WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? – A STUDY OF THE LIFE OF JESUS (43)

GOD WANTS FRUIT, MORE FRUIT, MUCH FRUIT, TO THE GLORY OF HIS NAME – JOHN 15:1-8

"Arise, let us go from here." John 14:31 Some commentators say that
at this point Jesus led His disciples out of the upper room toward the garden
of Gethsemane through the vineyards in the Kidron valley. As they walked He
spoke this allegory of the vine (Jesus) and the branches (believers). The disciples
would be familiar with the vineyard image from the Old Testament as God called
Israel His "choicest vine" (e.g., See Isa. 5:1-7) yet one that failed
to bring forth good fruit. So Jesus says here that He (not Israel) is the "true
vine" – and, of course, the One Who brought forth perfect and abundant
fruit to the glory of His Father.

In this chapter we will look at four relationships: with Jesus (abiding), with
fellow believers (love), with the ‘world’ (hostility) and with the Holy Spirit
(co-witness). Today we will focus on fruit-bearing.

We as "branches" can only bear fruit as we remain, abide (meno)
in Jesus the true Vine. In Christ we have a living union, a loving union and
a lasting union and, as we abide in Him, a fruitful union. Jesus says God wants
"fruit, more fruit" (v.2) and "much fruit" (vv. 5, 8) so
the Father will be glorified. (v. 8)

The context of these verses is not salvation but fruit-bearing for believers
and the branches that are "taken away" or "burned" (vv.
2, 6) either refer to dead works of believers (see 1 Cor. 3:10-15) since the
Greek word for what is burned is neuter. (Ken Boa’s understanding) Or it refers
to professing "Christians" (in name only) who fall away (esp. Judas
but others too; see John 6:66). Even as we can have union with our spouse (marriage)
but no communion (intimacy) we can be saved and bear little fruit. So God prunes
us by disciplining us away from sin and dead works and even cuts off living
branches in order to get more fruit. Sometimes good things can be the enemy
of the best things.

There is no spiritual life or growth in our lives unless there is an experiential
awareness of our profound and desperate need for God: 1) for salvation/new life,
and 2) to save us from wasting our lives as believers. (Mark 4:19; 1 Cor. 3:10-15;
Rev. 3:17) As opposed to inanimate vines and branches we as believers can try
to avoid God’s pruning knife (medicating our pain, blaming others, etc.) and
miss the "blessing". Our lives should be an on-going cycle of conviction
and repentance as we grow more into Christ’s likeness. Even Jesus was perfected
(completed) through sufferings and He had no sin. (Heb. 2:10; 5:8-9)

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and
I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (of eternal
worth)." (v.5) "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing
good dwells." (Rom 7:18) Thus the motivation for abiding or remaining in
Jesus is our awareness of spiritual bankruptcy (need) or holy desire (Matt.
5:6; Psalm 42:1-2; 63:1-5) in contrast to unholy desires – money, sex and power,
etc.

What is the evidence that we are abiding? We experience pruning; we see answered
prayers (v.7); we obey His Word (v.10); we have a deepening love for others
(vv.9-10, 12, 17); we have His joy (v.11); and thus we bear fruit – love, joy,
answered prayers and all this bring glory to the Father.

How do we abide? Through spiritual disciplines that 1) teach us God’s truth;
2) that we put into practice; and 3) an experiential knowledge of God’s love
and Presence which takes time, solitude and silence. (Eph. 1:17-19; 3:16-19)
We "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." "For bodily
exercise (working out) profits a little, but godliness (spiritual training)
is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of
that which is to come." (1 Tim. 4:8) We are in the Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalm
1); in prayer (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 5:16; Heb. 4:14-16); in service (Rom. 12;
Eph. 4; 1 Cor. 12); in fellowship (Heb 10:24-25; Jas. 5:16) just to name a few
of the spiritual disciplines. (See Celebration of Discipline by Richard
Foster)

Spiritual fruit contains the seeds of its own reproduction (evangelism) and
it can nurture and feed others (discipleship). These processes are in essence
passing the life of Jesus in us on to others. And this is fruit that remains
(v.16) – that has eternal value.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

God both disciplines us (removes dead branches) and prunes us (removes live
branches) so we will bear more fruit. How can we know whether it is discipline
or pruning and does it even matter if we know? (See Heb. 12:5-11; Psalm 139:23-24)

We as believers can try to avoid God’s pruning knife (medicating our pain,
blaming others, etc) and miss the "blessing". Our lives should be
an on-going cycle of conviction and repentance as we grow more into Christ’s
likeness. Even Jesus was perfected (completed) through sufferings and He had
no sin. (Heb. 2:10; 5:8-9)
Have there been specific pruning and corrections in your life to show you your
need for God that came about through suffering? (See Psalm 119:65, 71) Please
share your testimony.

See John 15:5. Is it hard for you to believe that you bring nothing to the
table (but your willingness) for salvation or for spiritual fruit (good works)?

Which spiritual disciplines do you use to stay connected to the Vine?

How do you go about sharing your fruit with those around you?

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