Summary: In order to have a maximum yield, grape vines need lots of sunlight, just the right amount of rain, and pruning at the right time....Since chastening and pruning are both painful, how can we distinguish between them?
GRAPE EXPECTATIONS part 2
Last week we started learning about
the "cultivation of grapes." In order to have a maximum yield, grape vines need lots of sunlight, just the right amount of rain, and pruning at the right time. If a branch is bearing no fruit, the vinedresser picks it up off the ground, cleans it off and puts it back on the arbor. If the branch is bearing some fruit, the gardener prunes it, so it will bear more fruit. If the branch is bearing fruit, it must stay closely attached to the vine, so it can bear much fruit.
In this agricultural illustration, God the Father is the Vinedresser, Jesus is the Vine, we believers are the branches, and the Holy Spirit (by implication) is the Sap flowing from the Vine into the branches.
If you have been going through a period of spiritual "fruitlessness," the chances are that sin has broken your fellowship with God, so the Spirit cannot flow. Because He loves you and wants you to have an abundant life, God will continue to discipline you until you repent (confess, forsake and replace your sin with righteous living). When you repent, God will lift you up, clean you off, and put you back in the sunlight of His grace.
If some evidence of spiritual fruit can be seen in our lives, God will prune us so we can become even more like Christ. This pruning involves the removal of anything (even good things) which are holding us back from spiritual maturity. It is the Father’s desire to bring us to a place where we trust less in ourselves, and more in Him, where Christ is the center of our lives and everything else revolves around Him.
Since chastening and pruning are both painful, how can we distinguish between them?
-1. Acknowledge that God is trying to get your attention.
-2. Trust that God wants you to know if He is chastening or pruning.
-3. Ask God: "Is there a major sin in my life that is causing You to discipline me?"
-4. Pray: "Lord, if you don’t reveal any reason for discipline, I’m going to assume You are pruning me."
-5. If you can conclude you’re being disciplined, REPENT!
-6. If you conclude you’re being pruned, RELEASE completely to God, anything He wants you to let go of.
Jesus said: "I have come that they might have life and that more abundantly."
What is the secret of abundant fruit-bearing?
In John 15, Jesus answers eight times: "Abide in Me." To abide means to continue, dwell, or remain - to continue daily in our personal fellowship with Christ, to dwell in His presence continually, to remain steadfast in our close relationship with Him. So, abiding in Christ is not ritual, it’s relationship. It’s developing an ever-deepening intimate relationship with a real person, Jesus, our Savior and our Spouse.
What can we do to help develop this close friendship with Jesus?
(Have someone read John 15:7-14)
-A - Always read and meditate on God’s Word (7a)
"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you..."
Not only do we have to get into God’s Word, but God’s Word has to get into us. That means every day we’ve got to spend time reading the Bible, meditating on what we’ve read, and then seek to apply it to the situations in which we find ourselves. One way to make this personal is to write down each day, one thing God says to you in His Word, then think about that word throughout the day.
-B - Bow before the Lord daily in prayer and worship (7b&8)
"...you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."
Again, this doesn’t mean just rushing through a list of prayer requests, asking God to be your personal "genie." But rather, praising and worshipping Jesus for all He is and has done, speaking openly and honestly with Him about our needs, listening to Him respond to our questions by His Spirit in our hearts. Truly fellowship with Jesus in prayer (Rev. 3:20) "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."
-I - Imitate His love (9+12)
"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love….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."
Another way we stay close to Jesus is by seeking to be like Him in our relationships with others. It is allowing the love we experience in our quiet times with Jesus to spill over to people all around us. How does Jesus love us? He loves warmly, passionately, fully, sacrificially. Jesus commanded: "As I have loved you, so love one another." (John 13:34)