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Sunday, May 21, 2006

John 15:1-8

From church this morning (James Muldoon)

John 15:1-8

Over past few years lots of “How to...” books have been written. Jesus teaches us here how to grow a fruitful church. He's speaking to his disciples on the night before the crucifixion. He gives them instructions about their relationship with Him, each other, and with outsiders. Verses 1-8 are about their relationship with Him. He teaches them how to grow a fruitful church, but in reality it's God who does everything.

1. Plant the best quality stock.
In this chapter Jesus deals very much with the disciples' relationship with Him. Compares Himself to a vine.

Important Old Testament background – Israel was often likened to a vine/vineyard – e.g. Isaiah 5:1-7 :- picture language is used in this passage to show how God has taken care of Israel. But – they've only produced bad fruit (or, literally, 'stinky' fruit). Fruit men and women produce = deeds/characteristics. In verse 3 God starts to speak. He will punish this people. In verse 7, Isaiah explains that Israel are the bad vine/vineyard – they are unfaithful and false.
Every time Israel is likened to a vine/vineyard in the OT it's a bad image and used to show how they've let God down. Each member of Israel was a sinner (just like you and me..)

Back to John 15...Jesus is the TRUE vine. Good fruit comes from this vine. The fruit desired by God. So the first step in growing a fruitful church is to link to the best quality vine.

No fruit is ever better than the tree it grows on.
If we're linked to Jesus, the true vine, we'll see the best fruit. This means that every Christian has tremendous potential. What a privilege and blessing!

2. Pick off the dead wood.
Arminians say that a Christian can lose their salvation. Is that what verses 2 and 6 say?
On the face of it, it seems so. But they don't. That would bring them into conflict with other passages. Remember, for example, John 10:28-30. Jesus was talking about Christians and gives a wonderful promise. That's not to say real believers won't backslide. That's tragic, but real. But it IS to say we won't be lost in the end.
These verses in chapter 15 are speaking about people like Judas. People who've been associated with Jesus and may fool everyone else into thinking they're real believers – but look at their lives. Counterfeit Christians.
We need to be concerned about the purity of the church but only God can pick off dead wood. These verses challenge us to make sure we ARE genuine Christians.

3. Prune fruitful branches.
We undergo a pruning process. The aim is to make us more fruitful. How? When we suffer, and look to the Lord, we grow stronger. That's one way. But it's not the primary meaning of verse 2. The word translated 'prunes' (verse 2) normally means 'cleaned'. In verse 3, the word 'clean' comes from the same root in the original Greek.
So, in the sight of God, the disciples are now clean. They're clean through the words of Christ (verse 3). But in terms of actions, they're not perfect. Sanctification is ongoing and leads to the bearing of more fruit.
So how are the disciples pruned? Through the words of Jesus Christ. They prune us, condemn sin in us, promote growth in us, inspire holiness in us...They produce fruit.
So – we have to take the Bible very seriously indeed! We will not be fruitful without it.
Read it.
Memorise it.
Listen carefully whenever it's preached.
Stick it on post-it notes around your house!
Write it in the steam on your bathroom mirror!
Whatever you do, take it seriously. Take it in.

4. Pass on nourishment (verse 4-5).
Every branch that bears fruit has to be in contact with the vine. It passes on nourishment to the branches. So Christians have to be in contact with Christ. “Remain in me...” - inward, personal communion with Christ.
What's the result? Much spiritual fruit. Every good thing you do/word you speak/thought you think comes from Christ.
Fruitfulness is NOT the result of human achievement but of abiding in Christ.
Apart from Him, we can do NOTHING. And it's when we remain in Christ that our prayers are answered. Am I sticking close to Christ? Apart from Jesus I can do NOTHING.
John Owen once wrote (more or less – language updated!):

“A minister may fill his pews...and the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is, and no more”.
Those words have a wider application than just to ministers. In any sphere of life, we can only do anything of any significance when we're close to Christ. If we're close to Christ, we'll be fruitful.

5. Parade the gardener's skill.
The above four points have been things that God does, not us. This is for us – give God the glory!
What is the point of a vine? To produce grapes – and not much else!
What is the point of a Christian, of a church? To bring glory to God.
That's what verse 8 teaches us to do. And we can do that by bearing fruit. When people see a truly fruitful Christian, they get a glimpse of the invisible God through them. And that glorifies Him.
Are you a fruitful Christian? Negatively, if you're not, you're robbing Him of glory which should be His. Positively, if you are, you're fulfilling the greatest purpose of your life by bringing Him glory.
What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.


Blogger thebluefish said...


Thanks for the reflections.

4:09 AM  

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