Sunday, January 13, 2013

John 15:1-8 "Fruitful in 2013"

On the night that He is betrayed by Judas,  Jesus is speaking His last exhortations to His disciples as they  are   gathered in  an upper room of a house. Last words are important words.  These last words are recorded in John 13-17. 

In Ch. 13, in the act of foot-washing  the Lord Jesus reminds them to be true  servants to one another.  He  tells a self- confident Peter  that  he will not have   natural  strength to follow him in the hour of great trial  (13:36-38). Peter will later learn that he survives his ordeal only  by  the grace of Jesus alone – “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” ( Lk. 22:32 ; Jn. 21:15ff

He teaches them in 13:31-35 to live from the principle  of “agape”  (sacrificial , other centered  love). This will be the primary  exhibition of Christ’s  love  on earth ,  after He is gone. (v.35)     

He tells them   about His imminent departure, and what He will do in heaven in His absence.  He  reminds them that He will come back (14:1-4).
·      He also promises them  that in the days of His physical absence, He would not leave them as orphans, but that He would  sent the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Spirit of Truth, the Teacher  who would be with them and in them  (14:17 ; Ch 16).  
·      Then, in John 15:1-17 He speaks to them about  a vital  distinction  that would set His disciples apart from  any other people:  Christian fruitfulness!    

This  is what  we wish to focus on  as we  set our eyes upon 2013, asking ourselves, How shall we be  bear the marks of fruitfulness   in 2013? 

Jesus uses  a  picture (metaphor)  to illustrate  His teaching. He uses the  example of a Vine dresser, a vine  and its branches.  He explains the metaphor.  God the Father is the Vine –dresser; Jesus is the vine, and  the disciples (illustrative of all  Christian disciples) are the branches. Branches   are  the fruit-bearing part of the vine.  
The great focus of the story is  on how to get  maximum   fruitfulness out of the  vine.  This is a story  about the Christian church – not so much  about individual  Christians. Grapes hang together in clusters ! This is more about what we are together, than what we are as individuals. 

Now let us follow the logic of our text:
V 1a: “I am the true vine “- Christ identifies Himself as  the true  vine.

V1b : “and my Father is the vine-dresser  -  this refers to God  the Father.

V.2: “Every branch in me …” … “you are the branches…” (v.5). All true  Christians are  branches united to the  Christ  the  vine stem , and tended by God the Vine-dresser.

Vv2&3: “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. This  is the work of God in the  believer, and it is very distinct from what he refers  to in v 6. Here  He  speaks about the  sanctifying work of God in the life  of the believer,  whereby  He refines, purifies and prunes  every true believer. All this is for our good  and for God’s glory. The Bible has much to say about this necessary work of  pruning in the life of the believer. We must never reject that work. We must embrace it. We must not think  that God does not love us, because  we experience  His pruning. 
We do not become more valuable to Him  because we  grow in sanctification. We are  already clean because of the finished work of Christ. This is not about  getting more approval and love  from God because we are  fruitful. When we are in Christ  we are loved, and God the Father  will do His loving work in us. It’s called  pruning!  It’s called preparing us for heaven (14:1-3)

Vv 4- 5: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. Believers (the church)  are reminded  that true  fruitfulness  can only be achieved  as the church  abides/remains  in Christ. [Note , John’s example  of the danger of not doing this is seen in the  example of the church at Ephesus, who lost her first love  Revelation  2:1-7]. Without Christ at the center and relied  upon, the church  cannot bear much fruit. The true fruitfulness of the church is   through her  active union  and communion with her Lord  Jesus Christ. Christ is therefore the ultimate  source  of the church’s fruitfulness! 

V.6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
This is the most disturbing picture in  Christ’s  metaphor.  We note that  Jesus speaks about two types of branches : those branches that bear fruit (15:2b,5,8) and those that do  not bear fruit (15:2a,6).   Both  experience the  scissors  of the Vine Dresser. The  fruitful branches are pruned – trimmed to make them even more fruitful; the  unfruitful branches are cut off altogether and are ultimately  thrown into the fire.  Both  branches are cut, but for different purposes. Some branches are pruned to make them more fruitful (Christians)  and other branches  are cut off and thrown away.  Does this  mean  that dead, unfruitful branches are  Christians that  have  lost their salvation and are now cast into hell?  No, it doesn’t!  That would bring us into conflict with the  power  and the nature of  Christ’s salvation.  So we cannot conclude that at all. But what it does  imply is  nevertheless a deeply disturbing thought, namely that there are at all times people (members) in the church who may be called ‘unfruitful branches’. No pruning will make them  more fruitful. But they are there among the cluster of grapes.  They have for some reason or another (but not through  genuine regeneration)  joined themselves to the church as visible members, but (here’s the point)  they  show  ultimately no  spiritual fruitfulness.  God gets no glory from them. These , says Jesus  are cut off  and thrown into  the fire and burned. Jesus uses the same  metaphors elsewhere in the gospels to speak about  such wicked servants  (e.g. Matt.   25:30) being thrown into eternal hell.  
How do we understand  the position  of  such  people in the church? These are the one’s  spoken of in  Hebrews  6:4, who  “…  have  once been enlightened , who have tasted the heavenly gift , who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age …”. They exist in the midst of fruitfulness. They have seen fruitfulness. They have been enlightened concerning it; they have  tasted, they have shared, but they have not been cleansed from their sins; they  have  not  exhibited  fruitfulness.
An immediate  example from our context in John’s gospel  would  be Judas  (13:21ff). He had fully participated in  Christ  and in the life of the disciples. Yet, finally  he proves  to be a dead, unfruitful branch.

V.7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. The  act of  abiding in Christ and His  words  (meaning that His words need to live  in us and direct our thoughts and actions)  holds out  an incredible promise  for  the church!  Our prayers  (according to His will)  will be answered!   What incredible power that lends to the church!  Whatsoever God has promised  and  commanded  in the Scripture may be sought by us.  God will answer  our prayers for the salvation  of  lost souls ; we will see the church  expand locally and globally  in missions and evangelism as we pray ; we will  see our  every need (physical, emotional and spiritual) provided; we will  receive the kind of government that we pray for  etc. 
This is a huge  thought  and a huge promise at the beginning of 2013 as we prepare for Prayer week 2013 .

So , dear brothers and sisters, begin  this year by dedicating  yourself  afresh to Christ.  Abide in Him; remain in Him. Understand that this means that  your Father in Heaven  will  do the pruning work in you,  but only to make you more fruitful. If you are a true  Christian and if you are presently grieving the Holy Spirit  through  your secret sin,  then know that God  will deal  with your sin, and make you more fruitful along with all of us here at Eastside. If He  leaves you alone in your sin, then you have  every reason  to believe  that  you have not been  cleansed  by Christ from your past sin. You need to  fear God’s final judgment.

If you  are not  sure whether you are “in Christ”, or if you beginning  to wonder if you have ever  been a true Christian and  if you are presently convicted by your own fruitlessness , then what must you do ?   How do you get  into Christ ?  
John’s Gospel tells us how :
(i)                 You  need to go and see Jesus  for  yourself (John 1 :35-51).
(ii)                You need to be born again  through the Holy Spirit  (John 3:1-10) 
(iii)         You  need to hear His Word spoken to you. You need to hear about your true condition  and  your  future  without Christ and in eternal hell. You need to understand that without being in Him  you will  be   lost and  dead in  your sins.  (John 3:18-20 ;  15:5,7). You need to flee to Christ  for refuge from the wrath of God upon you.
(iv)             You  need  to  stop sinning (John 5:14)  and actively repent and  believe all that is written in God’s Word (John 20:31) . 

The Results of fruitfulness : 

One I have already mentioned:  If you are in Christ and you abide in Him   by getting nourishment from Jesus and His words, then  you  will  have liberty in prayer “…ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  We  as a church shall  be  satisfied  with an abundance of answers to our prayer in 2013  as  we continue  to  learn to  abide in Christ  and live according to His Word.

Secondly, this : V.8   By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
When we  bear much fruit, God is glorified!  That is the goal and the end  for  which the Christian  is  brought into Christ and into His body, the church - that we bear much fruit. In this is  God the Father glorified. There is more glory in the cluster  than  in  a single grape. So think and pray much about your   spiritual involvement at Eastside in 2013   in Worship, Prayer, Use of your Spiritual Gifts.
And if  God is glorified  then we  shall be satisfied!  There is something intensely satisfying about seeing  the work of God bear fruit. When God is glorified in the progress of the church and  in the conversion of souls, through growth in grace and holiness, that  will also produce  a deep  sense  of  satisfaction   within own  souls,  and  within the  life of    Eastside Baptist  Church.   Do you see what is at stake in a fruitful Christian life?  God gets all the glory and we get all the pleasure !  Amen !

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