tell ya. You see, it’s real easy to abide in religion.

Have you ever heard the phrase “stick in the mud?” My mom used to use it. It’s like calling someone an old fuddy-duddy. One group she used this phrase to describe was the people that went to the little church she took us kids when we were little. Ever heard that song, “Gimme That Old Tyme Religion?” boy, these people had it! . It was kinda like every Sunday morning, the custodian went through and put down a new coat of glue on the pews. And you always sang…the… hymns…the…same…way. And heaven help the poor soul that said, “Amen” while the preacher was speaking.

Now, I don’t want to sound like you have to get all excited and shout during worship. ‘Cause I'll tell ya what, these were some of the godliest people you could ever know. And I’m sure that if they haven’t already been received up into glory, they will someday. What I think happened was that this little church had gotten caught up in ritual. You come in; you sit in the same spot, you sing out of the same hymnal. You don’t want anything to change because that’s how it was when your mom and dad came. So many times we get so caught up in abiding in religion that we forget how to abide in Christ.

Now, you’ve heard me use that word “abide”. In fact, between verses 4-10, Jesus uses that word 10 times. I’d say it’s pretty important. But what does it mean? One dictionary says,
“…to dwell, rest, continue, stand firm…”
In other words, “Dwell in Christ, rest in Christ, continue in Christ, stand firm in Christ.”

And He will dwell in you, He will rest in you, He will continue in you, and He will stand firm in you. Look at what Jesus says in verse 4“Abide in me, and I in you.” Everything the Father has, He is willing to give to us through Christ Jesus. You’ve heard of the “fruit of the Spirit”? Love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, faith, meekness, temperance. If we are abiding in Christ, if we are dwelling, resting, continuing, and standing firm in Christ, and if Christ is dwelling, resting, continuing, and standing firm in us, then these will be the fruit—or product—of such a life.

It’s confusing to the world, that we are in Christ and that Christ is in us. It makes sense to GOD, and that’s all that matters. Listen to these words of the apostle Paul. First, we are in Christ:
2nd Corinthians 5:17—Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature…
Colossians 3:3—…your life is hid with Christ in God.
Then, Christ is in us:
Colossians 1:27Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Galatians 4:6—And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts
And listen to the words of Christ Himself as He prayed the night before His death, He said to the Father:
John 17:23“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one”
You see, if you look at a grapevine, it’s not like, “Well, here’s the vine, this is where it stops. And this here is where the branches begin…” And in much the same way, Christ, the Vine, grows into us and we, the branches, grow from the vine. And we are one with Him.

Part 2 tomorrow.

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