Dr. Howard Hendricks, former professor at DTS, told the story of a small town in Texas where a school burned to the ground with the loss of more than 200 lives, because the building didn’t have a sprinkler system. The principle began to rebuild the school after the initial shock had passed. They called in the leading company in fire prevention equipment to install a sprinkler system. When the new school was opened for public inspection, the principle pointed out the new sprinklers in each room, to remove fears of another disaster. The school operated without a problem for a number of years, then they needed to add on to the existing structure. As work progressed, they made a startling discovery. The new fire extinguishing equipment had never been connected to the water supply! They had the latest in technology and equipment, yet it was useless.
Sadly, many believers attempt to live the Christians life separate and apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. I want to show you the absolute necessity of abiding in Jesus in order to bear fruit that remains long after you are gone.
We are beginning a new series entitled, Bearing Fruit. We will examine the different fruit of Bible: the fruit of giving, fruit of the spirit, fruit of praise, fruit of repentance, fruit of soul-winning, fruit of holiness, fruit of righteousness, and the fruit of service.
Today is the fruit that remains.
John 15:1, “O am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 Every branch in me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.
The relationship between Christ and His disciples
Christ is our source: vine
Verse 1, “I am the true vine, and my father is the vineyard keeper.
I am the vine is the final of 7 claims that Jesus made of his deity using the words “O am.”
6:35 “O am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “no one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again.
8:12 then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”
10:7 so Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep.
10:11 “i am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.
14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus says, “I am the true vine.”
Throughout the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was often likened to a vine.
Psalm 80:8, describes the nation of Israel being a vine transplanted from the soil of Egypt to canaan.
In Isaiah 5 the nation Israel is compared to a vineyard that does not produce fruit.
James Rosscup, in his commentary on prayer, said, “the vine was found on jewish coins in the Maccabean period, and in the days which our Lord walked upon the earth there was a huge lattice of a vine adorning the entrance of the temple of Herod, evaluated by some (who likely were exaggerating) at a value of more than $12,000,000.
Jesus doesn’t say, “I am a vine” or “the vine.” he says, “I am the true vine.” I am the real or genuine vine. There are fakes out there, you’ll be tempted to attach to. There are facades out there that you will be tempted to draw strength from. Don’t do it!
Remember where the disciples were just moments before? Eating the passover meal with Jesus as he instituted the Lord’s supper with them over wine. Here is what they saw on the table that night: the lamb, the bread, and the fruit of the vine.
Did the disciples fail to recognize the symbolism there? It wouldn’t be the first time this happened. After Jesus fed the 5,000 and 4,000, the disciples on
Mark 8:16, “they were discussing among themselves that they did not have any bread. 17 aware of this, He said to them, “why are you discussing that you do not have any bread? Don’t you understand or comprehend? Is your heart hardened? Do you have eyes, and not see, and do you have ears, and not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the 5,000, how many baskets full of pieces of bread did you collect?” “twelve,” they told him. “When I broke the seven loaves for the 4,000, how many large baskets full of pieces of bread did you collect?” “seven,” they said. And He said to them, “don’t you understand yet?”
They missed it once already. Jesus is not about to let them miss it again. On the way to the garden of gethsemane to pray, He stops to teach them one final lesson.
God is the caretaker: gardener
The vinedresser or garden has the job of caring for the vines and tending to the branches. God is the vinedresser. He tends to the garden. He cares for the plants. He tills the ground for growth. He waters the plants and he picks the harvest.
The gardener has a 2 fold job: purging and pruning.
He purges or removes the weeds and underbrush.
He prunes the branches in 2 ways:
- He cuts off the dead wood. If he allows small branches to grow among the living ones, disease and insects can kill the plant. He cuts these dead branches away because he doesn’t want anything to hinder the production of fruit. Hebrews 12:4–11 speaks of how God disciplines those he loves.
- He trims the living tissue. Some living branches can reduce the quality and quantity of fruit produced by robbing the vine of nutrients to grow. This is painful. He severs off those good things from our life so we can enjoy the best things.
How does God prune us?
He removes the insects, the bugs, diseases, and life sucking sprigs from our life, which can be selfish desires, wasted activities, bad attitudes, and harmful habits.
- He eliminates anything that hinders you from bearing fruit to the fullest.
- Many times we fill our schedules with busyness or activities.
- Maybe it’s a substance abuse, compulsive shopping, pornography or alcohol.
- Maybe it’s selfish control in relationships or working long hours at the office.
- Maybe it’s laziness or a slothful attitude.
The gardener will prune whatever gets in the way of producing fruit in your life.
We are dependent upon Christ: as branches
Verse 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches.
By itself, a branch is weak and brittle. Other than producing fruit, it is useless. You can’t build a house or construct a bench with a branch. A branch can only be used for 2 things: bearing or burning. The branches can be gathered together and burned in a fire or it can be left on the branch to bear fruit.
What makes the branch useful is its connection to the vine. Scripture affirms this union with Christ throughout the new testament. Paul says that we are the bride and Jesus is the bridegroom in (eph. 5:25–33); he described believers as the members and Christ and the body in (1 cor. 12); and John explained that we are the sheep and Jesus is the shepherd in John 10.
The branches cannot exist separated from the vine. It is dependent upon the vine for strength. The quicker you recognize that you can do nothing for God a part from him, the faster you will realize your dependence in him and your need for his strength.
How does this happen? Verse 4, “remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.
The Greek word remain is a difficult word to translate into English. Of the 120 occurrences in the New Testament, the word is translated as: abide, remain, dwell, continue, tarry, and endure. The word is used 11 times in the first 11 verses of John 15.
How do we abide or remain? When we submit to the Lordship of Christ, he can work in us to work through us. When we make him our home, he takes up residence in us.
Think of your home:
• Home is your base of operation.
• Home is a place of comfort and familiarity
• Home is a place of safety and security
• Home is a place you are eager to return to after leaving
• Home is a place you are refreshed and renewed.
• Home is where your heart is.
• Home is where you keep the things you love the most.
Jesus’ name should be able to be inserted in place of home. When you make Christ your home, He lives within you. The result is that you will produce fruit. Abiding happens when we practice the spiritual disciplines.
Two routes for living
Verse 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
If you rely on your own strength, you….
Jesus offers a stern warning to those who think they can produce fruit apart from Christ’s strength. Jesus alludes to Ezekiel 15:1–8, where God warns Israel that they will experience judgment if they don’t produce fruit.
“you can do nothing whatsoever” it’s not that we can’t do anything good in our strength. We can’t manufacture fruit that God will accept. When you are separated from the vine you are fruitless and useless to God.
Have you ever played the game monopoly? It can be a lot of fun, but often adults play it like a “full contact” sport. It stops being fun and starts being all about winning, it gets aggressive, tense, and often very personal. Why? we just do not want to lose and don’t want the other guy to win! If you play the game really well and you’re “brilliant” in your property acquisition and hotel building you win big – you may get every cent of monopoly money on the board – a huge stack! Then you take all that money and go to the local grocery store, pick out a wonderful selection of great food and tell the check-out person that you’re going to pay with all your monopoly money and start counting. Are you going to get the food? They’re not going to let you out of the store. You might say, “you don’t understand, I own park place and broadway, I have acquired all this wealth.” The store management would say, “no, you don’t understand because we don’t accept monopoly money, we only accept U.S. Currency.” The currency of the monopoly world cannot measure up to currency from the U,S. Mint.
Your righteousness is like monopoly money in the game of life – it is acceptable currency in the game but in God’s economy it doesn’t amount to anything at all. God requires a different set of currency. The “real” currency is his righteousness. We can do all the good deeds we want in our own strength – Isaiah 64:6 makes it clear that any and all of our righteous acts fall short of the needed “real currency” of heaven, “we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
Believers are expected to produce fruit. However, in our strength, we are unable to produce fruit. An unfruitful branch is as useless as is an unfruitful believer.
Prove you’re lost
Verse 6, “if anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” The Bible is filled with passages about the awaiting judgment for those who are unsaved. Jesus gives us 4 areas of judgment for those who do not bear fruit:
1. The branch is discarded.
- The branch withers. The individual dries up and has no joy or peace. They are lifeless and dead.
- The branch is thrown in the fire.
- The branch is burned. Jesus gives us a picture of punishment. Notice he doesn’t speak of annihilationism but unquenchable fire.
Some have tried to use this section to prove that a believer can lose their salvation. This teaching is erroneous, for it contradicts passages such as John 4:14; John 10:28; John 18:9; Romans 5:9–10; and Romans 8:35–39.
Further affirmation of this truth is found in the audience Jesus is speaking to. Jesus is not addressing a mixed audience, in which were true believers and those who were so-called believers. He wasn’t even speaking to the 11 apostles, for judas has already gone to the religious leaders to turn him in. Jesus is addressing eleven believers.
He’s not saying, “if anyone doesn’t remain in me” as a threat to strike fear in people. If you read it this way, it sounds like these individuals were once saved and now lost their salvation. However, that is not what Jesus is saying. He is declaring a fact to you: “if anyone doesn’t remain in me,” it means they were lost in the first place.
John clarified this misunderstanding in 1 John 2:18, “children, it is the last hour. and as you have heard, “Antichrist is coming,” even now many Antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.”
If you rely on his strength, you..
Verse 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit.” The emphasis of this passage is on fruit bearing. Verses 2, 4, 5, and 8 explain this. Fruit is a sign of reproduction. It’s replicating Christ’s life in our life.
The Father is focused on 1 thing: producing fruit in your life. Notice the progression in the text:
Verse 2: no fruit, then more fruit.
Verse 5: much fruit.
Verse 8: much fruit.
Don’t miss this: the one who produces fruit doesn’t enjoy that which he produces. We don’t eat our own fruit, others do. Our fruit is for those around us. Here’s the promise: every branch connected to the vine will produce fruit. The scope and degree is dependent upon the Lord; however, every branch produces some kind of fruit.
Prove you’re saved
Verse 8, “when you produce much fruit, you prove to be my disciples.”
Again, we don’t go out and do things so people see that we are believers. It’s by the things we do as believers, that people know we are of Christ.
- The relationship between Christ and his disciples
- Two routes for living
- The result of a fruitful life
Verse 7, “if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit, and prove to be my disciples.”
“remain in me” and “remain in my words” are synonymous. When the word is implanted in our minds, we are obedient to God and conformed to the image of Christ. Abiding and prayer go together. The more we abide, the more we pray. And the more we pray, the more we abide.
William Mcgill: “the value of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us but that we will finally hear him.”
My dad loved to build custom cars. He loved car shows. As a kid I wanted to talk about legos, GI Joes and model cars. He would always stoop to my level. He showed interest when I wanted to customize my scooter, or set up a battle with army men, or construct lego towers. He listened to me talk about hot wheels cars. but he looked forward to the day when I would talk about things on his heart. Eventually, I matured and began discussing things that were important to him. As we worked together for many years, we visited auctions, bought vehicles, and customized cars. I discussed things that were near and dear to his heart.
Ever though our talk is beneath God. He longs for day when we talk about what’s on His heart.
When was the last time you listened for His direction in a particular area of your ministry? So often we are telling God the plans of our hearts, instead of listening to his heart. Abiding moves from our own selfish desires to God’s specific plan for our life.
When was the last time you asked God what He wanted for your life?
Richard Blackaby said, “prayer is not just sharing what’s on your heart, but knowing what’s on God’s heart. He knows your heart.”
Since God owns the vineyard, plants the vines, tends the plants, and causes the fruit to grow, He gets the glory. No one picks a grape and says, “wow, look at the coloring of that branch. I’ve never seen a gray like that before.” No-one plucks an apple and says, “The shade of green on these leaves is breathtaking.” No, the bite into the fruit and say, “this is amazing!”
Vinedressers are the most important person in the operation. Some are trained for 2 to 3 years before they are able to work in the garden. A good vinedresser is compensated well. Knowing what to cut and where to cut it is a skill that requires intense study and practice. Since God made you, He knows exactly what to cut and where to cut from your life. Whenever He applies those spiritual shears to our lives, it hurts.
Pruning involves pain. But there is no other way to produce fruit. Pruning always hurts! David said in Psalm 119:67, “before I was afflicted I went astray.” Psalm 119:71, “it was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”
Sometimes pruning comes before our sins, sometimes it comes after, so we can produce more fruit. Most Christians pray for God to bear much fruit through them, but few are willing to endure the pruning process. No one enjoys being under the knife. However, the results of pruning are always for our benefit and his.
The point of John 15 is that pruning is for our good. Malcolm Muggeridge in his book Jesus Rediscovered says, “suppose you eliminated suffering, what a dreadful place the world would be. I would almost rather eliminate happiness. The world would be the most ghastly place because everything that corrects the tendency of this unspeakable little creature, man, to feel over-important and over-pleased with himself would disappear. He’s bad enough now, but he would be absolutely intolerable if he never suffered.”
The worst thing God could do to those he loves is leave us alone and allow you to continue as we are. He prunes you because he loves you.
What are the shears he uses to cut away the dross? The word of God.
The word of God cuts like a knife according to Hebrews 4:12. In Acts 2, after peter delivered that sermon to the men of Israel, the text says in verse 37, “when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to peter and the other apostles, “brothers, what shall we do?” The same instrument that calls lost sinners to the vine is the instrument that cuts sin from their life.
As disciples of Christ, we must set aside everything that diverts or distracts us from drawing strength from Christ. The reason that God allows pain and suffering in our life is to expose our need for Him. He wants us to hold on to him not anyone or anything else.
Before God can produce fruit in our lives, He must reveal dependence in our hearts.
Allow me to summarize the message by showing the difference between achieving in our own power and abiding in Christ. Jesus stopped Mary and Martha’s house one day. You may remember that Lazarus, their brother, would be raised from the dead after being in the tomb for 3 days. Luke 10:38, “while they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. she had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.” the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Notice the contrast:
Martha was serving, Mary was sitting.
Martha was worrying, Mary was worshipping.
Martha was hurrying, Mary was hearing.
Martha was busy with the work, Mary was attentive to the word.
Martha was laboring, Mary was learning.
Martha was bothered, Mary was blessed.
Many the reason you aren’t bearing more fruit for God is because you have been spending too much time doing things in your own strength and not enough time abiding in his. The church is filled with many Marthas. Maybe we need more Marys.