The True Vine
by John Lowe
4 October 2005
The True Vine
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. Grape vines 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 REMAIN (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? It's 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 houseplant that is not cared for? Plants need good soil, water, and sunlight, but I can’t get my daughter Mary to understand that. Every plant we give her dies shortly thereafter. 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 it’s 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.