Monday, December 14, 2015

Branches Of The Vine

John 15:1-16

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  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.  Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  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.” (John 15:1-4)

Israel in that day was an agriculturally based society, and Jesus used agricultural illustrations because they would be understood by agricultural people of any culture.  Sadly, as we become a more urban society, we are losing those understandings, and I fear that the next generation may find the teaching in scripture almost unfathomable. 

Even the largest cities were surrounded by farmland and orchards or vineyards, and the food sold in the markets came from those farms and orchards.  Almost everyone had a family farm and most of them helped on the farm from time to time.  They were familiar with what it took to make a grape vine or fruit tree more productive.  They knew that if a branch was cut off it soon withered up and died.   They also knew that diseased branches didn’t bear fruit and it allowed to remain would infect other parts of the tree, so if the husbandman saw branch that had no fruit, they removed it to protect the rest of the tree.   Removing the diseased branches allows a tree to devote more nutrients to the fruit bearing branches, increasing production.  Pruning also eliminates excessive fruit and enables lower branches to receive needed sunlight, enabling the tree to produce more and larger fruit.

Jesus describes his relationship to his people in the same way.  A Christian who is not firmly connected and deriving his spiritual nutrients from the Lord soon stops producing and dies, and has to be removed.  Even fruitful Christians are not perfect and need things removed from their lives periodically to make them more productive. 

“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.  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.  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:5-8)

A person who learns to live in the Spirit, depending on Christ for everything will produce much fruit, but without his power we can do nothing, as John 6:63 states.  “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing…”  A person who will not place his faith in the Lord is separated out and soon wither s and dies.  Once the dry up there is no possibility of restoring them,  so they are burned, because as Hebrews 6:4-8 tells us.  “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.  For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”

A person who abides, who lives by faith, allowing God to have his way in his heart can have expect god to supply anything he asks for, because he is glorifying God by the fruit he is producing. 
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.  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.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:9-12)

According to John 14:23-26, our obedience is the proof of our love for God.  If we will keep his commands, we will abide in him like the branch abides in the vine or tree, and just as Jesus has kept God’s commands and abides in his love.   If we learn to do so we will experience a life full of joy on continuing basis.  That commandment is what we find in John 13:34-35.  “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” 

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:13-16)

The greatest test of love is a willingness to give one’s life for one’s friends.  People who follow Christ’s commands demonstrate their love for him and he considers them his friends.   Employees are expected to do what they are told whether they understand the reasons or not.  We are Christ’s friends and partners, and as such we are privy to the secrets an employee would not know.  We didn’t choose Christ as our partner, he chose us, designating us to be his representatives and produce fruit.  The fruit we produce is eternal.  As Christ’s partners, anything we ask by his authority will be given us.  

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