Study 5: Being in the Vine

I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes itso that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing…
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 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 things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that you joy may be made full.

John 15:1-5, 8-11

We have laid the foundation for what it means to be a man in the church of Jesus Christ: you are subject to your Lord’s Word and you are responsible not only for your growth and maturity, but helping those in your sphere of influence. 

Genuine growth in Christ occurs when the Truths of His Word become our convictions: that for which we are willing to live, and if necessary, die. For that, we need the Scripture to convict us and renew our thinking. It is then that we are assured that what is produced in our lives is genuine and eternal spiritual fruit.

John 15:1-11 is a crucial passage for the believer – here we find the source of our Christian life and the purpose of our Christian life:

  1. The Source – Jesus Christ
    • “I am the Vine, you are the branches…”
    • “…apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
    • You cannot manipulate growth (in yourself or a disciple), no one will truly grow apart from Christ’s work through the Holy Spirit.
  2. The Purpose – Bearing Fruit
    • “…you did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear much fruit, and that your fruit would remain…” (v16)
    • Every true believer utterly dependent on Christ for both salvation (He chose us) and sanctification, and God’s purpose will be fulfilled – every branch that is genuinely in the vine will bear fruit
    • This fruit is not an external human work, it is genuine godliness (true mind renewal, victory over sin, Gal 5:22-23)
    • Genuine Spiritual fruit is eternal (it ‘remains‘)

Christian growth is a mandate, not an option. In fact, the result of Christian growth (bearing spiritual fruit) is the evidence that we are genuine Christians.

The goal of God’s Sovereign choosing, saving and sanctifying work in every believer is to produce much fruit. And for that, we (the branches) must abide in the Vine, and the Vinedresser will prune us. This is the believer’s life – we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (abiding) for good works (fruit-bearing), which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them, Ephesians 2:10. 

What a wonderful thought! In all that we do, in all that we encounter – from the most sublime to the mundane – all of it is part of God’s plan for me, to bear fruit.

Abide in Me

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…”

  1. “Abide in Me” is not saying “get attached/get saved”. The branches that are cut off and burned are those who only had a superficial connection to the Vine, they were never saved to begin with. Particularly in this context, Jesus would be referring to Judas.
  2. To ‘abide’ is about ‘steadfastly remaining’, ‘to stay’, ‘to be immersed in the resource of the Vine’. This is to live every moment in intimate fellowship with Christ, without hindrances, without disruption of the vital nutrients of our salvation.
  3. A Christian can bear less fruit that he should when they do not “live in the conscious presence of the ever-near Christ” as John MacArthur puts it.
  4. How do we “abide in His love” (v9)? “If you keep My commandments, you abide in My love.”
  5. Glory in submitting to the Lordship of Christ. Submission is the mechanism of abiding in His love. It’s not mystical or emotional (though emotions may, and should follow). First and foremost, it is a humble submission to our Master – Jesus Christ and His Word.
  6. The fruit of the Spirit is not the outworking of your feelings, it is the outworking of your glad submission to your Slave-Master’s commands. He chose us, bought us with a price, and we belong to Him. 
  7. To abide is to submit wholeheartedly to our Lord. This is not cold orthodoxy, it is the sweetest act of love towards Christ. And His yoke is easy, His burden is light.

This is the goal of our discipleship. We’re helping each other to soften and submit to the Truth. As we grow in this, our relationship with Christ grows more intimate, with all the nutrients flowing unhindered towards maximum productivity in bearing fruit.

He Prunes

“…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”

  1. The word used for “pruning” has at its root the meaning “cleanse”. Jesus illustrated this in washing Peter’s feet “you are already clean (saved), but you have need for daily cleansing of your feet”. Repeated in v3. You need daily cleansing, daily ‘pruning’. 
  2. The purpose of pruning is directing growth so that every ounce of nutrient goes towards maximum productivity. 
  3. Pruning involves:
    • pinching, where a juvenile branch needs to be slowed down and matured or it will be vulnerable to the elements and bear premature fruit
    • topping, where a section of a rapidly growing branch is removed so growth is concentrated, rather than rapid
    • thinning, where all superfluous clutter and twigs that waste resources are cut away and removed
  4. God may see where you are in over your head – you may want a privilege, a freedom, a responsibility, a ministry – but you’re interrupted, redirected. You are being pinched so that you first mature in that area.
  5. Perhaps God may cut off an area of your life, usually something you enjoy or would find hard to remove yourself. He sees that you’re spread out too thin. He wants you to focus resources.
  6. Of course, the excess should constantly be trimmed away. All the unnecessary, unhelpful stuff. Things that slow us down (Hebrews 12).
  7. Every one of us must admit – we need pruning.

A Swiss team of climbers were preparing to climb Mont Blanc when a feisty Frenchman came by with a camera over his shoulder with extra lenses, a bottle of wine, half a wheel of cheese. The team leader said, “you can’t take that stuff with you”. He answered, “I am going to, and I’ll beat you to the top!” and off he went. Finally the team got going, and before long they came across some cheese, a bottle of wine, a couple camera lenses discarded by the trail. When they reached the summit, there he was. But he had to jettison everything to get to the top.

Commenting on this, a pastor said “Most people, when faced with the loss of their goods to make it to the summit, will rather let the top go and pitch their tents in the plain. And the plain is full of tents.”

When men prepare for an expository sermon, they may take upwards of 20 hours to work through the meaning, the implications, and the application of just a few verses. How much time have you spent in the Word dealing with an issue in your own life? On developing integrity? On cultivating a deep assurance of your salvation? On wrestling through the implications of God’s Sovereignty? 

What parts of your life need pruning to maximize the resources God has given you towards your spiritual growth and influence?

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