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No Fruit on Dead Branches
John 15:1 - 8
What happens when we are faced suddenly with the death of a loved one? At times like that we are forced to think, "What if it had been me? Would I have been ready as they were?"
Our passage today takes place just outside of Jerusalem on the hillside on the way to the Mount of Olives on that fateful night when Jesus was captured and tried. Jesus knows that his time is short and uses this traveling time to teach his disciples one more important lesson.
Jesus has washed his disciples' feet, spoken of his betrayal and denial, explained the importance of the communion experience, and comforted the disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit and Jesus' future relationship with his disciples.
The hills around Jerusalem were used to grow grapes. Being the springtime the pruning had just taken place and the buds were emerging from the vine. Perhaps the vines which had been pruned were used to roast the pascal lamb and smoke from these fires were drifting up the hillside. The full moon lit up the scene making it easy to travel across the hillside past the vineyards. Along the way Jesus pauses to indelibly impress this scene into the disciples minds as they would forever remember his words that night as they travelled past a vineyard. This was not a new metaphor for the disciples as there are numerous references in the Old Testament to the Jews being like the vine.
What a beautiful metaphor this was to express the relationship of men with God. There are very few plants which produce such a wonderful lucious fruit used for eating fresh or squeezed for its refreshing juice. There are no plants whose natural tendency is so entirely evil where growth can run rampant; whose branches easily outgrow its power to fill and ripen the fruit. If allowed to grow unchecked many of the blossoms would never develop into plump juicy clusters of grapes but instead would form tendrils that cling and choke out the other branches.; Of all plants none needs the pruning knife so unsparingly and unceasingly. No other plant is so dependent upon cultivation and training, but none yields a richer reward to the farmer.
Christ begins his talk with his disciples with the last "I am". On other occasions Jesus has told his disciples, "I am the living bread; I am the light of the world; I am the gate; I am the good shepherd; I am the resurrection; and I am the way" A Study of these "I am's" would give us a very clear picture who Jesus was.
Jesus is the true vine and the Father is the one who cares for the vine. There are other wild grape vines but only Jesus is the true vine which brings glory to God the Father. Here Jesus establishes our relationship to the Father and to himself. Everyone who consciously determines to become a part of Christ, the vine, is engrafted into the vine by the father. Every person who hears the Message of the Good News must make a decision whether he will believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven and ask God to forgive his sin. If he believes, he will become a part of the vine and be expected to bear fruit.
Fruitless branches are useless to a farmer. They simply suck the sap from the productive vines and can lead to the destruction of a vineyard. People can destroy or suck the life out of a church if they do not produce fruit. The farmer removes suckers to keep the plant strong and producing good fruit. God trims clean those branches which do produce fruit so that they will become even more fruitful.
In practical terms God trims our lives to remove unproductive vines, areas in our life which are not fruitful. God may remove a good friend or guide in such a way that our ministry will be more focused. I have often wondered why God chooses to close some doors of ministry in my life. I see our coming home from a seeming fruitful ministry in Japan as a pruning in my life. I may not fully understand the implications of such changes in life until I come into God's presence and he shows me his great master plan. Sometimes when large branches are loped off it takes a while to heal but the ultimate goal of the husband-man is to have vines which produce much fruit.
Jesus gives a picture of the Father pruning the vine and removing branches which bear no fruit. At this point in time, the disciples have lost one of their members to greed and jealousy. Judas has left the group and is going to get those who will take Jesus' life.; In John's second letter verse 9 he writes, "Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son." In John 14:15 we see that obedience is the mark of truely loving God.
Much of the cleansing in our lives comes as a result of reading and obeying the Word of God. It is not enough to just believe that Jesus is the one who died for your sins we need to be in intimate fellowship with Jesus and do his work. The roots and the trunk of the vine give life but the branches produce the fruit.
There are some who have be deceived into thinking armchair Christianity is good enough. No one ever retires from their responsibility to produce good fruit which will last for eternity. The most productive lives of a Christian should be the time when he is mature and grounded in the faith.
Fruit is a result of our abiding communion in Christ. Jesus gives this promise in verse 15:5 "he will bear much fruit". Without Christ we might be able to gain great wealth, build great churches or even have a great TV ministry but by our self-effort we accomplish nothing. D. L. Moody was a great man of God, who worked feverishly for God to build a great church. For many years he accomplished great things but these did not last. Only later on did Moody realize that his efforts did not matter, it was the word of God which when used effectively transformed the lives of thousands.
As a congregation we need to ask - where is the fruit of our labours? I am concerned about my own lack of fruitfulness but even more so about that of the whole church. It is frighting to look at our long term effectiveness in our community. There were 25 more people in our Sunday morning service 12 years ago (July 26th) than last Sunday. Are we as a church reaching our community? Or even more crucial, are we reaching our own families? If not, why not?
Jesus wants us to have a relationship with him where his energy flows through us. We cannot produce fruit on our own. We need the sap of the Holy Spirit flowing in our lives giving us spiritual energy.
Perhaps we are not producing fruit because our energies are not directed into producing fruit. Perhaps we are producing a beautiful leafy plant which also has many tendrils which are cutting off the life from other branches. We do this when we are critical of others fruitfulness but have little or no fruit to show ourselves.
Fruit begins with clusters of flowers. Do we have a fragrance, a positive attitude which will bring people to want Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
God will take small buds which we produce and graft it into another branch. If that graft works the Father will continue to prune that branch until it too produces fruit. We need to tell others about the great relationship we have with God and how he helps us everyday. Doesn't he?
I believe that everyone here this morning would like to have the thrill of being able to help others become Christians. Do you have a plan to do just that? We have plans on how to make money, how we want to suceed at our jobs, how we can retire and enjoy travelling but do we have a plan to lead at least one other person to a saving faith in Christ Jesus?
Jesus promised that if we remain in him and his words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. The thing which will bring the greatest glory to God our Father is that we will bear MUCH fruit! Perhaps we will have to prune back some of our busyness and focus our time and energy on reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As we prepare our hearts for the Communion service, let's ask God to give us ideas on how to reach out and bring new life into the lives of others. Maybe it could be through VBS, Visiting family or a friend to love them or challenge them, maybe God wants you to do something very difficult but remember that he will prune you to help focus your life to bear fruit.
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