The Absolute Necessity of Abiding in Christ
By: The John Ankerberg Show
October 12, 2014
Message, Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor
Well, if you are here today, we are starting a new series at Brainerd Baptist called Bearing Fruit, what happens when Gods people grow. And the title of the message today is The Absolute Necessity of Abiding in Christ. The Absolute Necessity of Abiding in Christ.
A couple of years ago, Dr. Howard Hendrix, the late professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, tells the story of a school that had caught on fire and just about burned down and 200 people died in the process of the school catching fire. And he tells the story about how the principal, after some time had passed and some healing had set in, tried to build the school back. And the first thing he did was contact the leading fire extinguishing company in the world to come in and install sprinkler systems throughout the building. And before he opened the school, he decided to bring the parents back in to eliminate any fear they had as to a potential fire happening again in the future.
Well, as the school grew and people started to come back and the attendance rose, they decided they needed to add on to the school and so they had a company come in, add on to the school. They added sprinkler systems and when they tried to connect the two buildings together, they were in for a startling surprise. They realized that the first company that installed the fire extinguishing system failed to connect the fire extinguishing system to the sprinkler supply of the water source. They had the latest and greatest technology, but it was useless to them because it wasnt connected to the source.
Now I know you think that is something that is tragic. You want me to tell you what is even more tragic? The fact that born-again believers who have all the resources of heaven available to them, have been trying to live the Christian life separate and apart from the Holy Spirit of God.
Do you know what the Chinese Christians said when they went back to China after visiting America? They said, What did you think about American Christians? They said, I was amazed at all the things American Christians try to do separate and apart from the Holy Spirit of God. What an indictment upon the Church of America.
What I want to show you today is the absolute necessity of you as a born-again Christian to abide in Christ in order to produce fruit that remains long after you and I are gone from this world. Not written on the pages of books, but our legacy will be written on the hearts of men and women for all of eternity.
If you have your Bibles, and I hope you do, turn with me to John Chapter 15. John Chapter 15 and I want to give you a little overview of the series that we are about to embark on over the next few months. It is called Bearing Fruit. And if you have ever studied the New Testament, you realize this is a motif that God uses repeatedly throughout the Bible. We are going to study the fruit of giving in a few weeks. The fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of repentance. The fruit of soul winning. The fruit of holiness. The fruit of repentance and the fruit of praise and service.
Today what we are going to do is focus on the fruit that remains. And it is really a foundational sermon, so if you are here today, you are going to see the foundation that kind of sets the tone for the rest of the series.
If you are at John Chapter 15 Verse 1, says word. Say it like you mean it. We get excited well, some of us get excited, at Brainerd as you can tell if you are a guest. Some of us get excited about saying the word because we realize it is the Word that changes our life, Amen? Not cool stories, not funny illustrations, but the Word of God. And so we want to get into the Word until the Word gets into us. The Word of the Lord.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.
Father, we pray that You will bless the reading and the preaching of Your Word, that we would see what it takes to abide in you in order to produce much fruit long after we have left this earth. We ask it in Jesus name. And everyone said, Amen.
Jesus kind of sets the tone for the entire passage right in the beginning. And He describes for us the relationship between Christ and His disciples. You have to understand, Jesus is about to depart from the earth. And so He wants to give them an overview of what their relationship is going to be like now that He has departed and ascended into heaven. And He does that in three ways. So I encourage you to take notes.
The first one is, the relationship between Christ and His disciples. Jesus says early on, the source of your strength is Christ. Christ is the source of our strength and He gives us this picture of a vine. Look at the text. Verse 1, I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. I am the vine in essence what He is saying here, it is the final claim of the seven he says throughout the book of John about His divinity. Jesus has used symbolism throughout the entire book of John, seven to be exact, to prove who He was, that He and the Father were One.
Let me give you the other six, just to kind of give you the background of what He is saying here. John Chapter 6 Verse 35. Jesus said to the disciples, I am the Bread of Life. John Chapter 8 Verse 12, Jesus said, I am the Light of the World. John Chapter 10 Verse 7, Jesus said, I assure you, I am the door of the sheep. John Chapter 10 Verse 11, I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John Chapter 11 Verse 15, I am the Resurrection and the Life, the one that believes in Me, even if he dies, he will live. And here is the one we know well, John Chapter 14 Verse 6, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Now Jesus says, I am the true vine. Now church, dont miss this. This is probably the most vivid of all imagery Jesus could have used, I think, to describe the relationship between Jesus and His disciples. Now that idea of a vine is a motif that God uses all through the Old Testament. He repeatedly refers to Israel as a vine in a vineyard. In fact, I think a passage is like Psalm 80 Verse 8 where He describes the nation of Israel as being in Egypt, how He plucks them out of the ground and He is going to replant them in Canaan. He talks about this in Isaiah Chapter 5 about how they have been a vineyard that has failed to produce fruit. He gives this warning of judgment to them.
So all through the Old Testament, He gives this idea of a vineyard producing or a vine in a vineyard producing fruit. Now what is interesting is Jesus doesnt say I am A vine. Did you catch that? He doesnt even say, I am THE vine. What does He say? This is the audience participation part, by the way. He says, I am the what? The TRUE vine. Now that is interesting. He says, I am the genuine vine. I am the real vine.
Jesus, what are You saying? He is saying, you are going to be tempted to connect with and to reside in fakes out there that are promising strength that is not Mine. There are facades out there in the world that are going to promise to give you a source of life that is not true. Dont fall for it. Dont be conned into it. I alone am the Genuine Vine. I am the True Vine.
So Jesus says He is the source as the vine. Here is the second element He gets into. God is the caretaker as the vinedresser. Write it down. God is the caretaker as the vinedresser. The vinedresser of the garden had one job and that was to care for the garden. And what he would do is, he would plant vines. He would till the soil. He would pull the weeds. He would water the plants and he would bear the fruit or collect the fruit. He would harvest the fruit.
The vine tender had one the vinedresser had one goal in mind and that was to produce fruit and to produce more fruit in the vineyard. And the way he did this was a two-fold job. The first job was to purge the plants and the second job was to prune the plants.
Now what does it mean to purge a vineyard? It is this idea of going on and removing the underbrush or removing branches that could hinder growth. And so what he would do, he would just eliminate anything in the vineyard that would take away life-giving property from the vine in order to produce fruit.
But the more important job and the one he did most of the time was to prune the plants. Now he did this in a two-fold manner. The first way he pruned plants was, he would look at the vine and he would determine where the dead wood was. And what he would do is, he would take those shears or he would take a knife and he would go to the dead wood and he would severe the dead wood from the good wood. Why? Because he didnt want bugs and disease to take over the plant and kill the plant.
Now we think about this for our Christian life and this is exactly what God does to us, right? Hebrews Chapter 12 Verse 4-11. The Bible says God disciplines those He loves, right? And because God loves us, He removes things in our life that are going to hurt us.
But here is an interesting thing I found out about pruning. The vinedresser also will go to living tissue on the vine and apply that knife and severe that living tissue from the plant. Now why in the world would he do that? Because what he realizes is, that living tissue, although it is good, will hinder the vine from producing better fruit. Just like in our lives, there are things in our lives that could be good on the surface, but God would severe them and He would severe them from our lives to produce better fruit in our life, right?
So how does He do this, Robby? This is how He does it. He removes insects, He removes the bugs, He removes the disease. He removes those life-sucking sprigs from the plant. What does it look like today?
Well, God will look at your life and He will determine what activities you are involved in that are wasteful and He will apply pressure to remove them. He will take those bad attitudes we have and He will attempt to remove them. He will take those activities that are completely harmful to us and He will remove them. He will take those selfish desires and He will try to eradicate them from our lives. Why? Because He is always wanting to produce more fruit and better fruit in our lives. Maybe it is substance abuse. We try to mask these feelings below the surface that we hide with alcohol and drugs and God eradicates that from our life.
Maybe it is pornography. We are trying to mask relationship challenges we have or emotional challenges we have with pornography. God is attempting to remove that from our life. Maybe it is compulsive shopping. You are just filling this void in your life by purchasing more things to make you feel better. Maybe it is selfish controlling relationships. You always have to have the upper hand. You have always got to be in control. Whatever partner in the marriage you are, you always want to be the one calling the shots. Maybe it is just laziness, slothfulness.
What God is constantly doing, He is looking at our life and He is seeing things that could be good or bad and He is trying to produce things in our life that are better.
So we see that Jesus Christ is the source of our strength. And we see God as the caretaker of the vineyard. So what is our plan what is our response? Look at what He says in the text. Our goal, our purpose is to be dependent upon Christ as the branches. We are to be dependent upon Christ as the branches. Verse 5. I am the vine; you are the branches.
Now branches are interesting because by themselves, branches are brittle and weak, and they are basically useless. There are only two things you can do with a branch. You can burn it or you can use it to bear fruit. But a branch is really useless if it is cut off from the tree. You cant build a house with a branch. You cant construct a table with a branch. You cant build the doorpost of a home, a wooden doorpost with a branch. You can just burn them or you can bear fruit with them. You can gather them together, throw them in a pile and you can light them on fire and have warmth. Or you can leave them attached to the vine and you can produce fruit.
I want you to see what Jesus is saying here. What makes the branch useful is when it is connected to the vine. You see, the moment the branch is broken off from the vine, it becomes useless. And the faster, Christian, you get to this place in your life where you realize that in and of your own strength, you cant do anything good enough for God to accept and you will be more dependent upon God and I believe you will bear more fruit for the kingdom of God. Amen?
And so our dependence is upon Him. So how do we, Robby, as New Testament believers, depend upon Him? Notice Verse 4. Jesus says, Remain in Me, as I remain in You. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit apart from the tree unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
Now that is interesting. It is that word abide there or remain. I have to honest with you, this week I had some challenges figuring out what does this word mean. The word is used a number of times in the New Testament. In fact, it is used 120 times in the New Testament alone. And it is translated in different ways. It can be translated as abide, remain or tarry or continue. It can be translated at dwell. What I found interesting was that just in the first eleven verses of John 15, this word is used eleven times, just in eleven verses. Dwell, okay, we got it. Remain, okay, we got that one. Okay, abide, we got that one, too. Continue, we got that one. Okay, abide, remain, abide, remain. Okay, we got that, right?
So what is the secret for us drawing strength from the vine? We have to remain. So what does remain mean? What does abide mean? I tried to come up with a picture for you. Let me give you a definition and then I will give you a picture. Abiding in Christ is understanding that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life and that He will work in you to work through you to produce fruit that is acceptable to the Father, right? What is the act that God accepts from a believer? It is an act that is initiated from Him. Because anything we do in our own strength, He doesnt accept. We get that. So what is an act He accepts? The one that is initiated from Him, right?
And so what does it mean to abide? I think it means for us to make Christ our home and when we make Christ our home, He dwells within us. Now the home idea is a pretty familiar topic to us. Think about your home. Your home is a place where all the base of operations originate. You go from your home and you return to your home, right? Your home is a place of familiarity. Your home is a place of comfort. The home is a place of safety and security. Your home is a place where your heart is, right? A home is a place where when you leave the home, you always want to get back to the home. The home is also a place where your prized possessions are stored.
As a Christian, we should be able to insert the name Jesus in place of home. Think about it. Jesus is the base of all of our operations in the Christian life. Jesus is a place of comfort and security. He is a place of familiarity. Jesus is a place where when we leave Him and stray, we always want to get back to Him, right? Jesus is a place where our heart should be and Jesus is a place where our treasured possessions reside.
So what are you saying, Robby? When you make Jesus your home, when Jesus is enough for you, then Jesus resides in you, right? You see, a useless and fruitless branch is about as useless and fruitless and a believer. The goal of the gardener is to produce fruit.
Now what He says is this. He says, okay, I know you are hearing this, but you guys have two options on how you are going to live. You have two routes upon which you can take. That is the second point. You can write it down. We have two routes to take. You can do it in your strength or you can do it in My strength.
Now here is what He says. If you do it in your strength, you can expect to see two things happen. Here is the first one. You will produce nothing. Nothing. Look what Jesus says. I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do some things without Me. Is that what it says? Just to make sure you are awake. Look at what it says. You can do a few things without Me. Is that what it says? You can do nothing without Me.
Do you know what that says in the language, that word nothing in the language of the New Testament means? Nothing! You dont need a seminary degree for that one. You can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Now you have to admit, it is pretty stern warning from Jesus. And what Jesus is saying, you can do nothing apart from Me and you need to produce fruit, Old Testament scholars immediately have their minds go back to Ezekiel 15 Verses 1-8 when God gave the same warning to Israel that if you dont produce fruit, there is impending judgment about to be placed upon you. Notice what He says in the language of the New Testament. It is as if He is saying, you can do nothing whatsoever. It is not that we cant do good things for God. Follow me for a second. We can do good things for God in our own strength, but we cant do anything good enough for God to accept in our own strength. There is a big difference there, right?
After Hurricane Katrina, Kandi and I, we lost everything, we lost our home. Mom and Dad had moved to Houston and we had the opportunity to stay with Kandis parents. Now, I was only married to Kandi for less than a year at that time and you talk about getting to know your in-laws by sleeping on the couch pull-out bed every night for two and a half months. Talk about getting to know your in-laws, right? There is a lot of intimacy happening there. And so what we would do to pass the time at night, we would play the full contact aggressive game of Monopoly. I dont know if you have played that one in a while, but play it with your in-laws and you will see what I am talking about. And I love my in-laws, but they are pretty competitive. So we would play at night and I wouldnt win all the time, but I would win sometimes and boy, I would relish in the winnings. And I would take all my little properties and stack them up and I would take my money and I would put it in my pocket like it was real money.
What if one day I would go to the Albertsons down the street, have that stack of winnings in my pocket. I would pick out a few choice groceries, put them on the conveyor belt. I would get to the cashier and I would start pulling out that monopoly money and I would start counting it out. How much is that, Maam? And she would say, sir, hold on. We dont accept Monopoly money. And I would say to here, Maam, you dont understand. I own Park Place and Broadway. I dont think you understand what I own. And she would say, I dont think you understand. We dont accept Monopoly money. We only accept U.S. Mint currency.
You see, the same way that I would try to pay in an economic system that accepts U.S. Mint currency, that is the same way you are trying to do good work in your own strength to a good God who only accepts righteousness. You see, Monopoly money may work in the game of Monopoly, but it doesnt work in the game of life because that is not the system our economy runs by. And if you keep trying to please God with your own righteousness, the Bible says in Isaiah 64 that our righteousness is filthy rags to God. Do you know what He is saying is, the best thing you can do for God, God doesnt accept. How in the world can we do anything for God? Like I said before, the only act that a Holy God accepts is an act that He works in us to work through us back to Him.
So Jesus says, you have two options. You can do it in your own strength and you will produce nothing. And the second thing is, you will prove you are lost. Not only will you produce nothing, but you will prove you are lost. Look at what He says. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Now, the Bible repeatedly speaks about the awaiting judgment for unbelievers on the last day. The Bible speaks of this clearly. But I love what Jesus does here. He gives us four judgments that will happen to those that are unsaved. Notice what He says right out of the text. The branch will be discarded. The branch will wither. It is an idea of a joyless, an idea of a dead life, a peace less life. Right? We know a lot of people who have no peace in this world. They are just joyless. He says this is what the byproduct of being separated from the vine is. Then they will be thrown into the fire and they will be burned.
Now I love what Jesus says here. He gives a picture of a visual fire, a real fire. He doesnt talk about annihilationalism, He doesnt talk about the fact that some people will cease to exist on that day. What He is giving us this idea of is this is a real literal fire here, an unquenchable fire, if you will.
Now, I know what you are thinking. You are saying Robby, I am reading this text at face value and it seems to me like Jesus is talking about people who can lose their salvation, because that is what it seems like, right? It seems like these branches were a part of the vine and now they are thrown off from the vine and it really seems to me like Jesus actually could be talking about losing ones salvation.
First of all, the teaching of losing ones salvation is erroneous. And secondly, it flies in the face of many passages in Scripture which prove that you cant lose anything you didnt earn. Passages like John 4:14. John Chapter 10:28. John Chapter 18 Verse 9. John Chapter 5 Verses 9 and 10, sorry, Romans Chapter 5, Verses 9 and 10 and Romans Chapter 8 Verses 35-39 which says Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
So, Robby, what are you saying here? Further affirmation to prove that Jesus is not talking about losing salvation is to the audience that He is speaking to. You have to understand, Jesus has just left the table of the Last Supper. The next stop is the Garden of Gethsemane where He will pray and then be turned over to the authorities. Jesus stops on the way and gives one final teaching just so he solidifies this truth. And in that final teaching, who is in the audience? It is not a mixed crowd. It is not believers and unbelievers, so we know it is not that. It is not even the twelve disciples because Judas has already left, remember. He is already now at the Temple turning Jesus over for thirty pieces of silver and about to greet Him with a kiss. These are eleven believers here that Jesus is talking to. So He is not threatening them in fear to say, hey, listen, if you guys dont remain in Me, I am going to pluck you out and throw you away. That is not what He is saying. He is not trying to strike fear in their hearts. This is what He is doing. He is giving a declarative statement about how people were lost to begin with. This is what He says. If a person doesnt remain in Me, it is not that I am going to throw them away, it is that they were never saved to begin with. If they are discarded and placed aside, it is proof to you that they never knew Me to begin with. Amen? Why? Because you cant lose something you didnt do anything to earn.
Now I think John was questioned about this which is why in the beginning of his first epistle, I John Chapter 2, he clarifies this very truth when he says these words. These individuals went out from us but they did not belong to us. Verse 19, For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out from us so that it might be clear that none of them belonged to us in the first place.
So what He is saying is, if you want to produce fruit in your own strength apart from Me, you will produce nothing and you will prove you are lost. But here is the other route you can take. If you want to abide in Me, here are the two benefits of abiding in Me. The first one is this, you will produce fruit. Verse 5. I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who remains in Me (key word) and I in him produces much fruit. Now the emphasis, Church, on this passage is fruit bearing. God is laser focused on producing fruit in your life. We see it in Verse 2, Verse 4, Verse 5 and Verse 8. Fruit is a sign of replication and fruit is replicating the life of Christ in a believer.
Once again, and if you can get this, you can get the whole passage. Gods purpose as the gardener is to produce more fruit and more fruit and more fruit in your life. Look at Verse 2 and see the progression. Verse 2, no fruit. But you get to the end of Verse 2 and it says, what? Some fruit, right? More fruit. Look at Verse 5, much fruit. Verse 8, much fruit.
Now here is something surprising about fruit bearing, the plant that produces the fruit never benefits from the fruit it produces. A plant doesnt eat the fruit that it bears. The fruit that a plant bears is always for someone else and never for their own enjoyment, right? It is always for someone else. And this is what God is saying, if you are a true believer and you are abiding in the vine, you will always produce fruit.
Now, to the scope and degree of fruit is up to me. But you will always produce fruit, which is a great encouragement for us because it shows us there is no pride in the Christian life of envy to another person down the street who has more than us, particularly in ministry. Pastor, Church leader, just let me say this to you. There is no reason you should ever be envious of the size or the budget or the buildings a church down the street because God is the One who brings fruit. It is our job and our mission to abide in Him, right? He bears the fruit. And there is a reason we dont take credit for anything, because God is the One who gets the glory.
The same thing in your Sunday School class or your ministry or your school or your work place. God is the One who brings the fruit. Our job is to abide. So the first thing is, He will produce fruit.
The second thing is, our fruit will prove we are saved. Look at what He says, Verse 8. When you produce much fruit, you prove you are My disciples. Again, we dont go out and work for our salvation in order to prove that we are saved, but by our works, people will notice that we are disciples of Christ, right? We dont do things to earn that badge. It is because we have already done those things that people say, wow, that Brother is a believer, that Sister is a believer.
Now, what are the benefits of abiding in Christ, because Jesus doesnt leave us here. He gives these two paths. We have found the path of bearing fruit. So He says, here is the deal, when you abide in Me and My Word remains in you, two things will happen. Here they are. Here are the two benefits of abiding in Christ. Here are the two results of a fruitful life.
Verse 7, If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want, this is Jesus talking here, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. Now I dont know about you, but I like to have my prayers answered, Amen? This is audience participation part. Amen? I dont know about you, but I like to have prayers answered. And what Jesus says is, if you remain in Me and remain in My Word. Those two terms are synonymous. Those phrases are synonymous. And what Jesus is saying is, the more you get into the Word and the Word gets into you, the more you want to obey the Word and the more you will look like Me. And abiding and prayer go together. The more you abide, the more you want to what? Pray. And the more you pray, the more you want to abide. And then the more you abide, the more you want to pray and the more you pray, the more you want to abide. It is kind of this circular process that happens in your life. William McGill said it this way, The value of persistent prayer is not that God hears your prayers, but that you finally hear the voice of God. The value of persistent prayer is not that God hears you, but that you finally hear Him. And the life of a Christian should always be maturing to graduate beyond childish things to the things that really matter to God.
My Mom and Dad just got back from a Car Show this weekend in Biloxi. My Dad loves cars. If you dont know, we both love cars. He had a Body, Collision Repair Shop for our entire life when we lived in New Orleans, before Katrina. And he loved cars. He loved to race cars, he loved to fix cars, he repaired cars. But I was a child growing up and I never really liked cars, big cars. But I liked Hot Wheels. I liked Big Wheels, right? I liked model cars. And my Dad, bless his heart, would in humility, he would stoop down at the table when I was a little boy and he would play with the little Hot Wheel cars and he would help me put the models together and I would glue fingers together and try to Exacta knife them apart. And he would pray when I would do that. And we would do those things together and he loved doing those things with me. When I wanted to soup up my scooter and make it fast, my Dad would put pin stripes on it. But he longed for the day when I would graduate from childish things to more mature things.
And there came a day when I got to be about 17 or 18 when I liked real cars, right? I liked V8s and hot rods. I liked fast cars. And so he and I got to work together for years as we worked at his shop. And we went to Car Shows together and we fixed cars. We bought cars together, went to auctions together and he enjoyed that time because I got to a place of maturity where we shared the same heart.
Friends, God will bow down to you when you first come to Him with childish things, selfish prayers. He will bow down in humility and serve you, listen to you and spend time with you. But He longs for the day when you graduate beyond childish things to things that matter to Him.
When was the last time you said to God, God, place on my heart the things that matter to you? God, show me the things that burden Your heart? My prayer life doesnt consist of a laundry list of to do things and healings that I want you to do, God. That is how most of our prayer lives are. But God desires a place where we get to where we say, God, listen, it is not just about what I desire. You show me what You want for my life. I am listening. You direct my path, God. I am listening.
Richard Blackaby said it this way, Prayer is not just sharing what is on your heart, but knowing what is on Gods heart because God already knows your heart. That is pretty profound. Prayer is not trying to convince a good God to do things that you want Him to do. Prayer is trying to get Gods heart upon our heart.
And you know the beautiful things why Jesus can say, ask anything when you want when you abide in Me, because the more you abide in God, guess what, your prayers become His prayers. Your heart becomes His heart.
So the first blessing of a life abiding in Christ is, your prayers will be answered. But secondly, more importantly is, we live a life of glorification to God. We glorify God.
Look how Jesus finishes. Abide in Me and ask anything you wish your will produce much fruit and prove you are My disciples. But look how He begins it. By this, My Father is glorified in you.
It really makes sense that God would get the glory for this, right? I mean, as a Christian, we have no room, we have no platform to take credit for it, to take pride in. Why? Think about it. God owns the vineyard, not us. He bought the land, not us. He planted the vines, not us. He planted the vine where He wanted the vines to be planted. Listen, He put you in a vineyard that He picked for you. You didnt pick it. He tilled the ground. He watered the plants. He pulled the weeds. He tended the garden. He pulled the fruit and He reaped the harvest.
So it only makes sense for us to know that God is the One who gets the credit for this, not us. He did all the work. Look at what He says. My Father is glorified in this, why? Because He produced the fruit. No one ever goes to a grape tree and pulls a grape off and says, wait a minute. I have never seen a charcoal colored branch like that before. This is amazing. Have you ever done that? No. You never go to an apple tree and pull an apple off the tree and look and say, wow, I have never seen a shade of green leaf like that in my life. Breathtaking! Have you ever done that? No. This is what you do. You take the apple, you bite into the apple and you say, this is the sweetest apple I have ever tasted. And who gets the credit? The gardener. You say, wow. You have done an amazing job here with this vineyard.
Friends, it just makes sense for us to get to a place to realize that God is the One who gets the credit. That is why vineyard dressers are worth so much money. It is really a lucrative business, especially in the First Century. In order to be a vinedresser, many people had to go to school for two to three years before they were allowed to tend a garden. And the reason is, you had to work up your skill. You had to study and you had to get to a place of expertise.
Now why would it take so much work? Here is why. Because a vinedresser had to know two things. Not only what to cut but they had to know where to cut. Because if you apply those shears to the wrong place, you will kill the plant, you will kill the vineyard. So you have to know what to cut and where to cut.
Now, whenever you apply the knife to a plant, it is always painful, just like it is painful whenever God applies spiritual shears to our souls. But friends, watch this, there is no other way that God can produce fruit in your life apart from applying the shears. It is always painful, but it is always for a purpose. Our benefit and His good.
Listen to David. David in Psalm 119 talked about this idea of how painful it was when God afflicted him. He says in Verse 67, Before I was afflicted, I went astray. Then he comes back four verses later, he says in Verse 71, It was good for me though to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
Sometimes God afflicts us before our sin. Sometimes God afflicts us after our sin, but He always does it for our good and His glory, right? Now a lot of us would say as Christians, God, I want to bear fruit for you. God, I want to be all I can be for You. I want to change the world for You. But few of us would ever endure the pruning process willingly, right, because it is painful. Because it is painful. But one of the things we know from this text is that God has no other way to produce fruit in your life than through the instrument of pain.
I am just going to be honest with you for a moment. As we think of most of our prayer meetings in churches, it is the antithesis of this, because most prayer meetings in churches are asking God to remove the very instrument that He is molding and shaping us with, right? Most prayer meetings consist of a laundry list of prayers for God to fix every problem in our life and to remove all the pain. And God is saying, dont do that. The pain produces fruit. I am trying to produce something in you. Dont do that. Stay right there and I am applying this instrument to conform you to the image of My Son. And we are saying, God, it hurts too much.
Friends, if you are in the midst of a trial right now, if you are in the midst of turmoil in your life, it may be that the gardener is spiritually pruning you for something better. And the tendency for us as a Christian, as a person, as a human being, is to get out of that. We want to eliminate suffering from our life. But as Malcolm Mugridge said, Gods suffering, the allowance of suffering is for Gods glory. He said in his book, Jesus Rediscovered, suppose you eliminate suffering from the world, what a dreadful place this world would be. He said, I would almost rather eliminate happiness from the world. This is good. The world would be the most ghastly place because everything that corrects the tendency of this unspeakable little creature, man, to feel over importance and be over pleased with himself would disappear. He is bad enough now, but he would be absolutely intolerable if he never suffered.
You want to know the worst thing that a good God could do for those He loves the most, is to allow us to stay where we are and to continue where we are going. Arent you glad for God working in your life to course correct your future? I know I am, amen?
Now you are wondering, what are the spiritual shears? What is the knife that prunes us? Now there are a number of things that you can answer here. It could be circumstances, it could be people. But I think that the over arching usage of this idea of spiritual shears comes in the Word of God. The Bible repeatedly talks about the Word being like a knife, right? Hebrews 4:12, The Word of God is living an active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, joint and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of our heart.
And Acts Chapter 2 Verse 37, Peter got up and preached this amazing sermon, The Jesus you crucified was Lord and God. And it says in the text, Verse 37, The people were cut to the heart by the Word of God and they said, what must we do to be saved?
Isnt it interesting that the same instrument that God uses to call sinners to Himself is the same instrument that God uses to cut sin away from our life. It is a double-edged sword. Think about that. The same instrument He uses, the Word of God, to call sinners to Himself is the very same sword that He uses to cut away sin from our own life.
As I was thinking about abiding, I was thinking about the difference that we have to get between abiding and achieving, because that is the difference. Ministry is received, never achieved, right? And so a lot of us have gotten on this spiritual rat wheel where we are continually trying to achieve ministry in our own strength or good things for God and what God is trying to say is, just abide in Me in My own strength and I will produce fruit through you.
And as I thought about this, I thought about two ladies in the Bible who were sisters who give us a perfect contrast of this. I am thinking about the sisters, Mary and Martha. If you have your Bibles, let me show you as we close, go to Luke Chapter 10. Mary and Marthas house was a place of solace for Jesus. Mary and Martha had a brother named Lazarus. You may remember that he will be raised from the dead later on in Jesus ministry after being in the tomb for three days. I want to suggest to you, Church, that Mary, Martha and Lazarus were Jesus closest friends outside of the twelve. These I believe were his closest friends, which is one of the reasons He stops by their house right before the cross, at Bethany.
Jesus visits their house and notice what happens, Verse 38, Luke 10. If you are there, say Word. While traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lords feet and was listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked Him, Lord, dont You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to give me a hand. The Lord answered her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset over many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away form her.
What a wonderful contrast between achieving and abiding. Martha was serving. Mary was sitting. Martha was working. Mary was worshiping. Martha was hurrying. Mary was hearing. Martha was busy with her work. Mary was attentive to the Word. Martha was laboring. Mary was learning. Martha was bothered. Mary was blessed.
Maybe the reason you are not seeing fruit in your life the way you or God would expect to happen is because you have spent way too much time trying to do it in your own strength and your own power and not enough relying on His.
You know, the church of Jesus Christ is filled with a lot of Marthas, a lot of people who do a lot of good things for God and we are grateful for them. But maybe what the church needs today are just a few more Marys to abide in the strength and the power of Christ.