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I AM the True Vine

Please read John 15:1-8 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.

SERIES INTRO - “I AM” is the name God used with Moses. Jesus referred Himself in the same way to show He was God and to teach us about God. During Lent we are looking at the 7 “I AM” statements Jesus made in John.

CONTEXT - John 15 might be described in modern terms as a “team-building exercise.” In the first half of the chapter, He built His disciples into a team by elaborating on the necessity of their being joined to each other, to Him and to God the Father. In the remainder of the chapter, He warned them that the world’s hatred of Him would cause them to be hated. They needed to be a team to support one another to stand in the face of hatred.

Pastor Andy Cook told the strange tale of Danny Simpson. Danny was desperate. He was short on cash, time, and options, so Danny took a gun that had been handed down through his family, went to a bank, and robbed it of $6,000 in a hold-up.

Danny wasn't good at robbing banks and was promptly arrested. At the trial, people looked closely at the weapon he'd used. It was a .45 Colt semi-automatic, an antique, this gun, made by the Ross Rifle Company in 1918. Its value was about $100,000.

Danny robbed a bank for $6,000, while holding $100,000 in his hands! He already had what he needed, without even knowing it.

God will not ask you to bear fruit without equipping you to bear fruit. You've got all you need already.

Fruitful living is possible only in connection to the True Vine, Jesus Christ.

1. The parts of the fruitful plant.

Jesus is the “TRUE VINE.” (1+5) These “I AM” statements are all about life: as the Bread of Life, Jesus is the source of life that is truly worth living. As the Good Shepherd, He came to give us abundant and eternal life. Now, add to this the element of truth: Jesus is the TRUE VINE, the only source of life that is real and vital.

In this figure of speech, Jesus distinguished Himself as the life-giving part of the grape plant. The VINE takes water and nutrients from the soil and transports them to the BRANCHES. The BRANCHES provide for the grape clusters, producing the fruit.

God the Father is the “GARDENER.” (1-2) It is the will of the gardener that directs the planting and cultivation of the grapevines. He organizes them into rows. He cares for the soil, pulls the weeds, and does everything he can to produce the best crop of fruit possible. The plant must do what the plant does, but the gardener manages the plants to increase their fruitfulness. Similarly, God is the intelligence that directs human history, working patiently to direct events toward the fulfillment of His will.

We are the “BRANCHES.” (2-4) No serious gardener grows a grapevine for aesthetic reasons. Grape vines are cultivated for a single reason: fruitfulness. Branches are meant to be fruitful, so, when it is necessary or advantageous, the gardener PRUNES the branches to produce more fruit. (2-3) In human terms pruning may be a painful process. Actual grapevines don’t feel pain, but people do.

Notice it is the vines that are already producing fruit that undergo the pruning process. This is Jesus’ way of warning His followers that troubles and trials are allowed to come against us to strength our faith and to increase our courage. Though they cause us pain, God intends them to make us more fruitful.

Branches produce fruit only when they are in connection with the vine. (4) The life of a plant is in its sap, just as the life of a creature is in its blood. The trail of the sap begins in the roots, is carried along by the VINE, into the BRANCHES, and then into the FRUIT. Without the trail of sap, the entire plant withers and dies. The connection is required for the plant to live and produce fruit.

2. Producing fruit is mandatory for Jesus’ disciples.

Our connection with Jesus makes all the difference. (5) Connected branches produce MUCH FRUIT. Disconnected branches produce NO fruit.

Since FRUIT is so important to our life of faith, we must understand what this image means. FRUIT is the outcome of our character. It is what can be seen and heard in our words and deeds, all flowing from our beliefs and our attitudes. As Jesus taught, bad fruit comes from a bad tree; an evil or false inner life. Good fruit comes from a good tree; a godly and true inner life, which is only possible with God. In this way, whatever is truly in a person always come out. What we may try to hide always comes to the surface.

FRUIT is not results or success. FRUIT is never about what you cause in another person - it is only and exclusively about what comes out of you. Our good fruit should cause others to produce good fruit too, but that’s no reflection on our own fruitfulness.

Failure to REMAIN in Jesus results in the branch being BURNED. (6) To not REMAIN in Jesus is to break the life-giving connection to which we referred earlier. Cut a branch from a grapevine and it will immediately start to wither and die. Jesus warned that lifeless BRANCHES are USELESS to Him. Dead grape vines are a biblical symbol of the most useless thing ever. In Jesus’ time dead vines were not allowed to be used in the fire in the altar of the temple.

Remaining in Jesus means that His WORDS remain in us. When that happens, our words have power (prayer). (7) Jesus’ WORDS - His commands and His teaching - are like the life-giving sap of the grapevine. As long as they guide our character, we REMAIN in fellowship with Him. People who disobey or disbelieve do not have Jesus’ WORDS in them. They do not have life in them and no fruit either.

Jesus’ WORDS give power to our words when we make use of our relationship with Him by praying. Prayer is the chief means we have of being fruitful for Jesus. More sincere, fervent prayer reveals and uses the Christ-character of Jesus. Fruitful Christians are praying Christians. There are simply no shortcuts here.

Producing MUCH FRUIT has two wonderful effects. One, it proves we are TRUE DISCIPLES. We have Jesus who is the TRUE GRAPEVINE and we know we are His WHEN WE PRODUCE MUCH FRUIT. Fruit-bearing is a way we reassure ourselves and one another that we have genuine faith. As Jesus taught, “BY THEIR FRUITS YOU WILL KNOW THEM.” (Matthew 7:20)

Two, producing spiritual fruit brings GREAT GLORY to God the Father. To bring GLORY to God is to please Him. God is pleased to observe the obedience and love of His children. When we speak and act as Jesus did, that points people to God. It causes them to want to have a relationship with God and to know Him better. This is God’s plan to save the world; this is the way.

Fruitful living is possible only in connection to the True Vine, Jesus Christ.

There is something appealing about a vineyard. I’m not a fan of wine, but the picture of the carefully ordered and tendered vines makes me happy. It’s a feel-good agricultural image.

However, Jesus doesn’t use this image just to feel good, just as He doesn’t offer salvation as a means to happiness. A true vineyard has another side to it. It is a practical place that serves a purpose and everything that happens on that piece of land is directed toward one goal: producing fruit.

To that end, pruning takes place. The vines are not left to grow wild; they are pruned to conform to the will of the gardener. Dead branches are completely worthless because they do nothing to serve the gardener’s fruit-bearing purpose.

Let me share a startling fact that will help us see the importance God places on fruit-bearing. In Genesis 1:28 we have God’s first recorded words to the human beings He just created. His first two words to them were “BE FRUITFUL.” From the beginning, producing fruit has been essential to life with God.

If you read this and all you see are sunny days, you’re not listening. God expects fruit. If your fruit is not good, you are not in Him. If you are not growing in your character, understanding, and spirituality in ways that are observable you have no life in Him. You are disconnected from Him.

In that case, the alarming result is the fate reserved for the wicked: burning. God provides everything you need to PRODUCE MUCH FRUIT. If you are not, then the problem is clearly yours, not His.

We do not produce fruit by accident. It won’t just “happen naturally,” that’s where the analogy breaks down. We must choose to be in Christ and with one another for that to happen. Times of pruning will come, but never let it be said of us that we disconnected from the vine and ceased to be fruitful.

RESOURCES:

Message #625

https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/sermon-vintage-faith-learning-more-savior-vineyard-1, retrieved on 1 April 2022.

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