John 15 Part 2

Resumed from part 1

Now, if a vinedresser prunes the branches, what is the purpose of it? So eventually it produces more fruit. Frankly, it always bothers me when I prune my roses. It just seems sometimes to be too far to me, and they will never come back.
But, every year I see a better plant than the year before. It is quite glorious. If it were up to me, I would just let the thing continue what it was doing and eventually it would be big because let’s face it, it’s a lot of work and I get pricked a lot! But it wouldn’t really bear much beauty, would it? So, there is an analogy in nature, about horticulture, that illustrates spiritual truths, and Jesus is using it here.
Now, I want you to note the famous progression in this chapter. In verse two He says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit.”
So, first of all, there is no fruit. He takes away branches that do not bear fruit, so then there is fruit. That is the first dimension. He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You know further down He will say, “Much fruit,” and His desire here would be for us, in verses five and eight, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit.”
So, you have these four different levels of fruitfulness. They go from nothing to abundance. Obviously, the desire would be that the Father be glorified, as in verse eight, “That you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” Now, pruning involved the cutting away of dead branches, but also the cutting back of living branches to enhance the quality and the quantity of the crop.
The worst thing God could do would be to let us alone and let us have our own way. Just like it drives me nuts to see kids who have never been disciplined, and they just have their way. Frankly, the mother is in terror of the kid. Anything he wants, he gets, and after a while, he becomes a monster. Kids often need a good switching, and I remember my grandmother taking a switch. It was actually a symbolic act. She would let me go out and I would actually choose my own instrument of torture. I would cut one off and bring it to her, and she would whack it. Of course, it was harmless, but it sure did sting. You see the point there? I never forgot it.
So, I had a tremendous respect for that woman. The fact is that I needed it very badly. A kid has to test the limits. If they see them a bit mushy, what will happen? They no longer have security. They want to see the point where there are some validity and consistency. And so, without that, you can see the obvious analogy. We, too, need that validity and consistency. We, too, need to be disciplined by the living God. So, He prunes us. Frankly, the process does hurt.
But, it is the only path to more and better fruit, so we often call those severe mercies of God. It is a mercy that He does this so that we would actually be driven to Him. You know why? Because there is really no spiritual growth in our lives, apart from our experiential awareness of our condition of profound need. We are all a desperate and needy people, but we are often not really in touch with that condition. So, God has lots of ways of getting us in touch with our bankruptcy and our need, to drive us to our dependence upon Him.
Now, I may say also, that sometimes God cuts away good wood, so that we may then enjoy the best. That is what He is looking for; He always wants what is best for us. In verse three, He goes on to develop this theme, and says, “You are already clean because of the words which I have spoken to you.” Now, God uses the Word to convict us, but also to cleanse us, according to Ephesians 5:26:27; it cleanses us and also He prunes us by chastening. If you studied Hebrews chapter 12, in verses 1 through 11, there you would see God’s woodshed, the divine woodshed, where He gives us a little bit of discipline. I love how the authors of Hebrews describe this.
There is a bit of an understatement here. He speaks of discipline, and frankly, if you are without discipline you are illegitimate children and not sons. He also says we had earthly fathers and we respected them, and “Shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” Now, here is the understatement. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful;” that is surely an understatement, “but sorrowful;” and here is the key, “yet for those who have been trained by it.” You see, discipline is not punitive, it is instruction. You see the difference? It is not to punish, it is, in fact, to teach and instruct us in the way of righteousness. “To those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” There is the image of fruit once again. It yields that peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Now, frankly, as I often like to say, there are many courses in the university of life that we would not take as electives. But, sometimes God says these are required courses, whether you like it or not. They are painful, and we would not have chosen to do them, but when people go through them and are driven to a more intimate fellowship with Christ, they will say they wouldn’t have traded it for anything. They wouldn’t want to go through it again, but they also wouldn’t trade it for anything. There is a benefit that accrued through the pain that took place.
So, God uses sorrow, indeed, suffering in this world, but suffering can be redemptive. Perhaps my favorite verse on this is 1st Peter chapter five, verse ten: “After you have suffered for a little while.” How long will you suffer? What does he say? “A little while.” I want to tell you that the most you can possibly suffer in a few more decades. After those decades, there will never be any sorrow, or pain, or tears, or death, or mourning. ‘The former things will be passing away and, behold, all things will be new’. You have a very limited time to go.
That is why Paul said, “I consider the sufferings of this present time not even worth comparing to the glory to be revealed to us.” He goes on to say, “After you have suffered a little while,” that “the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” In the alchemy of God’s grace, God transmutes suffering into glory by means of His grace. Suffering becomes glory. And so, we will look back on that pain in our lives and realize that God actually turned our pain into something greater than in would have been, and He can even take the evil intentions of people and turn that for good. You may have meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, as we see in Genesis 50.
Let’s continue on, then, and in verse four, the key concept is ‘abide’. He says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch can not bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” This word, abide, is ‘meno’ in Greek and ‘meno’ is used 11 times in verses 1 through 11 in this chapter.
Now, what is the evidence we are abiding in Christ? ‘Meno’ with Him is to draw your life from Him and to make Him your place of habitation and to practice His presence and to commune with Him and to realize, in real ways, that where ever you go, there He is. Wherever He is, there you must go, also.
So, you have this mutuality of co-inherence. This co-inherence is described as ‘you in Me, and I in you’. There is a mystery of that communion, and it reflects an even deeper and more profound mystery, which is the co-inherence of the divine Trinity. God invites us, then, to abide in the Son. He goes on to say, then, “A branch can not bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine.” One of the evidence of abiding in Him would be that you bear fruit. Another, second, evidence that you are abiding in Him is that you are going to experience some pruning. A third evidence of abiding in Him is found in verse seven, that there will be answered prayers and a deepening love for Christ in other believers is found in verse 9, 12, and 13. Also, verse 11 tells us that if you abide in Him you will also experience joy. These are the results of abiding in Him. Frankly, they are good things to pursue.
  1. Bear fruit.
  2. Experience some pruning.
  3. Answered prayers and a deepening love for Christ.
  4. Experience joy.
So, we have this Biblical concept, then, of union and communion. Think about some of those metaphors. We have the body of Christ. We have another image of the bride. With the body of Christ, and Christ is the head, we are the bride and He is the bridegroom, and then the sheep and the shepherd.
So, in these images here there is an abiding metaphor. The reason for that is because what happens with a body when a member is cut off? What happens to that member? It dies; it can not be sustained, because it needs the vitality of the body, just as a branch needs the vitality of the vine. You see the point here? It can not live in and of itself.
So, for example, you had a hand or a toe or a finger amputated, that thing could not live. Here is another image; think about marriage and it creates a union, but it takes daily love and devotion to maintain the communion. You see the difference? You have a union, but it is also an ongoing process by which there is a communion. You see the point? A Union is there, but there is also another process and these are process images. What about a sheep and the shepherd? Well, the shepherd brings the sheep into the flock, but the sheep must follow the shepherd in order to have provision and protection against bears, wolves and other dangers. So, all of these are process images to illustrate what it means to abide in Christ.
So, it really demands spiritual discipline to abide in Christ, and it is not likely to happen if you are not involved, to some degree, in meditation on God’s word and talking with Him. There is also a measure of worship required and perhaps some sacrifice as well; sacrificial love for the good of others. All of these release the presence of Christ in our lives and bears fruit. Look at verse five, and Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” That is a rather humbling concept. You can do nothing at all, but we well know we can do things as the world would define them. What can you do? You can build a company. You can build a building.
But, you can not do anything that is going to last. You can create widgets, but you can not form life. Therein lies the difference. You don’t have factories that make things come alive. You have arms that nurture something that is already alive, but you can not create fruit. That requires, actually, the Spirit of God in us. Frankly, we can do nothing of lasting worth apart from Christ. That is where I am trying to position this, and as I look at the vine and the branch, keep in mind two fundamental truths about this. On the one hand, you will not actually create life in yourself. You are a branch and the branch never creates life. Would you agree with that? A branch’s job is to receive life and not to create life. Secondly, what is the product of that life in the branch? It is fruit, and fruit, by the way, the branch does not need to have, but fruit does two things. What are the two things that fruit does? It contains the seeds of its own reproduction. What is another thing the fruit does? It is for another to eat. You see the idea? It bears a product that feeds and nurtures other people.






Continued in part 3

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