Summary: Realizing we must be attached to Christ Jesus and not He to us makes all the difference in the world concerning our fruitfulness.
John 15: 1 – 8 Fruitful Lives
Intro: There are some shrubs in the flower beds in front of our house with purple leaves that are really pretty; but, they grow rapidly and can get huge. They were definitely hearty and productive. Last summer it seemed as though I had to trim those bushes almost every week. So in the fall, I cut them back until they were little more than stubs sticking out of the ground. My wife, Barbara was sure I had killed them and secretly, I think that was my plan all along.
I. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience with something you planted intentionally only to find it necessary to drastically prune or continually cut it back to keep it from taking over the yard. In Verse 1 - Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower.”
A. This imagery is not new to John’s gospel. In fact, Israel is pictured repeatedly in the OT as the vine and God as the owner of the vineyard. (Isaiah speaks of the “vineyard run wild,” Jeremiah refers to a “degenerate plant or a strange vine,” while Hosea uses the image of the “empty vine.”)
B. But in the opening verse of chapter 15, Jesus claims to be the TRUE (In Greek - alaythinay ) vine. That word can be translated as real or genuine.
C. My grandfather was fond of saying that many modern Christians would “stand for nothing and fall for anything.” – We all know those who have run after this “religious experience” or that “way of worship” only to discover it wasn’t what they anticipated. Christ Jesus, here in John’s gospel claims that he alone is the TRUE vine and that should be our focus as branches. Most of us try to live our lives as if WE were the vines and Jesus is attached to US.
II. Verse 5 – “I am the vine, YOU are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
A. I know there have been times in my life when I have felt more like an over-pruned stub like those bushes I butchered last fall than a fruitful branch. Times when I have felt there wasn’t one green leaf left. There are 2 kinds of branches mentioned in this scripture lesson: the fruit-bearing and the non-fruit bearing.
B. WE are the branches. There are those that bear fruit and those that don’t. My step-father, Sam and my mother had a long row of grapevines on their property. All during the spring Sam would prune off the branches that did not contain any fruit. As the fruit began to grow, he would trim away leaves and extraneous shots from those fruit-bearing branches. I asked him why. He said so the fruit would be sweeter and more productive.
C. The useless branches are those who refuse to listen to Jesus, those who refuse to accept His grace, those who make the good confession but do not follow it with deeds, those whose faith is all fluff and no substance. Even the fruitful branches bear pruning so they make more and sweeter fruit. Through our pruning we see even greater increases of fruit brought out in our lives.
III. Are you a fruitful branch connected to the TRUE VINE? The relationship between we, as branches and Jesus as the TRUE vine can be summed up in one word, DEPENDENCE. We are dependent completely on the vine for three things: nutrients, our environment and water.
A. As a plant must be nourished and fed by the nutrients drawn from the soil, so we must receive nutrition from the vine. We must be nourished on a daily diet of God’s word. We don’t have to worry about how many carbs are in the Bread of Life; we can eat our fill.
B. Plants have to be surrounded by just the right environment in order to maximize their potential growth and the same is true for we branches attached to THE vine. We need the light of Christ to shine on us, we need the good, fertile soil of God’s church in which to grow and we need to keep ourselves in an environment free from the weeds of sin.
C. Plants also require water to carry the nutrients from the soil to the tip of each branch and leaf. In John 7:38-39 Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believe in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” We should be filled with the Holy Spirit as the bearer and giver of new life in Christ Jesus.
Conclu: The discernment of fruitfulness falls not upon us; but upon God alone. It is not what we have, nor even what we do, but what we are. --- How connected are you? --- How dependent upon Christ Jesus, the TRUE VINE are you? --- To live fruitful lives, we must be TOTALLY dependent on the true vine.