By Diane Caston
I think you ladies would all agree that the days we are living in are very challenging. We are being buffeted from every side. I thought just yesterday of the famous quote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Taken from an article in the Philadelphia Times Thomas Paine was encouraging the troops and the fatigued and despondent population during the Revolutionary War.
"These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."
Paine was successful in rallying the troops and the people to hope and fight on for freedom.
We face challenges like this today in our personal, interpersonal, and spiritual lives. How do we navigate what is being thrown at us each day? The truth of scripture should always be our default.
In it we find the answers we need to face each day, no matter how challenging.
The True Vine
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “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. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, you will be My disciples. 9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
These words were spoken to the disciples on the night that Jesus would be arrested. Jesus planned for them to have the evening alone with Him. How Jesus had longed, desired to have this Passover with them. In Luke 22:15 He states: Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; ( the Greek word epithymia, translates to desire, passion, craving, longing). Jesus had a burning desire to have this Passover with them before He went to the cross.
The supper, this Last Supper, begins in chapters 13 and 14. Jesus fulfills this longing to have time alone with His special friends, His future apostles, to have this final meal with them before He died. He knew they needed help and strength. He wanted to be with them because He loved them. He talked with them, he washed their feet, He told them He was going away. He wanted to tell them everything that was going to happen, so they would be prepared for what was coming. They shared a last meal, broke bread, and took the cup, these symbols that would serve throughout time as the reminders of the price He paid. Judas left to betray Him. Jesus spoke of mansions in heaven and going to prepare a place for them. And He gave them a new commandment to love one another.
The next day He would be stretched out on a cross dying. They would always remember what He said that night.
I’ve been at three deathbeds in my life, my own parents and our daughter’s. What happens there, and everything said there, etches itself into your memory. Jesus knew this. He knew once He was gone the disciples were going to remember all that He said. Also, the Holy Spirit would come to remind them. So, He said the most important things there. After supper he led them out into the night.
John 14:31 “Arise, let us go from here.” Dinner is over, and Jesus takes them on a walk with an object lesson. They would probably have gone from the upper room through the temple court and out the Eastern gate, or Golden Gate, which is closed now until the Messiah returns! History tells us that there was beautiful gold cast work above this gate depicting an ornate grapevine. which was a type of Israel. They most likely walked through this gate and across the Kidron valley to the Mount of Olives.
As they walked Jesus was providing a road map for their lives when He would be gone. And what was He telling them about how to live after His death? Did he mention forming armies? Did He discuss battle plans? Did He mention what it would be like when they were reigning? Who would be greatest in the kingdom?
What was He saying? It’s about grapes? He was telling them, it has everything to do with Fruit.
John 15:1 I AM (One of the many I AM statements in John) the true vine.
Jesus used imagery they were familiar with - The Vine! Over and over in the Old Testament Israel is referred to as the vine. A few prominent verses are: Ps. 80:8-9, Is. 5:1-7, Jer.2:21
This image in the OT is always used to show a degenerate Israel. The Jews thought they were righteous because they were God’s chosen people. We have seen this arrogance again and again in the Pharisees and Sadducees. Just being Jewish or any other established religion cannot save you, only repentance and friendship with the living God will do. Nothing external can save. Jesus was warning them because He knew they might be tempted to go back to Moses and the law once He was gone.
He is the Vine! It is all about Him! Not Judaism, not Israel, but the Messiah.
He is the Vine! Just being Jewish wouldn’t save them. They had to be rooted in Him. He wanted them to know how necessary it was to be rooted in Him by faith. He was the true vine. Remember this lesson today. It is not organized religion or works that will redeem us. It is all about His redemptive work on the cross!
Many Christians today are like disciples that night. They were thinking that their king was coming to take over the kingdom and set them free from Roman rule. As Jesus talks about grapes and the vineyard, they might have been disillusioned like some Christians who think that coming to Christ turned out differently than they expected. They expected their troubles to be gone, that they would have healing and prosperity. Maybe you too are disillusioned with what God has chosen for your life. We want God to do it our way instead of being a branch on the vine, leaning close and learning all He has for us. He has left us here at this time for a reason, and it has to do with bearing fruit.
Vs.1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” Jesus is the vine or the trunk. His Father is the vinedresser. The vinedresser is the owner of the field. His job is to see that the vineyard produces fruit. He looks over the vineyard. How are the vines doing? Are they bearing fruit?
What does He need to do to get them to produce, to get the most fruit out of the vineyard as possible? We are the branches. He looks and sees us in various stages of fruit production.
Vs. 2 “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes; that it might bear more fruit.” There are four stages of fruit bearing mentioned here in this verse and then in vs. 5: No fruit, fruit, and more fruit, much fruit.
The first branch we see in vs.2 has no fruit. We know Jesus is speaking of believers because we see He says every branch, “in Me”. In Christ - These verses refer to those in Christ:
1 Cor 1:30, 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph 2:10, Phil. 3:9.
Sadly, sometimes as Christians we can be fruitless! The branch that does not bear fruit He takes away! This passage is often disturbing for some believers. They are just waiting to be removed. This Greek word “airo” translated here as “takes away”, in this context really means to “lift up, to raise from the ground, to elevate”. The same word is used as the disciples “took up” twelve baskets, and also used when Simon “bore” Jesus’ cross. He lifts up the branch that is bearing no fruit; He cleans it and helps it to flourish. But why is the branch bearing no fruit when that is what the vinedresser wants most? There are many things that could be hindering fruit in our lives: bitterness, unforgiveness, laziness, unbelief, or disillusionment. All of these are sin and our heavenly Father cares too much about us to leave us there.
God will do what it takes to bring us to repentance, to lift up and rearrange our branch. Sometimes it may even hurt to be bound to the support and put back in the right place, but He does it for our good.
Deut. 8:5 “so you should consider in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.”
And we are all familiar with these verses from Hebrews: Heb 12:5-6 “And have you forgotten the exhortation that speaks to you as sons: My son, do not despise the discipline of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him, for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”
He is the source of our discipline. He disciplines all believers; He always acts for our benefit. He lifts up our branch to intervene and discipline.
Heb 12:11 “Now no discipline seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Now how long discipline lasts is up to you. Discipline can end the moment you surrender and repent. In Heb 12:5-6 The discipline goes from rebuke, to chastening, to scourging, getting more intense as we fail to respond.
CS Lewis, “God whispers through pleasure, but shouts through pain.”
Sometimes He must resort to firm correction and pain to get our attention. Sometimes, it also comes as a shock that we have been retarding our own growth and not realizing that the troubles in our life come from God trying to get our attention and reveal to us where we need to repent. Responding brings instant relief.
We are all at various stages in our growth, and our heavenly Father, the vinedresser, watches over our lives, and actively tends to us, so we will keep moving toward more and more fruit. He wants us to have abundant fruit. We see that the next step to bearing more fruit is getting pruned! Sometimes when things seem to be going well, suddenly, something in our lives gets lopped off! It’s gone, and we’re in shock! But the Lord knows that if are to grow, that thing must go!
It's for our own good. It may not feel like it, but the Lord knows! He removes things from our lives and cleans us up so we can bear much more fruit. He washes us every day as we are in His word. Then we can see for ourselves what must go. That way it’s not such a surprise when something gets pruned out of our lives.
The word “prunes” in NKJV or “purges” in KJV is the Greek word, “katharizo” from which we get our word “catharsis”. In almost every case in the NT it is translated “cleansed”. It also means to cut off or remove useless shoots. The same word is used in Jn 13 when Jesus cleansed the disciples’ feet.
So, this verse might also be translated, “Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, I lift up. Every branch that bears fruit I cleanse that it may bear more fruit”.
As the vines grow some of them get heavy and drag on the ground and get dirty and do not bear much fruit. The vinedresser cares for them. They are valuable to Him. He watches over them lovingly, tenderly, carefully. He would lift these branches, clean them off, so they could bear fruit. In application, do we care for others this way or are we ready to lop them off?
Vs. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. So now we see this verse is in the same context. They were clean, because of the Word He had spoken to them. How do you bear more fruit? Not by being cut off, but by continuing in His word.
Eph 5:26 “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word”.
Ps 119:9 “How shall a young man (or woman) cleanse his ways? By taking heed to His word.”
This shows the importance of daily devotions, weekly Bible study, fellowship groups. These all have a cleansing effect on our lives.
Vs 4. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
Fruit is impossible without abiding: it is inevitable with abiding. Abide in Him, stay close to Him. We must cling to Him if we want any fruit in our lives. Abiding keeps us from sin. 1 John 3:6 “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him or known Him.”
Jesus was always going off alone to be with His Father - abiding. We must take deliberate steps to do this also. Fruit is one of the most important aspects of your Christian life. It affects your life now and, in the life to come. The wise disciple enriches his own life by abiding. His contact with Jesus makes him a fruitful branch. He brings glory to God which causes others to come to God. The fruit in your life is how God receivers His due honor on earth. He chooses to use us! That is important to remember!
John 15:16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
Eph 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
“Fruit is the only permanent deposit in heaven, and real fruit always lasts.” We progress as we move from fruit to more fruit, to much fruit.
In case we forget the result of not abiding in Christ, not actually being attached to the vine, and being false believers:
Vs. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Vs. 9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
Do not fool yourselves that you can walk in continuous sin, and also be abiding! A condition of abiding is that we keep His commandments.
The conclusion to this message is God’s ultimate goal once again: Love God Love People.
This is the goal of the abiding in the vine, bearing fruit lesson.
There are many kinds of fruit, or good works, holiness, winning lost souls, giving, helping practically and many more.
Titus 3:14 Let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.
But all of these good works stem from abiding in His love. The only way we can ever love like Jesus loves is to be rooted firmly in the vine, not being a wild branch that needs to be cut off, but a fruitful branch abiding in His love.
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love
1 Cor. 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.