Sanctification by God – John 15:1-4

The Gardener Prunes The Vine To Make It More Productive

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

Pruning for Profit

God the Father is pictured here by Jesus as the gardener.  He is in the role of vine-dresser, and as such, has the responsibility for the vine bearing the greatest amount of fruit.  And just like a gardener, He removes the branches that are consistently unproductive.  When a gardener does everything that he can to get a particular branch to bear fruit, and it does not, it must be culled so that it will stop taking the sap from the vine that the other more productive branches need to bear their fruit.

And when a branch of the vine IS productive, He removes the dead wood from it, pruning it so that the productive part of the branch becomes even more productive, and grows to its maximum potential, bearing as much fruit as possible, and honoring the gardener with its produce.  Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches.  We must take these things to heart, for although we cannot earn our way into Heaven, we are expected to bear fruit once we receive the nourishing sap from the vine.  Whether the branch is grafted in, or grows from the vine, the gardener expects it to bear fruit.  After all, faith without deeds is dead.

Washed White

Jesus reminds us here that He has already cleaned us up.  His blood has washed us white as snow, as white as wool.  We only need to have our feet cleaned as we walk in the dirty world.  In the same way, the Father prunes us as branches, cleaning us from the dead wood that is weighing us down, sapping our strength, and not producing the fruit of righteousness as we are intended to do as His image-bearers.  God has already joined us spiritually to the source of life – the vine.

Sap from the Source

It is the sap that provides the life and nourishment that the branches need to live.  Jesus uses this illustration because it for the agrarian society in which people lived, this would have had immediate recognition and understanding, as this is how they lived their lives.  The stories would have had significant impact, and immediately have been understood.  It is important to remember that without the life-nourishing sap from the vine, the branch is dead or will die.  If we are not joined to the source, we will not be able to bear any fruit.

Becoming Bountiful

The only way to bear much fruit is to be firmly attached to the vine, drink up the life-giving sap, and use that to grow fruit.  Any branch that cannot – or refuses to – draw life from the vine is removed.  Once removed, it will surely dry up and die.  We are, like the vine and branches, to do what we were intended to do.  We are to bear the fruit of righteousness:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

When we are bearing fruit in accordance with righteousness, we are able to be used by God to bear other fruit as well.  Whether we are spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, building God’s kingdom by building God’s people, or whatever other activity God intends for us to accomplish, we are only able to do them through a solid relationship with God, and relying on His strength and wisdom from His word, which is our sap, to nourish us into becoming the most bountiful fruit-bearing branches that we can be.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I bearing fruit in accordance with the purpose that God has intended me to bear?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have taken great pains to ensure that I am firmly attached to You, and drawing strength and nourishment from You and Your word.  Help me to bear as much fruit as possible for You.  Prune me of anything that would impede my growth and usefulness.  Help me to do that which You intended for me to do from before the foundation of the universe.  Guide me and empower me to honor and glorify Your name.  Sanctify me that I would draw close to You in holiness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Identity in Christ – John 15:5 (ESV)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Just as a branch needs the sap of nourishment from the tree, so do we need the same from Jesus Christ.  The branch is attached, and attached tightly; it’s not on the ground, or off doing its own thing.  It is bonded (even if grafted in) to the plant itself.  We should be so firmly bonded to Christ and in Christ, that there is no break between Christ and ourselves.

And Jesus shows us the benefit of this: when we are In Christ, we will bear much fruit.  When we go off and do things ourselves, there may be a result, but it is not bearing spiritual fruit in accordance with the Will of God, for the Purposes of God, in the Timing of God, and to the Glory of God.  Jesus also says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 

This is a sobering thought.  When we are not in/attached to the vine, receiving nourishment and direction, we may be doing things, but not bearing the correct fruit.  It is as if we were a foreign, invasive species of plant trying to imitate the original plant.  Others may think that we are part of that plant, because we have mimicked the original; however, we have no part in the original plant.  Jesus gives us this direction as well:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 

When we have our identity in Christ – when we solely and ONLY identify with Him – we will bear much fruit, receive nourishment from the vine, and find the small gate with the narrow path.  Once we do that, we, like Christ, will be able to say,

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Our citizenship will be solely in the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than in earthly things, like race, ethnicity, nationality, religious denomination, Northerner or Southerner, political affiliation, sports team, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, or any other thing on earth.  For when we identify with Christ, all are ONE in Christ.

So, let’s ask the question:  With whom or what do I identify most?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we thank You for the wonderful opportunity to be reconciled to You through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  You love us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us on the cross.  Lord God, we have been set free from sin; but we were made to worship and serve.  I greatly desire to serve You and You alone.  Remove from me any and all identity with earthly things that would hinder my walk with you.  You have shown me the small gate and the narrow path.  Guide my feet, my heart, and my mouth, that as they see to glorify your name in and offer themselves as a living sacrifice to You, that my feet would not slip, and that they would not wander off the path.  Bring revival to Your body, that it would turn away from the draw of temporal blessings and set our hearts on Heaven, so that our treasure may be found there.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Blessing of God – Galatians 3:14

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Everyone wants a blessing.  We seek it in approval from those we respect and love.  Who doesn’t want their parent’s blessing when they are going to be married?

A blessing in the Old Testament was more than just a physical inheritance; it was often a prophetic pronouncement over the life and future progeny of the children.  Isaac, when giving his blessing to Jacob (who was tricked into believing it was Esau), pronounced a prophetic future blessing for Jacob’s family.  When Jacob pronounced the blessing for his sons, he too pronounced a prophetic blessing on them.

We have been grafted in to the vine of Christ.  And in it, we receive the blessing given to Abraham.  This is not replacement theology – we are the wild vine grafted in, being sustained by the same root as the native plant.  And with it comes the blessing.  You have riches in Christ (read Ephesians 1-3).

But all of this is because of the relationship we have with the source.  A branch pulled from a live tree, left alone, will die if it doesn’t have another source of nourishment.  It is the relationship of the branch to the root that provides it.  We often come for the blessings, and stand on the blessings, and sing of the blessings, and praise the blessings.  But, as it was once said, God is not a cosmic vending machine where you put a prayer in and out pops the blessing you selected.

So let’s ask ourselves a question: do we desire the relationship with the giver – desire Him – more than we do the blessings?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have blessed us so much, for You have taken us out of darkness and brought us into the light.  You provide for our every need, and many of our wants.  Father, help us to look to You today, to gaze upon the beautiful face of Christ, to remember who our blessings came from, and to desire to be at the feet of Jesus more than all of the blessings you pour out upon us.  Prepare our hearts for the journey You have planned for us today.  This we ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.