Summary: God answers our prayers...so what do you pray for?
We are using the same block of scripture this morning, technically last Sunday I only covered three or 4 of the verses. This particular scripture has this repeating pattern using the word abiding that can make it easy to skip over like a flat rock across a pond, just touching down for a moment.
Last week the main point that I stressed for you to consider was that we as Christians often think it is our job to bear fruit. We think that it is our efforts and struggles that make some people/churches successful, and when I say successful I mean the church grows in number.
However, according to the words of Jesus we are not responsible for producing fruit we are responsible to not take our relationship with Jesus Christ for granted. We are to abide, to spend time exposed to God in a variety of ways.
If we do that we will be shaped and changed and fruit will develop. However if we think it is up to us alone we will always fail.
The overall plan and the actually progress and the ultimate success are all the responsibilities of the vinedresser….God.
Our only direct responsibility is to abide….listen….however listening is not just sitting around is not passive. Abiding is work because first of all we have to make an effort…we exorcize our free will and choose to be a branch or a Christian.
Let me mention Verse 3 sounds a bit confusing, it seems like the subject of abiding and this clean stuff just stuck in the middle of the passage. I thought I would explain the context. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
Many of the vines that were used in Israel grew close too and on the ground. The earthly vine dresser spent a lot of time washing the leaves and the even the fruit so that they could grow better and to keep the bugs out.
The word used that is translated clean in this reading is the same word that is translated as pruned in this passage. The act of God to prune the branches could be translated clean the branches. If you were to compare several translations you would find that some use pruned for Jesus’ work in this verse 3.
Remember this teaching is offered to the apostles only at this point. They are believers, and there for are clean, or pruned ultimately changes by their contact with Jesus. They are sanctified because of their relationship with Jesus.
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.
Secondly, I pointed out that I believe that the failure to abide is probably the problem of the long time Christian and not a new believer.
We compared the process to that pattern of a marriage where the couple takes each other for granted. Sometime not listening like we did when the relationship was new.
The love is there… However, the effort, the work at keeping the relationship fresh is not a priority. Comfort in a relationship tends to complacency.
This week we it is all too uncomfortable to remain connected to the illustration of marriage as we review what the scripture describes happens if we totally fail to abide.
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.
The question that comes to my mind is wither He is describing that the separation happens to non-Christians or to Christians.
As we read this it sounds like Jesus is describing a way that people can lose the gift of salvation.
Let me qualify that there are four common ways that the scholars look at this scripture.
All four agree that Jesus is speaking to people that we would describe today as Christians. But not all agree about whom is being described.
The first area of thought believes that the cast out branches are the ones that were once true believers and somehow loose their faith.
They take the relationship for granted and drift away. They totally quit abiding, listening to Christ via the Holy Spirit until they no longer believe.
They cross over the line to unbelief - they no longer belong to God. We might use the old Methodist word Back-slid to describe this view.
The second thought is that the cast out branches were never really believers in the first place. Maybe they came to church and felt something but never fully came to faith and but, looked like they were in a relationship.
Unfortunately, they never really pursued a connection to Jesus.