abiding in the vine and bearing fruit TO THE GLORY OF HIS NAME – JOHN 15
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“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)
“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.
Abiding is the key to fruit bearing (v.5); obedience (spiritual disciplines) is the key to abiding (v.10); loving God is the key to obedience (v.10) and knowing God (v.15) is the key to loving Him. This progression is seen in the prayer by St. Richard of Chicester: Lord, “may I know You more clearly, love You more dearly and follow You more nearly.” The more we know Him, the more we will love, trust and obey Him and thus bear more and more fruit for Him. Yet our love for Him is always a response to His great love for us. Jesus loves us even as the Father loves Him (v.9) and our love for God is seen in the way we love others. (vv. 12-14)
In this chapter John discusses four relationships: with Jesus (abiding/fruit bearing), with
fellow believers (love), with the ‘world’ (hostility) and with the Holy Spirit (co-witness). 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, we will have a fruitful union. Jesus says God wants “fruit” “more fruit” and “much fruit” so the Father will be glorified. (vv. 2, 5, 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) seem to refer to dead works of believers (see 1 Cor. 3:10-15) since the Greek word for what is burned is neuter; or, it refers to “professing Christians” (in name only) who fall away, like Judas. 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 at times He even cuts off living, fruitful branches in order to get more fruit. Sometimes even good things (good fruit) can be the enemy of the best things (more fruit, much fruit) so the Lord takes us deeper into Him through trials that bring more brokenness and surrender. Yet, as opposed to inanimate vines and branches, we as believers can try to avoid God’s pruning knife and miss the spiritual growth He desires.
There is little or no spiritual growth in our lives unless there is an experiential awareness of our profound need for God beginning with salvation and on-going spiritual growth. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matt. 5: 3, 6 It is our spiritual poverty and hunger that keeps us connected to Jesus the Vine.
What is the evidence that we are abiding? We experience pruning (v.2); we see answered prayers (v.7); we obey His Word (v.10); we have a deepening love for others (vv. 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. “For bodily exercise (like working out) profits a little, but godliness (spiritual training/disciplines) is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) Various spiritual disciplines teach us God’s truth and as we put them into practice we gain an experiential knowledge of God’s love and presence. (John 14:21) The three primary disciplines are:
1) Solitude – “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16) This means much time alone with God in the Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1) and in prayer both talking and listening to the Lord. (Matt. 6:9-13; John 10:27; Heb. 4:14-16)
2) Community – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10: 24-25) This means living in authentic fellowship with other believers – sharing our love, our needs and struggles and confessing our sins. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
3) Ministry/service – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10; also see Romans 12, Ephesians 4:11-16)
(For a comprehensive study of 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 on the life of Jesus in us to others. And this is fruit that remains forever (v.16) – that has eternal value.
Questions for reflection/application:
God both disciplines us (to remove dead branches -sin) and prunes us (removes live branches) so we will bear more fruit. How can we know whether it is discipline or pruning and why do we need to know? (See John 15:2b; Heb. 12:5-11; Psalm 139:23-24)
Which spiritual disciplines do you use in order to stay vitally connected to the Vine?
How do you go about sharing (giving and receiving) spiritual fruit with those around you?
In it with you,
Len and Kristen