Summary: This sermon uses the classic painting "American Gothic" to illustrate how people aren’t necessarily what they seem to be.

Are You In The Vine?

John 15; 1-12

[1]I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

[2] Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

[3] Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

[4] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

[5] I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

[6] If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

[7] If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

[8] Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

[9] As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

[10] If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

[11] These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

[12] This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

Jesus taught this lesson to His disciples near the end of His ministry.

His 12 Disciples had followed him for about 3 and ½ years.

They had seen many people come to Jesus.

Some came to be healed of diseases and handicaps.

Some came to see Him perform a miracle.

The Bible tells us in John 6:26:

Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

Some came to Jesus just to get something to eat.

Some came to see what would happen next.

It was exciting and entertaining to be near Jesus.

Some came to hear Him teach.

Some came to Jesus because they believed

He would overthrow the Romans

and restore Israel to freedom.

So…many people came to see Jesus…

But they walked away UNCHANGED!

UNAFFECTED! UNMOVED!

But nobody ever fooled Jesus.

He knew who came to Him for the right reason…

And who came for the wrong reasons.

He knew what was in their hearts.

When Jesus started talking about dying…

Many people who claimed they were “followers” deserted Him.

John 6:66 says:

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

The Apostle John saw all these people walk away from Jesus.

And what did the Holy Spirit inspire John to write?

1 JOHN 2:19 says;

19: They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

In other words…

When the exciting entertainment stopped…

When the free food stopped…

When some saw they were not going to get what they wanted…

When they realized that following Jesus was not all fun and games…

THEY LEFT! THEY RAN OFF TO DO OTHER THINGS!

Their hearts had not been changed.

They didn’t love Jesus!

They had no desire to listen to the Words of Jesus’ teachings…

SO THEY LEFT.

The 12 Disciples have seen many people come and go.

It must have been very disappointing.

(I know how they must have felt)

So…Jesus knows that within a few days…

He will go to Jerusalem to die on the cross.

And He wants to prepare His Disciples…

For the task of taking over the ministry.

He wants them to be prepared to deal with…

The real followers of Jesus…

And those who are not His followers.

This lesson Jesus taught His Disciples…

Is just as valuable for us.

It helps us understand the difference between…

Truly Saved people…and those who are NOT saved.

Today…I’m going to tell you the story of B.H. McKeeby.

In 1930, B.H. McKeeby

was one of the leading citizens in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

He was a dentist.

People who knew him described Doc McKeeby

as a quiet, modest, conservative man.

One day, a young artist who was known as “Gus”

came to see Dr. McKeeby.

It seems Gus wanted to paint Dr. McKeeby’s portrait.

Now, Gus was a good friend of Dr. McKeeby.

His teeth were in bad condition,

so he had spent a lot of time in Dr. McKeeby’s dentist chair.

The young artist had also done some painting on Dr. McKeeby’s home.

He not only painted pictures on canvass…

But sometimes he earned extra money by painting houses.

So Dr. McKeeby felt as though he did owe a debt to the young man.

But posing for a portrait?

Why would Gus want to paint his picture?

Well, Gus told Doc McKeeby:

“Doc, Your face is one of a kind.”

“And your hands are perfect for the type of picture I wanted to paint.”

“Your long fingers and strong hands are perfect.”

Gus assured Doc that he was perfect for the picture.

Finally, Doc McKeeby asked what kind of picture Gus had in mind.

When the young artist explained

what kind of picture he wanted to paint

Dr. McKeeby quickly and firmly refused to pose.

No Way!

Gus assured Doc McKeeby

that nobody would ever recognize him in the picture.

The setting for the picture would be so far out of character.

Everything in the painting

would be so unlike the well known dentist of Cedar Rapids.

Gus told Doc that he had persuaded his sister

to pose in the picture with the him.

She, too, didn’t really want to pose for the picture.

But Gus assured his sister…

That the picture would be so out of character for her…

that nobody would ever recognize her.

POINT #1

Not All Church People

Are What They Appear To Be:

In our Bible text today…

Jesus says:

[1]I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

[2] Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:

[6] If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned

Jesus says I’m the VINE.

God the Father is the husbandman.

That means the one who takes care of the vineyard.

He’s the one who prunes the vine…

To promote grows and better grapes production…

And cuts away the dead wood.

Jesus says those who are NOT in Me…

Will die and be cut away by the Father.

They will be cast into the fire.

They may look like they are in My vine.

They may look like real Christians.

But they are dead in their sin.

They don’t have any fruit.

And if they die in that condition…

They are going to end up in the fires of hell!

On another occasion, Jesus talked about prophets and teachers.

Matthew 7:15-20

[15]Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

[16] Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (more next page)

[17] Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

[18] A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

[19] Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

[20] Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

So…there are false prophets…

And there are false professors.

Anybody can “profess” to be a follower of Jesus!

But true followers bear fruit!

And by their fruit, we shall know them.

I heard somebody say “We are NOT suppose to judge others!”

WRONG!

Jesus clearly tells us to inspect the fruit of others.

He did NOT say: “by their fruits I shall know them”.

He said: “by their fruits YOU shall know them.

This is the season for County Fairs.

People enter fruits and vegetables in the Floral Hall.

Judges inspect the fruit.

Notice, too, in Jesus’ story…

That the dead vines are among the vines that are alive.

SO…not everybody in the church is what they seem to be.

Some have not been saved!

They may look like Christians.

They may look like they are in the vine.

But if you look close at their lives…

You’ll see that there is NO fruit….or the fruit is ROTTEN.

POINT #2

God Makes Us Fruitful Christians:

In our text this morning, Jesus says:

{2}…and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

[3] Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

[4] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

LISTEN TO ME!

Nobody ever gets saved because of a church activity.

Nobody ever gets saved by church programs.

People get saved by hearing the Word of God.

Romans 10:13-15

[13]For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

[14] How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

[15] And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Where do you suppose most of the money in this church goes?

ME!

My salary is the #1 expense.

And that’s how it should be.

Paying the expense of hearing the man sent here by God…

Preaching the Word of God…

Should be the #1 ministry of this church.

Whether it’s me…or some other man…

preaching should be the #1 effort to reach lost souls.

Bible school…Sunday School classes…Teamkids…TM412…

Those are all fine programs of this church.

But the Bible clearly shows us that God sends men…

To preach His Word…

So that souls might be saved.

If we dazzle boys and girls…men and women…

With fancy programs and fun-filled activities…

Without them hearing the convicting power of the preached Word…

We run the BIG risk of getting “empty word professions of faith.”

We end up baptizing boys and girls…men and women…

And then watching them drift away when the fun stops.

Because they have not truly been convicted of their sin…

Led to repent and turn from their sin…

And allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify them…

They have no desire to sit and hear the Word preached…

And to come to church to worship the Lord.

Churches loaded with people who don’t want to hear preaching…

But prefer to just go to Sunday school…Youth programs…

Will be filled with “dead wood” people…

branches that are NOT connected to the vine…JESUS.

Did you know that Sunday School classes did not exist 200 years ago?

The first Sunday School class was organized in 1793 in New York.

The purpose was to teach children how to read the Bible.

Before that time…

People came to church to WORSHIP…and hear the PREACHER!

People will attend Sunday School…

if they get a chance to talk and discuss opinions.

But ask them to sit quiet…

And listen to the convicting power of God’s Word being preached…

And lots of people head for the doors.

That’s not any fun!

You can draw a crowd by serving lots of good food.

You can draw people to your church programs…

By having lots of games and giving out prizes.

By letting them have lots of fun.

But will those things bring the REAL results?

Now, I’m fully in favor of Sunday School…Youth Activities.

I believe they can be effective ways to draw new people.

But if a church allows anything

to become more important than the preaching of God’s Word

by the man anointed by God to speak to His people…

then that church has its priorities all wrong.

And that church will be loaded with UNFRUITFUL members.

But Jesus says people in the vine (saved people)…

Will bear fruit.

And to help them bear more fruit…

God the Father “purges” them.

He “prunes” our branches back.

Sometimes we allow things into our lives…

Which can hold us back from being productive Christians.

Those things waste our time and energy.

So God prunes those things away…

Giving us more time and energy for His work.

God’s pruning of our branches can be painful.

It might be the loss of a job.

The loss of a loved one…or friend.

The loss of some possession we value very much.

It might be something that happens

which causes us to move…

Or to change churches…

Or to change our lifestyle.

And it hurts.

But God “prunes” it us to make more us fruitful.

Transition:

Well, Gus the artist wanted to paint Dr. Keeby’s picture.

He promised Doc that even thought the picture was out of character…

Nobody would ever recognize him.

They would never suspect that it was Doc McKeeby’s face…

On the body of a person so unlike him.

Finally, Dr. McKeeby agreed to pose for the picture.

Well, Gus was wrong!

As soon as the picture was finished,

Every one recognized the faces in the painting.

The clothes worn by the people in the picture didn’t fool them.

The object in the hand of the man in the picture didn’t fool them.

Even the expression painted on the woman’s face

failed to fool the residents of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

POINT #3

Saved People Bear MUCH Fruit:

In our text today, Jesus says:

[5] I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

[7] If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

[8] Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

[10] If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

Notice…Jesus says His people bear MUCH fruit.

It will be easy to see.

And what is this fruit that Jesus wants us to bear?

Galatians 5:22-24

[22]But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [23] Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

[24] And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

2 Peter 1:5-8 says:

[5] And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

[6] And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

[7] And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

[8] For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Don’t tell me it’s possible to be saved…

And have no desire to worship and listen to God’s Word!

God’s Word says Saved people produce FRUIT!

And by the fruit we see in their lives…

We will know that they are in His vine.

James 3: 13-18 says:

[13]Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

[14] But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.

[15] This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

[16] For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

[17] But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

[18] And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Folks, God does not want bitterness and strife in His people.

And if those who are guilty of being that way don’t stop it…

He will purge it out.

God wants GOOD fruits from His people!

Gus is better known today as Grant Wood.

The picture now hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

It shows what appears to be an old farm couple in Iowa.

In reality, it’s a city-slicker dentist

and the sister of the artist.

It’s known as AMERICAN GOTHIC.

CLOSING:

Yes, we can show up here in church on Sunday.

We can let them see our faces…

On the bodies of people doing Christian things.

We might even convince ourselves

that our faces belong in the picture of a Christian man or woman.

But Jesus says we cannot deceive those who look real close!

If they see BAD fruit in our lives…

And if they don’t see GOOD fruit…

They will know that we are imposters.

Are you IN the vine of Jesus?

Are you producing GOOD fruit…

Because you have His Spirit dwelling within?

If not…I invite you to come down to this altar.

Give your life to Jesus.

Get connected to the True Vine.

Maybe you are in the vine…

But you have to be honest.

There’s been very little Good fruit on the vine lately.

You’ve been so busy doing things you want to do…

You haven’t been doing much for Jesus.

I warn you!

God the Father PRUNES the branches.

He cuts things out of our lives to make us fruitful.

Get rid of whatever is holding you back.

If you don’t…and God has to do it…IT WILL HURT!

There’s another application for what Jesus said.

All of the branches in the Vine of Jesus…

Make up the church.

I believe Jesus is also telling us…

That God will remove unproductive people from the church.

He will prune away dead wood!

He will cut out those

who have the potential to infect the church.

You know what God is saying to you right now.

He’s telling you whether you are in His vine.

He’s telling you if you are producing GOOD fruit…or BAD.

And He’s telling your heart what you need to do today.

So…what are you going to do?