JOHN:The Book Of Heartfelt Belief
Devoted Disciples Relating To Jesus
Jerry A. Collins
This past week I was walking through our flower garden and observed some of the last colors of the season we have there. I though about cutting some of the flowers and arranging them in a vase for us to enjoy in the house. Of course, had I done that then the flowers, though looking like they were freshly in bloom, would have really been dead the whole time. Dead in the sense that they had been cut off from their life source. They would eventually dry up, whither and be cast aside as useless. The point of my illustration about our flowers is the point of Jesus illustration about branches and vines. A branch needs to be connected to the vine in order for fruit to be produced. Today Jesus may have used the analogy of electricity to make His point. Instead of vine and branches he may have said you are the appliance and I am the generator to describe the new relationship we are to enjoy with him and with the Father. That relationship can make our lives useful. What is the nature of this relationship?
1. JESUS IS SOURCE OF ALL LIFE AND PRODUCTIVITY FOR THE DISCIPLE VS. 1
Jesus speaks of Himself as the vine. A vine is the real source of nutrition. A vine produces the fruit. Jesus claims to be the true vine not just a vine. There are alternative vines but they are false alternatives. They are not the source of nutrition that produce the real fruit of a useful life. There are competing vines who want you to attach yourself to them. Instead of giving you life they will suck the life out of you! Your life will not be fruitful, productive and useful for the kingdom of God. Some people attach themselves to political change or government as a life-giving source. Others may attach themselves to their careers, money-making, religion, power, possessions or pleasures. These can appear to offer us the source of life we are longing for. None of these is the true vine! Real source of life comes from Jesus. Attached to Him produces usefulness and fruit-bearing in our lives.
2. THE FATHER IS THE ONE WHO TENDS THE VINE VS. 1
Continuing with this image, the Father is the gardener who cultivates the vine for productivity. This cultivation is such that the productivity will progress from bears fruit vs 2, to bears more fruit vs 5 to bears much fruit vs 8. So whatever the nature of the gardening is, it brings a fuller produce. The nature of the Fatherís gardening seems to involve two things. (1) It includes taking away branches that do not produce fruit vs 2, 6. In other words, these branches are not vitally attached to the vine receiving its life-giving source. So they are removed or cut off, thrown away vs 6, whither and dry up and then cast into fire to burn vs 6. For instance, a branch that was not vitally attached receiving the life-giving source of the vine was Judas. He did not bear fruit and is even now a tool of Satan So these unfruitful branches refer to those who get so close to Christ, like Judas, that they look like they are attached but in reality do not belong to him. So every person who professes to be My disciple, a branch, is not necessarily a true follower. Profession does not mean possession. If you determine to go your own way, if you chose something other than an intimate, vital relationship with me, your life will be worthless. You will not amount to anything vs 6. Like a dead and withered branch good only to stoke a fire your life will be truly useless and wasted. Judas attached to money hung around with Jesus for financial profit and betrayed Jesus for the same. He committed suicide. A wasted and useless life. (2) It includes trimming fruitful branches to yield greater fruit vs 2. The process that produces a more useful and productive life can be painful for us. The branches which are vitally connected to the vine are trimmed not taken away like the dead ones so that their yield becomes even greater. Only the Father knows the process necessary to produce greater usefulness in our lives. Vs 3 tells us it is the Word He uses to tend the vine with its branches. It is the Word of Christ which serves as the cutting instrument that will prune us for even greater productivity. Hebrews 4:12 says for the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and morrow able to judge the thots and intentions of the heart. Are you going to wake up someday and realize that youíve amounted to nothing? The way we receive this Word will determine how useful our lives will become.
3. THE ONLY WAY FOR BRANCHES TO BE USEFUL IS TO ABIDE IN THE VINE VS. 4ff
The branch cannot bear fruit by itself. It must remain connected to the vine from which its life and sustenance flows. Life and usefulness originates with Jesus as the source of all fruitfulness and productivity. So we must remain, abide or make our home or residence in Him. 10 times in these verses he tells us to do so. To make our home in Him as He makes His home in us. First, Jesus has taken up residence in our lives by choosing us and committing Himself to us and His resources. So we settle down and accept the grace of God which we cannot earn, or change it or ruin it. It has been given to us. He abides in us! Second, I must make choices to abide in Him. Give priority to the things that matter to Him. Listen carefully. Obey and be a doer of His Word. Persevere. Make time for it. Donít hesitate. Repent. We understand that our need is total not partial. So we are both recipients and activists in this business of intimacy with Christ. The branch receives life from the vine and the branch draws nutrition from the vine. We do that by making Him our home that place where we are eager to get back to, feel comfortable in, safety and security there, fellowship and friendship there, base of operations, find strength where we eat and sleep, where people we love most are found!
4. ABIDING IN CHRIST MAKES OUR LIVES USEFUL 7-8
Vs 7 tells us that fruit-bearing is having a life of prayer which prays for the very things God is committed to doing. Making our home in Christ and His Word changes our praying and fills them with who he is, where Heís going and what Heís doing. Our prayer life changes. Answered prayers from this kind of prayer life bring glory to God the Father just as Jesus prayers did since they conform to His will for us as they did for Jesus. God is put on display as His will and purposes are accomplished by my praying.